Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Carlos Varias García (ed.), Actas del Simposio Internacional: 55 Años de Micenología (1952-2007). Faventia Supplementa, 1. Bellaterra: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Servei de Publicacions, 2012. Pp. 257. ISBN 0210-7570. (pb).

Reviewed by Rachele Pierini, Università di Bologna (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents
Full Text

This volume represents the proceedings of the colloquium held in Bellaterra (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) on April 12-13, 2007. In the Preface, the editor, Varias García, highlights that «la idea de conmemorar con una reunión científica de alto nivel los 55 años del nacimiento de esta nueva disciplina […], nació de la necesidad de actualizar y dar a conocer los aspectos cardinales de la civilización micénica a un público culto, pero no necesariamente especialista, en el ámbito español» (p. 6). In line with this purpose, it contains important and up-to-date contributions to the wide topic of the Mycenaean tablets and their interpretation, ranging from epigraphy to lexica, and ending with anthroponymic data. The book is composed of ten essays, following the four thematic sections of the symposium: palaeography (Jean-Pierre Olivier) and lexicography (Francisco Aura Jorro, Rosa-Araceli Santiago Álvarez); economy (Massimo Perna) and linguistics (José Luis García Ramón, Eugenio R. Luján); texts from Pylos (John T. Killen) and Thebes (Alberto Bernabé), and texts from others archives (Jörg Weilhartner, Carlos Varias García). Each of the essays deserves reviewing, and some are very innovative. In particular, the chapters on religion, geopolitical interpretation of the kingdom, and the diachronic development of Mycenaean Greek language are especially interesting. Each of these casts new light on its particular subject and paves new and important pathways for future research.

In the first paper, "Las escrituras egeas: 'jeroglífica' cretense, lineal A, lineal B, chiprominoicas y escrituras silábicas chipriotas del I milenio antes de nuestra era", Olivier reviews the palaeography of these writing systems. He focuses his attention on the Cypriot syllabary, an area of study that has become less prominent after a promising beginning.

Anyone who has ever worked with Linear B has considerable cause to be grateful to Aura Jorro, the author of the second essay, for his Diccionario micénico, an excellent and essential lexical tool, with a second edition forthcoming. In his contribution here, "La nueva edición del DMic en el marco de la lexicografía micénica", he outlines his lexicographic project. After a foreword on questions related to the editions of Mycenaean texts (from tablets, nodules, and vessels), Aura Jorro focuses on previous Mycenaean lexica, including etymological and alphabetical Greek dictionaries. In particular, he highlights Morpurgo's Mycenaeae Graecitatis Lexicon, which he considers a predecessor to his DMic. Regarding the new edition of DMic (the indexes are already available online), he points out how it will include syllabograms that will function logographically (e.g. acrophonies, like the sign A used as abbreviation for a<-ka-na-jo>, and not with the syllabic value a-).

In "Hospitalidad y extranjería en el mundo micénico", Santiago Álvarez shows how data from Linear B tablets can be used to discern fluid contacts and well-established trade relations among elites, as well as cultural exchanges and movements of people both inside and outside Mycenaean kingdoms. From this process, she shows how the Mycenaean administrations had already acquired clear mechanisms for social and professional integration of foreign people living in Mycenaean territory.

The fourth paper, "La fiscalità micenea: nuove ipotesi e vecchi documenti" (pp. 91-105) presents an overview of the major questions about Mycenaean taxation. Perna hones in on Pylian series Ma and Mn. He specifically mentions Ma 90, highlighting that numbers of exemptions do not follow the proportions given in the first line. Consequently, it is not possible to predict any number of exemptions either in single tablets or in total amounts. Furthermore, he supposes that Mn 1407 records delivered commodities from a whole district. On this basis, he proposes a process that scribal H2 (Hand 2) followed: after H2 had received a document about a whole district (such as Mn 1407), he would record data in Ma tablets which, Perna concludes, were progressively and continuously updated. Going beyond these initial sets, Perna also looks at TH Uq 343, and suggests that merchandise was probably obtained in Boeotia in a similar way to the process in Pylos.

After devoting several years to onomastics, García Ramón presents some conclusions in the fifth essay of this volume, "Anthroponymica Mycenaea 7: los nombres con primer elemento e-ri° (: Ἐρι°) y a-ri° (: Ἀρι°)". He asserts that lexicographical sources point to interpreting e-ri- as mega. Furthermore, his study of the e-ri-compounds leads him to conclude that they have the same structure (a substantive in the second position of the words) and function (possessive) in Mycenaean as in alphabetical Greek. In fact, regarding the exegesis of a-ri-, he affirms that on the basis both of Mycenaean a-ri-we-we /Ari-werwēs/ and of the Homeric form μέγα κῶας, «equivalente de */Eri-werwēs/ no atestiguado» (p. 124), it is possible to suppose that the confusion between e-ri° and a-ri° had already happened in the Mycenaean period.

One of the features of Greek language is the lack of gender motion (the specific morpheme that marks the feminine gender) in composite thematic adjectives, which could be either a characteristic inherited from Indo-European or an isolated innovation. In the sixth paper, "La moción de género en los adjetivos temáticos en micénico", Luján conducts a deep and exhaustive analysis on several different types of composite adjectives, and of simple adjectives without feminine gender. He observes the diachronic evolution of each adjective and makes a comparison between Mycenaean and alphabetical Greek data. In light of this meticulous examination, he comes to the very convincing conclusion that data from Linear B tablets presents no gender motion, with the exception of verbal adjectives in -tos and with some innovations related to suffix -id-. From the diachronic point of view, he highlights that the lack of gender motion in simple adjectives, especially those with an -ios suffix, is a post Mycenaean development.

