Friday, July 31, 2015


Catherine Apicella, Marie-Laurence Haack, François Lerouxel (ed.), Les affaires de Monsieur Andreau: économie et société du monde romain. Scripta antiqua, 61. Bordeaux: Ausonius Éditions, 2014. Pp. 315. ISBN 9782356131089. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Dennis Kehoe, Tulane University (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This collection of twenty-two essays is a tribute to Jean Andreau by his pupils, colleagues, and friends. Most of the essays concern topics in Roman social and economic history, which has been the focal point of Jean Andreau's research, but several deal with similar issues in Greek history, a field in which the honorand has also made significant contributions. The volume includes a brief introduction by François Lerouxel, as well as a bibliography of Jean Andreau's scholarly works. In the discussion that follows, I will mention all of the essays and discuss the main historical points that they make.

In the first section, on historiography and the structures of the Roman economy, Hinnerk Bruhns addresses the ongoing debate about the role of theory in the analysis of the ancient economy. He forcefully defends approaches to the ancient economy using the interpretive categories developed by Max Weber and M. I. Finley, rejecting the use of modern economic categories, as in the new institutional economics, championed recently by Alain Bresson in his work on the Greek economy and also by a growing number of historians in investigating the Roman economy. From a very different perspective, Jean-Yves Grenier examines the nature of markets in the Roman Empire by comparing the Roman government's concern with prices to that of early-modern France and the Qing dynasty in China (17th-18th centuries). Under the Qing dynasty, the government maintained public granaries, from which it released stockpiled stores on occasion to maintain the stability of prices. This may be comparable to the way in which the Roman administration managed the food supply for the city of Rome. Moreover, many cities in the empire maintained their own stores of grain as a protection against occasional shortages, but it is not likely that the Roman Empire could monitor grain prices as comprehensively as was apparently possible under the Qing dynasty. Also in this section, Peter Garnsey offers a survey of the basic characteristics of the later Roman economy, in which he emphasizes the role of fiscal policy in organizing, and, at least to some extent, integrating the empire's economy.

Four essays are included in the section on the agrarian economy. One area of intense interest remains the use of slave labor. Building on his recent work on the agrarian economy of the Republican Rome, Luigi Capogrossi argues against the idea that the late Republican villa was a kind of pre-capitalistic plantation. Instead, he emphasizes that there was a wide variation in types of land on estates and therefore in forms of cultivation. The villa economy involved two opposing but synergistic principles: the concentrated use of slave labor permanently on the property and the use of a wide range of free labor. Carlos García Mac Gaw extends this investigation by considering the overall contribution of slave labor to the economy of the Roman Empire, and whether it is possible to say that a 'slave mode of production' can be seen as characterizing the Roman economy. García Mac Gaw argues that tenancy was the most widespread form of exploiting land and labor throughout the empire. Agricultural production was largely based on small-scale cultivation, and slaves played a significant role in this, as servi quasi coloni or even as laborers in the employ of tenants. If the ownership of slaves helped to define the status of the elite, production by gangs of slaves represented a much smaller portion of the empire's GDP than is often argued. Philippe Leveau links the villa to a broader understanding of the economy of the Roman Empire. Building on his own work with villae in the region around Caesarea in North Africa as well as in Gaul, Leveau sees the establishment of villae as connecting the economy of a region with urbanization and an empire-wide commercialized agrarian economy. The significance of small-scale production to the Roman agrarian economy is the focus of Jérôme France's essay. He examines the Hadrianic law for promoting the cultivation of land on imperial estates in North Africa in the broader context of a concern in the Roman Empire to make lands not used for agriculture available to small-scale cultivators. France compares the Hadrianic regulation with efforts under the same emperor to regulate the use of land in Greece, as well as with the proposal attributed to the emperor Pertinax by Herodian (2.4.6) to offer vacant lands to cultivators who would enjoy a ten-year immunity from taxation.

The next section, on money, prices, and fiscal issues, offers four papers on diverse issues. Jean-Jacques Aubert provides an overview of how Roman law treated barter, or permutatio. Although it is certain that people in the Roman world commonly engaged in transactions involving barter, its definition within Roman law is problematic. Some Roman jurists, particularly those of the Sabinian school, did see barter as a form of sale, but in the late classical period the jurist Paul, in his commentary on the praetor's edict, and the Roman chancery distinguished barter from sale, which meant that the remedies litigants could use when disputes arose were quite different from those in sale. In late antiquity, however, the Germanic law codes recognized barter as sale. A major issue in understanding the role of credit in Roman commercial life concerns interest rates, whether they were typically as high as the legal limit of twelve percent, and the degree to which they varied in accordance with the creditworthiness of the borrower and economic conditions. Documents recording loans rarely record interest rates. Gilles Bransbourg analyzes a series of loans in the archive of the Sulpicii. Bransbourg makes a convincing argument that the lenders charged interest rates that varied as the borrower encountered financial difficulties, and that the interest rates varied between 7-7.5% and 9-10%. Cristiano Viglietti examines the use of money in the early Republic, before Rome minted coins, and he provides some interesting insights into the ways in which weights in bronze could be used to represent the value of various commodities. But his effort to determine the price of land in the Republic by examining the financial affairs of Cincinnatus, as reported by Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, is problematic because it assumes the historical accuracy of the precise details given by these sources about Cincinnatus' finances. An important paper in this section is Jean-Michel Carrié's discussion of the chrysargyron, or collatio lustralis, instituted by Constantine and abolished by Anastasius in 497. This was a tax imposed on merchants and artisans within cities. It stirred controversy for allegedly being catastrophically burdensome on the people liable to pay it. But in fact, as Carrié shows, the tax represented a much lighter burden for urban businessmen than the land taxes did on landowners. Its imposition represented an effort to broaden the empire's tax base beyond the agricultural sector, which bore the brunt of the empire's tax responsibilities.

In the section on commerce and markets, two papers focus on the role played by individual cities as entrepôts where products, notably oil and fish sauce from Spain, were stored for later shipment to markets in Gaul and along the Rhine. Maria-Luisa Bonsangue argues this case for Narbonne, particularly in the latter part of the first-century BCE and in the first century CE. Nicolas Tran examines the role of Arles in this economy, on the basis of a case discussed in the Digest (Ulp. D. 14.3.13. pr.) on the role of a slave in a business involving the buying and selling of oil in that city. These two papers demonstrate how archaeological and legal evidence can be used together to address significant problems in Roman economy history. Marta García Morcillo uses the works of Cicero to examine the role that auctions played as a social institution in the late Republic. She discusses the importance of auctions to public administration of the empire. In the private sphere, the property of a defaulting debtor might be auctioned off to cover unmet obligations, but this would involve great humiliation for the affected person. To turn to the Greek world, Raymond Descat uses a text from Aristotle's Nicomachaean Ethics (5.1135a 1-2) comparing laws based on social conventions to measures used in the buying and selling of grain as a starting point for examining the role that different measures played in markets, including fourth-century Athens. This discussion is important for understanding the efforts of certain states in antiquity to reduce "frictions" in the market to promote commerce.

In a section devoted to social and work status, Maria Cecilia D'Ercole offers a wide-ranging examination of leather workers in both Greece and Rome. These highly-skilled artisans produced a variety of products, including body armor and shoes. This paper demonstrates a continuing conflict in both Greece and Rome between upper-class scorn for such artisans and their own efforts to assert their own skills, accomplishments, and prestige. Julien Zurbach addresses another aspect of labor provided by free persons, namely, the extent to which people in classical Athens entered into long-term labor contracts to pay off debt. Zurbach admits, without endorsing the possibility that debt bondage existed in classical Athens, a position defended by Edward Harris ("Did Solon Abolish Debt-Bondage?" CQ 52 [2002]: 415–30). But even without debt bondage, there were nominally free laborers in classical Athens bound to wealthier employers by various ties, for example as clients. Two papers address the significant role that freedmen played in Roman society. Nicholas Laubry examines a funerary collegium established by the wealthy freedman C. Lusius Storax at Teate Marricinorum (Chieti). Storax provided many benefits for his town, including sponsoring gladiatorial games, but he also promoted the interests of freedmen and even slaves, who were included as members of the collegium and so were anticipating their manumission. Nicolas Monteix traces the rise of the Caii Iulii and the Marci Lucretii in political life at Pompeii to the two families' investment in urban real estate and urban businesses. This conclusion nuances our general understanding of town councils in the Roman Empire as consisting primarily of a landowning elite.

In the final section, on writing and demography, William Harris defends the conclusion in his 1989 book Ancient Literacy that the Roman world did not exceed the literacy rates of other pre-industrial societies. In this paper, Harris tests the contrary hypothesis of a high level of basic literacy by looking for primary teachers at the village level. There is some evidence for such teachers, much more from the eastern part of the Roman Empire than from the western, but not enough to support the argument that villages and towns generally had some system of basic education. From a very different perspective, Arnaldo Marcone emphasizes the fundamental importance of literacy to everyday life in the Roman world. It was important not just for business but for everyday communication, and writing was a skill used not only by the elites of towns and villages but by a much broader portion of society. Can the views of Harris and Marcone be reconciled? Finally, Walter Scheidel addresses his hypothesis, articulated in a number of papers, about the major role played by malaria in ancient mortality regimes in Rome and in other parts of the Roman Empire. Not only would malaria kill many people, but it would also weaken immune systems and make people more susceptible to other diseases. Scheidel argues that this hypothesis is to some extent confirmed by new evidence, particularly of skeletons that provide clues to broadly experienced health issues.

This volume presents many interesting essays on a broad range of topics, and it represents a fitting tribute to such a fine scholar and generous person.

