Sunday, January 31, 2016


Alfred S. Bradford, War: Antiquity and Its Legacy. Ancients and Moderns. London; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xvi, 176. ISBN 9780195380903. $99.00.

Reviewed by C. Jacob Butera, University of North Carolina, Asheville (

Version at BMCR home site


War: Antiquity and Its Legacy is one of the latest offerings in Oxford University Press's Ancients and Moderns series, which aims "to show how antiquity is relevant to life today." As such, this book aims to reach a broad spectrum of non-specialist students and teachers who may be receiving their first introduction to ancient Greek and Roman war and warfare, as well as its impact on our contemporary, particularly Western, society. Professor Bradford is uniquely suited for such an endeavor, as he himself is a veteran of the Vietnam War and can attest to the lasting impact that ancient texts can have on contemporary soldiers and civilians alike.

The book begins with a brief introduction that outlines the continuities between the past and present. In this introduction, Bradford asserts that the Greeks and Romans were the originators of not only the vocabulary, but also the conceptualization, of war. Bradford also draws a clear division in this introduction between the Eastern and Western conceptualizations of warfare, and this divide will be maintained through almost the entirety of the book, with Bradford focusing particularly on Europe and the West. He begins this discussion in the first chapter with Homer's Iliad and will use this text as the foundation for all of the following chapters. As Bradford notes, the Iliad had a great influence on subsequent Greek and Roman authors and would shape conceptions of warfare not only in the classical world but also in the medieval, Renaissance, and modern societies of Europe. This work stands out, in particular, because of its emphasis on both the technical and psychological nature of war, and many of its motifs (such as the arming scenes) would come to influence later literature and art. Bradford is even able to add a personal touch here, as he can relate his own experience in combat with the stories of loss, vengeance, joy, and pain brought to life through Homer's characters. This type of discussion, though brief, is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book. It is certainly difficult to limit a discussion of the Iliad to a single chapter, but Bradford nicely highlights the notions of heroism, cowardice, emotion, friendship, loss, and violence that shape the lines of Homer's epic. Likewise, this chapter will serve as a thorough summary for newcomers to the epic.

The following two chapters are an outline and summary of major battles and campaigns from the Bronze Age to modern times, including brief mentions of the Vietnam conflict and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a tremendous amount of time and information to cover in only two chapters, but these chapters are meant as a backdrop for non-specialists, and along with the first chapter create a basic background with which the reader can then explore the chapters to follow. It is here that Bradford first begins to draw connections between antiquity and the present, asserting that "in the major wars of the nineteenth century antiquity left its legacy in covert ways" (71), particularly as military and civic leaders alike were well versed in the classical past. He even draws connections between the tactics of Alexander the Great and the blitzkrieg of the Second World War. Throughout both of these chapters, Bradford highlights the persistence of the basic tenets of warfare, acknowledging that "that the organisation of [contemporary] military service and war itself would be readily recognisable to Greeks and Romans" (76). While such a claim is indeed bold, particularly in light of advances in technology and tactics, it is interesting to ponder whether, at its most basic, warfare consists of persistent and unchanging universals.

Chapter 4 is perhaps the most successful chapter in the book, as Bradford presents an overview of military history and theory, beginning with the historians and philosophers of Greece and moving through the psychologists and anthropologists of the modern world. Once again, to include authors from Hesiod, Plato, and Cicero to Machiavelli, Kant, and Clausewitz is a tall order and the treatment of each must necessarily be cursory, particularly within the confines of a single chapter. Nevertheless, Bradford is able to organize his discussion by claiming that all of these thinkers, theorists, and writers are, at their core, concerned with the same question: what makes a war "just" and/or "justifiable." Many may argue that this is an oversimplification of authors and texts that have been examined and reexamined by scholars for centuries, but Bradford's aim is to be both introductory and to show the continuities, such as they are, in these works. And, in fact, this framework allows him to introduce our own contemporary discussions pertaining to the "War on Terror" and the notion of "preemptive warfare."

The final two chapters, entitled "Writing War" and "Images of War," are less successful. The first is an overview of literary accounts of war, beginning with a very brief survey of Near Eastern and Biblical texts, before moving to treatments of war by classical authors. Here, Bradford focuses on the particular emphases of ancient authors. Homer, for example, is concerned with the gods and larger than life individuals, while the historians emphasized tactics and troops. And it is with the historians that Bradford focuses most of this chapter, outlining the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Arrian, Sallust, Caesar, Livy, Tacitus, and Ammianus (Bradford is less concerned with historians like Suetonius or the authors of the Historia Augusta). More problematic, however, is the implication that the only written accounts of ancient warfare are literary, and in particular historical. There is no mention, for example, of the substantial body of documentary sources that survive in the ancient world (e.g. epigraphic texts and papyri), and this chapter would be greatly strengthened by the inclusion of the tablets from Vindolanda or the accounts from Dura Europos, to name only two. Interestingly, though, Bradford does touch on the long history of military memoirs, beginning with Xenophon and surveying through the Renaissance and modern periods. This chapter ends somewhat surprisingly with a list of some of Bradford's favorite memoirs and becomes something of a literary review rather than a discussion of the connections between the ancient and modern worlds.

The chapter "Images of War" also highlights the literary bias of this particular volume, despite the chapter's aim to present an overview of visual representations and commemorations of warfare. Bradford once again briefly mentions Egyptian and Near Eastern works of art before shifting to the Greek world, because, as he contends, "art in Greece was quite different… [because the works of art] complement the literary descriptions that we do have" (134-135). This is a problematic premise on which to begin any art historical discussion, and this problem is simply compounded by the fact that the book includes no images of any of the artwork discussed. Nevertheless, Bradford does highlight some interesting points about the audience for images of war, particularly the difference between a veteran and civilian audience and their reactions to the same piece of art. Bradford closes this chapter with a discussion of documentaries, cartoons, and photography, posing a compelling challenge for ancient military historians to view modern media in a new and powerful way. A very brief conclusion follows this chapter, and Bradford once again reminds the reader that "Greece and Rome can still speak directly to us" (147), and in this he is certainly not mistaken.

War: Antiquity and its Legacy is an ambitious work that aims to present a non-specialist audience with an overview of the Greek and Roman treatment of war and warfare and the impact that this treatment has had on later societies. In this, it is not entirely effective, as the connection between ancient and modern is often forced and left to be accepted at face value. For instance, in the chapter "Images of War," Bradford makes the following claim: "Where there is no direct line from the ancient depictions of war to the modern—photography, for instance—antiquity still furnishes a baseline against which to define change, and similarity, in attitude as well as technology" (143-144). Little justification for this conclusion is offered, and the reader is left wondering whether such a connection truly exists. More problematic is the stark division between Eastern and Western notions of warfare, especially when primacy is granted to Western works and ideas. Such Western bias is at odds with the contemporary push at colleges and universities to present a more cross-cultural and balanced interpretation of the ancient and modern worlds, and it is unclear whether such an approach is in fact beneficial for non-specialist readers looking to better understand the ancient world.

Finally, any author attempting to write for a popular audience is presented with the challenge of providing an exciting and readable text while also remaining historically accurate and nuanced. And in this, War: Antiquity and its Legacy is once again not entirely successful. Bradford often chooses to include superlative and hyperbolic statements that will engage most readers, yet he does this, at times, at the expense of historical accuracy. For example, Bradford asserts that "Alexander was the best educated and best prepared commander (with the best army) in all of world history" (35), and that the ambush of the Roman army by Hannibal at Lake Trasimene in 217 BCE was "the only case in military history of one army successfully ambushing another" (43). The first assertion is a matter of opinion, and one might offer such generals as Caesar, Attila, Napoleon, or Patton as reasonable alternatives; the second, though, is more problematic, as this is not the only case of such an ambush even from the Roman world. Three entire legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus were famously ambushed and annihilated by a Germanic force in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE. Statements like these certainly add to the readability of such a work and will excite newcomers to the world of ancient military history, but dramatic statements should not be employed at the expense of nuance or veracity.

It is difficult to find a clear place for War: Antiquity and its Legacy in current scholarship. It certainly will provide non-specialist readers with a foundation for their exploration of classical warfare and its legacy; however, newcomers to the discipline might benefit from a book that engages with more current approaches and methodologies.

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Andrew Gardner, Edward Herring, Kathryn Lomas (ed.), Creating Ethnicities and Identities in the Roman World. BICS supplement, 120. London: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2013. Pp. xiii, 278. ISBN 9781905670468. £38.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Nathanael Andrade, University of Oregon (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Creating Ethnicities is a book worth reading. Its core consists of revised papers delivered at the 7th Roman Archaeology Conference held at University College London and Birkbeck College in early 2007. But the volume's editors have supplemented these to expand the book's range (vii). Their brief introduction (1– 10) outlines its main goals. One is to explore how ethnicities and identities in the Roman world were shaped through social interactions. Much recent scholarship has explored how people in antiquity identified themselves. But the editors are sensitive to how they often crafted perceptions of ethnicity or identities through dialogues with outsiders and sometimes even adopted the categories of others. Another goal is to situate these topics within a broader Roman context of interaction, whereas many studies have focused on regional cases. While specifying such aims, the editors also explore the analytical challenges raised by the topics of ethnicity, identity, and "Romanization."

Creating Ethnicities is divided into two parts. The first, consisting of four chapters, examines the formation of cultural identities in Italy, principally during the period of increased Roman domination (3rd–1st centuries BCE). Elena Isayev (11–34) focuses on the south Italian region of Hirpinia. She probes the dialogues or tensions that arose between local elites that were linked to Rome and those that were not (especially during the 2nd century). After treating the archaeology and histories of notable sites, she observes that the alignments of elites in the Social War (91–88), especially those of the Magii, were determined largely by whether they maintained social connections with Romans and by the local tensions that such relationships inspired. Ethnic or cultural solidarities were not very significant factors.

Ralph Haüssler (35–70) examines western Cisalpine Gaul and its identity formations after c. 500 BCE. He first critiques the Greek and Roman sources that identified its populations as Celts/Gauls or Ligurians. He then discusses how the region's inhabitants expressed dynamic local identities through eclectic cultural forms—including the La Tène culture that scholars sometimes associate uncritically with "Celts" or Celtic identities—in the 4th–1st centuries. In fact, increased Roman encroachment often intensified local identity expressions in this period. The material sources that Haüssler brings to bear include ceramics, funerary objects, coin distributions, and inscriptions.

Kathryn Lomas (71–92) treats the relationship between language and identity in south Italian Puglia (principally after c. 500 BCE), with a key focus on the types of inscriptions featuring the "Messapic" language. She postulates that in response to Roman intervention, 3rd-century elites increasingly expressed state and regional ethnic identities by cultivating new epigraphic practices that often involved Messapic. They did so even while using Greek for their coin legends and in some cases adopting Latin, which appears to have displaced Messapic by the 1st century. Despite such trends, Lomas also stresses that for much of Puglia's history, the cultivation of Messapic, Greek, or Latin probably did not signify ethnic affiliations but other forms of social identity, like elite status or involvement in a cultural koine (Greek or Roman).

