Sunday, May 31, 2015


James Morwood, Stephen Anderson, A Little Greek Reader. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xvii, 293. ISBN 9780199311729. $19.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Antonia Ruppel, Cornell University (

Version at BMCR home site


[A Little Greek Reader is based on Mary C. English and Georgia L. Irby's A Little Latin Reader. (BMCR review at 2012.09.11.]

We learn ancient languages so that we may read texts written in them; and for the most part, these texts will be literary: polished, crafted, complex, meant to impress and please their readers, often having survived only because of just those qualities. The obvious result of this is the lack of ancient language materials suitable for beginners, and while textbook authors have for a long time been writing their own practice sentences, the appeal of Caecilius est in horto and its word order will only take us so far.

This pedagogical desideratum has led to introductory textbooks such as Athenaze or JACT's Reading Greek and Reading Latin, which, rather than relying on example sentences, impart new grammar and vocabulary through continuous stories written by the authors, or Learn to Read Latin and later, Learn to Read Greek, which offers the usual kinds of practice sentence written by the authors themselves, but then adds a large choice of well-annotated original text passages more or less from Chapter 1. The textbooks we have available thus fit a variety of teaching styles, be they motivated by the desire to get through the grammatical material as quickly as possible (at the risk of a rather dry first few weeks or months of instruction), or by the desire to keep the reason why we are learning classical languages right in front of student eyes the entire time (even though that may initially slow things down and result in large and heavy teaching materials: Learn to Read Greek, for example, comes in four big volumes).

For classes that, after an introductory course, are not ready to take on reading a continuous text yet, there are collections of text excerpts. Usually, these contain passages chosen for their linguistic straightforwardness and/or their contents. A Little Greek Reader (ALGR) by James Morwood (one of the authors of Athenaze) and Stephen Anderson takes a slightly different approach.

At A5 size and about half an inch in thickness, ALGR is little indeed – but it contains a lot. Its main part are the sections that contain annotated reading passages ordered by grammatical topic. Many of these passages are introduced in such a way as to not just establish their context, but also the (literary, historical etc.) importance of their contents. Each section is set up by means of a brief summary of the topic(s) to be focused on. These are: Indicative Tenses of the Verb; Basic Use of Cases; Adjectives; Time, Place and Space; Personal Pronouns and αὐτός; Indefinite and Demonstrative Pronouns; Participles (two sections); Relative Clauses; Particles; Indirect Statement; Direct and Indirect Questions; Commands, Prohibitions and Wishes; Purpose Clauses; Result Clauses; Conditionals (two sections); Verbs of Fearing, Precaution and Preventing; Indefinite Sentences; Temporal Clauses; Impersonal Verbs and Verbal Adjectives.

We then get two sections of Additional Passages (one Prose, one Verse), and various appendices: one-paragraph descriptions of 23 ancient Greek authors in alphabetical order for easy reference; sections on different forms of Greek (Homer, Herodotus and the New Testament as compared to literary Attic); a section on meter (focusing on hexameter and iambic trimester); a glossary of literary terms (stylistic figures and phenomena such as liminality, irony or closure); a map of Greece and Asia Minor (very helpful, as Classics students often have absolutely no idea of ancient Mediterranean geography); and finally a reference vocabulary of the words used in the reading passages.

The passages are taken from a variety of authors, going beyond Homer and the 5th-century undergraduate canon to include e.g. Theocritus, Callimachus, Lucian and excerpts from various books of the New Testament. The font used in ALGR is appealing and legible; the layout is spacious and useful for note-taking or marginal remarks on any of the readings. The book is straightforward to navigate, but an index locorum ordered by author as well as a regular index of subject matters at the end of the book would have been even more helpful.

As briefly described above, each section of the main body of the book consists of a short introduction to the topic at hand, followed by a selection of prose and verse passages featuring that topic. Some of these introductions are excellent: concise and to the point, providing just the right amount of explanation and number of examples. The introduction to the first section on participles, for example, reads as follows: 'Participles are verbal adjectives; i.e., they are formed from verbs and so describe an action, but they are adjectives and so in Greek regularly agree with a noun or pronoun, or with a noun or pronoun understood. The future participle, often with ὡς, can express purpose' (p. 43). This is exactly what one needs to be reminded of before going on to the text excerpts provided to elucidate the various participial uses and functions.

Other sections would perhaps benefit from short examples within the introductory paragraph: in the section on the adjective, for example, we find descriptions of the various possible positions of an adjective in relation to the noun it qualifies. A simple inclusion of, e.g., ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος, ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὁ ἀγαθός, ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἀγαθός and οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος in that introductory paragraph would have made things clearer without requiring much extra space. The very first section, furthermore, which focuses on 'The Indicative Tenses of the Verb' and presumably is included for completeness' sake, appears slightly incongruous: it is not used to introduce aspect (at least there is no explicit mention of it) but truly just to introduce tense; yet for students who might benefit from a reminder of Greek indicative tenses, a text passage that requires the note "translate the infinitive as an imperative" (p. 1) or one that contains an internally complex genitive absolute (σοῦ δ' ἀφώνου κατ' ἐκείνους τοὺς χρόνους ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις καθημένου, p. 2) might be considered too difficult to be useful. Similarly in the second section (which focuses on case usage): the paragraph on the accusative lists its uses as 'direct object of a verb, accusative of respect, and after many prepositions, especially those expressing motion toward'. That the accusative of respect is mentioned, but not even given a rudimentary explanation, does not seem ideal at this stage (and the passage used to elucidate accusative usage includes numerous accusatives employed as direct objects, but no accusative of respect). In the sections on more advanced topics (such as commands, prohibitions and wishes), this becomes less of an issue, and particularly the sections on conditional clauses contain excellent text passages.

The passages themselves range from one word ('εὕρηκα!') to one page in length, and there are enough of them that an instructor can pick a handful based on the needs and interests of the specific group they are teaching. The annotations sometimes explain single words and sometimes translate whole phrases. The latter would sometimes have been more instructive had a brief literal translation of the expression in question been added; yet this would of course have made the book much longer. Some notes also comment not on grammatical matters, but on literary or other implications of a word in the given context. Especially in the first few sections, more grammatical notes will likely be required; but that is only really an issue for anyone using the book on their own rather than in a classroom context with a teacher at hand.

Overall, ALGR will surely offer a very stimulating addition to Greek language instruction for any teacher who knows the book well and is aware of which elements may need to be further commented on in class (whether while translating together or when assigning a particular passage for homework). Given that its strength lies in its wide range of well-chosen text passages, a possible additional use of ALGR could be as a collection just for teachers, to be drawn on whenever they would like a short literary example of a particular construction, e.g., in an introductory-level class.

ALGR is ideal for those who wish to give their students a taste of a broad variety of authors and genres while reviewing Greek syntax, perhaps especially after a first-year course using a book that did not feature much (or any) original Greek. Given the difficulty of even the passages in the first section, it cannot easily be used to supplement such an introductory book, and, as stated in their introduction, the authors do not intend for ALGR to be employed in such a way (but "throughout or at the end of an intermediate course in the second year of college and university study"). However, it seems that with some more annotation and the addition of a few easier texts specifically in the early sections, such use at lower levels of instruction could have been feasible, making the book more versatile. ALGR does not seem intended for US Classics departments (where courses beyond the introductory level would likely focus on reading a continuous text rather than excerpts), yet within its stated aim, it performs admirably and provides what the best Classics teaching should: texts introduced not just as translation exercises, but also as a constant reminder of why we still study these 'dead' languages in the first place.

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Christopher S. van den Berg, The World of Tacitus' 'Dialogus de Oratoribus': Aesthetics and Empire in Ancient Rome. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xiii, 344. ISBN 9781107020900. $110.00.

Reviewed by Victoria E. Pagán, University of Florida (

Version at BMCR home site


[Disclaimer: The author contributed to the Companion to Tacitus which I edited; other than this we have no connection.]

In this close analysis of Tacitus' Dialogus, Christopher van den Berg foregrounds two problems and related ideas that lead toward a comprehensive understanding of the place of eloquentia in the literary history and literary criticism of the Roman empire. First, in challenging the assumption that the work is about the decline of oratory under the principate, van den Berg reevaluates the inconsistencies in the speeches that have detracted from its interpretive value and he shows instead that Tacitus is able "to employ meaningful inconsistencies in the service of a larger argument and to intervene obliquely in a work so as to inform our understanding of its statements" (p. 72; cf. p. 56). Second, beyond identifying the interconnections between the Dialogus and Cicero's oratorical treatises, van den Berg demonstrates how "the Dialogus' voracious allusions absorb the strategies of its predecessor, remodeling de Oratore's procedures to suit its own designs" (p. 227). That is, the Dialogus is an account of the changes in rhetorical practice that constitute the modern incarnation of eloquentia. These two strategies for reading the Dialogus allow for a fresh hermeneutic: "Rather than thinking of the Dialogus in terms of decline or its opposite, we might better be served by attempting to understand what might be at stake for Tacitus in choosing to frame the problem in those terms" (p. 238). We are certainly served well by van den Berg's thorough and sophisticated analysis.

In his quest, van den Berg successfully dismantles some of the major assumptions that have stalled full appreciation of the Dialogus: that the work moves in one direction toward one goal (the decline of oratory); that the speeches are discreet units that can be studied in isolation even as one assumes a unity of purpose; that speakers can be identified with distinct ideological positions or even with Tacitus himself (e.g., "We take one character to represent the entire mindset of an author," p. 44). van den Berg identifies two strands of interpretation that have driven scholarship to date: the first he calls "character-oriented readings," that judge the sincerity of the speakers and Tacitus' sympathy with them; the second is the so-called "persuasion-oriented readings," that account for inconsistencies within individual speeches and across the dialogue as a whole by attributing to "the rhetorically trained reader" (p. 67) the ability to discern the arguments for himself. In place of these traditional approaches, van den Berg proffers the concept of "argumentative dynamics" (p. 90), a theory of reading dialogue: Tacitus uses the form of the dialogue to reveal the techniques by which the work is to be interpreted. Put simply: the willful engagement in dialogue requires the acceptance that one's point of view will be challenged and possibly even changed by the process (e.g., "Tacitus pushes the reader to adopt and then (possibly) to abandon a viewpoint in the face of new options," p. 294).

