Tuesday, March 31, 2015


David Stuttard (ed.), Looking at Medea: Essays and a Translation of Euripides' Tragedy. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014. Pp. xi, 219. ISBN 9781472530516. $32.95 (pb).

Reviewed by N.J. Sewell-Rutter, Oxford Tutorial College (neil.sewell-rutter@otc.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site


David Stuttard's Looking at Medea presents twelve essays on Euripides' tragedy, newly commissioned from a variety of respected scholars, together with an editor's introduction and Stuttard's own translation of the text, which is modestly printed last.

Edited volumes intended as companions frequently imply rather than expressly limit their audience. Stuttard states his intention to 'cover a wide range of issues' and allow his contributors the latitude to present a 'diversity of views' at the cost of an occasional 'small degree of overlap' (Foreword, x). The volume as a whole assumes no knowledge of Greek and little or no prior knowledge of Attic tragedy in its readership. Endnotes are kept to a minimum, and the bibliography (205–11) heavily emphasises the last thirty years of work on the play. Reflective theatre professionals with minimal classical training are a large part of the implied audience, and the essays and translation could certainly be used, among other things, as the basis for an informed and successful English language production of Medea.

The editor's introduction emphasises the play's context both within the dramatic festivals and on the cusp of the Peloponnesian War. Stuttard does not introduce interpretative issues himself or situate the individual contributions within wider scholarly debates, conformably to his editorial principle of lightness of touch. One might take issue in an otherwise informative and helpful introduction with the argument on p. 4 that the 'Athenians' shamefully misogynistic view of women, especially clever women' is a clincher for an all-male audience at the Dionysia. This begs more than one question. Is a volume of essays on Euripides' Medea best introduced with a paragraph on monolithic and reprehensible Athenian misogyny?

Stuttard's translation, first written in 1996 and scrutinised by Kenneth Dover (x–xi), published here with minor revisions, succeeds admirably in its stated aims of accuracy and friendliness to the performer. I have detected no serious mistranslations. Some indications of Greek line numbering, either bracketed within the translation or given as ranges in page headers or footers, would be useful for reference and comparison and would not detract seriously from the translation's accessibility.

The translation's one fault is that it gives little indication that high poetry is being translated: the register is dramatic but largely prosaic. An example of Stuttard at his best is to be found at the start of the First Episode (173–4) when Medea laments the lot of women to the Chorus: the translation of her rhesis evokes impressively the reasoning of this persuasive speech and the passion underlying its gnomic rationality. Medea's qualms about murdering her children (193) are also very successfully captured. But the translator is too free with colloquial contractions, of which there are three examples in the first two paragraphs (169), including the unlovely 'Argo'd' for 'Argo had' in the first sentence. There is another jarring over-colloquialism at the end of the second episode (183, lines 625–6, translating in 626 the reading of the codices, not Dodds's emendation), when Medea says: 'And maybe, if my words find favour with the gods, in marrying her you'll lose all chance you ever had of marriage.' Does this sentence translate poetry or prose? However, one of the strengths of this volume as a whole is that it makes the drama vivid, and Stuttard's choice of register furthers accessibility.

1. Griffin emphasises Euripides' modifications of the Medea myth, tracing the darkening of an originally 'romantic' and 'upbeat' (13) love story into one of horrific infanticide. He is the first of several contributors to note the crucial point that the children's death at the hands of their mother, not the Corinthians, may well be original to Euripides. His 'little polemical point' (17) that the play need not be a warning to the Athenians about contemporary Corinthian hostility is a salutary reminder that Medea is not necessarily a political work.

2. McCallum-Barry treats earlier and contemporary versions of the Medea myth, and ventures 'a little after' Euripides' production of 431. Like Griffin, she correctly sees the infanticide as one of Euripides' 'startling innovations', possibly 'unwelcome' and 'unsettling' to his audience (34). The play is of course unsettling, but Euripides was repeatedly granted choruses throughout his career, however subversive his oeuvre, and in the dangerous public life of Athens he never incurred a fine like Phrynichus (Hdt. 6.21.2, mentioned in Stuttard's introduction, 5).

3. Karamanou persuasively argues that all three tragedies in the tetralogy of 431, Medea, Philoctetes and Dictys, explore marginalisation and otherness: the entire production, not only Medea, evokes sympathy for the vulnerable and comparatively defenceless. She applies Aristotle's criteria for sympathy and identification, citing Poetics 1453a4-6 (44), but does not actually cite his judgement that Euripides is 'the most tragic' (1453a30) of the poets, which supports her case. She handles the fragments deftly and soundly and concludes, perhaps diffidently, that tragedy appeals both to emotion and intellect and that staging is integral to the impact of drama.

4. Wyles' consideration of the original performance's staging is one of the most useful contributions for the volume's implied audience of theatre practitioners. She emphasises striking and disquieting theatrical elements in Medea — cries off in the parodos, Medea costumed as a barbarian, serpents in the exodos that evoke, appropriate and question Athenian iconography, and theatrical allusions to extant Aeschylean and Sophoclean plays. Not only Euripides' modifications of the myth but elements of his production were bold and uncomfortable.

5. Ruffell helpfully views the play and its interpretation through the eyes of the Nurse, an unnamed and therefore unheroic character whose sympathies are at the 'moral centre' of the play (81). He is right to point out that the character is never expressly called a nurse and that, never addressing Medea as 'child' (73), she is not certainly Medea's own nurse. He is also right to see the Nurse's loyalties as multiple (81): she is concerned not only for Medea but for her impact on other characters. It would be worth saying to this volume's audience, if Ruffell would have the Nurse back on stage after l. 214 (80), that the text does not explicitly cue her return, long taken as a principle of tragic staging.1

6. Morwood retracts his earlier view2 of Jason as 'the villain of the piece' (83). This is a commendable though excessively moderate palinode, taking into account hints that Jason, though of course lacking in empathy and tact and not admirable, is a more sympathetic character in places than the author had previously acknowledged. Morwood concedes (87) that though Jason has perjured his oath, we perhaps feel 'a glimmer of genuine audience sympathy' for him in the exodos in the midst of his 'shipwreck'. This does not go far enough. We feel more than 'a glimmer of sympathy' for Priam at Iliad 24.486-506, the canonical address of bereaved father to killer of sons, when he dares, more than ever any mortal on earth, to reach his hand to the lips of the man who killed his child. Jason's words (in Stuttard's translation, 'I wish that I had never fathered sons to see them so destroyed, and you their murderer', 202) have a characteristic Euripidean spareness, but that does not diminish their pathos.

7. Rutherford lucidly reminds us that Medea, who must as a matter of staging appear ex machina in the Exodos (90), is a mortal who has just taken a terrible revenge and has no divine or otherwise authoritative perspective on the action to impart. She is no Artemis in the exodos of Hippolytus giving a comforting aetiology (91–2); and may be more barbarian in costume when she last enters in conformity with her visually striking serpent-borne chariot. This leaves the end of the play 'disturbing in the extreme' (97).

8. Mills reminds the reader that Euripides was not constrained in his choice of the gender and identity of his Chorus (101–2). This is not said often enough by interpreters of tragedy in general, and is particularly useful for the volume's target audience. Corinthian women are best placed to 'follow their mistress's lead' in seeking redress for very womanhood (109), but Mills, arguing for the complicity of the chorus, relies excessively on their passivity and understates their horror at the proposed infanticide and open opposition to it, already noted in Griffin's paper (16). 'Do not do it' (line 813) is unambiguous. So is: 'You will be a most wretched woman if you do.' (line 818; see also 856–65). It is of course the exception for a tragic chorus to act in any concrete way, as the Erinyes do in Aeschylus' Eumenides, prosecuting Orestes. No character in Medea stands in Medea's way at all effectively, not even Creon, and it is asking too much to expect a chorus of townswomen to mount any real opposition.

9. Roisman. Starting from the disproportion of Medea's vengeance, which she infelicitously calls a 'dys-fit' (111), Roisman contrasts Euripides' relatively human and identifiable Medea with Seneca's more straightforwardly villainous character. She concludes that in Euripides, Medea is not simply a 'barbaric foreigner and supernatural witch' (121) and that any outrage evoked by her actions is a response to their horrific magnitude, not her vengeful impulse. Roisman's careful insistence that Medea in Euripides is human, not a monster, is welcome.

10. Cairns. A paper on 'Feminism or Misogyny' is an essential contribution to an introductory volume on Medea. Cairns concludes that Medea 'revels in' Athenian male stereotypes rather than 'subverting them' (137). Some will take issue with Cairns when he cites 'Medea's emphasis on sex' (135), mentioned as one of several female stereotypes Euripides confirms. Throughout the play she subordinates integrity to persuasion: does she really 'endorse' (136) the male judgement that the issue is one of sexual jealousy at lines 263-66 (134) or does she conform to the perspectives of male characters she seeks to persuade? In the parodos (172, lines 160–3), she attributes her sufferings first of all to oath-breaking and injustice, not to sexual rejection: she first invokes Themis.

11. Hall on the divine in Medea notes, like Rutherford, Aristotle's disquiet at the mortal Medea appearing ex machina in the Exodos (139–40). Hall uses the play's modern reception to illuminate the anomalous status of Medea, whose quasi-divinity has been sometimes emphasised, sometimes downplayed. Above all Hall's Medea leaves perspectives on the divine open, not settled (141), in a play underpinned by an 'awesome, unknowable religious element' (154).

12. Smit considers some twentieth-century presentations of Medea as black. The Colchians were not. But a modern strategy has been to emphasise her barbarian ethnicity starkly, an obvious tactic but, as Smit shows, not necessarily a cheap simplification, given the variety of contemporary theoretical approaches to ethnicity. Several contributors mention the issue of Medea's barbarian costume in the production of 431. A contribution on the recent tendency to focus Medea's disturbing otherness through contemporary anxieties about skin colour is a fitting conclusion to a collection that never underplays the innovations and challenges of Euripides' text and production.

In conclusion, Looking at Medea presents an accurate and performable translation together with twelve useful and sometimes illuminating interpretative perspectives on the play. Euripides' Medea emerges by consensus of the contributors as a bold and innovative work of art that is and was profoundly disturbing.


1.   So, canonically, O. Taplin, The Stagecraft of Aeschylus: the Dramatic Use of Exits and Entrances in Greek Tragedy (Oxford, 1977).
2.   J. Morwood, The Plays of Euripides (London, 2002).

