Saturday, May 31, 2014


Steven H. Rutledge, A Tacitus Reader: Selections from Annales, Historiae, Germania, Agricola, and Dialogus. BC Latin readers. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2013. Pp. xlvii, 198. ISBN 9780865166974. $19.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Bram ten Berge, University of Michigan (

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In this new addition to the Bolchazy-Carducci Latin Reader series, Steven Rutledge offers intermediate and advanced Latin students an admirably self-contained and wide-ranging introduction to Tacitus. Unlike volumes that offer commentaries on a single work or book (e.g. the excellent commentaries on Historiae 1 and 2 by Damon and Ash, and on Annales14 and 15 by Woodcock and Miller), or on a sub-set of a work, Rutledge's volume is aimed at allowing an instructor to offer a comprehensive overview of Tacitus' oeuvre.2 The notes are also specifically geared to the needs of undergraduates without prior exposure to Tacitus' Latin. Nothing of its kind is currently available for the teacher and student of Tacitus.

A comprehensive introduction greets students coming to Tacitus for the first time (xiii-xli). It covers the historian's Nachleben (xiii), and his life and political and literary career (xiii-xvi). It introduces students to the content, style, and principal themes of the opera minora and the socio-political context in which they were written (xvi-xix). It sets out the structure and content of the extant books of the Historiae, including the main events of the year 69, the protagonists and their principal character traits, as well as Tacitus' sources and the work's outstanding stylistic features (xix-xxii). It offers a thorough introduction to the extant books of the Annales, covering the establishment of the Augustan principate, the chief events of the reigns of the Julio-Claudian emperors, their complex characterization, the major themes of the work, and the events Tacitus likely covered in the missing books (xxii-xxviii).3 Then follow lucid sections on Tacitus' place in Roman historiography (xxviii-xxxi), and on his sources (both literary and non-literary) and the post-Augustan historians (xxxi-xxxiii). Next follow useful remarks on Tacitus' techniques of characterization and other ways he directs his reader's mind, including the use of rumors, powerful turns of phrases, typologies, and speeches (xxxiii-xxxvi). The final sections are on style and language, covering the outstanding features of Tacitus' prose (brevitas, variatio, inconcinnitas, sententiae, etc.), the narrative purposes to which he employs these, and the authors that were his principal influence in each case (xxxvi-xli). This final section ends with a useful glossary of the historian's common rhetorical devices. The above points are reinforced in the notes, which frequently refer the student back to the introduction. In sum, students get an excellent introduction to Tacitus that is comprehensive without being too long, and, with a single exception, free of error.4

A rich bibliography of suggested reading (xlii-xlvii)5 and notes on Tacitus' manuscript tradition (p.1) precede 24 passages of selected Latin. As noted above, the greatest virtue of this volume is that it offers a selection of readings from all five works (pp. 2-27), followed by a line-by-line grammatical commentary (pp. 29-148). The passages are carefully chosen to exemplify important Tacitean themes and stylistic features, as well as important aspects of ancient historiography and literature more generally. So, the two selections from the Agricola (2.1-3.2; 30.1-5; pp. 2-4) introduce students to the function and tone of an authorial preface, to Tacitus' views of the principate and the reign of Domitian, to the form and function of speeches, and to the nature of Rome's empire and its impact on native populations. The two selections from the Germania (1.1, 2.1-2; 37.2-5; pp. 4-6) familiarize the student with the genre of ethnography, with the people and geography of ancient Germany, and with the history of Rome's wars with the Germans. The two selections from the Dialogus (1.1-3; 2.1-2; pp. 6-7) introduce the dialogue format and its origins in the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, raise questions about the nature of the principate and life under an absolute regime, and contain some vivid examples of Tacitus' characteristic sententious style. The three selections from the Historiae (1.15, 1.16; 1.41, 1.49; 3.82-83; pp. 8-11) concern the problematic concept of imperial succession by adoption, Tacitus' techniques of characterization, historiographical obituaries, and issues of identity in civil war contexts. The commentary draws out language typical of the work and of the violence and chaos of the events described. The fifteen passages from the Annales include the preface (1.1; p. 11), where Tacitus establishes his credentials as a historian; the set of passages on Augustus' funeral and popular opinion on his reign, which are revealing of Tacitus' method and his outlook on the Augustan principate (1.9-10; pp. 12-13); a prosecution case that reflects the rise of the delatores (1.74; p. 14; a topic Rutledge treats elsewhere at length)6; the account of the alleged poisoning of Germanicus by Piso (2.69; pp. 14-15), which showcases the devastating effect of reported rumor; the rise of Sejanus (4.1-2, 4.3; pp. 15-17), which introduces the use of typologies and Tacitus' debt to Sallust; Tiberius' debauchery on Capri (6.1; p. 17), which bears on the relationship between the emperor and the senatorial class; Tiberius' death and obituary (6.50-51; pp. 18-19), which deals, among other things, with ancient notions of character(-development); Claudius' speech on allowing Gauls into the senate (11.24; pp. 19-20), which, when read against the epigraphic evidence, "offers a rare opportunity for us to assess how ancient historians reworked and manipulated their source material" (p. 109); Messalina's affair with Gaius Silius and her eventual destruction (11.29-30; 11.31-32; 11.37-38; pp. 20-23), which showcases the power and influence of women and freedmen in the imperial court; Nero's murder of his mother Agrippina the Younger, including the theatrical episode of the collapsible boat and the lurid description of her murder by the freedman Anicetus (14.4-6; 14.8; pp. 23-25); and the Great Fire of 54 and Nero's vicious punishment of the Christians as the alleged culprits (15.38; 15.44; pp. 25-27). As Rutledge acknowledges in the preface, "some might find that the selections... are excessively slanted at times towards episodes that linger on violence, promiscuity, and death." The final seven selections, on Messalina's affair, Agrippina's death, and the Fire, indeed seem to fit this mark, and there are other passages, particularly on major military affairs and men like Suetonius Paulinus and Domitius Corbulo (who are noticeably absent from the volume) that would have deserved inclusion and might have helped balance the whole.7 But ultimately one has to make decisions, and, on the whole, Rutledge's selections offer the student a very complete introduction to Tacitus' works and prose style, and provide a wealth of material for further discussion in the classroom.

The commentary consists in each case of short introductory remarks, which set the selected passage within its narrative and historical context, indicate its thematic and stylistic significance, and offer bibliographic references for further study. This is followed by a line-by-line grammatical commentary that helps navigate the student through Tacitus' prose. The notes are without exception concise and succinct. Challenging sentences and constructions are unpacked, omitted words are supplied, and translations are suggested for particularly difficult or dense phrases. Rutledge achieves a wonderful balance between supplying too little help, on the one hand, and supplying too much, on the other, allowing students to come to their own translation and understanding of the Latin. So, he will often give the use or case of a particular form, or indicate the structure of a particular clause, but without offering a translation and thus leaving this to the student. This approach continuously reinforces grammar, forms, and constructions, and will benefit both the intermediate and advanced Latin student. While the commentary is predominantly grammatical in nature, Rutledge offers useful background information as well. He consistently elucidates names (personal and topographical), concepts, and historical events, notes intertextual connections with the works of Tacitus' predecessors, and points to the parallel tradition in Suetonius, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio. He offers plentiful references to modern scholarship and kindly refers the student back to the relevant pages of the introduction. Students also benefit from two maps of the Mediterranean and the city of Rome (pp. 150-51), genealogical charts of the Julio-Claudian families (pp. 153-55), photos of busts of Tiberius (p. 101), Claudius (p. 126), Nero (p. 137), and Domitian (p. 31), a photo of the Lyons Tablet (p. 110), and a vocabulary containing every word in the Latin text (pp. 157-98). The result is a very complete treatment, and, with few exceptions, Rutledge's comments everywhere hit the mark.8

The book, in sum, offers an excellent introduction to the Tacitean corpus. Students will see their Latin improve and will come away with a solid impression of Tacitus' different works and his language. The book makes the historian's formidable prose accessible to students of different levels, and offers a wealth of material for further study and discussion. So, the teacher might supplement the selections in this Reader with passages from the parallel tradition to compare Tacitus' treatment with that of other authors. Or one might have students compare Tacitus' speech of Claudius on admitting Gauls to the Senate with the extant text of the Lyons Tablet. The book would also be excellent in combination with others in this series for a comprehensive reading course in Latin prose.

The volume is very well produced. The maps, photos, and charts are of good quality. Typos are few and in most cases negligible.9 The complete vocabulary ensures that students can use the volume without having a dictionary at hand. Finally, the book is affordable, which is important given its intended audience. I look forward to using this book to bring Tacitus to a wide audience of undergraduate students.


1.   Since the Google preview is not available outside the United States, I have tried to give as best an overview of the book's contents in the body of the review.
2.   The title of the book is surprising, since it neither reflects the chronological order of Tacitus' works nor the order in which Rutledge treats them.
3.   One important episode from the missing books that Rutledge leaves unmentioned is Corbulo's enforced suicide under Nero, related by Cassius Dio (62(63).17.5-6).
4.   Civilis is not a Treviran, but a Batavian (p. xxi). On p. 49 Rutledge correctly identifies Civilis as "a Batavian noble."
5.   One important omission, which seems to have appeared too late to be taken into account, is Pagán's Blackwell Companion to Tacitus (Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA, 2012).
6.   Rutledge produced an excellent monograph on the subject: Imperial Inquisitions. Prosecutors and Informants from Tiberius to Domitian (London, 2001).
7.   After all, the alternation of domestic affairs and military affairs abroad is one of the guiding structural principles of the Annales.
8.   P. 59, l. 10: Tiberius' father is not M. Claudius Marcellus, but Tiberius Claudius Drusus. P. 65, l. 24 (H. 1.49): incidisset is not subjunctive in an indirect question. P. 80, ll. 20-24 (A. 1.10): in the clause seu Pansam venenum vulneri adfusum, the subject is venenum, with the verb abstulerat omitted. Rutledge's suggestion that [Caesar abstulerat] be supplied after seu is incorrect since it leaves us with two accusative objects, Pansam and venenum, of a simple transitive verb. On the next page, however, commenting on abstulerat, Rutledge does note that venenum... adfusum is the subject, leaving an inconsistency in the commentary. P. 83, l. 35 (A. 1.10): Rutledge's suggestion that memorabatur be understood after abducta may confuse students, since the structure of this sentence is different from the last, where memorabatur can reasonably be understood.
9.   I only note a few important cases: on p. xxv Xenephon should be Xenophon; on p. xlii Bernario should be Benario; on p. 33 Hayne's should be Haynes'; on p. 139 Agrippa should be Agrippina.

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Emily Hemelrijk, Greg Woolf (ed.), Women and the Roman City in the Latin West. Mnemosyne Supplements. History and Archaeology of Classical Antiquity, 360. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2013. Pp. xxii, 408. ISBN 9789004255944. $180.00 (hb).

Reviewed by Anthony Álvarez Melero, Universidad de Sevilla (

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Table of Contents

Présentés à l'origine sous la forme de conférences et de posters lors d'une réunion scientifique qui eut lieu à Amsterdam à la mi-décembre 2011, les essays (cf. p. 1) rassemblés dans ce volume, au nombre de 19, traitent, chacun à leur façon et en claire allusion à l'ouvrage devenu classique de R. van Bremen,1 des « limites » de la participation des femmes dans les sociétés civiques dans l'Occident romain, à l'exclusion de la ville de Rome, entre la fin de l'époque républicaine et le Haut-Empire. Examiné sous l'angle de la multidisciplinarité, l'objectif est donc de participer à une approche intégrée de l'étude de la société urbaine romaine et de celle des femmes, qui ne formèrent jamais un monde à part, car elles constituaient un élément important au sein de leurs propres familles. Pour ce faire, les éditeurs se proposent donc d'examiner à la fois les collectivités locales romaines du point de vue des femmes et du genre, tout en les étudiant au sein de leur contexte social et civique, afin de contribuer à terme à une histoire sociale gendered des femmes. C'est la raison pour laquelle le livre se trouve divisé en cinq parties, dont certaines totalement innovantes, comme nous aurons l'occasion de nous en apercevoir.

