Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Janine Balty, Jean-Charles Balty (ed.), Franz Cumont. Recherches sur le symbolisme funéraire des Romains. Bibliotheca Cumontiana - Scripta Maiora (BICUMA), 4. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2015. Pp. clxvi, 549. ISBN 9789074461788. €90.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Jas' Elsner, Corpus Christi College Oxford; University of Chicago

Version at BMCR home site

Published in 1942 in occupied Paris, Recherches sur le symbolisme funéraire des Romains is a magisterial book of over 500 pages, 105 figures and 47 plates (with several images on each). It was completed late in life by the great Belgian classical archaeologist and historian of religions Franz Cumont (1868-1947). The book infuses the artworks it describes with a rich interpretative frame drawn on a lifetime's command of ancient religion and its literary texts—stressing a complex and nuanced symbolism rooted in philosophical allegory (notably Stoicism and Neoplatonism), in religious beliefs and in paideia. Imagined as a crowning monument to his long researches into the symbolic meanings of ancient art, the book succumbed almost immediately (and still within its aged author's lifetime) to a punitive and comprehensive 30 page review that substantially damaged Cumont's reputation, at any rate in the English-speaking world. This was written by the great Anglophone historian of religion, A.D Nock.1 Yet, as Nock admitted, Cumont's 'magnificent and monumental' opus was 'an event in our studies'; and in many ways it remains so. For this reason alone, it is welcome that Brepols have reissued the book; but all the more so because Janine and Jean-Charles Balty have provided a superb historiographical introduction—a brief monograph in its own right—of about 150 pages that discuss the author, the text and its reception. I have no intention here of re-reviewing Cumont's book, but I will comment on the Baltys' excellent work and on my own view of the place of Cumont's scholarship.

The Baltys' account of Cumont's book, buttressed by deep and careful research among his papers in the Belgian Academy at Rome—some of them, but by no means all, published by Corinne Bonnet2—is divided into five sections. These address the complex history of the book's long gestation and final production in the difficult years of the War (pp. XV-XXXVII); the book's goals and limitations (XXXVII-XLII); its range of receptions—both contemporary to the time of publication and over the longue durée (an exceptionally complex historiographical project, extremely well carried out, pp. XLIII-CV); a long and thoughtful series of keys to the rehabilitation of Cumont's book (CV-CLVIII) and finally a brief conclusion. In the course of this the Baltys make many palpable hits against various fantasies promoted by Cumont's detractors—for instance, that he was a Catholic believer and apologist, which is simply untrue (p. XVI, n. 3 and XCIV-V).3

Their summary of the immediate reviews and responses is extremely interesting. As they emphasise, with the exception of Nock, the early reception of Cumont's long-awaited volume was strongly positive. They do not make this point explicitly, but one might add that the enthusiasm extended across the political spectrum from scholars close to the Nazi regime, like Gerhard Rodenwaldt, to those on the Christian left and in the Resistance, like Henri-Irénée Marrou. After its early approbation, some of the more discerning noticed the issue around which Nock had struck: Marrou commented that Cumont was 'in effect excessive', while Angelo Brelich noted the dependence on 'erudite speculation'.4 Although the Baltys clearly do not agree with Nock, they give a good deal of space to a fair account of his review (L-LVI). The main driver of their discussion, however, is an attempt to rehabilitate some of Cumont's positions and the thrust of his work. I will return to this question at the end, but first let me do two things that in my view they do not sufficiently attempt: first, to situate an approach to the volume within the methodological investments of the author's oeuvre, and second, in the intellectual context of the book' s genesis and publication.

Cumont's methodology for the use of images in writing religious history is something deep in his personal career and goes back to his studies of Mithraism in the late 19th century, when he was still in his 20s. Second, the time during which Recherches was written and published is of compelling interest because the stakes of scholarship, scholarly allegiance and interpretation in relation to the ancestral past of Europe as a whole could not have been higher in the context of the worst war into which Europe had ever been plunged. I will comment on each of these questions in turn.

In 1975, in a fundamental paper that demolished the authority of Cumont in Mithraic studies—a field he had created and dominated since the 1890s—Richard Gordon demonstrated some fundamental flaws in Cumont's method.5 Working with archaeological material, but attempting to produce religious history in the context of the success of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Cumont imposed a 'narrowly intellectual and theological conception of religion', 'an a priori assumption', onto what was in effect 'iconographic evidence' (Gordon, 1975, 216). To enable his argument, Cumont upheld the strong theory that Roman Mithraism was a western form of Iranian Zoroastrianism (p. 216-7), for which his knowledge was dependent on a vast array of Magian and orthodox Zoroastrian texts (p.219).6 Gordon's concerns were to show the inadequacy of Cumont's assumptions to the task of understanding Roman Mithraism, rather than to reveal Cumont's archaeological method per se. But several issues may be noted. First Cumont's commitment to matters of religion meant that he trod a rare route within the archaeology of his time—moving away from the stylistic formalism that dominated the German-speaking establishment, and especially the Viennese from the work of Alois Riegl in the 1890s to the second Vienna school, best represented in Classical archaeology by the deep formalist structuralism of Guido Kaschnitz-Weinberg in the 1920s and 30s.7 Rather, Cumont significantly anticipated the kind of art historical placement of forms, types and iconographies within a literary contextual frame designed to reveal underlying Weltanschauung that characterised the great Hamburg project of the scholars gathered at the Bibliothek Warburg, notably Erwin Panofsky, who specifically emphasised meaning over style, and Fritz Saxl, the Warburg Institute's director.8 Nothing in fact demonstrates the attraction of Cumont's model of working to the Warburgians so much as the most important forgotten book on Mithras of the last century—Saxl's 1931 monograph, published at the apogee of the Warburg's Weimar period, with its focus on the iconography of the bull-slaying scene in its form, symbolism, religious meanings and ultimately influence on Christianity.9

The method of Cumont's work on religious imagery was thus not the normative formalism of classical archaeology but a close conflation of image and text on models that were both greatly influential on the Warburgians and rather similar to them.10 However, where the kind of iconology practised by Panofsky, especially in the 1930s and later, could draw on a rich range of texts, close in date of production or reception as well as in place of production, to the images he chose to work on in the Italian or Netherlandish Renaissance or the Middle Ages, Cumont was forced to find 'relevant' texts wherever he could. In the case of Mithraism, this not only meant going outside the Roman world into Persia, but it also involved a 'reconstruction of Mithraism culled from an enormous variety of sources of Iranian origin' (Gordon, 1975, 243). It is the turn to a similarly enormous variety of texts, borrowed from anywhere and everywhere, to provide an apparently coherent explanatory frame for funerary symbolism that precisely defines the nature of Recherches, although it was published more than 40 years after the work on Mithras. It represents the same 'Warburgian' method applied to a different and considerably less coherent body of material. It is the consistent and unjustified a priori assumption of deeper meanings, allegory and symbolism underlying all funerary art combined with a hopeless lack of rigour or methodological clarity in offering any form of objective criterion for what should or should not count as an acceptable text to adduce in relation to a given monument, that is the real—and entirely justified—target of Nock's demolition.11

But an analytic and brutal deconstruction of Cumont's method (whose weaknesses were not obvious to most readers at the time of publication12) needs tempering by historical contextualization. We must ask what was Cumont trying to do in Recherches and how was his method serving that purpose. Here, the issue is complex, fraught, but extremely interesting because of the period when the book was written. Let me approach it obliquely, by means of the Warburgian comparison. In 1933, with the advent of Hitler's regime in Germany, the Warburg Institute moved from Hamburg to London. It is a striking mark of the political frame governing the scholarly output of many who were associated with Warburg (most of them Jewish) that their art-historical scholarship during the Nazi period turned towards issues of Neoplatonism, symbolism and polysemy. There may be many explanations for this, but I would hazard that the positive politics underlying this line was a direct if subtle riposte to the essentialist and racial model of single meanings that underlay forms in the new, simplified and racist art history that took over the German universities in the Third Reich. To my knowledge, no one has explored a politics to Cumont's art-historical writings, but it seems to me that the impulse beneath the flurry of Neoplatonic polysemy that dominates Recherches, although certainly anticipated by Cumont's earlier work, belongs in its 1940s context, to the same instinct as the symbolic forms borrowed by Panofsky from Ernst Cassirer to be the underlying stratum of meaning in his Iconology, and the play of symbols in the works of Ernst Gombrich and Edgar Wind.13

In later years, notably the new art history of the 1980s, what had become a dogmatic application of textual sources to elucidate underlying meanings became viciously attacked as the discipline's (then) youngsters turned on the dominant (Warburgian) voices of the post-war era. Something similar was at play in Gordon's attack on C, governed by the Oedipal necessity of killing the father. But we should not be distracted by the positivist call for getting closer to the real nature of Mithraism, funerary symbolism or whatever, in terms that are ultimately more meaningful or relevant to the discursive preferences of a later generation. In the era between 1939 and 1945, in the depths of a Europe condemned to a perpetual mortuary lament over the demolition of what was good about its own past and with little hope for any kind of future, Cumont's symbolic model of the imagery of the Roman tomb, as looking to a better place and one not reductive or brutal in its meanings, was a powerful personal statement about the present. It is this force, this politics, that Nock—writing from America and writing after the war—did not grasp, although his review came so swiftly after the initial publication.

Within the darkness of death, Cumont saw evocations and allegories of a better world and of salvation. In search of 'revelation beneath the forms of obscurity' and 'to divine their secret' (p. 13), he sought the aid of what in 1942 were forbidden masters—'Philon le Juif' (e.g. 13 and 16) and the intimations of what were considered lower races ('des Syriens, des Indiens', p.17). Is it pure chance that he chose to end the entire project with an appendix (broadly republishing an article 1916) on 'un fragment de sarcophage judéo-païen' (pp. 462-76, my italics on the key word)? Is it with pietas towards the Minister of Education in Pétain's Vichy, or with a certain edge, that he repeatedly mentions the 'Pythagorean' basilica beneath the Porta Maggiore in Rome, whose major publication was the 'brilliant volume' by Jérôme Carcopino (p. 20, n. 59)?14 It is impossible for us now to grasp complex ambivalences and gestures in the politics of this writing—but my hunch is that a liberal resistance to totalitarianism and its collaborators was not entirely absent, in the call for a mystical interiority that could deny the intimations of the outer world.

It should be added—and it is perhaps unfortunate that this is not raised in the Baltys' discussion—that Recherches was not Cumont's final statement on funerary symbolism, but that he continued to work on the subject through the later years of the War to produce the text of his last book, Lux Perpetua, which was published in 1949, two years after his death. Something of the politics of Cumont's late project here may be clearer from his own address at the sixth International Congress of the history of religions in Brussels in 1935, when the darkness was already closing on Europe, although it had not yet given way to war: 'There are those who pose in panegyrics of violence and who vaunt the benefits of brutality, as the sole creative force of new societies; they seek an immediate remedy through physical coercion for the disorders we suffer. But what creations are more powerful and more durable than those of the spiritual forces, which have transformed peoples and overturned empires, like the invisible force of the wind that bends and uproots the forests? To totalitarian states that pretend to subject to their domination not only the actions but even the inner feelings of individuals, religious experience teaches how intimate convictions, pursued within external forms, offer an inviolable space of asylum in our heart of hearts. In this time, when all these nationalisms are so exacerbated, the development of religion shows us how a community of beliefs, once those of tribes or clans, then those of cities and nations, may aspire ultimately to universal significance and to create from heterogeneous and remote populations ties of allegiance more powerful than those of neighbouring kinship or blood…'15 It may be that today's ear is deaf to some of the notes of resistance to Fascist totalitarianism implied in Cumont's turn to personal faith and allegory. But his Recherches belongs to a moment when 'external forms' within the context of a 'totalitarian state' certainly 'pretended to subject both actions and inner feelings to its dominion' and when only an inner integrity, 'the inviolable space of asylum in our heart of hearts' could stand against the 'violence', 'brutality' and 'physical coercion'. Arguably, Nock's ear was already deaf to these issues in 1946. But for any fair assessment of Cumont's larger enterprise in Recherches, these themes cannot be ignored.