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Derek Krueger, Liturgical Subjects: Christian Ritual, Biblical Narrative, and the Formation of the Self in Byzantium. Divinations: rereading late ancient religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. Pp. xi, 311. ISBN 9780812290158. $75.00.

Reviewed by George E. Demacopoulos, Fordham University (demacopoulos@fordham.edu)

Version at BMCR home site


Liturgical Subjects is a pioneering examination of the medieval religious subject that adds texture and nuance to studies that, so far, have tended to emphasize only the Western Christian tradition. While we know a great deal about the texts and movements of Byzantine ritual, due primarily to the work of Robert Taft, Krueger's is the first study to examine how Orthodox liturgy functioned as a mechanism for the formation of the Byzantine Christian's perception of self. Krueger's seven chapters progress diachronically across the span of Byzantine liturgical development, paying special attention to the penitential themes associated with the Lenten period.

Chapter One functions largely as an introduction to the methodological parameters within which Krueger will examine liturgical texts as a witness to the Byzantine Christian self-formation. Correcting long-standing scholarly assumptions, Krueger explains that Greek theological writers had a rich tradition of exploring and reforming the conscience. But it was Byzantine hymns, especially, that "offered performances of the self where the singer modeled conscience-stricken interiority" (17). Indeed, hymnography offered a vehicle for a public vocalization in "I" speech through which the Byzantine Christian declared publicly his or her standing before God.

Chapter Two introduces the great early-Byzantine poet, Romanos the Melodist, who was responsible for popularizing a unique form of hymnography (known as Kontakia), which offered imaginative extra-biblical dialogues between biblical personalities. Krueger presents a careful analysis of a handful of Romanos' texts, emphasizing the ways in which these hymns invite both singer and listener to envision themselves as part of the biblical story and to participate in the inner monologue of some of its most intriguing figures. As Krueger notes, Romanos is not so much interested in the acts of these individuals as he is keen to emphasize their interior self-regard once they seek forgiveness or spiritual healing (62). Part of Romanos' significance lies in the fact that he transposed the epistemological and spiritual categories of the monastic community to a broader community. In Foucaultian terms, Romanos imparted a set of monastic technologies of the self to a lay and urban audience.

Chapter Three continues the examination of Romanos' hymns but does so in the context of the cycle of the liturgical year. It combines this material with an examination of sermons and the emerging iconography depicting the life of Christ. To be sure, the major feasts of the Eastern Christian calendar were largely established by the sixth century, but Romanos' Kontakia gave poetic force and spiritual gravity to the rhythm of the calendar. Krueger aptly notes the ways in which Romanos' hymns simultaneously retell the story of the past and, in many cases, reenact the biblical past by inserting the singer's self-conscience into the story.

Chapter Four turns to a different form of liturgical evidence by examining the theological content of the Eucharistic prayers offered by the clerical celebrant. Whereas the festal cycle of hymns brought considerable variation to the content of liturgical focus, the prayers of the "anaphora" offered a consistent reflection on the history of God's encounter with humanity (creation, fall, prophecy, and redemption). Krueger keenly points to a Justinianic-era law prescribing that all priests recite the prayers of the anaphora audibly, so that they might stir "compunction" in the heart of all of their listeners. While the audible recitation of the Eucharistic prayers did not survive, the link between self-accusation and the reception of the Eucharist grew during later Byzantine periods.

Chapter Five analyzes the development of a new form of liturgical hymn—the Kanon—and its most famous example, the Kanon of Andrew of Crete. The Kanon was first developed in the monastic communities of Jerusalem during the seventh and eighth centuries at a time when the region had already become part of the Islamic Caliphate. Andrew was largely responsible for introducing the form of the Kanon to Constantinople (and Byzantium more broadly) and his Kanon is an elaborate example of the type. For Krueger, Andrew's Kanon reflects a deepening of interiority of the Byzantine hymnographical tradition in the sense that the recounting of biblical stories leads the singer/audience to accuse themselves personally rather than share in the flaws of the biblical figures (as encouraged by Romanos). "Andrew called all to see themselves through the penitential lens of scripture. The entirety of biblical history results in the convicted conscience, and this is his instruction to his flock" (163).

Chapter Six brings the focus of Krueger's study directly to the Lenten period, the Triodion, and the cycle of hymnographic Kanons developed by the Studite monks of Constantinople during the eighth and ninth centuries. For the most part, the hymns of the Triodion would have been sung during the morning office (Orthros) and employ the rhetorical technique of ethopoeia (speech in character) in order to dramatize the remorse, anguish, and terror befitting Lenten penance (166). Krueger aptly notes that even though these hymns routinely employ "I" speech, they were almost certainly sung by the entire community. He then offers a careful analysis of the ways in which these hymns differ from those of Romanos. In doing so, Krueger not only makes a compelling case for the sophistication and poetic merit of hymnography in this period but also shows himself to be an especially careful reader of theological texts.

Chapter Seven investigates the monastic self as configured by Symeon the New Theologian. Here, Krueger's theoretical insights are most on display and offer the greatest payoff. The interior speech encouraged by Symeon reveals monasticism to be a kind of "performed identity" and the relentless encouragement of confession coupled with thanksgiving "ritualizes an epistemology of the self through prayer" (205). Krueger notes, albeit tantalizingly briefly, that Symeon presents a conceptualization in which the "self" and the "soul" are separate though interrelated entities. The self that matters is the sinful one, "constituted discursively in the language provided by the [abbot]" (200).

The Conclusion weaves the threads together, submitting that Byzantine liturgy produced (and was informed by) an introspective conscience of guilt set to the narrative of salvation history. While the Lenten hymns (like this monograph) underscore a negative and sinful self-image of the Byzantine Christian, Krueger's final charge to his readers is to recognize that the liturgy taught that God would not be angry forever—the Christ of Orthodox hymnography is amenable to supplication through worship.

Like most books that strike boldly in new directions, Liturgical Subjects opens avenues for future research that did not exist previously. For example, building on Krueger's investigation of the penitential "I" speech of the Triodion, one might explore the more celebratory "we" speech of the Pentacostarion hymns for the period after Easter. If the sinner is an "I" and the redeemed are a "we," what does this say about the role of community in Orthodox theology? Krueger's study will likely also spur future researchers to analyze how the ritualized movements of the liturgy combined with the scents and shifts in lighting to reinforce or complicate our understanding of these hymns. One might also take Krueger's lead and ask additional theoretical questions. For example, what happens to the self when it resists the message of the hymn, when it refuses to accuse the conscience? Or put another way, what is the space in which—and how does the scholar account for—the Byzantine Christian who internally "speaks back" to the hymn?

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Liturgical Subjects is that it compellingly demonstrates that these texts (and the communities that produced them) reflect both a considerable degree of sophistication and variation. Byzantine liturgical life, it turns out, was not nearly as banal or static as it is often presented (even by those who are sympathetic to it). This book will be required reading for anyone interested in Byzantine Christianity and is an important addition to the broader conversation about the self in Christian Studies.

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Sophie Minon (ed.), Diffusion de l'attique et expansion des 'koinai' dans le Péloponnèse et en Grèce centrale. Actes de la journée internationale de dialectologie grecque du 18 mars 2011, université Paris-Ouest Nanterre. École pratique des hautes études. Science historiques et philologiques, 3; Hautes études du monde gréco-romain, 50. Genève: Librairie Droz, 2014. Pp. x, 222. ISBN 9782600013734. CHF 43.65 (pb).

Reviewed by Panagiotis Filos, University of Ioannina (panagiotis.filos@gmail.com)

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Ancient Greek dialectology has been a rather niche subject within the broader context of classical studies excluding perhaps certain fields such as lyric poetry (literature), epigraphy, etc. Traditional linguistic approaches have predominantly been descriptive and/or genetic (e.g., grammatical description, dialect groups, 'aberrant' dialects, etc.), while dialectal varieties have often been viewed as abstract linguistic systems that eventually 'declined' and gave way to the (Attic-Ionic) koine. Nonetheless, over the past few decades several novel approaches have come to the fore, and dialects are now also examined in terms of interdialectal contact, registers, gender speech, and the like, while their dynamic rather than unidirectional and one-dimensional relationship with the koine (plus the various regional koinai) has also become an all-important subject.

The new collective volume edited by S. Minon, which contains eight papers (in French) originally delivered at an one-day colloquium at the university Paris-Ouest (Nanterre) in March 2011, may well be placed within this new theoretical framework: the overarching topic is the expansion of Doric koinai in the Peloponnese and Central Greece in the post-classical era, in the context of a dynamic but also often antagonistic relationship with both the epichoric idioms and the Attic-Ionic koine to which they eventually gave way in the late Hellenistic and/or early Roman periods.

The volume begins with a short preface by C. Dobias-Lalou followed by S. Minon's lengthy 'Introduction' (1-18) which is divided into two main parts: the former consists a selective, yet informative literature review followed by a short theoretical discussion of the topic of koineization (vs. dialect decline) as well as of some related phenomena and/or concepts; the latter is a short discussion of the individual papers in the volume. Although the editor's argumentation about the exclusion of other Greek-speaking areas makes sense (e.g. the Attic-Ionic region was directly linked to the koine, while the Greek-speaking East was a heavily bi-/multi-lingual area), it is undoubtedly a pity that other dialectal regions have been left out, e.g. Thessaly, (other parts of) the northern zone of the Greek peninsula, Magna Graecia, etc.; obviously, practical constraints may have weighed in the final decision.1

The first paper by S. Colvin ('Perceptions synchroniques des dialectes et de la koiné', 19-28) stands out thematically since it does not focus on some particular dialect. Colvin (re-)examines certain excerpts from ancient texts in order to establish by means of modern linguistic techniques and theories (e.g. proto-language reconstruction, sociolinguistics) the meaning of the koine (and koineization) to ancient authors: for instance, ancient grammarians faced significant difficulties in determining the relationship between the koine and the (literary) dialects, e.g. parent vs. descendant (and vice versa) -though the koine was often also deemed a kind of 'high', unmarked variety in an environment of ongoing diglossia; on the other hand, some important modern linguistic notions (e.g. genetic relationship) simply did not even exist back then. One may realize here that this confusion extended beyond the strictly linguistic realm and related too to the crucial issue of identity (local vs. pan-Hellenic) in the post-classical period.