Table des matières

Bibliographie des travaux de Jean Andreau: 11 François Lerouxel, Introduction: 25
Hinnerk Bruhns, Cambridge, Bordeau ou Heidelberg: à quoi servent les "classiques" ?: 29
Peter Garnsey, L'économie du Bas-Empire: 43
Jean-Yves Grenier, Qu'est-ce qu'une "économie de marché" ? Rome antique — Europe modern — Chine des Qing: 53
Luigi Capogrossi, I vari tipi di complessità nella società agrarian repubblicana: 67
Carlos García Mac Gaw, Esclavage et systemme économique à Rome: 78
Jérôme France, La lex Hadriana et les incitations publiques à la mise en valeur de terres ans l'Empire romain au IIe siècle p.C.: 89
Philippe Leveau, Villa, romanisation, développement économique entre idéal-type wéberien et modelisation territorial: 97
Jean-Jacques Aubert, For Swap or Sale? The Roman Law of Barter: 109
Gilles Bransbourg, Les taux d'interêt flottants des Sulpicii: 123
Jean-Michel Carrié, Les effets historiographiques d'une protestation fiscal efficacement orchestra: retour sur le chrysargyre: 137
Cristiano Viglietti, Prix de terre, census, virtualité de la monnaie à Rome pendant la Haute Republique: une hypothèse de travail: 159
Maria-Luisa Bonsangue, Narbonne, un 'port de stockage' de la Méditerranée occidentale sous le Haut-Empire: 177
Raymond Descat, Mesurer et peser le grain: Aristote, Éth.Nic., 5.1135a 1-2 et la loi athénienne de 374/373 a.C.: 195
Marta García Morcillo, Publicidad, transparencía y legitimidad; subastas en la obra de Cicerón: 209
Nicolas Tran, Un esclave préposé au commerce de l'huile dans le port d'Arles. À propos de Dig., 14.3.13pr. (Ulp. 28 ad ed. (): 223
Maria Cecilia D'Ercole, Skutotomos, sutor. Status et representations du métier de cordonnier dans les mondes grecs aet romains: 233
Nicholas Laubry, Sorax et "associés". Observations sur un complexe funéraire de Teate Marricinorum (Chieti): 251
Nicolas Monteix, Histoire politique des élites et histoire économique. L'exemple des Caii Iulii et des Marci Lucretii à Pompeii: 259
Julien Zurbach, Entre libres et esclaves dans l'Athènes classique: 273
William V. Harris, Literacy and Epigraphy II: 289
Arnaldo Marcone, Scrittura quotidiana e relazioni sociali nel mondo romano: 301
Walter Scheidel, "Germs for Rome" Ten Years After: 311
(read complete article)


Benjamin W. Porter, Alexis T. Boutin (ed.), Remembering the Dead in the Ancient Near East: Recent Contributions from Bioarchaeology and Mortuary Archaeology. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2014. Pp. xv, 261. ISBN 9781607323242. $70.00.

Reviewed by Yağmur Heffron, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site


A persistent thorn in the side of ancient Near Eastern scholarship is its poor habit of intra-disciplinary communication. A traditional manifestation of this problem is the binary of archaeology vs. text. Remembering the Dead is part of a recent trend of tackling this long-familiar divide beyond lip service. Indeed, it even breaches disciplinary boundaries, doing a remarkable job of presenting the view from bioarchaeology. Often tucked away in the back of excavation reports – or indeed entirely separated from principal volumes – bioarchaeological data tends to be excluded from consistent, systematic integration into the close readings of artefactual evidence or stratigraphic problems on which interpretative discussions principally rely. Porter and Boutin have bridged this gap in an accessible, informative, and thought-provoking set of papers in which bioarchaeological data dovetails variously into site stratigraphy, artefact typology, visual culture, and textual history. The book achieves a genuinely holistic perspective.

The introductory chapter, "Bringing Out the Dead in the Ancient Near East", by Porter and Boutin, is excellent. It certainly does the necessary job of presenting a coherent introduction to the book and its aims. More importantly, it offers a thoughtful overview of past and present approaches to death in the ancient Near East. The authors identify the discrepancy between "sustained scholarly interest" in the subject and the "dearth of holistic studies" relating to it (1), which indeed characterizes the "irregular nature in which ancient Near Eastern mortuary contexts have been studied" (1-2). Of course, the sheer range of mortuary practices across time and space, not to mention the high degree of contextual variability in associated meanings, adds to the challenges confronting the field. Nonetheless, the authors take the vastness of data not as a limitation but an opportunity to explore the depth of analytical possibilities. The thematic, chronological, and regional range of the articles in the book showcases this approach very well.

Chapters 2-7 are a selection of case studies representing northern and southern Mesopotamia (Domuztepe in Chapter 2 and Kish in Chapter 3), the Gulf (Bahrain in Chapter 4), the Levant (Bab edh-Dhra' in Chapter 5) and Egypt (Tombos in Chapter 6 and Tell el-Amarna in Chapter 7). As is often the case with such collections, Anatolia is conspicuously absent. Especially from a methodological point of view, the selection of articles demonstrates the extent to which bioarchaeological solutions may be offered to archaeological and/or historical problems.

Chapter 2 on "Burying Things," by Campbell, Kansa, Bichener, and Lau, takes Neolithic Domuztepe as a case study for shifting focus from human burial as an exclusive category of symbolic action in order to explore a "wider pattern of burial and structured disposal of things" (27). In addition to human remains, the burial of feasting remains, objects, as well as architecture and soil are discussed in separate sections, demonstrating the interpretative range for ritual activity and its nexus with waste disposal. The complex stratigraphic relationships within the famous Death Pit in particular and across the site in general are presented with detail and interpretation, which sets the stage for a discussion of faunal remains. The analysis of their selective distribution across the site as well as within specific deposits is particularly informative, placing 'ritual' within a wider context of other formalised and carefully prescribed activities such as processing, preparation, and disposal. While the burial of all manner of non-human things – ranging from beads to buildings – is not an unfamiliar theme for protohistoric and historic Mesopotamia, it does tend to be simply filed under 'ritual deposits' and hence isolated from other forms of ritual behaviour surrounding human burial. The authors' formulations, which specifically place human burial within a wider range of formalised deposition, can therefore inspire fresh approaches to interpreting ritual deposits in later periods as well.

In Chapter 3, "Strange People and Exotic Thing," Pestle, Torres-Rouff, and Daverman revisit skeletal evidence from a cemetery at Kish, combining biological data with mortuary treatment to explore ethnic Akkadian visibility in the burial record. The scene is set at the crucial transition in Mesopotamian political history from the Early Dynastic (henceforth ED) into the Akkadian period. Can the events during this period of flux in and around Kish – an important centre which was very much in the eye of the storm – be linked to a change in mortuary trends? Can we, in other words, tell Akkadians from Sumerians? The apparent uniformity observed in both ED and Akkadian graves would suggest otherwise, as neither grave construction nor burial goods seem to flag clear differences. Bioarchaeological data, on the other hand, offers a different perspective. The authors' conclusions center on biodistance analyses of two groups, namely the individuals from Ingharra (predominantly ED burials) and those from Mound A (ED-Akkadian transition). Having found Mound A males to have been distinct not only from both sexes of the Ingharra group but also from Mound A females, the authors propose an "influx of 'exotic' males into the city" at the onset of the Akkadian period. The discrepancy between biological difference and archaeological uniformity is then interpreted in terms of a deliberate strategy of playing down differences, perhaps in this case to maintain political advantage. Once again we are reminded of the tenuous link between ethnic identity and funerary expression, although the authors are careful to acknowledge the "small hints we have of Akkadian-ness in the pots and pins found with some individuals" (89). Smith and Buzon's postulated distinction between "inscribed" vs "incorporated" memory (Chapter 6) is very much applicable here, too. Ultimately, as Pestle, Torres-Rouff, and Daverman point out, a great deal does "[depend] on who was doing the burying" (88).

Chapter 4, "Commemorating Disability in Early Dilmun" by Boutin and Porter, zooms in on Peter B. Cornwall's excavations in Bahrain in 1940-41. The authors set out to "investigate the sociocultural meanings of disability, tacking between the experiences of a twentieth century archaeologist and the ancient woman whose remains he brought to light," (97-8). This is an intriguing point of departure but one that is all too open to criticism. The link made between Cornwall – who was deaf – and one of the numerous burials he excavated – which happens to belong to a young woman with skeletal deformities – simply because both individuals fall within the broad spectrum of 'disability' is far too tenuous. In fact, the authors themselves note the conspicuous absence of any indication in Cornwall's own documents that he considered himself disabled, as they also admit the difficulty of fathoming Skeleton 12-10146's experiences. The theme of disability in the ancient world is certainly of great interest, and the authors contextualise it well within wider debates surrounding 'the body.' They also stress the implications of seeing disability in the archaeological record for gauging social structures and networks relating to dependency and care. From this perspective, 12-10146 already makes an interesting case study. However, the interpretative potential for situating 12-10146 and her remarkably wealthy assemblage of burial goods within the normative trends for her able-bodied but more poorly equipped contemporaries is perhaps not fully exploited. The account of Cornwall's expedition to Bahrain, which is a fascinating piece of archaeological history in itself, presents perhaps a more thought-provoking view of disability, as it brings into sharp focus how a baseline of normative bodies are taken for granted in archaeological praxis: "Archaeologists 'walk' the landscape, 'dig' ancient buildings, and describe their evidence using vision and touch" (99).

In Chapter 5, Sheridan, Ullinger, Gregoricka, and Chesson offer a detailed "Bioarchaeological Reconstruction of Group Identity at Early Bronze Age Bab edh-Dhra', Jordan." The peculiarities of the site, its Early Bronze Age (henceforth EBA) history and the visible shifts in population, settlement, and mortuary practices from EBIA to EBII-III are effectively problematized in preparing the ground for bioarchaeological analyses as a unique means of testing and enhancing interpretations. The succeeding sections devoted to osteological data, methods, and findings (and the ca. 20 pages of accompanying tables and graphs) are surely a goldmine for the specialist, but prove rather impenetrable for the uninitiated. This does not, however, detract from the authors' compelling conclusions at the end. The EBII-III population's genetic difference from regional comparanda being greater than its difference from the EBIA population at the same site, the authors consider "changing definitions of kinship" (176), which they situate within a growing community. Such a change has many significant implications, for instance, in evaluating the monopoly of a certain group or groups over rights to (visible) burial. The juxtaposition of bioarchaeological data and visible change in mortuary practices in this chapter nicely complements the 'reverse' method in Chapter 3, where bioarchaeological data is utilised to explore visible continuity.

