Thursday, April 30, 2015


Antonella Coralini (ed.), DHER. Domus Herculanensis Rationes: sito, archivio, museo. Studi e scavi, nuova serie, 30. Bologna: Ante Quem, 2011. Pp. 548. ISBN 9788878490475. €55.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Anna Anguissola, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The book collects the results of almost ten years of research of "Domus Herculanensis Rationes" (DHER), a project housed at the University of Bologna on the architecture, decoration, and preservation of ancient domestic buildings in Herculaneum. DHER has been developed within the framework of "Vesuviana", an initiative to foster and organize the knowledge of the archaeological sites in the area of the Mount Vesuvius.

The first ten years of activities of "Vesuviana" are summarized in a volume published in 2009, Archeologie a confronto (reviewed in BMCR 2010.11.21). Following the same path, the book under review here revolves around the leitmotif of documentation. The interest in documentation, the editor explains, develops along three lines: data collection, processing, and presentation. The book addresses a clear set of questions: how can we read the diverse documentation offered by Herculaneum and the neighboring sites (which Coralini fittingly calls "palimpsest sites")? How can we deal with multiple layers of information? Which perspectives may trigger a dialogue between the disciplines involved today in the study of the Vesuvian sites? The book engages with these questions through six sections, preceded by a lengthy essay by the editor, defining the aims of DHER: 1, the comprehensive study of a significant area of Herculaneum, and 2, the analytical documentation of its floor and wall decoration.

Section One ("Extra situm") assesses the potential of archival research. Riccardo Helg and Maria Giurato examine documents about the excavations in Herculaneum under the Bourbons, with particular reference to a fund ("Azienda Scavi") from the State Archive of Naples, which records work over nearly fifty years in 1740-1785. Before listing all pertinent entries (each accompanied by individual bibliography), the authors sketch the cultural and historical context for this register and the early explorations of the site. Mirco Mungari proceeds to a meticulous account of the history of studies, in form of a commentated bibliography from Venuti's 1748 Descrizione until recent scholarship. Whereas the historical sources are discussed in detail, the account of recent publications is regrettably organized as a mere list. A more selective choice, complemented by an extensive bibliography, would have broadened the scope of this article and strengthened its many relevant points. The second part of the paper introduces the case study of DHER, the Insula III of Herculaneum, by listing its building units and sketching the history of excavations.

The buildings in this Insula are examined in Chapter Two ("In situ"), which accounts for the experience of DHER in the field of architectural surveying and explores the potential of geomatics, i.e., the discipline of gathering, processing, and delivering spatially referenced information. The first contribution (by Gabriele Bitelli et al.) reports on three investigations from large to very limited areas: spatially referenced photogrammetry on the scale of the entire site, tri-dimensional photogrammetric mapping of one building (the façade of the Casa del Tramezzo di Legno) and of individual objects (the nymphaeum and lararium of the Casa dello Scheletro). The article that follows expands on this point and offers a detailed presentation of the survey of the façade of the Casa del Tramezzo di Legno, chosen as a case study because of its size, the traces of an upper floor, the deformations in the surface and the remains of plaster layouts (by Camilla Colla et alii). Particular attention is paid to a set of non-destructive advanced investigation techniques such as sonic testing, impact-echo testing, ground penetrating radar (GPR), and thermography. The last paper by Alessandro Capra, Marco Dubbini, and Chiara Pascucci focuses on methods for digital surface modeling (DSM) as applied to the vaulted ceiling of the cubiculum diurnum (D) in the Casa del Salone Nero (pp. 163-177). The relevance of this section lies, above all, in the successful effort to explain the techniques and their potential (e.g. at pp. 175-176 different methods are compared according to their strengths and the requirements of the research project).

Chapter Three returns to a more 'traditional' approach to the archaeology of Roman domestic spaces ("Cultura dell'abitare: gli apparati decorativi"). The focus on individual buildings is abandoned in favor of a city-wide perspective. Following a lengthy introduction by the editor, four papers address as many themes about wall-painting and mosaic art. Coralini comments on the challenges and perspectives of a systematic study of wall-painting in Herculaneum: after introducing sources and instruments, she outlines issues of chronology, quality, choice of themes, similarity and discrepancies between public and private spaces (especially in relationship to the myth of Hercules). Her remarks on the individuality of the Herculaneum repertoire vis-a-vis that of Pompeii and on iconographic choices provide an exemplary introduction to the subject. In the following paper, Valentina Tomei deals with the Herculaneum sample of still-life paintings; an explicit comparison with the Pompeian material might have opened interesting perspectives, stressing 'site choices' within a category often dismissed as 'genre-painting'. Two articles by Marilena Griesi and Chiara Pascucci introduce widespread themes in the wall-painting of Herculaneum: images of Dionysus and his retinue and of Cupids. All these contributions include well-organized catalogues for both the paintings preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples and those still in situ. The last article in this section follows a different approach and concentrates on one Insula alone to analyze the zoological repertoire of Herculaneum (by Ivano Ansaloni et alii). The paper, which unfortunately offers no insight about the relationship with domestic spaces or other elements of the decor, provides nevertheless a useful starting point for the study of zoological variety in Roman painting.

Section Four develops one key aspect of DHER: the research in the fields of archaeometry and applied chemistry ("Cultura materiale e archeometria della produzione"). The first article about the toning of colors is particularly suited to open the chapter and bridge the divide between different – yet mutually complementing – methods for the study of ancient wall-painting (Pietro Baraldi, Silvia Minghelli, Daniela Scagliarini Corlàita). The study has been conducted on samples from the houses 'dello Scheletro', 'del Gran Portale', and 'dei Cervi'. On the one hand, microscopic analysis provided information on the chemical composition of the painted layers and the techniques of wall-painting (particularly the use of plaster). On the other hand, it gave insight into the effects of the 79 A.D. eruption and the pyroclastic surges on the buildings of Herculaneum. The next paper concentrates again on the Casa dello Scheletro and the mosaic tesserae which cover its lararium (by Cristina Pilolli et alii). The tesserae are divided into four groups: Egyptian blue, glass paste, painted stone, stone. The accurate chemical definition of each provides a solid basis for further research on mosaic production in the Vesuvian area. Gilda Assenti is the author of a lengthy, exhaustive and well illustrated account of the glazed pottery from Herculaneum and Pompeii, focusing on materials from the excavations' storages of the two sites. The article includes a tabular summary of archaeometric analyses, which are described in further detail by Giuseppe E. De Benedetto et alii. A similar pattern is repeated for the following couple of papers, which offer a comprehensive account of thin-walled pottery from Herculaneum (by Carolina Ascari Raccagni) and related archaeometric assessment (by Annarosa Mangone et alii). The last contribution exemplifies the potential of synergies between art-historical research and applied sciences, by testing strategies to investigate the contents of five glass ampullae from Herculaneum (by Elisa Campani et alii).

Chapter Five, "Archeografia", collects a set of papers which develop a further core feature of "Vesuviana" and DHER: the issues of visualization, communication, and accessibility of both documentation and scientific results. The aims and perspectives are summarized by Daniela Scagliarini Corlàita, who introduces the criteria followed to create an interactive database of wall-painting in Herculaneum. The subjects of data processing and visualization are further explored in a paper about the role of virtual and augmented reality in designing a database able to support the multiple needs and directions of a wide-ranging project such as DHER (by Antonella Guidazzoli et alii). Riccardo Helg and Silvia Di Cristina report on one fundamental aspect for university-based projects, often overlooked in scientific publications: didactic tools. They present the experience of a didactic laboratory launched in 1999 to assist in the acquisition of data about the painted walls of the Casa del Centenario at Pompeii. By describing the contribution of this laboratory to that research, the authors make a case for the chances that the Vesuvian sites offer to experiment new forms of learning and acquire professional skills.

The final Chapter Six, "Sodales", leaves the site of Herculaneum to include three studies on a larger geographical area. Gioconda di Luca and Armando Cristilli trace the origins and development of the so-called opus africanum. This building technique seems attested in the Eastern Mediterranean since the mid- to late Bronze Age and to have spread across the Mediterranan following the Phoenician expansion. The penetration in Campania between the mid- fourth and the late third century B.C. is seen as a consequence of the Etruscan influence. The second paper provides an account of wall-painting techniques in the Casa dei Dioscuri at Pompeii, instrumental in investigating the use of spaces and their changes through time (by Ernesto De Carolis and Maria Pia Corsale). The final article by Rosaria Ciardiello is a broad and insightful survey on the features and craftsmanship of silverware in the Roman world. Although essentially focused on the holds of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, the essay sets this production within a broader historical and cultural framework.

A useful appendix catalogue, edited by Riccardo Helg and Chiara Pascucci, provides a register of wall-paintings from Herculaneum in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, structured according to the three themes dealt with in Chapter Three: still-lifes, the world of Dionysus and pueri Veneris. The editor laudably chose to attach a CD- ROM to the volume. There, the entire content is available in form of both searchable .html pages and .pdf files, which sensibly facilitate collective use in research libraries. The searchable electronic version compensates for the lack of a general subject index helpful to both the occasional reader and those who look for specific information (individual subject indexes are provided for some of the articles, e.g. pp. 104-105). In the electronic book, images are in color, which substantially increases readability and usability for research. Furthermore, the CD-ROM includes high-quality color images for all items of the catalogue appendix, a precious contribution to the corpus of ancient Roman painting.

In sum, the book largely fulfils the purposes described in the introduction. On the one hand, it collects a wealth of information on the site of Herculaneum and its history. On the other hand, it provides a specimen of excellent research from a variety of perspectives and methods. More importantly, the results of "Vesuviana" and DHR may foster a wide- ranging debate on the purposes and instruments of large academic projects in the Vesuvian sites. The articles collected in Chapters Two, Four, and Five, which report on experimental technologies for data collecting and processing, deserve further mention. Here, authors have exemplary fulfilled the task of both presenting individual results and discussing the relative merits of their methods. Their efforts have produced a precious repository of experiences for further research.

Assuming previous detailed knowledge on the subject, this book appeals chiefly to a professional readership. Readers with a specific interest in Herculaneum and the neighboring sites will find in these pages a wealth of information, updates on current research and, more importantly, inputs on the challenges and methods of Vesuvian archaeology. The relevance of the issues discussed, as well as the impressive quantity of information about the site of Herculaneum and its buildings, makes this volume a welcome addition to the ever-growing body of scholarship dedicated to the history, art, and preservation of the ancient Vesuvian cities.

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Christina Angelidi, George T. Calofonos (ed.), Dreaming in Byzantium and Beyond. Farnham; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. Pp. xci, 232. ISBN 9781409400554. $119.95.

Reviewed by Stephanos Efthymiadis, Open University of Cyprus (

Version at BMCR home site


Academic gatherings that bring to the fore topics previously considered marginal are a welcome development in the field of Byzantine Studies. This volume is the outcome of a conference held in Athens in May 2008 that covered a subject previously approached via two main themes: dreams as a component of the ritual of incubational healings and the oneirokritika, i.e., manuals of dream interpretation. Though it goes well beyond these issues, this volume does not omit these aspects of the literature on dreaming.

Three of the thirteen papers in this volume retrace well-trodden paths, on the one hand, of healing dreams as part and parcel of miracle collections (Constantinou) and, on the other, of dream books and their interdependence (Oberhelman; Mavroudi). Constantinou examines the morphology of healing dreams—corporeal, medical, and allegorical—as they occur in late antique collections of miracles. Their role in the narrative of these texts is pivotal in that they can prolong the story and orient it towards a different denouement. Oberhelman revisits the dream-manuals of Byzantium, focusing on their thematic peculiarities. His final point concerning the paucity of such texts from the Byzantine period is worth considering, as is his explanation for it: written dream-manuals would not have been in high demand in a society based on an oral culture that derived most of its dream interpretations from folk wisdom. Mavroudi picks up the thread of dream handbooks from Artemidoros of Ephesus, translated into Arabic in the ninth century, to the tenth-century Oneirokritikon of Achmet, and then on to the dream book associated with Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (1391–1425). Her attention is drawn to the interplay between the Muslim and the Byzantine worlds at the philosophical and scientific levels as well as the use of the new material brought in from Persia after the twelfth century, as evidenced in the renewed interest of Byzantine intellectuals, mostly of the Palaiologan period, in divination and astrology. A critical aspect of her research is devoted to questions of sexual mores as seen through Greek dream books, which, aside from acting as witnesses to the transmission of Islamic texts, echo a reality that, to some extent, was shared between Muslim and Christian societies.

Most of the thirteen contributions are devoted to the literary function of dreams. In other words, this book is geared more toward dreams as stand-alone stories or as stories integrated into larger textual entities. This is, for instance, the case of the long series of dreams in the twelfth-century Life of St Cyril Phileotes, discussed by Margaret Mullett as an important narrative element that brings out the spiritual disposition of the protagonist towards his future and contributes to the advancement of this long text's plot.

'Literary' dreams should hardly be regarded as 'genuine', but rather as something foreordained by prescriptions, clichés, and literary reminiscences. In fact, the 'Byzantine dream experience' is a term that hardly applies to the dream experience of common people. The question then becomes whether the dreams of the Byzantines that are attested in these texts should or can be interpreted according to their oneiromancy and oneirocritical standards or using our Freudian and other modern tools.

