Monday, January 18, 2016


Douglas L. Cairns, Laurel Fulkerson (ed.), Emotions between Greece and Rome. BICS supplement, 125. London: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2015. Pp. vii, 199. ISBN 9781905670536. £30.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Donald Lateiner, Ohio Wesleyan University (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Nine essays under the sign of grief-consumed Laocoon constitute this cross-cultural experiment. The papers memorialize a conference in 2012 at the Florida State University. The joint editors introduce the collection with a study of what constitutes an emotion. Those who have not taken the "emotional turn" may be surprised how controversial, scandalous, the situation is, how different researchers' definitions and inventories of the slippery term "emotions" can appear, as well as the constituents of such an event (bodily change, propositional attitudes, dispositions, etc.). Not just a 'feeling', emotions are built from a 'complex syndrome of factors' (7). Do Aristotle's pathe map easily on to Seneca's motus animi, adfectus and/or English "emotions"? How have the centuries and different cultural and social institutions (re-)constructed different emotional reactions and expressions? Cairns and Fulkerson opt for continuities, a logical necessity if a person today is to be able to penetrate the expressed or interior thoughts of a character in Homer, Virgil, Cicero or Plutarch—or Petrarch. The editors' dense and subtle discussion of heroic Hektor and Diomedes' feelings in two scenes of aidos, shame and respect (12-14, Iliad 22.104-10, 10.234-39; cf. Cairns' 1993 monograph) persuades us that these two scenarios are two sides of one conceptual coin. The authors demonstrate that not only the individual but his relationships with others construct 'feelings'—esteem for others and self-esteem. When the one Greek word demands two or more words for English shame and respect, or two or more Latin terms (verecundia, pudor, piget), later scholars if not translators need to find the coherence that binds the concepts together in the source language's thought-world and vocabulary.

The editors draw on the theorizing of psychologists but also on the sociologist Erving Goffman's penetrating analysis of "Face," demeanor and deference, and Brown and Levinson's forays into "politeness studies." These influential scholars' universalizing inclinations or at least implications need to be tested against other cultures' facework and interaction rituals, and the current volume examines both "classical" cultures (although not (say) Babylonian, Egyptian, ancient Hebrew, or early Christian protocols). And emotions have significant non-linguistic aspects—gestural and paralinguistic expressions, display rules, visible symptoms ("leakage")—that demand attention to their cultural variations. The introduction summarizes much of Cairns' recent research. The Introduction closes with an admirably succinct summary of chapters of the sort often found in book reviews of essay collections.

Kathryn Gutzwiller explores eros in Greek epigrammatists and amor and cupido in Latin elegists. She finds the reciprocal desire desiderated by the Romans distinct from Meleager's repeated desires for one woman or boy after another (26), for Posidippus "a controlled indulgence." One thinks of Constantinos Cavafy, another Greek poet not looking for reciprocity of emotion. The pathetic elegists seek not only attainable sex but an unreal mutuus amor—unlike Horace who follows the Greek model (n.59). She closes with a question (44): Is the difference she has discovered a cultural difference or the mark of a social change in erotic pairings in the two centuries before and after Octavian?

David Konstan, pioneering godfather and philosophic cornerstone of research into "the emotional turn" of Classical Studies, explores "beauty and desire between (?) Greece and Rome." This article is the most philosophically inflected in the collection but/and to me the most opaque. It devolves from his book analyzing ancient theories of Beauty (Oxford 2015). He discusses concepts of to kalon and kallos in philosophers and extended descriptions of works of art (e.g., in the ecphrases of the Philostrati). The Latin material starts from the words formosus and pulcher—but no attention to the eccentric and disruptive tribune P. Clodius Pulcher with his relevant cognomen. Konstan does not miss Plaut. Most. 289 mulier nuda erit quam purpurata pulchrior. He mostly rehearses the depredations found in Cicero's caricature of Verres, a proto-Trimalchio valuing weight over workmanship (2.4.124). Konstan concludes that the felonious magistrate was an early example of collector's passion—an aesthetic emotion before such were recognized (66).