The important paper by E. Crespo ('Diffusion de l'attique et développement de koinai dans le Péloponnèse (1re moitié du IVe siècle av. J.-C.', 57-68) focuses on a more general topic too. Crespo offers an interesting comparative analysis of the earliest public texts from the Peloponnese (first half of the 4th century BC) that were not written in the respective local vernacular, which is nowadays considered a 'violation' of the so-called 'Buck's law'; but cf. also some other well-known cases out of the effect of this law, e.g. inscriptions found in sanctuaries of pan-Hellenic importance, i.e. Olympia, Delphi, Dodona, etc. Two texts written in Attic (high variety) plus another three in an unmarked Doric koina (a supra-dialectal variety) point to an early tendency towards the elimination of local, sub-dialectal features in cases of texts of 'international' importance or when the addressee/honorand was an Athenian citizen. Accommodation, by which speakers attempted to minimize differences, hybridization, leveling as well as some other linguistic features and mechanisms seem to have been pivotal in this process. Crespo concludes that Attic features spread unevenly according to communication circumstances each time; ultimately, the new peripheral linguistic convergence(s) (koinai) that emerged among the speakers of different dialectal (sub-)varieties paved the way for the Attic-Ionic koine rather than slowed down its expansion as claimed before by scholars.

S. Minon's contribution ('Les mutations des alphabets péloponnésiens au contact de l'alphabet attique ionisé (ca 450-350 av. J.-C.)', 29-55) represents a primarily epigraphic-paleographic approach to the famous sub-dialectal dichotomy of the ancient Argolid, although it does not lack linguistic content altogether (cf. also Nieto Izquierdo's paper below): on the one hand, Argos, Mycenae and the hinterland, and on the other, Epidaurus and its surrounding coastal area. Minon demonstrates through a detailed comparison that Epidaurus adopted earlier, though gradually, the Ionic (Milesian) alphabet while Argos moved at a slower pace despite its closer political relationship with Athens (Athens introduced the Milesian alphabet officially in 403/2 BC). Nonetheless, by the mid-4th century BC all of the Argolid had fully adopted the (Attic-)Ionic alphabet, a development which undoubtedly facilitated the expansion of the Attic-Ionic koine too. Geography, politics, economics and other extralinguistic factors obviously played a key role in this process, which is a fact we ought to take note of more frequently.2

E. Nieto Izquierdo ('La diffusion de la koiné en Argolide au IVe siècle: les premières étapes', 69-86) discusses the early stages of the expansion of the koine into both sub-dialectal areas of the Argolid in the 4th century BC. Some well-known research principles established by C. Brixhe, e.g. the need to distinguish characteristics shared by more than one dialects from unique (mono-)dialectal traits and adopted koine (plus other) features, have been employed for the purpose of this study as well. The analysis, which includes the examination of artificial forms, namely hybrids, but also hyperkoineisms, especially in Epidaurus (e.g. Νικώνους instead of Nίκωνος), and conversely hyperdialectalisms, particularly in Argos (e.g. τελώμενος instead of τελούμενος), points to an earlier and more intense diffusion of the koine in the coastal zone of Epidaurus.

The next chapter by L. Dubois ('Dialecte et langues communes en Arcadie, à l'époque hellénistique', 87-96) focuses on a non-Doric dialect, i.e. Arcadian. The author re-examines select epigraphic material from various Arcadian cities, especially Tegea, in order to demonstrate how Arcadian gave way from the late 4th/early 3rd to the 1st century BC to a Doric koina (especially in the context of the Achaean League) before the latter succumbed in its turn to the koine (1st century AD).

M. Douthe ('La koina du Nord-Ouest: nature et développement', 97-115) revisits the controversy over the existence and precise linguistic nature of the so-called North-West koina on the basis of two corpora of epigraphic texts from Delphi (4th-3rd centuries BC). Although the size and the nature of the epigraphic corpora hardly allow any firm conclusions, it appears that the so-called North-West koina was a primarily written, though not artificial variety (note its two main features: ἐν + acc., athematic dat. pl. ending -οις) which co-existed with the Attic-Ionic koine in a bidialectal environment. Certain socio- and extra-linguistic factors must be taken into account, although it is difficult to establish any of these factors firmly due to poor documentation. Last but not least, it appears that the supposed pivotal role of the Aetolian League in the establishment of a North-West koina as the equivalent linguistic medium of the Attic-Ionic koine, which was promoted by their Macedonian rivals, has been rather overstated.

N. Lanérès ('Le messénien: un dialecte introuvable ?', 117-139) offers a very interesting account of Messenian, a lesser known severe Doric variety that was closely related to Laconian; but cf. two important differences in Messenian: retention of intervocalic /s/ and lack of any change <θ> → <σ> (/ts/→ /s/ or perhaps an aspirate stop turning into a fricative, at least at a first stage). The turbulent history of Messenia and its speakers (wars against Sparta in the archaic period followed by subjugation and exile to Naupaktos in the mid-5th century BC, and finally return shortly after the Battle at Leuktra in 371 BC) creates a complicated, yet fascinating linguistic picture. Messenian is poorly attested, especially before the 4th century BC, but an analysis of its successive chronological stages shows that by the 2nd century BC a Doric koina (with predominantly Doric mitior features) took the place of Messenian; but this variety too was pushed aside by the Attic-Ionic koine by the end of the 1st century AD.

The final paper by A. Alonso Déniz ('L'esprit du temps: koiné, dialecte et hyperdialecte dans les inscriptions agonistiques du sanctuaire d'Artémis Orthia à Sparte', 141-168) is a fresh look at votive inscriptions from the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia in Sparta, particularly those from the 2nd-3rd centuries AD written in a unique 'neo-Laconian' Doric idiom: on the one hand, there are clear influences from the koine (in the form of hybrid, hyperdialectal and even pseudo-Laconian forms), and on the other, one may note the characteristic rhotacism of late Laconian (e.g. συνέφηβορ). According to the author, these inscriptions generally point to an actual idiom characterized by the revival of certain old Laconian features (too) rather than to an artificial variety; in other words, contemporary and archaic features from a local variety ('lower register') were used as idiomatic 'markers' for reasons pertaining to speakers' identity concerns.3

Abstracts in both French and English as well as a select comprehensive bibliography (in addition to the references listed at the end of each paper) and several helpful indices can be found at the end of the book. In general, the book has been edited meticulously and published professionally while the number of mistakes and various other infelicities has been kept to a minimum despite the obvious difficulties arising from the complex nature of the dialectal material. A very short list of minor corrections (main text) is provided here: p. 112: ταυτῆς → ταύτης; p. 125: progressive → régressive; p. 124: ὄταν → ὅταν; p. 128, fn. 37: 1st pl. διδόμεν → δίδομεν; p.164: Λακῶνων → Λακώνων (twice).4

In conclusion, this book, which follows in the footsteps of the five well-known collective volumes on the koine by C. Brixhe and R. Hodot (editors) between 1993 and 2004, will be of genuine interest to all specialists in ancient Greek linguistics, but also to those classicists in general who may work on dialectal material. But above all, it will intrigue and interest everyone keen on discovering the dynamic nature of ancient Greek dialectology, which extended far beyond the artificially monolithic picture of some traditional scholarly views of modern times.5


1.   For koineization in the Greek-speaking world, see V. Bubenik (1989). Hellenistic and Roman Greece as a Sociolinguistic Area. Amsterdam-Philadelphia. For Sicily, in particular, see O. Tribulato (ed.) (2012). Language and Linguistic Contact in Ancient Sicily. Cambridge: 191-288. For Macedonia (and Chalkidike), see C. Brixhe & A. Panayotou (1988). 'L'atticisation de la Macédoine: l'une des sources de la koiné'. Verbum 11.3-4: 245-260; A. Panayotou (1990). 'Des dialectes à la koiné: l'exemple de la Chalcidique'. ΠΟΙΚΙΛΑ, ΜΕΛΕΤΗΜΑΤΑ 10. Αthens: 191-228.
2.   Note also A. Morpurgo Davies (1993). 'Geography, history and dialect: the case of Oropos', in E. Crespo et al. (eds.), Dialectologica Graeca. Madrid: 261-279.
3.   Note the contemporary movement of Atticism which was also (partly) related to speakers/writers' identity concerns. On the other hand, the findings of W. Labovs famous sociolinguistic study on Martha's Vineyard (island off Massachusetts, US) in the 1960's may also be of some relevance here: younger locals of a certain socio-economic background employed features of the idiom of the elderly, e.g. in the pronunciation of certain diphthongs, in an attempt to differentiate linguistically from 'foreigners', especially tourists.
4.   The otherwise interesting table on pp. 35-36, which tabulates various epichoric Greek alphabets from the latter part of the 5th century BC, has unfortunately been split between two different pages, although it could otherwise have been fitted into just one page.
5.   C. Brixhe (ed.), La Koiné grecque antique I (1993), La Koiné grecque antique II (1996), La Koiné grecque antique III (1998); R. Hodot (ed.), La Koiné grecque antique IV (2001), La Koiné grecque antique V (2004). Nancy (-Paris).

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Monday, March 30, 2015


Adam Izdebski, A Rural Economy in Transition: Asia Minor from Late Antiquity into the Early Middle Ages. Journal of Juristic Papyrology supplement, 18. Warszawa: Raphael Taubenschlag Foundation, 2013. Pp. xiv, 261. ISBN 9788392591986. €75.00.

Reviewed by Nikos Tsivikis, Institute for Mediterranean Studies, Rethymno (ntsivikis@ims.forth.gr)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The study of Byzantine history and archaeology often brings to mind the double face of Janus: a significant portion of scholarship is produced according to older and more traditional interpretive methods while a few studies signal breakthroughs almost inconceivable a generation ago. Adam Izdebski's book should be included in the latter category, introducing innovative methodologies and reconceptualizing our views of Byzantine history. In A Rural Economy in Transition, his main aim is to reconstruct the conditions of rural Asia Minor in the difficult times for the Byzantine state between the 7th and the 10th c. AD. The subject in itself is challenging, touching upon a series of major and difficult questions for a period even until today referred to as the Byzantine 'Dark Ages'. At the center stands the evolution of Byzantine rural society, a subject frequently regarded as fully exhausted in past studies based on textual sources. Finally these issues are examined for the lands of Asia Minor that extend eastward and away from the well-excavated and better-known coastal settlements of the Aegean that usually are the focus of similar studies.

To achieve his goal Izdebski initially discusses the material of survey data, archaeological reports and historical sources. He does not stop there but transcends into the uncharted and exciting waters of the palaeoenvironmental record of ancient and medieval vegetation patterns as recorded in the lakebeds and marshes of Asia Minor. This is the most important and original addition of this volume, and it offers new understandings and nuanced perceptions of the discussion of Byzantine rural economy and settlement evolution, providing the reader a set of new and refined palynological data on the Byzantine Anatolian countryside.