The dream of Ignatios the Deacon that Angelidi singles out from his correspondence is a case in point. It represents a real experience and results in a spontaneous confession addressed in the form of a letter to a friend, Ignatios' most frequent correspondent, Nikephoros, along with the wish that its distressing prognostications may not be fulfilled. Although, as Angelidi rightly suggests, this is 'an exceptional and genuine document of self-expression' (p. 78), it cannot be interpreted beyond the 'constraints' of oneirocritical literature which were no doubt deeply 'inscribed' in Ignatios' conscience. In a similar vein, Anagnostakis discusses the dream of the historian Prokopios before general Belissarios' campaign against the Vandals in 533 and points to the literary traditions of dreams behind it (from Herodotus to Homer). By his artfully constructed dream narrative, Prokopios implicitly opposes the overambitious dreams of Justinian for world domination.

The picture of literary dreaming changes in middle and late Byzantine historiography, when, rather than looking toward the classical tradition, it begins to conform to the dream scenery usually exhibited in hagiography. In Theophanes Continuatus, a multi-authored work that promotes the interests of the reigning Macedonian dynasty, dream narratives function as vaticinia ex eventu and are meant to promote a dynastic cause by drawing a clear dichotomy between good and bad rulers. Both Calofonos and Magdalino investigate instances of a dream narrative in this text, yet from different angles. Magdalino finds two types of dreams in later historiographers, iconic-hagiographical and allegorical-symbolical, and adds a third category of subversive dreams, which are found in Michael Psellos and Niketas Choniates. He further notes the tendency of fourteenth-century historians to present dream stories as digressions from the narrative rather than as contributions to its propaganda and plot. Calofonos postulates an increased interest in dreaming after the end of Iconoclasm, which he associates in part with the parallel intrusion of the fictional element into contemporary (tenth-century) hagiography. In a section appended to the core of his contribution where he responds to Magdalino's subsequent discussion, he appears reluctant to accept the latter's distinction between the iconic and the allegorical or his interpretation of dream occurrences in Theophanes Continuatus as a crossover of hagiography into history.

Two other papers discuss visionary experience, especially ecstasy, as attested in early monastic literature (Krönung) and the visionary landscape of the Other World in Byzantine literature (Cupane). Christian apologists were much more suspicious of ecstatic experiences than pagan writers and would in principle argue against their being easily accepted, the risk, of course, being demonic deception. Yet this caution was challenged by the flowering of monasticism, which validated ecstasy as a mystical experience and as a form of union with the divine. The complex image of the Heavenly City, as discussed by Cupane, is such a mystical experience which emerges in various kinds of texts—not only hagiographical—spread between late antiquity and the last centuries of Byzantium. However interesting, one may question whether such visions should be included in a volume on dreams and dreaming. For us the distinction between dream and vision is hard to make or of no pragmatic significance, all the more so as it boils down to the same consideration of an illusion lodged in the mind or generated by a physical condition. But for the Byzantines, the distinction was not only a matter of qualification (visions were a gift to the holy man) but of completely divergent experiences, produced while sleeping or awake respectively.

The volume concludes with two short studies, one from a cultural anthropologist who is not a Byzantinist (Tedlock) and another by a former Byzantinist turned psychoanalyst (Galatariotou). There are two problems here. First it is questionable how modern theoretical approaches can profitably be applied to the interpretation of Byzantine dream experience when this 'experience' is overwhelmingly literary, i.e., cannot be treated as an actual event. Secondly, it is doubtful that they will be explored as such by Byzantinists, whose adherence to the 'traditional' reading of Byzantine literature is still prevalent, as is evident in this very volume. The other study which openly engages with modern perspectives, using the tools of gender and sexuality studies, is the chapter on erotic dreams in Byzantium (Messis), which reviews a wide range of recipients of such dreams, ranging from monks in the isolation of the desert to laymen featured in hagiography or in secular literature (epistolography, poetry, romance). In both cases, a didactic purpose is discernible with the creation of an ideal self which takes control of one's sexuality. Yet we are left with the impression that titillating accounts of this sort might, in fact, have worked against this by stimulating impure thoughts.

In sum, this is an interesting collection of papers on dreams that discuss texts or passages which deserve to be noticed, not least for their engagement with the irrational. Its somewhat random assemblage of material is an inevitable shortcoming of its pioneering character.

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Markham J. Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia: Medicine, Magic, and Astrology in the Ancient Near East. Science, Technology, and Medicine in Ancient Cultures, 2. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. xii, 100. ISBN 9781614517757. €69.95.

Reviewed by Gioele Zisa, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (

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M. Geller, che ha dedicato svariati anni al tema della medicina babilonese, pubblica quest'ultimo volume sulla melothesia, disciplina che studia i rapporti intercorrenti tra i segni zodiacali, i corpi celesti e il corpo umano. La ricerca si sviluppa a partire da alcuni interessanti testi provenienti dalla città di Uruk del periodo persiano ed ellenistico.

Questo libro è il prodotto di quattro intensivi periodi di ricerca presso il Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, svolti tra il 2007 e il 2009. I primi risultati erano stati già pubblicati come Preprint con il titolo Look to the Stars: Babylonian medicine, magic, astrology and melothesia (Max Planck Preprint 401, Berlino, 2010). In questa sede molti dei testi sono stati rivisti e altro materiale è stato aggiunto.

Scopo del libro è, come egli chiarisce nell'introduzione, indagare aspetti della "globalizzazione della conoscenza" nel Mediterraneo antico, cogliendo similarità tra la medicina greca e quella babilonese, in un periodo caratterizzato dall'avvento del pensiero filosofico in Grecia e dai progressi in matematica e in astronomia in Babilonia.

Nel primo capitolo ("The Uruk 'taxonomy'"), egli analizza un testo rinvenuto a Uruk e datato al periodo tardo-babilonese, SBTU I 43. Quest'ultimo è costituito da una sola colonna e suddiviso in quattro parti, ognuna delle quali contiene una lista di categorie diagnostiche associata a una regione del corpo e ai suoi organi. Geller ci fornisce la trascrizione, la traduzione, la copia cuneiforme e le foto del testo, oltre al commento filologico. Dopo aver mostrato la natura differente del testo SBTU I 43 rispetto ad altri della tradizione terapeutica mesopotamica, lo studioso impiega, allo scopo di analizzare il testo, un approccio comparativo, basato sulla medicina greco-romana, in particolare sul metodismo. L'autore si sofferma sulle specificità del sistema medico metodista, elaborato nel 1° sec. d.C. dal medico greco Temisone di Laodicea sulla base delle concezioni di Asclepiade di Prusa.

Secondo il metodismo le malattie sono descritte in tre stadi: "restrizione", "allentamento", "misto dei due precedenti". In generale dunque esse possono essere ricondotte a eccesso o deficit di tonicità. Geller sostiene che, sebbene non ci siano teorie mediche babilonesi che esprimono chiaramente questa idea, le nozioni di "restrizione" e "allentamento" fossero ben note in Mesopotamia, e cita al riguardo il termine ḫiniqtu, "contrazione", e il verbo paṭāru, lett. "sciogliere un nodo". Oltre al metodismo, lo studioso confronta la teoria delle quattro archai di Galeno secondo cui ogni "principio primo" governa uno dei quattro organi principali del corpo umano: cervello, cuore, fegato e testicoli. Geller si chiede se la menzione delle quattro parti del corpo nel testo SBTU I 43, cioè libbu (mente/cuore), pî karši (bocca dello stomaco), ḫašû (polmoni), kalâti (reni), possa rispecchiare una generale concezione medica simile a quella galenica, secondo cui certi intrinsechi fattori o proprietà di questi quattro organi possono creare condizioni causanti patologie.

Nel secondo capitolo ("Uruk Astral Magic") l'assiriologo analizza due testi di carattere magico-astrale provenienti dalla Uruk del periodo ellenistico, BRM 4 20 e 19, in cui a una specifica pratica magica corrisponde un segno zodiacale. Dei testi è fornita la copia cuneiforme, la trascrizione, la traduzione e il commento filologico. La domanda è se la precedente tassonomia medica e tale magia astrale rappresentino esempi di un'innovazione nel pensiero scientifico a Uruk, che possono avere caratteristiche in comune con l'astrologia medica greca che emerge nello stesso periodo e si svilupperà in seguito.

Una tavoletta da Sultantepe, datata al VII sec. a.C., è analizzata nel terzo capitolo ("The Neo-Assyrian Precursor: Before the Zodiac"). Questo testo contiene essenzialmente le stesse informazioni dei testi BRM 4 20 e 19, ma al contrario che in quest'ultimi gli stessi fenomeni sono associati non ai segni zodiacali, ma ai giorni del mese e al "tempo usuale" (ud.da.kám = adannu). Questa differenza rappresenterebbe dunque un cambiamento importante nell'emerologia tradizionale, nello stesso periodo in cui emergono nuove idea mediche di cui il testo SBTU I 43 sarebbe un rappresentante. Nello stesso capitolo altri testi del corpus astrologico tardo-babilonese sono confrontati: LBAT 1626, SBTU V 243 e due commentari su "Marduk's Address to the Demons".

Nel quarto capitolo ("Ancient Aramaic and Greek Parallels") Geller sottolinea l'importanza della comparazione con i testi della tradizione aramaica e greca, in particolare con il Libro mandaico dello zodiaco e i papiri magici greci. Interessanti sono anche i confronti tra i testi di Uruk e il Tetrabiblos di Claudio Tolomeo.

L'interpretazione del testo SBTU I 43 è oggetto di analisi nel capitolo quinto ("Astrological Interpretation of SBTU I 43"). Giacché il confronto con la documentazione greca contemporanea e più tarda non è stato in grado di aiutare a comprendere la natura del testo babilonese, Geller opta, allo scopo di trovare un'altra possibile chiave di lettura, per un raffronto con i testi di magia astrale.

Il sesto capitolo ("Melothesia") è sicuramente quello più importante, in cui è analizzata la dottrina ellenistica dell'influenza dei segni zodiacali e dei pianeti sull'anatomia umana. Sebbene non vi siano testi cuneiformi esplicitamente relativi alla melothesia, non mancano elementi a essa riconducibili nella documentazione mesopotamica. L'autore dunque analizza, all'interno dell'astronomia babilonese, testi probabilmente caratterizzati dalla dottrina della melothesia, secondo cui specifiche categorie diagnostiche sono associate a omina celesti, se non direttamente ai segni zodiacali. Questo capitolo dunque si sviluppa come conclusione ideale dei capitoli precedenti, in cui lo studioso ha cercato di individuare possibili chiavi interpretative per i testi di Uruk del periodo persiano ed ellenistico.

Il capitolo settimo riguarda le ipotesi finali del lavoro dell'assiriologo. In esso egli sintetizza il percorso, articolato e complesso, che l'ha condotto a percorrere diverse linee interpretative allo scopo di comprendere l'enigmatico testo SBTU I 43. Il primo tentativo è stato quello di confrontare il testo in questione con le dottrine non ippocratiche della medicina greca, come quella metodista. Non avendo portato a nessun evidente risultato, l'autore ha indagato la magia astrale babilonese secondo cui i segni zodiacali hanno un ruolo decisivo nel determinare quando una pratica magica deve essere eseguita. Non mancano inoltre nei testi medico-astrali babilonesi associazioni tra pietre, piante e altri ingredienti impiegati in amuleti, probabilmente a scopo medico, e i segni zodiacali, corrispondenti a specifiche date del calendario. Infine l'analisi di elementi della dottrina della melothesia nelle fonti mesopotamiche ha permesso di chiarire probabilmente la natura del testo "la tassonomia di Uruk". Secondo Geller il testo SBTU I 43 sarebbe una lista di categorie diagnostiche associate a specifiche parti del corpo, ognuna delle quali influenzate da un determinato segno zodiacale. L'assenza della menzione dei segni zodiacali nella tavoletta sarebbe ascrivibile al fatto che fosse ben nota al tempo presso gli astrologi l'influenza di specifici segni zodiacali su particolari parti del corpo, e dunque il riferimento esplicito ad essa sarebbe stato superfluo. Il testo non costituirebbe, stricto sensu, una tassonomia delle malattie, quanto piuttosto un pezzo di, come lo stesso Geller lo definisce, un grande e complesso puzzle della dottrina dell'influenza dei segni zodiacali sul corpo umano.

Non mancano in appendice ("Modern Reflection") considerazioni sui rimedi floreali del Dott. Bach connessi a specifici stati emotivi e psicologici, confrontati con pratiche terapeutiche mesopotamiche (uso di piante ed erbe usate per trattare disturbi psicologici di varia natura).