La première contribution de la section liminaire, « Civic Roles » (p. 7-106), rédigée par Francesca Cenerini, s'intéresse aux termes mater et parens, tels qu'attribués au IIe s. pour qualifier ou créer des relations institutionnelles entre des femmes et des colonies ou des municipes, mais dont l'interprétation est malaisée (p. 9-22). Inspirées de modèles fournis par les représentantes de la famille impériale et couplées à l'implication des dames issues des notabilités locales élues flaminiques voire au besoin de certaines collectivités d'honorer leurs bienfaitrices, ces appellations doivent éventuellement être mises en relation avec la création contemporaine des fondations alimentaires.

Alison Cooley, quant à elle, examine les mécanismes grâce auxquels a été rendue possible l'intégration des femmes, clairement visible au IIe s. de notre ère, dans l'espace public et la vie municipale, en tant que flaminiques, bienfaitrices ou patronnes de collectivités, sans toutefois devenir magistrates (p. 23-46). Si l'époque d'Auguste constitue la période charnière, le rôle des princesses de la famille impériale n'est pas à négliger, sans qu'on ne puisse nier non plus la part active prise par les dames issues des élites locales dans ce processus.

Pour sa part, Werner Eck s'interroge sur la présence des femmes dans les inscriptions ainsi que sur la représentativité des sources, qui ne reflètent pas un portrait fidèle de la société romaine dans son ensemble, d'autant plus que ses diverses composantes ne s'exprimèrent pas toutes épigraphiquement (p. 47-63). Rien de surprenant, écrit-il, si, à l'une des quelques exemples qu'il a tirés de diverses cités italiennes, telles qu'Assise ou Terracina, les témoignages relatifs aux femmes sont si peu nombreux, puisque celles-ci apparaissaient rarement en public, même si dans le même temps on ne peut nier l'existence de variations locales quant au nombre d'attestations de dames conservées sur pierre.

Ensuite, Emily Hemelrijk aborde la question de la munificence civique au féminin, entendue ici comme une généreuse donation faite par une femme seule ou avec un autre donateur à une cité (p. 65-84). Il s'avère, sur la base des 363 cas étudiés, chronologiquement, géographiquement et numériquement plus circonscrits que ceux de leurs pères, maris, etc., que les bienfaits accordés par ces dames comptaient parmi les plus onéreux, quand ils n'étaient pas les plus élevés de leur région. Indépendamment du type d'édifices financés, ces interventions en public contribuaient à intégrer ces femmes exemplaires, dont on recherchait les faveurs, dans la société locale et dont la dignitas rejaillissait immanquablement sur leurs proches susceptibles d'exercer les honneurs.

C'est d'un thème proche que s'occupe Christian Witschel : la présence monumentale des femmes sur des inscriptions et des statues érigées sur les places publiques de Thamugadi et Cuicul (p. 85-106). L'auteur se décide toutefois, compte tenu de la masse documentaire (environ 600 inscriptions par cité), à examiner l'ensemble de la société de Thamugadi, mais, dans le cas de Cuicul, à ne prendre en considération que les monuments avec leurs inscriptions situés sur les espaces publics. Il en résulte que, dans un contexte public, bien que présentes activement, les femmes, membres de l'élite, n'en restaient pas moins marginalisées et leurs actions restaient toujours liées à celles des hommes de leur entourage.

La religion est au cœur de la deuxième section, « Participation in Cult » (p. 107-168), qui s'ouvre avec l'article de John North qui, en étudiant la question du point de vue des cultes de Mithra, Isis et Attis, avec une analyse de leurs critères d'admission et de leurs mythes, soutient, sans nier une convergence au fil du temps, l'existence d'une certaine compétition entre eux, à laquelle a pu contribuer leur attitude et leur ouverture vis-à-vis des femmes (p. 109-127).

Dans quelle mesure des femmes furent-elles habilitées à célébrer un sacrifice d'un animal, est la question qu'entend tirer au clair James Rives (p. 129-146). Si le fait est avéré, il démontre, sur la base d'une documentation peu explicite, qu'en de rares occasions ce furent en tant que prêtresses et/ou bienfaitrices (cf. banquets) qu'elles présidèrent à un sacrifice, en rappelant également fort à propos cette règle méthodologique d'autant plus criante dans le cas du thème central de l'ouvrage, selon laquelle l'absence de preuve n'est pas une preuve d'absence (p. 144).

Pour clôturer la deuxième partie, Wolfgang Spickermann revient sur la participation des femmes au culte de Magna Mater, aux multiples aspects (cultuels, onomastiques ou iconographiques) (p. 147-168). Il conclut en affirmant qu'en dépit de participer aux cérémonies ou d'en financer temples et autels, elles n'en restaient pas moins condamnées à occuper une place secondaire, jusqu'au IIIe s. au moins, quand des femmes semblent avoir pris une part active dans le rituel de castration, comme le révèlent deux autels à la chronologie proche.

Intitulée « Public Representation » (p. 169-268), la troisième section s'attache aux représentations figurées et iconographiques. Sont ainsi traitées les différences pouvant exister entre les six types de statues drapées érigées dans un contexte honorifique et funéraire, par Glenys Davies (p. 171-199). Se fondant sur les observations d'Elizabeth P. Forbis2 qui avait remarqué l'existence de formulaires épigraphiques distincts quand il s'agissait de louer les vertus dans un hommage funéraire ou la générosité, quand l'hommage était public, l'auteur ne parvient pas à une conclusion claire, car il subsiste des variations en fonction de la géographie et de la chronologie. En d'autres termes, on ne peut pas toujours rattacher un type statuaire concret à une circonstance précise.

Centrée sur Délos entre les années 167/6 et le milieu du Ier s. avant notre ère, la contribution de Sheila Dillon recense les représentations figurées de femmes avec leurs bases inscrites, dont le nombre augmente sensiblement après le passage de l'île sous domination athénienne (p. 201-223). Si les Grecques sont fort présentes, on ne peut en dire autant des Romaines : suite au sac de la cité par Mithridate en 88, l'activité honorifique y a décru considérablement, ce qui explique l'absence pratiquement complète de statues à la différence du reste du monde grec.

Menant une réflexion sur les vêtements portés par les femmes au quotidien, Mary Harlow revendique leur rôle dans l'espace public, où elles sont, sur ce point, laissées pour compte (p. 225-241). L'auteur évoque ainsi les codes vestimentaires ou encore des questions très concrètes comme le textile employé, avec les problèmes que cela pouvait poser, par exemple, pour leur mobilité.

Enfin, Ursula Rothe analyse les modes vestimentaires à Arlon (Gaule Belgique) et Flavia Solva (Norique), cités aux conditions socio-économiques similaires, où le genre est un facteur à prendre également en compte (p. 243-268). De fait, les femmes du Norique, telles des guardians of ethnicity, apparaissaient plutôt vêtues en habits « traditionnels », tandis qu'à Arlon elles se présentaient à la Romaine, sans doute parce que l'identité locale n'y paraissait pas menacée, comme elle semblait l'être à Flavia Solva.

Viennent ensuite les questions économiques, dans la quatrième section « Economics » (p. 269-347), avec tout d'abord Rebecca Flemming, qui traite de la pratique de la médecine et de l'accès à la culture médicale par les femmes ou bien au bénéfice de celles-ci, comme partie intégrante et consciente de la vie civique (p. 271-293).

De son côté, Miriam J. Groen-Vallinga s'intéresse à l'intégration des femmes dans le monde du travail, par le recours au concept d'adaptive family economy qui lui permet de montrer que les femmes, de toutes catégories sociales, en dépit des sources et de gender bias, participaient à la vie économique, au même titre que les hommes, grâce à l'apprentissage d'un métier en famille, par héritage des affaires familiales ou par l'exercice d'une profession en rapport ou non avec celle du mari (p. 295-312).

En complément à l'article antérieur, Claire Holleran évoque la présence, sans nul doute sous-estimée, des femmes dans le commerce de détail, souvent une affaire de famille d'ailleurs, où ce furent les affranchies et les esclaves qui tenaient le haut du pavé (p. 313-330). Il faut donc les imaginer non seulement en train de vendre divers produits, seules ou en compagnie de proches parents, sur des étals ou des installations que l'archéologie identifie parfois avec peine, mais aussi comme clientes, ce qui ne requérait en fin de compte pas une grande formation intellectuelle ou technique, facilitant par là même leur accès au travail.

Pour finir, Coen van Galen cherche à savoir, sur la base du témoignage de Mallia Aemiliana, si des dames furent bénéficiaires des distributions de blé à Rome (p. 331-347). Bien que les preuves fassent défaut, il est possible que dès l'an 123 avant notre ère, lors de l'instauration du système par les Gracques, les femmes sui iuris aient figuré sur les listes, car rien n'indique a priori qu'elles en aient été exclues en raison de leur sexe.

Dans la dernière section, « Mobility» (p. 349-403), le thème, novateur, de la mobilité est mis à l'honneur. Greg Woolf, en guise d'ébauche sur cette thématique, essaie de déterminer s'il est possible de travailler sur la mobilité au féminin (p. 351-368). Que l'on se fonde sur les sources épigraphiques ou sur l'anthropologie physique, la prudence doit rester de mise, puisque seule une part infime des déplacements peut être identifiée. De fait, les femmes se déplaçaient avec nettement moins de fréquence, rarement sur de très longues distances, et généralement en famille, quand elles n'étaient pas des esclaves, ce qui restreint fortement notre perception du phénomène.

C'est à Vindolanda que nous emmène Elizabeth M. Greene qui nous relate la vie des femmes qui y avait accompagné leurs époux, commandants des unités auxiliaires cantonnées à la frontière septentrionale de l'Empire (p. 369-390). Grâce aux tablettes qui y furent mises au jour, l'auteur nous fait découvrir un monde féminin dans un contexte militaire, parallèle à celui de leurs proches, comme l'illustre p. ex. la correspondance entre Sulpicia Lepidina et Claudia Severa.

Enfin, Lien Foubert évoque les déplacements de deux matrones en Bretagne romaine, Vibia Pacata et Iulia Lucilla, dont nous ne connaissons qu'une brève séquence du trajet qui les menèrent jusqu'à cette province (p. 391-403). Son objectif est de cerner l'influence des voyages, aux motifs variés (raisons militaires, commerciales, religieuses ou familiales), sur l'identité publique des femmes et dans quelle mesure ces dernières ont joué un rôle actif dans la construction de cette identité.

En guise de conclusion, l'ouvrage dresse un tableau complet et tout en nuances de la place des dames dans les provinces occidentales de l'Empire. En effet, le volume offre d'utiles mises au point sur des sujets variés, qui constituent à eux seuls de nouvelles voies stimulantes de recherche. Le mérite des éditeurs est d'avoir su rassembler des études sur des thématiques diverses et originales, afin de nous dévoiler des pans entiers et parfois insoupçonnés de l'histoire des femmes, contribuant de ce fait à en faire à juste titre un livre de référence.