In the first part entitled 'Transformation of Rural Settlement', the author revisits three different sets of established archaeological data in an effort to outline the broad changes occurring in rural Asia Minor from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. Extensive and intensive survey data is utilized to track the changing rural settlement patterns and to chart the vast areas of Asia Minor under discussion. This analysis is followed by a study of fortified sites recorded in surveys from which Izdebski attempts to find a network of Byzantine Early Medieval rural fortifications built in the tumultuous era of the Arab invasions. The first part ends with the study of rural ecclesiastical buildings as a way to grasp the conditions and transformations pertaining to these rural areas of Asia Minor.

Often in this first part the author encounters the limitations of the available data and especially the shortcomings of extensive or intensive surveys. Early Medieval Byzantine settlements seem to be difficult to register in traditional surveys because the material culture of the period is understudied and consists of artifacts elusive to archaeological methods oriented towards the Classical and Roman world. The same applies to fortifications. Here Izdebski successfully shows how difficult it is to date some remains to a specific century based on survey data alone or by using Clive Foss's criteria of dated building techniques. Byzantine Early Medieval rural churches, the last of the three markers, prove to be maybe the most elusive material to be tracked through surface survey. With the exception of standing buildings, intact or in ruins, we are practically unable to recognize them without some excavation. Surveys usually identify church sites by the occasional discovery of carved stones and architectural sculpture but, as the author notes, we should be extra cautious in trusting this identification without corroborating evidence from excavations.

The second part of Izdebski's book is dedicated to palaeoenvironmental research about Byzantine Early Medieval Asia Minor. The author initially analyzes the predominant pattern of Roman and Late Roman human induced cultivation, what is commonly called the Beyșehir Occupation Phase (BOP), named after the lake of that name in central Anatolia. BOP stands for a phase of intensive human activity characterized by a tripartite equilibrium recorded in multiple pollen samples across Asia Minor: cereal cultivation, fruticulture and pastoral activities. Izdebski explores the question of what it was like during the last period of BOP, what followed and whether it is possible to arrive at a reliable date for the transition. To achieve this he uses existing palynological data, with the aim of constructing new age-depth models especially fitted to the Late Roman and Byzantine Early Medieval period. Through the new analysis of samples from many sites all around Asia Minor Izdebski manages to trace this change to near the end of the 7th c. AD. The BOP equilibrium transforms radically into a new balance of rural activities. In this much drier climate the fruticulture seems to disappear around many of the sampled sites, and cereal cultivation along with pastoralism gains new impetus.

Izdebski concludes that this drastic alteration of the rural landscape was due in part to the climatological change and unprecedented aridity, and in part to the new realities of Arab raids and the collapse of the frontier after the 7th c. As a result, a homogenous mode of cultivation and pattern of rural settlements that extended in the Late Roman period almost everywhere across Asia Minor disappeared, and a more diverse Early Medieval setting arose where different regions react differently to the change. The segmented rural landscape was divided after the 7th c. into general regions: the Southeast (Cappadocia and the SE Central Plateau), a vast frontier area and buffer zone for the war with the Arabs, underpopulated and underexploited; the Southwest (Pisidia and Lykia), where despite the abandonment of some urban sites a vivid network of villages survived following the Late Roman trends and where a major reorganization of agriculture towards cereal production and pastoralism took place; and the North (Paphlagonia and the Pontus), where animal husbandry becomes the predominant economic activity along with smaller pockets of cereal cultivation. The three proposed regions correlate with Ralph-Johannes Lilie's system of different zones in Asia Minor according to the level of Arab threat that was first presented in the 1970s and later refined by Haldon and Brubaker.1 But Izdebski provides for the first time the needed evidence that converts the border zone system from a historical reconstruction to a demonstrable reaction to the difficult economic conditions in Asia Minor after the 7th c.

Izdebski notes the recurring pattern of limited archaeological knowledge for the area, especially in regards to the Byzantine Early Medieval period. In this way he raises a crucial issue about the future of contemporary Byzantine archaeology and poses the question of how to move beyond the limitations of survey analysis. Although the author's focus on the evidence from rural Asia Minor is justified, it is exactly the excavated material that sometimes questions this division of 'urban' against 'rural'. One of the best excavated and extensively published Byzantine Early Medieval settlements of central Anatolia, the city of Amorium, could be considered 'urban' but would have been especially relevant to the discussion in its connection to rural agriculture. The highly organized and intensive wine production that was taking place in Amorium during the 8th c., among other evidence of agricultural activity, suggests equal importance alongside palaeoenvironmental data.2 Excavation material could have further helped to fill the gaps in Izdebski's evidence. In addition, maps based on the survey and palynological data, like in the case of Phrygia, would have been helpful. Most of this evidence for the rural areas of Asia Minor can be found in reports usually published in Turkish. Probably owing to the language barrier, this valuable of material is mostly absent from the book. A good example is the extremely important church monuments of the 8th-9th c. that have been recently excavated in Bașara, a small village near Han in the Eskisehir region, at a locale that is not connected with any important city and most certainly was a rural settlement.3

On a different and more theoretical level, Izdebski's book successfully synchronizes Byzantine history with some of the major trends in current historiographical writing. And although the author rejects outwardly Joseph Tainter's ideas outlined in Collapse of Complex Societies (p. 232-3), it is tempting to ascribe some of the book's ideas to an intellectual milieu informed by aspects of environmental determinism as it has been formulated by Jared Diamond and other contemporary historians.4 In Izdebski's transitory rural Asia Minor from Late Antiquity to the Byzantine Early Middle Ages, the climatological shift along with the plague outbreak function as the natural facilitators of major historical transformation. Additionally to the environmental factors stands another reagent of change: the Arab invasions - viewed traditionally in Byzantine historiography as the utmost catalyst. But we need to be careful with this kind of historical determinism because it risks reducing Byzantine social change to a response to external causes, and internal social dynamics can be overlooked in the larger analysis.

A Rural Economy in Transition paves the way for further research into the connections between political and environmental history in Byzantine Asia Minor.5 There are many signs on the horizon that Byzantine history and archaeology are moving speedily in novel and fascinating directions, opening room for new and essential debates in a field not always characterized by innovation. The book at hand certainly holds a place as one of these exciting signs.

Table of Contents

Part 1 – The transformation of rural settlement
Chapter 1 – Structure and density of rural settlement
Chapter 2 – Fortifications within the rural world
Chapter 3 – Ecclesiastical monuments in the countryside
Chapter 4 – The inconclusive conclusions: Early Middle Ages – a 'posthumous' Late Antiquity?
Part 2 – Prosperity, collapse, and adaptation in rural economies
Chapter 1 – Palynological evidence in historical interpretations
Chapter 2 – Regional analyses
Chapter 3 – The vegetation history of Anatolia in a comparative perspective
Conclusions – Towards a synthesis: from homogeneity to diversity


1.   Ralph-Johannes Lilie, Die Byzantinische Reaktion auf die Ausbreitung der Araber: Studien zur Strukturwandlung des Byzantinischen Staates im 7. und 8. Jahrhundert, München 1976, 339-360; Leslie Brubaker and John F. Haldon, Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680-850: A History, Cambridge 2011, 551-554.
2.   Christopher Lightfoot and Eric Ivison, eds., Amorium Reports 3: The Lower City Enclosure. Finds Reports and Technical Studies, Istanbul 2012.
3.   Oguz Alp, "Eskişehir, Başara Köyü Kazılarından bulunan Bizans Dönemi Kiliseleri", in: Kadir Pektaş et al., XIII. Ortaçağ ve Türk dönemi Kazilari ve Sanat Tarihi Araştirmalari Sempozyumu Bildirileri 14-16 Ekim 2009, Denizli 2010, 21-30.
4.   Recently re-evaluated in, Jared Diamond and James Robinson, "Prologue", in: Jared Diamond and James A. Robinson, eds., Natural Experiments of History, Cambridge 2010, 1-10.
5.   John Haldon, Neil Roberts, Adam Izdebski, Dominik Fleitmann, Michael McCormick, Marica Cassis, Owen Doonan, et al., "The Climate and Environment of Byzantine Anatolia: Integrating Science, History, and Archaeology." Journal of Interdisciplinary History 45.2 (2014), 113–161.

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Wilfried Nippel, Fußnoten, Zitate, Plagiate: Wissenschaftsgeschichtliche Streifzüge. Karl-Christ-Preis für Alte Geschichte, Bd 1. Heidelberg: Verlag Antike, 2014. Pp. 80. ISBN 9783938032794. €19.90 (pb).

Reviewed by Geert Lernout, University of Antwerp (geert.lernout@uantwerpen.be)

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This is a relatively expensive publication of a lecture that Wilfried Nippel gave when he became the first recipient of the new Karl-Christ Prize for Ancient History in April 2013 from a German-Swiss committee that consisted of Stefan Rebenich, Hartmut Leppin and Andreas Rödder. The booklet opens with a brief essay by Leppin and Rebenich on the importance of the Marburg professor Karl Christ, one of the most important German Althistoriker of the post-war generation and a Laudatio by the third member of the committee. The book closes with a bibliography of the prize winner with as the final item, suitably, a newspaper article on the death of Karl Christ.

The core of the book are the 25 pages of the prize winner's lecture on footnotes, quotations and plagiarism that (apart from nearly hundred footnotes) seems to be the text as pronounced. Nippel mentions that our notions of copyright and intellectual property are very recent and this is even more true for intellectual plagiarism which could only begin to exist at the moment when scholarship had ceased to be "commentary on canonized authorities" (29), with the Newton-Leibniz controversy as the most famous example. As Anthony Grafton has shown, footnotes then become the place where intellectual battles were fought (and lost)1 and Nippel also refers to an earlier book on the subject by the theologian and church historian Adolf Harnack who claimed that his own book was the first to study footnotes. Nippel slyly points out that seven years earlier a study by Michael Bernays on the subject had been published.

We then turn to the world champion of notes, Edward Gibbon who began by using endnotes in the first volumes of his Decline and Fall but who then, after criticism from David Hume, switched to footnotes. Gibbon used his footnotes to create an entirely new genre of history writing in which facts and judgments needed to be documented. Michael Bernays had already pointed out how Gibbon used the footnotes in the highly controversial chapters 15 and 16 of Decline and Fall for his most outspoken criticism of Christianity while simultaneously avoiding to make his own position clear. Nippel explains that on one occasion only did Gibbon reply to an Oxford theologian who had accused him of plagiarizing and misrepresenting his sources, an accusation that cast doubt on his integrity as a historian (and his honor as a gentleman). Gibbon did not mind being called irreligious, but he did mention ironically the "religious accuracy of the historian"(39). Nippel's essay closes somewhat abruptly after a detailed history of a controversy between Karl Marx and the social-democrat Lujo Brentano about a single quotation from a speech by Gladstone.