Il volume tratta un tema complesso com'è quello della relazione tra i segni zodiacali, i pianeti, il Sole, la Luna e il corpo umano nelle teorie mediche babilonesi. Non vi sono stati in precedenza studi specifici sull'argomento e in questo sta l'innovatività del lavoro di Geller. L'impiego del metodo della comparazione di pratiche e teorie mediche di differenti aere culturali coeve, pur essendo talvolta pericoloso, rimane comunque uno strumento assai fruttuoso. Laddove i testi non ci forniscono informazioni adeguate alla comprensione delle speculazioni mediche in Babilonia, lo sguardo rivolto ad altre culture antiche, come quella greca e quella aramaica, è indispensabile. Geller sottolinea spesso l'importanza dell'analisi comparativa nell'analisi dei testi babilonesi del periodo persiano ed ellenistico, in cui Uruk era un centro culturale di grande importanza. All'interno del corpus medico pervenutoci da Uruk è possibile rintracciare nozioni mediche probabilmente condivise all'interno del mondo scientifico del periodo, e che rappresentano dunque aspetti di una generale globalizzazione delle conoscenze mediche durante l'ellenismo.

Il mio giudizio è generalmente positivo, sebbene non condivida alcuni principi teorici. Geller infatti afferma: «There is an enormous advantage to comparing systems of ancient medicine because of its finite field of scientific inquiry (i.e. the human body), and the finite number of diseases and conditions which were being studied in each individual society. The actual subject of inquiry is the same everywhere, which is what distinguishes medicine from magic, religion, and storytelling, etc. […] As with mathematics or astronomy, medical theories are restrained by certain limiting factors, such as human anatomy or disease symptoms, and although much is left to human imagination, the nature of inquiry is relatively restricted» (p.14) . Se la mia lettura del testo di Geller è corretta, egli sostiene che la comparazione di differenti sistemi medici è giustificata dal fatto che, nonostante l'interpretazione culturale delle singole società, il corpo umano (più specificatamente la sua anatomia) e le malattie rappresentano dei fattori limitanti nell'indagine delle teorie mediche. A mio avviso, non può essere questa la ragione del metodo comparativo: sembra infatti che l'autore consideri specifiche categorie diagnostiche non tanto come modelli esplicativi, cioè interpretazioni culturali che ogni cultura elabora della malattia, quanto come realtà oggettive, fuori dalla sfera sociale e culturale. La cultura è vista come fattore pertinente solo in riferimento alle categorie o all'interpretazione, laddove il corpo, le malattie, le emozioni sono considerati stati psicofisiologici universali e, pertanto, naturali. Al contrario io ritengo che non solo il sapere medico, ma anche le patologie e il corpo stesso sono modellati culturalmente, e non vanno considerati un tipo di realtà oggettivamente data. La comparazione si sviluppa sempre su un piano che è culturale e sociale.

Ciò nonostante il volume di Geller costituisce un importante e indispensabile tassello nella nostra conoscenza sulla costruzione culturale dell'evento-malattia, della disgrazia e della sofferenza nell'antica Mesopotamia.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015


George W. Houston, Inside Roman Libraries: Book Collections and Their Management in Antiquity. Studies in the history of Greece and Rome. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014. Pp. xvi, 327. ISBN 9781469617800. $59.95.

Reviewed by Scott G. Bruce, University of Colorado at Boulder (

Version at BMCR home site


George Houston's primer to the contents and organization of Roman libraries from the late Republic to the time of Constantine is a valuable work of scholarly outreach intended for students and scholars new to the study of ancient book culture. More expository than argumentative, it discusses in clear and accessible prose "everything that one might find in a Roman library" (p. 1) from the book rolls themselves to the furniture, storage containers, buildings, and personnel that facilitated their use by Roman readers. The introduction to the book lays out basic information on the physical characteristics of papyrus scrolls in antiquity and provides the reader with a vocabulary of technical terms used throughout the study, including opisthograph (a scroll with writing on both sides), sillybon (a tag denoting the author and title of a work, usually attached to the end of a scroll), and stichometric counts (evidence for the enumeration of lines copied by professional scribes, perhaps to calculate their rate of pay). There follow six chapters on the assembly of Roman book collections, the papyrological evidence for ancient book lists, two case studies of the physical remains of book collections from Herculaneum and Oxyrhynchus, the storage facilities that housed ancient libraries, and the personnel who worked in them.

Chapter 1 shows how Roman readers amassed libraries both by accumulating individual volumes over time and by acquiring whole collections at once. The most reliable way to obtain a book was to copy it yourself from an exemplar owned by a friend or available in a library. Wealthy people could forego the personal labor by employing slaves who had been professionally trained as scribes, or by buying the books they desired directly from a book dealer or renting them for a short time for the purpose of copying them. In all cases, the quality of the exemplar and the resulting copy were of the utmost importance to avoid the corruption of texts, a matter frequently lamented in antiquity. Opportunities to buy entire book collections were not uncommon. Some libraries changed hands as bequests; others appeared on the market because they had been confiscated as a penalty for the criminal activity of their owners. At the height of the Republic, large collections of Greek books arrived in Rome as war booty acquired through Roman conquests in the eastern Mediterranean.

Chapter 2 discusses the lists of books found on ancient papyri that may have served as inventories or bibliographies. Of the nineteen extant lists, Houston considers five in detail and three in passing. All of his examples come from Egypt. These lists provide very little information on the collections they describe—usually only the names of authors alongside the titles of their works—but Houston is able to glean some insights into the character of these lost collections based on the following principles: the inclusion of individual book numbers of long works suggests that the collection included only the enumerated books and not the entire work; the appearance of the title of a work in the genitive case suggests that book numbers followed the titles, thus indicating that the entire work was not represented; and the use of the nominative for a book title is suggestive that the work was present in toto. There follow detailed descriptions of the lists in question, which range from specialized collections of works of Old Comedy to inventories that combine literary texts, personal documents, and domestic objects. The conclusions of this chapter are modest: some collections of books were clearly focused on particular genres, while others were not. As a pedagogical tool, this chapter benefits from the inclusion of black and white plates of the papyrus lists. Moreover, Houston helpfully provides the Greek texts of these lists with English translations in Appendix 1.

Chapters 3 and 4 consider the physical remains of book collections found in two locations: a Roman house in Herculaneum buried during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE and concentrations of discarded scrolls found at Oxyrhynchus in late Roman Egypt. Unlike the laconic book lists examined in Chapter 2, these finds delineate in much greater detail the contents of Roman book collections. In the so-called Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, archaeologists have found thousands of fragments of books rolls from an impressive collection of Greek works by Epicurean authors on ethics and rhetoric, which originally numbered many hundreds of scrolls. Dozens of scribes contributed to this collection. The presence of stichometric counts in over half of the surviving scrolls suggests that they were produced commercially rather than by the labor of household slaves. The evidence from Oxyrhynchus is different. Here we are dealing with five collections of scrolls that had been discarded in late antiquity. Despite their modest size, each concentration retains "a more or less distinct personality … shaped, in large part, by a single intelligence and in response to specific interests" (p. 132 ). One of these concentrations (Breccia + GH3, described on pp. 146-148) was an impressive sampling of major authors representing every genre in prose and poetry, including epic, lyric, tragedy, comedy, elegiac, history, rhetoric, philosophy, and fiction; in short, a serious library of professionally prepared scrolls. Equally interesting are the remains of a book collection that belonged to the family of Aurelia Ptolemais, a woman who lived in Oxyrhynchus whose name is known from several documents, including a will from 276 CE. This is one of the only examples in antiquity of a woman associated with a Roman library. One of the common features of the finds at Herculaneum and Oxyrhynchus is the surprising age of the scrolls at the times of their deposition. Most of them were over 150 years old when they were lost or discarded and a few had been in use for over 500 years.

Chapters 5 and 6 move from the physical remains of ancient books to the spaces where they were used and the personnel who made them useable. Chapter 5 describes the literary, archaeological, and artistic evidence for the boxes and containers that held scrolls and the shelving and cabinets that housed them. The libraries of Celsus at Ephesus and Rogatianus in Thamugadi in Algeria are discussed briefly as spaces where books resided, but Houston provides little information about the history of the libraries themselves. The remainder of the chapter treats the furniture and equipment commonly found in Roman libraries, as well as the presence of sculpture and other adornments. Chapter 6 focuses on the evidence for the people who managed Roman book collections, from the owners themselves (Cicero is the prime example here), to the learned individuals hired to organize collections and oversee other works, to the professionals (librarioli and glutinatores) who performed specialized tasks, including the preparation of sillyba and the repair of books, to common laborers, who were most likely slaves. There follows a discussion of the function of imperial libraries and the evidence for the individuals appointed to oversee these collections. The chapter concludes with a useful discussion of the dangers posed to public and private book collections in antiquity, from incompetent scribes and irresponsible staff to the threat of theft and fire.

Inside Roman Libraries is an excellent resource for historians with little to no background in the culture of ancient book collecting in the age before the codex. It provides a straightforward introduction to the production and procurement of book rolls in antiquity, the character of Roman libraries, the life span of book rolls, the reading interests of ancient book enthusiasts, the function of private and public book collections, and the perils that threatened these precious resources. Houston's study will be especially useful as preliminary reading in introductory courses on Roman literary culture or in seminars on the history of the book.

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Gianluca Del Mastro, Titoli e annotazioni bibliologiche nei papiri greci di Ercolano. Cronache Ercolanesi. Supplementi, 5. Napoli: Centro Internazionale per lo Studio dei Papiri Ercolanensi 'Marcello Gigante', 2014. Pp. 437. ISBN 9788890764431. €250.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Tiziano Dorandi, Centre J. Pépin UMR 8230 CNRS/ENS (

Version at BMCR home site

La biblioteca del filosofo epicureo Filodemo di Gadara (vissuto durante il I sec. a.C. tra Atene e l'Italia) ospitata a Ercolano nella villa suburbana che apparteneva al suo patronus Gneo Calpurnio Pisone Cesonino venne ricoperta dalla colata lavica dell'eruzione del Vesuvio del 79 d.C. che distrusse un gran numero di quei volumi, ma ne preservò, carbonizzati, anche molti altri. La sua riscoperta fortuita ha messo a nostra disposizione una imponente raccolta libraria: volumi del III e del II sec. a.C., altri, la maggioranza, coevi di Filodemo, altri ancora forse di qualche tempo posteriori alla sua morte. La singolarità di questa biblioteca è che essa non era soltanto un luogo deputato alla conservazione, ma anche una attiva officina di produzione libraria legata alle esigenze del suo proprietario e eventualmente dei suoi amici. Una realtà che la rende ancora più preziosa per l'unicità di alcuni documenti che si rivelano indispensabili per chi studia le pratiche tecnico-librarie nel mondo greco-romano.

La biblioteca di Ercolano continua a svelare, giorno dopo giorno, i suoi segreti grazie agli sforzi considerevoli e alla pazienza di generazioni di studiosi che ormai da quasi tre secoli sono impegnati, moderni alchimisti, a trasformare in oro il carbone di Ercolano e a ridare voce al compagno di Pisone.

Da tempo attendevamo con impazienza la pubblicazione della ricerca di G. Del Mastro sulla tipologia dei titoli e delle annotazioni bibliologiche nei papiri greci della biblioteca di Ercolano. Il contenuto era già stato occasionalmente reso noto dall'autore che ne aveva diffuse alcune primizie, ma solo ora possiamo avere una idea completa e soddisfacente di tutte le testimonianze. Il risultato è sorprendente e va al di là delle aspettative.

La quasi totalità del volume (37-396), dopo una breve ma densa introduzione, consiste di schede riservate ciascuna ai 118 titoli sicuri e ai trenta incerti di papiri ercolanesi che Del Mastro è riuscito a scoprire, leggere e rendere accessibili in tutti i dettagli, anche i più nascosti, in anni di costante frequentazione di quei reperti. Ogni scheda è accompagnata dalla riproduzione della fotografia multispettrale del segmento di papiro che conserva il titolo dell'opera. E non solo: ogni scheda fornisce anche la bibliografia essenziale, la trascrizione e l'edizione del titolo e dei paratesti e peritesti che lo accompagnano, una traduzione italiana e una discussione precisa, aggiornata e soddisfacente dei molti problemi che quasi tutti presentano. I progressi sono evidenti, talvolta sensazionali.

L'introduzione (1-36) è riservata allo studio dei titoli (intesi nel senso più largo) nei papiri ercolanesi: posizione dei titoli nel rotolo (iniziali, intermedi, finali); foglio di protezione finale; caratteristiche grafiche; elementi decorativi e segni di separazione; tipologie accessorie (informazioni bibliometriche, sticometria, numero dei κολλήματα ecc.) e peculiari di alcuni rotoli (ὑπομνηματικόν, ἐκ τῶν Ζήνωνος σχολῶν, interventi del διορθωτής, presenza del nome dell'arconte eponimo) e infine la singolare indicazione ἔρρωσο del PHerc. 380 (35-36). Il volume è completato dalle abbreviazioni bibliografiche (397-414) e da indici (415-437): catalogo dei titoli, tabella riassuntiva delle informazioni sui titoli, indice dei titoli per autore e dei papiri citati.

Un libro così denso e ricco di materiali e di risultati non può non suggerire domande, far nascere suggestioni e osservazioni, far sorgere, su un punto o su un altro, dubbi o sospetti che inducono alla tentazione di cercare risposte diverse o alternative. Senza che questo, bene inteso, scalfisca la portata del lavoro e dell'impegno profuso dall'autore per realizzarlo.