1.   R. van Bremen, The Limits of Participation. Women and Civic Life in the Greek East in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods, Amsterdam, 1996 (J. C. Gieben, xii, 399 p.).
2.   E. P. Forbis, Municipal Virtues in the Roman Empire. The Evidence of Italian Honorary Inscriptions, Stuttgart-Leipzig, 1996 (Teubner, vi, 299 p.).

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Michael von Albrecht, Große römische Autoren: Texte und Themen, Bd 1: Caesar, Cicero und die lateinische Prosa. Heidelberger Studienhefte zur Altertumswissenschaft. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012. Pp. 266. ISBN 9783825360764. €24.00. Michael von Albrecht, Große römische Autoren: Texte und Themen, Bd 2: Horaz, Vergil und seine Nachfolger. Heidelberger Studienhefte zur Altertumswissenschaft. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013. Pp. 316. ISBN 9783825360771. €24.00. Michael von Albrecht, Große römische Autoren: Texte und Themen, Bd 3: Von Lukrez und Catull zu Ovid. Heidelberger Studienhefte zur Altertumswissenschaft. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013. Pp. 315. ISBN 9783825360788. €24.00.

Reviewed by Geert Lernout, University of Antwerp (

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Table of Contents Vol. 1

Table of Contents Vol. 2

Table of Contents Vol. 3

Michael von Albrecht is one of the Nestors of German comparative literature, specializing in the Nachleben of Latin authors. His ambitious studies of Roman prose and poetry and his two-volume history of Roman literature (1994, with an English translation in 1997) have been translated into Italian, English and Spanish. In many ways the three books under review serve as an extended set of textbooks for a very ambitious university introduction to literature in Latin, with detailed readings and interpretations. In three handsomely produced paperbacks, Albrecht now offers a variety of studies on Caesar, Cicero and Latin prose; on Horace, Vergil and their epigones; and finally "from Lucretius and Catullus to Ovid." The titles of these volumes may give the impression that this is a new study of the Great Names of Roman literature, but that is not the case: most of these essays have been published before.

The first volume on Latin prose opens with a longish general introduction about the influence of Latin literature and of the classical tradition in general, which von Albrecht sees as the "school of Europe." This is a masterful survey in which all the important aspects of that tradition are sketched, with particular reference to Rome's decisive influence on legal thinking (and individual human rights), to the link between literary and scientific study and to the role of philosophy and religion. In each of these cases, von Albrecht needs no more than twenty pages to give his readers a first insight into the major issues that can be quite detailed at times. What is refreshing, in terms of the deep influence of the classical tradition on contemporary European (and, he adds, global) culture, is von Albrecht's stress on the continuity of the later Christian writers' thinking with that of their pagan colleagues, if only because it is only as part of their texts that we now still have a good sense of Varro's Antiquitates rerum antiquarum, with quotations embedded in Augustine's Civitas Dei.

The volume then divides into three major parts. The first part mostly deals with Cicero, although Caesar plays a role in the first few chapters; the second focuses on the three great history writers, Sallust, Livy and Tacitus; the third introduces some later writers: Seneca and Jerome, Symmachus and Augustine. In each of these chapters, von Albrecht follows the same order: after an introduction to the writer or to the specific work that will be discussed, the author and the work are systematically discussed in shorter sections. These different aspects of this author or work are sometimes illustrated by short passages from the work which are given in German and in the original.

In the first volume the result of this is that we have excellent introductions to the most important works of these writers, which manage to combine the broad outlines and a discussion of the detail of representative passages In the case of Caesar and Cicero, Albrecht understandably focuses on politics and rhetoric, but in the last two chapters he discusses quite specific issues: the function of the excursus on literature in Pro Archia and the coherence of philosophy in Cicero's later work ("o vitae philosophia dux"), ending with a last section on the later reception of Cicero's ideas about the music of the spheres.

The second part opens with a chapter on Sallust and with a quotation from the Histories of a speech by Marcius Philippus that receives a fairly detailed commentary. Von Albrecht makes an elegant link between rhetoric and history, showing that Sallust was not just a great historian, but also a skilled rhetorician. The next chapter tackles Livy, with a detailed reading of the Prooemium which demonstrates the representation of the system of Roman values, both literary and social. After a longer quotation from the story of Aeneas, in which the importance of peace and friendship is stressed, von Albrecht discusses Vergil's portrait of the ancestor of the Romans, with which Livy's Aeneas shares only the role of fatum. In a concluding section Albrecht then concludes that Livy's successful reduction of Roman legend and history to what was relevant to the Augustan periodenabled later writers to do the same, and can be usefully compared to Ovid's transformation of Greek mythology into what he calls "a specifically Roman treasure of images and examples".

The next chapter discusses an ostensibly moralising passage from Livy's Book V in which von Albrecht finds both the basis for overcoming a determinist type of historical image and a sort of early version of international law with the influence of the phrase "sunt et belli sicut pacis iura" and Hugo Grotius's explicit reference to the phrase in his De iure belli ac pacis, even in the title of the book. In the final two chapters von Albrecht then quotes the description of the death of Tiberius in the Annals by Tacitus, showing the role of dissimulatio in the portrait of the emperor. In the more general concluding chapter (translated from an original contribution in Latin) he tries to define Tacitus's historical writings and to correct some common misunderstandings about the historian: 1. Tacitus does not write from a city-centered perspective, he was aware of the importance of the provinces ("lange vor Mommsen," writes Albrecht); 2. His concept of virtus is not revisionist but takes into account the changing times; and 3. He is aware of the link between the morality of the ruler and the situation of the Empire.

The third part of the first volume discusses the Spätantike, starting with two chapters on Seneca. In the first Albrecht links the discussion of Caesar's clementia to the Stoic philosopher's advice to Emperor Nero: first he concentrates on the rhetorical power of the text and then he focuses on the way the civic value of amor civium is established; on intertextual references to Latin literature; and finally on the relationship between ethics and style. In the second Seneca chapter he quotes and discusses a famous section of the author's De brevitate vitae in a more technical philological manner: he looks at the semantic fields of the vocabulary, the philosophical redefinitions of some of the words, the use of imagery and finally the lack of apparent links between sentences (Caligula called Seneca's language "sand without lime"). All of this leads to the conclusion that Seneca played an important role in the birth of modern prose, when authors learned from Seneca how they could free themselves from a (misunderstood) Ciceronian language.

The volume ends with a discussion of three Christian writers: a section from a letter by Jerome about the widow Paula to her daughter. Albrecht discusses the stylistic devices and the dramatic technique, in order to arrive at the new kind of text: Jerome is using the form of the classical letter to invent a new genre, that of a specifically Christian biography. It is through Jerome's thoroughly classical background (Ciceronianus es, non Christianus) that he was able to become "one of the most influential cultural mediators of all time".

From Symmachus we read a section of the famous third relatio in which the author tries to convince the emperor to reinstate the pagan altar. Von Albrecht first studies the rhetorical devices used by the prefect in his fight against Ambrose, especially the personification of Roma, and then he moves to the masterly fashion in which the bishop of Milan successfully countered these arguments. Von Albrecht concludes that Symmachus's call for tolerance "was not heard then and until the present day, it has lost nothing of its poignancy." Augustine gets the last word (as he did for most of the next millennium) with a rather untypically technical and detailed discussion of the saint's understanding of music in his Confessiones.

In the second volume of the series we move to Horace and Virgil. After a brief introduction, the first Horace chapter opens conventionally with a section on the author's "life and works" in order to focus on the Satires, with a brief discussion of each of them in turn and to have a look at the inner coherence of both books. Much more than any of the chapters in the first volume, this is a straightforward and comprehensive introduction to the Satires, ,which is what this piece originally was.

The next chapter zooms in on Horace's letter to Albius, which it reads in terms of its metrical technique: "The following text considers itself as a contribution to a 'hermeneutic metrics'". And that is exactly what the reader gets. We then move to the so-called Roman odes in book III. This chapter answers four questions: who is being addressed, what is the meaning of the famous odi profanum vulgus; what is the role of the Muses and, finally, are these odes more than political propaganda? In the final Horace chapter von Albrecht returns to one of his favorite topics: the relationship of music and poetry and the question whether the Odes were supposed to be recited or sung, with a closer reading of the very relevant Carm IV:11.

In the next larger section, Virgil receives the same treatment: first "Leben und Werk," then context (genres, sources, precursors), a long section on literary technique, Virgil's philosophical background (God, man, history) and finally the poet's own ideas about poetry. The second Virgil chapter then reads in detail the first 33 lines of the Aeneid to conclude that in this introduction the poet presents the reader with a bold new conception of traditional stories.

The third chapter focuses on the characters (Aeneas, Dido and Turnus) and how Virgil's characterization often works by means of reversals and mirrorings, while the fourth in this section looks at selected passages in the Aeneid. In the next chapter von Albrecht rather suddenly moves back to Ennius (after deploring the lack of serious study of that author's style) and more particularly to a comparison with a horse in a fragment from the Annals, which is compared to similar passages in Homer, Virgil and Apollonius of Rhodes in order to arrive at a better understanding of the Latin archaic style, which disagrees with Ovid's Ennius ingenio maximus, arte rudis. In the final two chapters von Albrecht then studies Virgil's narrative technique in terms of his use of verb tenses on the one hand and on the other the poet's understanding of history and its effect on the passage in book VI where Aeneas meets his future descendants.

The final section in this volume ("Nach Vergil") looks at a number of later Latin poets, inevitably comparing these authors with the great precursors. He begins with Lucan and what he calls the "epic tradition" and compares his work to that of the major Greek and Latin writers. In the next chapter, von Albrecht tries to find a place between Virgil and Ovid for Valerius Flaccus, by contrasting his treatment of the story of Io with that in the Metamorphoses and the Aeneid. The next chapter is an introduction to the work of Silius Italicus, not very originally placing him between tradition and originality and in another chapter Albrecht then offers us a "morphological style comparison" by reading the section on Claudia Quinta in that author against Ovid's version of the story in the fourth book of Fasti. In the final chapter we move on to Claudian and an intertextual cluster in a passage of thirty verses from De raptu Proserpinae.

The third and final volume is devoted to "poets who have found different ways to free themselves of conventions" (9) and it opens with an introduction in which the different themes of this volume are briefly touched upon and that ends with a general statement about the three volumes in which the author stresses the connections between the prose writers and the poets discussed in different volumes, thematically and formally.

The first two chapters discuss Lucretius, first in terms of the role of the concepts of terror and pavor, which, according to von Albrecht, were omnipresent in the late Republic and which he reads as important in the role of the myth of Iphigenia in De rerum naturae. The author looks closely at the functioning of the different terms denoting fear in Lucretius' work in order to widen the perspective in the final pages of the essay to include the later poets. In the next chapter the poet's Nachleben is discussed, unfortunately not going beyond Einstein's preface to Diels's translation.

The second and longest part on "Catullus and the elegists" opens with an introductory chapter on the poet, not about his life and work this time, but his Nachleben; this is followed by an essay on the poet's treatment of nature and landscape and a comparison with Horace. We then move to Propertius as an "Augustan" poet and a chapter in which his work and life is compared to the career of Tibullus. The next chapter is again comparative, looking at Tibullus in contrast to Ovid, and von Albrecht then zooms out in order first to discuss the notion of populus and then the image of the beloved person in the work of the Augustan elegists.