Roman Roth (93–111) delves into economy, commerce, and regional connectivity in Italy during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. Focusing principally on Campania and Etruria, he enlists material finds, especially the circulation of ceramics, to paint a picture of increased economic integration, connectivity, and the "linking" of various local and regional networks. Italians from central and south Italy even participated extensively in eastern Mediterranean trade. As Roth argues, these trends may have been facilitated by Rome's expansion into Italy but should not be ascribed to specific historical events from literary sources. The increase in networking was nonetheless an important factor in the consolidation of regional identities among Italians.

The second part of Creating Identities treats cases from non-Italian Mediterranean societies. Most examples come from a Roman context, but Carthage and Nubian Ethiopia are discussed as well. Andrew Erskine (113-30) treats mid-Republican Rome's encounter with the Carthaginians and other western Mediterranean Phoenicians that scholars have traditionally labeled "Punic." He explores how "Punic" culture—including language, agricultural treatises, and food— circulated in Rome and its territories. He thus places Republican Rome in a Mediterranean context of cultural exchange beyond its well-trodden encounter with Greece and Hellenism.

In her contribution, Amanda Kelly (131–68) explores bathhouses and bathing on Roman Crete. While describing the archaeological evidence for public and private bathing facilities, she also links them to the activity of local elites who emulated Roman displays of liberalitas. These financed or managed baths and commemorated other benefactions of theirs in baths' decorations. Kelly also argues for the widespread cultivation of Roman bathing culture not only by elite males but by people of varied social status.

Matthew Peacock's chapter (169–93) explores the cultural life of Petra after the Romans annexed Nabataean Arabia in 106 CE, a generally neglected period. He highlights the construction and maintenance of buildings and urban spaces that typified cities of the Roman empire, along with shifts in language, coinage, and army occupation. But he also stresses the cultural continuities that persisted at the city after its integration into Roman Arabia.

Focusing on temples and sanctuaries in the countryside of Roman Lebanon, Kevin Butcher (195–211) challenges the widespread view that their Greco-Roman monumental forms were merely cosmetic but that their interiors, couched in Near Eastern traditions, defined the identities of worshippers. After all, cultural styles do not always correlate to analogous identities. The article thus explores how temples and sanctuaries were often built, embellished, renovated, or refined through the accretive donations of many different patrons. Local influences and contemporary social demands, not decisions to retain or disavow unchanging traditions, thus determined the cultural features that patrons gave them over time.

In her article, Jane Rowlandson (213–47) thoroughly analyzes what the terms "Greek" and "Egyptian" signified in Roman Egypt. A main point is that Greeks and Egyptians, who were often one and same, principally used these terms to refer to legal, national, and class or occupational status. They usually did not denote ethnicity, and derogatory views about Egyptians in papyri or inscriptions marked class distinctions, not ethnic ones. While metropolitai and gymnasials could assume Greek identities, this is not always explicit. They certainly did not disassociate themselves from Egyptian identities.

Finally, the contribution of Rachael Dann (249-66) probes the so-called "X-group" of Lower Nubia and the history of archaeological work and scholarship devoted to it. She shows how perceptions of race affected how the material assemblage of the "X-group" was understood throughout the 20th century. She also raises the possibility that the Nobadae or Blemmyae, peoples that classical sources describe as raiding Roman territory, formed at least part of the "X-group." Texts found at the remarkable site of Qasr Ibrim and other locations verify that people in lower Nubia identified themselves by such labels.

Creating Ethnicities has much to recommend it, and it deserves a broad academic readership. One strength is its regional and temporal variation. The volume understandably cannot be comprehensive, but four chapters focus on Roman Italy, and six treat Roman provincial societies or external peoples. The Republican and imperial periods each receive five articles. The contributors generally stress that ethnicity and identity are constructs forged through social activity and expressed through cultural markers, a premise now established in academe. But some articles take the extra step of questioning the widespread view that common language and culture must correlate to shared ethnicity or identity. Moreover, the editors and contributors were thinking productively about the oft-debated term "Romanization." The contributors who invoked it usually defined their usage in ways that captured the nuances and complexities of provincial cultures. All the articles seem to me to make valuable contributions to their regional fields. As someone who researches the easternmost regions of the Roman empire, I was impressed by the scholarship on the Near East, Egypt, and Nubia.

I was however perplexed by how the editors or contributors in certain places critique the various terminological alternatives to "Romanization" that scholars have suggested in recent decades. Let us take "hybridity" and "creolization" as examples. In the introductory chapter, the editors define them as processes in which "Roman and non-Roman culture merge together to form new and hybrid cultural forms" (5). They then dismiss these terms by stressing how disparities of power enabled Roman culture to be dominant over indigenous ones. As they state, "One of the major problems of the creolization or hybridization model is that it does not take into account this imbalance of power to a sufficient degree" (5). Similarly, in her article, Kelly defends the term Romanization on the grounds that alternative labels, including creolization, do not sufficiently capture how contact with the Roman empire was a common factor in the formation of diverse provincial societies (131).

I am not arguing here that Roman provincial cultures should be understood through the lenses of hybridity or creolization. One can offer valid reasons to conceive of them in other ways. But I was not entirely convinced by the critiques as specifically aired. First, these concepts are not necessarily incongruous with the premise that common engagement with Roman imperialism shaped provincial cultures, in all their diversity. Second, immense imbalances in power have arguably inspired their formulation. For this reason, the concepts have often been invoked by scholars of British imperial south Asia (especially in post-colonial treatments) or of the multicultural contexts of the Atlantic and Caribbean that were profoundly affected by African slavery.1 For many such scholars, the concepts do not refer merely to processes of cultural mixing. They also capture how such processes could challenge premises of cultural purity or authenticity through which political elites oftentimes claimed social superiority. But more to the point, the social and cultural contexts that these scholars study were in fact defined by vast power disparities that had substantial impact on culture. They therefore usually have such issues in mind. As Stuart Hall emphasizes, "Creolization always entails inequality, hierarchization, issues of domination and subalterneity, mastery and servitude, control and resistance. Questions of power, as well as entanglement are always at stake" (his italics).2 Whatever problems hybridity or creolization may pose, they do not by necessity entail an insensitivity to the impact of a common engagement with Roman imperialism, the disparities of power that it involved, or the dominance of "Roman" or "Greek" cultural practices (however defined) over others.3 I was therefore not entirely persuaded by the critiques offered in the volume.

Overall, Creating Ethnicities has many merits. By encouraging readers to contemplate ethnic and identity formations in a variety of regional contexts, it fulfills its intended purpose. Undoubtedly Roman archaeologists and historians will gravitate toward the articles most pertinent to their specific areas of study. But given its range and relevance for the topics of ethnicity and identity, the entire book is worth reading.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements vii
List of Contributors ix
Abbreviations xi
1. Introduction, Kathryn Lomas, Andrew Gardner, and Edward Herring 1
Cultural Identities in Italy
2. Italian Perspectives from Hirpinia in the Period of Gracchan Land Reforms and the Social War, Elena Isayev 11
3. De-constructing Ethnic Identities: Becoming Roman in Western Cisalpine Gaul? Ralph Häussler 35
4. Language and Identity in Ancient Italy: Responses to Roman Conquest, Kathryn Lomas 71
5. Trading Identities? Regionalism and Commerce in Mid-Republican Italy (third-early second century BC), Roman Roth 93
Cultural Identities in the Provinces
6. Encountering Carthage: Mid-Republican Rome and Mediterranean Culture, Andrew Erskine 113
7. Roman Bathhouses on Crete as Indicators of Cultural Transition: the Dynamics of Roman Influence, Amanda Kelly 131
8. The "Romanization" of Petra, Matthew Peacock 169
9. Continuity and Change in Lebanese Temples, Kevin Butcher 195
10. Dissing the Egyptians: Legal, Ethnic, and Cultural Identities in Roman Egypt, Jane Rowlandson 213
11. Becoming X-Group: Ethnicity in North-East Africa, Rachael J. Dann 249
Index 267


1.   The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), esp. 112–20 and Stuart Hall, "Créolité and the Process of Creolization," in O. Enwezor et al., Créolité and Creolization (Kassel: Hatje Cantz, 2004), 27–41 have been influential. These appear in various reprints. Michael Dietler, Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 50–53 provides concise discussion.
2.   Hall, "Créolité," (as in n. 1) 31. Dietler, Archaeologies of Colonialism(as in n. 1) 50–53 also emphasizes asymmetries of power.
3.   For "creolization" in the Roman empire, Jane Webster, "Art as Resistance and Negotiation," in Sarah Scott and Jane Webster, Roman Imperialism and Provincial Art(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 24–51 (esp. 40–42) and "Creolizing the Roman Provinces," AJA 105.2 (2001): 209–25 (esp. 217–19); Michael Sommer, Roms orientalische Steppengrenze: Palmyra, Edessa, Dura-Europos, Hatra: eine Kulturgeschichte von Pompeius bis Diocletian (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2005), esp. 25–28 and 98–109.

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Andrew Barker, Ancient Greek Writers on their Musical Past: Studies in Greek Musical Historiography. Syncrisis, 1. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2014. Pp. 114. ISBN 9788862276894. €36.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Rebecca A. Sears, Tulane University (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The volume under review is a collection of six lectures presented by Andrew Barker at the University of Calabria in January 2013, with a brief introduction and more substantial conclusion written for this publication. These additions provide a methodological framework for the individual lectures, which function as case studies in the previously neglected area of Greek musical historiography. Andrew Barker has published extensively on ancient Greek music,1 and the breadth and depth of his knowledge are clearly displayed in this volume. However, since these essays originated as lectures, the bibliography and footnoting are necessarily minimal, as the author acknowledges in his introduction. Nevertheless, the strategically placed footnotes are sufficient to inform readers who lack the author's easy familiarity with obscure and fragmentary Greek authors, and Barker's conversational style recommends this collection to a wider audience than the title may suggest.

The first four chapters discuss the evidence for Greek musical historiography incorporated in pseudo-Plutarch's De Musica, which Barker presents as a poorly arranged pastiche of prior theories and observations. The fifth and sixth chapters explore evidence from the Hellenistic period and Greek comedy, respectively. The final chapter, the methodological conclusion mentioned above, helps unify the historical breadth of the individual papers, and argues that these essays demonstrate a need for further research on the topic as a whole.

Barker's first chapter, "Musical History in the Pseudo-Plutarchan De Musica," attempts to untangle the competing musical traditions that underlie the speech of Lysias in Chapters 3-12, proceeding by a somewhat unusual method. Working from the fiction that pseudo-Plutarch actually attempted a logical organization of the material in these chapters, Barker is able to show that this supposition completely breaks down on closer analysis. His discussion reveals two competing traditions about the earliest period of Greek musical history: 1) a Hellenocentric approach, which focused on the development of kitharodic music and denied foreign influence on the development of Greek music; and 2) a contrasting perspective that freely acknowledged foreign influence (e.g., Orpheus and Olympus) and prioritized music written for the aulos.