Comincio con una osservazione di ordine generale. Una delle acquisizioni più interessanti riguarda i titoli iniziali, una tipologia attestata anche per i rotoli di provenienza greco-egizia (10). La maggior parte di questi titoli specifici è propria di un gruppo di rotoli vergati tutti da un unico anonimo, l'Anon. XXV nella classificazione di Cavallo.1 Essi appartengono, per lo più, a un unico trattato di Filodemo, il Περὶ κακιῶν in almeno 10 rotoli-libro dedicati ciascuno a una virtù o al suo vizio corrispondente.

Ci sono tre eccezioni, forse solo apparenti:

PHerc. 1583 attribuito al IV libro del De Musica (328-333). Si tratta realmente del titolo iniziale del rotolo che tramandava il IV libro? L'ipotesi è allettante, ma mi sia consentito mostrarmi ancora scettico. Non si può escludere che il titolo indicasse un altro libro (dal I al III del medesimo trattato) e appartenesse dunque a un ulteriore volume. La tesi che tutti i resti del De musica finora reperiti si ricompongano in un solo rotolo è plausibile, ma non definitiva.

PHerc. 1670 è un caso a parte (355). Il titolo di cui resta solo l'indicazione sticometrica era scritto sul verso e non sul recto, come d'abitudine. Lo conosciamo solo attraverso il facsimile riprodotto da Hayter.2

PHerc. 1786 — Ci sono resti del titolo e della sticometria, tramandati solo dall'apografo napoletano e ormai evanidi sulla scorza originale (10, 16, 380-383). Il titolo iniziale è scritto sul recto da una mano che può essere datata, su basi paleografiche, al II sec. a. C. (380 n. 1)

Se accettiamo la ricostruzione del primo rigo del titolo (ΔΗΜΗΤ]ΡΙΟΥ ΛΑΚω[ΝΟϹ), il rotolo avrebbe contenuto un libro dell'epicureo Demetrio Lacone, vissuto fra II e I s. a.C. La datazione della scrittura del reperto, se corretta (è infatti aleatorio datare un documento a partire solo dal facsimile) si rivela di estrema importanza per determinare una cronologia relativa dell'impiego della pratica dei titoli iniziali.

Di fronte a questi dati, penso sia dunque lecito domandarsi se, all'epoca di Filodemo, l'opzione del doppio titolo (iniziale e finale) non fosse riservata specificamente a trattati specifici come poteva presentarsi il De vitiis. Opere come questa, in almeno 10 libri, ognuno su un argomento diverso, potevano infatti esigere la presenza di un titolo iniziale che consentisse al lettore di sapere subito, a apertura del rotolo, quale libro aveva davanti e quale ne era il tema. È una ipotesi che mi sembra sensata e che merita una riflessione ulteriore. Si noti anche, in ogni caso, che i papiri del De vitiis (ma anche quelli del De musica e altri ancora nella biblioteca di Ercolano) fanno parte di veri e propri progetti 'editoriali' (come li definisce Cavallo). Progetti che rispondevano quindi a specifiche esigenze bibliologiche e a una mise en colonne particolare, che poteva prevedere, per questo genere di produzione, un doppio titolo, all'inizio e alla fine. In altri casi o eventuali progetti editoriali, il titolo era invece posto solo alla fine del rotolo. Se così, non sono solo i singoli volumina che devono essere presi in conto nello studio di questa fenomenologia, ma piuttosto gruppi di rotoli-libro che rispondono a precise o possibili esigenze di ordine 'editoriale'.

Ecco di seguito alcune spigolature frutto della mia lettura. Pochi esempi fra i molti che hanno sollecitato la mia attenzione. Cito solo il numero del papiro e, fra parentesi, indico le pagine della discussione di Del Mastro.

PHerc. 182 (87). Ho qualche dubbio sulla lettura (integrazione) ὑπόμνημα a causa dell'ordo verborum. Bisognerebbe indagare meglio se ci sono altri esempi di titoli che confermano un uso di ὑπόμνημα prima di περὶ + il gen. di argomento. Un esempio potrebbe essere indicato in Galeno, In Hipp. de nat. hom. comm. III (XV, 72.6 K.): ἀλλ' ὅτι γε ψευδὴϲ ὁ λόγοϲ αὐτῶν, ἐπιδέδεικται μὲν ἡμῖν καθ' ἓν ὑπόμνημα Περὶ τῆϲ τῶν καθαιρόντων φαρμάκων δυνάμεωϲ ἐπιγεγραμμένον. Non escludo inoltre che Genovesi, che era un 'interprete' dei papiri, conoscesse abbastanza il greco per congetturare lui stesso ὑπόμνημα in questo contesto.

PHerc. 336/1150 (122-125). Darei più importanza al vacuum che precede l'inizio del secondo titolo del libro di Polistrato prima di οἱ δ᾽ ἐπιγράφουσιν. Sarei dell'idea che non ci troviamo di fronte a un vero e proprio doppio titolo, ma piuttosto a una 'contaminazione' di titoli distinti reperiti in rotoli diversi, ognuno dei quali ne tramandava uno solo; una specie di conflazione erudita al momento della copia del PHerc. 336/1150. Non si deve dimenticare che questo esemplare del papiro è tardo, copiato forse già in epoca post-filodemea. Niente vieta di pensare che c'erano due rotoli dello scritto di Polistrato nella biblioteca di Ercolano, come per certi libri del Περὶ φύϲεωϲ di Epicuro, ma con titoli diversi che potevano o meno risalire (l'uno o l'altro) all'autore.

PHerc. 1005/862 e 1485 (184-187, 324-325). Siamo di fronte a una delle scoperte più soprendenti e fruttuose della ricerca. Non solo Del Mastro ha provato che il PHerc. 862 altro non è che la parte inferiore (separata da un paio di righi) del PHerc. 1005 e che il PHerc. 1485 ne è una doppia copia (che tramanda forse una redazione differente), ma ha anche provato che è il primo libro (Α è sicuro nella subscriptio) di un'opera più vasta. Lo studioso pensa di essere riuscito anche a risolvere il mistero del titolo. Attraverso una attenta lettura dei papiri e degli apografi e un abile reperaggio di lettere su strati sovrapposti e sottoposti egli ha proposto di ricostruire il seguente titolo Φιλοδήμου | Πρὸϲ τοὺϲ | φαϲκοβυβλιακοὺϲ | Α, che ha tradotto Filodemo, Contro coloro che si proclamano conoscitori dei libri (Libro) I (185). Io non voglio né posso mettere in discussione le letture e la ricostruzione di Del Mastro, ma credo sia mio dovere esprimere forti sospetti sulla neoformazione φαϲκοβυβλιακούϲ e sul suo significato. Approfondire questo caso e trovare i necessari paralleli richiederebbe una ricerca a sé che lascio volentieri a altri.

PHerc. 1479/1417 (320-324). Se la lacuna individuata fra i rr. 4 e 5 mi sembra sicura, qualche dubbio avrei a proposito della lettura αὐτογράφων. È proprio la presenza della lacuna che deve spingere a maggiore prudenza.

Un paio di parole per concludere. Il volume di Del Mastro è una di quelle opere che si apprezzano con il tempo, che si consultano più che si leggano di un sol fiato. Ogni progresso che si farà in futuro in questo campo di ricerche sia per il materiale di Ercolano sia per quello di provenienza greco-egizia troverà in queste pagine un ottimo punto di partenza, una serie di stimoli e eccellenti suggestioni che solo alcuni anni fa non ci saremmo aspettati.

La scienza avanza sempre più veloce e la papirologia con essa. Non mi meraviglierei che ben presto, Del Mastro sia obbligato a preparare se non una seconda edizione del suo libro almeno un articolo di addenda che tenga conto oltre che dei materiali greci della biblioteca di Ercolano forse anche dei papiri latini. Non è a caso che aggiungo questa frase. Finora mancano tracce di titoli nei papiri latini e questo spiega e giustifica la loro assenza. Sennonché, anni fa, durante una conversazione, Robert Marichal mi aveva mostrato con la consueta cortesia che lo caratterizzava una sua trascrizione di quello che credeva il titolo di un papiro latino di Ercolano: in esso il grande paleografo aveva letto il nome di Seneca. Non mi ricordo più il numero del papiro, ma forse un giorno riaffiorerà alla mia memoria oppure altri lo ritroveranno frequentando l'Officina dei Papiri Ercolanesi a Napoli.


1.   G. Cavallo, Libri, scritture, scribi a Ercolano, Napoli 1983.
2.   J. Hayter, A Report upon the Herculaneum Manuscripts in a Second Letter Addressed, by Permission, to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, London 1811. Nel facsimile a fronte di pagina 31.

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Uwe Dietsche, Strategie und Philosophie bei Seneca: Untersuchungen zur therapeutischen Technik in den Epistulae morales. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde, Bd 329. Berlin; Boston: de Gruyter, 2014. Pp. ix, 298. ISBN 9783110349047. €109.95.

Reviewed by Janja Soldo, LMU München (

Version at BMCR home site


Uwe Dietsche geht in seiner Monographie, die auf einer 2012 abgeschlossenen und von Jürgen Leonhardt betreuten Tübinger Dissertation basiert, von der Beobachtung aus, dass sich Inkonsistenzen und Ungenauigkeiten wie etwa widersprüchliche Aussagen, der unpräzise Gebrauch philosophischer Terminologie und der offene Umgang mit nicht-stoischer Philosophie, insbesondere dem Epikureismus, in Senecas Epistulae morales häufen. Solche Ambiguitäten und offenen Formulierungen versteht Dietsche als therapeutische Taktik: Indem Seneca die Positionen der Stoa nicht offen diskutiert, sondern vielmehr verheimlicht, erreicht er ein großes Publikum, das nicht auf (angehende) Stoiker beschränkt ist, sondern vor allem auch Epikureer einschließt. Erst im Laufe des Briefwechsels tritt zutage, dass die stoische Philosophie favorisiert wird. Besonderes Augenmerk der Untersuchung liegt auf der sprachlichen Ausgestaltung der Argumentation.

Die Einleitung und das erste Kapitel legen die Koordinaten der Arbeit fest: Nach einem Forschungsüberblick, in dem sich Dietsche überzeugend von bisherigen Versuchen distanziert, die innere Struktur des Briefcorpus offenzulegen, geht er auf den Adressaten Lucilius, Senecas Verhältnis zum Epikureismus sowie auf Senecas und seine eigene Methodologie ein. Der Autor demonstriert seine gründliche Lektüre, die vor allem Vokabular und Argumentation untersucht und die Erwartungen des Lesers berücksichtigt, in vielen Interpretationen. Entscheidend für Dietsches These ist, dass er Lucilius nicht als den eigentlichen Adressaten der Briefe, sondern als einen „Platzhalter für den intendierten Leser" (S. 8; 36) versteht; denn seine therapeutische Lesart ist an ein mannigfaltiges Publikum mit unterschiedlichen Anforderungen gekoppelt. Dass das Publikum diversen philosophischen Schulen angehört, schließt er daraus, dass sich Seneca wiederholt mit diesen auseinandersetzt (etwa gleich zu Beginn des Briefwechsels in ep. 4 und 5).

Das zweite Kapitel liefert eine historische Einordnung der therapeutischen Methode der Epistulae morales und von Senecas Selbstverständnis als Arzt. Dietsche macht deutlich, dass sich Seneca mit diesem Ansatz in die Tradition der hellenistischen Philosophieschulen einreiht. Besonders Chrysipp versteht er als Wegweiser für die therapeutische Ausrichtung der Stoa: Anhand eines bei Origenes überlieferten Fragments aus Chrysipps Schrift Therapeutikos (SVF III.474) zeigt Dietsche, dass sich der Philosoph die Überzeugungen seines Patienten zu eigen machen kann, um diesen von seinen Affekten zu befreien. Diese Beobachtung ist von großer Bedeutung für die vorliegende Arbeit, da sich Senecas Argumentation, wie der Autor in den folgenden Kapiteln herausarbeitet, stark an dem Kenntnisstand seines/seiner Adressaten orientiert.

Nach diesen beiden Kapiteln von einführendem und überblicksartigem Charakter wendet sich Dietsche einer detaillierteren Untersuchung der Briefe zu. Eine ausführliche Interpretation von Brief 13, der sich mit der Angst auseinandersetzt, fördert zutage, wie Seneca epikureisches und stoisches Gedankengut miteinander verflicht. Dietsche stellt anhand des Themas Angst eine Entwicklung innerhalb der Epistulae morales fest: Während sich Brief 13 sowohl stoischer als auch epikureischer Thesen bedient, überwiegen die stoischen Ansichten in Brief 24, bis schließlich in Brief 98 eine genuin stoische Argumentation zu finden ist. Das Kapitel wird abgerundet durch einen Vergleich mit der Angsttherapie bei Lukrez, der anders als Seneca seine epikureischen Wurzeln demonstrativ offenlegt, und mit der Beobachtung, dass die Epistulae morales keine systematische Einführung in die stoische Philosophie bieten.