Chapter 6, "Identity, Commemoration, and Remembrance in Colonial Encounters", by Smith and Buzon, explores commemoration in the context of Egypto-Nubian colonial contact in Tombos. A particularly good case in point for integrating bioarchaeology with material culture is the authors' re-evaluation of the overall character of the cemetery. Judging by its formal attributes, the cemetery should read 'Egyptian' but bioarchaeological analyses show the Tombos population to have been a mixture of Egyptians and Nubians. The additional challenges posed by the long history of gene flow between Egyptian and Nubian populations are discussed in detail, enhancing the complexity of the picture. The section dealing with mortuary treatment and burial goods demonstrates complex admixtures of Nubian and Egyptian customs and puts theory into practice by referring back to the conceptual framework of inscribed vs. incorporated memory that they invoke at the outset. The potential blurring of the line between these two types of memory is picked up by the authors, who point out the difficulty of categorising specialised burial goods (e.g. ushabti figurines) definitively: To what extent do such culturally bounded items emerge in burial contexts simply out of habit and to what extent are they intended as overt displays of ethnic affiliation and/or social identity? The case at Tombos is a particularly rich and informative one to guide the formulation of similar questions in other ancient Near Eastern contexts. Smith and Buzon provide a valuable opportunity to question wider interpretative issues, such as the view of Egypto-Nubian interactions as "a classic relationship of dominant core and subordinate periphery" (188).

"Abandoned Memories" by Dabbs and Zabecki is the volume's final chapter. It turns to the looted (?) graves at Tell el-Amarna's South Tombs Cemetery (henceforth STC), and offers compelling interpretations for its peculiarities. Beginning with an informative account of the idiosyncrasies of Tell el-Amarna itself and situating life and death within its unique context, this chapter presents an exceptionally well-balanced synthesis of history, archaeology, iconography, and bioarchaeology. In particular, the authors' reassessment of grave robbing at the STC is noteworthy. Dabbs and Zabecki point out the unlikelihood of systematic looting of tombs for economic benefit given the paucity of valuable grave goods in undisturbed contexts. Instead, they suggest that the graves may have been opened by none other than the families of the deceased, looking to take away skeletal remains for repatriation as they abandoned Akhenaten's short-lived city. Parallels with similar trends in modern refugee cultures make this an attractive argument, though one rather important question remains: How to reconcile the implications of dismembering the dead with Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife?

With Chapter 7 the book comes to an abrupt end. It is a shame that its well-grounded Introduction is not complemented by a conclusion of some kind, to strengthen the connective tissue across the chapters. As a whole, however, Remembering the Dead succeeds in striking a good balance between showing what bioarchaeology can do for the more 'traditional' methods of mortuary analyses, and what such methods can do for bioarchaeology. It is therefore highly recommended, not exclusively for funerary specialists, but for anyone invested in achieving greater interdisciplinary readings of the ancient past.

(read complete article)


Margarita Gleba, Judit Pásztókai-Szeőke (ed.), Making Textiles in Pre-Roman and Roman Times. Peoples, Places, Identities. Ancient Textiles Series Vol. 13. Oxford; Oakville: Oxbow Books, 2013. Pp. 244. ISBN 9781842177679. $60.00.

Reviewed by Annette Paetz gen. Schieck, Deutsches Textilmuseum Krefeld (

Version at BMCR home site


Not too long ago, textile research in archaeology was carried out by a very small group of scholars, spread all over the world. They seldom had the chance to meet like-minded colleagues and work on joint projects. Fortunately, this situation has changed within the past years, triggered by the founding of the Centre for Textile Research (CTR) at the University of Copenhagen, and pan-European research projects such as DressID, funded with the support of the European Commission (2007 to 2012).1

This volume is one of the many results and part of the great output fostered by these activities. Both editors are members of the CTR and spokespersons of the DressID researchers group dealing with the production and trade of textiles in the Roman Empire. As such, they initiated the international conference on Work and identity: The agents of textile production and exchange in the Roman period at Hallstatt (Austria) in 2009, wherein lies the the origin of this book.2 Nine of the papers are published in this volume, supplemented by four articles broadening the scope of the topics.3 Beside the preface by Margarita Gleba, an introduction by John Peter Wild, five maps, and an index, the volume contains 13 papers with individual bibliographies. All of them are in English.

The editors arranged the papers in chronological order, which at the same time allows for a regional grouping. The sections deal with: Pre-Roman Italy (two papers); Pre-Roman and Roman Noricum and Pannonia (three papers); Roman Italy and southern Gaul (two papers); Roman Egypt (three papers); Pre-Roman and Roman Asia (one paper), and Roman Pompeii (two papers).

In his introduction, Wild provides a short history of textile research in archaeology, sums up the contents of selected contributions and sets the overall question: who were the producers and traders of textiles in Roman times? – a seemingly simple question which, in the course of the papers, proves to be difficult to answer.

Pre-Roman Italy

Margarita Gleba's article on "Transformations in textile production and exchange in pre-Roman Italy" starts with transformation processes of pre-Roman societies in Italy. Small villages evolved into urban centers; this change also affected textile production changing it from subsistence production to that of non-essential luxurious goods, demanded by the elites. This caused technological changes in areas such as animal breeding, standardization of tools, introduction of new tools, techniques and textile qualities (twill, tablet weaves); production modes, labor organization and specialization; and the exchange of material, tools and knowledge. These changes were inspired by expanding intercultural contacts in the 1st millennium BCE.

Sanna Lipkin's paper on "Textile making in Central Tyrrhenian Italy – Questions related to age, rank and status" focuses on Iron Age burials in Latium vetus and Etruria. She investigates large numbers of graves and relates osteological data to grave goods. She is able to determine that females of all ages were textile workers, at least on a basic level. She believes that sets of multiple tools characterize females as skilled textile specialists; tools made of simple materials were mere working items, whereas those made of precious materials marked the high social status of their owners.

Pre-Roman and Roman Noricum and Pannonia

Karina Grömer worked on "Discovering the people behind the textiles: Iron Age textile producers and their products in Austria." She correlates ancient textile finds with textile tools, settlement structures, grave contexts, and pictorial sources of Austrian Iron Age in the Hallstatt (9th to 5th Century BC) and Dürrnberg periods (6th to 1st Century BC). The finds reveal social structures and the division of labor according to gender: spindles and textile tools were found in graves of females of any age; other tools, such as needles and shears that could also have been employed in leather processing, were found in graves of both sexes.

Kordula Gostenčnik writes on "Textile Production and Trade in Roman Noricum" from 15 BC to 600 AD. She focuses on the sites of Old Virunum, Municipium Claudium Virunum, and the Municipium Flavia Solva. Gostenčnik investigates textile tools in settlements, and relates them to a few iconographic sources, textiles, and written sources on lead tags possibly used in a fullery. From the huge amounts of textile tools found at Old Virunum, she concludes that many inhabitants earned their living in textile business, being organized by merchants and traders from Aquileia, Italy. After the town was abandoned and the inhabitants founded the Municipium Claudium Virunum, textile production was of little relevance to them.

Ivan Radman-Livaja deals with "Craftspeople, Merchants or Clients? The Evidence of Personal Names on Commercial Lead Tags from Siscia" by investigating the written records of 1200 lead tags found at Siscia, southwestern Pannonia, dating from the 1st to the early 3rd century AD. The labels were reused several times, being tied to bundles of textiles when handed over to the fullers for cleaning, redyeing or mending. They carry names, most likely of clients and fullers, and instructions for the treatment of the textiles.

Roman Italy and Southern Gaul

Lena Larsson Lovén writes about "Female work and identity in Roman textile production and trade: A methodological discussion." According to epigraphic and iconographic sources, women were involved in all stages of textile production. The industry overall drew on the labor of both sexes; however, wool spinning was exclusively done by women. Comparing these results with pictorial sources, the author shows that men were given attributes defining their profession, while women were depicted with spindle and wool-basket, which was part of a semiotics of the moral values of a good housewife. Lovén states that modes of commemoration depended on status, gender ideologies, and moral values, and may not depict reality.

Jinyu Liu discusses archaeological, ltiterary and epigraphic sources in order to gain information on "Trade, Traders and Guilds (?) in Textiles: the case of Southern Gaul and Northern Italy (1st–3rd Centuries AD)." She focuses on textile products, on half-finished textiles and finished garments, stating that a medium quality of wool and woolen textiles were produced in the region to supply the city of Rome and the military. Inscriptions by wool- workers attest to the organization of textile workers and traders in guilds, comparable to those in medieval times.

Roman Egypt

In "Textile trade in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea," Manuel Albaladejo Vivero deals with a document of the mid-1st Century AD written by a ship-owner living in Roman Egypt, who exported tunics, cloaks and textile goods from Arsinoë, Fayum, to eastern Africa, the Persian Gulf, and India. There he purchased spices and pearls, focused on silk textiles from China, and traded them to Rome via Egypt. These luxurious goods flooded the Roman market in Julio-Claudian times.

Kerstin Droß-Krüpe relates the Periplus Maris Erythraei to contemporary written sources: Strabo, Pliny, dedications, graffiti, papyri, and ostraca also originating from Egypt. In her paper on "Textiles and their merchants in Rome's Eastern trade," she focuses on types of traded goods, especially qualities of textiles. She also deals with intercultural contact engendered by the perspective of gaining great profit by trading luxurious goods. The documents tell about mobility fostered by lucrative trade; socio-cultural identity; female Egyptian traders; Egyptian merchants at Aden, as well as those from Aden and India living in Egypt, leaving written messages in Tamil.