The first chapter summarizes the Dialogus, the setting, the contents of the speeches, the context of production in Tacitus' lifetime, and the role of declamation in the Roman empire, so as to direct inquiry toward the risks of composing a work on such sophisticated principles. Chapter two reviews the previous scholarship to clear the path for the proposition of argumentative dynamics. After these two introductory chapters, the next three engage the Dialogus in close readings. Chapter three takes as its starting point the "interstitial passages," (p. 98), that is, all of the content that is not in the form of a speech, to reveal the mechanisms for evaluating eloquentia and the relationship between excellence in oratory and the ensuing fame, the patently social result of eloquentia. Van den Berg ably shows how Tacitus has freighted the framework of the dialogue—the preface, the setting, and the interludes—with metacritical gestures. Chapters four and five turn to the speeches proper, to examine how the Dialogus contributes to a discussion about the efficacy of eloquentia in the Roman world and how the speeches examine the cultural and historical development of eloquentia such that a general continuity in oratorical practice can be discerned from Republic to Empire. The last two chapters continue this investigation of literary history, chapter six by scrutiny of intertextuality with Cicero's de Oratore, and chapter seven by examination of Tacitus' engagement with other key texts in the history of literary criticism (Cicero's Brutus, Horace's Satires and Epistles, and Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria). The Appendix provides a detailed outline of the Dialogus; in addition to anatomizing the dialogue into its fourteen constituent parts (e.g., Prologue, Setting and Interlocutors, Themes of the Debate, Aper Speech I, etc.), van den Berg summarizes sentence-by-sentence, so that it is easy for the reader to identify critical junctures within speeches. The book concludes with an ample and current bibliography, a serviceable general index, and an index locorum (a sine qua non for this type of study).

No doubt a book about forgiving inconsistencies runs the risk of reinscribing its subject. For a book that values Tacitus' abandonment of viewpoints in the face of new options, it's no stretch to ask the same of its readers, and it's easy to be carried downstream. How do the claims that Tacitus uses Aper to dramatize the educational model of Cicero's de Oratore (p. 216) square with the denial of the "synechdochic fallacy" (p. 44)? If we should not identify individual speakers in the Dialogus with characters or with the author, then why should we accept that Aper is modeled on the figures of Cicero's Antonius and Crassus (p. 221)? An early hedge clause is found on page 97, where van den Berg obliquely describes his approach as "a malleable interpretive framework." Such a parenthetical aside seems to leave the door open, so that by the end of chapter six van den Berg can observe that Tacitus' allusions to Cicero "need not in every case be anchored to a single character, but rather oriented to the argumentative interplay that develops throughout a speech or even an entire text" (p. 240). The reader may resist the call to abandon viewpoints in the face of new options; it's less important whether the argument is airtight. More valuable is the demonstration of a methodology for intertextual reading that puts the apparatus developed for Latin poetry to the service of prose. Van den Berg shows that structural organization and parallelism are indicators of literary interaction as meaningful as the conventional paradigms of intertextuality and as prevalent in prose writing as traditional correspondences are in poetry.

In sum, the success of the book lies in its pluralistic reading of the Dialogus that resists teleology so as to perceive in it the values and principles that guided the practice of oratory in Tacitus' time. Along the way, van den Berg forces a reconsideration of previous scholarly approaches and advances a workable theory for reading dialogue. Any future scholarship on the Dialogus will have to account for van den Berg's significant contributions.

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Matthias Gelzer, Cicero: ein biographischer Versuch. 2., erweiterte Auflage mit einer forschungsgeschichtlichen Einleitung und einer Ergänzungsbibliographie von Werner Riess (first published 1969). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014. Pp. xxvii, 407. ISBN 9783515099035. €39.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Andrew R. Dyck, Los Angeles (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The Foreword explains that this is the third of Gelzer's biographies to be issued in a new edition, the biographies of Pompey (2005, ed. E. Herrmann-Otto) and Caesar (2008, ed. E. Baltrusch) having preceded. The Intoduction places Gelzer within the history of scholarship, beginning with a biographical sketch from his birth as son of a Protestant pastor in Liestal, Switzerland, his studies in Basel and Leipzig, where he produced a dissertation on Byzantine administration in Egypt (1907), and Habilitation in Freiburg with the pioneering study of the Roman nobility.1 There followed his call to Greifswald and acceptance of German citizenship in 1915, his brief tenure of a professorship in Strasbourg prior to the end of the Great War, and his call to Frankfurt/M. (1919), where he taught until retirement in 1955 and died in 1974.

Biography is a genre of which readers (and therefore publishers) are fond, whereas historians are usually not keen on writing about the lives of individuals. Gelzer's shift to biography thus calls for explanation. Riess emphasizes that he made the move under the influence of the Pauly-Wissowa Realenzyklopädie, for which he wrote a series of important articles (p.XI). Christ, on the other hand, connects it with the political and intellectual caesura in Germany in the aftermath of the Great War.2 The change of genre conceals, however, a continuing interest in the social dimension. Thus Gelzer insists that such figures as Lucullus and Brutus need to be seen against the background of the noble families from which they sprang.

Gelzer's conception of history combined a rejection of moral judgments in the manner of Ranke3 with a Hegelian view that there were certain inevitable historical currents that individuals either promote or reject. In view of these premises, it is no surprise that Gelzer followed Mommsen in viewing Caesar as (to use Hegel's term) the "world-historical individual" of the late Republic, who saw the trend of history and sought to move events in that direction. Hence Gelzer chose Caesar as his first biographical subject (1921 and subsequent editions). For the RE article on Cicero of 1939, Gelzer was assigned to write the section on Cicero as a politician, and that remained the angle from which he primarily judged the man, whom he viewed as Caesar's inferior, particularly in insight into power relations and the adaptation of means to ends. Nor was Cicero the only biographical subject on whom Gelzer passed such judgment: he also denied the title "statesman," e.g., to M. Crassus and Cato Uticensis. Gelzer showed his appreciation of Cicero as a writer in the first edition of this biography (1969) by adding summaries and assessments of Cicero's literary works. Riess, however, makes this move seem bolder than it really was by placing it in the 30s, rather than the 60s (p.XXVII). Gelzer had, in fact, little choice but to do so if he was to claim this as a full biography and not merely a reissue of his RE article in monograph form with updated bibliography; and the summaries are, it must be said, dutiful rather than brilliant.

What distinguishes Gelzer's biography is: 1) the thoroughness with which the sources are mastered, assessed, and appropriately cited, so that this remains the first place to go to inform oneself about facts and evidence; 2) the maturity and independence of judgment based upon a wide and deep familiarity with the relevant history and institutions. Hence Gelzer's biography is still considered, alongside Shackleton Bailey's work on the letters, one of the twin peaks of postwar Ciceronian studies.4 That said, the book also has its limitations. The tacit premise is that one's views of Caesar and Cicero are reciprocally related. Moreover, Gelzer's view of the late Republic was essentially fixed by the time when the Caesar was first issued and was not revised to take account of the experience of totalitarianism (a point criticized by Gelzer's gifted student, H. Strasburger: pp.XII-XV), in light of which the figure of a "strong man," supposedly personifying and uniting his people, might appear less attractive than it had to Mommsen.5 In the meantime, other challenges have been mounted to the perspective of Mommsen and Gelzer: Was traditional Roman government incapable of reform from within?6 Did Caesar have something better to offer, or was he merely a military adventurer (he seemed to have no plan for reforming the government of Rome but was preparing a military expedition to Parthia at the time of his assassination), or indeed a war criminal, in light of the annihilation of some one million Gauls?

If Gelzer overestimated Caesar, did he also underestimate Cicero? Riess notes a tendency in subsequent scholarship to treat Cicero, even as a politician, more sympathetically than Gelzer did. There is, for instance, a recognition of the significance of speech-acts that helps explain why Cicero was considered a desirable political partner by both Caesar and Pompey. There is also an appreciation of Cicero's position as a highly successful networker. This is latent in Gelzer's many references to Cicero's contacts but not given as much weight by him as it is nowadays. Riess remarks that Gelzer reacts to Cicero's criticism of Caesar, especially in De officiis after Caesar's death, as if he himself had been attacked, citing p.329: "Ciceros Beschimpfung des toten Caesar ist wohl das Unedelste, was sein unermüdliche Griffel hinterlassen hat" ("Cicero's invective against the dead Caesar is surely the most ignoble legacy of his indefatigible pen"). Riess also points to recent research on exempla and memorial culture, both characteristically Roman (pp.XVII-XIX). From this perspective, though it may seem unfair at first glance, Cicero's criticism of the dead Caesar in De officiis, a work intended for his son Marcus and no doubt others of his generation (cf. Div. 2.5), is understandable: Caesar was by now an exemplum and had to be branded as wholly unacceptable.

It is a general problem that Gelzer cannot accept the validity of Cicero's point of view. Cicero had, in fact, a very different conception of statesmanship from that of Caesar. Gelzer thought it a capital mistake when Cicero declined Caesar's offer of a place on his team as the latter prepared for his consulate at the end of 60.7 But Cicero knew from Vatinius' speech at the beginning of his tribunate of the plebs that Caesar was prepared to override the auspices, a policy of which Cicero disapproved (Vat. 14, Sest. 114; Leg. 2.21). Cicero could not have participated if he was to remain true to his ideals (Att. 2.3[23].4). 114). Cicero again received overtures from Caesar in 49 during the early phase of the civil war. Gelzer loses patience with Cicero's deliberations, which could take the form of debating theses in the manner of a philosopher or rhetorician.8 But this was characteristic of Cicero as one trained in the methods of Academic philosophy with its careful weighing of alternatives against each other;9 to wish for him to have done otherwise is to wish him to be a different man. Again, Gelzer's notion that what Cicero found most painful under Caesar's dictatorship was that he could no longer give "big speeches" ("grosse Reden") in the senate10 amounts to a caricature. Perhaps the best answer to Gelzer's charge that Cicero lacked an "instinct for power" ("Machtinstinkt") is the fact that he was able to hold together the coalition against Mark Antony for eight months. Though Gelzer's criticisms of some of his limitations, especially Cicero's overestimate of his ability to influence events, retain their validity, his measuring of Cicero by standards that were alien to him blocks, rather than promotes, understanding of the biographical subject.

Riess devotes a section of the Introduction to trends in Ciceronian studies since 1969. This ought to be read in combination with Riess 1999, which offers detailed contextualization and comparison of Fuhrmann 1993 and Habicht 1990, which for that reason are not discussed in the present volume. The significance of Shackleton Bailey's commented editions of the letters — of which only the Letters to Atticus were available to Gelzer by 1969 — seems to have escaped Riess (for some reason, only the fifth volume is cited in the main bibliography, and the editions of Fam.,, and ad M. Brut. fail to appear in the supplementary bibliography). Mitchell's two-volume biography, the most substantial scholarly biography since Gelzer's, is listed in the supplemental bibliography but not discussed in the Introduction. Francophone scholarship is underrepresented: one might have expected reference, e.g., to Achard 1981, Boes 1990, Deniaux 1993, and Loutsch 1994. Among Italian scholars Narducci alone is discussed, and only briefly, with criticism for his reversion to Mommsen's position (p.XXVn79); Marinone 2004 finds no place in the Introduction or supplementary bibliography.