Chapter 2, "Heraclides of Pontus and Glaucus of Rhegium," turns to the explicit exploration of pseudo-Plutarch as compiler, rather than author, of Greek musical history. Barker focuses on tracing the origin of the individual historical assertions contained in Lysias' speech, which he views as drawing on a greater number of sources than has traditionally been recognized. Barker further asserts that the confusion in pseudo-Plutarch's account results from the vastly different methods and historical approaches of his sources, and from the opinions of even earlier musical historians incorporated by those authors. In this chapter, Barker generally prioritizes the discussion of Heraclides over his source, Glaucus, and in the concluding paragraphs, Barker reconstructs Heraclides' presentation of musical history as a series of 'first discoverers' organized both chronologically and generically.

The third lecture deepens Barker's engagement with Glaucus, but then moves into a discussion of two other fifth and fourth-century historians, Hellanicus and Ephorus, whom Barker sees as additional unnamed influences on De Musica. While the discussions of these three authors are not particularly well integrated, each individual analysis is useful in its own right. The most significant feature of this chapter is a penetrating discussion, framed as a reconstruction of Glaucus' historical perspective, of how the defense of New Music and the strong reactions against it colored Greek attitudes towards their musical history. In this analysis, Barker first presents his position, developed at greater length in chapter 6, that the controversy (real or perceived) over the revolutionary status of the New Music obscured the fact that Greek musical practice and theory evolved continually through the Archaic and Classical periods.

In the fourth chapter, "Aristoxenus," Barker turns to an examination of the Aristoxenian influences on De Musica, focusing his discussion on chapters 11, 16, and 19. He concludes that pseudo-Plutarch drew primarily upon two, possibly more, lost works of Aristoxenus, which he proposes covered the histories of performance and composition and developments in musical theory. As with Heraclides, Barker suggests that Aristoxenus' organizing methodology was to construct sequences of 'first discoverers' in these areas. This lecture includes the most technical discussions of the book in terms of the treatment of specific questions of ancient musical theory (e.g., the structure of the Mixolydian mode on pages 60-61); however, Barker writes these passages with a non-specialist audience in mind, and they function principally as demonstrations of Aristoxenus' historical preoccupations, namely his ongoing literary feud with the harmonikoi. Barker concludes with the dual observations that Aristoxenus' musical writings covered "an extraordinarily wide range of subjects" (72) and that the surviving evidence from these texts suggests that his interest in musical history was "deployed in support of his own theoretical and ideological positions" (73).

In chapter 5, "Musical Historians of the Hellenistic Period", Barker abandons his interrogation of pseudo-Plutarch for a necessarily synoptic overview of the many fragments that date from this period. Using carefully selected examples, he characterizes their primary interest as, not unlike our own, the reconstruction of a musical past which had become remote from current practice, focused on the elucidation of unfamiliar terms and practices. Barker emphasizes the philological contributions of the grammatikoi, but emphasizes that modern scholars should use caution in reliance on their interpretations. In his conclusion, Barker discusses the pervasive interest in the musical past that characterizes authors of the Hellenistic period more broadly, but also accentuates the significance of music and music history as separate fields of study in this period.

The sixth and final lecture included in this volume changes course considerably to investigate the reliability of the references to musical practices by Greek comic poets. Barker concludes that far more caution is warranted in accepting these passages as evidence for broadly accepted views, especially for fragments that lack their explicit dramatic context. He observes that, while the frequent satirization of New Music in comedy is generally attributed to the opinions of the poet, these attacks are often placed in the mouths of characters elsewhere presented as vulgar, unsophisticated, and/or unreliable, thus seriously problematizing the reconstruction of Greek perceptions of musical advances solely on comic sources. Barker concludes the chapter with a discussion of the improbability of New Music representing a sudden complete break with 'traditional' musical styles, as it is frequently represented in the polemical attitudes of contemporaneous Greek sources, and instead argues forcefully for continual musical development and evolution throughout the 6th, 5th, and 4th centuries BCE.

In his "Conclusions," Barker first discusses the inherent difficulty of the very concept of Greek musical historians, primarily because of the tendency for authors in a wide variety of genres to write tangentially or directly about musical history. He therefore advises that each specific source requires careful consideration of its context and the purposes of its author(s) prior to the assessment of the historical and musical validity of its assertions. Barker then returns to his contention that Greek musical historiography is a necessary and worthwhile field of study in its own right and as an ancillary to more generalized historical and cultural research, concluding the volume with a strongly worded call for ongoing systematic inquiry.

It is unfortunate that this monograph, because of its highly specialized content, is unlikely to be widely disseminated, since Barker presents a methodologically nuanced approach to his subject. The approach Barker both recommends and enacts could easily benefit any specialty drawing on fragmentary and temporally dispersed evidence, particularly the study of other specialized τέχναι. Among Barker's many noteworthy observations, the most significant is his contention that Greek musical history remains a moving target because musical styles, technologies, and preferences evolved substantially over the nine or ten centuries that comprise ancient Greek music.

Ancient Greek Writers on their Musical Past is a well laid-out and constructed volume with no obvious typographical errors.

Table of Contents

1. Musical History in the Pseudo-Plutarchan De Musica
2. Heraclides of Pontus and Glaucus of Rhegium
3. Musical Historiography, 430-330 BC: Glaucus (Revisited), Hellanicus, Ephorus
4. Aristoxenus
5. Musical Historians of the Hellenistic Period
6. Comic Dramatists and the Construction of Greek Musical History
7. Conclusions
Bibliography of Cited Works
Index of Names


1.   In addition to numerous articles, his principal publications include: The Science of Harmonics in Classical Greece, Cambridge University Press 2007; La psicomusicologia nella Grecia antica (tr. Angelo Meriani), Alfredo Guida Editore, Naples 2005; Euterpe: Ricerche sulla musica greca e romana (tr. Eleonora Rocconi), Edizioni ETS, Pisa 2002; Scientific Method in Ptolemy's Harmonics Cambridge University Press 2000; Greek Musical Writings, vol.1, The Musician and His Art, Cambridge University Press 1984 and vol. 2, Harmonic and Acoustic Theory, Cambridge University Press 1989.

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Jeroen W. P. Wijnendaele, The Last of the Romans: Bonifatius - Warlord and 'comes Africae'. Bloomsbury classical studies monographs. London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2015. Pp. xiii, 182. ISBN 9781780937175. $86.00.

Reviewed by Hugh Elton, Trent University (

Version at BMCR home site


Writing about the history of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD is challenging. Unlike many other periods of Roman history such as the Antonine period, there is very little consensus as to the story (or even the sort of story) we should tell. In part this is the result of the highly lacunose source material, but it also reflects the complexity of the events leading up to the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. Wijnendaele's work focuses on the life of Bonifatius, a Roman soldier active in Africa and Italy in the first half of the fifth century. He argues that Bonifatius was the first successful late Roman warlord although for many, his main claim to fame is the accusation of inviting the Vandals into Africa in 429 and then dying in a battle in Italy at the hands of Aetius in 432.

As with so many of his contemporaries like Castinus, Felix, Merobaudes, or Sigisvultus, little is known of Bonifatius' life. One of his rivals, Aetius, is better known and has been the subject of a recent monograph by Stickler.1 A major challenge in writing about Bonifatius and his contemporaries is the source material itself, but this is complicated by the need to fit what the sources say into a framework of imperial politics and military campaigning, an area where there remains much uncertainty. Wijnendaele avoids this approach, wishing to remain focused on Bonifatius himself. This has been done successfully for one of Bonifatius' contemporaries, Augustine of Hippo, but is very difficult here. However, the source material has improved since de Lepper wrote his dissertation in 1941, not only in terms of the editions and of our understanding of genre and of relationships between texts, but also with the discovery of a cache of letters of St Augustine by Divjak, two of which (7* and 17*) mention Bonifatius.2 Wijnendaele makes good use of the Letters of Pseudo-Bonifatius (29-30, 46-47, 72-73, 82). However, given the questions about this collection of 16 letters forged in late antiquity, perhaps in Ostrogothic Italy a century after Bonifatius' death, I felt that more discussion was needed than the paragraph they receive here (5-6). In some parts of the work, the handling of primary sources is not helped by using endnotes rather than footnotes. This is probably the publisher's decision, but it sometimes means that the author of a quotation can only be established by turning to the back of the book. I found myself doing this a lot because Wijnendaele's thinking on relationships between various primary sources was not always clearly set out. 'Three authors discussed Bonifatius' recruiting of the Vandals. According to Jordanes… John of Antioch elaborated further… Theophanes likewise commented….' (75). Writing that 'Jordanes, John of Antioch, and Theophanes are seemingly echoing Procopius' statements' (76) unfortunately fails to make it clear that all three of these accounts were derived from Procopius. However, elsewhere, it is clear that all three authors were copying Procopius (69) and that the fifth century writer Priscus was probably the source for the accounts of the invitation in the sixth century writer Procopius and thus also of Jordanes, John of Antioch, and Theophanes (115). Perhaps because of the focus on Bonifatius himself, this ends up being more confusing than it needs to be, especially for students.

The combination of difficult source material and complex events makes it unlikely that all scholars will interpret events in the same way. However, I felt the approaches to eastern imperial politics by several recent scholars offered a more nuanced way of thinking about these sorts of events. Such studies include Alan Cameron and Jackie Long on the reign of Arcadius, especially the Gainas affair,3 Millar and also Kelly's edited collection on Theodosius II,4 Croke on the reigns of Leo I and Justin I,5 and Liebeschuetz and Lee on generals in politics in the fifth century.6 This body of work makes clear the complexity of Late Roman politics, as well as taking a different perspective on the role played by Roman emperors in politics in both parts of the Empire. They are also relevant to Wijnendaele's argument that Bonifatius was the first successful western late Roman warlord. The same complexities are suggested by wider-ranging books about the late Empire, e.g. by Matthews on the western aristocracy at this period or by Brown on aristocratic culture as it related to imperial politics in the fourth and fifth centuries, as well as McEvoy on western child emperors. 7 I felt this political complexity was missing from Wijnendaele's work, which occasionally reduces political activity to generalizations. In describing Sebastianus, Bonifatius' son-in-law leaving Constantinople in 435, he notes that 'one plausible interpretation is that the palace intrigues between the Empress Pulcheria [i.e. Theodosius II's wife] and certain chamberlains, with senior generals caught in the middle, ultimately forced Sebastian to leave the eastern capital' (106). Perhaps, but there is no evidence to suggest that Sebastianus met either Pulcheria or any chamberlain. Wijnendaele also suggests that Bonifatius and Aetius were appointed to positions by Galla Placidia (47, 66, 67, 97), though there is no evidence for an Augusta appointing any imperial officials in this period.