The final part is given over to Ovid, who, with Virgil, is an important presence in the other books. We open with a general introduction that focuses on Amores and continue with an essay on Ovid's use of everyday speech in that work. The next three chapters have a similar set-up, with a more general introduction on Heroides (with a focus on the specific role of Greek and Roman elements) followed by close readings of the Briseis letter and of the Paris and Helen correspondence, in Ovid and in his medieval follower Baldric of Dol. The penultimate chapter zooms out again: Ovid is used as an example to discuss the relationship between poet and reader in antiquity and in the final chapter von Albrecht offers a close reading of Ovid's letter to Perilla in the Tristia which closes with a comparison with Horace's letter to Albius.

The analysis in these pieces is always literary and the emphasis often on style, but historical and linguistic issues play a role too. Nowhere in these three volumes can we say what more than a century ago, the Dutch philologist C.M. Francken wrote, in a pithy sentence quoted here: Natura fecit poetam, philologia hodierna dissolvit. Although these essays were originally written for different contexts and sometimes in other languages, the overall style of the books is uniform: direct and to the point, with the occasional happy flourish, like the description of Silius Italicus as an "Erzvergilianer," a hapax legomenon, if Google can be trusted; but also with the occasional stumble: surely, not even poets can gauge the atmosphere of an era with seismographical precision.

Professor von Albrecht has found a convenient way to publish many of his essays in a form that is useful, both to advanced students of Latin literature and to general readers, who might be interested both in the individual essays and in the breadth and coverage of these wonderful companion pieces to his standard history of Latin literature.

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Peter Thonemann (ed.), Attalid Asia Minor: Money, International Relations, and the State. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xviii, 335. ISBN 9780199656110. $75.00.

Reviewed by Nicholas Sekunda, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Gdańsk University (

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It is one of the great failures of the science of ancient numismatics, that no one has been able to resolve the question of when Pergamene cistophoric coinage started.1 Such is the importance of this question that the four numismatic chapters, out of the eight that go to make up this volume, relate indirectly or directly to this unsolved mystery. It could be argued, indeed, that the volume is really two half-books, the first on history and the second on numismatics. The numismatic contributions require much more attention from the reader. The argumentation presented in them is full of technical detail - they are certainly not aimed at 'the man on the Thyateira omnibus' (42). Earlier issues of Pergamene coinage, the so-called Philetairoi, had been struck on the Attic standard. These were replaced at some point in the first half of the second century by a reduced-weight silver tetradrachm, called the cistophoros.

Thonemann starts off the volume with Chapter 1 'The Attalid State 188-133 BC'. This is the core chapter of the book. Thonemann displays great originality of thought in defining the 'otherness' of the Attalid when compared to other Hellenistic kingdoms. In the end, however, the rehabilitation of the Attalid kingdom is a task too large even for Thonemann's eloquence. The exogenous nature of Attalid state-formation was due to its origins as a 'quisling' state (Kay 140), thrust onto the stage of Hellenistic history by Roman fiat. Compared with the other mighty monarchs of the Hellenistic world, Attalid rulers pale into insignificance, happily playing the role of 'Rome's lapdog' (Ma 58). This explains the continuing fascination with the Antigonid, Seleukid and Ptolemaic Kingdoms, to the loss of those Attalid 'Johnny come lately's'.

Thonemann develops three principal arguments in his chapter. The first is that the Attalid monarchs engaged in a process of institutional devolution, political power being devolved to existing local power-holders. Whereas Seleukid cities dealt with central officials at Sardeis, Pergamene kings preferred to deal directly with local communities (12), appointing local governors drawn from local elites (14). This power-sharing was dictated by the exogenous character of Attalid state-formation (dictated by the Roman settlement after the Seleukid defeat at Magnesia), resulting in a politically weak centre. Thonemann characterizes the Pergamene administration which replaced the Seleukid as 'cellular' (17). The second is that they followed a policy of increased administrative and fiscal 'legibility'. Whereas the Seleukids had transferred royal lands to individuals, in Attalid times the transfer was to cities (23). Thonemann notes that the post of geōdotēs is unattested outside the Attalid kingdom (26). The third is that the radically decentralized nature of the Attalid state was reflected in the state ideology, encouraging a non-charismatic style of rule. This too was dictated by the exogenous nature of state-formation, and the low ideological authority of Attalid kings. This non-charismatic style had two strands. The first strand was personal. Attalid kings styled themselves as the 'common benefactor', koinos euergetes (37). The second strand was to stress familial solidarity and domestic virtues (38). Thonemann argues (47) that the historical significance of the Attalid kingdom lay in its increased infrastructural power due to its consensual nature, as opposed to the 'despotic/federal' Near-Eastern states that it replaced.

In Chapter 2 'The Attalids: A Military History' John Ma exploits the evidence pertaining to the Attalid army and navy to the full, concluding his chapter with a useful gazetteer of 74 inscriptions which are of a military character (77-82): much food for thought here. The evidence proves to be insubstantial. 'In spite of the thinness of the evidence' Ma (60) proposes 12,000 as a wartime maximum strength for the early period, while in the last decades of the kingdom Attalid forces were larger. Hence the need to mobilize private forces to resist the Galatians in 277 and 168 and 156 BC. Unlike the other Hellenistic monarchies (Antigonid, Seleukid, Ptolemaic) the Attalid Kingdom seems not to have possessed a substantial manpower base subject to mobilization, and their armies seemed to consist largely of mercenary forces, although Ma points out that 20% of those mentioned in the Lilaia inscription are what he terms 'Pergamene citizen soldiers'.

One shortcoming of the book is that the first three authors make free use of such terms as katoikiai (Thonemann 20, 26, 29; Ma 72, 73), military katoikiai (Thonemann 19, 28, 30, 38) and military colonies (Ma 69; Chrubasik 90), but none of them at any point in the volume explains what exactly we are to understand by these terms. The material relating to the subject is, indeed, intractable. Furthermore, in the majority of cases we do not know whether such evidence as there is goes back to Seleukid times or postdates 188 BC, and is, therefore, potential evidence for Attalid attempts to create such a recruiting base.

In Chapter 3 Boris Chrubasik takes as his theme the relationship between 'The Attalids and the Seleukid Kings, 281-175 BC' in which he distinguishes three phases. The first phase, in which the Attalids were local dynasts within the Seleukid Empire, came to an end when Attalos I declared himself king. This was coincident, Chrubasik (95) argues, with the acclamation of Antiochos Hierax as king in Asia Minor. In 216 BC Attalos came to an accommodation with Antiochos III, resulting in the loss of Attalid territory (97). When Antiochos returned from his Anabasis cities which had been in the Attalid sphere since the 220s reverted to Seleucid power (99). The break between Eumenes (Attalos I's successor) and Antiochos only came in the winter of 194-193 BC, when Eumenes rejected the hand of Antiochos' daughter in marriage, seeing Rome as his chance of freeing himself from Seleukid superiority in Asia Minor (104). Chrubasik's third phase lasts from the Treaty of Apameia down to the accession of Antiochos IV.

While the later chapters of the book are numismatic in character, Philip Kay's chapter 4, entitled 'What Did the Attalids Ever Do for Us? The View from the Aerarium', provides a transition with a fiscal perspective on Roman imperialism in Asia. Kay explains the mechanics of Roman military imperialism more concisely and convincingly than I, at any rate, have come across previously. Against a background of carefully calculated statistics of the inflow of precious metals to Rome, he demonstrates that it was the needs of maintaining the Roman army that led to imperialism: 'in this sense warfare became economically self-perpetuating. Continuous wars of imperial conquest led to the plundering of conquered territories, which led to import into Italy of bullion, which in turn led to the financing of further wars' (134-5). He also demonstrates that the concept of an indemnity paid by a defeated adversary was a fiction: Rome charged Antiochos more than the Carthaginians because he was richer (139).

Andrew Meadows in Chapter 5 'The Closed Currency System of the Attalid Kingdom' argues for a 'low' dating for the start of Pergamene cistophoric coinage. There is an overlap in production between the Philetairoi and cistophoroi. It seems that the Philetairoi came to an end c. 150 BC, when the latest issues are found in the Trabzon hoard. Similarities between the symbols on the latest group of Philetairoi (issue 21) and series 24 of the cistophoroi suggest that 24 issues of cistophoroi were struck by c. 150 BC. Meadows concedes that 'This is a large amount of coinage' (181). The latest group of Philetairoi are also found in the Syria and Babylon hoards (c. 160 BC), and in the Ma'Aret hoard (c. 162 BC) and it is therefore highly probable that the first cistophoroi were struck before c. 162 BC. Meadows suggests a date of 167/6 for the start of Pergamene cistophoric coinage, linking it to the striking of Alabanda tetradrachms of cistophoric weight, which he suggests elsewhere start in 167/6 BC when Caria was freed from Rhodian control (178). Another suggestion made by Meadows not related to the introduction of the cistophoroi is that the massive number of coins struck between 133-128/9 BC reflect pro-Roman funding of the war against Aristonicus (183). Meadows concludes that the Pergamenes did not operate a closed (cistophoric) currency regime (196).

François de Callataÿ in Chapter 6 'The Coinages of the Attalids and their Neighbours: A Quantified Overview' considers that the annual production of Philetairoi would have been insufficient to pay the mercenaries in Attalid employment (213-4). He calculates the benefits accruing from the issue of the reduced weight cistophoroi as opposed to coins struck on the Attic standard (218-9), and puts the introduction of the cistophoroi at some point after the treaty of Apameia, probably in the decade 180-170 BC (227). He suggests that a significant part of cistophoric coinage must have been devoted to military expenditure (229-30).

In Chapter 7, 'The Use of the Cistophoric Weight-Standard Outside the Pergamene Kingdom', Richard Ashton (246-9) provides the arguments against the low dating adopted by both Meadows and de Callataÿ. A cistophoros struck relatively late on in the series was reported in the Larisa hoard, which was concealed in the 160s. This led Price to date the introduction of the cistophoroi to the 180s BC or earlier. An inscription recording a letter sent by Eumenes II dating to 182/1 to his governor in Telmessos mentions that poll-tax is normally to be paid in Rhodian coinage amounting to 4 Rhodian drachmae and 1 obol, the exact equivalent in weight to one Pergamene cistophoric tetradrachm. There are four well-known references to cistophoroi in Roman triumphs in Livy in 190, 189 and 187 BC, discussed in detail in an article by K.W. Harl ('Livy and the Date of the Introduction of the Cistophoric Tetradrachma' Classical Antiquity 10 (1991) 268-97). Indeed, as Ashton points out, without the cistophoroi the amount of Pergamene coinage struck in the years immediately after Apameia seems insufficient to meet the needs of the massively expanded kingdom. Consequently Ashton suggests that Eumenes II started to mint cistophoroi at Pergamon in 192 or 191 BC, and that one year later they found themselves in Glabrio's triumph as a subsidy or as booty taken from Antiochos' camp. Ephesos and Tralleis surrendered to Scipio after Magnesia and were assigned to the Attalids. The issue of cistophoroi in the name of cities other than Pergamon began as early as this. The Rhodian plinthophoroi (and later on cistophoroi), both coins of reduced weight, may have been introduced as a result of the shortage of silver encountered during the war with Antiochos III (259).

In the final Chapter 8 'War or Trade? Attic-Weight Tetradrachms from Second-Century BC Attalid Asia Minor in Seleukid Syria after the Peace of Apameia and their Historical Context' Selene Psoma addresses the problem of why after c. 140 BC Syrian hoards contain exclusively Seleukid and local issues, whereas before that date they contain imported coins of Attic weight silver coins of Asia Minor (274). She concludes that both Antiochos IV and Alexander Balas, a creation of Attalos II, received Attalid help, money and troops (292). Earlier on in this volume Callataÿ (233-6) had also pointed out that the wreathed coinages struck c. 154-135 BC by Myrina, Kyme, Smyrna, Lebedos, Magnesia, and Herakleia went to pay mercenaries recruited by Balas (who were recruited at Ephesos). Psoma (279) points out that in the years following Apameia, the Attalid kings used Attic-weight coinage of non-Pergamene origin, as well as their own issues, to fund overseas transactions.