Das vierte und mit knapp 100 Seiten längste Kapitel ordnet die im vorherigen Kapitel erbrachten Ergebnisse, die allmähliche Entwicklung stoischer Argumente gegen die Angst, in einen größeren Kontext ein: Der Autor zeichnet nach, wie sich die Konzeption des „summum bonum" in den Epistulae morales immer weiter konkretisiert, nämlich von einem taktierenden Changieren zwischen stoischer „virtus" und epikureischer „voluptas" hin zur „virtus" schlechthin. Dietsches Analyse, wie sich die Epistulae morales langsam zu diesem Ziel vorarbeiten, ist mit Gewinn zu lesen.

Diese Entwicklung zeichnet sich im Kleinen bereits in den Epikur-Zitaten ab, die elementarer Bestandteil der ersten drei Briefbücher sind. Dietsche versucht nachzuweisen, dass Senecas Beteuerungen, er zitiere Epikur, weil er jede kluge Äußerung als Gemeingut ansehe (z.B. ep. 8.8), taktischer Natur sind. Anhand der Zitate zeige Seneca, dass auch die epikureische Lehre ein Leben gemäß der „virtus" fordere; dies macht der Autor an folgender Bemerkung über die Epikureer in ep. 21.9 fest: „ut...probent quocumque ierint honeste esse vivendum".

Im Folgenden demonstriert der Autor, in welchen Etappen Seneca die stoische Güterlehre in den Epistulae morales behandelt. Dabei lassen sich mehrere Phasen unterscheiden: Auf die sogenannte „negative Güterlehre" (S. 182) der ersten Briefe, die bestimmt, was kein Gut ist, folgt eine erste Annäherung an das Thema. In Brief 9 wird das „summum bonum" zum ersten Mal explizit genannt. Allerdings sollte der Kontext berücksichtigt werden: Die Formulierung „...iis quibus summum bonum visum est animus inpatiens" (ep. 9.1) bezieht sich auf die Kyniker und daher ist Vorsicht angebracht, die bloße Nennung des Terminus in Verbindung mit der Stoa zu bringen. Mit der Interpretation der Briefe 23, 27 und 31 macht Dietsche deutlich, dass die dritte Phase eine der Vermischung ist – das stoische „summum bonum" wird neben das epikureische gestellt. Indem die „voluptas" einerseits abgewertet, andererseits auch positiv dargestellt wird, wird dem epikureischen Geschmack der Leserschaft Rechnung getragen. Mit Brief 32 beginnt die nächste Phase, die von einem „Strategiewechsel" Senecas (S. 206) gekennzeichnet ist: Vermehrt werden Metaphern des Kampfes verwendet, und mit Brief 51 erfolgt eine eindeutige und deutliche Kritik an dem epikureischen Lust-Begriff. Der letzte Abschnitt der Güterlehre beginnt in Brief 66, in dem die stoische Formel „unum bonum quod honestum" explizit genannt und eingehend diskutiert wird.

Mit der wachsenden Bedeutung des stoischen „summum bonum" geht die zunehmend negative Darstellung Epikurs in den Briefen 30-124 einher, wie Dietsche überzeugend darlegt. Die Kritik an Epikur verortet er bereits in ep. 9, dem letzten der drei sogenannten Freundschaftsbriefe (vgl. ep. 3 und 6). Senecas deutliche Distanz zu Epikurs utilitaristischem Freundschaftskonzept in ep. 9.8 erklärt er damit, dass das stoische Verständnis von Freundschaft der „Empfindung des philosophischen Laien" (S. 240) näherstehe als das epikureische; er versteht dies als taktisches Kalkül, mit dem der Ruf der unmenschlichen Stoa leicht korrigiert werden kann. Dasselbe Ziel, die Stoa von ihrer Strenge zu befreien, verfolgt Seneca, wenn er den Ausdruck von Gefühlen zugesteht (Tränen und Trauer wegen eines Todesfalls, ep. 63.1; Erröten aus Schüchternheit oder Scham, ep. 11.6 und 87.4). Diese Gefühlsregungen werden mit dem Ratschlag des Epikureers Metrodor kontrastiert, selbst in der Trauer Lust zu suchen (ep. 99.25-26). Mit diesem letzten Beispiel schließt Dietsche seine Analyse ab, die wertvolle Einblicke in die stoische Güterlehre und ihre Entwicklung in den Epistulae morales gewährt.

In seinem letzten Kapitel weist Dietsche nach, dass diese Entwicklung sich auch in der Sprache widerspiegelt: Indem er untersucht, wo und wie häufig in den Briefen die Begriffe „malum" und „virtus/honestum" vorkommen, wird deutlich, dass ihre Verteilung mit der zuvor untersuchten Güterlehre übereinstimmt. Vor allem die Briefe 66 bis 99, in denen die Güterlehre intensiv behandelt wird, sind von stoischer Terminologie geprägt. Dies geht mit der Veränderung der Briefform einher, die zunehmend die Züge einer wissenschaftlichen Abhandlung annimmt. Diese Beobachtungen dienen Dietsche als Beleg für Senecas therapeutische Technik oder vielmehr Taktik: Hätte er den Briefwechsel mit zu viel stoischem Fachvokabular begonnen, hätte dies eine abschreckende Wirkung auf sein von Epikur geprägtes Publikum gehabt.

Zum Abschluss noch ein kurzer Blick auf die formale und sprachliche Gestaltung der Arbeit: Manche Tippfehler und Doppelungen sind der Endredaktion entgangen, fallen aber nicht stark ins Gewicht, da sie nur selten den Sinn verändern. Leider setzen die Verweise auf das jeweilige Unterkapitel in der rechten Kopfzeile zwischen den Seiten 171 und 225 aus, die die Navigation erleichtert hätten. Dietsche setzt Senecas therapeutisches Konzept insofern selbst um, als er es dem Leser leicht macht, seine Arbeit zu rezipieren und zu verstehen. Der einfache Schreibstil, die klare Gliederung und die nützlichen Zusammenfassungen an den Kapitelenden tragen zur guten Lesbarkeit des Buches bei. Allerdings geht dieser Stil auch mit umgangssprachlichen Ausdrücken (z.B. „Lukrez schert sich herzlich wenig um...", S. 145), zahlreichen Metaphern (besonders häufig Sieg und Kampf, v.a. ab Kap. 4.2), Formulierungen in einfachen Anführungszeichen und Zusammenfassungen aus Senecas oder Lucilius' Sicht (z.B. S. 179) einher; in manchen Fällen wäre eine präzisere Ausdrucksweise wünschenswert gewesen.

Manche Frage blieb nach der Lektüre unbeantwortet. Leider geht Dietsche nicht auf den Begriff „therapeutisch" ein: Wie genau ist er im Zusammenhang mit Philosophie zu verstehen? Wie lässt er sich von verwandten und in der Arbeit häufig wiederkehrenden Begriffen wie „pädagogisch" und „psychagogisch" abgrenzen? Worin unterscheidet er sich von der titelgebenden „Strategie" und dem häufig benutzten „taktisch"?

Die anregende Interpretation des 13. Briefes hätte ebenfalls von einer Begriffsbestimmung und –reflexion profitiert. Der Autor bemüht sich in der gesamten Arbeit darum nachzuweisen, welche Formulierungen und Inhalte stoischer oder epikureischer Provenienz sind. So schreibt er etwa auf S. 122 über den Satz „sic verus ille animus et in alienum non venturus arbitrium probatur" (ep. 13.1): „Die Formulierungen zur Stärke des animus sind Stoa-typisch, aber eben nicht terminologisch festgelegt...". Was aber sind stoische, Stoa-typische und nicht festgelegte Begriffe? Wie lassen sich diese von epikureischen Begriffen trennen? Ob in den Epistulae morales eine strikte Trennung zwischen stoischer und epikureischer Begrifflichkeit und damit auch der damit verbundenen Ethik vorgenommen werden kann, verdient eine weitergehende Untersuchung. Eine Vereindeutigung der Begriffe, wie etwa von „virtus" in ep. 13.3, läuft meiner Ansicht nach der These zuwider, dass Seneca möglichst offen formuliert. Zudem bleibt unklar, wie die von Dietsche skizzierte Taktik Senecas, seinen Leser über die Begrifflichkeiten und die von ihm vertretenen Positionen möglichst lange im Dunkeln zu lassen, mit der Interpretation in Brief 13 und einem therapeutischen Ansatz überhaupt vereinbar ist; vielleicht verwirrt sie die Leser sogar, unabhängig von ihrem Kenntnisstand.

Dietsches Interpretation des Lucilius wirft zudem die Frage auf, wie in einer Figur ein dermaßen disparates Leserpublikum gebündelt werden kann, zumal im Laufe der Untersuchung Lucilius immer wieder als Epikureer behandelt und die Diversität der Leserschaft dadurch reduziert wird. Es bleibt bei dieser Interpretation auch unklar, welche Funktion die Verweise auf außerliterarische Ereignisse in Lucilius' Alltag haben. Zwar sind diese teilweise eher allgemeiner (etwa ep. 11.1), teilweise aber auch sehr spezifischer Natur (wie etwa der Verweis auf Lucilius' Reise nach Sizilien in ep. 14.8). Solche Ereignisse lassen sich nur schwer mit einer Interpretation in Einklang bringen, die Lucilius vornehmlich als Platzhalter versteht.

Ganz richtig stellt der Autor zu Beginn (S. 3, Fußnote 5, und S. 15) fest, dass die Epistulae morales mehrere Verständnisebenen haben. Sie können von einem in der Stoa bewanderten Leser gelesen werden, setzen einen solchen Leser aber nicht notwendig voraus, da sie auch (und vor allem) für einen Philosophie-Neuling konzipiert sind. Es ist Uwe Dietsches Verdienst, untersucht zu haben, wie Seneca mit seinem Briefwerk diesen unterschiedlichen Ansprüchen gerecht wird. Die Widersprüche, die sich daraus ergeben und denen der aufmerksame Leser auch heute noch begegnet, hat er richtig als solche thematisiert und untersucht. Zudem liefert seine Studie einen neuen Beitrag zu der Frage, welche Struktur den Epistulae morales zugrunde liegt. Anders als Hildegard Cancik, Gregor Maurach oder Erwin Hachmann macht der Autor die Ordnung nicht an formalen Kriterien fest und schafft keine künstliche Struktur, sondern zeichnet vielmehr eine inhaltliche Entwicklung zum Stoizismus nach. So gelingt es ihm auch, Epikurs anfängliche Prominenz, die im Laufe des Briefwechsels deutlich abnimmt, zu erklären.

Uwe Dietsches Monographie sei allen empfohlen, die die Epistulae morales gründlich studieren möchten – seien sie Anfänger oder Kenner der Briefe.

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Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski, Loi et coutume dans l'Égypte grecque et romaine: les facteurs de formation du droit en Égypte d'Alexandre le Grand à la conquête arabe. Journal of Juristic Papyrology supplements, 21. Warsaw: Journal of Juristic Papyrology, 2014. Pp. xiv, 382. ISBN 9788393842506. $136.00.

Reviewed by Bernard Legras, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (

Version at BMCR home site

Cet ouvrage très attendu par la communauté scientifique est la version corrigée et mise à jour le la thèse de droit soutenue en décembre 1970 par Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski à la Faculté de droit de Paris (dont les héritières seront en 1971 les universités Paris II Panthéon-Assas et Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne). Ce manuscrit avait été polycopié en un nombre d'exemplaires limités : il n'était présent que dans les bibliothèques personnelles de quelques enseignants-chercheurs ou chercheurs, et dans quelques bibliothèques universitaires.

Durant cette période de quarante années (et auparavant, à partir de 1951), l'auteur a publié une œuvre majeure consacrée au droit grec et hellénistique, à l'histoire juridique et sociale de l'Égypte grecque et romaine, et au judaïsme postexilique. 1 Des nombreuses notices sur le rôle décisif joué par Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski dans la refondation moderne des études sur le droit grec on retiendra en particulier la préface écrite par Eva Cantarella (Università degli Studi di Milano) pour le volume Droit et justice dans le monde grec et hellénistique.2 Le manuel publié chez l'éditeur juridique Dalloz en 2012 et le présent ouvrage de 2014 ouvrent désormais la voie à la rédaction d'un livre consacré à l'histoire du droit de l'Égypte grecque et romaine à la lumière des documents papyrologiques.

Le livre s'ouvre par des prolégomènes sur les facteurs de formation du droit. Il s'agit de présenter les sources du droit, de s'interroger sur les notions de droit et de coutume, de nomoi, dans le cadre géographique et chronologique retenu, l'Égypte de la conquête macédonienne (332 av. n.è.) à la conquête arabe (641 de n.è.). Il se divise en deux parties, I. L'Égypte ptolémaïque, II. L'Égypte romaine. La première partie comporte trois chapitres : Les composantes du droit ptolémaïque, Les mécanismes de l'évolution juridique. Elle s'achève par une conclusion : « un système complexe ». La seconde partie se structure en quatre chapitres : Les droits locaux après la conquête romaine de l'Égypte, La pénétration du droit romain en Égypte, Le droit de l'Empire et les droits locaux après la Constitutio Antoniniana, Les destinées des droits locaux. Les conclusions de cette partie s'intitulent : Mores regionis. Un précieux Index dû à Maria Nowak ; une Bibliographie sommaire et une liste des Principales abréviations achèvent l'ouvrage.