It is helpful that a bibliography now lists the literature cited by Gelzer. This clearly demonstrates the breadth of Gelzer's reading but also the fundamental importance of F. Münzer's articles in the RE. The supplemental bibliography is very selective, and no attempt is made to key the items to relevant passages of the text, e.g., by means of asterisks. A useful guidepost has been removed in that the topics that were formerly indicated in the running heads of the odd-numbered pages have been replaced by the chapter titles (and thus duplicate the headings on the even-numbered pages). I have noticed relatively few typos.

Despite its limitations, this book will prove to be useful if it introduces more readers to Gelzer's biography and prompts further thought about our picture of Cicero and how it has come about. It is, however, no replacement for a new biography, which is overdue (similarly Riess, p. XXVII)11

Table of Contents

Vorwort zur 2. Auflage
Forschungsgeschichtliche Einleitung
I Lehrjahre
II Die ersten Jahre öffentlicher Wirksamkeit
III Die Quaestur und der Beginn der senatorischen Laufbahn
IV Die Anklage des C. Verres
V Von der Aedilität bis zur Praetur
VI Der Kampf um das Konsulat
VII Das Consulat
VIII Die Verteidung der Consulatspolitik
IX Das Exil und die Rückkehr
X "Me status hic rei publicae non delectat"
XI Das Proconsulat
XII Im Bürgerkrieg
XIII Unter Caesars Dictatur
XIV Nach den Iden des März 44
XV Im letzten Kampf für die res publica
Bibliographie von Gelzer verwendeter Literatur


1.   Gelzer 1969.
2.   Christ 1982: 116.
3.   As a general rule. He passed such judgments on occasion, however; see below.
4.   Lintott 2008: vi.
5.   For Mommsen's portrait of Caesar in relation to Louis Napoléon Bonaparte cf. Rebenich 2002: 93-96.
6.   Cf. Welwei 1996.
7.   Pp.110-11; Gelzer 1968: 22 and 24.
8.   P.226: ". . . als ob er die Freiheit besessen hätte, wie ein weltfremder Privatgelehrter nach gesinnungsethischen Prinzipien zu wählen" ("as if he had been at liberty, like an ivory-tower scholar, to choose according to ethical principles").
9.   Cf. Luc. 7.
10.   Gelzer 1968: 14.
11.   References:

Achard, G. 1981. Pratique rhétorique et idéologie politique dans les discours"optimates" de Cicéron. Leiden.
Boes, J. 1990. La philosophie et l'action dans la correspondance de Cicéron. Nancy.
Christ, K. 1982. Römische Geschichte und deutsche Geschichtswissenschaft. Munich.
Deniaux, E. 1993. Clientèles et pouvoir à l'époque de Cicéron. Rome.
Fuhrmann, M. 1993. Cicero und die römische Republik. 3rd edn. Munich-Zurich.
Gelzer, M. 1968. Cicero und Caesar. Wiesbaden.
Idem. 1969. The Roman nobility. Tr. R. Seager. Oxford (orig. 1912).
Habicht, C. 1990. Cicero der Politiker. Munich (= Cicero the Politician, Baltimore, 1989).
Lintott, A. 2008. Cicero as evidence. Oxford.
Loutsch, C. 1994. L'exorde dans les discours de Cicéron. Brussels.
Marinone, N. 2004. Cronologia ciceroniana. 2nd edn. Ed. E. Malaspina. Rome and Bologna.
Rebenich, S. 2002. Theodor Mommsen. Eine Biographie. Munich.
Riess, W. 1999. "Die Cicero-Bilder Manfred Fuhrmanns und Christian Habichts vor dem Hintergrund der deutschen Cicero-Forschung," Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 51: 301-21.
Welwei, K.-W. 1996. "Caesars Diktatur, der Prinzipat des Augustus und die Fiktion der historischen Notwendigkeit," Gymnasium 103: 477-97.
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Christopher Whitton, Pliny the Younger: Epistles, Book II. Cambridge Greek and Latin classics. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xiii, 328. ISBN 9780521187275. $34.99 (pb).

Reviewed by Noelle Zeiner-Carmichael, College of Charleston, SC (

Version at BMCR home site

Christopher Whitton's commentary on Pliny's Epistles 2 reinforces the growing scholarly tendency to read the Epistles in sequence and to appreciate individual books as distinct literary units (e.g., Whitton 2010; Gibson and Morello 2012). Whitton's volume rejects previous anthologizing approaches, instead focusing on the twenty letters of Epistles 2, the shortest book of the collection. As stated in the Preface, the volume aims to "help readers construe Pliny's Latin, to situate his work in a historical (and scholarly) context and to offer a literary interpretation" (p. vii). Whitton's chief contribution lies in the third goal, whereby attention to Pliny's structural engineering provides readers an opportunity to appreciate fully the artistry of Book 2and, as well, the entire corpus of Epistles. The return of individual letters to their books and to the whole collection, Whitton notes, "is not only to pay due respect to the integrity of an aesthetically arranged work of art, it is essential to an appreciation of it" (pp. 12-13). Whitton's volume admirably achieves this objective, offering a welcome resource for students and scholars alike, both of whom will benefit from the author's philological expertise and interpretative insight.

The 41-page introduction is divided into 9 sections: (1) Epistles in brief; (2) Pliny's world; (3) A book of letters; (4) Prose d'art; (5) Rhythm; (6) Intertextuality; (7) Afterlife; (8) Transmission, text, indexes; (9) Ad lectorem. In the first, Whitton situates Pliny's letters within their historical context, the epistolary tradition, and previous scholarly approaches to the collection; more recent trends, he observes, have been aimed at reversing the customary mining of letters for use in historical source books or anthologies, which has too often resulted in "eradicating…such meaning as may reside in sequence and interplay within and between books" (p. 1). Section 3, in particular, underscores Pliny's conscientious self-fashioning in producing an "epistolary monument" that will secure his literary immortality. Here Whitton more explicitly demonstrates the benefits of reading the individual book as a unit, aligning this approach with those traditionally applied to books of poetry, such as Horace's Epistles 1 or Odes 2. Attention to Epistles 2 as an independent literary work is, however, balanced by Whitton's observations on the Book's role within the collection as a whole, especially as the second half of a diptych (Epistles 1-2), which weaves together Pliny's preconsular life through analogous letter pairings (p. 19). At the same time, of course, Epistles 2 is constantly engaged in the act of reframing, with many topics and themes anticipating parallel letters in subsequent books (e.g., 2.17 on Pliny's Laurentine villa and 5.6 on the Etruscan villa; Regulus' perjury on his son's life in 2.20 and on the death of his son in 4.2). Sections 4, a glossary of literary terms, and 5, an examination of prose rhythm, will prove especially useful to less experienced Latinists by illustrating Pliny's rhetorical art and stylistic tendencies through specific textual examples.

Following the Introduction is the full text of Epistles 2 (pp. 45-64); Whitton follows the editions of Mynor (1963) and Schuster (1958), noting the few textual divergences in the Introduction (p. 42). The commentary proper (pp. 65-281) elaborates many of the points raised in the Introduction (especially Sections 1-3). Whitton helpfully introduces each epistle with a brief outline of the letter's content, including its political and social milieu, followed by prosopographical remarks. Comments are nicely balanced between grammatical explanations and suggestions for fitting translations that are eloquent and refreshingly modern. Explications of individual words and phrases encourage nuanced readings of the text, offering insightful notes, including intertextual observations and comments on the cultural context in which Pliny wrote. Occasionally, Whitton is prone to over-liberality as, for example, his gloss of precibus (Ep. 2.9.6), "entreaties, common in P. of canvassing" (p. 146), which seems unnecessary, or studiis ((Ep. 2.2.2) "intellectual activity, esp. of a literary kind, abl. with fruor" (p. 88). Yet, in the case of students, more is more, and Whitton's explanations of less familiar usages (e.g., gaudemus with the infinitive, Ep. 2.5.4, p. 114) or technical and idiomatic expressions such as those related to court proceedings (e.g., Ep. 2.11) will benefit even more advanced Latinists and scholars. Abundant cross-references highlight the role of intertextuality in Pliny's letters, increasing the reader's appreciation of Pliny's stylistic and thematic indebtedness to predecessors.

Literary and structural analysis is at the forefront of Whitton's commentary; he discards simple varietas as the organizing principle of Epistles 2, unpacking the book's many structural and thematic complexities. Less discerning readers will certainly benefit from Whitton's observations on the interwoven arrangement between letters, such as the topic of the stingy dinner host (Ep. 2.6) and the statues awarded to Spurinna and Cottius (Ep. 2.7), of which both are introduced by a pair of analogies (a meal and a statue) in Ep. 2.5; or the theme of frugalitas, introduced in (Ep. 2.4 and echoed in (Ep. 2.6. Yet, Whitton's helpful articulation of less immediately obvious connections, especially thematic strains carried across books and within the dyadic Epistles 1-2, offers all readers a much richer reading experience of Pliny. For example, Whitton highlights links between the portrait of the sophist Isaeus in Ep. 2.3, which echoes that of the sophist-philosopher Euphrates in Ep. 1.10 (pp. 89-90), while his discussion of Regulus in Ep. 2.20 makes connections to Pliny's exploitation of him in Epistles 1.5, 4.2, 4.7, and 6.2, significantly enhancing the reader's appreciation of Pliny's epistolary architecture.

No less illuminating are Whitton's analyses of Ep. 2.11 and 2.17, the longest letters of Book 2, in which he aptly demonstrates how 2.11's careful structure accentuates Pliny's dramatic, exemplary role in the court proceedings against Marius Priscus; likewise, the challenging ekphrastic aspects of 2.17 (the Laurentine villa) receive elucidation through Whitton's careful attention to the letter's narrative organization. Thus, in revealing how aspects of length, correspondent, narrative framework, and larger symmetrical and thematic concerns (e.g., otium vs. negotium, pp. 13-15) govern the arrangement of Book 2, Whitton highlights the literary design of the Epistles as a whole.

Some readers may perceive oversights in Whitton's volume: aside from brief comments in the Introduction (Section 1, pp. 4-5) on the issue of authenticity, relevant discussions on epistolary theory and epistolarity are largely absent; so, too, is a fuller account of the court system of the time, a somewhat surprising omission, given the prominence of (Ep. 2.11 as the central letter of Epistles 2 and the lengthy commentary accompanying it. Yet, these are minor objections and do not in the least detract from the volume's overall success. Whitton's insightful interpretations reveal a profound understanding of Epistles 2 and Pliny's collection more generally. Significantly, while the volume maintains the philological and intellectual rigor expected of "Green and Yellow" texts, it does not alienate less experienced Latinists (as I have experienced first-hand with my undergraduates this past semester). In sum, Whitton's philological expertise and insightful discussions provide a sophisticated resource for mature academics and a catalyst for invigorating classroom discussion for students. As a volume that complements the resurgence of epistolography and Plinian studies, Epistles 2 offers Latinists an opportunity to enjoy the experience of reading Pliny's letters in sequence and, subsequently, to appreciate the overall literary and artistic design of Pliny's epistolary oeuvre.