Despite my criticisms, the work contains a number of astute observations. I'll restrict my comments to two of these. The focus on the letters between Bonifatius and Augustine is an excellent reminder that Late Roman soldiers were participants in a highly cultured world, even if they were not always as cultured as their correspondents might wish. There is also a very attractive interpretation of the battle of Rimini in 432 between Aetius and Bonifatius as a small battle fought between the bucellarii of the two generals rather than a large battle between a divided Italian field army (101).

In terms of audience, this is probably too detailed a book for undergraduates to use without a great deal of additional support. At the same time specialists will probably not be satisfied with the lack of detailed engagement with either the primary sources or the way in which many modern authors think that imperial politics worked in the fifth century. A consequence of the focus on Bonifatius rather than on politics is that it is difficult to evaluate the claim in the conclusion that 'Bonifatius became the first western Roman officer to challenge and resist central authority successfully without resorting to the traditional means of usurping the imperial office' (120). These are complex issues and Wijnendaele's work makes clear the difficulties posed by our source materials in dealing with fifth century politics and the fall of the western Roman Empire.


1.   Stickler, T., Aetius: Gestaltungsspielsräume eines Heermeisters im ausgehenden Weströmischen Reich (Munich, 2002).
2.   Very recently, Shaw, B.D., 'Augustine and Men of Imperial Power', Journal of Late Antiquity 8.1 (2015), 32-61; cf. McLaughlin, J., 'Bridging the Cultural Divide: Libanius, Ellebichus, and Letters to 'Barbarian' Generals', Journal of Late Antiquity 7.2 (2014), 253-279
3.   Cameron, Alan and Long, J., Barbarians and Politics at the Court of Arcadius (Berkeley, 1993); Heather, P.J., 'The Anti-Scythian Tirade in Synesius' De Regno', Phoenix 42 (1988), 152–172
4.   Croke, B., 'Dynasty and Ethnicity: Emperor Leo I and the Eclipse of Aspar', Chiron 35 (2005), 147-203; Croke, B., 'Justinian under Justin: Reconfiguring a Reign', Byzantinische Zeitschrift 100 (2007), 13-56
5.   Millar, F., A Greek Roman Empire (Berkeley, 2006); Kelly, C., ed., Theodosius II: rethinking the Roman Empire in late antiquity (Cambridge, 2013); Elton, H.W., 'Imperial Politics at the Court of Theodosius II', Cain, A. and Lenski, N., eds., The Power of Religion in Late Antiquity (Aldershot, 2009), 133-142
6.   Liebeschuetz, J.H.W.G., Barbarians and Bishops (Oxford, 1991), 'Warlords and Landlords', in Erdkamp, P., ed., A Companion to the Roman Army (London, 2007), 479–494; Lee, A.D., 'Theodosius and his generals', in Kelly, ed., Theodosius II (2013), 90-108; cf. Kulikowski, M., 'Marcellinus 'of Dalmatia' and the dissolution of the fifth-century empire', Byzantion 72 (2002) 177-191
7.   Matthews, J. F., Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court AD 364-425 (Oxford, 1975); Brown, P., Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity (Madison, 1992); McEvoy, M.A., Child Emperor Rule in the Late Roman West, AD 367-455 (Oxford, 2013).

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Friday, January 29, 2016


Peter John Parsons, Herwig Maehler, Francesca Maltomini (ed.), The Vienna Epigrams Papyrus (G 40611). Corpus papyrorum Raineri, Bd 33. Berlin; München; Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. Pp. vi, 153. ISBN 9783110354522. €109.95.

Reviewed by Gianluca Del Mastro, Università di Napoli 'Federico II' (

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Quando un testo papiraceo è di grande importanza per la storia della filologia e della letteratura antica, sebbene particolarmente frammentario e di difficile lettura, la migliore soluzione per la sua pubblicazione può essere quella di organizzare un team di specialisti che si incarichi del duro lavoro, integrando conoscenze e competenze diverse.

Questo è stato fatto per l'edizione di P.Vindob. G 40611 (MP3 1596.2, LDAB 5473), un papiro, che contiene una lista di incipit di epigrammi, proveniente da un cartonnage che costituiva la maschera di una mummia. I frammenti del cartonnage furono acquistati per la Papyrussammlung Erzherzog Rainer della Österreichische Nationalbibliothek nel 1979 e restaurati da Michael Fackelmann (nuove operazioni di sistemazione e restauro dei pezzi sono state effettuate da Andrea Donau nel 2012). Una prima trascrizione dei pezzi fu effettuata da Hermann Harrauer che pubblicò una presentazione del papiro nei Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Congress of Papyrology (Chico 1981, pp. 49-53). Successivamente, Harrauer invitò Peter Parsons a pubblicare con lui il papiro, mentre più tardi Bärbel Kramer subentrò nel progetto, al posto dello stesso Harrauer. Nel 2010 Cornelia Römer ha creato l'équipe che ha finalmente pubblicato il papiro, forte anche della presenza di una serie di importanti immagini multispettrali realizzate da Roger MacFarlane e Gene A. Ware (BYU, Provo- Utah) nel 2005. Le immagini, poste alla fine del volume, restituiscono il papiro colonna per colonna e aiutano a rendere più leggibile un testo complicato in cui le lettere si leggono male e l'inchiostro è poco chiaro. Credo che sarebbe stato interessante poter avere nell'edizione anche delle foto panoramiche per consentire al lettore una visione d'insieme. Una ricca introduzione spiega le caratteristiche del rotolo e il suo contenuto. Il papiro consta di un pezzo di rotolo (G 40611, 17 cm di altezza x 70 cm di lunghezza) più sei frammenti staccati (G 40611a) che vanno collocati alla destra del pezzo principale. Da queste laciniae si riescono a ricostruire i resti di due colonne sul recto (solo alcune lettere dell'estremità destra della prima colonna) e di una colonna sul verso, mentre dal pezzo principale si ricavano sette colonne sul recto (la settima è completata a destra da un frammento staccato) e due sul verso. Le due colonne sul verso non sono consecutive, ma tra loro c'è un consistente vacuum. Esso fu creato intenzionalmente dal compilatore, molto probabilmente perché sarebbe servito per l'inserimento di altre informazioni.

Harrauer aveva già individuato due scribi: il primo che copia le coll. i-iv, il secondo le altre colonne (anche quelle sul verso) e i frammenti staccati. Ma Maehler (che ha curato il paragrafo 2.1 della Introduction) ipotizza che le tre colonne sul verso (due del pezzo più grande e una ricostruibile dai frammenti staccati) possano essere state scritte da una terza mano, simile ma non uguale a quella che si osserva nelle ultime colonne del recto. Queste tipologie scrittorie sono abbastanza comuni e trovano molti confronti in papiri letterari e documentari. Sulla base di una nutrita serie di paralleli, lo studioso afferma che il papiro può essere datato, anche sulla base degli altri documenti provenienti dallo stesso cartonnage, all'ultimo quarto del III sec. a.C. Recentemente, 1 lo stesso Maehler ha affermato che questo rotolo poteva essere stato confezionato solo in un grande centro come Alessandria, dove i quattro libri, che fungono da base del nostro elenco, potevano essere reperiti in una grande biblioteca.

La struttura delle prime sei colonne del recto è chiara: un'intestazione nella parte alta della colonna nella quale si legge la formula τὰ ἐπιζητούμενα τῶν ἐπιγραμμάτων ἐν τῆι α̅ βύβλωι, si trova a col. i (che doveva essere quella iniziale), mentre una versione semplificata ἐν τῆι β̅ βύβλωι si trova a col. v. In testa al frammento staccato in cui si leggono gli incipit di (a) col. ii, c'è l'indicazione ἐν τῆι δ̅ βύβλωι. Secondo la ricostruzione degli editori, gli incipit di epigrammi ripresi dal "Libro III" dovevano trovarsi nella colonna viii. Se tutti gli estratti dai diversi libri avevano la stessa lunghezza o una lunghezza simile a quella che si osserva nelle colonne i-iv (incipit derivati dal Libro I) e v-vii (Libro II) e a quella prospettata per il Libro III, tra il pezzo principale e i pezzi staccati ci sarebbe una lacuna di circa 25 cm.

L'uso del verbo ἐπιζητέω ha un valore programmatico, quasi introduttivo del tipo del lavoro che si intendeva fare sul materiale di partenza. Esso serve a indicare gli epigrammi che "sono ricercati" o anche "selezionati" in vista della creazione di una nuova antologia. In alcuni casi, nell'intercolumnio, si legge anche l'indicazione ευ che potrebbe segnalare l'approvazione di un determinato epigramma: Harrauer suggeriva di interpretare l'indicazione come εὖ. In alternativa lo stesso studioso suggeriva che potesse trattarsi di una voce del verbo εὑρίϲκω (come εὗρον); questa soluzione è quella preferita dagli editori.

Alla fine di ogni incipit, separato da quello successivo con una paragraphos, dopo un vacuum, si legge il numero di ϲτίχοι di cui era composto il singolo epigramma. Alla fine della colonna, nel margine inferiore, si trova il numero di epigrammi citati nella colonna e la somma dei loro ϲτίχοι. Una ricapitolazione del numero totale degli epigrammi e degli ϲτίχοι totali degli epigrammi derivati dal Libro I si trova a col. iv (una seconda ricapitolazione si legge, molto frammentariamente nel margine inferiore di verso col. i). Questa particolare attenzione al conteggio sticometrico potrebbe indicare la volontà di avere chiaro il numero degli ϲτίχοι per calcolare l'eventuale costo e per quantificare la lunghezza del rotolo del nuovo libro di epigrammi che sarebbe stato creato.

Va segnalata l'eliminazione di alcuni versi attraverso parentesi. In particolare, nel margine inferiore di col. iv, leggiamo che il totale degli epigrammi selezionati dal Libro I è 83 (πγ), mentre, se si effettua la somma degli epigrammi delle prime quattro colonne, essi sarebbero 85. È possibile che siano stati conteggiati i due epigrammi segnati con parentesi da col. i 7 e 10 (che anche nel calcolo parziale alla fine di col. i erano stati conteggiati), mentre è possibile che non siano stati calcolati i due incipit, racchiusi tra parentesi, di col. ii 102 e 23 (per i quali, però, non abbiamo il calcolo nel margine inferiore). Questa situazione ha consentito agli editori di ipotizzare anche che i due versi di col. ii siano stati eliminati in un secondo momento, cioè dopo la copia della col. i, ma prima del calcolo di col. iv.

A partire dalla lunghezza media degli epigrammi citati (4 o 6 linee), Parsons afferma che si potrebbe pensare che ogni libro, dei quattro da cui provengono gli incipit, poteva contenere 200 epigrammi, quindi 800 componimenti in totale per i quattro libri, per complessive 4000 linee. Lo studioso basa la sua ipotesi sulla lunghezza media di un libro omerico o di una "typical Greek tragedy" che in media conteneva 1000 ϲτίχοι. Ma credo che sia probabile anche che i libri di partenza fossero più o meno grandi, non dovendo necessariamente corrispondere ai modelli che possiamo immaginare per altri generi letterari.