1.   Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997, reviewed BMCR 1998.01.05. With Glenn W. Most, Grafton and Nippel have also edited a German selection of essays by Arnaldo Momigliano.

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Attilio Mastrocinque, Bona Dea and the Cults of Roman Women. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge, Bd 49. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014. Pp. 209. ISBN 9783515107525. €52.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Massimiliano Di Fazio, Università di Pavia (max.difazio@gmail.com)
Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents
Bona Dea è una delle divinità più complesse e sfuggenti della religione romana. A maggior ragione il lavoro di Attilio Mastrocinque si presenta come un impegno gravoso, che però ben si inserisce in un recente rinnovato interesse verso singole "biografie" di figure divine "minori" (penso ai casi di Anna Perenna in ambito romano, e Mefitis e Feronia in ambito italico). In questo libro, in verità piuttosto particolare e in certo senso inusuale, il lettore non troverà una raccolta dei dati e delle testimonianze sulla dea. I materiali, del resto, sono già stati raccolti in anni non lontani da H. Brouwer: si può dire in effetti che il libro di Mastrocinque presuppone quello della Brouwer.1 Ma il lettore non troverà qui nemmeno una trattazione articolata in maniera diversa da quelle precedenti. Quello che vi troverà, invece, è una serie di interessanti ipotesi elaborate a partire dalla documentazione su Bona Dea: ipotesi forse non sempre esposte in maniera particolarmente efficace, ma sicuramente meritevoli di attenzione e di discussione da parte degli esperti in materia di religione antica.
Una prefazione spiega la genesi del libro, scritto nel favorevole ambiente dell'Università di Heidelberg. In altre due pagine introduttive, l'Autore sottolinea la distanza che separa la mentalità antica, e di conseguenza certi usi e pratiche rituali, da quelli a cui siamo ormai abituati dopo secoli di Cristianesimo, che ha indotto rilevanti trasformazioni nelle pratiche sociali e religiose,2 e in particolare nella sfera della sessualità che è fortemente al centro delle attenzioni dell'Autore. Lo sforzo di ragionare secondo categorie mentali lontane da quelle della cultura occidentale crea evidentemente difficoltà di comprensione; il compito è reso ancor più difficile dalla stessa natura dei rituali di iniziazione, che tendono ovviamente ad essere misteriosi e segreti.
Nel primo vero capitolo, "Girls and Pagan Gods", vi è innanzitutto una precisazione di metodo. Il punto centrale del libro è dichiaratamente la figura di Bona Dea in quanto divinità delle donne romane, col suo ruolo di protettrice e di guida verso la vita nuziale. Il tema al centro del capitolo è il ruolo degli dei nell'ambito del matrimonio romano. Una serie di riflessioni sul valore della verginità e sul ruolo dell'imene introduce la questione dello ius primae noctis e dunque della presenza di alcune divinità nella prima notte di nozze. Ampi ricorsi alle fonti letterarie (in alcuni casi discutibili)3 e confronti con la realtà culturale greca permettono all'Autore di cominciare a mettere in evidenza gli aspetti dionisiaci che caratterizzano queste iniziazioni matrimoniali.
Il IV capitolo, "Wedding Invitations", si apre con i protagonisti maschili del culto di Bona Dea: Hercules e Faunus. Il primo è messo in relazione con Bona Dea nelle fonti antiche, in particolare Properzio e Macrobio. Il legame tra Fauno e la dea è pure esplicito, dal momento che le fonti antiche ricordano la dea anche col nome di Fauna. Ciò che accomuna le due figure divine maschili è l'insuccesso nel loro primo approccio sessuale. Dietro questi miti, secondo l'Autore, si vede un chiaro messaggio di astensione dal sesso durante i rituali femminili (p. 30). Il percorso, non sempre lineare a dire il vero, prosegue con la presentazione dei tratti distintivi dei rituali in onore di Bona Dea: particolare attenzione è rivolta agli aspetti più dionisiaci. In queste pagine si segnala un interessante ricorso anche alla documentazione iconografica, soprattutto sarcofagi di epoca imperiale. Un passaggio cruciale viene dedicato alla presenza di uomini alle feste della dea: episodio centrale è quello, ben noto grazie al racconto di Cicerone, di Publio Clodio, che aveva preso parte ai rituali di Bona Dea travestito da donna. Altrettanto cruciale è la vicenda della soppressione dei Bacchanalia nel 186 a.C. (su cui si veda infra).
Nel capitolo V, "Initiations and Political Power", l'Autore mostra come i riti legati a Bona Dea fossero funzionali ad una affermazione di status da parte delle nobili romane. Figura centrale nel discorso è Livia, la moglie di Augusto e madre di Tiberio, che promosse il restauro del tempio della dea sull'Aventino (Ov. Fasti V, 157-158).
Il discorso adesso si allarga ad altre figure divine che, a parere dell'Autore, sono confrontabili con Bona Dea. Nel capitolo VI la protagonista è Omphale insieme a Demetra e Kore. Tra le questioni affrontate, importante è quella relativa al modo in cui dèi italici e romani venivano rimodellati secondo canoni greci. Figure divine come Iuno Sospita, Iuno Caprotina 4 e, ovviamente, di nuovo Hercules, sono coinvolte in una analisi che non si limita alle fonti letterarie ma utilizza anche documenti iconografici. Si torna sull'episodio di Clodio: il suo travestitismo viene ricondotto, con idea innovativa, ad un più generale fenomeno religioso di divinità polimorfiche. Si seguono poi i percorsi di Omphale in Magna Grecia, mettendo in luce i collegamenti con scoperte archeologiche anche recenti che permettono di intravedere una realtà di cerimonie domestiche di tipo femminile. Il percorso sulle tracce di Omphale porta infine a Demetra, e da qui si ritorna a Bona Dea, di cui vengono sottolineati gli aspetti demetriaci in un complesso intreccio di influenze reciproche che coinvolge il mondo greco, quello indigeno magnogreco e quello romano.
Il capitolo VII, "The reign of Bacchus", è dominato dalla figura di Bacco-Dioniso-Liber pater. Un nuovo elemento viene aggiunto al mosaico sempre più complesso di Bona Dea: l'orfismo — sentiero molto delicato, che secondo l'Autore può però portare a riconoscere nel dionisismo romano una forma di orfismo (p. 141).
Nel capitolo VIII, "Divine daughters and wives", si fa ritorno all'Italia centrale, questa volta per divinità come Anna Perenna, la coppia etrusca Suri-Cavatha, ed altre coppie simili come Pomonus-Vesuna, Circe-Picus, Marica-Mares ed altri. Qui Mastrocinque si avvia su sentieri già collaudati, visto che a queste figure aveva dedicato in passato diversi importanti contributi.
Infine il capitolo IX, "Opposition and complementarity". L'Autore presenta una serie di interessanti considerazioni sul legame tra natura e luoghi di culto, e più in generale tra divinità e regno vegetale, arrivando ad un "archetipo" costituito da Medea e il suo rapporto con le piante medicinali, che in qualche modo ha un riflesso su Bona Dea in quanto sovrapponibile a Hygiea. L'aspetto vegetale, e in particolare il simbolismo dei frutti, passa attraverso un'altra figura divina di rilievo, ovvero Flora coi i suoi festival, i Floralia. Un esame attento del trattamento di Flora nei Fasti di Ovidio permette di sviluppare ulteriormente le molteplici sfaccettature di Bona Dea. Molte di queste sfaccettature trovano una cornice in un paragrafo, forse troppo sintetico, dedicato al calendario religioso romano. Ancor più importanti sono gli ultimi paragrafi del libro sul tema, cruciale e molto controverso, delle iniziazioni. Qui molte delle intuizioni dell'Autore iniziano a far intravedere una loro logica, e attraverso una serie di comparazioni etnografiche molto sintetiche, emerge quello che forse è il nodo del libro: l'idea che i culti e i riti addensati attorno alla figura di Bona Dea fossero funzionali al processo di integrazione delle giovani romane nella loro società. L'ultimo paragrafo di questo capitolo ha anche il gravoso compito di contenere le conclusioni. Ed è significativo che si tratti di un paragrafo di una pagina e mezza, in cui peraltro più che conclusioni troviamo possibili ulteriori sviluppi della ricerca. Data l'estrema complessità del libro, forse un capitolo conclusivo più ampio e organico sarebbe stato utile.
In definitiva, ripetiamo che il libro di Mastrocinque è un lavoro molto particolare, tutt'altro che esente da scelte che possono lasciare perplessi. Tra le soluzioni discutibili colpisce specialmente la convinzione che i Bacchanalia della nota vicenda narrata da Livio fossero un rituale esclusivamente femminile (p. 136: "the intrusion of men was forbidden"), e che le cause della repressione di questi culti sarebbero da individuare nel loro "exceedingly ecstatic and orgiastic character" (p. 63-64) mentre la critica recente sembra aver seriamente messo in discussione queste interpretazioni. 5 Ma di là dalle singoli questioni, il problema del libro è che presenta un filo del ragionamento non semplice da seguire, anche perché più volte si torna su temi già affrontati, con una organizzazione priva di rimandi interni. Né giova alla comprensione una certa tendenza apodittica. Anche sul piano stilistico, la scelta di scrivere in inglese—che per certi versi è coraggiosa e dimostra volontà di raggiungere un pubblico più ampio—è però in alcuni passaggi fonte di ulteriori difficoltà, e forse una revisione sarebbe stata opportuna.
Al netto di queste considerazioni, va detto che la considerevole versatilità e vivacità di interessi,—qualità ben note in uno studioso del livello di Attilio Mastrocinque—fanno sì che il lettore paziente troverà nelle pagine del libro diversi spunti ricchi di interesse e degni di essere presi in considerazione e discussi in futuro.