The paper by Sophie Gällnö investigates "(In)visible spinners in the documentary papyri from Roman Egypt." On the basis of four Egyptian papyri, she argues that textile production and textile trade were a major economic resource in Egypt. Yet spinners, who produced masses of yarn to be woven, are not mentioned in the documents, which leads her to conclude that it was women who carried out the professional spinning work at home, being hidden from the public eye, since working for money was not accepted in society.

Pre-Roman and Roman Asia

Isabella Benda-Weber's paper "Textile production centers, products and merchants in the Roman Province of Asia" combines archaeological finds and written sources in order to define Asian centers of textile production, their traditions, their products as well as producers and merchants, and their organization in guilds. She stresses the importance of Asian textile traditions such as murex purple dyed wool as being the origin of Roman status symbols. Its use continued into Byzantine times, when it was found in the most noble gowns.

Roman Pompeii

Miko Flohr, in "Ulula, Quinquatrus and the occupational identity of fullones in early Imperial Italy," investigates the building structures of fullonicae in Pompeii and combines the results with information provided by wall- paintings, graffiti and written records. Flohr traces the occupational identity of crafts persons, their religious rituals and the symbols they used to communicate identity, the owl. He takes the frequency of depicting the owl as a marker of the degree of identification. By studying three types of workshops, he suggests different degrees of workman's identification, depending on the size of the workshops, and along with this, occupational specialization.

The final paper was provided by Jens-Arne Dickmann, dealing with "A 'private' felter's workshop in the Casa dei Postumii at Pompeii." It was rebuilt after the earthquake of 62 AD as a fuller's or felter's workshop producing shoes and gloves throughout the year, to be collected and stored in a small shop, which was located in the same building. The shop may have opened seasonally, most likely only in winter.


Through this collection of articles, the reader gets a wonderful insight into the production and trade of textiles and their sociological meaning in the ancient societies of the Mediterranean and central Europe. The authors present a wide range of archaeological material and most of them draw on further sources, such as textile finds, tools, depictions and written records. The topics of the papers are researched in depth by their authors. In a most convincing way they demonstrate that textile research in archaeology affords interdisciplinary and unconventional approaches when aiming at reconstructing the structures of ancient business activity.

This book is an inspiration to those dealing with sociological aspects of the field, as well as craft and workmanship, trade, and textile research in antiquity. It contains rich empirical materials, but also considers problems of method. It therefore fosters the discipline of textile research in archaeology in a holistic way. The papers make very clear that there is still a lot to be discussed in this field and that further progress will result from collaboration across the international community of textile researchers. For instance, the book inspires to deepen the research on females in textile production throughout antiquity. Several authors discuss the presence and meaning of textile tools in female spheres. Interpretations vary from: markers of status, symbols of moral values, domestic production for family purposes, domestic but professional production in secrecy. These interpretations reflect ancient positions in different regions and times, but they also reflect the research traditions of those who interpret the sources. Another conference would be a perfect occasion to investigate these aspects.


1.   Clothing and Identities – New Perspectives on Textiles in the Roman Empire (DressID). The project was initiated and managed by the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums at Mannheim, Germany. Participating institutions were the CTR Kopenhagen (Denmark), KIK-IRPA at Brussels (Belgium), the Universities of Sheffield (Great Britain), Valencia (Spain) and Rethymnon (Greece), as well as the Museum of Natural History in Vienna (Austria).
2.   See Preface by Margarita Gleba.
3.   By Jens-Arne Dickmann, Lena Larsson Lovén, Sophie Gällnö, Ivan Radman-Livaja.

(read complete article)


Agnieszka Kotlińska-Toma, Hellenistic Tragedy: Texts, Translations and a Critical Survey. Bloomsbury Classical Studies Monographs. London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2015. Pp. xvi, 322. ISBN 9781472524218. $120.00.

Reviewed by Paul Ojennus, Whitworth University (

Version at BMCR home site


Although poorly preserved, Greek tragedy of the Hellenistic period (323–31 BC) served an important role in culturally unifying the Hellenistic kingdoms and transmitting Greek theater to the Roman world. Kotlińska-Toma makes this literature available to a broader audience by collecting and translating the testimonia and fragments of Hellenistic tragedy and satyr drama, and by placing the fragments in their contexts as literature, as tools of royal, civic, and religious promotion, and as scripts for the stage. Her work is descriptive, relating what is known, and, often, not known about the tragedians, plays, and trends; this is an appropriate approach for a work primarily focused on presenting the texts themselves and providing background necessary to understand them. Occasionally, Kotlińska-Toma's attention to adjudicating carefully between the evidence of the fragments and later critical assumptions leaves one wanting her to provide her own judgment on an issue, especially since, when she does, it is well-considered. Part of the issue here is the underdeveloped state of critical thought on the topic generally, a state which the book aims to provide the tools to improve. One also misses an attempt to set Hellenistic tragedy within the broader critical tradition of Hellenistic poetry, which has developed rapidly in the last 20 years. Despite these missed opportunities the study delivers what it promises, a careful collection of the relevant texts, a descriptive overview of the nature of Hellenistic tragedy, and a summary of the stage conventions of the Hellenistic period, especially their differences from the Classical period.

Kotlińska-Toma organizes the study into four sections. First, an overview of tragedy in the Hellenistic period discusses main themes and problems: transmission of the fragments, the witness of Hellenistic literary criticism, topics portrayed in the tragedies, meter and language, the role of the chorus, and the development of satyr drama. The second section presents the texts and translations of the fragments and testimonia. Kotlińska-Toma includes discussions of major fragments, and synopses of the individual tragedians and their contexts, contingent on sufficient evidence. Next is a section on Hellenistic tragedy with Biblical themes, primarily dealing with the Exagoge of Ezekiel, but also a few further fragments of presumably Jewish tragedies. The final section looks at evidence for the staging of Hellenistic tragedies, particularly developments from Classical conventions, including the funding of tragic performances, the convention of producing new and Classical (i.e., of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides) tragedies side by side, theater buildings, costumes, the proliferation of dramatic festivals, and the development of technitai associations. An appendix of Hellenistic theaters, a bibliography, and indexes of Hellenistic tragedians, historical figures, and plays complete the volume.

The first chapter outlines some important discussions surrounding Hellenistic tragedy. First Kotlińska-Toma explores the role of tragedy in the Hellenistic world: now not a specifically Athenian form, as in the Classical period, it became a way for communities throughout the Mediterranean to communicate their sense of Greek identity, a function also served by the cosmopolitan status of tragedians and the widespread construction of theaters. She also describes the sources of the fragments and testimonia and the problems they present for reconstructing the history of Hellenistic tragedy, especially that many of our book fragments come from Stobaeus, collected as aphorisms of universal wisdom, so that it is usually impossible to infer anything further about their sources. Similarly, information garnered from papyrus fragments, the Suda and inscriptions can be difficult to interpret, unreliable, or unrepresentative. Next Kotlińska-Toma surveys Hellenistic critical writing on tragedy, and compares it, particularly Horace' Ars Poetica, to what may be learned from the fragments. Given the paucity of the remains of Hellenistic tragedy, most points of comparison remain controversial, though she notes that our evidence rarely contravenes the critical strictures. A third subsection looks at tragic themes, that is, subject matter as represented by titles. Mythical themes, especially the Trojan and Theban sagas, dominate as they do for the Classical period, but Hellenistic tragedians tend to be more eclectic in their choices of myths, with titles such as Adonis, Aeolus, and Aethlius reflecting novel subjects.1 Hellenistic tragedians were also more apt to treat historical subjects, both from earlier periods, e.g., a Themistocles, and contemporary, e.g., a Cassandreians. A section on language and meter discusses the metrical purity of the Pleiad tragedians and the relation of the tragedians' use of language to authors such as Callimachus and Apollonius (i.e., hapax legomena, linguistic inventiveness, and intertextual references). The chapter finishes with examinations of the evidence for the chorus in Hellenistic tragedy and the nature of Hellenistic satyr plays. Each of the topics is meticulously documented, often collecting widely scattered evidence.

Chapter Two presents the fragments and testimonia of the Hellenistic tragedians. The tragedians are divided in four sections: the Pleiad, other tragedians mentioned in literature, other tragedians mentioned in inscriptions, and unassigned fragments. Within these sections, tragedians are arranged chronologically, as far as possible; the ordering of the poets of the Pleiad follows that of Schramm whose edition this work updates.2 Kotlińska-Toma prints the Greek text of the Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta (TrGF), where this is available, otherwise that of the original publication (e.g., of papyrus fragments and inscriptions), or other appropriate source. The numbering of the fragments in TrFG is helpfully cross-referenced. Kotlińska-Toma provides her own translations of all testimonia and fragments, omitting the portions of inscriptions or papyrus fragments where no continuous sense can be reconstructed. She also includes descriptive summaries of individual tragedies and tragedians; given the state of the evidence, these often restate what is known from the testimonia, which is still useful for non-specialists needing to orient themselves. Some discussions venture further contexts, e.g., known versions of the myth treated by the tragedy prior to the Hellenistic period, and inferences about how the tragedy's treatment may be innovative. Brief discussions of other relevant topics, such as the membership and chronology of the Pleiad, and the relationship of Lycophron's Alexandra to Hellenistic tragedy appear here also.

The third chapter collects the evidence for Hellenistic tragedy with Biblical themes in a similar fashion. The context, origin, and purpose of Ezekiel's Exagoge are subjects of considerable controversy among both classical and religious scholars; Kotlińska-Toma does not engage this scholarship in detail but outlines some of the main themes: the place of Jewish tragedies within the multi-cultural milieu of Hellenistic literature, the diversity of attitudes toward Hellenizing literature within Hellenistic Judaism, and, consequently, the difficulty of gauging contemporary reactions to the Exagoge, the likelihood of an Alexandrian context, and the problem of dating. The chapter also includes the testimonia and fragments of the Exagoge (all from Eusebius, with a single fragment also quoted in Clement, text from TrGF), and Kotlińska-Toma's translations. A substantial part of the chapter looks at the literary features of the tragedy, especially noting formal continuities and discontinuities with Classical tragedy, for example, the possible division into five acts, the violations of the unities of time and place, whether a chorus was used, and the question of staging. Kotlińska-Toma argues against a strong division between the Exagoge and "ordinary" Hellenistic tragedy, especially in view of our limited knowledge of the genre and the diversity observed in the extant fragments. The chapter concludes with three fragments and the testimony of a fourth play of presumed Jewish provenance. Although the first two fragments are attributed to Aeschylus and Sophocles respectively, their language, meter, and subject matter suggest they are by Hellenistic Jewish writers similar to Ezekiel; the third fragment is unattributed, but assigned by some scholars to Ezekiel and similar to the Exagoge in style. Altogether the chapter helps incorporate the scholarship on Ezekiel and other Hellenistic Jewish tragedians with the broader context of Hellenistic tragedy.