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Ian Rutherford, State Pilgrims and Sacred Observers in Ancient Greece: A Study of Theôriâ and Theôroi. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xxvii, 534. ISBN 9781107038226. $120.00.

Reviewed by Corinne Bonnet, Université de Toulouse Jean Jaurès (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

En 21 chapitres suivis d'un Appendice regroupant une très utile sélection de documents répartis en sept sections chronologiques (p. 361-442), Ian Rutherford, dont les travaux sur les pèlerinages et les voyages dans le monde grec sont connus et appréciés, propose ici une remarquable synthèse sur la théorie et les théores. Le sujet, comme il le souligne d'emblée dans la Préface, méritait assurément plus d'attention qu'il n'en avait reçu jusque-là, dans la mesure où il engage les relations diplomatiques de la polis, les activités religieuses, la gestion du territoire et la représentation de l'espace, les mobilités et leurs réseaux, ainsi que les pratiques symboliques qui s'y rapportent, bref un large éventail de pratiques, plus ou moins codifiées, et un ensemble de représentations et d'imaginaires liés à la relation des cités avec les dieux et des cités entre elles. En traitant systématiquement le sujet, en le décomposant en une série de facettes, toutes analysées avec clarté et érudition, Ian Rutherford offre un volume précieux et stimulant qui est destiné à devenir une référence.

Le chapitre initial s'attache à définir le sujet et les problématiques qu'il soulève. Rappelant que le cadre de ce qu'on appelle traditionnellement la polis religion reste le plus pertinent pour appréhender la relation que chaque communauté, inscrite dans un territoire, noue avec les dieux – position que je partage en tous points – l'Auteur déploie les divers visages des pratiques religieuses extraterritoriales : participation à des festivals communs, annonce d'un festival à venir, consultation d'oracles, offrandes dans des sanctuaires « étrangers », de manière régulière ou occasionnelle, visite à des sanctuaires de type « mystérique » ou de type thérapeutique, échanges cultuels entre métropole et colonie, gestion collective d'un sanctuaire fédéral, accueil de réfugiés ou suppliants. L'ensemble de ces catégories peut faire intervenir des théores, c'est-à-dire des personnes déléguées officiellement par la cité pour intervenir, d'une manière ou d'une autre, dans un sanctuaire extérieur à celle-ci. Investis d'une mission, les théores, si l'on s'en tient à l'étymologie, « observent » quelque chose. I. Rutherford décortique la question de l'étymologie et de la polysémie des termes concernés. Les théores relèvent, en quelque sorte, du registre anthropologique de l'observation participative. Leur inscription dans des réseaux, de plus en plus intenses à l'époque hellénistique, témoigne précisément de leur implication, à des degrés variés, dans des logiques d'échange et de réciprocité que l'Aauteur envisage dans le détail dans la suite du livre. Le chapitre introductif propose aussi un très utile état de la question, un point sur la terminologie moderne ('state pilgrim' et 'pilgrimage', ou pas ?) et une présentation du plan de l'ouvrage.

Celui se déploie à travers 19 sections thématiques agrémentées d'un épilogue. En premier lieu, ce sont les sources qui sont présentées. Attestés entre le VIe siècle av. J.-C. et le IIIe siècle ap. J.-C., les théores ont laissé des traces avant tout épigraphiques, de diverses natures, mais inégalement réparties dans le temps et dans l'espace. Ces traces, dans la plupart des cas, sont inhérentes à leur mission et sont destinées à la fois aux hommes et aux dieux. Elles témoignent aussi des processus de régulation qui accompagnent les missions et visent à protéger les théores. Outre les inscriptions, le dossier comprend des papyrus et un large panel de sources littéraires, d'Homère et Théognis à Héliodore d'Émèse, c'est-à-dire tout au long de l'arc chronologique considéré dans cette ample monographie. Dans la foulée, I. Rutherford propose un historical overview du sujet, en examinant successivement les débuts (y compris les rétroprojections mythologiques), les époques classique, hellénistique et romaine. Il en conclut que la pratique de la théorie était aussi versatile que simple, de sorte qu'elle n'a cessé d'être remodelée, repensée, adaptée aux exigences d'un monde en marche.

À partir de la quatrième section du livre, on entre dans les pratiques de la théorie : tout d'abord celle de prendre part à un « festival », c'est-à-dire à des fêtes religieuses partagées, au niveau local ou régional, parfois panhellénique, généralement associées à des agônes. Un cas particulier est celui des relations entre métropoles et colonies qui entretiennent leur lien génétique par le biais de performances religieuses. Dans certains cas – c'est la matière du chapitre 5 – la mission des théores n'est pas tant de prendre part à un festival que de l'annoncer (epangelia) et de proclamer une trêve. I. Rutheford montre bien comment les listes de theorodokoi, ces délégués chargés d'accueillir les théores, nous renseignent sur les dispositifs mis en place pour encadrer les missions étrangères et renforcent l'impression d'un vaste réseau diplomatique au sein duquel la notion de réciprocité est essentielle. Chacun est tour à tour reçu et recevant, bref « hôte » dans les deux sens du terme. Le chapitre 6 concerne les missions (publiques, beaucoup plus que privées si l'on s'attache à suivre la notion de « théorie/théore ») visant à consulter des orales, dont Théognis fournit la première trace dans sa première élégie. Tout à fait intéressantes sont les pages consacrées aux procédures visant à se protéger contre les fraudes oraculaires. I. Rutherford met ensuite en scène les théores portant des offrandes (prémices, animaux pour le sacrifice, objets, aphidrymata, etc.), tels qu'on les voit apparaître en particulier dans les inventaires (à Délos, Athènes, Didymes, etc.) et dans les sources littéraires. Dans ce chapitre comme dans tous les autres, l'analyse est étayée par une connaissance approfondie des dossiers. L'érudition, sans jamais être encombrante, est omniprésente, avec d'innombrables références aux sources et une superficie d'enquête vraiment impressionnante, à l'échelle de la Méditerranée. Le chapitre 8 traite de l'existence, dans certains contextes, de magistrats appelés « théores », en partant du cas célèbre du passage des théores à Thasos. L'Auteur montre judicieusement, en passant en revue les divers dossiers locaux ou régionaux, le rôle de ces figures institutionnelles qui articulent le dedans et le dehors de la cité. Leur appartenance à l'élite sociale confirme ce que l'anthropologie suggère, à savoir que le contrôle exercé dans la communauté n'est pas dissociable de celui qu'on s'efforce d'exercer en dehors de celle-ci. Reste à comprendre l'articulation entre les magistrats et les théores en tant qu'envoyés sacrés. Sur ce plan, I. Rutherford envisage plusieurs hypothèses sans véritablement trancher.

Puisqu'ils sont étymologiquement parlant des « observateurs », que voient les théores ? Tel est l'enjeu du chapitre 9. Ils participent en tant que témoins au culte, en particulier au sacrifice. Qu'implique au juste cette sollicitation de la vue ? En quoi diffère-t-elle de celle d'un voyageur à la manière d'Hérodote ou de Pausanias ? Le chapitre 10 cible la question de la participation à une théorie : nombre de personnes et sélection, rôle de l'architeōros, place éventuelle des femmes, répétition des mandats, entourage des théores (héraut, alète, interprète, prêtre, etc.) D'importance cruciale est l'implication de jeunes gens formant un chœur, qui permet d'envisager une dimension initiatique (« tribale ») aux voyages ainsi accomplis. Les conditions d'accomplissement du voyage sont étudiées dans le chapitre 11, avec les divers temps que sont le départ (et sa ritualisation), la traversée en mer, le voyage par voie terrestre, les dangers du voyage, le retour, chacun de ces moments étant accompagné par les dieux et leur présence prophylactique. Le chapitre 12 traite des performances rituelles accomplies par les théores (et leur entourage) dans les sanctuaires concernés par leur mission. Accueillis par les proxènes, soumis au versement de certaines taxes, encadrés par des conventions, les théores accomplissent souvent un sacrifice commun (sunthusia) donnant une visibilité à la notion d'Hellènikon, conçue en somme comme l'assemblée ritualisée des théores venus de toutes les régions de la Grèce (cf. le témoignage notable de Philostrate, Gymn 5-6, étudié p. 205). Ils s'adonnent aussi à, ou se contentent d'observer, des processions collaboratives et des compétitions, pouvant même, ainsi que le suggère une inscription de Tanagra, assumer le rôle de juges. Le chapitre 13 analyse dans le détail deux questions articulées à deux case studies : d'une part le problème du funding et de l'autre celui de l'identité politico-religieuse telle qu'elle se déploie dans les fêtes religieuses, en partant de la Puthaïs athénienne, qualifiée de travelling image of the Athenian state et de la théorie envoyée par Cos à Délos (sur ce contexte, voir aussi S. Paul, Cultes et sanctuaires de l'île de Cos, Kernos suppl. 28, Liège, 2013).

Le chœur civique, cette « ribambelle humaine » qui semble relier la cité de départ et celle d'arrivée, sous le regard amusé des dieux, est un élément central du dispositif « théorique ». Il est aussi comme un segment d'ADN de la cité qui se déploie en dehors de son sol. Tel est l'objet du chapitre 14, tandis que le chapitre 15 se centre sur les relations diplomatiques unissant les États. La théorie, en effet, couvre à la fois le champ du religieux et du politique et le rôle des théores est, selon les contextes, les époques et les sources, présenté sous une lumière différente ; parfois le théore est un diplomate œuvrant pour les intérêts de la cité, à l'instar d'un ambassadeur. I. Rutherford montre très bien les jeux d'échelle dans lesquels son action prend tout son sens : États, régions, fédérations, ligues, empires… Cette approche le conduit tout naturellement à poser, au chapitre 16, la question du rôle des théor(i)es dans la diffusion de l'hellénisme et du panhellénisme, en rapport avec les grande sanctuaires partagés du monde grec. Dans une certaine mesure, en effet, ces voyageurs sacrés font fonction de trait d'union entre les cités grecques, en rendant visibles les liens de parenté qui les relient, mais ils peuvent aussi connecter entre eux des espaces et des populations non-grecques ou semi-grecques, ou encore « hellénisées » (Phéniciens, Syriens, Palestiniens, etc.). C'est ainsi que les déplacements des théores dessinent des réseaux dans le temps et dans l'espace, objets du chapitre 17. En examinant deux cas, celui de Samothrace et celui de Délos à l'époque hellénistique, mais aussi ceux de Dodone, Didymes, Claros, Delphes, etc. l'Auteur donne à voir un « système théorique » qu'il qualifie au moyen de sept attributs. Le chapitre 18 est tout entier consacré à Athènes et à ses théories qui s'étalent sur plus de huit siècles d'histoire, dans une documentation riche et variée. I. Rutherford étudie tout particulièrement la manière dont la théorie s'articule avec le système religieux athénien ; il s'intéresse aux groupes sociaux associés aux missions religieuses et à l'attractivité des fêtes athéniennes pour les théores étrangers.