Laurel Fulkerson examines ambiguities of elpis in Plutarch. This trending emotion will enjoy a conference in Rethymno, Crete this December 2015: The Emotion of Hope Programme. (Disclosure: the reviewer is a participant.) Fulkerson notes that elpis too does not map precisely onto English hope or Latin spes (67). It includes both affective and cognitive qualities (hope and expectation). Unlike some other emotions hope is forward looking rather than reflective of the past. She explores Plutarch's presentation of hope in the Greek and Roman lives, an exemplary project for this volume. A useful table (85-6) lays out for every life whether its subject or others experience elpis, whether the elpis is realized or fails. The paired Lives of Demetrius and Antony and the philosophical Dion and Brutus appear in her microscope. Favored figures depend less on hope than negative Lives such as the first two above (72), and in these two doomed lives hopes and expectations are often deceptive. Nicias (n.56) exceptionally starts out unhopeful (δύσελπις), but comes to conceive great hopes when his cause is hopeless. Dion is a philosophical, noble hoper and doer, but others conceive inappropriate hopes of him. Brutus complicates Plutarch's "hope," not least by his premature suicide and abandonment of hope (83). Fulkerson concludes there is very little difference in the hopes of Plutarch's Greek and Roman protagonists.

Angelos Chaniotis examines "affective diplomacy," Greek communities negotiating with the Roman establishment: pseudo-affective appeals as interactions on the political level during the middle and late Republic. He begins by observing that historians of the stones and historiographical texts have very limited access to peoples' real feelings (88). Today one reads the formulaic explanations and traditional justifications of "naughty" Hellenic communities (e.g, Lampsacenes claiming kinship, 91-3). But Sulla (Plut. Sul. 13.4), like the other Romans, wanted habitual obedience and fast cooperation, not appeals to common ancestry or Athenian defences of civilization or ad hoc and post hoc displays of enthusiasm. Historical service is no argument, although once it might have been among Hellenes (cf. Athenian arguments in Thucydides i and iii). The Hellenes, demoted to inferior statusbefore 167 BCE, and scorned further afterwards, could mistake alleged philia/ amicitia, as they did eleutheria/ libertas: ἐλευθέρα Κόρκυρα, χέζ' ὅπου θέλεις (Strabo 7, frg. 8). The Romans' frustrated "friends" were expected to obey and obligated to deliver, and in addition to show joy at Roman successes when they suppressed their disobedient ethnic Hellenic cousins.

Pausanias reports an elegiac memorial inscription commemorating Polybios. It praised him for halting Roman anger towards the Greek world (8.30.8-9: ὀργῆς τῆς ἐς τὸ Ἑλληνικόν). Andrew Erskine dives into Polybius' treatment of Roman anger. He discovered that the Romans show anger only in the second half of the Megalopolitan's pragmatic Histories, when they are conquering or suppressing Greeks. In the first half, barbarians--Carthaginians, Spaniards and Celts--express themselves irrationally, or express justified feelings of anger imprudently. Polybios can justify orge, ira, but only when it meets three conditions: "justifiable, directed to the right people and expressed in the right way" (108). Polybios often focuses not on the angry person(s) but those who experience another's (the Romans') anger, here the Greeks. Polybios asserts that he was good at "pleading away" official Roman anger with words, manner, and even dress (ambassadors "up the creek" wore mourning clothes). From book 21 on, Romans expect respect for their power, and when the Greeks are not sufficiently humble and adoring, the Senate or its representatives show strong displeasure. Queen Teuta, King Prusias, the Aetolians, and the Rhodians lose Roman "friendship" when pushy demands are not immediately met. The historian examines anger as a social and even political emotion, disregarding philosophical discussion of how to control or suppress it. Erskine inches towards stating that Greeks and Romans regularly got angry. Indeed, Aristotle notes that not getting angry can itself be a fault (cf. 121). A final comparison with Livy's treatment of Rhodes and Rome's serious crisis unsurprisingly discovers that the Italian does not mention Roman anger (Polyb. 21.25-34, Livy 38.3-14)—the two historians are focalizing from opposite sides.

Ruth Caston reviews Cicero's comments in the Tusculans comparing Greek and Roman tragedy, including Pacuvius and Sophocles. Why does he systematically prefer Roman versions to Greek? She argues that Cicero reads Pacuvius as more philosophical than the Hellenic poets when imagining grief and suffering. Cicero believes that the Romans knew how to master themselves and Pacuvius did not allow his heroes to appear unmanly--effeminately expressive. Caston argues that Cicero believes Roman literature has progressed beyond its Greek models (139) in tragedy and comedy and surely beyond Epicurus. The Romans appreciate grief, pain, and suffering but they have learned how to control it.