I personally gained a lot from reading this volume, and I happily recommend it to other readers.


1.   The coins were so called because the coinage bore an image of a basket (cistos) and snakes, symbols connected with the mystery cult. The cistophoroi are 'sometimes qualified by the Moderns as the ugliest Greek coinage ever produced' (François de Callataÿ 218).

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Friday, May 30, 2014


Alex Mullen, Patrick James (ed.), Multilingualism in the Graeco-Roman Worlds. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xvii, 389. ISBN 9781107013865. $110.00.

Reviewed by Rachel Mairs, University of Reading (

Version at BMCR home site


The publication of this volume in 2012 coincided with the tenth anniversary of one of the foundational works of the new wave of research on ancient multilingualism, Adams, Janse and Swain's Bilingualism in Ancient Society.1 There have been important developments in the field since 2002, and many of the innovative approaches pioneered in Bilingualism in Ancient Society have become established. This is especially true of the adoption and critical treatment of phenomena identified in studies of multilingualism in modern, spoken languages, such as code-switching, bilingual interference and diglossia. All of these concepts, and many others from sociolinguistics, are now recognised as part of the theoretical toolkit of ancient multilingual research.

Mullen and James' new edited volume builds on previous scholarship of this type, but offers many original insights into both ancient multilingualism and methodological 'best practice' in exploring it. It covers a geographical range from Ireland to Egypt, and in chronology extends from antiquity to the early middle ages—the 'worlds' of the title. The contributors remind us that multilingualism and language contact can be explored using many different forms of evidence, not exclusively textual. All of them combine theoretical reflections with detailed dissection of individual texts and contexts. The volume as a whole gathers in one place material and scholarship which an individual student or scholar might otherwise never come across. For that alone—in addition to its many virtues and accomplishments—the volume is to be highly recommended both to established researchers on ancient and medieval multilingualism, and to those exploring the subject for the first time.

Alex Mullen's excellent introduction sets the scene, both for the range of material to be considered in the volume, and for the methodological and theoretical concerns upon which all the contributors touch. She notes that disciplinary boundaries have, in the past, impeded research into ancient multilingualism. This is true of the division between sociolinguistic study of ancient and modern languages, and of the separation of the study of ancient languages (such as Greek and Egyptian) into different university departments. The present volume decisively breaks down these boundaries.

Scholars of multilingualism in the ancient world have, over the past decade or so, engaged critically with scholarship on linguistic interaction in the modern world, making particular use of the data available on interaction between spoken languages. This has been a strong point of three of the existing, comparable edited volumes on ancient multilingualism: Adams, Janse and Swain's 2002 Bilingualism in Ancient Society; Cotton, Hoyland, Price and Wasserstein's 2009 From Hellenism to Islam;2 and Papaconstantinou's 2010 The Multilingual Experience in Egypt.3 Adams' masterful Bilingualism and the Latin Language4 (2003) also demonstrates close engagement with sociolinguistic theory. Mullen argues that comparison between ancient and modern case studies is valid because "the bilingual phenomena attested are created through analogous linguistic interactions and are representative of similar human processes". She furthermore offers a theoretical template for approaching ancient multilingualism, in response to a tendency which, I would suggest, is widespread in studies of cultural interaction in the ancient world as a whole: the tendency to cherry pick modern theory for one's own immediate purposes, and not remain completely abreast of the latest developments and debates in anthropology and sociolinguistics. Mullen places a welcome emphasis on some recent themes in sociolinguistic research of especial relevance to the ancient world, such as the question of ethnolinguistic vitality.

Mullen suggests that scholarship on multilingualism and multiculturalism in the ancient world, has "entered a critical phase of refining, rethinking and elaborating, particularly with regards to interdisciplinary approaches." The contributions in the present volume demonstrate that ancient multilingualism has moved beyond its 'pioneer' phase and is now a mature discipline.

In addition to providing important discussions of material which the reader interested in ancient multilingualism would otherwise have to turn to many different volumes, often obscure, to find, each of the chapters engages with some important wider problems in ancient sociolinguistics.

In his chapter, James Clackson examines processes of language maintenance and language shift, in his discussion of the ways in which the spread of the Latin and Greek languages in the Roman Empire affected other languages and their speakers. He highlights the role played by gender: there were situations where women were linguistically conservative, others in which they acted as agents of change.

Arietta Papaconstantinou contributes to the growing debate about reasons for the success or failure of various languages around the time of the Arab conquest in the Near East. She looks at the social, political and economic context for language shift, with an emphasis on the range of factors which might cause a language to 'succeed' or 'fail'.

Oliver Simkin discusses the interaction between a large number of indigenous and colonial languages in the Iberian peninsula. He provides a valuable dissection of the problems inherent in trying to glean sociolinguistic information from bilingual inscriptions in which one language (e.g. Iberian) cannot be understood.

The chapter by Trevor Evans unpacks previous scholars' assumptions in their identification of bilingual interference in the Zenon archive. He sets out material for conducting a systematic analysis of the documents in this important Egyptian archive of the third century BC, with a view to identifying genuine cases of bilingual interference. The notion of 'bad Greek', enthusiastically debunked in much of the recent scholarly literature,5 raises its head. Earlier judgments of the quality of papyrological Greek were judged against the benchmark of "literary Attic prose, which the early editors really wanted the Greek of the papyri to be."

Broadening the chronological perspective, Alderik Blom offers an anthropological approach to ancient and medieval ritual languages. He examines the phenomenon of tag-switching into another language in sacred texts and argues that there might be reasons for deliberate "opaqueness of meaning", to both reader/speaker and scribe/composer.

David Langslow explores translation techniques in Greek and Latin. He differentiates between word for word renderings, which may also help the reader recover the original, and versions produced by translators concerned with reproducing the full effect and content of the original. Of particular interest are the choices of translators in deciding to retain, or to rephrase, specific items of terminology from the original text.

The status of Greek in medieval Ireland is discussed by Pádraic Moran, who explores the resources available to Irish learners of the language. He identifies Irish glossaries, which often compared Irish words to similar-sounding ones in other languages, as "an early stage in the history of comparative linguistics."

Paul Russell offers a selection of fascinating "views of multilingualism from the early medieval West", including some tantalising cases where we have evidence that multilingualism existed, but insufficient material to judge its nature and extent. He raises two particularly important points: the difference between active and passive command of a language; and the need to examine the processes of second language acquisition, as well as its use.

Scott Bucking reassesses the primary evidence and modern debates on Greek-Coptic education in Late Antique Egypt. His emphasis on the spatial and material context of bilingual learning offers an invaluable counterpoint to the textual analysis of the preceding chapters.

Andrew Wilson also looks at texts in context. He notes a major difficulty in the interpretation of multilingual neo-Punic, Latin and Greek inscriptions from North Africa, in that they have tended in the past to be published separately. His contribution examines inscriptions in which the two (or more) texts do not represent exact translations, but idiomatic renderings with their own cultural and religious referents.

Robin Osborne offers a concluding chapter which explores the many 'languages' of cultural communication, whether verbal language or forms of visual expression.

This volume is a welcome and important addition to the growing literature on multilingualism in the ancient world. Its range of case studies, across space and time, is impressive. The contributions demonstrate that exciting new interdisciplinary research is underway on interactions between a vast number of ancient and medieval languages. Scholars of ancient multilingualism have engaged fully and critically with the literature on interactions between languages in the modern and early modern worlds, adopting and adapting concepts such as linguistic interference, code-switching and diglossia, among many others. The next step ought to be for this dialogue between ancient and modern sociolinguistics to become two-way. Studies such as those contained in the present volume will, it is hoped, make a wider scholarly community aware of the excellent material available for exploring ancient multilingualism.


1.   Adams, James N., Mark Janse and Simon Swain eds. (2002) Bilingualism in Ancient Society: Language Contact and the Written Text. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2.   Cotton, Hannah M., Robert G. Hoyland, Jonathan J. Price and David J. Wasserstein eds. (2009) From Hellenism to Islam: Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
3.   Papaconstantinou, Arietta eds. (2010) The Multilingual Experience in Egypt, from the Ptolemies to the ͑Abbāsids. Farnham: Ashgate.
4.   Adams, J. N. (2003) Bilingualism and the Latin Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5.   Vierros, Marja (2012) Bilingual Notaries in Hellenistic Egypt: A Study of Greek as a Second Language. Brussels: Comité Klassieke Studies, Subcomité Hellenisme, Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten.

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Cynthia Damon (trans.), Tacitus: Annals. Penguin Classics. London; New York: Penguin Books, 2012. Pp. lv, 468. ISBN 9780140455649. $18.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Victoria E. Pagán, University of Florida (

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Damon has produced an elegant and often arresting translation of the Annals that brings us closer to the thought of Tacitus than other English translations available today. The edition of Church and Brodribb produced in 1876 and published by Hadas in 1942 dominated the second half of the twentieth century; Woodman ushered the twenty first with his 2004 Hackett edition, followed by Yardley in 2008.1 Readers are always aware that they are reading Church and Brodribb or Woodman or Yardley; readers of Damon's Penguin edition, however, will sense not the hand of the modern translator but the presence of the original author. For instance, in the account of the death of Agrippa Postumus, Tacitus seems to speak directly to us, anticipating our incredulity with a truth that is only approximate: "Death inflicted on a grandson for a stepson's security? Not credible. Closer to truth: Tiberius and Livia—he from fear, she from stepmotherly hostility—hastened the killing of a man suspect and hated" (1.6.2). Damon breathes life into the simple indicative, credibile erat; we converse with the historian. So while Damon's theoretical objective is to do justice to Tacitus' style (p. xlvii), in practice she achieves far more. Any good translator will recreate the style of Tacitus; sententious, terse prose is infinitely imitable (dangerously so, except of course for Syme). Damon differs in her ability to capture Tacitus' style and simultaneously simplify a text that is notoriously difficult.

Two features of Damon's volume in particular contribute to the simplification of the Annals that renders it more accessible to today's reader. First, over a thousand individuals are named in the Annals; homonyms and variations can confound the reader. Damon's policy is to give the full name at the character's first appearance, "and then to use either that or one shorter form thereafter, regardless of what appears in Tacitus' text" (p. xlviii). She also uses the most familiar form of a name (for instance, Lucan, instead of Tacitus' Annaeus Lucanus). Furthermore, the Index of Names (p. 435-460) allows the reader easy recourse to a person's (or people's) complete profile in the Annals: for example, Lucius Asprenas (referred to as Asprenas) inhabits only the first three books (1.53 and 3.18); the Brigantes only Book 12 (12.32, 12.36, and 12.40, although Damon's note 47, p. 408, points to another possible mention in the lacuna and a relevant reference in the Histories). The Index aims to be comprehensive, including even those people mentioned only once and otherwise unknown (e.g., Furnius, 4.52; however, Annia Rufilla, 3.36.3, is "Rufilla" in the text but "Annia Rufilla" in the Index). The net effect of Damon's efforts is a translation that naturalizes an otherwise overwhelming cast of characters.