Au chapitre 19 est abordée la question des rapports entre pratiques de la théorie et pensée philosophique. On rappellera en effet que le terme theoria renvoie aussi à la contemplation philosophique, donc à une pensée éthique, voire métaphysique qu'il convient d'articuler avec les usages observés jusque là, tournés vers le service des dieux et de la cité. Un détour par Platon montre que les observateurs peuvent se muer en surveillants, que les voyages peuvent conduire à des replis identitaires. Enfin, le chapitre 20 explore l'imaginaire ou les représentations de la théorie, tel qu'ils se construisent dans diverses sources littéraires, la Vie de Nicias de Plutarque ou l'Heroicus de Philostrate, Aristophane ou Euripide, ou encore Héliodore, autant de traces des détournements, adaptations ou railleries créatives portant sur la figure du théore dont les potentialités romanesques émergent avec force.

La fin de la théorie, au chapitre 21, constitue l'épilogue d'un volume exemplaire, enrichi d'une bibliographie très fournie et d'un index tout aussi précieux. C'est une somme que livre I. Rutherford, d'une grande clarté et profondeur. Elle apporte un éclairage passionnant sur les théores et sur leurs manières de tisser des liens dans et en dehors de la cité, à la croisée du politique et du religieux.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015


Adrian Goldsworthy, Augustus: First Emperor of Rome. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2014. Pp. ix, 598. ISBN 9780300178722. $35.00.

Reviewed by S. J. V. Malloch, University of Nottingham

Version at BMCR home site


Adrian Goldsworthy's Augustus was ambitious for personal power from the start of his long life. A gambler rather than a planner, he seized control of the state with a military dictatorship (in fact, if not in image) that was accepted by the majority of Romans who saw no better alternative, or feared worse. If ambition was a traditional motivation among the Roman elite, Augustus' means to supremacy were as unprecedented as the times in which he pursued it, but supremacy saw him act for the common good and his restoration of the res publica, in Goldsworthy's view, was a success as worthy of praise as the violence of his rise invites censure. This is a cautious and fair biography that contains reasonable interpretations of controversial episodes, such as Crassus and the spolia opima (226-9); the settlement of 23 BC (266-72); Tiberius' withdrawal to Rhodes (388-91); and the disaster of Varus (446-55). Acute observations pepper the narrative, such as the awareness that Augustus' supremacy 'was more rather than less obvious after 23 BC' (272), or the appreciation that there was 'something chilling' in Augustus' display of 'absolute assurance' (i.e. dominance) in objecting to Vedius Pollio's nasty habit of feeding disgraced slaves to his lampreys (327), or the elucidation of Tiberius' loss of independence on his adoption by Augustus (430). The biography will satisfy the curiosity of its intended audience of 'general readers' who enjoyed Goldsworthy's Caesar: The Life of a Colossus (2006) and Antony and Cleopatra (2010). Undergraduates will find here a reliable and readable account of Augustus' life and principate. Advanced students, however, will not be provoked fundamentally to reconsider their view of Rome's first emperor.

Goldsworthy eschews a thematic approach on the grounds that it loses sight of Augustus the man and disregards chronology (4-5). He proceeds chronologically, from cradle to grave, with a Tiberian coda that emphasises difference rather than continuity. The biography is divided into five parts according to changes in Augustus' nomenclature. These nuances are reflective of substantial change in some cases ('Caius Octavius (Thurinus) 63-44 BC' ~ 'Caius Julius Caesar (Octavianus) 44-38 BC') more than in others (the grant of pater patriae in 2 BC). This arrangement combines with Goldsworthy's insistence on calling his subject 'Caesar' from 44 BC to avoid the notorious habit of approaching Augustus in bifocal terms as Octavian/Augustus, even if it elides developments in other areas that cross these chronological boundaries. Goldsworthy's annalistic framework does not exclude treatment of themes altogether: for example, Augustus' relations with the poets (307-17), his private life and habits (418-23), and provincial administration (286-301). The inclusion of such topics is somewhat arbitrary and draws attention to those that have not been given the same treatment, such as religion. Thematic discussion also interrupts a narrative that is already disjointed by the chronological structure, particularly in the later years of Augustus' principate, when military affairs, social policy, dynastic dramas, and building projects jostle for narrative space. Goldsworthy takes the chance provided by wars and revolts to write in greater detail on a broader canvass, and in sequences such as his discussion of the disaster of Varus his knowledge of ancient warfare and narrative skills are displayed at their best.

Goldsworthy's structural and interpretative choices are occasionally questionable. Augustus' early, novel appropriation of imperator as a praenomen is not integrated into the story very well; more could have been made of Augustus' boast of being diui filius; and the label 'warlord' is often applied inappropriately to Augustus and his elite contemporaries. In view of Goldsworthy's interest in Augustus 'the man', a firmer position could have been taken on which version of his conduct during the proscriptions is the more credible (the claim at p. 133 that none of the triumvirs can escape blame sidesteps the decision rather too conveniently), and generally more historiographical analysis would have been welcome in place of touches more at home in a novel (92, 156, 163, 211, etc) and banal argumentation: 'Everything else [Augustus] achieved in his life was based on his success as a warlord and we should never forget this' (481), a doubtful claim, however it is expressed. The famous aureus of 28 BC, which (on the most likely interpretation) advertised the restoration of leges and iura to the Roman people, is introduced on p.223 in the awkward context of the appointment of the praetor urbanus by Augustus rather than by lot (so much for restoration…), and its significance (not least to the chronology of this first 'settlement') is neglected. Would Augustus have missed the complexity of contemporary poetry and instead have been moved 'simply' by its 'beauty' (317)? Is it believable of Agrippa that he 'surely expected to step into' Augustus' position (322), when his lack of auctoritas and obscure background ruled him out as successor (360)?

Goldsworthy's Augustus lacks the knowing, cynical hypocrisy that Gibbon elaborated from Tacitus (and foreshadowed in Syme) when he claimed, for example, that Augustus 'wished to deceive the people by an image of civil liberty, and the armies by an image of civil government' (Decline and Fall ch. 3). Gibbon's interpretation, like Goldsworthy's, is based on an appreciation of Augustus' enormous ambition, but it is put at the service of an historical enquiry that shows up the limitations of the biographical approach: Goldsworthy is right to place Augustus in the context of republican history (9), but the analysis ultimately proceeds no further than trying to understand Augustus' character. Nonetheless Goldsworthy's intended audience can be grateful for having so measured a guide who has also provided them with excellent maps, a glossary of terms and personalities, and an outline of the senatorial career. Yale University Press must be congratulated for high production values that make this book a pleasure to handle and read.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Terry G. Wilfong, Andrew W. S. Ferrara (ed.), Karanis Revealed: Discovering the Past and Present of a Michigan Excavation in Egypt. Kelsey Museum publications, 7. Ann Arbor, MI: Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 2014. Pp. viii, 192. ISBN 9780974187396. $24.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Bethany Simpson, University of California, Los Angeles (

Version at BMCR home site

The volume under review was produced as the result of a two-part exhibition organized by the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan in 2011 and 2012. The exhibit focused not only on objects from ancient Karanis, a Greco-Roman settlement in the Egyptian Fayum, but also on the history of Michigan's archaeological mission at the site from 1924 to 1935. The exhibit combined artifacts and papyri with archival evidence. The resulting volume thoroughly details not only the history of Karanis, but also the excavation: how it was recorded, archived, studied, and published.

The publication is divided into three chapters. The first introduces the reader to the Karanis materials housed in both the Kelsey Museum collections and in the archives. The second chapter contains the exhibit catalogue, and the third section comprises individual papers outlining current research that pertains to the Karanis materials. Finally, indices include the museum accession numbers and field numbers for Karanis artifacts, designations for buildings specifically referenced in the text, a complete list of illustrations, and a general subject index.

The first chapter, "Archives," begins with an introduction by Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager at the Kelsey Museum. Encina outlines the history of Michigan's project in Egypt as preserved through the archive's materials. This includes a discussion of sources relevant to the development of ancient Karanis and the history of the dig itself, and gives considerable insight into the daily life of the excavators who worked at Karanis.

Next T. G. Wilfong describes specific resources of the archive in detail. First is a brief introduction to the varied sources for research and their filing and organization. These include Michigan's original excavation find books, photographs, and the original manuscript that Enoch Peterson prepared at the completion of the expedition, but which remain unpublished. Wilfong mentions that the full manuscript will be added to the Kelsey Museum website by the time of the book's publication; however, it remained unavailable at the time of this review. Wilfong also includes information on the 1979 volume Karanis Excavations of the University of Michigan in Egypt 1924-1935: Topography and Architecture by Elinor Husselman.1 This remains the major source of contextual information for both architecture and finds from the Karanis excavation, as it is the only published source to contain substantial maps and plans of the site. Wilfong credits Husselman as one of the "unsung heroes" (20) of the Michigan Karanis project. He then concludes with an appendix on the Karanis field numbering system, explaining how it was designed to encode information of each object's findspot.

Wilfong's next entry, "Silent Movies from the Michigan Expedition to Egypt," describes the project's efforts to create a documentary film of the excavation, from its inception in 1924 by Francis Kelsey and expedition photographer George Swain, to the material's transfer from cellulose nitrate to acetate film and then video tape format, and finally to the digitization of about two hours of the footage for use in the "Karanis Revealed" exhibitions. Wilfong includes descriptions of the films' content and some still photographs. Excerpts of the digitized footage have since been made available online (see Karanis Motion Picture Footage).

In "The Michigan Papyrology Collection and Karanis," Adam Hyatt explains how many of the papyri acquired by Michigan were obtained through purchase or undocumented excavation, before the official Michigan excavation in Karanis began to record findspots systematically. The papyri from Karanis form a major source of information about the ancient site, and many have been digitized and made available for study through the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS).

In the chapter's concluding essay, "Karanis Findspots and Stratigraphy," Thomas Landvatter explains the complex system devised by the original excavators, not only to record find context, but also to sequence the entire archaeological excavation by stratigraphic layers and temporal phases. While Landvatter's explanations are thorough, he cautiously admits that the designations "proposed by the excavators cannot be universally applied site-wide" (39) and are only useful within isolated architectural sequences.