1.   H.H.J. Brouwer, Bona Dea. The Sources and Description of the Cult, Leiden-New York, Brill, 1989. Alla bibliografia citata da Mastrocinque si può aggiungere F. Marcattili, "Bona Dea, ἡ θεὸς γυναικεία", in Archeologia Classica, 61 (2010), 7-40.
2.   Non so quanto sia condivisibile, tuttavia, l'affermazione secondo cui "For Christians, nothing is required in order to get married" (p. 13), dal momento che in realtà la dottrina cristiana richiede che gli sposi abbiano completato il cammino di iniziazione che parte dal battesimo.
3.   In particolare, il ricorso alle testimonianze di sant'Agostino è ovviamente indispensabile, ma presenta alcuni pericoli. E' lecito chiedersi, ad esempio, se la dea etrusca Manturna (p. 20), ricordata da Agostino (CD I 4) ma mai menzionata altrove, fosse davvero una divinità etrusca misconosciuta, o non piuttosto una fantasia di Agostino o di una delle sue fonti antiquarie. Mastrocinque sostiene che le possibili inaccuratezze delle fonti non sottraggono al passo agostiniano il suo valore; ma sulla questione il dibattito è annoso.
4.   Sorprende invece che solo una nota (129 a p. 106) sia dedicata a Cupra, divinità la cui analogia con Bona Dea è attestata epigraficamente (CIL X 4849 = ILS 3517, da Venafrum).
5.   Cito per tutti S. Takács, "Politics and Religion in the Bacchanalian Affair of 186 B.C.E", in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 100 (2000), 301-310.

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Holger A. Müller​, Herrschaft in Gallien: Studien zur Entwicklung der keltischen Herrschaftsformen im vorrömischen Gallien​. Gutenburg: Computus Druck Satz und Verlag, 2013. Pp. 215. ISBN 9783940598172. €69.90.

Reviewed by James Thorne, University of Manchester (james.a.thorne@manchester.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

[The reviewer apologises for the lateness of this review.]

This work surveys the forms of political organisation found amongst Celts in both Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul before their incorporation under Roman rule. It is overwhelmingly based on literary evidence, though some use is made of archaeology; indeed, and unsurprisingly, the attempt to reconcile the archaeological and literary pictures gives rise to some of the most interesting parts of the argument.

A substantial introductory chapter deals with terminology and considers the problems of the main sources to be used: Polybius, Posidonius, Diodorus, Trogus, Livy, Pausanias. (Caesar is considered from this point of view on pages 70-2.) The terms considered here give some impression of the concerns of the whole book: μόναρχος, βασιλεύς, βασιλίσκος, δυνάστης, ἡγεμών, rex, regulus, dux, princeps, senatus, imperium. The second chapter reviews in detail the literary evidence for political organisation in Cisalpine Gaul, with little archaeological input; the third chapter (much longer, comprising nearly half the whole work) looks at Transalpine Gaul in the same way, but adds a much greater contribution from archaeology. A short fourth chapter considers some of the peculiar (though not unique) features of Celtic political organisation.

In so far as we can rely on Livy's account, in the time of Tarquinius Priscus (ca. 600 BC) the Celts who migrated from France to the Po valley brought with them a monarchical form of government. Such they certainly had in later, better-attested, times: in 237 BC the Boii killed their two kings (the date is given in error as 225 on page 59); in the Hannibalic period and just after they are spoken of as having βασιλίσκοι or reguli. Similar evidence exists for the Insubres and Senones, and, early on, for the Cenomani. It is this last tribe that provides the only, and at that tentative, evidence for an aristocratic form of rule in Celtic Italy: the seniores (a possible senate), who had so little influence in 197 BC (Liv. 32.30).

North of the Alps, monarchy is indicated by all the evidence for the earliest events: the migration to Italy, but also interactions with Massilia when first founded. By Caesar's time there was a mixture of aristocracies and monarchies. Müller discusses each people in turn, focussing on their status as a monarchy or aristocracy, and the not infrequent reversions from one form to the other that are familiar from the pages of Caesar. Some of the more interesting discussions are of earlier episodes: for example, the decision of the supposedly sixth-century king, Ambigatus, to send his sister's son out on the migration to Italy. His choice of his nephew as the leader of the expedition has sometimes been taken to be evidence of matrilineal succession; however, as Müller points out, it does not show this: perhaps Ambigatus was retaining his own sons to rule at home (and at the same time removing potential competitors, a suggestion that can be found in Kristiansen 1998: 332). There is also an interesting and on the whole sensible discussion of the Gaesati (96-7), though it is hard to agree that the prevailingly bellicose relations between different tribes would have made it difficult for their members to cooperate in a mercenary band: even in the epoch of modern nationalism, history furnishes plenty of contrary examples, not least the French Foreign Legion, coincidentally headquartered in Aubagne, not far from the supposed base of the Gaesati in the Rhône valley.

Perhaps the fundamental question is, when did the aristocratic form of rule emerge in Gaul, and why? Müller follows Raimund Karl (along with Gerhard Dobesch an important influence on this work) in thinking that the transition occurred in the second century BC, by the mechanism of a need on the part of kings for a comitatus. The necessity of dividing spoils with aristocrats, thus enriching and empowering this social tier, led to a situation where they could take power, perhaps assisted by a diminution of royal strength and influence brought about by inheritance splitting (139). In this discussion, Müller asks, 'how do we identify comites [Gefolgsherren] in an illiterate society?' (133); it is a shame he does not bring in here the so-called 'Ghost Cavalry' of the oppidum of Gondole, whose unusual style of interment has been linked in discussion to such social configurations (Deberge, Cabezuelo et al. 2009: 52). This is perhaps a result of Müller's too sparse reading in the French literature, something to which I will return.

The brief final chapter summarises the discussion under the headings of particularly (though not exclusively) Celtic forms of rule: double monarchy, petty kings, claims to 'world-kingship' (the case of the Bituriges); female rulers, including Onomaris, a continental queen who led a third-century migration into the Balkans (Tractatus de Mulieribus, 14); the vergobret; and the important issue, again, of clients and the comitatus.

The book is not without its problems. The evidence is not always handled as sensitively as it could be: for example, Müller maintains (42) that when successive issues of coinage bear the name of the same individual, this indicates a long-lasting, and therefore monarchical, rule; conversely, an often-changing legend would attest the succession of magistrates within an aristocratic constitution. Unfortunately for this argument, the absolute chronology of the Gallic coinage is so poorly established that one cannot exclude the possibility that a 'long' series of issues really represents a flurry of minting in a very short period, such as might result from a flare-up of warfare. In fact, this is exactly what happened in the case of Vercingetorix, the serial minter about whom we know the most, and whose rule was much shorter than that of most magistrates within aristocratic systems is likely to have been.

At times there is also inconsistent argument. For example, since the Aulerci Eburovices were ruled by a senate, Müller assumes that the other branches of the Aulerci must have been ruled in the same way (90-1); yet the Remi and the Suessiones are taken to show the opposite: that very closely aligned and related peoples could have different modes political organisation (102-3). Despite being fratres consanguiniique and sharing the same leges, imperium, and magistratus in 57 BC (B Gall 2.3), the Remi had a senate and the Suessiones had a king. Müller can't have it both ways.

In fact, the simplest explanation for the difference between so closely linked a pair of peoples is that suggested by Wightman (1985: 26): the Remi seceded from the Suessiones in the immediate crisis brought about by Caesar's wintering in central Gaul in 58/57. It could be added that, if a body of aristocrats from associated oppida and pagi broke away from the rule of a monarch, a senate was a quite feasible form of government for them to adopt. Wightman's view implies that Caesar's description telescopes the pre- and post-secession time frame into one. This is hardly a problem: a literal reading of his present tenses (utantur, habeant) certainly can't be insisted upon, since the two peoples, fighting on opposing sides in a war, patently no longer shared a single imperium and magistratus. A final point on the Remi: Müller thinks that they changed to an aristocratic form of rule shortly before Caesar's arrival. But the ATISIOS REMOS coinage cannot be adduced as evidence of a pre-Caesarian king (who would get in the way of Wightman's hypothesis): it has for some time been thought to be post-Caesarian (Delestrée 1996: 110), and recently as late as 35/30 BC (Doyen 2005: 7-9).

The most serious problem with this book is the lack of French works consulted: I count only twelve items in the bibliography. Obviously the French-language literature on Iron-Age Gaul is vast, and it is a moot point whether one can approach Müller's topic at all without reading at least some of the more important works of synthesis. To name but one omission, there is (or rather, isn't) Fichtl's Peuples Gaulois, a recent work that covers much of the same ground as Müller. Fichtl included a careful discussion about how one might best represent the political divisions of pre-Roman Gaul on a map. Müller's map (174), on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. As important a people as the Bituriges are omitted, which leaves room for the Senones to be somewhat adrift (by no means were this people of the Paris basin centred on the confluence of the Loire and Allier), and the Aedui and Sequani are actually transposed.

That said, Müller does at least bring together up-to-date German scholarship, and presents a compendium of the literary sources in their original language, with German translation and commentary. To that extent this is a very useful work.

Works cited:

Deberge, Y., Cabezuelo, U., et al. (2009) 'L'oppidum arverne de Gondole (Le Cendre, Puy-de-Dôme). Topographie de l'occupation protohistorique (La Tène D2) et fouille du quartier artisanal: un premier bilan', Revue archéologique du Centre de la France R.A.C.F. Online 48.
Delestrée, L.-P. (1996) 'Numismatique gauloise et chronologie: exemples des potins et de l'or', Revue archéologique de Picardie 3-4: 105-112.
Doyen, J.-M. (2005) 'Les monnaies gauloises, romaines et medievales des rues Saint-Symphorien et Eugène Desteuque à Reims', in S. Sindonino (ed.), Reims (Marne), 19 rue Eugène Desteuque, Rapport final d'opération (INRAP report, Metz), Annex, 1-40.
Fichtl, S. (2004) Les Peuples Gaulois: IIIe – Ier siècles av. J.-C. Paris.
Kristiansen, K. (1998) Europe Before History. Cambridge.
Wightman, E.M. (1985) Gallia Belgica. London.
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Thursday, March 26, 2015


Guido M. Berndt, Roland Steinacher (ed.), Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed. Farnham; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. Pp. xviii, 381. ISBN 9781409446590. $139.95.

Reviewed by Eugene Webb, University of Washington (ewebb@u.washington.edu)

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This volume of essays is an important contribution to the literature on Arianism, especially because it not only provides further clarification of the controversies around Arianism in its origins in the fourth century but also gives welcome attention to the various forms it took subsequently among the various Germanic peoples (Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Lombards…) who adopted it—a subject greatly in need of more exploration.