The impasse about how to make objects mean was not a new one in the argument between Cumont and Nock, nor has it been resolved since the 1940s. My aim here has been to show that the issues—in the funereal darkness of 1942— were very different from how they were seen in 1946 and from where scholars might go today; but they were not less profound. If we turn from historicizing our authorities to the philosophical and substantial point of how to write the history of religious art, the problem remains potent. If we are to go the Warburgian route of elucidating visual materials with textual supplements, we still need an objective criterion for knowing what texts we can reasonably apply and how to do this; for all their brilliant art historical verve, not one of the great scholars associated with the Warburg Institute has ever provided such a thing and nor did C. If we dismiss the range of potential textual material, and turn to the objects themselves to supply meanings, we may land up by simply forcing what passes for common sense in any particular moment (our own contemporary set of prejudices, usually) onto the images of the past in order to explain them. That is the risk of Nock's proposal of 'classicism and culture' (Nock, 1946, 166) as his solution to resist the 'maximizing' impulses (p. 170) of symbolic and religious resonance that governed Cumont's interpretive vision at the darkest time of European catastrophe. I suspect the Baltys cannot be right in any attempt to reinvigorate Cumont's own interpretations, but there is no doubt—in the particular arena of the study of Roman sarcophagi, for example—that too much of the baby that Cumont so deeply cherished has been thrown out with the bathwater of his (in my view understandable and politically laudable) methodological excess.


1.   Arthur Darby Nock, 'Sarcophagi and Symbolism', American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 50, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1946), pp. 140-170.
2.   Corinne Bonnet (ed.) La correspondance scientifique de Franz Cumont conservée à l'Academia Belgica de Rome, Brussels, 1997 and Grégory Bongard-Levine, Corinne Bonnet, Yuri Litvinenko, Arnaldo Marcone (eds.), Mongolus syrio salutem optimam dat: la correspondence entre Mikhaïl Rostovtzeff et Franz Cumont, Paris, 2007
3.   See also Corinne Bonnet, 'Lux perpetua—un testament spirituel?' in Corinne Bonnet, Carlo Ossola, John Scheid (eds.) Rome et ses religions: culte, morale, spiritualité : en relisant "Lux perpetua" de Franz Cumont, Caltanissetta, 2010 [Mythos' 1 suppl.], 125-42, esp. 133-7.
4.   See Henri-Irénée Marrou, Mousikos anēr. Étude sur les scènes de la vie intellectuelle figurant sur les monuments funéraires romains, Rome, 1964, 318 (in the 'postface' to the second edition, perhaps reflecting second thoughts); A Brelich, Studi e materiali di storia delle religioni 19-20 (1943-6) 226-9, esp. 229.
5.   See R. Gordon, 'Franz Cumont and the Doctrines of Mithraism' in R. Hinnells (ed.), Mithraic Studies, vol. 1, Manchester, 1975, 215-48. Cumont's great project (followed by a number of later pieces) was F. Cumont, Textes et monuments figurés relatifs aux mystères de Mithra, 2 vols, Brussels, 1896-99. For surveys of the field see R. Beck, 'Mithraism since Franz Cumont' ANRW II.17.4 (1984) 2002-2115, esp. 2003-8 and 2063-5 on Cumont and his followers and N. Belayche and A. Mastrocinque, 'Introduction historiographique' to F. Cumont, Les mysteres de Mithras, Turnhout, 2011, XIII-LXVIII.
6.   In a note to a paper published in 1937, Nock showed he was already worried by this kind of fissure: 'at the same time we must distinguish between Mithraism as a religion on the one hand and the literary dissemination of Iranian ideas on the other. I hope to return to this topic elsewhere.': A. Nock, 'The Genius of Mithras', JRS 27 (1937) 108-13, p. 111, n.23.
7.   The literature is large on all this, but for summaries and bibliography see: C. Wood, The Vienna School Reader, New York, 2000; J. Elsner, 'Alois Riegl and Classical Archaeology' in P. Noever, A. Rosenauer and G. Vasold (eds.) Alois Riegl Revisited, Vienna, 2010, 45-57 and M. Schwarz and J. Elsner, 'The Genesis of Struktur: Kaschnitz- Weinberg's Review of Riegl and the New Viennese School', Art History 39 (2016) 70-83.
8.   Again a huge literature: start with J. Elsner and K. Lorenz, 'The Genesis of Iconology', Critical Inquiry 38, Spring 2012, 483-512; E. Levine, Dreamland of Humanists: Warburg, Cassirer, Panofsky and the Hamburg School, Chicago, 2013.
9.   F. Saxl, Mithras: Typengeschichtliche Untersuchungen, Berlin 1931. Note that there is discussion of both Warburg and Saxl in Cumont's correspondence.
10.   Elliptical intimations of Warburgianism in Cumont include P. Veyne, 'The Roman Empire', in A History of Private Life, Cambridge MA, 1987, 232-3 mentioning Panofsky 'iconography' and attacking C; and C. Bonnet, 'Franz Cumont et l'exégèse iconographique' Hieros 2 (1997) 21-30 (29-30 on Nock's review) mentioning pathosformel at 30.
11.   For instance, Nock, 1946, 140: 'allegorical meaning where it might not be suspected'… Instinctively, even in 1946, Nock intimated the intellectual issues in Cumont's method as they related to normative classical archaeology, when he referred to Kunstwollen (meaning the cultural will of a given era in making art)—the clarion call of the anti- Warburgians—at p. 150.
12.   Compare the excess of religious speculation in K. Lehmann-Hartleben and E. Olsen, Dionysiac Sarcophagi in Baltimore, Baltimore, 1942, e.g. 20-33.
13.   For instance, E. Panofsky, 'Iconography and Iconology: An Introduction to the Study of Renaissance Art' (1939) in Meaning in the Visual Arts, New York, 1955, 26-54, esp. 31 and 39 (on Cassirer); E. Gombrich, 'Botticelli's Mythologies: A Study of the Neo-Platonic Symbolism of His Circle' (1945) in Symbolic Images, London, 1972, 31-81 and 'Icones Symbolicae: Philosophies of Symbolism and their Bearing on Art' (1948) in ibidem, 123-95; the many 1930s articles on symbolism collected in E. Wind, The Eloquence of Symbols, Oxford 1993.
14.   On Carcopino and Vichy, see C. Singer, Vichy, l'université et les juifs, Paris, 1992, and S. Corcy-Debray, Jérôme Carcopino, un historien à Vichy, Paris, 2001
15.   F. Cumont, Le Flambeau: Revue belge des questions politique et littéraires 18, September 1935, 293-4, quoted in the anonymous preface that passes also for an obituary (in fact written by Louis Canet) to F. Cumont, Lux Perpetua, Paris, 1949, xi-xii (my translation). For some reflections on Cumont's politics, see C. Bonnet, 'Franz Cumont recenseur' in Edouard Delruelle & Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge (eds.), Kēpoi: De la religion à la philosophie, Liège, 2001 (Kernos suppl. 11), 309-336, esp. 327-8 and on Cumont in the 40s, C. Bonnet, 'Les échanges entre Franz Cumont et Jean Hubert' CRAI (2014) 1305-23.

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Peter Heslin, The Museum of Augustus: the Temple of Apollo in Pompeii, the Portico of Philippus in Rome, and Latin Poetry. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015. Pp. xiii, 350. ISBN 9781606064214. $65.00.

Reviewed by Sander M. Goldberg, UCLA (sander@humnet.ucla.edu)

Version at BMCR home site


Today's visitors to Rome rarely give thought to the Temple of Hercules of the Muses, and who can blame them? Little survives beyond its outline on the Marble Plan and some barely discernible traces amid the modern jumble that was once the Circus Flaminius. The temple looms much larger in discussions of Republican literature: the creation of M. Fulvius Nobilior (cos. 189, cens. 179 BCE), it housed a statuary group taken from Ambracia, an archaic shrine of the Camenae associated with Numa, and a wall of fasti. By the later second century, the so-called Collegium Poetarum, where Accius snubbed Julius Caesar Strabo and Sp. Maecius Tarpa later presided over poetic recitals, was probably meeting there. In the late 30s, though few besides Peter Heslin now trouble to remember, the temple underwent a major renovation sponsored by L. Marcius Philippus, stepbrother (and uncle) of Octavian.1 The temple was rebuilt and surrounded with a new portico displaying memorable works of art, including a famous painting of Helen by Zeuxis and a cycle illustrating the Trojan War. The result, claims Heslin, was a far more significant monument than its meager remains would suggest. It is the "Museum" of his title, closely aligned with the adjoining Portico of Octavia and to be paired with the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine as "a project of major ideological significance" (p. 325).

Its message was, if anything, even more pointed than that of the Palatine complex because the dedication of the Fulvian temple formed the original climax of Ennius' Annals. A renovated temple might thus presage a renovated epic. As Heslin goes on to say:

Many of the programmatic and metaliterary passages in Augustan poetry involve imaginary temples that bear features of the Portico of Philippus. …The reason for this should now be clear: the Portico of Philippus embodied a demand from Augustus for a new national epic as well as a blueprint for it, and in return a promise to support literary culture at Rome. (p. 255)

This may seem a rather portentous claim to base on features of a building that has ceased to exist, but Heslin has a way to make it credible. His demonstration begins hysteron proteron, not in the Circus Flaminius of 28 BCE but in the forum at Pompeii some twenty years later, when the precinct of the Temple of Apollo there received a new portico decorated with, among other things, illustrations of the Trojan War. Those paintings caused a sensation upon their rediscovery in 1817, and although the painted plaster has since degraded irretrievably, a record remains in contemporary notebooks and architectural publications, and much essential detail is captured on the cork model of Pompeii constructed in the 1860s and now on display in Naples' Archaeological Museum. The 1997 excavations by the Pompeii Forum Project have also contributed new information. Taken together, the evidence enables Heslin to reconstruct the decorative scheme of the Pompeian portico, and by arguing that the inspiration for it was in fact Philippus' portico at Rome, he can use the reconstruction of the one as a model for reconstructing the other. Heslin then proceeds to show how the many instantiations of temple motifs in the poetry of Vergil, Horace, and Propertius can be read as responses to Philippus' monument.

This paraphrase hardly does justice to the complex and elaborately detailed argument of a book that is in many ways a remarkable achievement. Heslin shows a formidable grasp of minutiae drawn from a wide variety of sub-specialties, many of them outside the bounds of his original expertise, and he builds his argument with clarity and acumen. The brilliance of its presentation is no less remarkable. Getty Publications has done a superb job with this book, which is not just lavish in its illustrations, many of them large and in color and all of them extraordinarily clear, but intelligent in its design. Photos, drawings, maps, and plans are all clearly numbered, labeled, and strategically placed for reference across chapters. To publish such a book, which is sure to be controversial in its claims and bound to outrage some while delighting others, is a bold and principled act, and those who made the decision to back Heslin in this enterprise deserve praise and thanks. This is a journey well worth undertaking and so valuable that it seems almost ungrateful to ask, as a reviewer must, if it succeeds in getting us where we need to go.