Le remaniement du texte de 1970, un polycopié de 481 pp., a porté à la fois sur le corps du texte et sur les notes. Les changements portent sur les points sur lesquels la pensée de l'auteur a évolué et sur un rajeunissement de la bibliographie. Mais il note bien (p. XIII) que « mes références reflètent surtout l'état des travaux et des débats vers le milieu du XXe siècle ». Par souci de préserver la logique de l'ouvrage les chapitres qui ont fait l'objet d'une publication sous forme d'articles ont été maintenus dans la version refondue de 2014. L'auteur est bien conscient (p. XIII) des « inévitables doubles emplois qui en résultent ». L'auteur a poursuivi sur d'innombrables points le débat bien au-delà de 1970, par exemple sur la question de l'unité du droit grec (p. 143, n.6), sur son refus d'admettre que Caracalla aurait « abrogé » les nomoi des cités, en discutant (p. 326, n.7) les positions ultérieures de M. Talamanca, F. De Martino ; H. Wagner, M. Bretone et K. Buraselis, ou pour conclure (p. 341) sur l'existence d'une seule source du droit dans l'Égypte byzantine, « la pratique coutumière reconnue comme un ensemble de règles obligatoires et suivies comme telles » en mettant en avant les travaux récents de J.-L. Fournet, C. Magdelaine et J. Urbanik. Des documents nouveaux ont été intégrés à la discussion ainsi le BGU XIV 2376 de 36/35 av. n.è. où Cléopâtre VII est qualifiée de philopatris « celle qui aime sa patrie » (pour l'auteur : Alexandrie). La question toujours en discussion de la « romanisation » de la vie juridique dans la province impériale intègre des travaux récents (p. 297). Mais l'objectif n'était pas de refondre le texte pour partir des débats actuels, mais de prolonger la discussion depuis l'époque de rédaction du manuscrit. L'objectif n'était pas non plus de citer de manière exhaustive toutes les publications concernant les thèmes abordés. On en trouvera un exemple dans la notion de « réception » qui occupe une place substantielle et non celle de transferts de droit (ou de transferts culturels) qui constitue depuis la recherche fondatrice de J. Gaudemet en 1976 (L'année sociologique, 27, p. 37-47 = Sociologie historique du droit, Paris, 2000, p. 91-119) un thème important de recherches pour les historiens de l'Antiquité et les historiens du droit.3

Le grand apport de cette publication est de mieux mettre en lumière l'apport de l'auteur à l'élaboration d'une discipline autonome nouvelle, les études « modernes » de droit grec à partir des années 1970. Cette fondation s'est en effet structurée internationalement dans le cadre des rencontres scientifiques intitulées Symposion, rencontres inaugurées en 1971 au château de Rheda en Westphalie par Hans-Julius Wolff (le 19e Symposion, Symposion 2013, s'est tenu à la Harvard Law School de Cambridge, MA, du 26 au 29 août 2013). Joseph Mélèze Modzejewski définit dans son livre la doctrine à laquelle il restera fidèle à savoir qu'il existe « une unité conceptuelle » du droit grec privé « compatible avec la variété réelle des composantes historiques » : « Nous parlerons donc de 'droit grec ancien' pour les cités avant et après Alexandre ; de 'droit hellénistique', pour les royaumes et, plus tard, pour les provinces romaines d'Orient qui prolongent ces royaumes ; de 'droit grec' tout court, pour tout phénomène juridique qui relève de l'expérience juridique grecque, et en particulier pour les manifestations des continuités grecques dans les documents d'Égypte ». Il montre les différentes facettes de cette de la pluralité des droits dans le cadre d'une Égypte grecque puis romaine qui sont l'une et l'autre multiculturelles. L'ouvrage révèle la méthode qu'il transmettra dans son enseignement à Paris, à l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, IVe section de 1972 à 2007 (Papyrologie et Histoire des droits de l'Antiquité) et au sein de l'Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne de 1978 à 1999 (Histoire du monde hellénistique) : l'interdisciplinarité qui fonde les études sur le droit grec sur l'histoire du droit, l'histoire de la Grèce et du monde hellénistique, les sources littéraires et documentaires extérieures à l'Égypte, la papyrologie et l'épigraphie.

La gratitude de la communauté scientifique doit donc être exprimée envers Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski pour avoir édité et rajeuni un manuscrit de 1970 dont la diffusion était restée limitée à une cercle restreint, et envers la collection Journal of Juristic Papyrology, Supplements, qui a publié de manière impeccable, un opus magnum qui présente un status quaestionis majeur sur le droit grec dans l'Égypte grecque et romaine, mais en offrant de riches et fécondes perspectives de recherche pour les chercheurs du temps présent.


1.   On rappellera ici les trois importants volumes d'acta minora selecta paru en 1990 (Droit impérial et traditions locales dans l'Égypte romaine Aldershot, Variorum Collected Studies 321), en 1993 (Statut personnel et liens de famille dans les droits de l'Antiquité, Aldershot, Variorum Collected Studies 411), et en 2011 (Droit et justice dans le monde grec et hellénistique, Varsovie, The Journal of Juristic Papyrology Supplement 10), ainsi que le très utile manuel paru en 2012 : Le droit grec après Alexandre, Dalloz, Paris.
2.   « Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski et les études de droit grec » (Cf. aussi B. Legras, « La papyrologie juridique grecque : la formation d'une discipline », Le banquet de Pauline Schmitt-Pantel, V. Azoulay et alii éd., Paris, 2012, p. 559-571).
3.   Cf. B. Legras éd., Transferts culturels et droits dans le monde grec et hellénistique, Reims, 14-17 mai 2008, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 2012, en particulier l'introduction, p. 7-14.

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Ioanna Papadopoulou, Leonard Muellner (ed.), Poetry as Initiation: The Center for Hellenic Studies Symposium on the Derveni Papyrus. Hellenic Studies, 63. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, trustees for Harvard University, 2014. Pp. xxiv, 272. ISBN 9780674726765. $24.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Marco Antonio Santamaría Álvarez, Universidad de Salamanca (

Version at BMCR home site


The volume under review gathers twelve papers that were read in a Symposium on the Derveni Papyrus (P.Derv.) held at The Center of Hellenic Studies in Washington in 2008. A foreword, an introduction and an article by Franco Ferrari have been added. It is the first volume on the P.Derv. after the publication of its editio princeps in 2006 and includes very important new ideas regarding both the text itself and its interpretation.

After a brief foreword by Leonard Muellner on the nature of the volume (vii-viii), Ioanna Papadopoulou presents a survey on the open questions in the study of the papyrus, such as the ritual, the identity of the magoi and the personality of the Derveni commentator (henceforth DC). She finds meaningful parallels between him and Socrates, who in the Republic discusses many Homeric and Hesiodic verses on gods, daimones, death and the underworld. Socrates tries to discover their hidden meaning, not evident to the general public, but he does not employ allegory.

Kyriakos Tsantsanoglou offers crucial new evidence and ideas about relevant aspects of the P.Derv., such as the text of the first columns, the identity of the author, the aim of the book and its length. He assesses some of Janko's proposals for col. 4 and 5 and offers new readings integrating these suggestions. Heraclitus' famous quotation in col. 4.7 would begin: ἥλι̣[ος, ἀλλ]ὰ̣ οὐ κατὰ φ̣ύσιν…: "The sun, but not in its actual innate dimensions, is a human foot in width". Unfortunately, Tsantsanoglou does not consider any of Ferrari's textual proposals. He adheres to Kahn's proposal that the DC may be Euthyphro and highlights some affinities between him and Antisthenes. He suggests that the book was a vade mecum for prospective initiates, probably in the Athenian mysteries of Phlya, where Orphic hymns were read as part of the legomena. He offers ground-breaking information: there are traces of page numbering in six columns, above the first line. Column 5 has the number 35, so the papyrus we possess must have been preceded by another roll, which may have dealt with the ethics of the mystic way of life. Tsantsanoglou thinks that the magoi in col. 6 are Persian priests and suggests that Ahura Mazda, "Lord Wisdom", may have inspired the DC's concept of noûs as a divine cosmic Mind.

Alberto Bernabé's paper is a thorough study of the rites described in the first six columns and their interpretation by the author. He accepts some of Ferrari's proposals and suggests new ones, such as κλ̣ε̣[ισθὲν in col. 2.8 (instead of Ferrari's κά̣ε̣[ται) as an apposition to ὀρ̣ν̣ίθ̣ε̣ιόν τι, which would allude to the release of a little bird to ensure the liberation of the soul, as in col. 6.10. His main thesis is that the rite described in these columns is a telete or funerary ceremony, performed by Orphic officiants, the magoi. Bernabé acutely highlights that the identification of the Eumenides with souls is a particular view of the DC (making him a Rohde avant la lettre), not a mainstream belief. He also sketches out the complex demonological theory of the DC and emphasizes his moral interpretation of the ritual.

Franco Ferrari offers a concise overview of his crucial textual re-arrangement and interpretation of the six first columns, published in 2010 and 2011. He explains why he has changed some scraps from col. II to col. I and how the collocation of two new scraps in col. IV allows one to recognize an allusion to Democritus, who, according to the DC, altered the principles of traditional belief and cult claiming that the unhappy events in human life do not happen on the decision of gods, but by chance, that is, through the random movements of atoms. In line 11 he reads Π]έ̣ρ̣σ̣α̣ι̣ before θύο̣υ̣[σι, a possible reference to sacrifices made to the sun by the Persians. In line 14 he sees the remnants of Heraclitus' fr. 52 DK, which describes time as a playing child. Many images of his adjoining of the scraps make his proposal very clear. In col. 6.1 he proposes τ̣ὰ̣[ς ἀ]ρ̣τά̣δ̣α̣[ς as the object of μ[ειλ]ί̣σ̣σ̣ο̣υσι. They would be the artavan, ancestors or heroes among the Persians, mentioned in some Greek sources as ἀρτάδες or ἀρταῖοι. A problem that arises is that, if the ἀρτάδες are considered ancestors by the Persians and Hesychius defines them as οἱ δίκαιοι, why are they to be appeased?

Fritz Graf focuses on the personality and milieu of the author, whose compassion for those who undergo initiation without understanding its meaning in col. 20 prompts Graf's interpretation of the DC as a religious entrepreneur who initiates for a fee and seeks clients by advertising his speciality: the physical allegory of a ritual text. The text could also be used to remember what was learned in the initiation, and this may explain its funerary use: the bearer was probably an initiate. For Graf, the magoi are Greek priests, given that libations of water and sacrificial cakes were common in Greece, but absent in Persian rituals. They may have adopted the title of the Persian priests because of its prestige, just as in Rome the haruspices were originally Etruscan, but the title was later used by itinerant diviners of Roman origin.

Sarah Iles Johnston tackles the issue of divination in col. 5. The DC alludes to the consultation of oracles by common people, instead of himself or other practitioners. The information received from these oracles or from dreams is wasted because people either do not understand it or do not believe in it. He would be the ideal person to explain its meaning. Regarding col. 6, Johnston holds that the daimones impede the soul's passage into the Underworld. Through prayers, sacrifices and incantations, the magoi can change these daimones into benign beings, probably the Eumenides quoted next. The identification of the daimones and of the Eumenides with souls is an innovation of the DC. He talks about rituals because, as a ritual expert, he wants to explain the meaning of his techniques and the nature of the creatures that are the object of his actions.

Walter Burkert highlights the DC's insistence on the importance of knowledge. He is proud of his and condemns the ignorance of others, causing their non-belief (col. 5). In col. 6 he seems to approve of the rituals because they imply knowledge about souls. His doctrine on souls does not make the DC an Orphic, a priest, or a magos, since it presents a deep affinity with Democritus' idea that the air is full of souls. Like Democritus, the DC has integrated traditional beliefs and rites into a physical system. He is a pre-Platonic thinker who writes on tà eónta in the wake of Anaxagoras, Diogenes of Apollonia and Democritus. Burkert also reports "the true story" of the anonymous publication of the P.Derv. in ZPE in 1982. Since private copies of the text had been circulating in the hands of some scholars since the late 70's, he suggested to R. Merkelbach that he publish it, even without authorization, in view of sharing it with the whole scientific community.

The main topic of Jeffrey Rusten's contribution is the DC's method, which is based on the equivalence of concepts, usually verbs, and on the identification of names of gods with abstract substantives, sometimes through etymology. A key procedure is the decontextualization of the words of the poem, as he states in col. 13.5-6. The P.Derv. prefigures the form of commentary that would become usual in Alexandrian scholarship and onwards. Rusten includes an interesting appendix on the use of paragraphos in the P.Derv. to introduce quotations of other authors or statements about the interpretative method (13.5-6, 23.7). He vindicates his attractive idea that col. 20.1-10 is a quotation of another author, whose end is marked by a paragraphos in 20.11. The different authorship is also noticeable in the style of the passage, where we find the first-person singular and well-structured sentences.

Yannis Z. Tzifopoulos draws an accurate comparison between the funeral use of the P.Derv. and the Orphic epistomia or golden tablets. He ingeniously compares the use of the verb ἔκθορε in col. 13.4 (from the poem) and of ἔθορε in the Pelinna tablets as indicating a (re)birth in a rapid movement. He reprints the fascinating discussion that followed Kapsomenos' archeological report on the P.Derv. in 1964 in the American Society of Papyrologists.