Damien P. Nelis closely reads Vergil's first storm in the Aeneid for its Homeric and Epicurean resonances. In the Virgilian fun-house of mirrors, the poet reflects his reading and intertextualizing of Lucretius reading Epicurus and Ennius as well as (of course) Homer (Achilleus' opening menis) and (not "of course") Apollonius. The sea-storm densely intratexts powerful waves with emotional storms, waves of passion (elegy's "sea of love" motif); the remembering ira of Juno, the sea-calming of Poseidon (cf. the irate god of Odyssey 1.20), and Aeneas' ira in the final, unresolving scene with Turnus. The learned author (cf. n.31 on fluctus) reminds readers that the philosophers decided or determined that gods did not experience anger or pain (e.g., Lucr. DRN 1.44-9, but see saevit animis in Vergil's first simile, 1.149-56). Nevertheless, he thinks the overlap in vocabulary of the emotions between these two poets' opening passages demonstrates that "Virgil's opening begins to appear ever more Lucretian and Epicurean in outlook" (161). Some Epicureans (e.g., Philodemos Peri Orges) explored justifications of anger and other emotions, with an eye on the Peripatetics.

The last two papers nicely complement each other, although they tilt the volume too much to one author. Alessandro Schiesaro develops the interplay of memory and the emotions in the Aeneid, chiefly book 1, with nods to Freud's views of memories selected, activated, recalled, suppressed, and distorted by current anxieties. "Creative... forgetting" describes Schiesaro's analysis of Aeneas' "reading" of the Temple of Juno's (1.446, here a rare Mantuan joke?), "isolated tableaux" depicting the Trojan catastrophe. The displaced migrant/refugee Trojan manages to provide these snapshots with a "positive spin" (1.461-3). Aeneas feeds on the Carthaginian's disiectae picturae and remodels them as consolation—a "misread[ing]" (166). Schiesaro argues for a transformative crisis in Aeneas' recent past: eradication of Troy town and wife, perilous journey with catastrophic storm, bizarre misadventure with disguised and distant mother, arrival among Semitic strangers with uncertain reception (cf. Apuleius' comic journey of misadventures). His circumstances permit or require Aeneas to be "reborn as a new self" with a "new agenda" (168) starting by a flirt with the local Queen, Dido. He has become estranged from his previous self and somehow liberated. Aeneas' meeting with the lightly disguised Venus, his mother, uncomfortably reminds literate readers of Odysseus' encounter with the nubile and hopeful Nausikaa. The lovely Venus, however, has inserted herself into an unerotic encounter. Rather, she becomes the object of her son's justified vituperation, remotely reminiscent of an infanticidal Medea figure who betrays her male progeny (175, cf. the verbatim tag Ecl. 8.47-8: crudelis tu quoque). Virgil has his cake and happily eats it. Venus serves as both Aeneas' "real" and here repudiated mother but meanwhile her venatic and venereal presence foreshadows Dido. This essay privileges memory over emotions that may shape and evoke it, such as rage and desire, but recollection of emotions can influence persons as much as their initial experience.

In sum, the inventory here includes emotions of love (and desire), hope, and anger for focus, and then casts wider nets when attention shifts from the emotion du jour to authors' oeuvres. Aside from the introduction, no cairn of the Langford chair tops the volume. Many less featured emotions receive short shrift, e.g., disgust, surprise, joy, and contempt. It is a handicap of such collections (I am editing one myself on the first item) that comprehensiveness can never be achieved, given a dependence on the interests of the contributors. Other important authors, periods, and genres (here, e.g., comedy, satire, and oratory) crave attention. The grief and pain of the handsome cover image zoomed in on anguished Laocoon may hint at this inevitable frustration of editors.

Table of Contents

Introduction, Douglas Cairns and Laurel Fulkerson
Eros and Amor: representations of love in Greek epigram and Latin elegy, Kathryn Gutzwiller
Beauty and desire between Greece and Rome, David Konstan
Plutarch and the ambiguities of [elpis], Laurel Fulkerson
Affective diplomacy: emotional scripts between Greek communities and Roman authorities during the Republic, Angelos Chaniotis
Polybius and the anger of the Romans, Andrew Erskine
Pacuvius hoc melius quam Sophocles: Cicero's use of drama in the treatment of the emotions, Ruth Rothaus Caston
Juno, sea-storm and emotion in Virgil, Aeneid 1.1-156: Homeric and Epicurean contexts, D.P. Nelis
Emotions and memory in Virgil's Aeneid, Alessandro Schiesaro
Index locorum

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