Sulla base delle caratteristiche fisiche, della scrittura e del contenuto, si può affermare che il papiro costituisce un lavoro preparatorio in cui uno o più compilatori hanno ripreso da almeno 4 libri gli incipit di epigrammi che, successivamente, sarebbero dovuti confluire in una nuova raccolta, evidentemente più breve di quella di provenienza. Gli epigrammi di cui si riesce a leggere il verso iniziale (talvolta si leggono solo poche lettere), sono 226 e, fatto ancora più straordinario, solo di uno conosciamo l'origine: si tratta dell'epigramma di Asclepiade il cui primo verso (quello riportato dal papiro viennese a col. i 14 fino alla caesura che cade dopo κεἴκοϲι) è Οὐκ εἴμ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἐτέων δύο κεἴκοϲι καὶ κοπιῶ ζῶν ... (AP XII 46).3 Questa constatazione ci ricorda, ancora una volta, che per il genere epigrammatico, così come per tutta la letteratura greca, la perdita è stata enorme.

La varietà degli epigrammi presentati nel papiro non è solo tematica, ma anche metrica. Sebbene la maggior parte degli incipit riconduca all'esametro (e, trattandosi, di un numero di linee multiplo di 2, potrebbe trattarsi anche di distici elegiaci), non mancano altri metri (giambi, tetrametri trocaici, epodi). Spesso l'andamento del verso non può essere seguito, poiché esso è tagliato prima della sua fine.

Per quanto riguarda la lingua, gli editori, in alcuni casi (segnalati nel commento ai singoli versi e, nell'Introduction, a p. 13), rintracciano elementi ionici e, in altri, dorici.

L'organizzazione tematica della nostra antologia e dei libri da cui essa deriva non è del tutto chiara: se in alcune colonne troviamo la concentrazione di epigrammi che sembrano trattare determinati argomenti, nella stessa colonna altri versi sembrano provenire da componimenti con un tema completamente diverso. Questo accade, ad esempio, nella colonna vi, in cui alcuni epigrammi sembrano trattare il tema erotico (vi 1, 7, 13, 19), mentre per altri sembra più facile ipotizzare altri contenuti (vi 10, 18, 23, 25). La lettura del primo verso o, in molti casi, di una parte del primo verso, può trarre in inganno riguardo al contenuto dell'epigramma.4 Proprio l'incipit dell'epigramma di Asclepiade, conosciuto dall'Antologia Palatina, potrebbe far credere che si tratti di un componimento funerario, mentre il seguito ci dice che si tratta di un epigramma erotico. Per questo motivo, la maggior parte degli incipit si presta benissimo a diverse ipotesi interpretative, sempre esplorate in maniera molto accurata dagli editori. In vi 14, ad esempio, l'incipit ὦ] Ζεῦ̣ κ̣ρατέων ὅλωι ϲθένει οἷ᾽ ἔβαλεϲ̣, è un'invocazione a Zeus che, come sappiamo, torna in contesti molto differenti. Gli editori, in proposito, richiamano Hor. C. I 2, dove il padre degli dèi è chiamato in causa a proposito del brutto tempo (iam satis terris nivis atque dirae grandinis misit Pater...), oppure Asclep. AP V 64, dove il tema è più frivolo e, nel contesto della passione amorosa, si richiama la storia di Zeus e Danae. I temi che in altri casi si possono immaginare dagli incipit che abbiamo in P.Vindob. G. 40611, sono molto diversi:5 oltre l'amore, il simposio (ad es. vi 22 di cui si segnala l'estensione di ben 20 ϲτίχοι); l'amicizia (vi 18, dove ricorre il topos della saldezza dell'amicizia "Non giudico un amico di cinque giorni..."), la morte (tra cui, forse, i 18 e iii 15 e 16, ma, come notano gli editori, non sembrano molti gli epigrammi funerari). Non mancano forse epigrammi ecfrastici (col. i 7; v 18). Molto ben rappresentato sembra l'epigramma scoptico (un po' in tutte le colonne, ma segnalo, in particolare, i 5, 6, 9; v 4; vi 5, 16; forse v 9 e (a) ii 26), di cui abbiamo testimonianze più tarde e che non è così fortemente attestato nelle antologie. Anche in questo caso, il papiro di Vienna ci dimostra che doveva trattarsi di un tema molto diffuso che, però, per la maggior parte, non fu selezionato dalle antologie ellenistiche confluite nella tradizione medievale.

Per questa sua varietà e particolarità il papiro di Vienna sfugge a ogni possibile inquadramento in una delle categorie che conosciamo dalle altre raccolte su papiro: gli epigrammi non sembrano provenire dallo stesso autore e non c'è un soggetto predominante all'interno degli estratti dai singoli libri.6 Si tratta di una collezione in cui sembrano confluire epigrammi di autori diversi (ma anche questo non può essere affermato con sicurezza) che presentano temi diversi. In questo senso, si avrebbe una qualche consonanza con il Soros, citato nello Schol. A Il. XI 101, ma, come sappiamo, le ipotesi sulla forma e il contenuto di quest'opera sono molto diverse.

Parafrasando quanto Herwig Maehler ha detto, a margine di una comunicazione letta nel corso di un seminario sul papiro di Vienna,7 oggi abbiamo un debito di riconoscenza verso gli intellettuali e gli scribi ellenistici che seppero conservare non solo i testi della tradizione arcaica e classica, ma anche quelli della poesia, e più in generale, della cultura loro contemporanea.


1.   Nel corso di un interessante seminario tenutosi a Pisa (30 ottobre 2015) che ha avuto per titolo Trasmissione e Contesti della letteratura epigrammatica alla luce di P.Vindob. G 40611 (CPR 33). Esso è stato organizzato da Maria Serena Funghi ed è stato presieduto da Glenn W. Most. Oltre a Herwig Maehler, hanno letto comunicazioni Guido Bastianini, Lucia Floridi e Francesca Maltomini. Cornelia Römer ha letto una comunicazione scritta da Peter J. Parsons.
2.   A p. 6 (2.2 dell'Introduction), è scritto "col. ii 13", ma deve leggersi "col. ii 10".
3.   A col. ii 10 gli editori, su suggerimento di Cornelia Römer, ipotizzano che il verso che inizia con τεϲϲαρα possa celare l'incipit di AP XIV 106 (τέϲϲαρα γράμματ᾽ ἔχων ἀνύω τρίβον..., ma ricordano che anche un verso iniziale registrato in P.Oxy. LIV 3724 (IV 26) comincia con τέϲϲαρα Κύπριδοϲ).
4.   Così ha sottolineato anche Lucia Floridi nel corso del seminario di Pisa su cui cf. n. 1.
5.   Cf. Introduction, p. 15.
6.   I rapporti tra il P.Vindob. e le raccolte di epigrammi su papiro sono stati accuratamente trattati da Francesca Maltomini nel corso del seminario pisano cit. a n.1.
7.   Cf. n.1.

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Susan A. Stephens, Callimachus: The Hymns. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xiv, 324. ISBN 9780199783045. $27.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Robin J. Greene, Providence College (

Version at BMCR home site


The long line of high-quality scholarship on Callimachean poetry continues with Susan Stephen's new edition of the poet's Hymns. Although the body of literature devoted to Callimachus has expanded considerably in the past few decades, the last English commentaries for any of the hymns were released in the 1980s. While the excellent editions of D'Alessio (2007 [1996], in Italian) and Asper (2004, in German) contain text and notes for all six hymns, no such edition for Anglophone readers has been produced. Thus an updated, inclusive English edition—especially one responsive to the needs of advanced students as well as more experienced readers—has long been a desideratum. Stephens' edition admirably meets these needs. Not only does she succeed in her stated goal of providing "readers with a convenient and accessible edition of all six of Callimachus' hymns in one volume, accompanied by notes sufficient for ease of reading (vii)," but Stephens also integrates the best of modern scholarship with her own insights to provide a rich and up-to-date guide to the hymns.

The 43-page general introduction is thorough and informative as Stephens systematically considers the hymns' language, meters, relationships with each other, connections to hymnic and other literary traditions, cultural and political contexts, and transmission. Contemporary scholarly concerns are addressed throughout. For example, Stephens appends her overview of Callimachus' poetic effects (which nicely summarizes his concern for sound and image) with an introduction to Callimachean polyphony and his play with narrative voice. Similarly, recent critical interest in the hymns' links to actual cult and cult performance are reflected in her careful remarks on their deliberately complex mimetic postures as the poet "blur[s] the distinction between a one-time real performance event and a carefully contrived fiction" (12). Judicious evaluations of issues for which firm conclusions remain elusive are particular highlights. Stephens' section on the hymns as a carefully-arranged collection enumerates their shared thematic elements and complementary structures and features. Many of these elements have been identified by others,1 but she observes several new connections both here and throughout the volume. Although she reserves judgment on the identity of the editor, the possibility that the collection was authorially arranged is addressed occasionally in the commentaries (e.g. on τρίλλιστε, hDem 138, where the fall of evening may serve as a "fitting closure" for the collection). The dates of most of the hymns are also perennial issues. Stephens assesses the evidence and competing theories for the date of each hymn to provide an incisive account of certainties, probabilities, and possibilities; indeed, she is often at her best when sorting through what is known so as to address the ambiguous and inconclusive.

Although there is much of interest to experts in the introduction, one of its greatest virtues is Stephens' consistent attention to the needs of non-experts. Terms that may be unfamiliar are explained (e.g. Du-Stil, Er-Stil, epiklesis, "mimetic"), as are the various types of Greek hymns, their performance contexts, and key formal attributes. The sections on meters (including a useful comparison of Homeric and Callimachean hexameters) and dialects (complete with charts of epic-Ionic and Doric forms) offer readable and "user-friendly" guides to Callimachus' practices. Stephens' review of the manuscript tradition and papyri is similarly instructive and engaging. The discussion of the hymns' dates, the most demanding portion of the introduction, is preceded by a handy set of biographies of relevant Ptolemies, and begins with an overview of the advantages and disadvantages to using the various types of available evidence. Although this edition is not exclusively directed towards students, Stephens' lucid explanations and thoughtful additions ensure that it is accessible to a wide readership.

A compact individual introduction precedes the Greek text of each hymn, after which follow Stephens' English translation and commentary. Each introduction begins with an overview that describes the hymn's structure, narrative, and central themes, and also supplies perspective on the hymn's essential nature. Thus, for example, the overview of hDem concludes with a discussion of the Erysichthon narrative as a "boundary transgression" that also "provides a potent criticism of aristocratic excess in a form calculated to amuse as well as instruct" (264). In the remaining three sections of the individual introductions Stephens outlines each hymn's links to the deity and his or her cults, its critical sources and intertexts, and its connections to the Ptolemies. Her summaries of the hymns' sources and intertexts cover quite a bit of familiar territory and also suggest some new prospects; of particular note is her examination of the Homeric, hymnic, lyric, and tragic depictions of Artemis that inform Callimachus' own representation of the goddess in hArt. The sections on relevant cults (local and Panhellenic) and major Ptolemaic elements contextualize each hymn and briefly analyze Callimachus' evocations of significant contemporary practices, institutions, and individuals. Stephens separates these sections, but her treatment of the hymns' links to specific cults in the Hellenistic period affirms that an absolute dividing line between popular cult and imperial concerns cannot always be drawn.