Claude Calame's paper deals with the Derveni Papyrus's position between orality and literacy. When the DC calls the Orphic poem "enigmatic", he is treating it as an oracular text whose true meaning has to be interpreted. The physical and theological interpretation of the poem can only be that of an Orpheotelest.

Anton Bierl's contribution is about the hermeneutical strategies of the DC and his personality. According to this interpretation, he must be a reformed Orphic with philosophical knowledge, who writes for a circle of Orphics. In his analysis, he fragments the poem into a kind of textual σπαραγμός to distort its syntax and sense. Through his bizarre interpretations, he proposes new and thought-provoking riddles or συνθήματα.

Evina Sistakou claims that the P.Derv. has a polyphonic quality, since the DC uses a variety of voices: omniscient (he utters the philosophical truth of the poem), exegetical (he is interested in textual and linguistic analysis) and didactic (as initiator and instructor he devises implicit addressees, the uninitiated, to whom he imposes his personal view on Orphism). The nature and genre of the text is not easy to determine because of its multidimensional and even transgeneric nature, combining theogony with philosophy and theology.

David Sider focuses on the Orphic poem commented upon in the papyrus, of which he offers the text, a translation and a systematic commentary of every fragment. His new readings are remarkable, such as [μεγασθεν]έος in OF 3, ˪Νὺξ˩ and ἐκτελέεσ]θ̣αι in OF 6.4 and Δι]ὸς νοῦς in OF 18.1. He understands (correctly, in my view) Πρωτογόνου in OF 12 as the name of the primeval god Protogonos-Phanes, the "venerable" (αἰδοῖον) availed by Zeus in OF 8. For him, the name should be written as Πρωτογόνος and understood as "first-generating", not as "First-born". He offers enlightening parallels to and sensible insights on controversial words or phrases.

Richard Hunter studies the passage in E. Hipp. 73-87 in which Hippolytus offers Artemis a garland. Although it is the only contribution not related to the Derveni Papyrus, it perfectly falls under the title Poetry as Initiation. Hunter quotes long scholia in which the garland, the meadow, the bees, and other elements of the verses are interpreted allegorically as allusions to poetry. He observes in the passage a dichotomy between the minority of connoisseurs and the mass of ignoramuses, which has affinities with the language of the mysteries and of the aristocratic symposium. These circles fostered a tradition of codified texts only understandable for a select few: the pure or the good in a religious, intellectual or political sense. For this reason, the metaphorical and allegorical readings flourished within the mysteries, as the Derveni Papyrus exemplifies.

The production of the book is attractive and careful, although there are some typos, especially in the Greek texts: ἀνομοὶως (xxii), αὐτ]οἷ̣ ̣ς̣ (29), ἐμ]ποδῶν (34), Ἡρ̣άκλ̣ε̣ιτοσ (61), μ̣[έγεθου]ς̣ for μ̣[έγεθο]ς (61), ὁμαδόν (71), ἅς for ἃς (71), λήναι (84), πραγμάτα (96), Platanica(99), ὥ[̣ ς for ὡ̣[ς (145), orpheoteléstes (179), δάρκρυα (228), χρσησμῳδίαι (229), ἢ for ἣ (231), κάπ̣[πινων (232), τελεέσθαι (239).

Overall, the volume is a new milestone in the study of the P.Derv. and will no doubt be used fruitfully by researchers of this challenging document.

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Evan Hayes, Stephen Nimis, Lucian's 'A True Story': An Intermediate Greek Reader (revised Aug. 2014; first edition 2011). Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing, 2014. Pp. x, 191. ISBN 9780983222804. $13.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Christine Kossaifi, CELIS – Université de Clermont-Ferrand (

Version at BMCR home site

Download or Print on Demand

Publié en POD (« Print on Demand ») et ainsi proposé, en version papier, à un prix plus accessible, cet ouvrage s'adresse aux étudiants qui ont atteint un niveau de lecture « intermédiaire », comme l'indique le sous-titre. Il est également accessible en téléchargement gratuit au format pdf sur le site de Faenum Publishing (URL ci-dessus). Après un détour par des textes médicaux de Galien (BMCR 2014.08.17) et d'Hippocrate (BMCR 2013.12.46), les auteurs reviennent ici à la seconde sophistique et, plus précisément, à leur auteur de prédilection, Lucien de Samosate (voir BMCR 2013.05.21, Sur la déesse syrienne, et 2012.09.55, Pseudo-Lucien, Lucius ou l'âne), non sans avoir fait un détour par Plutarque (BMCR 2012.10.03).

Après une introduction qui présente rapidement l'objectif du livre en même temps que l'auteur et l'œuvre choisis (p. VII–X), le lecteur entre directement dans le texte, qui est celui de l'édition Loeb de 1921. Chaque page présente un court extrait du texte grec, suivi d'une liste détaillée du vocabulaire, puis de remarques grammaticales avec, parfois, des aides à la traduction. Un lexique verbal (p. 165–177) et un glossaire (p. 181–191) terminent l'ensemble (les noms ne sont donnés avec leurs génitifs que pour la troisième déclinaison). L'élève peut ainsi, comme il le lui est conseillé, p. IX, adapter son travail à son niveau : d'abord lire et essayer de comprendre le sens global, puis, à l'aide du vocabulaire fourni, vérifier ses hypothèses de lecture et mieux cerner la signification, pour parvenir enfin à une traduction satisfaisante, grâce aux explications plus complètes qui sont fournies en fin de page. Tout au long du parcours de lecture, l'apprentissage est facilité par des remarques lexicales et étymologiques, des aides mnémotechniques (voir, par exemple, p. 27) et des tableaux de synthèse qui sont autant de mises au point claires et rigoureuses sur les problèmes posés par la grammaire grecque, principalement en ce qui concerne le système verbal (les auteurs insistent sur les notions d'aspect et de temps, p. 80 et 122, avec reprise de la même phrase). La présentation est agréable et dépourvue de coquilles typographiques, à quelques exceptions près.1

Cet ouvrage, aux indéniables qualités pédagogiques, permettra assurément aux étudiants de s'approprier le texte et d'acquérir les réflexes grammaticaux et les connaissances lexicales nécessaires à une plus grande autonomie de lecture. On peut cependant regretter, au vu de leurs difficultés, qu'une traduction (linéaire ou littéraire) ne soit pas proposée en fin de volume ; de même on s'interroge sur l'absence de certains points grammaticaux : si l'emploi du participe impersonnel à l'accusatif absolu, δόξαν, en 1.7 (p. 13) et 11 (p. 21), est mentionné à chaque fois dans une note (sans renvoi), les emplois de οὐ et de μή (par exemple, p. 78, à propos de εἰ μή) ne font l'objet d'aucune synthèse. L'accentuation est également laissée de côté, même lorsqu'elle est une aide à l'identification de formes verbales (par exemple, pour les participes aoristes passifs, comme καταποθέντες, qui est analysé en note à la p. 61). Certains mots de vocabulaire apparaissent très tard dans l'ouvrage, comme ὅσον, environ, qui est souvent employé par Lucien, mais n'est pris en compte qu'au livre 2, p. 77. Enfin, le commentaire est essentiellement grammatical et verbal au détriment de l'analyse littéraire (introduction succincte, avec une brève bibliographie, p. IX) ; or, il paraît difficile de s'approprier un texte sans en analyser les idées et en aborder les caractéristiques littéraires ; les Annales qui, en France, aident les élèves à se préparer à l'épreuve écrite du baccalauréat de grec — comme d'ailleurs de latin — n'hésitent pas à proposer des axes d'études, à comparer des textes (éditions Hatier), voire à rédiger des commentaires d'extraits (éditions Ellipses).

Il est vrai qu'il faut bien sérier les problèmes ! Quoi qu'il en soit, cet ouvrage reste assurément une aide précieuse, qui guide l'étudiant volontaire et tenace vers la réussite et il faut espérer que d'autres volumes viendront encore enrichir cette collection.


1.   Je n'ai relevé que quatre erreurs. Conformément au souhait des auteurs qui désirent être prévenus des coquilles qui peuvent être relevées, je leur ai envoyé un mail d'information, en leur indiquant également l'erreur de genre du relatif, p. 69, et une traduction qui me pose problème, p. 118. Ils pourront ainsi faire les corrections qui leur semblent utiles pour les versions futures du texte et il n'est pas nécessaire de donner ici plus de détails.

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Monday, April 27, 2015


Jonathan J. Arnold, Theoderic and the Roman Imperial Restoration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 340. ISBN 9781107054400. $104.95.

Reviewed by Henning Börm, Universität Konstanz (

Version at BMCR home site


Jonathan Arnolds Buch, dem eine an der University of Michigan entstandene Dissertation zugrunde liegt, bemüht sich um einen innovativen Zugang zur Herrschaft Theoderichs des Großen über das spätantike Italien. Kernthese der Arbeit ist dabei die Annahme, Theoderich sei von den Bewohnern Italiens und Südgalliens nicht als "barbarischer" Fremdherrscher gesehen worden, sondern habe vielmehr als Kaiser in der Tradition des Prinzipats über ein erneuertes Römisches Reich geherrscht.

Auf eine knappe Einleitung (pp. 1-8), in der Arnold erklärt, Ziel der Arbeit — "a study of Romanness and the Roman Empire that fully accepts Theoderic's reign as a continuation of Roman history" — sei es zu demonstrieren, "how Theoderic and his Goths found acceptance as ‚Romans'" (p. 6f.), folgen zwei Kapitel über Ennodius (pp. 11-36) und Cassiodor (pp. 37-56). Arnold begreift Ennodius dabei als Repräsentanten der norditalischen Elite, für den es niemals zu einem "Fall Roms" gekommen sei; in diesem Zusammenhang behauptet er, die Unterschiede zwischen Kaisern und Nicht-Kaisern seien bereits in dieser Zeit verwischt worden, da man auch den Kaiser habe als rex bezeichnen können (p. 30): "Odovaker appeared (…) as emperor himself, since emperors from a fifth-century Ligurian perspective were little more than kings" (p. 32) — wobei übrigens zu fragen ist, ob man rex im 5. Jahrhundert wirklich ohne weiteres als "king" übersetzen kann. Erst unter Theoderich habe Ennodius Odoaker rückblickend zum unrechtmäßigen Machthaber erklärt (p. 33). Cassiodor, eine Generation jünger als Ennodius, gilt Arnold sodann als Repräsentant einer bestens vernetzten Reichselite. Er biete eine Dekadenzerzählung, die mit Odoaker den Tiefpunkt erreiche, bevor sich mit Theoderich alles zum Guten wende (p. 52). Arnold betont dabei, dass Cassiodor Odoaker nicht zuletzt vorwirft, sich nicht so gekleidet zu haben, wie es einem römischen Herrscher zukam (p. 53).

Im zweiten Abschnitt (Kapitel 3 und 4), den Arnold programmatisch mit "Emperor Theoderic" überschreibt, entwirft er sodann ein Panorama der herrscherlichen Inszenierung Theoderichs. Er interpretiert dabei, entsprechend der communis opinio, die Übersendung der ornamenta palatii durch Kaiser Anastasius an Theoderich als "visual confirmation of his imperial status" (p. 59). "The very act of returning these items clearly recommended that Theoderic could adopt all of them and with the complete approval of Constantinople" (p. 95). Doch behaupten die Quellen nirgends, die ornamenta palatii seien vom Kaiser dazu gedacht gewesen, dass Theoderich selbst sie anlegen sollte. Vielmehr spricht einiges dafür, diesen Akt stattdessen als eine Aufforderung des östlichen Kaisers an den patricius zu begreifen, wie zu Zeiten Ricimers wieder einen Kaiser seiner Wahl als nominelles Oberhaupt des Westreiches zu erheben – eine Aufforderung, der Theoderich aber nicht nachkam.1

Arnold bietet eine solide Zusammenfassung der Diskussion über Theoderichs Rechtsstatus,2 die über Bekanntes insofern hinausgeht, als er eben postuliert, der Gote sei als "legitimate Roman emperor" anerkannt gewesen (p. 63-71). Nicht überzeugen kann in diesem Zusammenhang Arnolds Argument, die Konfession Theoderichs sei dabei kein Hindernis gewesen, da es bereits früher „arianische" Kaiser gegeben habe (p. 73) — diese Position verkennt, dass die besagten Herrscher über hundert Jahre früher und vor dem Konzil von Konstantinopel von 381 regiert hatten. Um 500 war hingegen ein arianisches Bekenntnis ein nachgerade eindeutiges Kennzeichen für einen "Barbaren",3 der, wie Prokop ausführt (Hist. 3,6,3), unmöglich Kaiser werden konnte.

Arnold vertritt die Position, Theoderich habe als Kaiser bewusst die Tradition des augusteischen Prinzipats aufgegriffen, denn "this was the kind of emperor, a republican emperor, for which Italians longed" (p. 74). Seine Ausführungen gipfeln in der Kernthese: "Theoderic was unequivocally the Roman emperor in the West, not just some sort of quasi-imperial figure" (p. 89). Theoderich habe dies unterstrichen, indem er sich ein offen kaiserliches Auftreten zugelegt habe (pp. 92-115). Allerdings widerspricht sich Arnold im Grunde selbst, wenn er konstatiert, dass es im Prinzipatsdiskurs gerade darum gegangen sei, die Machtverhältnisse zu verschleiern: "Just as republican principes were in fact reges in disguise, so too were 'Gothic' principes imperatores and basileis in disguise" (p. 78).