The second chapter, "Artifacts," comprises the catalogue of the 2011 and 2012 exhibits by T. G. Wilfong and Andrew Ferrara. Here objects are grouped according to broad subject divisions, each with a brief introductory paragraph or two. These subject categories reflect the display of the original exhibits, and include chronological phases, as well as special topics regarding artifact classification or themes of current research. Although the black-and- white photographs are often small, the quality is excellent and each object is depicted according to its most characteristic angle. A publication history is included for each object, as are the museum accession numbers and original field numbers, the significance of which was explained in the previous chapter by Wilfong and Landvatter.

Entries for the final chapter, "Research," focus on current studies of materials in the Kelsey Museum and its archives, and are presented as individually authored papers. All of these are brief discussions, but highlight the potential for new and continuing research.

The first pair of papers discuss an extremely rare Roman-era cuirass made of leather lamellae. Andrew Ferrara explains its historical and archaeological significance and explores further evidence of the Roman army in the Egyptian Fayum. Claudia Chemello offers a detailed analysis of the cuirass' construction and modern conservation.

Next is a paper is by Thomas Landvatter, "A Skeleton from the Michigan Karanis Excavation." Although Landvatter's analysis is thorough, it is of a single example of human remains from the site, without known temporal or even burial context from a site with more than 800 years of occupation history, and therefore cannot be considered representative of the population of ancient Karanis. Following that is a study of clay sealings from a Karanis granary by Jennifer Gates-Foster, which not only examines the impressions on the obverse, but also includes careful consideration of the impressions on the reverse side made from affixing them to various objects. This extra information allows the author to postulate the actual use of the sealings.

"A Rediscovered Agricultural Hinterland of Karanis" by R. James Cook describes the larger regional context of Karanis and other Greco-Roman sites of the Fayum, focusing on ancient hydraulic features. Cook examines the location of ancient canals through satellite imagery, the survey of early twentieth-century researchers Gertrude Caton-Thompson and Elinor Gardiner, and his own fieldwork.

Andrew Wilburn's paper, "Excavating the Karanis Archives and Finding Magic in the Kelsey Museum" includes discussion of find context and especially the importance of so-called "magical bones," painted faunal remains that seem to have had magical or ritualistic functions. Wilburn is co-author of the following paper, "The Karanis Housing Project: a New Approach to an Old Excavation," along with R. James Cook and Jennifer Gates-Foster. This is among the most promising and ambitious projects described in this volume: the study plans to "reintegrate the study of texts and artifacts" (158) by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visualize the site throughout the settlement's history. The results could potentially solve many of the problems in the analysis of Karanis' complex stratigraphy, and provide an exceptionally useful research tool for the scholarly community.

W. Graham Claytor discusses an archive of papyri discovered under a domestic threshold and ultimately judges it to be a deliberately curated ancient collection assembled by a local Karanis grapheion manager of the second century AD. Another papyrological analysis follows with Rebecca Sears' "Reconstructing the Context of a Greek Musical Papyrus from Karanis," which is a summary of the author's dissertation and includes a brief discussion of musicology and ancient Greek musical notation.

In "The Sonic Landscape of Karanis: Excavating the Sounds of a Village in Roman Egypt," T.G. Wilfong focuses less on musical composition than on instruments and other noise-making objects from ancient Karanis. A final paper by John Kannenberg details the "artistic practice" (179) of collecting sample sounds in the modern Fayum for the Kelsey exhibit. This paper also includes website information where one can hear original and remixed digital recordings.

Because the publication focuses on the "Karanis Revealed" museum exhibit, all entries make excellent use of the Kelsey's artifact collections and archives. However, the emphasis on resources in Michigan may have caused the contributors to overlook more recent work at Karanis, including excavations by Cairo University and l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale in the 1970s2 as well as ongoing excavations by the University of California Los Angeles, the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands, and New Zealand's University of Auckland.3 The absence of citations from these sources is notable, particularly since they might have cleared up some of the volume's lingering questions, especially with respect to the site's stratigraphy and dating.

The entire publication is ambitious in presenting ancient materials along with a thorough investigation of the excavation that discovered them. However, the scope of the volume does not always lead to clear organization. The thematic grouping of the catalogue materials makes it difficult to compare objects of similar temporal or topographic contexts. Some classes of artifacts fall under multiple headings: coins are included in several sections but never treated as a whole. Objects of religious or magical significance are presented separately from each other, and the magical "mysterious bones" discussed by Wilburn are included nearly 30 pages after the first two topics. The format does, however, favorably highlight the work of individual researchers, which, in turn, emphasizes the potential of museum archives for providing new avenues of scholarly research, an important contribution of this book within the larger context of such publications.

Perhaps more seriously, the publication lacks a site map: this is strange considering the continual emphasis by volume contributors on the importance of excavation context. While care was taken to explain the significance of Michigan's field numbering system as a clue to excavation context, these numbers tie directly to architectural designations that can only be discovered on the excavation's own maps and plans, which remain largely unpublished and unavailable outside of the Kelsey's own archives. The volume could also have provided a general overview map of Karanis, showing its relative position in the ancient or even modern Fayum landscape, including its distance from the edges of Lake Quaroun.

In conclusion, this is a rich publication on ancient Karanis that contributes to both Greco-Roman and Egyptian archaeology in many ways. The catalogue offers information and analysis of many previously unpublished (or scarcely published) materials. It also highlights the work that can be done with archival materials. This is significant as modern archaeology shifts away from large-scale excavation to more targeted, limited field work: archival studies of this nature will likely become more and more significant in the development of future archaeological research. This volume provides an important reminder that good record-keeping is of vital importance to modern excavation to allow future generations of researchers to contribute to the study of archaeology.


1.   Husselman, E. 1979. Karanis Excavations of the University of Michigan in Egypt 1924-1935: Topography and Architecture. A Summary of the Reports of the Director, Enoch E. Peterson. Kelsey Museum of Archaeology Studies, 5. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
2.   el-Nassery, S. A. A., Wagner, G., and Castel, G., "Un grand bain gréco-romain à Karanis" Bulletin de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale 76, Cairo 1976, pp. 231-275.
3.   Wendrich, W., Cole, E., Cappers, R., Jones, D., and Holdaway, S. 2013. "The Fayum Desert as an Agricultural Landscape: Recent Research Results," in C. Arlt and M. Stadler (eds.) Das Fayum in Hellenismus und Kaiserzeit: Fallstudien zu multikulturellum Leben in der Antike. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. Wendrich, W., Simpson, B., and Elgewely, E. 2014. "Karanis in 3D: Recording, Monitoring, Recontextualizing, and the Representation of Knowledge and Conjecture." Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 77, No. 3, Special Issue: "Cyber Archaeology" (September 2014), pp. 233-237.

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Markus Löx, Monumenta sanctorum: Rom und Mailand als Zentren des frühen Christentums: Märtyrerkult und Kirchenbau unter den Bischöfen Damasus und Ambrosius. Spätantike -Frühes Christentum - Byzanz. Reihe B: Studien und Perspektiven, Bd 39. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2013. Pp. 279; 69 p. of plates. ISBN 9783895009556. €69.00.

Reviewed by Mark J. Johnson, Brigham Young University (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The second half of the fourth century CE was an important period of change for Roman society. Emperors, with one exception, were Christian and openly supporting the growth of the Christian church to the point that Christianity would be proclaimed the official religion of the empire before the end of the century. With the ongoing Christianization of the Roman Empire came the rise of bishops, whose power and authority within the church and in larger society increased to a level in society that no pagan priest had ever experienced. This book examines the life and work of two of the more important bishops of the era, Damasus, bishop of Rome (366-384) and Ambrose, bishop of Milan (374-397). Although the focus of this study is on the two bishops' promotion of the cult of the saints in their respective cities, the study is actually somewhat broader than the title suggests.

Chapter 1 provides biographies of the two men, whose bishoprics overlapped each other for a decade. Damasus was the son of a priest who rose through the ranks of the church to become bishop of Rome in a disputed election that pitted schismatic factions supporting rivals. The matter was settled only after a pair of bloody massacres of his foes secured the position for Damasus. Ambrose came from a privileged, secular life; his father had been a praetorian prefect and he himself was serving as governor of Aemelia and Liguria when elected bishop at Milan, which was also going through its own schismatic strife before and during his episcopate.

Chapter 2 introduces the reader to the "Christian Topographies" of the two cities. Neither bishop was a prolific builder. Damasus built the Titulus Damasi, the first Christian church in the Campus Martius, two cemetery churches and a baptistery at St. Peter's. He also had the Titulus Anastasiae decorated with frescoes. What separated Damasus from other fourth-century bishops of Rome was his attention to the tombs of the saints buried in the suburbs of Rome. Keeping the burials intact and leaving their access as it had been before, Damasus honored the saints by having simple architectural frames erected around their tombs, making them stand out from surrounding tombs in the catacombs and making them easier to find. The embellishment included verse inscriptions extolling the virtues and deeds of the saints, written by Damasus himself.

Ambrose can be securely linked with only two churches, but both were larger buildings more closely related to churches built by emperors. The Basilica Apostolorum, located on a colonnaded street just outside the city walls, was built on a cruciform plan, likely in imitation of the cruciform church of the Apostles that Constantius II had added to his father's earlier structure in Constantinople. His other church was built in a cemetery on the other side of the city and was named after himself, the Basilica Ambrosiana, where eventually he would find his last resting place. Several other early Christian churches and the baptistery at Milan have been assigned to Ambrose, which would have constituted a rather extensive building program and Christianization of the city. Lox, like others before him, concludes that there is no clear evidence for those attributions.

Both bishops authored epigrams for their works and sometimes for buildings already standing, and these are the subject of Chapter 3. Löx discusses the similarities between the work of the two authors and the role of inscriptions in authenticating the tombs of martyrs, in which Damasus was much more active. Ambrose wrote epigrams that explained the meaning of the buildings in which they were found—the form of his Basilica Apostolorum was a cross, which he calls a trophy and symbol of Christ's victory.

The roles of Ambrose and Damasus in finding the tombs of saints is explored in Chapter 4. Damasus embellished such tombs, but left their burials undisturbed. Ambrose, on the other hand, ordered that the newly discovered remains of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius be removed from their tombs and reburied under the altar of his Ambrosiana church. He also had the remains of St Nazarus moved to his Basilica Apostolorum and buried in its apse. These were extraordinary deeds; under Roman law, tombs were inviolate and the emperor Constantius had reiterated that fact with an updating to specify that the tombs of martyrs were not to be disturbed either. The only earlier translations of relics had occurred under direct orders of an emperor; Ambrose usurped that prerogative and opened the door for other bishops and clergy who followed to do the same.