Second, while most translators provide notes to make the ancient text approachable, Damon does the reader the extra favor of specifying the criteria for supplying a note: (1) for named entities, "if mentioned elsewhere by Tacitus in a relevant context" with cross reference (p. liii); (2) for aspects of the Roman world necessary for comprehension; (3) for "matters relevant to the composition of the Annals (p. liv); and (4) for matters of textual criticism, where the Latin text is unsure or corrupt. Hence the reader can decide more easily if it is worth seeking the note in the back of the volume (pp. 363-433, with an average of 80 notes per book). Thus the notes represent a concerted effort to explain the Annals as a whole, by consolidating identities of characters across the text and by highlighting the compositional technique of the work. The result is a understanding of the Annals—a text that is marred by a gaping lacuna and a narrative that spans more than fifty years—as a unified work of literature and history, and such unification contributes to the overall aim of simplifying the Annals for the modern reader.

Given this goal, it is difficult to justify the decision to italicize all oratio obliqua in the translation. Unless one reads carefully the mere one-paragraph explanation (p. liii) for the use of italics for "printing reported speech and thought —in both short and much longer passages," the italics used on every single page of the book might at first glance seem to be for emphasis (the conventional reason for the font, according to the Chicago Manual of Style2), although one quickly sees that rather than the occasional adjunct for emphasis, foreign words, or key terms, the italics are in fact used for entire paragraphs. Confusion ensues. Even when advised of Damon's convention, it is difficult not to be distracted or to resist reading the italics as motivated by more than grammar. This is of course Damon's point: Tacitus makes masterful use not only of indirect discourse (the oratio obliqua characterized by the subject accusative, verb infinitive grammatical construction that is native to the Latin language) but also of what McHale calls "free indirect discourse," which delays (or in the case of Tacitus sometimes altogether suppresses) the reporting verb of saying or thinking. Consider McHale's example in English: "Oh no, she was fine, she was just going to stay in bed all day, Mary answered in a dead voice."3 Mary is of course the third-person "she," and the reporting verb "answered" delayed.

Compare 14.8.4, when Agrippina the Younger sees Nero's henchmen Anicetus, Herculeius, and Obaritus surround her couch with the intent to kill. In the Latin, although the accusative-infinitive construction is used, the verb of saying or thinking is suppressed, and Agrippina is represented by the third-person pronoun se: si ad uisendum uenisset, refotam nuntiaret, sin facinus patraturus, nihil se de filio credere; non imperatum parricidium. Damon renders eloquently (and I retain her italics): If you are paying a call, report me recovered. But if you intend to accomplish the deed—I don't believe it of my son. No order has been given for kin-murder! One might defend the use of italics on the grounds that the passage indicates what Agrippina is thinking and so warrants the italics that indicate the narrative distance. But when italics are used for both standard oratio obliqua and for the more nuanced free indirect discourse, the reader is led to believe that all indirect discourse is the same.

The idea is that the italicized English should represent the Latin syntax: "subjects appear in the object case and verbs are infinitive" (p. liii). What then are we to make of this—again, exquisitely elegant and vibrant translation of 2.24.4, tales told by survivors of a shipwreck (I retain Damon's fonts): "The further away their return started, the more marvels they told: violent whirlwinds, unheard-of birds, sea monsters, equivocal bodies—man? beast?—were seen, or believed, from fear." On principle, the entire sentence, and not just the genitive plurals hominum et beluarum, should be italicized, since the oratio obliqua is introduced with narrabant. Or is the interruption, "—man? beast?—" actually italicized to emphasize the outlandish nature of the creatures? We cannot know.

Front matter is judicious and expert. Two chronologies (pp. ix-xviii) document the principal events of the Annals and of Tacitus' lifetime and introduce the reader at the outset to the fundamental importance of the context of production. The Introduction (pp. xix-xlii) provides the requisite background with special attention to Tacitus' aims, sources, and themes. Three and a half pages of further reading include the traditional scholarship as well as recent bibliography. Whereas most translators devote only a page or so to their method, Damon delineates her rationale over eight pages ("Note on the Translation," pp. xlvii-lv). Nine maps (Woodman has only three) cover the Roman empire at the death of Augustus, Italy, Latium and Campania, Rome in the first century, Asia Minor, the Near East, Germany, Britain, and the Balkans; together with the Index of Places (pp. 461-468), the reader has at her fingertips the geographical scope of the Annals. Genealogies of the family of Augustus and the Julio-Claudians complement the endeavor to simplify names in the Annals; emperors appear in boldface.

This translation—bold, creative, commanding—will influence many readers of Tacitus to come, and it strikes the balance between the gnomic Church and Brodribb, fair enough for the lay person, and the faithful Woodman, better for the expert. I suspect it will be in high demand. I hope that upon reprinting Penguin will consider using roman type throughout.4


1.   A. J. Church and W. J. Brodribb (trans.), The Complete Works of Tacitus, edited with an introduction by Moses Hadas. New York: The Modern Library, 1942; A. J. Woodman (trans.), Tacitus, The Annals. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004; J. C. Yardley (trans.), Tacitus. The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. Oxford World's Classics. With introduction and notes by Anthony A. Barrett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
2.   The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. 2010. Chicago: 7.4, "Italics for emphasis."
3.   McHale, B. 1978. "Free Indirect Discourse: A Survey of Recent Accounts." PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature 3: 249-287; quote at 252.
4.   I caught only one misspelling, "Angrivariio" (p. 461).

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Craig A. Williams, Reading Roman Friendship. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. x, 378. ISBN 9781107003651. $110.00.

Reviewed by François Prost, Université Paris-Sorbonne (

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Williams' study offers an examination of the theme of friendship in the Roman pagan world during the Republican and Imperial periods that is both original and challenging. The main body of the book is harmoniously divided into five sections which form three parts. A long "Introduction" (pp. 1–62) lays down the general framework and the methodological principles the study relies on and defines its scope and ambitions. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 form a thematic block and explore the issues shown as most significant in the Introduction. Chapter 1 ("Men and Women", pp. 63–115) explores gender used as an organizational principle in order to distinguish relationships between women, between men, and between men and women. Chapter 2 ("Love and Friendship: Questions and Themes", pp. 116–173) considers the type of relationship involved. Then, along the lines drawn up in that first thematic part, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 constitute a second block that offers more detailed readings of a significant selection of items from the Latin textual tradition, with each chapter focusing on one of the two bodies of evidence presented in the Introduction as both fundamentally distinct and complementary. Chapter 3 ("Love and Friendship: Authors and Texts", pp. 174–258) deals with a highly representative selection of literary texts: mostly the poetry of Catullus, Virgil, Horace, and Propertius; Petronius' prose narrative (more briefly); and an equally extended consideration of Cicero's and Fronto's letters. Chapter 4 ("Friendship and the Grave: the Culture of Commemoration", pp. 259–354) concentrates on a rich choice of funerary inscriptions that stage in a specific mode the relationships of the deceased with his or her "friends", and that may include group burial of such so-called "friends" (as opposed to kin or spouses), a distinctly Roman practice.

Williams carefully delineates his subject matter by explicit provisos that challenge some of the prejudices commonly at work in the study of ancient "friendship". To begin with, he goes beyond two not infrequent restrictions of scope. First, amicitia under consideration here is neither equated with nor limited to the idealized and highly normative model put forward by philosophical inquiry, as if such theorizing produced no more than a neutral, schematic radiographic view of actual Roman practices, or expressed in a refined manner the essence of common opinion with its set of agreed values and principles—which either way is definitely not the case. Second, the evidence is not limited to literary texts (even beyond the more restricted field of moral philosophy), but includes also the vast realm of epigraphic evidence, mostly funerary inscriptions from different parts of the Roman Empire (if need be with due consideration of local, as well as chronological, specificities). Nonetheless, Williams imposes a restriction of his own, and rightly so, in his dealing with Roman friendship per se. And that is, he does not equate Latin amicitia with Greek philia as a concept identical in substance, and consequently does not take into account Greek texts even if concerned with Roman experiences (e.g. Plutarch); nor, for that matter, does he take for granted that what is expressed by the Latin vocabulary of amicitia coincides with the modern views expressed in modern language translations of those terms (on which Williams also offers interesting insights).

Thus, from various points of view, Williams' analysis notably differs from and upon occasion challenges the classic previous ones, as those by Fraisse (Philia, Paris, 1974), Pizzolato (L'idea di amicizia nel mondo classico e cristiano, Torino, 1993), and Konstan (Friendship in the Classical World, Cambridge, 1997). Williams makes it clear that he aims neither at reconstructing how individual writers experienced personal friendship, nor at mapping out a social system with a possible historical evolution due to political changes, first of all from Republic to Empire. To Williams' approach, the key world is "reading". Indeed Williams relies on Bakhtin's theory of "speech genres", through which the various discourses on friendship appear as utterances to be located within the framework of a specific code (with possible hybrid structures, when a given word belongs to more than one system). In this light, what is at stake is, in a given context, the label applied by the locutor according to this context and as required by circumstantial needs, with a function that is not only descriptive, but also performative. That is to say that the utterance that applies the vocabulary of friendship to a relationship determines and shapes this relationship to that extent, and precisely through the chosen application of those labels. Proper "reading" should then take into account the circumstance as well as the context which stipulates the use of such and such a code, not in order to unveil an underlying reality (be it psychological, social, political, or otherwise) but, by sticking to the very utterances, in order to analyze the workings of the code that underlies them.

As a consequence, some major issues come into a new light: for example, in the case of socially uneven relationships, amicitia labelled as such does not "cover up" clientela, as is often assumed (e.g. by Rouland, Serrano Delgado, Verboven). The very labelling is proof that Roman friendship acknowledged utility and interest (as long as they do not operate as primary motives) and understood that the benefits from friendship are not limited to affection and morality.

Williams also demonstrates that codes may differ significantly from one speech genre to the other. Most remarkable is the case of the labels "amicus" and "amica" in utterances applied to relationships inflected by gender. Williams shows that prose funerary inscriptions most commonly apply those labels with no hint of an erotic dimension and in a strictly symmetric way, whether for relationships between men, between women, or between men and women—whereas literature, first and foremost elegiac poetry, as often as not employs the same labels to denote a sexual relationship between the sexes (not same sex relationship) apart from marriage. Yet what holds for prose inscriptions does not for verse ones, probably due to the influence of the literary model of elegiac and erotic poetry. On the other hand, and most notably, in the overall surviving textual tradition (literary as well as epigraphic) the discourse of amicitia is very seldom applied to married couples, in spite of significant overlaps of related affects and concepts (fides, foedus, dextrarum iunctio).

The study of same sex relationships also yields interesting results, partly in the wake of Williams' previous monograph on Roman homosexuality (Oxford, 2nd ed. 2010). In the case of relationships between women, the examination is avowedly hampered by the paucity of evidence. Yet Williams' focus complements Boehringer's study (L'homosexualité féminine dans l'antiquité grecque et romaine, Paris, 2007), which does not concentrate on friendship. Williams accurately distinguishes texts written by women themselves (e.g. in social exchange as evidenced by the Vindolanda letters, or in inscriptions commemorative of "amicae"), and texts written by men and dealing with relationships between women: in which latter case, when an erotic dimension is manifested, linguistic use tends "to conform sexual practices between women to a gendered penetrating paradigm" (p. 132). Finally, relationships between men are handled with the concept of "homosocial" taken from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (Between Men, New York, 1985), and Williams rightly concludes that the frequent overlaps between the discourses of friendship and of sexuality at least show that the Roman did not "seal off the erotic from the affectionate or friendly when representing, describing, and perhaps even living intimacy between men" (p. 139); evidence from the use of mythic paradigms, including Virgil's Nisus and Euryalus, points to the same conclusion. The label "frater" may then offer itself in order "both to represent a relationship as meaningful and affectionate, valuable to participants and respected by others, and to sidestep questions of gendered and penetrative hierarchy" (p. 171); yet "frater" and "soror" could also designate, or at least suggest, sexual partners, most famously in Cicero's innuendos directed at the real sibling pair Clodius and Clodia; but also elsewhere, in contexts that are not that malignant.