Stephens' Greek text is nearly identical to Pfeiffer's. As she notes (46), the primary difference is that she includes more Doric forms in hAth and hDem than Pfeiffer (though fewer than Hopkinson and Bulloch propose). She is especially alert to possible intertexts signaled by Callimachus' use of dialect forms; at times these guide her readings (e.g. νιν, hZeus 4, following Cuypers; σοῦσθε, hAth 4; μοῦνος, hAth 75).

The commentaries are short in comparison to those produced for individual hymns in the 1970s and 1980s. At 53 pages, Stephens' commentary for hDelos is the longest; hZeus the shortest at 14 pages. In the preface Stephens observes that limitations of space have resulted in her presentation of "linguistic, metrical, historical, geographic and cultic material" that "necessarily lack[s] the wealth of scholarly detail" provided by the earlier editions (vii). Much of the commentaries' brevity is achieved through Stephens' acknowledged reliance upon her predecessors. Extended discussion of particular interpretations and matters ranging from manuscript readings to ancillary literary comparanda are typically absent when the matter in question has been well discussed in a previous Anglophone edition or study. So, for example, Stephens' comment on an emendation to hAth 83: "ἑστάκη (=Attic ἑστήκει): this unaugmented Doric pluperfect is not found elsewhere in literary texts; it is Buttmann's correction of a problematic ms. reading and universally accepted. See Bulloch ad loc." Bulloch's long note reviews the issue, the arguments for the solution, and similar forms in other texts and inscriptions. While such information certainly is of value to a researcher, Stephens, as part of her necessary "scholarly triage," elects not to reproduce it. Accordingly, this edition complements but does not fully displace earlier commentaries.

Although scholars may miss long meditations on minutiae and comprehensive evaluations of past scholarship, Stephens' commentaries nonetheless offer an abundance of information and analysis that rewards careful reading. Throughout she provides studied, though often crisp, remarks on the sorts of elements one would expect of a commentary on Callimachus' hymns: Homeric hapax legomena, Callimachean coinages, links to Homeric Hymns, certain and possible intertexts, mythic references, problematic terms, metrics, and occasional notes on grammar and syntax. Naturally, readers will take issue with individual notes. In general, however, Stephens' comments are marked by her sensitivity to the spirit of Callimachean poetics and careful approach to the available evidence. Considerations of space prevent detailed review. Instead, I highlight a handful of the ways in which Stephens' commentaries are distinct from or update earlier editions.

Unsurprisingly, given her past work,2 Stephens supplements her introductory discussions of relevant political and cultural elements with more specific considerations throughout. In addition to passages that have evident political associations (e.g. hZeus 85-88), a number of more understated connections are observed. For example, ἐπιδαίσιον (hZeus 59) may allude to co-regency (following the Suda s.v.) and may also refer to the Macedonian month Daisios. Possible references to recent history are assiduously noted. So Stephens suggests that κλήρους/κλᾶρον (hDelos 281, hAth 142) may "evoke the large-scale settlement of veterans on kleroi in the Fayum under Ptolemy II," while ζωστῆρες (hAp 85) may point to the fortification of the Athenian sanctuary of Zoster during the Chremonidean war.

Issues of Callimachean geography and 'geopoetics' are often addressed as Stephens evaluates the hymns' itineraries and references to various locations especially—but not exclusively—as they relate to Ptolemaic concerns. Several interesting notes suggest that Callimachus plays on a location in terms of both its historical and traditional or literary relevance (e.g. the Lipari islands, hArt 47-48; the Apidaneans, hZeus 14). Elsewhere the functional poetic importance of geographic elements is stressed, as at hDelos 19-22, where the four islands that follow Delos in the chorus "act as a geographical bracket encompassing the whole Greek world." In light of Callimachus' frequent references to geography, the maps included at the beginning of the volume are welcome additions. Stephens underscores Callimachus' relationship with genres that received less attention in past commentaries. In the individual introductions, she regularly considers lyric precedents (most notably Pindar's First Hymn, a likely model for hDelos). This attention is matched in the commentaries with frequent notices of lyric vocabulary and possible intertexts. Prose is also well represented, particularly Plato, and her comments on evocations of Plato complement the readings she and Acosta-Hughes have recently advanced.3 A fine example of this is her note on ἀειδόντεσσι (hArt 1). Stephens makes the compelling suggestion that Callimachus is alluding to Plato's "misreading" of ἀειδόντεσσι for Homer's ἀκουόντεσσι

(Od.1.351-52) in his attack on musical innovation at Rep. 424b9-10. As Stephens interprets it, Callimachus' allusion signals "his intention at the opening of the poem to offer a hymn that is an innovation on Homer, an ἀοιδή that is truly νεωτάτη."

The commentaries propose some interesting solutions to old issues. For example, the metrical abnormality and unconventional separation of ἐμεῖο and εἵνεκα in Leto's response to Peneius (hDelos 151-52) has occasioned different readings and suggested emendations. Rather than emend, Stephens points to a possible intertext with Od. 11.438 (a reference to Helen as the destruction of many men that features the same separation of εἵνεκα and its object) and suggests that "Leto by turning away from Peneius shuns the role of Helen in bringing destruction upon others." Elsewhere Stephens' appreciation for the poet's playfulness informs her approach to suspect lines. Thus she muses that the metrical anomalies in hDem 91, a line that describes the melting of snow and wax, may be intentional: the line itself seems to melt.

While the list of works cited is not exhaustive, it is robust and offers an up-to-date collection of relevant scholarship; a number of works published as recently as the end of 2014 appear. Indices of subjects, select Greek words, and passages discussed round out the volume.

My criticisms are few, confined to specific points made in the commentaries, and do not detract from the sum value of this edition. At times the brevity of the notes did leave me wanting more detailed discussion or more generous bibliography for an issue, but Stephens' objective was for the edition to be functional, not comprehensive, and in this she was certainly successful. The volume was meticulously proofread, but a few minor bibliographic errors occur.4

In short, Stephens has produced a deeply learned and highly useful work that should be warmly welcomed by scholars and students alike.


1.   E.g. N. Hopkinson. Callimachus: The Hymn to Demeter (Cambridge 1984) 13-17.
2.   E.g. Seeing Double: Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria (Berkeley and Los Angeles 2003).
3.   B. Acosta-Hughes and S. Stephens. Callimachus in Context (Cambridge 2012) esp. 23-83.
4.   A handful of critical editions are cited in the commentaries in abbreviated form but their full bibliographic information is not provided elsewhere: Wehrli's Clearchus of Soli (p. 97); Headlam's Herodas (p. 132); Livrea's Argonautica 4 (pp. 261, 279); and Olsen and Sens' Matro of Pitane (p. 276). A reference to Dobias-Lalou (p. 277) incorrectly gives her book's publication year as 2005, not 2000. The correct date appears in the works cited.

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Hans-Christian Günther (ed.), Virgilian Studies: A Miscellany Dedicated to the Memory of Mario Geymonat (26.1.1941 - 17.2.2012). Studia classica et mediaevalia, Bd 10. Nordhausen: Verlag Traugott Bautz, 2015. Pp. 526. ISBN 9783959480215. €90.00.

Reviewed by Giampiero Scafoglio, Seconda Università di Napoli; Université de Nantes (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Il volume di studi virgiliani dedicato alla memoria di Mario Geymonat ha due punti di forza, che lo rendono senz'altro apprezzabile. In primo luogo, la raccolta riceve coerenza e coesione dalla scelta di un argomento comune: non a caso, l'autore latino a cui lo studioso defunto ha consacrato la propria fatica di maggiore importanza (scil. l'edizione critica delle opere virgiliane, Torino 1973, 2a ed. Roma 2008). In secondo luogo, al volume hanno partecipato studiosi rinomati e di alto profilo: non sorprende se i contributi (a cui peraltro non sono stati imposti limiti di estensione) sono tutti di buona o di ottima qualità.

Alessandro Barchiesi (Implicazioni di storia romana nell'oratoria di Turno, pp. 15-25) si sofferma sul discorso di Turno nell'assemblea dei Latini e, in particolare, sull'aggettivo etnico che egli attribuisce a Diomede, Aetolus (Aen. 11.428), con implicito riferimento alla caratteristica attribuita a questo popolo dalla "memoria collettiva" dei Romani: la tendenza al tradimento e alla menzogna, il mancato rispetto della fides.

Francis Cairns (Fat victim and fat cheese, pp. 27-37) esamina le parole di Titiro, che lamenta la propria incapacità di conservare il denaro, in passato, per gli scarsi guadagni ricavati dalla vendita di carne e formaggio in città e per la venalità di Galatea (Buc. 1.33-35): parole intessute di allusioni letterarie e di raffinata ironia, in rapporto con Callimaco e con la poetica alessandrina.

Il proemio del libro III delle Georgiche, con la promessa di innalzare un tempio in onore di Ottaviano, è analizzato da Mario Citroni (La vittoria e il tempio, pp. 39-87), che vi riscontra "la compresenza di riferimenti all'opera presente e all'opera futura", cioè alle Georgiche e all'Eneide. Infatti, l'orgogliosa affermazione del raggiungimento dell'Elicona rappresenta "il pieno successo del compimento dell'opera presente […] che farà di Virgilio un nuovo Esiodo", ovvero "un nuovo iniziato delle Muse"; mentre la costruzione del tempio è a sua volta "figura di un'opera letteraria: un poema epico latino che canti le vittorie di Roma", nonché "lo sfondo mitico delle origini troiane di Roma e del suo principe".

Gregson Davis (The dual function of the umbra-motif in Vergil's Bucolics, pp. 89-101) studia la ricorrenza e la funzione della parola-chiave umbra, che gioca un duplice ruolo sul piano metaletterario, a seconda della posizione che occupa all'interno dei singoli componimenti: "in preludic contexts" indica infatti "the locus of bucolic performance", mentre "in postludic contexts" annuncia "the impending closure of the carmen".1

Elaine Fantham (Virgil's Trojan Women, pp. 103-134) riconosce "the conflict between two models" nel viaggio dei Troiani guidati da Enea: a un modello di "evacuation", che prevede la fuga di tutti (compresi vecchi, donne e bambini) dal territorio occupato dai nemici, si contrappone un modello di "colonization", basato sull'insediamento di uomini che si uniscono con le donne native della terra conquistata. Questo conflitto è risolto dall'episodio conclusivo del libro V, quando le donne troiane appiccano il fuoco alle navi e, in seguito, scelgono di rimanere in Sicilia "as citizens of the new city": quindi gli uomini occuperanno il Lazio e si uniranno con le donne autoctone, in modo da garantire "the persistence of Latin identity", come promesso da Giove a Giunone (12.834-837).