In chapter four, Kotlińska-Toma examines the evidence for the staging of tragedies in the Hellenistic period. First she reviews how the financing of dramatic festivals changed from the choregia, the Athenian institution of liturgies, to agonothesia, where festivals were funded at public expense, or funded by the Hellenistic rulers who could use the dramatic productions for self-promotion. Next the practice of restaging fifth-century tragedies next to new tragedies appears for scrutiny. Especially noteworthy is the evidence that old tragedies may have been staged with considerable reduction of the cast, with a reduced or no chorus, or a single actor playing select scenes. Further Kotlińska-Toma examines the theater building, focusing on changes from the Classical stage; this serves as an overview of the subject, relying heavily on Vitruvius, but noting diversity of construction in actual theaters. The section on costumes follows a similar format. A final section on aspects of Hellenistic tragedy beyond the stage surveys the evidence for dramatic festivals in the Hellenistic period and for technitai associations.

The volume includes an appendix listing surviving and attested theaters of the Hellenistic period by location, including date of construction (when known), diameters of the orchestra and cavea, seating capacity, and other salient details (e.g., current state of preservation). A thorough bibliography is subdivided into editions of the texts of the Hellenistic tragedians, other editions of ancient texts, and general works. Short indexes of the Hellenistic tragedians, historical figures, and plays conclude the study.

Kotlińska-Toma's work makes a valuable contribution to a generally underserved segment of Greek literature by collecting the fragments and testimonia of Hellenistic tragedy in a single volume, including recent publications of papyri and inscriptions, and the fragments of Ezekiel's Exagoge, sometimes separated from the corpus as being of primarily religious interest. Her translations of the fragments and testimonia, and her summaries of critical trends promise to make this period of ancient drama accessible to a wider audience. The study does have its limitations, which are perhaps imposed by the state of the scholarship on Hellenistic tragedy generally. Most conspicuous is Kotlińska- Toma's reluctance to suggest connections with the comparatively well-developed critical discussion of other Hellenistic poets' engagement with their extra-literary contexts. She compares the metrical and linguistic practices of the Pleiad with that of Callimachus and Apollonius but does not extend this to suggesting further parallels with Alexandrian poets' roles as court poets or how they mediate between the Classical traditions and their Hellenistic contexts. Similarly, Kotlińska-Toma is sometimes content to catalog opinions on cruxes without attempting to adjudicate or advance the discussion (e.g., on the dates, spelling, etc., of Philiscus, pp. 69–74). This is a matter of consistency, as Kotlińska-Toma elsewhere provides important insights that advance our understanding of the fragments (e.g., appealing to Hellenistic tastes for bourgeois and Herodotean themes to support a late date for the Gyges fragment, pp. 184–5).

Errors in the typesetting of the Greek text distract more than obscure understanding. I observed: missing spaces in δ' ἐν, p. 19, after γράψας, p. 111; iota adscript should be subscript in οὐδεμίᾳ, p. 41, in τῇ τραγικῇ, p. 50 (the press' practice is not consistent, it usually prints subscript throughout except for inscriptions and papyri, but with inconsistencies); πλεοὰς is printed for Πλειὰς, p. 49; there are inconsistent uses of quotation marks in the Greek text, pp. 42–3, 62; angle brackets misapplied, p. 92; square brackets misapplied, p. 147; stray angle bracket, p. 195; apostrophe misprinted as end-quotation mark (i.e., › ) after τεκοῦσ, p. 95, and after ἀπ, p. 136, before παύριον and πιστάτην, p. 205; after τ, p. 239; πνεῦμ' is marked with a breve not a circumflex, p. 125; κεῖνος is printed as κε, p. 134; ἱεροῖς is printed with a medial instead of a final sigma, p. 161; numbers γ´ and δ´ are inconsistently rendered, p. 168; intrusive open-quotation mark in μέχρις, p. 207; and a stray 8 before ἄντικρυς, p. 236. None of these pose a serious hindrance to understanding, but special diligence might be expected in a work focused on the Greek texts.


1.   Kotlińska-Toma overlooks the Aeolus of Euripides (TrGF F 13a-41) in claiming Lycophron's title is unique (p. 31). Similarly she omits mention of the Adonis of Dionysius of Syracuse (TrGF 76 F 1) (early 4th cent.) in discussing the importance of the theme in Hellenistic Tragedy (p. 31). She associates the Adonis and Themistocles of Philiscus of Aegina (TrGF 89 T 5) with Philiscus of Corcyra (pp. 27, 31, 67, 69-71).
2.   Schramm, F. 1929. Tragicorum Graecorum hellenisticae, quae dicitur, aetatis fragmenta [praeter Ezechielem] eorumque de vita atque poesi testimonia collecta et illustrate. Diss., Monasterii Westfalorum.

(read complete article)

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Kristi Upson-Saia, Carly Daniel-Hughes, Alicia J. Batten (ed.), Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. Pp. xvi, 293. ISBN 9781472422767. $129.95.

Reviewed by Karel C. Innemée, Leiden University (

Version at BMCR home site


This book is the result of three invited panels, held at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies and the American Academy of Religion. The papers presented here were joined with a number of solicited essays in this volume.

Everyone conveys messages through the way he or she is dressed (or not dressed). The range of these messages and their vocabulary is wide: from social status and profession to preference in music and sports. Religion is another aspect that can also be reflected in dress and this is the subject of this volume. The title suggests that the subject is limited to the way Judeans and Christians used costume as a means of communication and expression, but in fact some of the contributions go beyond this. Callie Callon writes about how the facial characteristics of the apostle Paul were depicted, while the contribution of Kristi Upson-Saia concerns the hair of anchorites. The scope of the book is therefore the human body as a whole and how it can be "read" within the context of religious communities and their non-verbal forms of communication—as the editors make clear, they "are not interested in studying ancient dress as an end in itself" (7).

The source material used by the various authors primarily consists of contemporary texts, with a few references to pictorial sources (especially in part 5, "Dress, Image and Discourse"). In choosing this approach, the authors of this volume analyse the language of body and dress in a multifaceted way. Although it is impossible to deal with a subject as complicated as the language of body and dress in Judaism and Christianity in an exhaustive way in fewer than 300 pages, these contributions do offer interesting information to scholars in various fields.

The editors have divided the book into six parts, each containing two contributions, and in spite of their effort to impose order in the table of contents, these capita selecta are in some cases quite different in their approach, some going deep into the details of one specific topic, while others give a broader overview of certain phenomena.

Part 1 is entitled "Dress and the Social Body." In chapter 1 Naftali Cohn discusses the adornment of Judean women and the third-century Mishnah. The way that the adornment of the female body was regulated by rabbis did not just concern the individual body, but the metaphorical body of society as well—especially vis à vis the identity of non- Judeans. It is interesting to see how social identity was expressed in the costume of one half of society, women, while simultaneously, the regulation of women's dress controlled moral (and implicitly, sexual) behaviour. The author discusses the measures taken in case a woman did not dress according to the rules: public humiliation by removing dress and jewelry. Male control over female behaviour is not restricted to ancient Judean society and one cannot help being reminded of present-day Iran, where female dress is scrutinised as a symptom of morality. Although Cohn's discussion is perfectly clear, the reader is left to wonder about rules and restrictions on male dress in ancient Judean society.

In the second chapter, Maria Doerfler deals with differences between male and female attire, more specifically the topic of cross-dressing and Ambrose of Milan's attitude toward what he and many others considered a threat to Roman manliness and virtue. For Ambrose, the clear division of the genders by their appearances maintained not only social order, but Christian values as well. Whereas for women cross-dressing could be considered a way of "breaking in to" a more prestigious segment of society—in the words of Ambrose, "imitate the nature of the worthier sex"—it could give to a man nothing but scorn. Three kinds of men would be prone to this travesty: the slaves of luxuria, those under the influence of foreign habits, and pagans. In other words, Ambrose did not defend an exclusively Christian standpoint: defenders of traditional Roman values would have agreed with him on at least the former points. The author ends by observing the paradox that "Ambrose's conservative vision of Roman dress re-coded in Christian terms gave way to a more radical change of attire: medieval Christians would exchange the Roman toga, that long-standing symbol of Romanitas, for the bishop's mantle or the monk's habit as the new symbols of masculinity." Yet monks, and soon bishops as well, were celibate and as such not role-models for the average male. Moreover, the taste for colourful un-Roman garments and imported silks had already begun influencing general taste and that of the court since Constantine's establishment of it at Constantinople. What we see was less a paradox than a gradual process wherein Christian dress became more foreign as more foreigners and pagans became Christian.

Part 2 is called "Dress and Relationality." In chapter 3, Rebecca Krawiec discusses the monastic habit as an expression of social memory and of visual connection with the past. Most parts of the monastic habit had a purely practical origin, but the symbolism attached to them by authors such as Evagrius underscores how the "grammar of dress" provided a counterpart for written or orally conveyed teachings. As long as dress serves a practical purpose it is subject to improvements, changes, and developments, but as soon as it becomes a bearer of religious values and symbolism, its shape tends to freeze. Monastic ideals codified in texts required unaltered copying, and likewise monastic dress, as soon as it had become a part of social memory and a bearer of values, was required to remain unchanged, as Krawiec makes clear.