The purpose of Killen's paper, "The two provinces of Pylos revisited", «is to ask the question: what rôle did each of these provinces play in the overall economy of the Pylian state?». To answer this, the author – with his usual acuteness and straightforwardness – considers areas in which the HP (Hither Province) and FP (Further Province) have the same figure (levies and distributions), as well as fields in which data are the same but importance differs (Cn, Ma, Na, Ng and records), and other fields with significant differences (measurement of land, some details about crops and animals, distribution of bronzesmiths, textile and domestic workers, levies on the Ac tablets, 'desservants de sanctuaire' and workers on other records). He also analyzes information about coastguards and rowers, and in-store goods. Bringing all this data together, he paints a picture of HP as the centre of gravity in the kingdom, and of FP as an additional source of tributes. Building on archaeological studies that situate FP in an area with extensive perennial marshes during the Bronze Age, and the interpretation of e-re-e-u as trade-name or title, Killen presents the clever hypothesis that it corresponds to heleus (a derivative of helos) and mean 'official in charge of marshland'.

In the eighth essay, Bernabé contributes to the interpretation of the new Theban tablets, a biting debate in 2007. In addition to the indisputable scientific quality of his work, the author's balanced approach is remarkable in "Posibles menciones religiosas en las tablillas de Tebas". Bernabé dives into the analysis of all the terms previously interpreted as theonymic, or divine epithets, from both a linguistic and a contextual point of view. He convincingly argues that the Fq tablets allow a religious interpretation of their contents, but that si-to, a-pu-wa, ka-wi-jo and ka-ra-wi- jo are not divine names. Among the new hypotheses he presents, the most persuasive is that o-po-re-i can be an epithet that refers to a female deity of the mountain. In addition to the fact that this is a well-attested class of a god in the Oriental world, this inference coincides is supported by a parallel text, mentioned by the author, found on a gold tablet from Thessaly.

"Religious offerings in the Linear B tablets: an attempt at their classification and some thoughts about their possible purpose" is the ninth essay and a brilliant piece of work by Weilhartner. On the one hand, he discusses evidence for the ritual use of libations, votive offerings (of unguents, textiles, metal vessels), first fruits, and sphagia. On the other hand he argues that human use was forbidden regarding all these items. The sections about libations and sphagia are especially interesting due to the quality of his analyses. Furthermore, he provides parallel examples for both from written, iconographical and archaeological sources. His hypothesis that Cnossian sets Fp(1), Gg(1) and Gg(3) record offerings made in the form of libations, and not for human benefit, is argued mainly on the basis of the special features of these texts (e.g. they come from the Clay Chest [A] and the Gallery of Jewel Fresco [G1], both of which contain tablets recording religious offerings), as well as on the nature of the commodities (e.g. deities and sanctuaries being the recipients of offering and the modest amounts of the recorded liquids). As for sphagia 'slaughter sacrifice', he adds evidence from PY Cn 3, Un 6.1-4, and KN C 394. For example, because of the use of sa as a phonetic abbreviation for the term sa-pa-ka-te- ri-ja in this last Cnossian tablet, Weilhartner infers that this word «may have served as terminus technicus for the description of an animal dedicated to a divinity in which human use is forbidden» (p. 231). Moreover, he supposes that this type of ritual may have been more important than has been previously considered, since the main religious center close to the palace of Pylos is called pa-ki-ja-na.

Varias García's deep knowledge of Mycenae emerges clearly from his paper, the last one in the book, "Micenas y la Argólide: los textos micénicos en su contexto". In order to cast new light on the broad debate about the nature of documents from Mycenae – i.e. whether they were written for private or for palatial purposes – he first explains why the matter arises (whereas Cnossian, Pylian and Theban tablets come from palatial archives, tablets from Mycenae were found out of the citadel, in four buildings called House of Shields, House of the Oil Merchant, House of the Sphinxes and West House), then he sets out a richly detailed summary of the present state of research on the subject. Following this summary, he presents new observations, the most interesting of which are on the tablets from West House: since wine was a high-value product at that time and, for this reason, consumed only on special occasions, its presence in Ue 611, 652, and 663 excludes the Ue set from being a record of daily rations. Instead, he suggests that it probably is a list of distinguished provisions for a meal. The exhaustive analysis on tablets from Mycenae as a whole brings Varias García to conclude that the palatial control included a great part of the activity of Mycenaean kingdom at that time. Moreover, he argues that the political structure in which Mycenae and Argolis were involved was different from the one known in Pylos and Messenia, and implies «una estructura política suprapalacial» (p. 254).

From a mere editorial point of view, it would have been helpful to have indexes to better search through the material and find connecting points, and to homogenize both types of bibliographic quotations (some papers have a final bibliography, in others the full references are only in the footnotes) and references to the tablets (they should either be bold or not). Putting these concerns aside, some of the papers display a very high quality of work. For this reason, any scholar interested in Mycenaean Greek will benefit from the reading this book.

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