Paolo Fedeli (La sezione troiana di Prop. 4.1 alla luce dell'epos virgiliano, pp. 135-168) svolge un commento esegetico e stilistico dei vv.39-54 dell'elegia IV, 1 di Properzio, con una speciale attenzione ai rapporti con l'Eneide (in particolare, per quanto riguarda il ruolo di Venere come protettrice di Enea e dei Troiani, la caratterizzazione della Sibilla, la figura di Cassandra e la sua profezia).

Stephen Harrison (Vergil's metapoetic katabasis: the underworld of Aeneid 6 and the history of epic, pp. 169- 193) interpreta la descrizione virgiliana dell'Averno come "a repository of allusions to the history of epic", dall'epos greco arcaico fino al periodo augusteo: le diverse figure che popolano il regno dei morti sono ricondotte alle rispettive fonti letterarie, da Omero a Esiodo, da Nevio ed Ennio a Lucrezio, fino a Vario (contemporaneo di Virgilio). Anche a prescindere dalla chiave di lettura, di per sé originale e suggestiva, un grande merito di questo contributo è di mettere in luce i rapporti del testo virgiliano con opere perdute, che sono spesso ignorate negli studi dedicati all'intertestualità e nei commenti all'Eneide, come i poemi del ciclo epico e i carmi orfici. Il viaggio di Enea nell'Averno adombra quindi "a parallel journey of the Aeneid through the history of its own genre of epic", configurandosi come "a metapoetic katabasis".

Stephen Heyworth (Notes on the text and interpretation of Vergil's Eclogues and Georgics, pp. 195-249) discute una serie di passi controversi, con impostazione conservativa, ma anche con l'intento di evidenziare e rimuovere "uncorrected errors". Molto efficaci mi sembrano alcuni dei suoi interventi: per esempio, la rivendicazione dell'autenticità di Georg. 2.433 (un verso espunto da Ribbeck, Thomas, Goold e Conte) o il ripristino dell'ordine di Georg. 4.197-205 che si trova nei manoscritti (confutando lo spostamento dei vv.203-205 dopo il v.196, proposto da Bentley e Schrader, poi condiviso da Goold e Conte). Non ugualmente efficace mi pare invece il tentativo di espellere il v.61 e di correggere aut in ante all'inizio del v.62, nella Bucolica I. In merito a Buc. 4.62, Heyworth difende la lezione manoscritta cui non risere parentes, contro l'alternativa tramandata da Quintiliano (9.8.3), qui non risere parentes, pubblicata da S. Ottaiano (nell'edizione di Bucoliche e Georgiche curata con G. B. Conte), contemporaneamente e indipendentemente difesa da me ("Since the Child Smiles. A Note on Virg. Ecl. 4.62-3", CJ 109, 2013, pp. 73-87). Per quanto riguarda Georg. 1.480, et maestum inlacrimat templis ebur aeraque sudant, Heyworth propone plausibilmente la correzione lacrimat maestum in templis ebur; tuttavia la sua interpretazione si può forse conciliare con la lezione manoscritta, che non è necessario correggere, se si riferisce la preposizione in al sostantivo templis, ipotizzando un'anastrofe (una figura non rara nello stile virgiliano): maestum in lacrimat templis ebur.

Gregory Hutchinson (Space in the Aeneid, pp. 251-286) esamina la descrizione dello spazio e la collocazione dei personaggi nelle coordinate spaziali nell'Eneide, in relazione "with the characters of the poem, its structure, its cosmology and its theological world". Egli si concentra sul personaggio di Turno, che ha un rapporto complesso con "the centre of military action" (nel senso che il suo costante tentativo di raggiungerlo è sistematicamente frustrato dalle circostanze e dalle divinità) e vive, al tempo stesso, controverse esperienze interiori che si esplicano in una dimensione spaziale (per esempio, l'apparizione onirica di Alletto). Lo studioso si sofferma poi sul mare, che è importante specialmente nella prima parte del poema, dove la condizione dei Troiani è improntata a "placelessness and passivity", tra peregrinazioni senza meta e spostamenti coercitivi sotto la spinta delle tempeste.

Peter Knox (Virgil's Catullan One-Liner, pp. 287-319) analizza "the most vexing case of Vergilian quotation", cioè la citazione di Catullo, 66.39, ad Aen. 6.460, inuitus, regina, tuo de litore cessi, citazione che appare "consistent with the rhetorically weak position that Virgil crafts for Aeneas": il riferimento allusivo a un testo così poco appropriato per esprimere un sincero pathos confermerebbe l'atteggiamento inadeguato dell'eroe, a cui risponde degnamente il silenzio di Didone, così come quello dei commentatori antichi, che non segnalano la citazione.

Michèle Lowrie (Rege incolumi: Orientalism, Civil War and Security at Georgics 4.212, pp. 321-342) discute "the idea that group safety was embodied in the leader", un'idea che emerge dalla descrizione virgiliana della società delle api e che si rispecchia nella monarchia, in particolare nella concezione monarchica tipicamente orientale: la lotta tra diversi alveari quale metafora delle guerre civili implica di conseguenza "the projection of civil conflict onto an oriental other".

John Newman (Virgil's Iliad. Reflections on a Secondary Epic, pp. 343-401) considera ancora una volta il rapporto dell'Eneide con l'epos omerico, evidenziandone però la complessità, alla luce della poetica alessandrina: "it was impossibile for Homer to be Virgil's only model", in quanto "the Alexandrian taste of his restive age had to be satisfied". Il carattere composito dell'Eneide, che partecipa di elementi culturali ed estetici così diversi, è rappresentato dal personaggio di Ercole, "an apocalyptic saviour from death" e nel contempo "a figure of fun", a cui Enea è legato da un forte nesso allusivo.

Michael Putnam (The injunction of Apollo, pp. 403-428) focalizza l'invito alla moderazione che Apollo rivolge ad Ascanio durante la sua prima battaglia (Aen. 9.638-660), mettendolo in rapporto con "two of the epic's major motifs, revenge and clemency". Questo invito riecheggia le due esortazioni che Anchise, nell'Averno, rivolge rispettivamente a Cesare e Pompeo (Aen. 6.826-835) e al popolo romano in generale (vv.851-853): "to practice moderation, while fighting or in its aftermath, especially as victor responding to the conquered" è infatti un tema morale centrale nel poema. Tuttavia l'invito non sarà ascoltato da Cesare e Pompeo, che ingaggeranno quella guerra civile che Anchise tenta invano di stornare, parlando alle loro anime non ancora incarnate. Neppure Enea mostrerà di seguire la via indicata dal padre nell'Averno (e anche dalla madre Venere, che lo trattiene dalla vendetta nei confronti di Elena, nella notte della conquista di Troia): infatti il poema si conclude con l'uccisione di Turno, sconfitto e supplice. L'esortazione di Apollo ad Ascanio si insersice "in this chain of imperatives that help formulate an ethical norm against which Virgil asks us to measure the behavior of warriors, present and to come".

Sul Vergilius a cui si rivolge Orazio nell'Ode 4.12 si sofferma Richard Tarrant (Virgil and Vergilius in Horace Odes 4.12, pp. 429-452), confutandone l'identificazione col poeta Virgilio sia per motivi cronologici, peraltro già noti (il componimento è posteriore alla morte di Virgilio), sia per alcune espressioni che non si conciliano col carattere del poeta (per quanto è conosciuto da altre fonti).

Una stimolante proposta di attualizzazione, in relazione con la politica militarista degli Stati Uniti a partire dalla guerra in Iraq (2003) e soprattutto dopo i tragici eventi del settembre 2011, è avanzata da Richard Thomas (Aeneas in Baghdad, pp. 453-473), che esplora la lettura 'ideologizzata' delle opere virgiliane "in the context of the neoconservative movement". In questo periodo recente, come in tutta la storia della moderna ricezione virgiliana, sono rappresentate le due opposte opzioni interpretative, "the Pessimists" e "the Optimists", riconducibili all'eterno dualismo (non menzionato esplicitamente, ma ben presente sullo sfondo) tra la "scuola europea" e la "scuola di Harvard".2

Il volume si conclude con un singolare e piacevole contributo bio-bibliografico di John Van Sickle (Tityrus modulanter deductus: from Vatic to Arcadian Poetics via Satyr-play in Virgil's Book of Bucolic Epos, pp. 475-518), che ripercorre l'evoluzione delle proprie idee e la costruzione graduale di un'interpretazione complessiva delle Bucoliche, soprattutto in rapporto con i temi sensibili del genere letterario e della struttura della raccolta, nel quadro generale della critica virgiliana. Lo studioso racconta, con lo stile avvincente di un romanzo giallo, le principali tappe nella formulazione e nella divulgazione di tesi innovative, che si sono progressivamente affermate tra consensi e resistenze. La rassegna retrospettiva si configura infine come una rappresentazione significativa della critica contemporanea sulle Bucoliche.


1.   Sulla polisemia di umbra nella poesia virgiliana cf. L. N. Quartarone, "Shifting Shadows on the Landscape: Reading umbrae in Vergil and Other Poets", in P. Johnston e S. Papaioannou (edd.), Arcadia, the Golden Age, and the locus amoenus: Idyllic Poetic Landscapes of Early Rome and their later Repercussions = AAntHung 53, 2013, pp. 245-259.
2.   Tra le letture pessimistiche, spicca il materiale pubblicato sul web da un docente del Vermont, William Harris, che interpreta il finale del libro IV delle Georgiche come "an apt description of the events of 2003 and later, with George W. Bush (the 'Decider') replacing Caesar as he brings 'shock and awe' to the Euphrates". Tra le letture ottimistiche, il libro di Eve Adler, Virgil's Empire. Political Thought in the Aeneid, Lanham 2003, il cui orientamento ideologico neoconservatore emerge soprattutto dal capitolo 11, dal titolo eloquente di "World Empire".

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Brett M. Rogers, Benjamin Eldon Stevens (ed.), Classical Traditions in Science Fiction. Classical presences. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xiii, 380. ISBN 9780190228330. $35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Michael Kleu, Universität zu Köln (

Version at BMCR home site


Die Antikenrezeption in der Science-Fiction erfreut sich in letzter Zeit einer größeren Beliebtheit, was sehr zu begrüßen ist, bietet sich so doch eine schöne Möglichkeit, die Antike auch Menschen näher zu bringen, die bisher eher weniger Interesse für sie aufbrachten.1 Gleichzeitig erweist sich die Science-Fiction als ein derart fruchtbares Themenfeld für rezeptionsgeschichtliche Fragestellungen, dass sie sich den Altertumswissenschaften als Forschungsfeld geradezu aufdrängt. Da bisher eher wenige allgemeinere wissenschaftliche Überlegungen zu diesem Themenbereich vorliegen,2 soll der Schwerpunkt der vorliegenden Rezension auf der bemerkenswerten Einleitung des von B.M. Rogers und B.E. Stevens herausgegebenen Sammelbands liegen.