Chapter 5 discusses the burials of the bishops and assesses their deeds. Damasus was buried in an as yet unidentified funerary basilica in the suburbs of Rome. Löx ties his promotion of the cult of saints and his focus on the tombs of martyrs to the bishop's claims of Roman primacy. I do not know that this conclusion is warranted by the circumstances or by the facts. It could be said that Damasus was perhaps more interested in establishing his own legitimacy after the violent events at the beginning of his episcopate; it could also be that growing up in a religious family in an era not far removed from the last persecution, Damasus was simply devoted to these Christian heroes and was in a position to honor their burials. In contrast, Ambrose sought to guarantee his memory by planning a burial in the large church he built, under the altar and with the saints whose remains he had put there.

Dr. Löx has produced a book that brings a lot of information together and makes important contributions to our understanding of the Christianization of Roman society, the growing power of Christian bishops, and the formalization of the cult of the saints. Whereas previous scholarship has been focused on particular aspects of the careers of these bishops, their patronage or their writings, or the poetry of their epigrams, Löx uses a holistic approach to tie their deeds together in a way that allows the reader a clear view of each man's overall contributions and the motivations behind them. If there is something missing, it is that the work of other contemporary bishops is not examined to provide an even wider context. Löx focuses on two of the more important and interesting bishops of Late Antiquity but it would be both interesting and helpful to see some comparison with the bishops of other Christian centers at Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. Paulinus of Nola, also engaged in the promotion of the cult of saints in his city at the end of the fourth century, is briefly mentioned, but could easily be brought into the discussion at the heart of the book. Nevertheless, Professor Löx has made a good start in the reassessment of the role of bishops with his choice of Damasus and Ambrose.

The book is very well researched, written, and illustrated and is nicely produced by Reichert. It will be an important resource for anyone interested in these two men, the cult of saints, or the large issues of Christianity and its art and architecture of the second half of the fourth century.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Anke Walter, Erzählen und Gesang im flavischen Epos. Göttinger Forum für Altertumswissenschaft: Beihefte N. F., Bd 5. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. xi, 393. ISBN 9783110336207. €109.95.

Reviewed by Nils Jäger, Seminar für Klassische Philologie, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (

Version at BMCR home site


„Erzählen und Gesang im flavischen Epos" ist die überarbeitete Fassung der Dissertation der Autorin (Heidelberg 2011). Behandelt werden zu gleichen Teilen die Argonautica des Valerius, die statianische Thebais sowie Silius' Punica. Walter untersucht die persona des jeweiligen Primärerzählers, das Verhältnis zwischen Erzähler und Erzähltem sowie die Rolle diverser Binnenerzähler.

Die kompakte Einleitung (S. 1–9) stellt Gegenstand und Methode vor. Walter konzentriert sich auf solche Textpassagen, in denen die Erzählerstimme besonders gut greifbar ist, wie Musenanrufe, programmatische Aussagen oder Apostrophen. Hinzu kommen Textpassagen, in denen Propheten, Sänger und Erzähler auftreten; Figuren, die laut Walter „eine Vermittlerposition zwischen dem Erzähler und der erzählten Welt" innehaben (S. 6). Diesen narratologischen Zugriff kombiniert Walter mit der Untersuchung intertextueller Bezüge. Referenzpunkte sind hier die vergilische Aeneis und Lucans Pharsalia, aber auch andere Epen, wie z.B. Apollonios' Argonautenepos. Der Hauptteil der Monographie (S. 10–331) ist in drei Kapitel gegliedert, wobei jedes jeweils einem der drei Epen gewidmet ist. In jedem Kapitel diskutiert Walter zunächst Erzähler und Proöm sowie weitere Erzähler-relevante Textpassagen. Der zweite Teil eines jeden Kapitels ist dann den Binnenerzählern gewidmet. Die diskutierten Textstellen werden zunächst inhaltlich vorgestellt und kontextualisiert. Walter diskutiert neben ausgewählten Sängern und Erzählern fast alle Prophetenfiguren (zu den Hauptkapiteln im Einzelnen s.u.). Im Gesamtfazit (S. 332–350) schattiert Walter die drei Epen gegeneinander ab, indem sie bestimmte Konzepte und Aspekte herausgreift, die für das Erzählen der drei Epen gleichermaßen von Bedeutung sind. Den Band beschließen eine Bibliographie (S. 351–369),1 ein Stellenindex (S. 370–388) und ein Sachindex (S. 389–393).

Im ersten Kapitel (S. 10–111) behandelt Walter die Argonautica des Valerius. Sie zeigt auf, dass Valerius einen Konflikt zwischen Erzähler und Figuren inszeniert: Wiederholt möchte der Erzähler an bestimmte Taten und Personen erinnern, während die Argonauten diese dem Vergessen anheim fallen lassen wollen. Möchte der Erzähler der Handlung einen bestimmten Verlauf geben, so tendieren die Figuren mitunter in eine andere Richtung. Hintergrund dieses Konfliktes ist die Unbestimmtheit des Schicksals der Argonauten, die verschiedentlich herausgestellt wird.

Besonders gelungen erscheint Walters Analyse der Hypsipyle. Das Gewand, das sie Jason bei dessen Abfahrt schenkt (2,393–427), korrespondiert in seiner bildlichen Gestaltung mit der Erzählung von der Rettung des Thoas: eine Tat, an die Hypsipyle wie auch der Erzähler unbedingt erinnern wollen. Zugleich ist Hypsipyle diejenige Figur, die der Erzähler besonders stark aufgrund ihrer pietas hervorhebt. Dieses Gewand legt Jason in Buch 3 auf den Scheiterhaufen des Cyzicus, wo es verbrennt; in der kurzen Beschreibung des Kleides (3,340–342) gibt es keinen Hinweis (mehr) auf das Dargestellte: Die Erinnerung an Hypsipyle droht, getilgt zu werden. Ähnlich verhalten sich die Musenanrufung in der Cyzicus- Episode (3,14–18; 212–219) und das Reinigungsritual des Mopsus zueinander: Während die Musen für die Erinnerung an die Cyzicus-Episode stehen, versucht Mopsus, ebenjene Erinnerung für immer zu beseitigen. In der zweiten Hälfte des Epos (Buch 5ff.) sieht Walter den Erzähler stärker im Einklang mit dem Erzählten und den Handlungen der Figuren. Dies ändert sich aber wieder mit dem Auftreten Medeas, die mehr und mehr Einfluss auf den Gang der Erzählung erlangt. Sehr plausibel ist auch Walters Deutung des Orpheus: Dessen erster Gesang (1,274–293) trägt Züge der Elegie, das Lied von Io (4,344–421) wiederum stellt eine Kombination aus Elegie und Epos dar. Das Lied von Io spiegelt somit die Struktur der Argonautica, deren zweite Hälfte sich deutlich kriegerischer (und damit ‚epischer') ausnimmt als die erste. Anhand der Prophetieszenen arbeitet Walter eine für die Argonautica charakteristische Pluralität der fata heraus; für die Argonauten als „,Helden der ersten Stunde'" (S. 15) ist das Schicksal offener und unbestimmter, entsprechend konkurrieren die diversen Prophetenfiguren um die Deutung der fata. Dass die Unterwelt nur kurz (3,402–405) gestreift wird, zeigt ebenso wie die „,Anti-Nekyia'"(S. 93) des Mopsus (3,417–458): In diesem Epos fehlen die Schatten der Helden früherer Generationen, die normalerweise Rat und Orientierung bieten können.

Das zweite Kapitel (S. 112–239) ist Statius' Thebais gewidmet. Hatte sich bei Valerius ein Konflikt zwischen Erzähler und Figuren gezeigt, so steht der statianische Erzähler in Konflikt mit seinem Erzählgegenstand selbst, zumal dieser neben anderen Freveltaten den unepischen Bruderkampf umfasst. Anfangs leistet der Erzähler noch Widerstand gegen furor und nefas der erzählten Welt, indem er die pietas bestimmter Figuren (z.B. Hopleus und Dymas) hervorhebt und ausgedehnte Digressionen einschiebt; doch im Umkreis von Capaneus' Himmelssturm muss auch er sich schließlich dem furor hingeben, um seine Erzählung zu Ende bringen zu können. Der Epilog der Thebais wiederum greift Themen und Motive der Haupthandlung auf (z.B. Tod und Ehre); diese erfahren hier allerdings eine Umwertung. Im Vergleich zu Epilogen anderer Epen zeige sich eine Distanzierung, ja Entkoppelung der Erzählerpersona von Werk und Erzählgegenstand.

Die verschiedenen Seherepisoden spiegeln das problematische Verhältnis von Erzähler und Erzähltem. So erweist sich Maeon (3,53–113) als eine „Stimme des Widerstands" (S. 163), die, wie die Stimme des Primärerzählers, gegen den Tyrannen Eteocles gerichtet ist. Statius zeichnet Maeon als Vertreter eines homerischen, „,idealen' Sehertums" (ebd.), der sich der frevelhaften Welt des Epos durch seinen Selbstmord entzieht. Auch Amphiaraus ist zunächst eine „Stimme der Besonnenheit und Vernunft" (S. 176); in der Vogelschau-Episode (3,440–677) zeigt sich aber, dass in der epischen Welt der Thebais schon die bloße Durchführung einer Vogelschau eine „unerlaubte Grenzüberschreitung" darstellt (S. 170). Schließlich wünscht Amphiaraus auf sein eigenes Haus, namentlich Eriphyle, das Verderben herab (8,120–122). Mit Recht weist Walter darauf hin, dass dies einige der wenigen Aussagen ist, die über den Handlungsrahmen des statianischen Epos hinausreichen: Nach dem Ende des Krieges wird sich der „Kreislauf aus Rache, Mord und Wahnsinn" (S. 176) fortsetzen. Hier und an anderen Stellen betont Walter den von Negativität und Zyklizität geprägten Charakter der Thebais. Walters Analyse hätte sicherlich noch gewonnen, wenn die Autorin stärker die Sonderstellung des 12. Buches berücksichtigt hätte, das ja einige tentative Ansätze zur Überwindung der ‚Theben-Problematik' andeutet – ein Phänomen, das in der Forschung wiederholt diskutiert worden ist.2

Sehr aufschlussreich ist Walters Diskussion der statianischen Hypsipyle (S. 208–234; Theb. 4,740–5,730), wie schon zuvor bei Valerius. Statius zeichnet Hypsipyle als Erzählerin mit „epische[n] Ambitionen" (S. 222): Sie verfügt über Informationen über die Welt der Götter, die vorherigen epischen Binnenerzählern (wie Odysseus oder Aeneas) nicht zur Verfügung standen. Ihre Erzählung ist zudem angereichert mit Anspielungen auf epische Prätexte. Hypsipyle hofft, sich durch ihr Erzählen Ruhm ebenso wie Trost zu verschaffen; doch schließlich wird sie schuldig durch ebendieses Erzählen, als sie vergisst, den jungen Opheltes/Archemorus zu beaufsichtigen, der dann durch die Schlange zu Tode kommt. Walter deutet den Hypsipyle-Exkurs einmal als Absage an hergebrachte Formen epischen Erzählens, zum anderen als Auseinandersetzung mit Valerius' Konzept des Vergessens: „in der Thebais kann es keine positive Form des Vergessens geben" (S. 231).