Besides being elegant, learned, and intelligent, the argument is also intellectually honest: its copious annotation is scrupulous in acknowledging debts, inconvenient facts, and contrary interpretations. Like a Fourth Style wall painting, there is much to inspire wonder and admiration in the beholder, but its architectural frame is no less frail than in such a painting, and some of the columns most essential to Heslin's argument seem exceptionally thin for the load they must bear. Two examples:

An Augustan date for the portico at Pompeii and its decoration is more an innovation than an established fact: the more traditional view, as Heslin acknowledges, puts the portico in the second century BCE and identifies its paintings as Fourth Style, and thus post-Augustan. The question remains sub iudice. Contemporary opinion, at least in the Anglophone world and helped along by the 1997 excavations, does seem now to be turning in Heslin's direction, and his explanation of how the Trojan panels were extracted from their original context and remounted in the course of later renovation is ingenious and credible (at least to me), but the hypothesis remains an hypothesis, which must inevitably put a reader on guard.2

Even more significant, because still more crucial to the overall thesis, is the claim that the Republican Temple of Hercules of the Muses was so firmly identified in the Roman imagination with Ennius' Annals that its alteration could be equated with altering the epic tradition itself. Unfortunately, no direct evidence, either quotation or testimony, exists to support the widespread belief that Annals 15 concluded with the dedication of Fulvius' temple. The single best indication is only indirect, viz. the invocation of Philippus' structure at the end of Fasti 6, which Carole Newlands quite cogently read as a veiled allusion to the end of Ennius' poem.3 But even if this is so, how many readers of the 30s knew and cared about the last episode of Annals 15? In what sense is it meaningful to think of a "finale" to an episodic work that contemporary readers knew not as one continuous narrative but as eighteen (not fifteen) discrete book rolls in a basket?

While the pattern of quotation and allusion in our sources makes clear that Book 1 on the founding of Rome was well known to Republican readers and Book 6 (the Pyrrhus book) hardly less so, and that the narrative of the Hannibalic War was probably also a point of reference, it is very hard to see how many (besides Vergil and Ovid) were still reading the whole of Ennius with attention. Cicero alludes to an episode that may have been treated in Book 15 and Macrobius cites another one unambiguously, but only the grammarians Nonius (one line) and Priscian (three lines) and Macrobius by emendation (eight lines) actually quote from it. Fulvius' Aetolian campaign lived on in memory largely because Cato was offended by Ennius' presence in his entourage and because Fulvius' subsequent triumph was bitterly disputed. References to the temple are only sporadic, and none connects it explicitly with Ennius, whose poem ran on to three more books recording lesser campaigns of the 170s. Heslin may still be correct in his claims for the temple and its literary potency, but that weighty argument also rests on a surprisingly frail support.

Readers may also hesitate over its tone. The amalgamation of literary and artistic evidence to explore an issue bigger than literature or art alone is eminently sensible: even Classicists who think of themselves primarily as students of literature give thought to the world in which and for which their authors wrote. Who today does otherwise? While it may be true, as Heslin argues at rather distracting length, that critics since antiquity have too readily dismissed the plastic arts, and it is certainly true that talk of "originals" and "copies" is ultimately unhelpful for understanding Roman artistry of any sort, neither view dominates contemporary scholarship. The intersection of literary studies and material culture is today a very busy place. That Augustan art and the structures that housed it not only inspired, but were in dialogue with works of Augustan literature is a case well worth making, but it is not new. Heslin defends his enterprise with a vehemence that is hardly necessary, and though he never crosses the line into ridicule or abuse, his occasionally hectoring tone does remind a reader that such a line exists.

Yet the literary argument is also surprisingly old-fashioned in its refusal to think historically. A case in point:

I have suggested that it looks like more than a coincidence that within a very short span of time [my italics], the approximately two decades from 28 BC to 10 BC, the Temple of Hercules Musarum, the Temple of Juno in the Aeneid, and the Temple of Apollo in Pompeii were all provided with porticoes having cycles of paintings depicting the Trojan War. (p. 325)

That "very short span of time" comes very close to the lifetime of an average Roman: even Marcellus and Gaius Caesar barely lived that long, and Lucius Caesar did not. And what momentous decades! Heslin consistently writes of "Augustus" and "the Augustan regime," but how similar was the cultural climate of Rome in 30 BCE to that of Rome in 10 BCE? Was Octavian in his early 30s the same man, with the same cultural aspirations and his hands on the same ropes, as Augustus when over 50? In saying of the princeps' desire after Actium to rival the cultural landmarks of Ptolemies and Attalids, "All of this Augustus wanted for Rome, but as always [my italics again] he proceeded by stealth and misdirection" (p. 199), Heslin is assuming a unity of vision and a compression of time that are fundamentally unhistorical, if not anachronistic. The seeds of the later autocracy may well be discernible with hindsight in ideas and policies of the late 30s and early 20s, but to treat that result as not just inevitable but as consistently executed by plan is not a perspective on the Augustan Principate lacking in alternatives. How does the message of Philippus' portico look if seen from one of those alternative perspectives?

This is, in sum, a challenging book to read, an easy book to admire, and quite possibly a difficult book to accept. As, of course, can be said of many books that really make a difference.


1.   Suet. Aug. 29.5, Tac. Ann. 3.72; cf. Ov. Fast. 6.797-812. The project is thought to have been financed from the spoils of Philippus' campaign in Spain and thus dated between his triumph in 33 and ca. 28 BCE. The sources do not say whether the project reflected his own initiative or, as Heslin prefers to think, Philippus was merely fronting for the princeps.
2.   Thus J. J. Dobbins, writing of the forum in The World of Pompeii (London 2007) 173: "Especially controversial are the Augustan period modifications made to the Sanctuary of Apollo that were identified by the Pompeii Forum Project during the 1997 excavations." I am grateful to Kevin Dicus for tutoring me on the status quaestionis.
3.   C. E. Newlands, Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti (Ithaca 1995) 215-18. An Ennian ring can be heard over the clausula in Cicero's allusion to the temple at Arch. 27, "Fulvius non dubitavit Martis manubias Musis consecrare," but its iambo-trochaic shape might suggest the praetexta play Ambracia rather than the hexameter Annals.

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Christina Abenstein, Die Basilius-Übersetzung des Georg von Trapezunt: Edition. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde, Bd. 337. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. Pp. xliii, 354. ISBN 9783110440973. €109,95.

Reviewed by Raphael Brendel, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (raphaelbrendel@arcor.de)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is given below.]

Um 1441 verfasste Georg von Trapezunt, damals noch ein geschätzter Lehrer der Rhetorik, im Auftrag seines Gönners Bessarion eine Übersetzung der folgenden Basilios von Caesarea zugeschriebenen Schriften: Contra Eunomium I-III (echtes Werk des Basilios), Contra Eunomium IV-V (diese Bücher stammen nicht von Basilios, wurden ihm aber lange Zeit zugeschrieben), De spiritu (eine Schrift eines unbekannten Autors, die an das fünfte Buch von Contra Eunomium angeschlossen wurde) und De spiritu sancto (echtes Werk des Basilios). Dieses bislang nur in einigen Drucken des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts zugängliche Werk Georgs liegt nunmehr mit der hier zu besprechenden Ausgabe von Christina Abenstein, die in ihrer ein Jahr zuvor publizierten Dissertation die zeitgeschichtlichen Hintergründe der Übersetzungstätigkeit Georgs untersucht hat (Die Basilius-Übersetzung des Georg von Trapezunt in ihrem historischen Kontext, Berlin 2014), erstmals in einer kritischen Edition vor.

Der Aufbau der Edition folgt dem üblichen Schema: Einleitung (S. XI-XLIII), Edition (S. 1-284), Kommentar (S. 287-344), Literaturverzeichnis (S. 345-350) und Register (S. 351-354). Die Einleitung ist folgendermaßen aufgebaut: Einführung zu Autor und Werk (S. XI-XII), Handschriften (S. XIII-XXIII), Editionsprinzipien (S. XXIV-XXXIX), Verzeichnis der Abkürzungen (S. XL-XLII), Stemma der Handschriften (S. XLIII). Die Knappheit dieser Ausführungen erklärt sich dadurch, dass die in solchen Fällen normalerweise gebotenen Angaben zu Autor und Werk angesichts der vorhandenen Vorarbeiten (in Form der oben genannten Monographie) hier auf ein Minimum reduziert sind, ohne dabei allerdings an Informationsgehalt einzubüßen. Aus den gebotenen Angaben sind hervorzuheben: Georgs Übersetzung ist in dreizehn Handschriften überliefert, von denen vier als für die Textkonstitution relevant erachtet wurden, da sie entweder auf den nicht erhaltenen Autograph zurückgehen, eine direkte Einflussnahme Georgs nachzuweisen ist oder weitere nicht erhaltene Handschriften bezeugen. Alle Handschriften enthalten die vollständige Übersetzung, allerdings sind die praefatio Bessarions und die praefatio Georgii I (Georgs Vorwort der ersten Fassung) nur in neun, die praefatio Georgii II nur in zwei und die praefatio Georgii III (die beiden neuen Vorworte mit Widmung an zwei ungarische Bischöfe, nachdem Georg bei Bessarion in Ungnade gefallen war) nur in einer Handschrift überliefert. Neben den Handschriften wurden von den frühen Drucken, von denen neunzehn existieren, zwei für die Textkonstitution herangezogen (die editio princeps Paris 1520 und die erstmalige Heranziehung des griechischen Textes Basel 1540). Im Apparat für die Korrekturen wurde zudem eine dritte Ausgabe (Rom 1526) berücksichtigt; auf die Einarbeitung der für die Druckgeschichte des Textes relevanten zweisprachigen Ausgabe Paris 1618 wurde angesichts der zahlreichen dortigen Modifikationen der Übersetzung Georgs hingegen verzichtet.

Die Editionsprinzipien (S. XXIV-XXXIX) erweisen sich als nützliche Bemerkungen vor allem zum Umgang Georgs mit dem griechischen Text (etwa zur Transkription von Ypsilon und Phi), gehen allerdings sehr stark ins Detail und sind hier nicht näher zu behandeln. Dem Text sind fünf Apparate beigegeben: Im ersten sind Bibelstellen und sonstige Quellen verzeichnet, der zweite dient der Textkritik, der dritte verzeichnet Korrekturen und Veränderungen des Textes in den Handschriften und frühen Editionen, im vierten werden Abweichungen des griechischen Textes von der Übersetzung Georgs notiert, in dem fünften werden die Glossen der Handschriften und Drucke ediert.

Auch der Kommentar (S. 287-344) ist angesichts der vorausgehenden Monographie recht kurz gehalten. Der Schwerpunkt liegt hier vor allem auf sprachlichen Aspekten (Verhältnis des lateinischen Textes zu dem griechischen Original) und im Fall der praefationes auf dem zeitgenössischen Hintergrund. Die antiken Ereignisse, auf welche die Schriften des Basilios zurückgehen und/oder Bezug nehmen, werden immerhin gelegentlich gestreift.

Im Gesamtbild wie im Detail handelt es sich um ein solides und zuverlässiges Werk, das nur wenig Raum für Kritik lässt. Lediglich zwei Verbesserungsvorschläge seien geboten: 1) Da der Edition gleich fünf Apparate beigegeben sind, aber nicht jeder Apparat auf jeder Seite auftaucht, hätte es die Benutzerfreundlichkeit des Werkes noch erhöht, wenn jeder Apparat mit einem eigenen Kürzel versehen worden wäre, wie das etwa bei der kürzlich publizierten Edition des Theodoros Skutariotes von Raimondo Tocci, der seinem Text ebenfalls fünf Apparate beigibt, geschehen ist. 2) Der Registerteil (S. 351-354) besteht nur aus Namen und erstreckt sich ohne Unterscheidung über alle Teile des Buches (Einleitung, Text, Kommentar). Hier wäre eine Erweiterung und eine übersichtlichere Unterteilung sinnvoll. Eine Erweiterung insofern, dass auch vor allem Quellenstellen und ausgewählte Terminologie berücksichtigt werden. Eine Änderung in der Unterteilung insofern, dass die Register des lateinischen Textes von denen der modernen Beiträge (Einleitung, Kommentar) getrennt werden. Im Fall des Registers zum lateinischen Text wäre dann eine Präzisierung wünschenswert, da in der jetzigen Form nur die Seitenangabe, nicht aber die genaue Stellenangabe geboten wird. Mit einem schmalen Ergänzungsband zur Edition könnte sich diese Überlegung möglicherweise ohne größere Umstände realisieren lassen.