In chapter 4, Adam Serfass focuses on a specific matter: the dispute between Pope Gregory the Great and bishop John of Ravenna concerning the occasions when wearing the pallium—the episcopal insignia granted by the pope—was allowed. The fact that John wore it not just during the liturgies but on other occasions as well was seen as a sign of pride, contrary to the pallium's purpose: expressing the humility of the bearer. Ravenna, officially under the authority of the bishop of Rome, was at the end of the sixth century also an exarchate of Byzantium. The author of this chapter may have overlooked the fact that, for eastern bishops, the omophorion, the vestment that corresponds to the western pallium was not a special insignia, but a normal part of the episcopal costume. John may have complied with the eastern rather than the western habits of dressing, not necessarily meaning to challenge Gregory's authority.

Part 3 is titled "Dress and Character Types." Chapter 5 is a contribution by Callie Callon about the description of the appearance of St. Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, especially those features that were meant to make him resemble the traditional type of the philosopher: a bald head, a frown, and a unibrow.

The following chapter, by Erin Vearncombe, discusses the role of the dress of Judith in the narrative about the killing of Holofernes. Although she is literally "dressed to kill" and her seductive appearance would not be approved under other circumstances, the purpose of her behaviour—saving her people from destruction—transforms the appearance of vice into virtue.

Part 4, "Dress and Status Change," starts with chapter 7, in which Meredith Warren analyses the role of changes of dress as a reflection of a transformation process in the pseudepigraphic romantic novel Joseph and Aseneth. Aseneth, Joseph's Egyptian wife, at first dresses in a brilliant but "pagan" outfit. After she is rejected by Joseph for her idolatry, she puts on garments of mourning. Then follows her process of spiritual transformation and finally a heavenly visitor instructs her to put on a wedding dress in which she will appear in all her beauty to Joseph. In chapter 8, "Hairiness and Holiness in the Early Christian Desert," Kristi Upson-Saia discusses the growth of hair as an expression of other- worldliness, where the deliberate neglect of one's appearance is a sign that a hermit has already mentally exchanged this world for the hereafter.

Part 5 has the title "Dress, Image and Discourse," and in chapter 9, Arthur Urbano gives an elaborate account of the various and sometimes ambiguous Christian attitudes that existed towards the pallium and specifically its worn-out version, the tribon. In antiquity the tunic and toga were the garments of the upper-class respectable man, while the pallium and the tribon were the hallmarks of the philosopher. The combination of the worn-out tribon and a beard became the outfit of the intellectual because of his disdain for worldly elegance. On one hand, the tribon and beard fit the Christian appreciation for the ascetic teacher of which Christ was the prototype, but on the other hand some considered it a superficial disguise that any charlatan could don. In Christian iconography the tunic and pallium nevertheless remained a tradition for centuries.

In chapter 10, Joan Taylor investigates the Judean priestly costume according to descriptions from Exodus, Leviticus, Ezekiel, and Flavius Josephus, and tries to decipher its representations in the Berne Josephus (9th cent.) and on Judea Capta coins. Literary sources give a reasonable amount of information concerning priestly dress, but reliable representations from the period before the Common Era have not survived. The distance in time makes comparing the descriptions in biblical sources with those in the Berne Josephus problematic. At least seven centuries separate the illustration from the period that priestly dress was worn and it is unclear on what source the picture was based. Representations on Roman coins are closer in time, but one could wonder whether the makers of Roman coins had the intention or ability to show the details of Judean dress on such a small surface.

The sixth and last part of the book, "Dress and Material Realities," opens with a contribution by Carly Daniel-Hughes on the metaphorical vocabulary concerning the "putting on of the new man" in the Gospel of Philip. The chapter gives a convincing analysis of garment imagery in this text, although the aspect of "material reality" seems to be absent. The twelfth and last chapter, on the other hand, deals with the importance attached to the pearl as a precious piece of adornment in costume, both in its intrinsic and symbolical aspects. Alicia Batten gives a concise and highly informative history of the appreciation for the pearl, which differed remarkably between East and West.

The book as a whole presents an interesting and kaleidoscopic view on a number of aspects of the language of the human body and its adornments in ancient Judean and Christian culture. In some contributions the aspect of dress is remotely present or almost absent, but each shows that understanding the grammar and vocabulary of the language of the human body is an undeniable but sometimes still underestimated part of human culture.

(read complete article)


Michael H. Jameson, Cults and Rites in Ancient Greece: Essays on Religion and Society. (Edited by Allaire B. Stallsmith). Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xxxvi, 362. ISBN 9780521661294. $99.00.

Reviewed by Ana Isabel Jiménez San Cristóbal, Universidad Complutense de Madrid (

Version at BMCR home site


This volume assembles 13 articles on cults and rites in ancient Greece written by M. Jameson over a period of nearly fifty years. Widely known as an epigrapher, historian, and archaeologist, each of his articles included in this book has had a lasting impact on scholarship since the time of its publication. The author himself had collected the essays in this book when his untimely death in 2004 interrupted the preparation of the volume. The present collection results from the encouragement of his colleagues Paul Cartledge, Irene Polinskaya and Allaire B. Stallsmith, who celebrate the figure of their mentor and colleague in the preface. Jameson's papers are divided into four parts: Gods and Heroes; Rites; Religion and Society; and The Study of Greek Religion. Such a framework offers a clear and sharp view of Jameson's methodological and conceptual approach to the study of Greek religion. Each of the four parts is introduced by an essay by a leading international scholar: Fritz Graf, Christopher Faraone, Robert Parker, and Jan Bremmer. Their contributions honour Jameson with a detailed and insightful review of his papers that goes beyond the current selection of texts included in this book. Each of them highlights in a different way Jameson's engagement with the subject of ancient Greek religion.

Paul Cartledge writes the General Introduction, which attempts a conspectus of Jameson's published scholarship; it is interwoven with some personal observations and larger commentary. He tries to give a representative account of Jameson's works by separating them into four topics: epigraphy, religion, intensive field-survey archaeology, and agriculture and slavery. A complete bibliography of Jameson is included at the end of this chapter.

The first part of the collection, dedicated to Gods and Heroes, is introduced by Graf, who affirms that Jameson naturally thought of Greek religion in the framework of local religion. Graf explains Jameson's attitude towards Greek religion as that of an epigrapher who works in the first instance on local inscriptions and local cults. In the words of Graf, "Jameson's essays remain models - for epigraphers in how to think about Greek religion, and for historians of Greek religion in how to use the documents of epigraphy" (p. 8). Indeed, two of the four papers in this first part have their point of departure from an inscription. The paper "Apollo Lykeios in Athens" edits and comments on an Athenian decree that establishes a tax that must be paid by the hoplites in the temenos of the god. Apollo Lykeios becomes the god of adult men in their military situation. "Perseus, the Hero of Mycenae" begins with two late inscriptions from Mycenae in order to analyze the local evidence of his cult. Perseus is tied to the Archaic polis' institution of initiation into adulthood and citizenship. Without denying the influence of the Ancient Near East on the Perseus myth, he defends the idea that the local Peloponnesian rites of maturity were attached to the myth from the Near East, which in turn may have been influenced by Spartan rituals. The third paper of this section focuses on Echetlaeus, the hero of Marathon, who is linked with the sacred rite of plowing. Taking his starting point from a detail of a painting in Athens' Stoa Poikile, Jameson presents a linguistic analysis of the hero and concludes that the name and the hero must be connected with the plow- handle, an object with ritual associations. The fourth paper, "The Asexuality of Dionysus," tackles the paradox that the god most closely associated with the phallus has a feminine side, lacks sexual interest in women and is usually represented as "detached and unconcerned with sex." Jameson explains these characteristics through Dionysus' role as mediator between male and female. This explanation is hardly satisfactory for Bremmer (p. 296), who concedes, however, that Jameson's paper appeared just before the publication of several Macedonian inscriptions connecting Dionysus the "pseudo-male" with initiation.

"Rites" is the rubric of the second part, introduced by Faraone. In "Sophocles, Antigone1005-1022: An Illustration," Jameson links a scene described by Tiresias at the end of the Antigone with a vase-painting in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, which shows an animal sacrifice performed on an altar. According to him, the scene represents the moment in which the officiant and other observers are taking the omens from the behaviour of the tail. In "Sacrifice before Battle," Jameson gives a thorough discussion of the various kinds of pre-battle sacrifice through the myths and the images and metaphors of poetry. There were two basic types: the usual burnt sacrifice and the sacrifice performed at the battle line (σφάγια). The author contextualizes the different stages of the battle and the different types of sacrifices and also connects the historical battle sacrifice with the mythical human sacrifices of the Greeks. The article "Ritual of the Athena Nike Parapet" explains how detailed knowledge of Greek ritual is crucial to interpret the sculptures of the shrine's friezes. A winged Nike in the act of killing a bull represents a battle-line σφάγια, whereas the Nike setting up war trophies symbolizes the end of the battle. In the last essay of the section, "Theoxenia," Jameson examines the evidence for the offering of meals on tablets to gods and heroes in different areas of the Greek world. Combining epigraphic and iconographic data and small votive reliefs, he places the ritual within the system of Greek sacrifice, where division and reciprocity between human and divine is the major aim. One of the great merits of this essay, as well as "Sacrifice before Battle" and "Apollo Lykeios," is the assemblage of exhaustive evidence for these rites, making these papers the starting point for any future work on these topics.