Die Punica des Silius werden in Kapitel 3 (S. 240–331) behandelt. Walter sieht die Punica als ein Epos, das einerseits Rom auf dem Höhepunkt seiner Macht darstellt, andererseits den bevorstehenden Niedergang stets mitreflektiert, wie sie u.a. anhand der Sagunt-Episode (1,271–2,707), der Musenanrufung am Beginn der Schlacht von Cannae (9,340–353) und der Apostrophe an Scipio (17,651–654) herausarbeitet. In der Sagunt-Episode sorgt der Erzähler zwar für das ruhmvolle Andenken, das die Fides den Saguntinern zukommen lassen will, doch zeigt seine Formulierung laudanda monstra (2,650), dass dieses Andenken mindestens auch die schrecklichen Taten umfassen wird, zu denen Tisiphone die Saguntiner verleitet hat. Als der Erzähler Hannibals Niedergang und schließlichen Selbstmord prophezeit (2,633–707), lässt sich dies zurückbeziehen auf die Ankündigung der Fides, dass der dies ultor für Hannibal bereits feststehe (2,494f.); hier „kommt Fides […] nicht ganz ohne ihre Gegenspielerin aus" (S. 261). Walter weist schlüssig nach, dass diese Hannibal-Episode einerseits auf Aeneis 2 zurückblickt, andererseits jedoch auch auf die Zeitebene der lucanischen Pharsalia (v.a. auf die Massilia-Episode) intertextuell ‚vorausweist'.

Die Erzähler- und Sängerfiguren eröffnen alternative Blickwinkel auf die Handlung der Punica und machen deutlich, dass sie auch ganz anders hätte verlaufen können. Diese Figuren erhalten zwar breiten Raum, in dem sich das kritische Potential ihrer Alternativ-Narrative entfalten kann, am Ende jedoch kehren ihre Erzählungen zurück „auf die Linie der epischen Haupterzählung" (S. 276). So erscheint in der Erzählung der Anna (8,81–158) Dido als „elegische Liebesfigur" (S. 277), und Anna selbst wird freundlich von Aeneas aufgenommen; eine solche, ‚unvergilische' Dido-Geschichte ist nicht geeignet, jenen Krieg zwischen Karthagern und Römern zu begründen, der kurz darauf in der Schlacht von Cannae (Bücher 8–10) seinen Höhepunkt finden wird. Doch Annas Alternativ-Erzählung wird in zweifacher Weise ausbalanciert und kontrolliert: Zum einen markiert der Erzähler diesen Exkurs sehr deutlich als solchen (8,44–49), zum anderen bringt der Schatten der Dido Anna wieder auf den Kurs der Haupthandlung zurück (8,159–184). Der Sänger Theutras etabliert mit seinem „,Capua-Epos'" (11,288–302) eine Alternativerzählung zu Silius' „,Rom-Epos'" (S. 295). In seinem zweiten Gesang erwirbt er sich gleichsam den Status eines epischen Helden, vermag doch sein elegisches Lied (11,432–482) den Hannibal, ganz im Sinne der Venus, zu erweichen und quasi zu besiegen. Weiterhin diskutiert Walter die Seherfiguren Bostar, Proteus und die Sibylle von Cumae. Ähnlich wie Anna und Theutras eröffnet auch Proteus eine über den epischen Rahmen hinausreichende, elegische Perspektive, wie Walter anhand zweier prominenter Intertexte der Proteus-Episode (Ov. epist. 16; Stat. Ach. ) nachweist.

Eine der wesentlichen Leistungen von Walters Monographie besteht in der Zusammenschau der drei Epiker, die sie als „Repräsentanten eines größeren epischen Diskurses der flavischen Zeit" (S. 2) versteht, während vergleichbare vorherige Arbeiten andere Aspekte behandelt haben3 und/oder nicht alle drei Epiker gleichermaßen berücksichtigt haben.4 Walters Monographie entspricht somit dem derzeitigen Forschungstrend, die Literatur der Flavierzeit im Zusammenhang zu betrachten – ein Trend, der sich in diversen Sammelbänden der letzten Jahre manifestiert.5 Diese bieten aber natürlich nicht die gleiche thematisch-argumentative Kohärenz wie eine Monographie. Im Resümee ihrer Zusammenschau arbeitet Walter dementsprechend einen Fragehorizont heraus, der auch über die Ergebnisse ihrer Arbeit hinaus von Nutzen sein kann: Er umfasst den Involviertheitsgrad der jeweiligen Erzähler, die Rolle des furor sowie die Rolle von Erinnern und Vergessen bei den drei Epikern.

Wie schon das dezidiert selektive inhaltliche Referat angedeutet hat: Für die einzelnen Epen sind Walters Analysen der Sänger-, Propheten- und Erzählerfiguren positiv hervorzuheben. Hier bietet Walter erhellende Beobachtungen und anregende Ideen bis in die Fußnoten hinein. Walter hätte evtl. sogar noch konsequenter auf diese Figuren fokussieren können, zumal v.a. die Proömien der Epen schon ausführlich besprochen worden sind, auch unter Gesichtspunkten, wie sie Walter diskutiert. Dementsprechend kommt Walter hier zwar schon zu neuen, aber doch relativ erwartbaren Ergebnissen.

Besonders ergiebig hingegen erscheint die Ausdeutung intratextueller Bezüge zwischen Aussagen des Primärerzählers und Aussagen der Binnenerzähler. Derartige intratextuelle Referenzen stützen zudem eine zentrale These Walters, nämlich, dass sich in den flavischen Epen die „Ebenen des Erzählers […] und der dargestellten Welt […] vermischen" (S. 4).

Die von Walter angenommene Vermischung der Ebenen führt manchmal zu einer problematischen Diktion, z.B. S. 335: „Am stärksten gelingt es Silius, den in seinem Epos ebenfalls präsenten Wahnsinn in seinem Einfluss auf die Stimme des Erzählers einzudämmen."6 Zwar reflektiert Walter ansatzweise selbst über diese Problematik (S. 3, Fn. 6), doch solche Formulierungen erzeugen eine größere kategoriale Schieflage, als das „kritische[] Instrument[]" (ebd.) der antropomorphisierenden Metapher an Gewinn bringt. Wer sich hieran nicht stört, dem bietet „Erzählen und Gesang im flavischen Epos" einen facettenreichen Einblick in die komplexe narrative Gestaltung der drei großen flavischen Epen.


1.   Leider ist das Literaturverzeichnis unvollständig: Es fehlen fast alle Angaben zu derjenigen Sekundärliteratur, auf die im Einleitungskapitel mit Siglen verwiesen wird. So vermisst der Leser unter anderem die Angaben zu „Steele (1930)" (S. 1, Fn. 2, vgl. Literaturverzeichnis S. 366) – gemeint ist wahrscheinlich: Steele, R.B. „Interrelation of the Latin poets under Domitian." CPh 25 (1930). 328–342; zu „Ahl (1984)" (S. 1, Fn. 2, vgl. S. 351) – wahrscheinlich: Ahl, F.M. „The Rider and the Horse: Politics and Power in Roman Poetry from Horace to Statius, with an Appendix by J. Garthwaite: Statius, Silvae 3.4." ANRW II.32.1 (1984). 40–124 (vgl. auch S. 357: ebensowenig ein Eintrag unter „Garthwaite"); zu „Jannidis (2006), 161" (S. 3, Fn. 5) – wahrscheinlich: Jannidis, F. „Wer sagt das? Erzählen mit Stimmverlust." in: A. Blöhdorn / D. Langer / M. Scheffel (Hg.). Stimme(n) im Text. Narratologische Positionsbestimmungen. Berlin 2006. S. 152–164.; zu „Fludernik (1993), bes. 448–9" (S. 3 Fn. 6, vgl. S. 356) – wahrscheinlich: Fludernik, M. The Fictions of Language and the Languages of Fiction. London 1993; zu „Gavins 2003" (S. 4 Fn. 10, vgl. S. 357), wahrscheinlich: Gavins, J. „Too much blague? An exploration of the text worlds of Donald Barthelme's Snow White" in: dies. / Steen, G. (Hg.). Cognitive Poetics in Practice. London 2003. S. 129–144; zu „Endt (1905)" (S. 3 Fn. 8, vgl. S. 355) – wahrscheinlich: Endt, J. „Der Gebrauch der Apostrophe bei den lateinischen Epikern." Wiener Studien 27 (1905). 106–129.
2.   Eine differenzierte Diskussion der Sonderstellung des 12. Buches bietet Bessone, F. La Tebaide di Stazio: epica e potere. Pisa/Rom 2011 in Kap. 3 und 4; siehe auch Ganiban, R., Statius and Virgil: The Thebaid and the Reinterpretation of the Aeneid. Cambridge 2007, Kap. 9; McNelis, C. Statius' Thebaid and the poetics of civil war. Cambridge 2007, Kap. 6; außerdem den Forschungsbericht zu Buch 12 bei Kißel, W. „Statius als Epiker (1934–2003)." Lustrum 46 (2004). [7–272] 73–77.
3.   Ein Beispiel ist: McGuire, D.T. Acts of Silence. Civil War, Tyranny, and Suicide in the Flavian Epics. Hildesheim u.a. 1997.
4.   Hartmann, J.M. Flavische Epik im Spannungsfeld von generischer Tradition und zeitgenössischer Gesellschaft. Frankfurt a. Main u.a. 2004 und Augoustakis, A. Motherhood and the Other: Fashioning Female Power in Flavian Epic. Oxford u.a. 2010 konzentrieren sich beide nur auf Statius und Silius.
5.   Augoustakis, A. (Hg.) Flavian Poetry and its Greek Past. Leiden 2014; ders. (Hg.) Ritual and Religion in Flavian Epic. Oxford 2013; Manuwald, G. / Voigt, A. Flavian Epic Interactions. Berlin 2013; Nauta, R.R. Flavian Poetry. Leiden 2006.
6.   Oder auch S. 41f.: „Der Erzähler der Argonautica und die Protagonisten seines Werkes scheinen unterschiedliche Vorstellungen davon zu haben, was in diesem Epos [m.H.] verewigt werden soll." Natürlich ist es denkbar und mitunter auch der Fall, dass ein Text so gestaltet ist, dass seinen Figuren bewusst ist, dass sie Teil ebendieses Textes sind. Dies wäre aber am Text explizit nachzuweisen und ein solcher Nachweis scheint dem Rezensenten für die in Rede stehenden Texte schwierig (anders verhält es sich bei den Primärerzählern, denen man auf Basis z.B. der Proömien und Epiloge eine Art Epos-Bewusstsein attestieren könnte).

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