Der Erforscher des Spätmittelalters wird dieses Werk gewiss begrüßen. Hier ist die allerdings Frage zu stellen, inwieweit es dem Althistoriker nützt. Um eventuellen Vorwürfen zu begegnen, seien zwei Hinweise vorangestellt: Erstens geht die Besprechung dieses Werkes im Bryn Mawr Classical Review auf die Übersendung des Werkes durch den Verlag an die Redaktion und somit nicht auf eine eigenwillige Idee des Rezensenten zurück. Zweitens ist mir bewusst, dass Abenstein sich nicht (oder nicht primär) an die althistorische Fachwelt richtet. Es soll daher auch nicht die Beurteilung des Werkes davon abhängig gemacht werden, ob es dem Althistoriker nützt, sondern gefragt werden, ob und wenn ja, welchen Nutzen der Althistoriker daraus ziehen kann.

An erster Stelle ist der mit dieser Edition einhergehende textkritische Fortschritt zu nennen. Es gibt genügend Fälle, in denen für grundsätzlich gut überlieferte Texte zusätzlich noch Sekundärüberlieferung in Form einer Übersetzung herangezogen werden kann, die wiederholt zu einem noch klareren Bild des Textes und seiner Überlieferung führt; als Beispiele wären etwa die griechische Eutropiusübersetzung des Paianios und Cassiodors historia tripartita zu nennen. Solche Übersetzung müssen dabei noch nicht einmal aus der Antike stammen oder zeitnah zum übersetzten Text sein, wie die Bedeutung der lateinischen Übersetzung Oekolampads für die Konstitution des Textes der Schrift gegen Julian des Kyrill von Alexandria bezeugt. Im Fall der Edition Abensteins beschränkt sich die diesbezügliche Leistung jedoch nicht darauf, eine zuverlässige Textgrundlage zu schaffen, sondern im Kommentar werden wiederholt textkritische Beobachtungen geboten, die ein zukünftiger Herausgeber des Basilios konsultieren sollte (CE = Contra Eunomium, K = Kommentar): CE 1,16,1 (S. 41,14-15) mit K S. 303; CE 4,6,1 (S. 124,16-17) mit K S. 319; CE 4,47,1 (S. 133,7-8) mit K S. 320; CE 4,60 (S. 136,7) mit K S. 321; CE 4,112 (S. 149,16) mit K S. 323; CE 5,140,2 (S. 160,21) mit K S. 325; CE 5,143,2 (S. 162,22) mit K S. 326; CE 5,154,3 (S. 170,4-5) mit K S. 328; CE 5,166,1 (S. 176,2) mit K S. 329; CE 5,170,3 (S. 177,16-178,1) mit K S. 329-330.

Auch Forscher, die keine Edition des Basilios herauszugeben gedenken, können von der Auseinandersetzung mit Werken wie demjenigen Georgs profitieren. In einem exzellenten Kongressband (Christian Gastgeber/Sebastiano Panteghini [Hrsg.], Ecclesiastical history and Nikephoros Kallistou Xanthopoulos, Wien 2015) hat eine Gruppe von Wissenschaftlern gezeigt, welchen Gewinn eine genaue Analyse der (größtenteils auf vollständige erhaltene Quellen zurückgehenden) Kompilation des Nikephoros bringt. Hervorzuheben sind in diesem Zusammenhang die Beiträge von Heinz-Günther Nesselrath und Martin Wallraff, die sich mit bei Nikephoros überliefertem Sondergut für Julian bzw. Konstantin befassen. Während Nesselrath zeigt, dass Nikephoros dort, wo er in seinen Angaben zu Julian über die Kirchenhistoriker hinausgeht, nur bereits bekannte Informationen in seinem Sinne umdeutet, versucht Wallraff nachzuweisen, dass zwei nur bei Nikephoros erhaltene Angaben über die Bestattung Konstantins glaubwürdig und in den Kontext seiner Religionspolitik einzuordnen sind. Eine genaue Prüfung derartiger Sekundärüberlieferung ist ein bislang noch nicht ausreichend erschlossenes Forschungsfeld, das sowohl für die Mediaevistik als auch für die Altertumswissenschaft ohne Zweifel einen reichen Gewinn zur Folge hätte.

Daneben ist daran zu erinnern, dass derartige Übersetzungen auch immer Produkte ihrer Zeit sind und bereits das Übersetzungsprojekt an sich, aber auch die Art seiner Umsetzung Rückschlüsse auf die Zeit seiner Entstehung zulässt. Da Georg als Person im Gegensatz zu den oben genannten Übersetzern Paianios und Cassiodor nicht mehr in den Zuständigkeitsbereich der Altertumswissenschaft fällt, bietet Abensteins Werk in dieser Hinsicht somit auch keine konkreten Ergebnisse für den Althistoriker. Allerdings kann es wertvolle Anregungen und methodische Winke geben, von denen auch der Erforscher der Antike profitieren kann, auch wenn dieser aufgrund einer deutlich schlechteren Quellenlage letztlich seine Vorgehensweise entsprechend anpassen muss.

Zuletzt seien noch einige Passagen des Kommentars hervorgehoben, die als potentiell interessante Lektüre für den Althistoriker auffielen. S. 293 zur praefatio I 4,3 (S. 7,10-11): Die „Chronographia des Nikephoros" (gemeint ist wohl das Chronographikon des Patriarchen Nikephoros, der nicht mit dem oben genannten Nikephoros Kallistou Xanthopoulos identisch ist; Edition: Nicephori archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani opuscula historica, edidit Carolus de Boor, Leipzig 1880, S. 79-135), sowie „nicht weiter bestimmte Werke von Orosius und Sueton" (wahrscheinlich die Historia adversus paganos und die Kaiserviten) und ein nicht näher bestimmbares Werk des Jordanes scheinen den Grundstock für Georgs Kenntnisse der antiken Geschichte gebildet zu haben. S. 294 zur praefatio I 2,1 (S. 8,14-16): Zur Verwechslung von Arius als Schüler des Aetius durch Georg. S. 294 zur praefatio I 2,2 (S. 8,18-20): Angesichts Übereinstimmungen mit der Darstellung bei Philostorgios könnte Georg dessen Werk gekannt haben. S. 330 zu CE 5,182,2 (S. 181,19-20): Hier könnte die Übersetzung Georgs dabei helfen, den genauen Sinn dieser unklaren Stelle zu verstehen. Bemerkenswert ist auch S. 301 zu CE 1,8,5 (30,4), wo Georg nah am Text bleibt und daher die erste Person Plural wortgetreu mit dicimus übersetzt; ein ähnlicher Fall findet sich in der historia Romana des Paulus Diaconus, einer aus anderen Quellen erweiterten und bis in die Zeit Justinians fortgesetzten Abschrift des Eutropius, in der die autobiographische Bemerkung des Eutropius über seine Teilnahme am Perserfeldzug Julians (10,16,1: cui expeditioni ego quoque interfui) ohne jegliche Veränderung übernommen wird (10,16; S. 88,5 Droysen).

Zusammengefasst: Letztlich ist es die Kritik der Erforscher der mittelalterlichen Geschichte, die für die Beurteilung dieses Werkes entscheidend ist und diesbezüglich werden sich Fähigere äußern müssen. Von althistorischer Seite jedenfalls handelt es sich um ein gelungenes Werk, das einen wertvollen Beitrag zum noch längst nicht abgeschlossenen Feld der Wirkungs- und Rezeptionsgeschichte antiker Texte leistet.

Table of Contents

Vorwort und Dank (S. VII-VIII)
Einleitung (S. XI-XLIII)
Die Handschriften (S. XIII-XXIII)
Die editiones Parisina und Basileensis sowie die römische Ausgabe von 1526 (S. XXIII-XXIV)
Ratio edendi (S. XXIV-XXXIX)
Conspectus siglorum et editionum (S. XL-XLII)
Codices Latini traductionem Georgii Trapezuntii continentes (S. XL)
Codices Graeci opera Basilii Caesariensis continentes (S. XL)
Editiones (S. XLI)
Sigla et abbreviationes in apparatu critico usitatae (S. XLI-XLII)
Aliae abbreviationes (S. XLII)
Stemma (S. XLIII)
Edition (1-284)
Praefatio Bessarionis (S. 3-5)
Praefatio Georgii I (S. 6-7)
Praefatio Georgii II (S. 8-10)
Contra Eunomium (S. 11-192)
De spiritu (S. 189-192)
Praefatio Georgii III (S. 193-194)
De spiritu sancto (S. 195-284)
Kommentar (S. 287-344)
Literaturverzeichnis (S. 345-350)
Register (S. 351-354)
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Monday, June 27, 2016


Annie Caubet, Sabine Fourrier, Marguerite Yon, Kition-Bamboula VI: le sanctuaire sous la colline. Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée. Série recherches archéologiques, 67. Lyon: Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, 2015. Pp. 414; Plans IX. ISBN 9782356680488. €44.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Giorgos Papantoniou, University of Bonn (papantog@uni-bonn.de)

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

This volume covers the stratigraphic sequence, the architecture and the material culture of the Iron Age sanctuary of Kition-Bamboula, conventionally called 'of Astarte and Herakles-Melqart'.

In the Introduction Caubet (the excavator of the sanctuary area), Fourrier (the new director of the French mission at Kition), and Yon (the former director) offer a brief historiography of the research conducted at the site of Bamboula, outlining also the contents of the present volume. Sanctuary stratigraphy spans from the early Cypro-Geometric to the early Hellenistic period, but the cultic function of the place can only be confirmed from Cypro-Geometric III, i.e., from the ninth century BC onwards. This fact does not come as a surprise, as this is the case for many Early Iron Age sanctuaries on the island.1 The sanctuary also provides evidence for continuity during the Hellenistic period, when the Ptolemies abolished the polity of Kition, which had sided with the Antigonids during the wars of Alexander's successors. This volume presents the results of the excavations in 'chantier B', where the Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic phases have been recovered below strata dating to later periods. Although various depositional issues —like the presence of later occupational phases—rendered the identification of these earlier phases of the sanctuary difficult, the problem has here been handled successfully; the character and operation of the sanctuary are contextualized from its foundation in the Cypro-Geometric to its architectural restructuring during the Cypro- Classical period (pp. 16-17). Considering the limited physical evidence currently at our disposal about ritual and cult during the first millennium BC, and especially in the Early Iron Age, in Cyprus, this book is a major addition to the existing archaeological literature.

The first part, written mostly by Fourrier (in collaboration with Caubet and Callot for Chapter 1, and Dardaillon for Chapter 2), presents the architectural phases of the excavated area. Chapter 1 is based on a careful stratigraphic analysis of the evidence. The material and associated strata and contexts from the Bamboula sanctuary are also compared to the respective strata at the sanctuary of Kition-Kathari, excavated and published by Karageorghis and his collaborators. The volume, therefore, provides the ground to move towards a more synthetic and diachronic study of the evolution of the urban center of Kition from the Late Bronze Age to the beginning of the Hellenistic period.