Whether in the methodological and thematic sections (introduction and chapters 1 and 2) or in the case studies of chapters 3 and 4, Williams always relies on thorough and accurate examination of ancient evidence, as well as an intelligent use of scholarship. The bibliography is rich, yet not uselessly overwhelming, and proper benefit is gained from many references in languages other than English. On many specific issues (methodological, anthropological, linguistic, literary, or else) appended notes or embedded syntheses provide summaries and surveys that will prove useful both to scholars and to students. Both thematic and case study, which work hand in hand, yield more valuable results than a review can account for in detail. But the first major contribution of the book is its very scope, which brings together in an illuminating way both types of primary sources: on the one hand, the literary tradition, which is represented by different genres from different periods, and also includes minor and often neglected material such as the Vindolanda letters; on the other hand, a rich corpus of inscriptions, remarkably presented in their context and, if need be, with precise archeological information, reproduction of the layout of the inscription and photographic illustration: e.g. pp. 260–266, the excellent presentation of the monument of P. Vesonius Phileros at Pompeii, Tomb 23 OS, bearing witness to a stupendous tale of friendship, betrayal and revenge (the references, missing in the text, of the main two inscriptions are AE 1986.166 (dedication) and AE 1964.160 (curse)1). Due attention is also paid to the social dimension of the process of commemorating friendship, since such inscriptions very often concern freedpersons, and the study also relies on a very useful typology that charts the material under consideration according to the various parameters of the commemorated relationship. In that respect, Williams' monograph may even serve, through the evocative theme of friendship, as a pleasurable and profitable introduction to the use of epigraphy for wider purposes.

To conclude, Williams deserves all praise for having produced an excellent book (also very accurately edited), warmly recommended to anyone with an interest in the issues and the material dealt with.


1.   For those and the other related inscriptions on the monument, in English translation (only), see also A.E. Cooley and M.G.L. Cooley, Pompeii and Herculaneum. A Sourcebook, London, Routledge, 2nd ed. 2014, p. 153-154.

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Maud Étienne-Duplessis, Appien. Histoire romaine, Tome XII, Livre XVII: Guerres civiles, livre V. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 498. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2013. Pp. ccxxxi, 197. ISBN 9782251005836. €83.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Clément Chillet, Ecole française de Rome (

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Ce volume prend sa place dans une vaste entreprise de traduction d'Appien, entamée aux éditions des Belles Lettres depuis 1997. Constituant le troisième volume du cycle des Guerres civiles publié dans la Collection des Universités de France (manquent les livres 2 et 4), il est issu d'une thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2004. Cette édition présente une introduction de 225 pages (p. VII-CCXXXI) et un appareil de notes réparties en bas de pages et en fin de volume. Elle constitue véritablement une nouvelle édition du texte, dans la mesure où elle est fondée sur la lecture et l'intégration de deux manuscrits qui n'étaient pas connus des éditeurs précédents (coll. Loeb, Teubner et édition d'E. Gabba1) : le premier issu de la bibliothèque laurentienne (noté L dans l'apparat), date du XIVe siècle et le second de la bibliothèque vaticane (noté P) du XVe. Les deux manuscrits sont présentés et analysés pour les variantes qu'ils apportent par rapport aux traditions reçues jusqu'alors, dont certaines confirment des conjectures formées par les éditeurs anciens (voir par exemple, p. CII de l'introduction), tandis que d'autres fournissent un texte susceptible de remonter à l'archétype perdu de notre tradition sur le livre V des Guerres civiles (p. CXCIX de l'introduction) et corrigent donc les traditions indirectes que nous possédions jusqu'alors.

La plus grande partie de la substantielle introduction est consacrée à la description des protagonistes (l'éditrice dit les « personnages ») du livre V des Guerres civiles. Ce constat appelle deux remarques. D'abord, la plus grande partie de cette introduction est descriptive et a recours assez souvent à la citation de la traduction pour étayer les dires de la traductrice. Ce double emploi charge automatiquement une introduction qui, faisant quelque économie, aurait pu, de ce fait, être plus précise sur d'autres points. La seconde remarque, issue de la première, est que la partie d'analyse historique et historiographique est souvent décevante. L'écriture de l'histoire par Appien a certes déjà été traitée en partie dans les introductions des autres volumes de la collection déjà édités, mais les spécificités de la période traitée imposaient quelques remarques ad hoc qu'on ne lit pas dans ce panorama initial, mais qui se trouvent, parfois, distillées dans les notes de fin de volume. Si la place du livre V dans l'ensemble de l'œuvre d'Appien, dans son projet historiographique, si les éléments de réponse et de contre-point à l'intérieur du livre ici édité (voir par exemple l'analyse des portraits en contre-point de Sextus Pompée et de Lépide, p. LXXXI de l'introduction) sont bien analysés, et reçoivent le traitement qu'ils méritent, d'autres points de la méthode historique d'Appien sont laissés dans l'ombre, qui pourtant pourraient éclairer la compréhension générale de l'œuvre. Ainsi, le choix de ne pas utiliser la méthode annalistique n'est jamais commenté comme tel. De même, on attendrait une analyse un peu plus ample des rapports d'Appien avec la version augustéenne des faits qui est celle que nous connaissons le mieux grâce à d'autres auteurs. L'analyse des sources a permis à l'éditrice de rétablir à sa juste proportion la place de Pollion et du républicanisme des sources supposées d'Appien. En revanche, résumer sa méthode et sa position à celle d'un Alexandrin intégré à l'Empire pour lequel il a géré des responsabilités administratives est sans doute un peu court (p. LVII en conclusion de l'exposé de la méthode).

Cette introduction compte de nombreuses remarques cependant sur l'écriture de l'histoire qui auraient pu être synthétisées ou exploitées plus à fond.2 Quelques exemples : p. XV, n. 23, la référence au modèle de réécriture hérodotéenne de l'affrontement Orient/Occident aurait mérité un développement plus large qu'une simple allusion, à la fois par rapport à la position d'Appien dont la culture grecque est souvent rappelée par l'éditrice, mais aussi par rapport au thème même de l'affrontement Orient/Occident qui est capital dans le discours augustéen. De même, les références à Homère et Platon (p. LIX-LXI), bien analysées sur le chapitre de leur mise en œuvre dans le texte n'ouvrent pas sur une analyse de la manière d'envisager l'histoire par Appien pour décrire cette période. La remarque sur l'absence de lien établi par Appien avec la politique césarienne, formulée au moment du commentaire sur la défaite de Lépide (p. XCIX), pourrait valoir pour l'ensemble du livre et servir d'entrée dans sa conception historique de la période. Le personnage de Lépide, pourtant, reste le mieux analysé : de nombreuses comparaisons avec d'autres auteurs permettent de mettre en évidence les spécificités du traitement du personnage par Appien.

L'établissement du texte et la traduction sont de très grande qualité. Lorsque l'éditrice s'éloigne des lectures jusque-là adoptées par ses prédécesseurs, une note précise en fin de volume signale les divergences de texte ou de traduction en présentant les arguments de leur lecture et les soutiens de la sienne, avant de proposer une solution qui respecte de très près le texte grec (ex. : n.55 ad XI, 43, βασιλευούση πόλις, traduit par « cité souveraine » au lieu de « cité gouverné par une reine », en faisant du participe un actif et non un passif ; n. 67 ad XIV, 54 ; n. 219 ad XCII, 386…). Le français de l'éditrice rend en général très bien les nuances du mot grec (ainsi de l'hapax δυσαρχία en XVIII, 72). Les notes de la traduction complètent très avantageusement les présentations de l'introduction. Les précisions apportées sur le(s) personnage(s) de Démocharès/Papias, textes à l'appui, rendent plus intelligible le texte. On notera simplement de petites imprécisions dans le rendu des titres des militaires. Αὐτοκρατώρ est rendu en LXXXVII, 365 comme s'il s'agissait d'une position dans l'armée (« chef suprême ») et en C, 417, comme un titre (« imperator») ; ou bien Δημοχάρει τῷ Πομπηίου (CV, 435) rendu par « Démocharès, général pompéien », alors que rien n'impose l'usage de ce terme ambigu pour désigner « Démocharès, du camp de Pompée ».

Les remarques ci-dessus n'enlèvent rien à la qualité de ce volume de la Collection des universités de France, qui prend sa place résolument et à bon droit dans le créneau des éditions annotées : plus qu'une traduction, en deçà d'une édition commentée. Il fournit un texte de grande qualité, une traduction d'utilisation aisée, ainsi que des notes qui en éclairent le sens général. La publication de ce volume est d'une très grande utilité pour les spécialistes de la période du Triumvirat, qui ne disposaient pour ces années cruciales de la transition institutionnelle entre la République et l'Empire (42-35 a.C.) que de l'édition vieillissante et non annotée de la collection Loeb et de celle de Gabba, toujours précieuse, quoique dépassée sur certains points.


1.   Appiani Bellorum civilium, Liber quintus, Introduzione, testo critico e commento con traduzione e indici, a cura di Emilio Gabba, Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1970.
2.   Est-ce le passage du format de la thèse à celui de l'édition qui en est responsable ? C'est ce qui explique sans doute des erreurs de « raccords » comme la n. 284 de l'introduction qui fait référence à un épisode dont il n'a pas été question et qui n'est pas présenté.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014


Jason David BeDuhn, Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 1: Conversion and Apostasy, 373-388 C.E. Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009. Pp. viii, 408. ISBN 9780812242102. $69.95. Jason David BeDuhn, Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2: Making a "Catholic" Self, 388-401 C.E. Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013. Pp. x, 552. ISBN 9780812244946. $79.95.

Reviewed by James J. O'Donnell, Georgetown University (

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Table of Contents Vol. 1
Table of Contents Vol. 2

The last written words of Augustine, of the five million surviving from his pen, are these, addressed to the "Pelagian" Julian of Eclanum (c. Iul. Imp. 6.41): "When you deny the evil of the things that are evil and do not connect their origin to the sin of the first man, you don't make them not be evil. But by believing that their evil nature makes them coeternal with the eternal good, you are blindly and detestably supporting the Manichees, and there's no point to your attacking them, because in reality you are their wretched supporter." In their grinding, wearying slanging match, Augustine was returning the compliment: Julian had claimed that Augustine was still spouting Manichean doctrine.

Jason BeDuhn has been well regarded for a decade for his work on Manicheism, signally The Manichaean Body: In Discipline and Ritual (Baltimore 2000). Few indeed are those scholars who have approached Augustine only after giving a full and fair hearing to the Manichees; most are incapable of seeing them except through the eyes of their persecutor, Augustine's Inspector Javert describing the Manichee's Jean Valjean. BeDuhn now approaches Augustine with what must be the clearest eye of any scholar since Pierre Alfaric over a century ago. The three volumes of Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma will trace Augustine's obsession through his entire career. I will here discuss the two volumes so far in print and say without hesitation that they amount to the best and most original work on Augustine's Confessions and early life in at least two decades. (The first volume takes us through the years covered by the narrative of the Confessions; the second volume picks up the story in 388 and continues to 401; a third volume anticipated in a few years will conclude the study.)