The heading of the third section is "Religion and Society"; the section is introduced by Parker. "Labda, Lambda, and Labdakos" connects the names of Labda and Labdakos with the archaic Corinthian form of the lambda. This hypothesis presupposes that the stories of Labda and Labdakos postdate the adoption in Greece of the Phoenician alphabet. This article, together with the earlier article on Perseus, tackles mythical themes, a minority in Jameson's bibliography. Nevertheless, although Jameson does not focus on a mythical subject, his essays show clearly the complicated relationship between myth and cults. "Sacrifice and Animal Husbandry" maintains that the sacrificial calendar of rural Attica was determined by the seasonal availability and habits of different animals, by the annual increase of young and the culling of the older ones. Jameson's deep knowledge of the ancient agricultural world is clearly seen in this paper. Also remarkable is the analysis of the evidence from excavated bones for the selection of animals for sacrifice. "Religion in the Athenian Democracy" notes that, contrary to the traditional view, management of cults by aristocratic gene emerged for the first time under the democracy. However, it is the polis that is the provider of sacrificial meat on a large scale. Jameson minimizes the crisis in late fifth century religion, which was supposedly due to the emergence of foreign and mystic cults and the skepticism of intellectuals. "The Spectacular and the Obscure in Athenian Religion" tackles how the demos of the city organized, adapted, and preserved the sacred space and time of the city as a whole. Jameson analyses the nature of public sacrificial ritual as performance, as well as other types of sacrifice that did not require an audience, such as purification rites, animal sacrifice for obtaining favorable signs, and the many small-scale sacrifices conducted by individuals.

The fourth and last section of the book, entitled "The Study of Greek Religion," is introduced by an essay by Bremmer. With "Sacred Space and the City: Greece and Bhaktapur," Jameson responds to Robert Levy's comparison between this medieval small city in Nepal and the archaic Greek polis. Jameson deals with the subject of symbolic space and stresses the absence of a separation between town and country, unlike Asian cities. The lack of information about the creation of sacred space in Greek cities may be due to the absence of a clergy made up of religious experts.

The volume closes with an exhaustive bibliography covering all the essays and an index of names and topics.

This collection of papers illustrates clearly Jameson's approach to Greek religion: his most important contributions are several articles in the field of sacrifice and the nature of Greek religion. Throughout the pages of this volume, he appears as an expert aware that one needs to master several distinct approaches in order to write a properly interconnected account of complex phenomena. Jameson emerges as a scholar of both literary and epigraphic texts, who combines them with iconographic evidence as necessary, to deal with the study of Greek religion. He reveals himself not as a theorist of Greek religion but as a scholar interested in the social and political contexts and consequences of the rituals he analyzes. His studies of local rituals connected with gods and heroes explain local beliefs but also contribute to the panhellenic image of these figures. The main merit of the volume lies in posing a wide range of questions and responding to them with judicious answers.

(read complete article)

Monday, July 27, 2015


Hans Krämer, Gesammelte Aufsätze zu Platon. Herausgegeben von Dagmar Mirbach. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde, Bd 321. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. xiii, 592. ISBN 9783110267181. €149.95.

Reviewed by Hans-Christian Günther, University of Freiburg (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Hans Krämer died on 24 April of this year. With him the scholarly community lost a grand old man of ancient philosophy, one of the finest scholar in the field of this and the last centuries. I shall not convert this review into an obituary, but in view of this coincidence, a review of the "Kleine Schriften" of a scholar of Krämer's standing cannot but be a tribute, however small, to work that has accompanied me since the beginning of my studies and that I have admired more and more, the deeper my acquaintance with it has become. Hans Krämer was a unique blend of almost superhuman learning, enormously broad knowledge of both primary texts and scholarship, philological acumen and genuine philosophical thought. His lifelong devotion as a scholar centred on Plato and Platonism and he succeeded in presenting his interpretation of Plato's thought in such an eminently rigorous and philosophically deep and coherent way that he might easily be taken for a convinced Platonist and metaphysician. It deserves more than the footnote in the introduction to say that nothing could be further from the truth. Hans Krämer was an original philosopher in his own right: his original works on ethics (Integrative Ethik, Frankfurt 1995) and hermeneutics (Kritik der Hermeneutik, Munich 2007) rank him among the few truly important thinkers of the present. Paradoxically, however, his unique ability to philosophically penetrate Plato's thought obscured the fact that his research on Plato was aimed at historical and philological correctness, not at promoting Platonic philosophy, let alone an outdated metaphysical system as a philosophy for our times. That would be nothing but utterly wasted effort: it suffices, I think to refer the reader here most emphatically to what Krämer says on p. XII n. 1 of this book, as it clearly shows that one only need reflect for a moment on one's methodological principles to see what the quarrel between the supporters and enemies of the esoteric Plato is about. The statement contains in nuce all that is needed to refute the critics of the esoteric Plato, as well as its false prophets.

When Konrad Gaiser and Hans Krämer initiated the so-called "Tübingen School" of Platonic studies, they remained for a long time almost untouchable, not only in the Anglophone but even in the German-speaking world. There can be no better indicator of the sterility of German academic life after WWII than that Hans Krämer's general book on Plato was first published exclusively in Italian (1982); it was later translated into English (1990); but, as Krämer states in his preface (XIII), it will only now be published at long last in German, in the same series as these papers. So the scholarly world should be grateful to the editors of the "Beiträge zur Altertumskunde" for this splendid collection, which is particularly important because it contains several unpublished but nevertheless polished lectures, and must eagerly await the Plato book in its original language. Moreover, everyone who knew Hans Krämer will feel great satisfaction that at least his papers on Plato were published in his lifetime.

A survey of the table of contents alone shows the relevance and breadth of Krämer's work on Plato's philosophy (see url above). It is impossible even to go briefly through this extremely rich material; so I choose for discussion chapters with the broadest application, although the more specialized ones show best Krämer's acumen in penetrating a text with an inimitable eye for the philosophically relevant.

The volume begins with three contributions that treat problems of basic importance for Plato's philosophy and the relevance of the approach of the Tübingen school. I regard the first contribution, "Die platonische Akademie und das Problem einer systematischen Interpretation der Philosophie Platons," as one of the highlights of the volume. In just 30 pages, Krämer combines with exemplary clarity and brevity various tasks. (1) He traces the merits and deficits of older and contemporary approaches to Plato's philosophy and writings; he places them into the context of their historic presuppositions and a priori principles, and then justifies his own approach to Plato's esoteric philosophy. This alone is enough to show that other approaches lack a sound grasp of the historical background of Plato's philosophy and simply ignore the whole ancient Platonic tradition in favour of modern prejudice. (2) He then sets the bipartite character of Plato's philosophic output (oral vs. written) in the context of teaching in the Academy and demonstrates beyond doubt how Plato's systematic oral philosophy relates to his writings and their dialogic nature, and by the way solves convincingly controversial problems such as the date and nature of Plato's lecture "About the Good." (3) He describes with extraordinary precision, in comparison, the systematic philosophy that can be reconstructed from the testimony about Plato's oral teaching, and he does so with constant reference to the dialogues and to what we know about the philosophy of Plato's direct pupils. (4) (This I regard as a particularly important part:) he explains (Sections IV and V) Plato's concept of philosophy as a science: the basic role of the knowledge of principles and how different levels of knowledge as understood by Plato relate to each other, in particular what the highest level, "sophia", implies; what the approximation of human knowledge means for Plato; and what the function of the many aporetic dialogues is. Here he already implicitly refutes the arguments of the most serious adversary of the oral Plato, Wolfgang Wieland (cf. also Krämer's separate article). I would recommend everyone approaching Plato's philosophy to consult this brief, crystal-clear article as being the best introduction to Platonic philosophy.

I skip the long but extremely dense second and fourth contributions, despite their wide-ranging importance, and focus rather on the even more important one, "ΕΠΕΚΕΙΝΑ ΤΗΣ ΟΥΣΙΑΣ." Plato's description of the highest principle of all that is, all being, the Good, as "beyond being" in the sense of "higher than being in dignity and power," after the sun parable and in analogy with the sun itself as the cause of all being, is one of Plato's most influential and most important claims. One may even see it in a way as the central, most eminently important statement of his written philosophy. That Plato obviously assumes that there is a cause of being (though not being in the sense of the being, i.e. that which is) sets his philosophy and its subsequent tradition apart from the Aristotelian one. This aspect of his thought has a history that reaches from Neoplatonism via its difficult reception in the Middle Ages to German idealism (Schelling) and Heidegger (see also below). But what precisely does Plato's statement mean? How is it to be understood in the context of previous and contemporary philosophical thought? Krämer starts with a very brief examination of prior attempts to interpret Plato's statement, which he convincingly dismisses as unsatisfactory or not explaining the systematic place of the statement in the context of the history of ancient thought. He convincingly argues that this statement – made in the Politeia about the agathon – can only be properly understood in the context of the reception of Eleatic thought, namely Zeno's refutation of the existence of plurality. In the context of his theory of ideas, Plato rehabilitates plurality as being in a qualified sense. Krämer shows how Plato thus shifts Zeno's contraposition of hen / on vs. polla / ouk onta to a contraposition hen vs. polla / onta. Krämer thus places Plato's statement firmly in its historic context. He underpins this further by referring to Speusippus' dualistic theory as derived from this and, above all, places it firmly in its historical context in the history of thought.

The second section of the collection contains mainly contributions important for understanding of the place of Aristotle's thought as seen from its roots in the Platonic Academy and especially Plato's oral teaching. Here again, as with the paper discussed above, Krämer firmly places the basic problems that Aristotle addresses in his philosophy in the frame of the questions discussed in the Academy by Plato`s immediate successor on the basis of his oral philosophy, i.e. the theory of principles. Krämer here outlines the foundations on which the fundamental contributions of Enrico Berti are built. Berti showed that Aristotle's Metaphysics is his theory of principles, of which ontology is just a part. Especially in "Das Verhältnis vom Platon und Aristoteles in neuer Sicht," Krämer shows how Aristotle developed out of Plato's oral teachings his new concepts of the syllogism; the ontological priority of the individual substance in the treatise Categories; the "pròs-hén-relation"; and his view on eidos as the key principle of being. Of course, Aristotle offers just one possible solution – I may add, a very convincing and coherent solution, but not the only possible one! – to genuine Platonic problems. Thus, Krämer again places an important and lasting contribution to European thought in its proper historic context and shows where Aristotle relies on Academic thought and where his original contribution lies.