Chapter 2 focuses on the workshops of phase III (Cypro-Archaic I). The links between sanctuaries, elites, and production, especially of copper, during the Late Bronze Age is a debated subject in Cypriot archaeology, even if almost every scholar agrees that some kind of connection existed. Iron Age evidence remains largely unpublished but it is becoming apparent that the main business of the Cypriot polities in that phase was, like in the Bronze Age, also the economy of copper. Like the workshops of the Late Cypriot sanctuary at Kition-Kathari, the Iron Age workshops at Bamboula also deal with textile and metallurgical production, although without direct access to the sanctuary. Comparative evidence, distance from the main sanctuary, votive material and cultic structures found within the Bamboula workshops suggest that a connection with ritual also existed (pp. 101-102). Nonetheless, in this context, it has to be noted that the material related to metallurgy in Bamboula is very scarce and, as in the case of Kathari, it excludes the possibility of large-scale primary production of copper. The presence of Hathor—protectress of the metal industry—in Kition (see below), is another indicator of the connection between metallurgy and religion in the Iron Age.

The second part of the volume is divided into seven chapters on finds and artefacts. Chapter 1, Part A (by Fourrier) investigates Cypriot and Levantine pottery of the Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic periods, while Part B (by Chirpanlieva) deals with imported Greek pottery from the Cypro-Geometric to the Cypro-Classical period. The Cypriot and Levantine pottery assemblages are studied together, not only because they are found in the same contexts, but also because of their technological, typological and stylistic affinities, which raise various methodological issues (p. 111).

Chapter 2 (by Caubet) deals mainly with the terracotta figurines dating from the Cypro-Geometric to the early Cypro- Classical period, as well as with some Hellenistic figurines found in the same deposits. Almost all the figurines are of local production, and mostly from the Kition workshops. Most depict the so-called 'goddess with upraised arms' and horse-back rider types, while the corpus also includes figurines of the Dea gravida, naked 'Astarte', Kamelarga and Ptah Patek types. It is worth noting the limited presence of bull figurines and terracotta masks. Also, the recovery of Hathoric stelai figurines at Bamboula is remarkable in the corpus of Cypriot terracottas, and should be connected somehow to the cults related to Hathoric capital stelai, which are also present in their limestone form at Bamboula (see pp. 243, 312-15 with further references).

Chapter 3 (by Caubet) covers the small objects, such as textile and weaving equipment, composite ceramics of the cup-and-saucer type, lamps, wall brackets, metal, ivory and faience objects.

Chapter 4 (by Caubet) presents the stone objects and architectural elements from the area, e.g., one bathtub, basins, parts of the canalization system, lids and plaques, altars, anchors and pierced stones, jewelry and amulets. Some of them relate to infrastructure and industrial activities, and others to cultic activities. Among the many suggestions by the author about the function of anchors or pierced stones in a ritual context, I single out the possible use of these artefacts for tethering the animals intended for sacrifice (p. 285), as is the case in the Amathous sanctuary.

Chapter 5 (by Yon) focuses on the limestone sculpture from the area. The author catalogues the sculptural elements uncovered by the French mission (consisting mainly of human figures sometimes accompanied by an animal images, and a small magic stele with Horus most probably imported from Hellenistic Egypt). She includes in her discussion analogous finds from previous explorations at the site, particularly those of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition, as well as comparative examples from Cyprus and from external Mediterranean contexts. This synthetic study allows the author to integrate the excavated material from Bamboula within its archaeological and socio-historical contexts. Of particular importance is the presence of the 'Master of the Lions' that merges with the iconography of Herakles/Melqart at the site, since it provides iconographic connotations directly related to the royal ideology of the Kitian dynasty.

Chapter 6, Part A (by Amadasi Guzzo) covers the inscriptions in the Phoenician alphabet from the area, while Part B (by Fourrier in collaboration with Olivier) discusses one Cypro-Syllabic inscription and various simple graffiti, marks and stamps that are probably related to a system of recording. The majority of the texts concern economic or administrative activities and, as expected, most of the recorded inscriptions are written in Phoenician.

Chapter 7 (by Gardeisen, in collaboration with Petit and Piques) offers a detailed stratigraphic analysis of the faunal remains, which despite their limited presence at the site, present some variety of species. With the exception of ritual banquets, where meat was consumed, and in contrast to the evidence from Kition-Kathari, none of this faunal material could have been directly linked to ritual actions. An interesting fact is the absence of pork; this is an observation repeatedly noted in many Cypro-Archaic sanctuaries.

In the Conclusions the three main authors of the volume reiterate the results of their fieldwork, positioning the sanctuary in its local and Cypriot context, considering all historiographic, archaeological and socio-historical parameters. The most important contribution of the French mission has been the clear division of stratigraphic units, distinguishing the individual chronological phases of the sanctuary thus correcting the chronological sequence that had been suggested by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition. The authors also re-address ritual and cult, taking into account the totality of evidence and, where possible, the relation between architectural features and finds. The nature of the cult and the extant iconography are also discussed in relation to Kitian religious and political identities, but also to political geography. The sanctuary seems to have been dedicated to a female Astarte-like deity (see also p. 304), paired with a Herakles-Melqart-like god, whose image was central in the political ideology of Kition. In addition, the Hellenistic magical Horus stele, as well as the architectural features and the presence of water in the sanctuary, indicate that some healing rituals were also in place.

The authors rightly consider the development of the sanctuary—and Kition per se—within the context of the longue durée, rejecting obscure theories about the organization of space by Iron Age Phoenician settlers arriving from the Levant (p. 378). As they clearly state (p. 380 and note 23), Kition-Bamboula cannot be isolated from the other sanctuaries of the Cypriot Iron Age, and should be viewed within the context of the long and complexdevelopment of Cypriot ritual architecture. At the same time, however—when they refer to 'une foundation colonial de Tyr' (p. 13) or to 'cultes phéniciens' of the fifth and fourth centuries BC (p. 17)— they seem to accommodate some of the traditional approaches, which continue to fuel the complex debate on the so-called colonial episodes, which have led to the "Mycenaeanization" and the 'Phoenicianization' narratives of Cyprus. The Greek imports during the Cypro-Classical period should, indeed, be placed within the context of the economic orientations of the Cypriot kings towards the west from the later phase of the Cypro-Archaic period. It remains, however, an open question whether Kition has more numerous Greek imports than other Cypriot cities, or whether the number of imports from the Greek mainland is directly, or primarily, related to the establishment of Phoenician economic networks (pp. 181-83). One should also consider Iacovou's recent reevaluation of the evidence, which has led her to suggest that Kition did not become a formal territorial polity until the Semitic dynasty of Kition had succeeded in taking over Idalion and its territory in the fifth century BC.2 The multiplication of the 'peri-urban' sanctuaries of Kition during the Cypro-Classical period, and the affinities that the Bamboula sanctuary presents with that of Apollo-Reshef at Idalion (p. 388-89) seem to corroborate this interpretation.

The surviving evidence from the sanctuary may be sparse and problematic, but it is enough to integrate Bamboula diachronically into the historical context of the city. We are pleading for more publications of Iron Age sanctuaries like this new one at Kition-Bamboula, since most of them have suffered from the antiquarian approaches and publications of early explorations on the island. In order to formulate further comparative analyses, we will need to consider more sanctuaries with adequately published stratigraphic contexts, such as Amathous, Athienou-Malloura, and Marion-Peristeries. Architectural analysis of these sites along with the study of the finds within their stratigraphic context and in relation to other artefacts will provide a more solid ground for the understanding of Iron Age ritual and cult.

Table of Contents

Avant-propos (Marguerite Yon)
Introduction (Annie Caubet, Sabine Fourrier et Marguerite Yon)
Première partie. Les vestiges architecturaux
Chapitre 1. Les phases d'occupation (Sabine Fourrier avec la collaboration d'Annie Caubet et Olivier Callot)
Chapitre 2. Les ateliers de la phase III (Sabine Fourrier avec la collaboration d'Ella Dardaillon)
Deuxième partie. Le mobilier
Chapitre 1. La céramique
A. La céramique chypriote et levantine d'époque géométrique et archaïque (Sabine Fourrier)
B. La céramique grecque importée (Iva Chirpanlieva)
Chapitre 2. Les figurines de terre cuite (Annie Caubet)
Chapitre 3. Les petits objets (Annie Caubet)
Chapitre 4. Les industries de la pierre (Annie Caubet)
Chapitre 5. Les sculptures de pierre (Marguerite Yon)
Chapitre 6. Le matériel inscrit
A. Les inscriptions phéniciennes (Maria Giulia Amadasi Guzzo)
B. Autres inscriptions et marques diverses (Sabine Fourrier avec la collaboration de Jean-Pierre Olivier)
Chapitre 7. La faune (Fouilles 1981-1989) (Armelle Gardeisen avec la collaboration de Lluis Garcia Petit et Gaël Piques)
Conclusion (Annie Caubet, Sabine Fourrier et Marguerite Yon)
Index de l'inventaire : concordance


1.   For a collection of the evidence and a first attempt to contextualize and interpret the Early Iron Age sacred landscapes, see Papantoniou, G. "Cypriot Sanctuaries and Religion in the Early Iron Age: Views from Before and After", in M. Iacovou , ed., Cyprus and the Aegean in the Early Iron Age—The Legacy of Nicolas Coldstream, (Nicosia 2012) 285-319.
2.   Iacovou, M. "Historically Elusive and Internally Fragile Island Polities: The Intricacies of Cyprus's Political Geography in the Iron Age". Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research 370 (2013.)15-47.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016


Teresa Morgan, Roman Faith and Christian Faith: Pistis and Fides in the Early Roman Empire and Early Churches. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xi, 626. ISBN 9780198724148. $155.00.

Reviewed by Alicia J. Batten, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo (abatten@uwaterloo.ca)

Version at BMCR home site


This book combines an examination of the Greek and Latin terms for faith — pistis and fides — in a wide range of Graeco-Roman contexts with a careful study of faith language in the New Testament. Teresa Morgan, Professor of Graeco-Roman History in the Faculty of Classics at Oxford University and a priest in the Church of England, is well versed in the long-standing debates among New Testament scholars regarding how best to interpret pistis in the New Testament. Because her book so richly and thoroughly explores the notion of faith in Greek and Roman settings, Morgan is able to offer a new approach to how people might interpret the term and its cognates when they encounter them in New Testament texts. Morgan argues that one can better understand the evolution of Christian faith if one appreciates how it emerged from specific contexts, and that rather than focusing upon faith as a set of beliefs or something abstract at work in the heart and mind, pistis/fides means trust and is fundamentally about a relationship that creates community.

The clear and thorough introduction sets forth the methodology and main arguments of the book. Morgan opens with the question of why faith became so important to early Christians. In order to answer this question, Morgan stresses that one must explore notions of faith within the environments from which Christianity emerged. Comparable to much of the current work done in biblical studies and early Christianity, Morgan insists that the New Testament writers are both products of and contributors to their social and cultural contexts. She adopts what she terms a "basic principle" of cultural historiography, which is that new groups do not automatically give radically different meanings to words and phrases that they adopt from the world around them (p. 4). Thus her method is interdisciplinary, a l'histoire des mentalités , that engages Greek, Roman, Jewish and Christian sources. She includes both close readings of texts in all of their specificity while at the same time tracing patterns of thought and action that emerge through careful comparison of these texts.

As many biblical scholars emphasize, readers of the New Testament must be careful not to impose later understandings of faith onto first- and second-century texts. Thus Augustine's influential notion that faith could be understood as either fides quae — which refers to the propositional content of faith — or fides qua — that is, faith at work in the heart and mind of the believer — would not be appropriate to presume when interpreting New Testament documents. Morgan reiterates that whether one works with pistis, fides, or their cognates, faith is relational. She therefore ends the introduction by asking a series of questions about what sorts of relationships and communities are formed by faith, on what are they based, when are they strong or weak, how are they reinforced, and to what ends.