Arianism has been a contested subject over the centuries, and this volume itself exemplifies that, since not only do the authors discuss the history of controversies in the field but some of them directly oppose one another's interpretations of the surviving evidence and even disagree whether the term "Arianism" is still useful (since it has had so many meanings and nuances, and since later Arianism may have had little to do directly with Arius) or should be replaced with another. As Hans Christof Brenneke explains in his lucid introduction to the volume, in his controversy with his bishop, Alexander, Arius wanted to emphasize God's transcendence and, appealing to Proverbs 8:22-25 ("The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old….before the beginning of the earth…."), he claimed that "God alone is ἀναρχῶς, and thus he was not always Father. Before all time, and before the creation of the world, God called the Son into being ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων" (p. 9). The ambiguity of a "creation" before all time and before the creation of the world is apparent, but Alexander interpreted it to mean that Arius assigned the Logos a place among created beings and concluded that he thought the Son/Logos was merely a man adopted by God. In subsequent controversy Alexander's successor, Athanasius, denounced so many opponents as "Arian" and so loosely that the term came to cover too much ground to have any precision—a problem compounded for later historians by the Nicenes' almost complete destruction of Arius's own writings, so that we have only sketchy ideas of what exactly he had in mind.

In the present volume, the main issue is how we are to understand the "Arianism" of the Germanic peoples, whose non- Nicene Christianity was legally exempt from the otherwise universal obligation of Nicene orthodoxy after the Council of Constantinople in 381. Several of the authors of the essays contained here advocate replacing "Arian" with the term "Homoian" when referring to Germanic Christianity. The first essay, by Knut Schäferdiek, "Ulfila und der sogenannte gotische Arianismus," argues this forcefully, saying that although they were called "Arians" by the Nicenes of the empire, they labeled themselves "catholic" or "orthodox" (he cites, for example, a Visigothic reference to converts "de Romana religione ad nostram fidem catholicam venientes," p. 22) and that their own theology was not based on that of Arius at all. (This one essay of the volume is in German, but it is followed by a brief English summary.) The two writers that follow after Schäferdiek, on the other hand, Sara Parvis in "Was Ulfila Really a Homoian?" and Paul Parvis in an essay on Saint Sabas disagree with him on this. Sara Parvis argues that "there are "clear theological parallels between Arius and Ulfila" (p. 58) and that "Ulfila is an excellent example of the unhelpfulness of the category of 'homoian'" (p. 65). "His links with the early players and early years of the Arian Controversy are, if anything, stronger than those of the later years,"" she says, "and it is there, I would suggest, that his theology also best fits." Paul Parvis (whose main argument is that Saint Sabas, who has traditionally been treated as a Catholic convert, was actually an Arian with a doctored posthumous Catholic hagiography) also comments on the Arian vs. Homoian issue, dismissing it as a question of "whether the word 'Arian'—inverted commas or no—should be excised from the historical lexicon altogether and replaced with a neologism that means precisely the same thing" (p. 75).

Several of the essays deal at least in part with what exactly Homoianism was and how the Goths associated with Ulfila (whose name is spelled in different ways by different authors in this collection) adopted it and how later Germanic peoples who entered the empire adopted it from those who learned it from him. Uta Heil's "The Homoians," which focuses on this, says that the earliest statement of the Homoian position was in a synod at Sirmium in 357 CE where the core concern was that one should refrain from speculative disputes involving non-biblical language (such as ousia and hypostasis). Its advocates wanted to drop both homoousios and homoiousios—terms argued for and against at Nicaea in 325 CE, with homoousios winning out there. The Sirmian formulation of 357 became the basis for imperially convoked synods at Rimini and Seleucia in 359 and finally the one in Constantinople in 360 (with Ulfila in attendance), which declared (p. 95) that the Son was "begotten before all ages and before every beginning" (to differentiate their position from that of Arius, says Heil), that the Son is "similar to the Father who begat him" (hence the term "homoian"), and that non-biblical terminology should be avoided. The Homoian doctrine of the Synod of Constantinople in 360 subsequently remained the official "orthodoxy" of the empire through most of the 370s. This was the theology that was adopted by Ulfila and was transmitted by him to the other Goths who migrated into the empire in the fourth century.

Hans Christof Brenneke, in his "Deconstruction of the so-called Germanic Arianism," is not particularly concerned with the nomenclature of "Arian" vs. "Homoian," but he agrees with Heil that Gothic Arianism was actually the religion of the 360 synod, and he uses that fact to counter the claim of numerous scholars of the last century or so that the reason Germanic tribes took up Arian Christianity is that there was a special affinity of the German cultural mind-set for Arianism. Rather, he says, Wulfila (his spelling of Ulfila) and other Goths chose it because at the time they entered the empire that was the "orthodox" version of Christianity they encountered: "In their view they did—obviously—not become Arians but simply Christians" (p. 120): "This barbarian turn towards Arianism can thus be found in the historic coincidence that the Goths adopted Christianity during the reign of Constantius II and Valens" (p. 123). Brennecke also argues that the theological writings of Wulfila were "entirely rooted in the Greek and Latin theological tradition" (p. 128).

Brendan Wolfe, in "Germanic Language and Germanic Homoianism," makes a similar case, arguing that "the emphasis on hierarchy and obedience cannot possibly have been stronger in Germanic society than in the Late Roman Empire" and that "it is not clear that a hierarchy of honour within the Trinity was an un-Nicene doctrine in this period, let alone a distinctive reason to prefer Homoianism," (p. 194). Rather, he suggests that a simpler reason for a Germanic preference for Homoianism is that words for "like" are equivalent in various languages and were easy to translate and understand, whereas the Greek philosophical vocabulary of the Nicenes was not.

Other essays in this collection are mainly concerned with the form the "Arian" (or "Homoian") version of Christianity took in the actual lives of the various Germanic peoples during the centuries before they eventually took up what after 381 CE became the imperially endorsed Catholic version. If there is a common concern of all of these writers, it is the need to correct the tendency of earlier historians to look at questions about the Germanic Christianity of that time through Nicene spectacles. (Yitzhak Hen, in his brief concluding note to the volume speaks of this as the "Nicene myopia.") This has led to a search for parallels or lack of parallel (deemed therefore more primitive or less developed) between Arian and Nicene church organization and religious life.

There is too much for full summary in this review, so I will list briefly some of the main points the other authors take up. Ulfila has often been referred to as "the apostle of the Goths," but Herwig Wolfram argues that Vulfila (his spelling) was a secular leader, rather like the "judges" of ancient Israel, and although he was ordained a bishop, that was not his main role among the Goths (as a historian with Nicene expectations might have supposed it to be). He also argues for religious diversity among the Goths themselves (Homoian, Catholic, and Audaian), claiming (against Paul Parvis) that Sabas really was a Catholic. Ralph W. Mathisen, Guido M. Berndt and Roland Steinacher, Pietro Majocchi, and Uta Heil (in a second essay, on "The Homoians in Gaul") all speak of the relatively relaxed relations between Germanic Arians and Catholics in most parts of the empire, with Arians and Catholics, attending each others' churches and participating in each others' liturgies and sacraments. Ralf Bockmann studies the archaeology of surviving Arian churches in various place to show how whatever other differences there may have been between Arians and Catholics, they did not produce "any iconographic or architectural differentiation" (p. 201), so that "it is easy to picture a mixed congregation" in such churches, with neither Arian nor Catholic laity actually much bothered "with the theological differences competing bishops discussed" (p. 218).

The exception to this general picture of tolerant intermingling comes in the essay of Robin Whelan on "Arianism in Africa," where the Vandal kingdom (439-534 CE) made a sustained effort to make its version of Christianity the orthodoxy of the new kingdom, but he says that although it used to be thought that the Vandals were persecutors of Catholics, in reality "coercion in favour of the Homoian Church and against the Nicene was far from ever-present" (p. 245). Meritxell Pérez Marinez's essay on Catholic opposition to Arian thought in England focuses on a point that was mainly a preoccupation of bishops because it supported their claims to power, the divinity of relics (something that, of course, would make no sense in Homoian terms): "the relics of the martyrs are consubstantial with God.…every single fragment was part of the divinity of the whole" (p. 308)

Manuel Koch's essay on "Arianism and Ethnic Identity in Sixth-Century Visigothic Spain" echoes the other authors in this volume who emphasize the low level of tension between Arians and Catholics in most places and says this is the reason the conversion of the Visigoths to Catholicism under Reccared took place so easily. What King Reccared and his father, Leovigild, both wanted to do in different ways was to bring their domain under a single ecclesiastical structure that they controlled and could use as an instrument of governance. Reccared succeeded by converting himself and then establishing a universal Catholic Church. That there was so little resistance to this on the part of the Visigothic Arians Koch takes as an indication that the borderlines between Arianism and Catholicism were in practice "quite flexible" (p. 268) and that "a supposed dissolution of a religiously marked ethnic segregation was not the aim but the basis of the attempts of both Leovigild and Reccared" (p. 269). "This situation." he says, "formed the precondition for the kings to be able to pursue their underlying aim: to end the existence of two ecclesiastical structures as a hindrance to the expansion of central royal power."

Differing as they do in their carefully researched arguments, the essays in this volume give a rounded and nuanced picture of the state of current understanding of the religion and the social organization of the various Germanic peoples in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages.

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Eugenio Amato, Pierre Maréchaux, Procope de Gaza. Discours et fragments. Collection des universities de France. Série grecque, 503. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2014. Pp. cix, 617. ISBN 9782251005874. €145.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Elizabeth Mattingly Conner (econner1@umd.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

This impressive Belles Lettres volume, edited with commentaries by Eugenio Amato in close collaboration with Gianluca Ventrella and Aldo Corcella, presents the first complete collection of the rhetorical writings and fragments of Procopius of Gaza currently known, accessible for the first time in a French translation by Pierre Maréchaux. In particular, the present edition is the consequence of the discovery in the fall of 2011 of two works of Procopian oratory, the Epithalamium for Melēs and Antonina and a short dialexis introducing the epithalamium, as well as the recent demonstration of the Procopian authorship of two anonymous monodies previously attributed to Choricius, Procopius' successor at the School of Gaza. Additionally, this collation bases its text of works I-X on the discovery in 2012 of Vat. Lat. 9781, an apograph reproduced between 1804 and 1834 by the Italian paleographer Girolamo Amati, which survives in better condition than its antigraph, the Vat. gr.1898, the sole manuscript transmitting these works which was badly damaged by time and by chemical treatments administered by Cardinal Angelo Mai (ca. 1841). The volume is organized into an introduction with an appended older translation of Choricius' Funeral Oration to Procopius; the main body consisting of introduction, text of rhetorical works I-XV with facing-page translation, and elaborate notes, followed in turn by the text and facing-page translations of the fragments (F) and testimonies (T), followed by notes, a comprehensive bibliography (pp. 521-97), index locorum, index nominum, a concordance comparing the Teubner with the present edition, and plates reconstructing the Gaza clock and the painting described in the ekphrasis eikonos.