Die von den beiden Herausgebern verfasste Einleitung (S. 1-24) beginnt mit Überlegungen zu Mary Shelleys „Frankenstein", das den auf die antike Mythologie verweisenden Untertitel „The Modern Prometheus" trägt und — je nach Definition — als erstes Werk dessen, was wir heute als Science-Fiction bezeichnen, betrachtet werden kann. Am Beispiel des „Frankenstein" gelingt es den Autoren anschaulich aufzuzeigen, als wie vielschichtig sich Antikenrezeption erweisen kann. Denn der Untertitel des Buches stellt einerseits auf direkte Weise die „Moderne" dem antiken Mythos gegenüber, stammt ursprünglich aber von Immanuel Kant, der mit diesen Worten Benjamin Franklin umschrieb. Mary Shelley orientierte sich also bei der Niederschrift ihrer Geschichte nicht nur an der antiken Überlieferung des Mythos,3 sondern auch an dessen bereits existierender Rezeption in anderen modernen Schriften. In einem weiteren Schritt verweisen Rogers und Stevens auf ein Zitat aus Miltons „Paradise Lost", das Shelley auf der Titelseite ihres Buches anführte, womit sie zusätzlich eine christliche Tradition aufgriff, die — selbst bereits zum Klassiker geworden — ihrerseits wiederum ihren Ursprung in der Antike hat. Wie sich zeigt, erfolgt Antikenrezeption nicht zwingend auf einer direkten Ebene, sondern gegebenenfalls über mehrere Zwischenstufen (S. 1-4).

Hinsichtlich der Frage, was denn nun genau unter „Science-Fiction" zu verstehen ist, legen sich die Autoren angesichts der Vielzahl der Definitionsmöglichkeiten nicht fest, betonen aber, dass Mary Shelleys „Frankenstein" zur Science-Fiction zähle und diese eingeleitet habe. Von dieser Prämisse ausgehend, stellen Rogers und Stevens fest, dass die moderne Science-Fiction von ihren ersten Anfängen an zwar Gegenwart und Zukunft thematisiere, dabei aber eben häufig auch auf die Antike zurückgreife, wobei diesbezüglich wieder die durch „Frankenstein" gewonnene Erkenntnis relevant wird, dass diese Rezeption nicht zwingend direkt auf der antiken Überlieferung fußen muss, sondern durch vermittelnde Medien erfolgen kann, die ihrerseits direkt oder indirekt auf Elemente der antiken Welt zurückgreifen. Auf diese Weise können Werke der Science-Fiction schließlich selbst neue Versionen antiker Traditionen schaffen. Mit dem vorliegenden Sammelband möchten Rogers und Stevens daher mögliche Wege aufzeigen, wie man sich wissenschaftlich mit der vielschichtigen Rezeption antiker Literatur in der Science-Fiction auseinandersetzen kann (S. 4-8).

Im Folgenden thematisiert die Einleitung unter der Fragestellung „The Origins of the Future?" epistemologische und ethische Probleme, die sowohl mit der klassischen Tradition als auch mit der Science-Fiction verbunden sind. Rogers und Stevens nähern sich diesen Problemen auf Basis zweier Fragestellungen: 1. Wie beeinflusst „technoscience" unser Verständnis von der Welt, und inwiefern ähneln wir bei unseren Versuchen, die Welt zu verstehen und zu manipulieren, Victor Frankenstein? 2. Wie ist das Verhältnis zwischen einem technowissenschaftlichen Verständnis der Welt sowie dem Menschen und seinen Handlungen gestaltet, und inwiefern sind sowohl wir als auch unsere Handlungen wie Frankensteins Monster Produkte technowissenschaftlichen Wissens und daraus resultierender Anwendungen (S. 8-11)?

Im Anschluss entwerfen Rogers und Stevens eine theoretische Rechtfertigung für die Beschäftigung mit der klassischen Tradition und der Science-Fiction, wobei sie die Ergebnisse zweier einflussreicher Science-Fiction-Wissenschaftler (Adam Roberts und Darko Suvin) miteinander verbinden, was ihnen erlaubt, moderne Werke der Science-Fiction als Bestandteil der Antikenrezeption zu betrachten, während gleichzeitig antike Schriften als Science-Fiction bzw. „knowledge fiction" gelten können. An interessanten Parallelen halten die Autoren in diesem Zusammenhang fest, dass die Science-Fiction und die Klassische Philologie etwa zeitgleich in Erscheinung getreten seien4 und dass sich beide mit Welten befassen, die (noch) nicht bzw. nicht mehr real sind. Dabei sei es besonders die diesen Welten gemeinsame Fremdheit, die eine klare theoretische Rechtfertigung dafür biete, sich auf wissenschaftlicher Ebene mit der Beziehung zwischen Science-Fiction und antiker Literatur auseinanderzusetzen (S. 11-19).

Am Ende der Einleitung erläutern Rogers und Stevens schließlich die Struktur des Sammelbandes, die sich grob an der chronologischen Reihenfolge der in den jeweiligen Beiträgen besprochenen Science-Fiction-Werke orientiert. Gleichzeitig ziehen die Autoren an dieser Stelle bereits ein Fazit zu jedem Abschnitt des Buches. Kapitel I trägt die Überschrift „SFʼs Rosy-Fingered Dawn" und thematisiert die überraschend engen Verbindungen der ersten Werke der modernen Science- Fiction-Literatur mit den literarischen Werken der Antike, wobei Ähnlichkeiten in Struktur, Sprache und Bildern auf eine tiefere philosophische Verbindung hindeuten und Fragen in Bezug auf Erkenntnistheorie und Glauben aufwerfen. Kapitel II setzt sich mit den Klassikern der Science-Fiction auseinander, bei denen der direkte Bezug zur klassischen Literatur deutlich abnimmt. Dafür zeigt sich nun etwa, wie Aristoteles unsere Vorstellung davon prägt, wie ein Drama zu verfassen sei, und wie Hesiod und Ovid unsere Vorstellung von Zeit beeinflussen. Das dritte Kapitel behandelt „Classics in Space". Hier wird deutlich, dass einige zentrale die Gesellschaft und den Menschen betreffende Themen der Science-Fiction bereits in der klassischen Literatur vorzufinden sind. Im Vordergrund des abschließenden Kapitels IV, das den Titel „Ancient Classics for a Future Generation?" trägt, steht der Umstand, dass die in der Science-Fiction behandelten vergangenen, zukünftigen oder alternativen Welten oft dazu dienen, sich in Form von Gedankenexperimenten mit der eigenen Welt auseinanderzusetzen. Des Weiteren leiten sich aus diesem Kapitel Fragen ab, die wiederum den gesamten Sammelband betreffen: Trägt die Rezeption der Antike in der Science-Fiction dazu bei, erstere wiederzubeleben, oder wird die Antike durch diese Rezeption überflüssig? Funktioniert die Antikenrezeption in der Science-Fiction wie ein Materieteleporter, der antikes Material in eine neue Raum-Zeit-Ebene versetzt, oder funktioniert sie eher wie eine Strahlenpistole, die dieses Material unwiderruflich in seine kleinsten Einzelteile zerlegt (S. 19-24)?

Die einzelnen Beiträge des Sammelbandes thematisieren hinsichtlich der Science-Fiction sowohl Literatur, Film und Fernsehen als auch Comics, sodass letztlich nur Computerspiele als mögliche Medien der Antikenrezeption in der Science-Fiction außen vor bleiben. Dabei erweisen sich die Ebenen der Untersuchungen als äußerst vielschichtig: So werden in einigen Beiträgen die inhaltlichen Bezüge zur Antike veranschaulicht, wobei sich zeigt, dass diese eher oberflächlich sein können (z.B. in „Star Trek: The Original Series"), sich in anderen Fällen aber auch als durchaus tiefsinnig und kenntnisreich herausstellen können (z.B. in Dan Simmonsʼ „Ilium"). Andere Beiträge zeigen deutliche Parallelen in der Erzählmethode auf (z.B. in der Ilias und in Frank Herberts „Dune"), während ein Artikel nicht die Rezeption in den Mittelpunkt stellt, sondern die Thematisierung künstlicher Intelligenz im klassischen Mythos mit der in „Blade Runner" vergleicht. Somit erfüllt der Sammelband das oben angesprochene Ziel, die unterschiedlichen Möglichkeiten der wissenschaftlichen Auseinandersetzung mit der Rezeption antiker Literatur in der Science-Fiction aufzuzeigen.

Im Anschluss an die Beiträge folgen „Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing", in denen Robert W. Cape jr. eine Auswahl von Science-Fiction-Werken aus Literatur, Film und Fernsehen vorstellt und den jeweiligen Bezug zur Antike erläutert (S. 327-338). Darauf folgen eine Zusammenstellung der in den Artikeln zitierten Literatur (S. 339-370) sowie ein Index, der Werke, Personen und weitere Aspekte aus Antike und Science-Fiction aufführt (S. 371-380).

Sicherlich kann man bei jeder Studie über einzelne Aspekte diskutieren.5 Solche Detailfragen ändern aber letztlich nichts daran, dass sämtliche Beiträge von gutem oder sehr gutem Niveau sind und dazu anregen, das eine oder andere der angesprochenen Werke (erneut) zur Hand zu nehmen. Somit ist der Sammelband insgesamt als äußerst gelungen zu bezeichnen, und es bleibt zu hoffen, dass weitere Studien auf ähnlichem Niveau folgen werden.


1.   Vgl. diesbezüglich etwa die Tagung zur Antikenrezeption in der Science-Fiction-Literatur, die im Mai 2015 an der Universität zu Köln stattgefunden hat: Antikenrezeption in der Science-Fiction-Literatur).
2.   Zu den bisherigen theoretischen Überlegungen zur Antikenrezeption in der Science-Fiction vgl. die Auflistung der wichtigsten Literatur auf S. viii.
3.   Zur direkten Antikenrezeption in Mary Shelleys „Frankenstein" vgl. den Beitrag von J. Weiner zum Thema „Lucretius, Lucan, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (S. 46-74).
4.   Hinsichtlich der Klassischen Philologie wird an dieser Stelle nicht deutlich, inwiefern sie zeitgleich mit der Science-Fiction in Erscheinung getreten sein soll. Es scheint jedenfalls eine Entwicklung der Klassischen Philologie gemeint zu sein, die in die erste Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts einzuordnen ist, da die Autoren davon ausgehen, dass die Science-Fiction durch Mary Shelleys "Frankenstein" (1818) eingeleitet wurde (s.o.).
5.   So stellt sich zum Beispiel die Frage, ob man bei einer Untersuchung der Neuauflage von „Battlestar Galactica" das Original und die mormonischen Einflüsse auf die Erzählung einfach ausklammern kann. Aufgrund der Fragestellung, die V. Tomasso in seiner Untersuchung der Neuauflage verfolgt, steht es außer Frage, dass diese im Zentrum stehen muss, doch hätte die Übernahme antiker Bezüge aus dem Original (z.B. die Namen „Apollo" und „Athena") zumindest kurz angesprochen werden können.

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