Chapters 2 through 4 explore faith in the world of the early principate with regard to domestic and personal relations, state structures, and religious contexts respectively. Here, Morgan attempts to get at the overall mentalité of the context in which Christianity emerged. One of her central observations is that faith is never perceived in a purely instrumental manner in this period. Faith is a good — albeit a fragile one — in and of itself. She surveys a broad swath of sources, including literary and philosophical texts as well as legal documents in which faith may be understood more technically. Faith, again understood primarily as trust, is a virtue for the Greeks and Romans, and while this sort of faith was perceived to be basic to family, friendships and more broadly to society as a whole, it could be doubted, especially in friendships and political configurations. Morgan documents how faith was reified through legislation, oaths, cults of Fides, and other types of credit arrangements that would strengthen relationships of trust between people by guaranteeing this trust in a form that was independent of particular persons. When it came to religiosity, Morgan argues that the Greeks and Romans viewed the gods as trustworthy, for if they were not, no one would be, and society would crumble. Pistis/fides is foundational because it furnishes humans with the confidence that they can form relationships, take risks, and uphold loyalties and other moral goods. Therefore, she states, this virtue must also be present in their relationships with the gods, despite the fact that it is not the central core of Greek and Roman religiosity, at least not to the extent that it came to be in the early Church. Although Morgan does not concur with earlier hypotheses that people turned to various cults, including the Christian one, because they had lost confidence in traditional Greek and Roman religions, she does demonstrate successfully the degree to which pistis/fides was under tremendous pressure in the late Hellenistic kingdoms, late Roman republic, and early principate. There was a high premium on pistis/fides in these contexts, and where it functioned most effectively was in situations characterized by ritual and cultic activity. In other words, when divine/human pistis/fides was emphasized, human to human pistis/fides thrived. According to Morgan, such a context created opportunities that early proclaimers of the gospel could exploit. Thus, in these chapters Morgan has not only enriched our understanding of pistis/fides in Greco-Roman society and religion, she has contributed substantially to the ongoing discussion of why the Christ cult not only survived, but grew.

Before turning to Christian contexts Morgan devotes a chapter to pistis in the Septuagint. She claims that pistis is not central to these writings, but remains significant as a basis for relationships between people and is an important aspect of the deity's commitment to humanity. Some stories between the divine and the human, such as those of Abraham and Job, reveal that trust is not taken for granted in this relationship, but may be in question, or at a formative stage. The divine being remains trustworthy but is more distant than in ages past, and is not trusted because children are born safely or enemies defeated, but because the deity is the creator and regulator of the cosmos. The chapter points out that the individual must trust this deity despite the fact that all will not go well for that particular human and his or her community. This is a shift in the understanding of pistis, claims Morgan, for while it still entails trust and confidence, it also involves "risk, doubt, and negotiation" (p. 210).

Chapters 6 through 10 then focus on early Christian notions of pistis. Morgan begins with First Thessalonians and the Corinthian correspondence, then turns to the rest of Paul, all non-Pauline letters (including the Deutero-Paulines), Synoptics and Acts, and finally, a chapter on the Johannine writings that includes a brief discussion of the book of Revelation. Morgan argues that in the New Testament, pistis remains a relational term denoting trust, but in some of the texts it reflects a degree of evolution, referring sometimes to the specific relationship between humanity and the deity, the community that is created by that relationship, and even the new covenant. But to argue that pistis now signals "the faith" would be anachronistic. Indeed, Morgan grants that a propositional notion of pistis emerges in some writings, but as she states near the end of the book, this notion of faith as propositional belief develops out of debates between Christians, or between Christians and non-Christians. As an example she points to the Letter of James, which many scholars think is in tension with some of Paul's ideas, or with later interpretations of Paul's ideas, and which harshly criticizes propositional faith that is not accompanied by works. Morgan also wades into the longstanding debate about how to understand Paul's references to pistis Christou (for example, Galatians 2:16). Is it an objective genitive, and better translated as "faith(fulness) in Christ," or a subjective genitive and therefore a reference to "Christ's faith(fulness)"? Morgan opts for a middle position here when she argues that pistis, being a relational term, can also include a propositional belief. She thinks that Paul employs this language to demonstrate that Christ stands in the centre of the relationship between humans and the deity. Christ is faithful to this deity, and also to humanity, just as the deity and humanity trust Christ. Morgan compares Christ to a Roman mediator (one could argue, as some New Testament scholars have, that Christ is a broker here). Christ's middle position enables him to restore humanity to a righteous relationship with God.

In the final chapters, Morgan asks to what extent interiority is a dimension of pistis, and addresses its role in human communities. Although there is an emotional dimension to faith in most of the ancient materials that Morgan studies, these same materials are not interested in the interiority of pistis in and of itself. Whenever faith is at work, she argues, interiority is never separate from relationality and action. In other words, "pistis/fides (along with justice, mercy and a few others) is one of those qualities that can only be practised socially …" (p. 472). Thus it makes sense, Morgan states in the penultimate chapter, that pistis/fides is foundational to communities, including the earthly and divine kingdoms. Morgan's last chapter concisely summarizes her findings.

Why then, did pistis become so important to the writers of the New Testament? Morgan posits that perhaps a Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent of pistis goes back to Jesus himself or at least to disputes among his followers soon after his death. But she admits that such possibilities remain hypothetical. What she does assert, however, is that for Greek- speaking Christ groups, pistis was such a rich and adaptable idea that it enabled them to develop their thinking about the deity, about Christ, and about humanity's relationship to both. The language of trust and relationship became central to articulating how communities of Christ followers thought, felt, and behaved.

This is wonderful and refreshing book that offers insights for classicists, New Testament scholars, and those who, like Morgan, bridge both fields. Although New Testament scholars have pursued a "contextual" approach to studying the New Testament for some time, to my knowledge no one has explored the notion of pistis/fides in such a thorough manner, and with such careful attention to how the notion of faith or trust emerges from specific social contexts, and adapts and changes over time. Although Morgan has not engaged cultural anthropology consistently throughout the book, she has developed a model of pistis/fides, then carefully probed how the model shifts as groups face challenges or adapt to new environments. The volume will undoubtedly become required reading for anyone interested in the pistis Christou debate, regardless of whether they agree with Morgan. There are always more materials that the study might have tackled, but at over 500 pages, it is sufficiently thorough. Finally, the writing is engaging, the bibliography extensive, and the arguments clear. I highly recommend it.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016


Michael Bland Simmons, Universal Salvation in Late Antiquity: Porphyry of Tyre and the Pagan-Christian Debate. Oxford studies in late antiquity. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xliv, 491. ISBN 9780190202392. $99.00.

Reviewed by Satoshi Toda, Hokkaido University (Sapporo) (jsattoda@let.hokudai.ac.jp)

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[The reviewer apologizes for the delay of the submission of this review.]

Michael Bland Simmons (in French it would be appropriate to call him "Mgr. Simmons", since he is the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Americas) published in 1995 a monograph on Arnobius of Sicca,1 which was favorably received by scholars.2 Since then, Simmons continued his research doubtless straightforwardly toward the study of Porphyry; otherwise it would be impossible to compile a bibliography that, even if limited to "secondary sources" (pp. 408-477), enumerates far more than 1700 books and articles,3 not all of which are easy reads4; furthermore, 690 abbreviations are used in the book (explained in pp. xxiii-xliv). This bibliographical apparatus is no mere parade of erudition, because these works are apparently really quoted in the notes, which are quite massive (pp. 269-396).5 Surely the gigantic effort made by the author is to be appreciated, although one might wonder who, other than Simmons himself, can control all the materials quoted.

The major thesis of this book is presented in the preface (pp. ix-xix). As mentioned in Augustine's City of God (X 32), the concept of universal salvation was important for Porphyry, "the last and greatest anti-Christian writer" (p. x), and earlier studies have posited a dual soteriology in his works. According to Simmons, however, while Porphyry at first attempted to offer "two distinct ways for the salvation/cleansing of the soul" (p. xii), later he "modified his soteriological system ... to incorporate another way for the cleansing of the lower soul by means of the virtue of continence" (ibid.). Thus in addition to the way for the uneducated masses and that for the mature Neoplatonic philosopher, there is a "third way for the salvation of the soul" (p. xi), and this tripartite soteriological system of Porphyry as presented in the De philosophia ex oraculis was "the closest that paganism ever came to providing a proactive soteriological universalism" (p. xvii) in the period when Christianity was in the ascendant. Christianity nevertheless prevailed, and "one of the major causes of the triumph of Christianity ... was its unique universalist soteriology". Thus in the history of the Roman Empire, "Constantinian Universalism, with its salient features of One God, One Emperor, and One Empire, took the politico-religious unification policies of preceding emperors to new heights" (p. xix).

Chapter 1 (pp. 3-19) describes and discusses the life and background of Porphyry. The author's wide perspective is shown e.g. in the presentation of a brief history of Tyre from the 2nd millenium B.C. down to Porphyry's time (pp. 5-8). Simmons argues (pp. 10ff.) that probably in late 240s Porphyry attended Origen's lectures. Such an encounter, although hardly ever mentioned, is quite possible, given Porphyry's profound knowledge of Christianity.

Chapter 2 (pp. 20-31) discusses the dating of diverse works of Porphyry, except for the De regressu animae, the Contra Christianos, and the De philosophia ex oraculis. The discussion is not quite clear-cut, but any discussion on dating is necessarily complicated.

Chapter 3 (pp. 32-51) discusses the De philosophia ex oraculis, composed of three books. Simmons criticizes Bidez's influential monograph on Porphyry,6 which suggested that Porphyry wrote the De philosophia while young; this dating is based upon the interpretation that Porphyry was more religious in his youth. Simmons' interpretation is that it was written in 302 or 303, i.e. just before the Great Persecution. Simmons also criticizes Wolff, the editor of the fragments of the De philosophia,7 for having classified Book I as pertaining to the gods, Book II to the demons, and Book III to the heroes. Instead, Simmons argues that Book I concerns the uneducated masses, Book II novice philosophers, and Book III mature Neoplatonic philosophers, which seems quite possible; and he is doubtless right in arguing that the audience of the De philosophia was not limited to those initiated in mystery religion or philosophy. However, the repeated mention of this classification, which already figures in the preceding chapter, rather weakens its persuasiveness, because the reader becomes less certain as to precisely where it is demonstrated. Furthermore, sometimes the discussion is postponed to later chapters, which is also not very good for persuasiveness. The text is intensely repetitive.8

The Contra Christianos, discussed in chapter 4 (pp. 52-91), is famous for its criticism of Christian interpretation of some prophecies of the Old Testament, but here Simmons examines, from a different viewpoint, many Christian writers who wrote against Porphyry and gave some information on the Contra Christianos, in order to see whether they touch upon the theme of universal salvation or not. The conclusion, based on a massive analysis, that the Contra Christianos dealt with Christian universalism, i.e. it "attempted to negate Christ as the one way for the soul's salvation" (p. 88), seems quite possible.

Chapter 5 (pp. 92-104) deals with Eusebius as a witness of Porphyry, especially his work Theophany, which is preserved in its entirety only in Syriac and has been neglected in patristic studies.9 Simmons pays special attention to the expression "Savior of all"10, often used in the work, and argues that the theme of universal salvation is important in the Theophany, which was written "to counter the claims of universalism made by Porphyry and his followers" (p. 103).

Chapter 6 (pp. 107-133), which begins Part II of the book, first discusses various categories and sub-categories implied in the notion of salvation (e.g. category: salvation from the world; sub-category: healing, protection, philosophical escape from the body, etc.). Here one might perceive a pastoral concern of the archbishop. Then comes the analysis (pp. 113ff.) concerning the "third way" for the salvation of the soul, and the key notion σωφροσύνη (continence) is discussed in detail. Simmons' interpretation that Augustine's expression "posse continentiae virtute purgari" (City of God X 28) stresses the importance of the virtue of continence (p. 114) is convincing, and he is doubtless right in arguing that Porphyry's Ad Marcellam "is a propaedeutic philosophical tract", whose purpose is to present "the elementary doctrines of the 'third way'" (p. 117). This chapter greatly reinforces Simmons' major thesis, especially concerning the "third way" or, as used more frequently in Part II of the book, "Path II".