Im dritten Abschnitt (Kapitel 5 und 6) widmet sich Arnold sodann der Koexistenz von gotischen Kriegern und Italikern in Theoderichs Reich. Indem die foederati zu Verteidigern römischer civilitas geworden seien, hätten sie weitgehend aufgehört, als "Barbaren" zu gelten (p. 126f.). "Goths and Italo-Romans were now the 'Romans'" (p. 133). Abgesehen davon, dass Arnold Quellenbelege für diese mutige These schuldig bleibt, stellt sich die Frage, ob die eigentliche Konfliktlinie in der Spätantike nicht ohnehin weniger zwischen "Barbaren" und "Römern" als vielmehr zwischen Militärs und Zivilisten verlief und sich ein Krieger, der einen Zivilisten schlecht behandelte, in den Augen des letzteren eben barbarisch verhielt. Stattdessen konstatiert Arnold, Theoderich selbst sei aufgrund seiner Jugend am östlichen Kaiserhof ohnehin derart vertraut mit römischer Kultur gewesen, dass er weniger Gote als vielmehr "authentically Constantinopolitan, authentically east Roman" (p. 147) gewesen sei. Doch folgt Arnold hier unabsichtlich einem überkommenen Verständnis von Ethnizität, denn "römisch" oder "barbarisch" wurde man primär durch Selbst- und Fremdzuschreibung, nicht durch Erziehung. Letztlich bleibt Arnold einen Quellenbeleg schuldig, der explizit zeigen würde, dass sich Theoderich nicht als Gote, sondern als Römer verstand. Gerade das beharrliche Festhalten am Arianismus illustriert vielmehr, dass es dem rex darum ging, zwar keine unüberschreitbare Grenze, wohl aber eine deutliche Distinktion zwischen "Goten" und "Römern" zu bewahren – im Unterschied zu seinem Rivalen Chlodwig. Zuzustimmen ist Arnold hingegen, wenn er betont, dass die Bezugnahme auf die vermeintlich uralte amalische Herrscherfamilie Theoderich gerade in den Augen der Römer zusätzliche Legitimität verleihen sollte (pp. 162-174). Das dynastische Prinzip war in der Spätantike tatsächlich von herausragender Bedeutung für eine rechtmäßige Herrschaft.4

Im vierten Abschnitt (Kapitel 7 und 8) demonstriert Arnold, wie Theoderichs Herrschaft von den Zeitgenossen als neue Blütezeit gefeiert wurde (wobei der Umgang mit panegyrischen Texten allerdings methodisch nicht immer überzeugt). Zweifellos trifft es zu, dass Italien nun, nach dem Ende der Bürgerkriege, die im 5. Jahrhundert zum Untergang des westlichen Kaisertums geführt hatten, eine deutliche Erholungsphase erlebte, wofür man Theoderich feierte (pp. 194-200). Auch die demonstrative Fürsorge und Aufmerksamkeit, die Theoderich — darin durchaus an kaiserliche Vorbilder anknüpfend — der Stadt Rom zuteilwerden ließ, wird von Arnold anschaulich beschrieben (pp. 201-229). Die gilt auch für Theoderichs Außenpolitik (pp. 231-294), der sich Arnold im letzten Abschnitt widmet; klar arbeitet er heraus, wie die Inbesitznahme Südgalliens von der senatorischen Elite als Wiedervereinigung mit dem Römischen Reich gefeiert wurde. Auf einen kurzen Epilog, in dem Arnold die These vertritt, Autoren wie Prokop hätten das legitime Kaisertum Theoderichs im Nachhinein bewusst zu "a barbarous deviation, a kingdom ruled by Gothic tyrants" (p. 302) verzerrt, folgt eine gute Bibliographie, die trotz ihrer relativen Kürze die meisten relevanten Arbeiten zum Thema auflistet.5 Ein Index schließt das Buch ab.

Das Urteil über Arnolds gelehrte und kenntnisreiche Arbeit fällt zwiespältig aus. Zum einen gelangt er durch intensive Quellenarbeit in vielen Punkten zu überzeugenden Einzelbeobachtungen, und seine Grundannahme, das ostgotische Italien sei aus zeitgenössischer Sicht eine römische res publica gewesen und, anders als es A. H. M. Jones einst in einem einflussreichen Aufsatz postuliert hat,6 kein germanisches Königreich, ist plausibel. Der weströmische Senat und der Hof in Ravenna existierten noch bis weit ins 6. Jahrhundert, und mit ihnen bestand auch das Hesperium Imperium fort. Allerdings gilt zugleich, dass Arnold beständig Gefahr läuft, Diskurs und Wirklichkeit zu verwechseln. Es ging Männern wie Cassiodor darum, der Herrschaft des arianischen rex ein für die zivilen Eliten (und den oströmischen Kaiser) akzeptables Antlitz zu verleihen. In diesen Zusammenhang gehören auch die von Arnold überzeugend herausgearbeiteten Bezüge auf die Prinzipatsideologie unter Theoderich: Lägen uns entsprechende Texte aus der Zeit Odoakers vor, klängen sie wirklich so anders?

Aus diesem Grund führt wohl auch Arnolds These, Theoderich habe nicht nur mit kaiserlichen Insignien und Repräsentationsformen gespielt, sondern sei buchstäblich weströmischer Kaiser gewesen, in die Irre. Denn spätestens seit 69 n. Chr. war ausnahmslos jeder römische Kaiser eindeutig durch die Titulatur Imperator Caesar Augustus gekennzeichnet – Titel, die Theoderich niemals geführt hat; die berühmte Inschrift, die ihn als Augustus bezeichnet (ILS 827), ist eine singuläre Ausnahme und wurde nicht im Namen des Goten gesetzt. Auch wenn es in der spätantiken Literatur, wie Arnold zutreffend feststellt, möglich geworden war, das Imperium Romanum als regnum zu bezeichnen, so war dies doch stets ein inoffizieller Ausdruck. Erst über ein Jahrhundert nach Theoderichs Tod sollte Heraclius die alte Kaisertitulatur fallen lassen und sich selbst offiziell als basileus bezeichnen.7 Um das Jahr 500 hingegen war fraglos für jeden Zeitgenossen klar, dass sich der rex und pius princeps Theoderich zwar so weit wie irgend möglich einer kaiserlichen Stellung annäherte — so sehr, dass Prokop ihn rückblickend als Usurpator (tyrannos) bezeichnen konnte (Hist. 5,1,29) –, den entscheidenden letzten Schritt aber eben vermied: Theoderich war zwar das Haupt der weströmischen Regierung und hatte faktisch kaisergleiche Macht. Aber er war ebenso wenig ein Kaiser, wie Augustus ein König gewesen war, sondern eben doch eine "quasi-imperial figure"; denn wer nicht den Titel Augustus beanspruchte, der war auch kein römischer Kaiser. Theoderich stand damit nicht etwa, wie Arnold annimmt, in der Tradition eine princeps wie Trajan (der sich selbst selbstverständlich als Imperator Caesar Augustus bezeichnet hatte), sondern vielmehr in der von Männern wie Aetius, Ricimer und Odoaker: Spätestens seit Constantius III. war der weströmische patricius et magister militum der eigentliche Machthaber im Hesperium Imperium; aber seit Odoaker residierte der Augustus, dem man sich dabei nominell unterordnete, nicht mehr in Rom oder Ravenna, sondern in Konstantinopel. Und zumindest im Rückblick bezeichnete ein Autor wie Ennodius auch Ricimer als princeps (Vita Epiph. 53).

Zwar war jeder Kaiser ein princeps, doch nicht jeder princeps war ein Kaiser. Genau dies machte den Terminus – "inexact enough to avoid offense" (p. 75) – aber so reizvoll für einen Machthaber, der wie ein Kaiser über Römer herrschen wollte, ohne ein Kaiser zu sein. Den spannendsten Punkt scheint Arnold dabei im Grunde zu übersehen: Die Prinzipatsideologie war 500 Jahre vor Theoderich entwickelt worden, um einer gewaltsam errungenen Alleinherrschaft, die den geltenden Normen eigentlich fundamental widersprach, den Anschein von Legitimität zu verleihen; unter Theoderich diente sie demselben Zweck. So, wie sie einst den Bürgerkriegsgeneral und Machthaber (potens rerum omnium, r. g. 34,1) Octavian in den akzeptablen princeps Augustus verwandelt hatte, so transformierte sie nun — in modifizierter Form — den gotischen Föderatenführer Theoderich, dessen Invasion Italien in einen jahrelangen Bürgerkrieg gestürzt hatte, in einen akzeptablen pius princeps Theodericus rex. Die Parallelen sind bemerkenswert. Getragen wurde dieser Diskurs in beiden Fällen von der senatorischen Elite. Auf ihre Kooperation war Theoderich kaum weniger angewiesen, als es einst Augustus gewesen war.

Theoderichs Reich verstand sich nicht ohne Grund als Fortsetzung des Weströmischen Reiches. Von einer "imperialen Restauration" kann allerdings insofern dennoch gesprochen werden, als es dem rex und patricius gelang, die Macht der Regierung in Ravenna zu stabilisieren und auszuweiten und Italien zu befrieden. Die große Leistung des Goten und seiner Umgebung bestand dabei darin, seiner Herrschaft in den Augen vieler Senatoren und des populus Legitimität zu verleihen.8 Theoderich konnte darum sogar darauf verzichten, die 498 aus Konstantinopel zurückgesandten ornamenta palatii zu verwenden, um einen Marionettenkaiser zu erheben – etwas, worauf Ricimer noch angewiesen zu sein geglaubt hatte. Ermöglicht wurde Theoderich diese Verständigung mit der zivilen Elite nicht zuletzt durch gebildete Römer wie Cassiodor, die ein ideologisches Konstrukt schufen, das die Herrschaft eines arianischen rex über ein faktisch unabhängiges Groß-Italien in eine äußerlich mit spätrömischen Normen vereinbare Form brachte. In diesem Zusammenhang ist auch verständlich, dass man sich bemühte, die Unterschiede zwischen den foederati und der römischen Zivilbevölkerung kleinzureden. Natürlich hätte man die arianischen Krieger Theoderichs als "Barbaren" bezeichnen können – aber dies zu tun lag ebenso wenig im Interesse von Männern wie Cassiodor wie es einst im Interesse Plinius des Jüngeren gelegen hatte, den optimus princeps Trajan einen Tyrannen zu nennen.

Arnold hat daher weniger eine Arbeit über die Realitäten im spätantiken Italien und Gallien vorgelegt als vielmehr eine Studie zum weströmischen Elitendiskurs unter den Ostgoten. Auch wenn man seine Kernthese vom "Emperor Theoderic" für unhaltbar halten mag, besitzt sein Buch dennoch aufgrund zahlreicher wichtiger Einzelbeobachtungen und der gründlichen Aufarbeitung des Quellenmaterials einen hohen Wert. Arnolds Arbeit stellt damit einen problematischen, aber wichtigen Beitrag zur Diskussion dar, dem eine breite Rezeption zu wünschen ist.


1.   Vgl. H. Börm: "Das weströmische Kaisertum nach 476", in: J. Wiesehöfer etc. (eds.), Monumentum et instrumentum inscriptum, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2008, pp. 47–69.
2.   Siehe zuletzt H.-U. Wiemer: "Odovakar und Theoderich. Herrschaftskonzepte nach dem Ende des Kaisertums im Westen", in: M. Meier – S. Patzold (eds.), Chlodwigs Welt. Organisation von Herrschaft um 500, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2014, pp. 293–338.
3.   Vgl. nun die Beiträge in G. M. Berndt – R. Steinacher (eds.): Arianism. Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed, Farnham: Ashgate 2014.
4.   Vgl. H. Börm: "Born to be Emperor. The Principle of succession and the Roman monarchy", in: J. Wienand (ed.), Contested Monarchy, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2015, pp. 239–264.
5.   Profitiert hätte Arnolds Arbeit allerdings von C. Schäfer: Der weströmische Senat als Träger antiker Kontinuität unter den Ostgotenkönigen, St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae 1991.
6.   Vgl. A.H.M. Jones: "The constitutional Position of Odoacer and Theoderic", JRS 52 (1962), pp. 126–130: "Odoacer and Theoderic were kings pure and simple, in the same position as the other barbarian kings" (p. 126). Jones wandte sich damit vor allem gegen Th. Mommsen: "Ostgothische Studien", NA 14 (1889), 223–249 und 451–544.
7.   Vgl. G. Rösch: Onoma Basileias. Studien zum offiziellen Gebrauch der Kaisertitel in spätantiker und frühbyzantinischer Zeit, Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 1978, pp. 106f.
8.   Zur spätrömischen Monarchie als „Akzeptanzsystem" vgl. R. Pfeilschifter: Der Kaiser und Konstantinopel, Berlin: De Gruyter 2013, pp. 1–40.

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