Amato's lengthy introduction offers a most useful synthesis of the available data concerning Procopius' biography, his writings, and their reception, as well as the transmission of the rhetorical writings and the relatively recent history of their editions. From the scant biographical data (the principal sources: Choricius' Funeral Oration, Procopius' letters, and Photius' Bibliotheca), Procopius (A.D. 470-530) emerges as an urban spokesman who enchanted Syro-Palestinian audiences with his oratory and played a public role in the continuing Christianization of his city (pp. XIX-XXVIII). Procopius' oeuvre that Photius dubbed "πολλοὶ τε καὶ παντοδαποί" encompassed scriptural commentaries, a rich variety of rhetorical genres (panegyric, ekphrasis, dialexis, ēthopoiia, epithalamium, monody), letters, a lost Homeric metaphrasis for classroom instruction, and two lost refutations of Proclus of which Amato accepts Procopian authorship (a controversial issue, see pp. XLV-LII). Amato's synopsis of the fate of Procopius' corpus surveys the sophist's admirers, imitators and collectors, including anonymous authors of lexica and florilegia (as in the 7th c. Lexicon Seguerianum, likely produced at Gaza, and the 9th c. Florilegium Marcianum), and Byzantine excerptors, particularly the literati of the Palaiologan era, who produced most of the surviving non-apograph copies of his works (the exception is the 16th c. ms. Athonensis Μον.Διονυσ.347[3881 Lambros]).

The commentaries of Amato and Ventrella pertaining respectively to the dialexeis (works I-III) and ēthopoiiai (works IV-VII) reprint much of the material presented in Amato's admirable 2010 volume Rose di Gaza: gli scritti retorico-sofistici e le Epistole di Procopio di Gaza (RDG).1 Amato contributes an illuminating survey of the possible festival/religious contexts of the dialexeis, arguing in particular for associating the Gaza festival of the Day of the Roses with the cult of the martyrs, and offers a persuasive reading of the figure of Dionysus as an allegorical reference to the Eucharistic wine in the Dialexis on the Rose (work III; pp. 32-39). In this way, Amato argues strongly for interpreting the Day of the Roses as accessible for Christians, thus grappling with an issue central to understanding the transition from paganism to Christianity. Ventrella's essay introducing the ēthopoiiai highlights the value of these texts for understanding the instruction and use of this complicated but widely-practiced rhetorical exercise, and underscores Procopius' lively and flexible engagement with a variety of genre prescriptions and models (pp. 75-88).

Commentary, text/translation, and notes concerning the two surviving ekphraseis (works VIII and IX) follow. Amato's commentary on the incomplete ekphrasis of a decorative animated clock housed in the Gaza city-center contains much of the discussion published in RDG but the present essay is noteworthy for its expanded demonstration of Procopius' creative adherence to the advice of the progymnasmata, evident in the description's organization and themes, and his discussion of the strategies the sophist deployed to draw upon his audience's Hellenic memory to elaborate the mythological narratives implicit in the clock statuary. With regard to Procopius' ekphrasis on the Gazan megalograph featuring mythological scenes of Theseus, Phaedra, and Hippolytus, as well as scenes inspired from Iliad Book 3, Amato offers new suggestions about the painting's layout and location as well as the identity of its donor Timotheus. Developing Manganaro's hypothesis that the painting may have adorned a public bath at Gaza, Amato identifies Timotheus as the same Timotheus, uncle of Melēs, whom Procopius praises in the epithalamium for restoring a Gaza bathhouse (see pp. 159-61). With the discovery of Vat. Lat. 9781, Amato clarifies a phrase in section 42 of the ekphrasis that was illegible in Vat. gr. 1898: the benefactor is identified as νόμων προβεβλημένος. Amato's suggestion that this indicates that Timotheus was a praetor (p. 168) is highly speculative, and it is inviting to suggest alternatively that Timotheus was an otherwise unknown provincial governor, possibly at Caesarea. Various late antique inscriptions from the Greek East honor the provincial governor as charged with execution of the law.2

The next section contains the extant incipit of Procopius' panegyric to the stratēlatēs Asiaticos (work X) a text virtually ignored by scholars of late antiquity since its publication in J.F. Boissonade's edition in 1846. Amato suggests the identification of Asiaticos with the homonymous official charged with military command of the province Phoenicia Libanensis that Evagrius Scholasticus mentions at Hist. eccl. 3.34. According to Evagrius, emperor Anastasius ordered Asiaticos in 515 to remove Cosmas and Severius, bishops of Epiphanius and Arethusa respectively, because of their letter of excommunication to Severus of Antioch, a champion of miaphysitism (p. XXVI; 225). Procopius' proximity to the figures of Asiaticos, Anastasius (also miaphysite), and Severus himself (a fellow-student at Alexandria, and later a monk at Gaza's port, Maiouma) provides Amato with new evidence of Procopius' probable miaphysitism, renounced later in life in favor of Chalcedonian orthodoxy (see pp. XXV-XXVIII). This oration, most likely an exemplum of the prosphōnētikos logos regulated by Menander Rhetor, provides important details for reconstructing a genre of which few examples survive (the discourse of Choricius addressed to the stratēlatēs Soummos furnishing a useful counterpart). Because of its truncated state, however, one wonders about the extent to which Procopius also amalgamated encomiastic genres in the remainder of the original. A succeeding section containing Amato and Ventrella's astute commentary and notes to the Panegyric to Anastasius (much of which was published in RDG) underscore the rhetor's dynamic adoption of classical literary forms in constructing the persona of the Christian basileus.

Corcella's subsequent discussion of a brief dialexis (work XII) transmitted with the two monodies makes a compelling case that this text may have introduced the epithalamium on the basis of its intertextual design (cf. p. 336). Amato's incisive reading of the Epithalamium for Melēs and Antonina (work XIII) that follows contains exciting new information concerning urban notables at Gaza (namely the families of Melēs, a former student of Procopius, and his bride, Antonina), and their contribution to Gaza political culture and monumental benefaction (pp. 349-58). This text also provides precious data for our knowledge of the genre of the gamēlios logos, of which regrettably few examples survive from any period, and offers new details concerning the late ancient Greek marriage rite (p. 349; pp. 358-63). Furthermore, the oration preserves valuable testimony for the reconstruction of a lost Empedoclean poem On Nature and also sheds light on a passage of Damascius' Commentary on Plato's Parmenides (p. 349; pp. 380-98). These latter two finds are fascinating for thinking about Procopius' identity as a philosopher-sophist and the vivacity of philosophical traditions among Gaza literati. One hopes that Procopius' incorporation of Empedocles may be of use to specialists, and in the meantime, Amato identifies tantalizing traces in his commentary and notes. Amato's distillation of the stages of Empedocles' cosmogony (final paragraph p. 393), however, could be clarified with references to specialist reconstructions and debates. Although Amato theorizes that Procopius' reference to Damascius betokens reciprocal exchange among Neoplatonist circles in Syria and Palestine, it is more likely that this evinces exchange between Gaza and Alexandria or Athens where Damascius acceded to the position of diadochos ca. 515. Damascius (460-538) and Procopius studied at Alexandria, at or around the same time, and likely shared similar intellectual networks. Additionally, Procopius' reference to a Greek Romance, specifically Achilles Tatius Life of Leucippē and Clitophron 1.17, to illustrate the force of Eros in the vegetal world includes a genre largely absent in Procopian intertextuality.

In the penultimate section of texts, Aldo Corcella confirms the Procopian paternity of two anonymous monodies (works XIV and XV), preserved in the ms. Laur.plut.60.6 [14th c.]), the first of which contains a verbatim passage attributed to the sophist at Florilegium Marcianum70. Corcella subsumes these texts under the designation of monody despite reservations owing to their experimental admixtures of funerary oration genres. Undoubtedly, both orations offered consolation for the loss of men hailing from families of the urban ruling classes: the first laments the death of a recently espoused young man (Amato contends that he should not be identified with Melēs, cf. 350-51n8), the second, a celebrated notable who enjoyed a long career in imperial administration, served in Egypt and occupied magistracies at Gaza itself. The final section of texts contains fragments of Procopius' lost Monody on Antioch, fragments of an Epitaph for Salaminios (whom Amato identifies as the great-uncle of Melēs), the testimony and fragments of the Metaphrases of Homer, the fragments and testimonies pertaining respectively to Procopius' two treatises refuting Proclus, fragmenta incertae sedis , and dubia vel spuria.

It is difficult to overstate the erudition and care of the authors, a small circle of Italian scholars, who contribute greatly to the contemporary understanding of a series of texts that have scarcely been the object of recent penetrating study. Applying impeccable paleographical methods, the contributors offer trenchant readings of texts recently discovered and long-neglected and present lucid translations, detailed and pain-staking annotation, and thoughtful suggestions for future study. This edition makes accessible in a modern language the vibrant interplay of classical and emerging Christian literary forms in Procopius' Greek that appears to characterize the leading figures of the so-called School of Gaza. Beyond its contribution to the study of Procopius of Gaza, this volume offers texts with fascinating applications relevant to key issues in the historiography of late antiquity, including the nature of benefaction and philotimia in the late ancient city, the role of the rhetor as the voice of the city whose oratory defined the major caesurae of citizen lives, the intertextual devices by which late antique literati developed a living identification with the classical past, and the rhetorical fascination of late ancient literati with scientific devices such as mechanical clocks. One can only hope that with such a fine volume, the scholarly community, particularly historians, will begin to notice these understudied works of the "other" Procopius.


1.  Eugenio Amato, ed., Rose di Gaza: gli scritti retorico-sofistici e le Epistole di Procopio di Gaza Hellenica 35 (Alessandria: Edizione dell'Orso, 2010).
2.   For inscriptions commemorating governors, see, e.g., Louis Robert, "Épigrammes relatives à des gouverneurs," Hellenica 4 (1948): 35-114, at 107-8; for the inscription honoring Nomos, provincial governor at Caesarea, see NO. 1260 Walter Ameling, et al. eds.Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae vol. 2 (Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 2011).

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