Chapter 7 (pp. 126-133) again discusses the De philosophia ex oraculis, suggesting a reclassification of the fragments into each book of the work. Although I am unable to judge whether the reclassification of each fragment is correct or not, doubt should be expressed whether Simmon's interpretation that Book III of the De philosophia concerns mature Neoplatonic philosophers is correct or not, because, as Simmons himself recognizes, "Book III poses problems because none of its fragments contain philosophical oracles" (pp. 132-133).

Chapter 8 (pp. 134-158) discusses in parallel Porphyry's thought and that of Iamblichus, Porphyry's pupil. Whereas Porphyry thinks theurgy has no value in the life of the philosopher, for Iamblichus theurgical rituals have salvific value "even at the highest stage" (p. 153). Another difference is that "for Iamblichus, the human soul completely descends from the higher levels into the world, whereas Plotinus and Porphyry taught that a higher part of the soul is undescended" (p. 156). Thus Iamblichus' "Soteriology of Descent" (Simmons) is clearly contrasted with Porphyry's "Soteriology of Ascent" (p. 157). The similarity between the two philosophers is also stressed, especially concerning the way for the salvation of the uneducated masses, and also concerning that of novice philosophers.

Chapter 9 (pp. 159-186) discusses eschatological salvation, because "[s]oteriology cannot be separated from eschatology" (p. 159). Starting from various exegeses of Plato's eschatological myths, the discussion stresses the importance of the doctrine of reincarnation. Very much intriguing is that, concerning the "present post mortem location of Plotinus' soul" (p. 176), Simmons argues that, among the three Realms, i.e. Material, Ethereal, and Empyrean (i.e., highest) Realm where the soul can enjoy the presence of the One, according to Porphyry Plotinus' soul is in the Ethereal Realm. The reason is that "attaining permanent escape to the intelligible world and eschatological union with the One required three consecutive philosophical lives" and that Plotinus "has not completed the specific cycle of rebirths required of philosophers" (p. 179). A question: According to Porphyry, does Plotinus' soul, which is now in the median realm, already enjoy salvation (= cleansing?), or is it rather just waiting for the permanent escape (= salvation?) from the cycle of reincarnation?

Chapter 10 (pp. 187-197) briefly discusses the historical context from the reign of Caracalla through Diocletian down to Constantine, a period of about hundred years in which Porphyry's search for the universal salvation should be situated. According to Simmons, Porphyry's tiered soteriology "was supported by Diocletian just before launching the Great Persecution in 303" (p. 187), and the De philosophia ex oraculis "was the result of Diocletian's attempt to unite his empire in the worship of the traditional gods" (p. 194). And after the failure of Diocletianic universalism, Constantine promoted Christian universalism. This argument makes it look as if Diocletian, as well as Constantine, was a bit of a philosopher of religion, which would hardly be the case, at least with Constantine.

Chapter 11 (pp. 198-209) first enumerates "ten salient features of Christian universalism" (p. 198) because of which Christianity finally prevailed. Here one might perceive an apologetic concern of the archbishop. Then, from the viewpoint of universalism, seven salvation cults that competed with Christianity are briefly presented: Isis-Sarapis, Mithras, Manichaeism (mentioned just for reference), Cybele, Jupiter Dolichenus, Sol (Invictus), and the imperial cult. It is interesting to observe that Porphyry's soteriological system is out of the question here, and with good reason, because Porphyry's system, which is purely intellectual, was doubtless hardly influential as such.

The last chapter 12 (pp. 210-226) "Conclusion" is still equipped with 86 (extravagant?) notes. To the question "Why did Porphyry's soteriological system fail?" (p. 226), i.e. as the theoretical foundation for the revitalization of traditional paganism, Simmons' answer is that it was simply too late.

I do not know how to deal with 8 appendices annexed (pp. 227-267); perhaps the author could have more efficiently utilized them in the course of the discussion. The index (pp. 479-491) is thin compared with the massive substance of the book.

Many issues of detail have been neglected, which are reserved for examination by competent specialists (especially mature Neoplatonic scholars), but in my judgment, this book, in addition to being an intellectual tour de force, provokes the reader to reflection in various ways, which I think is admirable, especially because the book seeks to cover several different fields of study that it is nowadays very difficult for a single scholar to cover by oneself. Surely scholars of ancient philosophy, ancient historians, and students of early Christianity will profitably read this book.


1.   M.B. Simmons, Arnobius of Sicca: Religious Conflict and Competition in the Age of Diocletian, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
2.   Some reviews: H.A. Drake, Church History 66 (1997), 305-307; O. Nicholson, Journal of Theological Studies 50 (1999), 319-327.
3.   1829 is the exact number according to my manual counting, but that includes many collections of articles that, in turn, are mentioned in the bibliography.
4.   Some works consulted by Simmons are apparently not included in the bibliography. The following enumeration is limited to the notes of chapter 1 of the book: Adcock, Charlesworth, and Baynes, eds. (repr. 1981) (n. 5); Conquais (2002) (n. 15); Chatonnet (2011) (n. 51); Beschaouch (1968) (n. 78); Lim (1993) (n. 176); Tommasi (2001) (n. 227).
5.   The word "apparently" is necessary, because I realized that attempting a perusal of this book is too quixotic a task for a single review.
6.   J. Bidez, Vie de Porphyre, Gand: E. van Goethem, 1913.
7.   Gustavus Wolff (ed.), Porphyrii De philosophia ex oraculis haurienda librorum reliquiae, Berlin: I. Springer, 1856 (repr. Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1965).
8.   The phrase used by Drake, art. cit., 307.
9.   Simmons' thorough bibliographical investigation detected even my unpublished paper on the Theophany (p. 93), which was subsequently published in my article "Miscellanea Syriaca", accessible in the repository of the university (HUSCAP).
10.   Simmons repeatedly spells this Syriac expression as "ܕܦܪܘܩܐ ܕܓܘܐ ܕܟܠ", but ܕ of ܕܦܪܘܩܐ is superfluous.

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Elizabeth Moignard, Master of Attic Black-Figure Painting: The Art and Legacy of Exekias. London; New York: I. B. Tauris, 2015. Pp. xxi, 177. ISBN 9781780761411. $110.00.

Reviewed by Pieter Heesen (pieter.heesen@planet.nl)

Version at BMCR home site

The Athenian potter and painter Exekias was an innovator in both of the fields in which he worked. He was instrumental in developing the shape of the Type A amphora, the eye-cup, and the standard variant neck-amphora of the last decades of the sixth century BC. As a painter, he introduced new compositions, sensitively exploiting the possibilities the black-figure technique in combination with the vase shapes and ornament.

The talents of Exekias have resulted in vast scholarly attention and scholars continue to study his work and (re- )interpret his images.1 Exekias's vases also have lasting appeal for modern viewers, which was the inspiration for Elizabeth Moignard to explore how the images speak to the viewer about a set of shared interests and universal values, such as family, home, and loss.

Moignard's book began as a series of performance pieces for academic conferences and seminars for staff and students at the University of Glasgow. Early versions of chapters 1 and 5 were published in the Classical Association Newsletter in 1996 and 1997. The five central chapters of the present volume are polished versions of the scripts for lectures. They are a series of case studies treating Exekias's most significant vases as "objects which were designed to be handled, used and enjoyed, and are still able to command a passionate response now" (5). The Introduction, Epilogue and Bibliographical Notes outline the current academic debate and provide readers with information for further reading.

Chapter One ("Portrait of a Loser") explores the character of Ajax through Exekias's images, as well as in the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aithiopis and later tragedians: valued comrade, stout fighter, but not a winner and in need of support and respect from his friends. Moignard's argument starts with Exekias's famous image of Ajax and Achilles playing a board game on a Type A amphora now in the Vatican. Ajax is losing the game, and before long he will also lose his friend, his sanity and eventually his life. Pointing out details that are easily overlooked, citing relevant texts and noting the visual tradition with well-chosen and good quality illustrations, Moignard works up to a climax: Exekias' powerful image of Ajax on an amphora in the Musée de Boulogne-sur-Mer, preparing for his suicide, the nude hero about to die alone in a foreign country.

The reverse of the famous Vatican amphora is the subject of chapter two ("Homecomings and Departures"). Moignard argues that Exekias creatively used a stock composition for arming or departing warriors for his image of the Dioskouroi: Kastor is standing behind his horse, between his mother Leda and his twin brother Polydeukes greeting a dog on the left, with Leda's husband Tyndareus stroking the horse's nose and a nude boy carrying a stool with a cloth and an aryballos on the right. At first glance it seems to be a quiet family scene, but one with a number of elements depending on more than one visual tradition and also on early Greek literature. Moignard suggests that these elements, closely associated with the concept of home and family, link the two sides of the amphora: the board game takes place during a time of war, which means isolation from family and home, and the scene of the Dioskouroi shows what's at stake.

Chapter Three ("The Eye of the Beholder") shows how Exekias used vase shape to make his figural compositions more dramatic. Two neck-amphoras by Exekias are compared: an earlier vase with a hoplite attacking an Amazon (London B 209) and the later amphora with Achilles killing the Amazon queen Penthesileia (London B 210). Whereas the first uses a standard composition for encounters between Greeks and Amazons, the composition of the latter puts Penthesileia in a more submissive position, looking up into the fierce eye of Achilles. His eye is placed on the curve of the shoulder of the amphora so that the viewer of the vase will follow its stare downwards along the line of his spear into the throat of the unfortunate queen.

In the next chapter ("The Long Goodbye") Moignard explores Exekias's contribution to a particular genre scene: the imagery of mourning in funerary contexts. Two sets of funerary plaques by his hand are known.2 These plaques were made to decorate tombs and depicted the formal laying-out of the dead with mourners and chariots prepared to carry the dead to the cemetery in procession. Moignard shows that Exekias uses the same image bank to express the emotions of the mourners as used on Geometric grave-markers (some of which may still have been visible in the Kerameikos cemetery in Exekias' time), which employed elements related to home, family, and departure. Moignard concludes with a fragmentary scene on an amphora by Exekias, on which the poignant moment of an old man bending down towards a small boy may indicate that we are not looking at a young boy distressed by his father's departure to war, but at a grandfather comforting his grandson for the loss of his father.

The subject of chapter Five ("Masks") is an eye-cup with one of the most famous images of Exekias in its interior, Dionysos reclining in a boat sailing in a coral-red sea between leaping dolphins. The exterior shows a nose between large eyes on each side and a fighting scene around each handle. In this chapter Moignard builds on the often-repeated concept of the drinker's transformation when lifting the cup to his lips by showing a mask, associated with Dionysian imagery, to his fellow drinkers at the symposion. Here, with the position of the ship's prow pointing into the drinker's mouth, he is metaphorically swallowing the god when he drinks. Moignard links the fighting scenes on the exterior with the world of drinking and Dionysos by noting that the Homeric hero not only fights, but also feasts.3

Like the multi-layered images of Exekias, this well-produced book can be read on different levels. A general-interest reader can enjoy Moignard's personal approach and clear style (a glossary at the end of the book further explains technical or Greek terms, e.g., bilingual, echinus, peplos). Others might want to dig deeper and read about the scholarly debate in the notes, or go even further to study the literature in the bibliography. For university students this book could be an excellent teaching tool: one can imagine small groups of students, each working on a case study and its background literature, to promote further exploration of one or another theory or further discussion regarding the method and choices made by Moignard. But no matter how this book is read, every reader will be enthused to discover how these images still speak to us.