In the third section Krämer sketches in a short, dense contribution ("Das neue Platonbild") the consequences of recuperating Plato's unwritten teachings and their application to the study of the dialogues for the history of European thought. I want to highlight Krämer's description of Plato's thought as "offene Systematik." This highly poignant description of Plato's thought – apart from excluding from his philosophy every element of totalitarianism, of which Plato has often been accused by a misguided approach to his thought – opens up Platonic theory to being disaggregated into a coherent sum of various concepts that, even in isolation, can be identified as fruitful elements of various philosophies that might well start from quite different foundations. I limit myself to the remark that Krämer rightly points out that even the emphasis of Heidegger, Adorno, and French phenomenology on variety, non-identity, and becoming reflects an element of genuine Platonic teaching, with its two dialectic principles. In fact, to Krämer's remarks on Heidegger, I would fairly and squarely add that Heidegger's reception of Plato's is wholly inadequate in view of the new "Platonbild." Had Heidegger known it, his whole approach to Plato would have been different. It remains a major task of research to combine in a fruitful way Heidegger's "Seinsdenken" with the genuine, not the distorted Plato he was confronted with.

(read complete article)


Alan H. Sommerstein, Menander: Samia (The Woman from Samos). Cambridge Greek and Latin classics. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xii, 367. ISBN 9780521514286. $99.00.

Reviewed by Alexandra Daly, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (

Version at BMCR home site


Classroom experience with Menander is usually limited to Dyskolos, on which several English commentaries of varying levels are available (Handley 1965; Gomme and Sandbach 1973; Konstan 1983). The disappointment widely expressed since the publication of the Bodmer papyrus tends to put both instructors and students off this seminal author. Although my intermediate Greek students and I learned this past fall that Dyskolos is rich and humorous, the fragments and testimonia of the rest of the corpus suggest that it is rather staid; had more survived of, say, The Possessed Girl (Theophoroumene), the modern view of Menander would be quite different, perhaps on a par with the ancient view. Dyskolos is not everyone's cup of tea, and more commentaries on the other comedies that survive at appreciable length are needed.

Hence Alan Sommerstein's new Green and Yellow on Samia is especially welcome. The highly entertaining and mostly complete Samia might replace Dyskolos as the representative Menandrian comedy; in any case, it is long overdue for instruction and an English commentary besides those of Gomme and Sandbach (1973) and Bain (1984). The former is inaccessible to most undergraduates, and the latter, with its facing translation and brief notes, limits their engagement with the Greek. Both predate the ongoing surge of scholarship on New Comedy that includes several recent commentaries: Pice and Castellano's (2001) on Samia; Beroutsos' (2005) on Aspis 1–298; Ingrosso's (2010) on Aspis; Ireland's (2010) on Aspis and Epitrepontes; Furley's on Epitrepontes (2009) and Perikeiromene (2015). Joining their ranks, this commentary by one of the foremost scholars of Attic drama should ease Samia into graduate and advanced undergraduate curricula and encourage the study of Greek New Comedy in general. Given another opportunity to teach Menander, Sommerstein's Samia would be my first choice.

The introduction (1–57) consists of thirteen sections: (1) Menander's Life and Career; (2) New Comedy; (3) The Plot of Samia; (4) The Characters and Their Relationships; (5) Love, Marriage—and Rape; (6) Tragic Themes and Reminiscences; (7) Rich and Poor; (8) The Date of Samia; (9) Language and Metre; (10) Performance; (11) Samia in Art; (12) The Recovery of Menander; and (13) Text and Title. There follow the text and apparatus (61–93); commentary (95–324); bibliography (325–338); and indexes (339–367). In all Sommerstein's is the longest commentary to date on any individual Menandrian comedy. He balances comprehensiveness with concision and clarity throughout. The book is very well produced, with no significant errors.

Because New Comedy is so seldom taught at the undergraduate level, an introduction to the genre is essential, and Sommerstein's (4–10) is exemplary. Rejecting long-standing assumptions about the literary merit (or lack thereof) of Menander and his genre, he emphasizes their virtues: elegance, characterization (see, e.g., the discussion of Demeas and Nikeratos, 22–26), and the shuffling of plots and characters to new effects. First-timers will occasionally need background on the other plays he cites, but for the most part he clearly identifies the stock material and Menander's use of it; his interpretation of Moschion's self- obstruction as an ingenious twist on the dominant plot pattern (6–7) is particularly well-taken. Sommerstein's reliance on Roman comedy for information about its Greek ancestor is traditional and fruitful to a point, but it is worth keeping in mind that where extended comparison is possible (e.g., between Bacchides and Dis Exapaton), the differences tend to be at least as significant as the similarities.

Both in the introduction and throughout the commentary, Sommerstein puts his knowledge of the rest of Attic drama, with which students are likely to be more familiar, to excellent use. He stresses the formal and linguistic continuity across the three phases of comedy and explains the differences as valid artistic choices and socio-historical developments. From the connections and distinctions he draws between Aristophanes and Menander, students should gain a new appreciation for both. Sommerstein also notes numerous possible intertexts with tragedy; his references to the "girl's tragedy" (e.g., ad 553–554 on Melanippe the Wise, 590 on Danae) demonstrate Menander's particular debt to Euripides, who favored plots in which girls are punished by their fathers for their premarital rape and impregnation by gods, and the importance of this mythic pattern for Greek conceptions of female sexuality. Based on his own reconstruction of Euripides' Hippolytos Kalyptomenos, Sommerstein proposes four striking reminiscences of it in Samia (39–40). If he is correct that Eur. fr. 1067 belongs to the same context as Eur. fr. 440 and is invoked at Samia 343–347, Demeas' lines are a wonderful example of Menandrian repurposing and irony: with the words of a slave failing to persuade Theseus of Hippolytos' innocence, Demeas tries "to persuade himself [of Moschion's innocence] and succeeds—in reaching a wrong conclusion."

Sommerstein is forthright and sensitive on issues of gender and sexuality. Given their own experiences as well as the current debates about sexual consent on college campuses, students are likely to struggle most with the presentation of Plangon's rape and pregnancy; Sommerstein is careful to explain the cultural and generic assumptions behind it. Overall he is highly attentive to the female experience—the strange marriage of respectability and vulnerability in Chrysis' position; the friendship between this foreign pallake and the citizen women next door; the rape victim's trauma; the wife's protection of her daughter and opposition to her husband—much of which must be inferred from male speech and action.

Drama must be understood primarily as a script, and Menander, however he reads on the page, truly comes alive in performance. With its range of emotion (from tender affection to blistering rage) and humor (slapstick, misunderstandings, paratragedy), Samia has the potential to be an engrossing production, and Sommerstein gives performance its due. In the introduction (48–50) he lays out the architecture and conventions of Menander's theatre; throughout the commentary he makes learned suggestions for and speculations on staging, including entrances and exits, backstage movements, positions, gestures, and the use of masks. His treatment especially of gesture, which receives no fewer than thirty-one references in the index, should set an example for commentaries on dramatic texts.

The section on art (50–52) is a rare treat in a Green and Yellow commentary. Sommerstein recognizes that the mosaics depicting scenes from Menandrian comedy are vital evidence: they attest to the dramatist's enduring celebrity and probably derive from an iconographic tradition that began soon after his death and therefore reflects the original circumstances of performance. In addition to the long-known Mytilene mosaic, Sommerstein treats two possible representations of the same scene (the expulsion of Chrysis, Samia 369–383); he rejects the sarcophagus lid in the Louvre and accepts the recently discovered Brindisi mosaic with reservations. I would have liked to see a fuller discussion of Menander's reception in other media both ancient and modern, though instructors and students can turn to Nervegna (2013) for an extensive discussion of the former. Sommerstein gives a good idea of his ancient reputation (53) but hardly treats his posthumous reperformance, adaptation by the Roman dramatists, and indirect influence on later drama. Students will better appreciate this long-lost and still neglected author if they know that he courses through everything from Shakespeare to sitcoms.

An overview of papyrological terminology and methods would have been helpful, as Sommerstein engages so closely and often with the papyri. Most U.S. undergraduates will be unfamiliar with terms like haplography (245) and mystified by Sommerstein's analysis of spaces and traces without an account of how and why it matters. With a supplementary lecture and handout, however, the text can be used to introduce students to the process whereby tatters of papyrus become the tidy codices to which they are accustomed. Sommerstein's judgment on the text is generally reasoned and astute. His treatment of line 573 is paradigmatic: he suggests an origin for the two transmitted readings, then gives two reasons—one orthographic, the other logical—for preferring μηθαμῶς to μαίνομαι. Where certainty is impossible, he tends to be agnostic; for instance, the "slight and ambiguous" traces in line 38 could represent either αὗται or αὕτῃ, both of which "would be intelligible in terms of the situation and the social conventions." He argues convincingly for a few readings of his own: ὥστ' (4); τήρ[ει δέ με (447); the assignation of πάνυ μὲν οὖν (724) to Moschion. πρὸ τῶν γάμων (692) is a plausible, albeit tentative, suggestion.

In sum, this commentary will be extremely valuable to scholars and students alike: it will enable instruction of Samia, enliven that of Menander, and contribute to the flowering study of New Comedy.1


1.   Works cited:

Bain, D. M. 1983. Menander: Samia. Warminster.
Furley, W. D. 2009. Menander: Epitrepontes. London.
Furley, W. D. 2015. Menander: Perikeiromene. London.
Gomme, A. W. and F. H. Sandbach. 1973. Menander: A Commentary. Oxford.
Handley, E. W. 1965. The Dyskolos of Menander. London.
Ingrosso, P. 2010. Menandro: Lo scudo. Lecce.
Ireland, S. 2010. Menander: The Shield (Aspis) and The Arbitration (Epitrepontes). Oxford.
Konstan, D. 1983. Menander's Dyskolos. Bryn Mawr.
Nervegna, S. 2013. Menander in Antiquity: The Contexts of Reception. Cambridge.
Pice, N. and R. Castellano. 2001. Menandro: La Samia. Bari.
(read complete article)