The story is one of "conversion," is it not? Conversion as theme of Christian discourse in late antiquity was powerful, but scarcely less powerful has been the modern willing reception of that discourse. Yes, exactly, we say, conversion is what was going on and we must become connoisseurs of the phenomenon. And so, as long ago as A.D. Nock's Conversion (Oxford 1933), that is what we have become. But we now know better, know that conversion is a performance, performance to self, performance for others, and for that matter, performance before God. Take the famous moment in the garden in Augustine Conf.: conversion, yes? Well, it quite resembles a decision to quit smoking. Augustine had sworn off the temptations of the flesh before, only to take up his old ways again. The scene in the garden didn't really become a conversion until it proved to have stuck—until he had stopped smoking long enough to boast about it, so to speak. The winter that followed at Cassiciacum gave Augustine a way of testing his resolve and, incidentally, removed him from the social opportunities and temptations of big city life. So BeDuhn rightly observes that "actual conversion . . . is the act of maintaining the converted self" and argues that seeing Augustine's departure from Manicheism as a once-for-all transformation just can't be true to the facts, however true it was to Augustine's self-narrative (1.3-5: I give references by volume and page number). BeDuhn rubs our noses in the fact that even when we insist on thinking of "conversion," there were two sides to the story: "Augustine the convert was always inevitably also Augustine the apostate" (1.20). Ex-smokers, ex-womanizers, and ex-Manichees may leave their past behind, but it remains with them. Better we should use the language of another affliction and speak of Augustine as a "recovering Manichee."

Once we try on the eyes of Jean Valjean, things long in plain sight take on new meaning. One of Augustine's early autobiographical sketches anticipating the Confessions, is a paragraph of the anti-Manichean "Two Souls" (de duabus animabus 9.11, of 391/92):

"Two things really caught me at that age and kept grinding me down as I went in circles. One is the sense of community that snaked in and looked very much like a good thing, winding itself around and around my neck like a chain. Then there were the poisoned victories I regularly won arguing with inept Christians struggling to defend their faith as best they could. The more I succeeded, the more my adolescent chutzpah was fed and I grew nearly incorrigible. Because I started on this debating career after I had become their 'auditor,' whatever success was owed to my native ability and what I had learned elsewhere I happily attributed to them alone. So from their preaching I got my zeal for arguing and from my success in arguing my love for them grew day by day. So whatever they said I took for truth, not because I knew it was true but because I wanted it to be true."

From the time he read the Hortensius at age 19, Augustine always wanted to be a philosopher. That ambition was with him when he went to the Manichees and with him when he left. It was fulfilled when Ambrose showed him how he could be a philosopher and a Christian. BeDuhn is excellent on capturing the philosophicality of Manicheism and the eliteness of it: cells of a few auditors around an "elect" sage, not a religion for the common man at all. They were illegal, but remarkably ordinary-seeming. They embodied the highest philosophical culture and succeeded by progressing beyond what others could achieve. The great virtue of BeDuhn is his normalization of Manicheism and his de-monsterification of it. If we could read the exact Latin texts Augustine read, it would be a lot easier to feel that cultural normalcy, but they have perished, and many of the primary materials we have from Manicheism are in languages classicists do not aspire to know. But it is of the highest importance to see how the Manichees and Ambrose were of one purpose in making Christianity classical, making it fit into the heritage of elite Romans.

BeDuhn's work here is a thorough, consistent, patient, and richly successful rereading of Augustine with fresh eyes and thus many startling discoveries. The Manichee guru Faustus (BeDuhn 1.106-125) who so disappoints Augustine was a disappointment precisely because he was so much what Augustine wanted to be: gentlemanly, Roman, cultured. He was more Christian than the Christians, sneering at the traditional elements of their performance of religion—the sacrifices turned into love-feasts, the idols turned into martyrs to whom to pray, the graveyard picnics appeasing the shades of the departed with wine and food, the persistence of the old calendar.1 Manicheism offered him religious solace without giving up the intellectually respectable traditions of culture to which he clung (1.213). In Milan, he would find how to get the same result without getting in trouble with the law. When we first see him rehearsing the part of the devout Catholic Christian and quoting scripture, we should observe that his scripture consisted disproportionately of the wisdom books and a few Psalms—the Old Testament selected for a philosopher to use.

BeDuhn is also excellent on context in an important way: by showing how ignorant Augustine himself was of the context within which his story played out. BeDuhn emphasizes the creation of "Nicene" and "Catholic" Christianity in 379-381 CE and following, when Theodosius came to the throne. The emperor's church made the surprising choice of going back to the Nicene formulation that had been all but abandoned, even by Constantine, and using it to create an approved form of Christianity that passed under what was now a brand name of "Catholic." The word had been a generic creed word for a long time, but from the 380s forward, perhaps drawing on usage already coming into play in Africa to differentiate Caecilianists from Donatists, it appears as a label for the kind of Christianity that emperors could approve of. That relaunched brand of Christianity, so to speak, was what Augustine stumbled upon in Milan.2

The "early" Augustine, the one, that is, already baptized and writing Christian books, was still woefully ignorant. He got to be who he was by going off by himself, first to Cassiciacum, then Tagaste, without a teacher, without a library, without guidance. He made stuff up. As late as 391, when he was being press-ganged into ordination, there is no sign that he knew much about going to church or even that he had been to church at all since his baptism. He was entirely obtuse on resurrection. Christ for the becoming-Catholic Augustine is not a redeemer or an atoner, but an awakener and informer. Other surprises lay ahead for Augustine the cleric: miracles, infant baptism, millennial expectations. He swallowed most of them.

Perhaps the most important new argument in BeDuhn and one that will be tested intensely is his claim that Augustine in the early 380s really did have good reason to leave Africa, one step ahead of the law. The standing position on this issue has been that he left two years or so ahead of a crackdown on Manichees, that his enemies claimed he had been fleeing that suppression, but that Augustine was really just innocent and lucky. BeDuhn discounts innocence and luck (1.135ff, 1.218ff). There was a new law of 383 threatening increased pursuit of Manichees. Augustine could not have foreseen that this law would not be enforced in Africa until the proconsul Messianus did so in 386. When Augustine left Africa, he did so as a Manichee and lived with Manichees in Rome into 384. BeDuhn shows that when the crackdown came in Africa, Augustine was indeed named, so he reads the 386/87 winter's retreat to Cassiciacum (and the resignation from his public position) as at least in part motivated by a desire to lay low. A public amnesty from Theodosius in January 387 was followed by Augustine's reappearance in Milan a month or two later as a baptismal candidate. The evidence for this argument is thinner than one could wish and the attachment to Augustine's saintly honesty is so intense among many readers that there will be fierce resistance. I accept that the departure from Africa was motivated as BeDuhn says and take under consideration the remainder of the argument.

There are numerous discussions of familiar topics in Augustine that are seen in new light here: I will only mention, e.g., the treatment of the death of Augustine's great friend recounted in Conf. 4, the turn (or return) to Academic skepticism, the usefulness of the neo-Platonic books he reads in Milan, and the way anti-Manicheism leads him to say things in de libero arbitrio voluntatis that come back to haunt him later. Perhaps BeDuhn overdoes his reading of Augustine's first book, the de pulchro et apto, as the work of a crypto-Manichee (1.100), but the discussion is at least instructive.

The delight in this basket of lesser discoveries is his treatment of the pear theft recounted in Conf. 2. No modern reader has been entirely comfortable with the disproportionate treatment given a petty act of mischief. "Rum thing," said Oliver Wendell Holmes, "to see a man making a mountain out of robbing a pear tree in his teens." Nietzsche was derisive. But BeDuhn makes us read the episode again in context: fruit plucked from trees and then thrown away for pigs to eat. This happened when he was sixteen; he became a Manichee at nineteen; and we hear him tell the story at forty-three. What BeDuhn captures is the shocking moral dimension this story had for a Manichee. Vegetarian Manichees ate fruit like pears precisely because they would in doing so liberate the particles of the divine trapped therein. To cast them to pigs, on the other hand, was somewhere between blasphemy, sacrilege, and deicide. In Augustine's early manhood, this story would be a dramatic display of gross moral failure. The post-Manichee Augustine could make something else of it, presenting it in Conf. as his own version of fruit-based sin in the garden of Eden and glossing over the pre-existent account of cosmic moral drama. To Manichee readers of Conf., however, wrapping the story in a new moral made them see how far Augustine had come.

The great set piece in the second volume is his discussion of the debate in 392 with Fortunatus the Manichee (2.122ff). In 392, we still have the Augustine who makes stuff up. He went after Fortunatus in a public debate arguing on grounds of reason, but promptly had his head handed to him on the first day of debate on grounds of scripture. BeDuhn is lucid and even funny on the "all-nighter" Augustine had to pull between days of the debate just to rescue something from scripture to come back with. He pulled it off about as well as the best student papers written during all-nighters do. The debate ended messily. Fortunatus, BeDuhn argues, was happy to have made his point and escape arrest. Augustine wrote it up and crowed victory. But this was the day that started the turn towards what emerged a few years later as his distinctive, pessimistic reading of Paul. BeDuhn 2.163: "Hence, he may have been the last one to recognize the degree to which he gradually reconstructed Fortunatus's reading of Paul and made himself vulnerable to the charge of leading the Catholic Church in Africa in a Manichaean direction." The things Julian of Eclanum would later attack in Augustine as Manichean do not go back to his Manichean days, but result from focusing his attention and defending his position from this moment in 392. His firmly orthodox Christianity was shaped, defensively, in a way that would do as much justice as he felt he had to do to the Manichee position. That accommodation would baffle those who did not have Augustine's Manichee past and would read to them as simple Manicheism. They were not as wrong as Augustine would like to think.

The narrative of the second volume remembers—as most readers of accounts of Augustine's life in the 390s do not remember—his Manichee past. He was drafted into the priesthood, resisted as had Ambrose and Gregory Nazianzen, but capitulated. Scripture was still not something he knew well or studied intensely, but he made a serious start. When he was ordained as bishop, irregularly, with his predecessor still alive, his past came back to haunt him. Megalius of Calama, the primate of the African church, couldn't forget Augustine's past or entirely believe in his conversion. BeDuhn makes a case that Augustine was effectively on trial in the eyes of the African Catholic church and that the Confessions were his apology. The deliberate Didonic overtones of his abrupt and frightened absquatulation from Africa appear now as brilliant misdirection.

The work is a brief for arguing the importance of a still-neglected aspect of Augustine's thought and life. The volumes underdo and leave aside some things that a fully rounded new study of Augustine's early life would have to include: the meat of Augustine's relationship with Ambrose (and the influence of Ambrose's lost de philosophia, seen inter alia in the project Augustine undertook to write books about the "liberal arts" as preparation for mysticism), the writing and importance of de doctrina christiana in 395, and what I have called the writer's block that only broke with the Confessions and the flood of works they made possible. Donatism is almost nowhere in these volumes, though it was everywhere in Augustine's African life, starting from his own mother's upbringing in that community.

The final volume will follow the rest of Augustine's life in what BeDuhn calls "the inescapable shadow," from 401 to the end of his life in 430. He promises to explore how far Augustine stayed with the solutions he had deployed in answer to Manicheism and how what he took from the Manichees became transmuted into something quite different. I wish I already saw the book on the publisher's website as "forthcoming," but will abide in patience a little longer, digesting what we have learned from this impressive achievement.


1.   The persistence of the old in Christianity: Ramsay MacMullen's remarkable The Second Church (Atlanta 2009), as eye-opening and reorienting a book as his Christianizing the Roman Empire (New Haven 1984).
2.   Garry Wills, Font of Life (New York 2012), excavates and limns the stumbles at Milan splendidly.

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