1.   The most complete study of Exekias' vases is the monograph by E.A. Mackay, Tradition and Originality: A Study of Exekias, Oxford 2010. Apart from the book reviewed here, additional relevant literature on Exekias' vases was published in the past 12 months: V. Dasen, "Achille et Ajax: quand l' agon s'allie à l' alea," Revue du Mauss 46 (2015), 81-98; H. Mommsen, "Pferde des Exekias," in C. Lang-Auinger and E. Trinkl (eds.), ΦΥΤΑ ΚΑΙ ΖΩΙΑ. Pflanzen und Tiere auf Griechischen Vasen, CVA Österreich Beiheft 2, Vienna 2016, 97-104; E.A. Mackay, "Exekias & Co. Evidence of Cooperative Work in the Workshop of Exekias, Group E and their Associates," in N. Eschbach and S. Schmidt (eds.) Töpfer - Maler - Werkstatt. Zuschreibungen in der griechischen Vasenmalerei und die Organisation antiker Keramikproduktion, CVA Beiheft 7, Munich 2016, 87-95.
2.   For an excellent, complete study of the sets of funerary plaques made by Exekias, see H. Mommsen, Exekias I. Die Grabtafeln, Mainz 1997.
3.   In a recent article, Sheramy Bundrick shows that a meaning for the eye-cup tied exclusively to the Athenian symposion is hard to sustain and that the Etruscan context, in which many first-generation eye-cups have been found, should be considered. S.D. Bundrick, "Athenian Eye Cups in Context," AJA 119.3 (2015), 295-341. (with a new interpretation for the scenes on Exekias' cup based on the Etruscan context in which it was found, pp. 333-334).

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Diederik Burgersdijk, Richard Calis, Jorrit Kelder, Alexandra Sofroniew, Sebastiano Tusa and René van Beek (ed.), Sicily and the Sea. Zwolle: W Books, 2015. Pp. 204. ISBN 9789462581159. €24.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Laura Pfuntner, University of California, Davis (lpfuntner@ucdavis.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

Front matter

This volume was produced to accompany the exhibition Sicily and the Sea, a collaboration between the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, the Soprintendenza del Mare in Sicily, and several other European museums, research institutions, and organizations.1 Sicily and the Sea joins the recent Getty exhibition ("Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome," 2013-2014) and the current British Museum exhibition ("Sicily: Culture and Conquest," April-August 2016) in presenting the art and archaeology of pre-modern Sicily to a broader audience than ever before. Many of the objects in Sicily and the Sea come from smaller, less-frequented museums in Sicily and have never been shown outside the island.

The scope of the volume (and the exhibition) is ambitious, tracing Sicily's multifaceted relationship with the Mediterranean from prehistory to the present day. After the Preface and Introduction, eight chapters give a roughly chronological overview of this relationship. The shorter essays within each chapter provide valuable historical and cultural context to the exhibition for a non-scholarly audience. Readers especially interested in ancient Sicilian history and archaeology—and in underwater archaeology more generally—will appreciate the short articles on shipwrecks that conclude Chapters 3-6, as well as the catalogue entries of objects in the exhibition that are scattered through Chapters 2-6. Assessment of each of the 50 sub-chapters is impossible in this space. Especially for those unable to view the exhibition as it makes its way around Europe, this review will highlight recent Sicilian maritime archaeological research as reported in the volume.

Most of the articles on shipwrecks reflect underwater research conducted in the last two decades, only recently (or not yet) published. The earliest shipwreck included is Gela I, from the early fifth century BC, whose small cargo—excavated in two separate campaigns in the 1990s and 2000s—included wine amphorae from Magna Graecia and the Aegean (Nicolò Bruno, pp. 72-3). Two third-century wrecks are also described: Capistello—a vessel carrying Greco-Italic wine amphorae from Campania to Sicily or North Africa—found in 1967 and currently being re-examined (Adriana Fresina, pp. 75-7); and Panarea III, discovered in 2010, which carried Greco-Italic and Punic amphorae from Southern Italy to Sicily, perhaps in support of Roman naval operations in the Second Punic War (Roberto La Rocca, pp. 78-81).

Chapter 4 ("Carthage and Rome") concludes with articles on imperial-era and late antique shipwrecks. Giovanni Di Stefano provides an overview of the three well-known Camarina wrecks (pp. 112-113), while Roberto La Rocca reports on recent research on the fifth-century AD wreck in the port of Scauri on Pantelleria (pp. 114-115). Even more recent is the discovery of the wreck of a Roman merchantman by the Egadi Islands Survey Project. The Levanzo I sank in relatively deep water in the late third century AD2 as it carried a cargo of foodstuffs and construction material from Tunisia to Italy, perhaps as part of the annona (Jeffrey Royal, pp. 116-119). Chapter 5 ("New Powers") ends with a description of another late Roman shipwreck, found off the beach at Marausa in 1999—one of several underwater finds (including Hellenistic and Roman imperial-era amphorae and pottery) in an area of the western Sicilian coast that saw heavy maritime traffic between North Africa and Italy throughout antiquity (Antonella Testa, pp. 140-2).

Numerous medieval shipwrecks reflect the island's continued connectivity with the wider Mediterranean under Arab and Norman domination. Fabrizio Sgroi (pp. 143-5) provides an overview of the Cala Galera wreck, a twelfth-century "Arabo-Sicilian" ship that sank in deep waters off Favignana with a huge and well-preserved cargo of ceramics. The Cala Galera wreck was discovered in 2000 and, because of its depth, was explored with an ROV. Philippe Tisseyre summarizes four wrecks from the Norman period: Mondello, Marsala A and B, and San Vito Lo Capo, discovered in 2005 and studied using Differential GPS survey methodology (pp. 146-9). The last wreck described in the volume is the Parissona Grossa, a large Genoese merchantman that foundered near Sciacca in 1581, perhaps as it awaited the onloading of grain from the port. The ship was rediscovered in 1992, and underwater exploration began in 2004. Eliana Mauro's summary (pp. 166-7) raises more questions than it answers¬, since it is not obvious (at least to this reader) why a merchant ship commissioned to transport grain the relatively short distance from Sciacca to Palermo would also be carrying a cargo of almost thirty French, Italian, and Spanish cannons!

Scattered through Chapters 2-6 are catalogue entries that provide fascinating insight into the military, religious, economic, and cultural facets of Sicily's relationship with the sea. A bronze statuette of Reshef and a limestone Egyptian torso, both recovered from western Sicilian waters, reflect the island's earliest historical engagement with the Eastern Mediterranean via the Phoenicians (Francesca Spatafora and Rossana De Simone, p. 37). The diverse objects from the archaic, classical, and Hellenistic Greek eras include a terracotta Gorgon's-head antefix found in 2012 in the sea near Gela, and probably produced in one of that city's ceramic workshops (Adriana Fresina, p. 49); a hand-moulded and painted ceramic boat—perhaps a votive or toy—found in a late third century Syracusan tomb (Agostina Musumeci, p. 50); a lead anchor inscribed in Greek euploia, found off Favignana in 2004 (Francesca Oliveri, p. 54); and 39 oricalchum ingots from the late sixth century found in the cargo of a shallow shipwreck off Gela in 2014 (Philippe Tisseyre, p. 74).

Objects from the Roman period include one of the six Montefortino helmets recovered from the sector of sea near Levanzo identified as the site of the Battle of the Aegadian Islands (241 BC) (Antonella Testa, p. 84), along with the famous bronze ship rams described in Jonathan Prag's overview of the Punic War period (pp. 83-6). The seas around Sicily have also yielded works of art, including a bronze elephant's leg, perhaps originally part of a public monument, found in deep waters between Tunisia and Sicily in 1999 (Rossella Giglio, p. 95); and a late Hellenistic marble sculpture of Hercules grappling with Antaeus, found in the harbor of Catania in 1927 (Maria Turco, p. 95). Objects related to maritime commerce include a first century BC lead ingot originating from Spanish mines, part of a group of twelve found near Capo Passero (Philippe Tisseyre, p. 96); and a thin lead "commercial label" with a Greek inscription found off San Vito Lo Capo (Francesca Oliveri, p. 96).

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a selection of architectural elements from the sixth-century Marzamemi "Church Wreck" (Gabriella Ancona, p. 127). Less monumental, but just as evocative of the diversity of cargoes (and peoples) traversing Sicilian seas throughout history, are a fifteenth-century tin pilgrim's bottle found by recreational divers near Favignana in 2000 (Rossella Giglio, p. 138), and a blank codex from the seventeenth or eighteenth century with shagreen pages made from the skins of South American stingrays that was recovered in fishing nets in the Strait of Sicily (Ailbhe Turley, p. 161).

Some of the thematic sub-chapters also highlight recent archaeological discoveries from Sicilian waters and shores. Francesca Oliveri's overview of submerged ancient port structures mentions a "magnificent building with a portico" found off Sottomonastero on Lipari in 2008 (pp. 24-5). Roald Docter's provocative essay on Carthaginian war booty from Sicily cites archaeological data as diverse as the cargo of the Porticello shipwreck and the large fragment of a lion's head marble spout found on the Byrsa in Carthage (pp. 87-90). Roger J.A. Wilson discusses several imperial and late Roman maritime villas, as well as archaeological evidence for large-scale agricultural production and maritime trade in the Roman era, including the large grain storehouses at Piazza Armerina and Gerace and the kilns that produced Dressel 21/22 amphorae for the transportation of garum (pp. 107-111). Particularly insightful, though of less direct relevance to classical archaeologists and ancient historians, are Asker Pelgrom on Sicily's ambiguous relationship with the Risorgimento (pp. 162-5), Arthur Weststeijn on cinematic depictions of Sicily (pp. 173-5), and Maurizio D'Atri's ethnographical account of commercial tuna and swordfish fishing in Sicilian waters (pp. 193-5).

The 50 short sub-chapters are highly variable in quality, and despite the considerable credentials of many of the contributors, none can provide more than a brief overview of his or her topic. Moreover, some sub-chapters seem tangential to the theme of Sicily's maritime interactions, and the authors' attempts to make connections between their topic and this theme can feel forced, especially in the final three chapters on Early-Modern and Modern Sicily, since the vast majority of the archaeological contexts and exhibited objects described in the volume date to the pre-modern period.3 Although the volume's broad chronological coverage is admirable, its overall cohesion and utility would have benefitted from the inclusion of fewer, but more detailed, contributions.

The volume's short Further Reading section (pp. 200-201) lists only "books and papers of general interest." It refers to a "more extensive overview of the available literature" on the Allard Pierson Museum's website that, as of May 2016, no longer appears to exist. Otherwise, the high production standards––particularly the many high-quality color images of shipwrecks and objects recovered from Sicilian waters––make the volume a desirable acquisition and an especially impressive editorial achievement, given the large number of contributors and the range of nationalities and academic specialties it encompasses.


1.   After Amsterdam, the exhibition moves to the Ashmolean Museum (June-September 2016), the Maritime Museum in Palermo, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (2017), and the LVR-LandesMuseum in Bonn (2017/8).
2.   The wreck was originally dated to AD 350-75, but the recent typological reassessment of amphorae in its cargo (specifically, the re-identification of a single Keay 52 vessel as type Ostia I, 455) has resulted in a re-dating to 275-300. The initial publication of the wreck is Jeffrey Royal and Sebastiano Tusa, "The Levanzo I Wreck, Sicily: a 4th-century AD merchantman in the service of the annona?" IJNA 41 (2012): 26-55; see Jeffrey Royal, "The Levanzo I Wreck and the Transfer of Technology by Sea in the Late Roman Mediterranean," in Deborah N. Carlson, Justin Leidwanger, and Sarah M. Kampbell (eds.), Maritime studies in the wake of the Byzantine shipwreck at Yassıada, Turkey (College Station 2015), 127-45, esp. 127-9, for the revised date.
3.   Only one of the ten underwater archaeological sites described (the Parissona Grossa wreck, pp. 166-7) post-dates 1500.

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