Sunday, July 31, 2016


Antonio Ziosi, Didone regina di Cartagine di Christopher Marlowe: metamorfosi virgiliane nel Cinquecento. Lingue e letterature Carocci, 202. Roma: Carocci editore, 2015. Pp. 358. ISBN 9788843073283. €29.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Frances Muecke, University of Sydney (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Christopher Marlowe's 450th birthday fell in 2014 and was marked by a comprehensive collection entitled Christopher Marlowe at 450.1 In that book's opening chapter, Dido, Queen of Carthage, where she gives a very useful survey of the scholarship, Ruth Lunney signalled the need for a new commentary on Marlowe's first play.2 H.J. Oliver's was written in 1968 and since then there has been only one full-length study of the play.3 Ziosi's impressive study–cum–edition is probably not exactly what Lunney had in mind, although it will be essential reading for anyone who does undertake that task. The book comprises Introduction, Text and Translation, Commentary, Bibliography and Indexes.

Ziosi's is a commentary with a difference; it could be termed a 'reception-commentary'. Its main aim is to analyse the play in the light of Marlowe's reading of (mainly) Virgil and Ovid, and thus to further understanding of their Renaissance reception. The chief focus of his analysis and interpretation is intertextuality, a phenomenon particularly studied by Latinists since the 1980s. (He consciously, though not entirely, eschews other recent approaches.) Only by concentrating on Marlowe's Latin library (see Intr. 1.3.3 "La biblioteca latina di Marlowe"), Ziosi argues, is it possible to come to a deep engagement with "il più umanista dei tragediografi elisabettiani" (p. 27). This does not mean that he ignores the long late-antique and medieval tradition of thinking about Didos (see Intr. 1.2 "La battaglia delle due Didoni") but what Ziosi adds are insights stemming from ways of reading the post-Virgilian poets, especially Ovid, that have become influential through the work of the Anglo-American-Italian school of "New Latinists".

These insights are developed with great subtlety in the Introduction, especially Parts 2 and 3. Here, as if in a piece of music, a number of concepts and themes are introduced, interwoven, repeated and developed. They have to do with the relations between epic and drama and between epic and elegy, with illusion and reality and with metaphor and theatricalisation. Finally, in the last section of the Introduction (Intr. 3.3 "Nell'officina di Marlowe: analisi di alcune scene di Dido") they are reassembled in greatest detail in acute discussions of the "ecphrastic" significance and symbolic value of the Ganymede scene (a mirror of the whole tragedy), Aeneas' and Achates' encounter with the statue of Priam (another ecphrasis, and theatrical mimesis), the nexus love/fire/destruction of Troy/destruction of Carthage, the death of Priam (and Seneca and Hamlet), the Anna-Iarbas sub-plot (both 'anti-Virgilian' and Virgilian) and Dido as "a second Helen" ("uno dei nodi tragici e simbolici più intricati della tragedia", p. 108). Apparent departures from Virgil are not necessarily departures from Virgilian ways of doing things.

In all these readings Marlowe's text is traced through a network of connections, including, besides the medieval tradition, Ovid's Amores, Heroides and Metamorphoses and Lucan's Pharsalia, other parts of Dido and other works by Marlowe himself. This is important, Ziosi argues, because Dido is formative for Marlowe's oeuvre: "Il lessico, i temi, le immagini mitologiche che nascono dalla riscrittura dell'epica in Dido rimarrano 'nella penna' di Marlowe e saranno incastonate in nuove opere mantenendo la densità intertestuale e simbolica che avevano in origine" (p. 77).

The text printed is that of Fredson Bowers (Complete Works, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1981), with a few changes and an enlarged apparatus criticus. Bowers defined his text as "a reading text in critical old-spelling form".4 I have noticed a few errors in Ziosi's reproduction.5 The elegant translation faces the text. Where possible Ziosi uses the Italian hendecasyllabic line and aims to reflect the syntactic, stylistic and rhetorical features of Marlowe's text (pp. 140-41). What he cannot do is reproduce the effect of the archaic forms and expressions. As a "strumento esegetico" (p. 11) the translation also enables lightening of the commentary.6

The bulk of the commentary records and discusses a treasure-trove of sources, models and parallels from the range of authors and material already identified an intertexts, and from other Elizabethan and Jacobean plays. Ziosi notices significant stylistic and metrical effects, and explicates the relation of Dido to its Latin hypotexts more carefully and more generously than has been done before. To give an example of the commentary's richness, on 1.1.220 "I plowed the deepe", ignored by Oliver, Ziosi notes the new sense of conscendere in Virgil's conscendi aequor (Aen. 1.381), comments on "deepe", brings in Virgil's introduction of arare for sailing (Aen. 2.780) adopted by Ovid (Am. 2.10.33f.), where Marlowe did not translate with "plough". But, Ziosi notes, in OED "plough" as a metaphor for sailing is not attested before Marlowe. Later in Dido (4.3.11) Marlowe writes "Till he hath furrowed Neptunes glassie field". The note continues with exploration of the poetic history of the metaphor, and the symbolism of the land/sea opposition, and concludes by defining the difference between the word "deep" and aequor. The commentary contains, less systematically, other essential explanations, but overall pays less attention to individual word usage and meaning than does Oliver. Occasionally I felt it could have been pruned, but it is always interesting.

Not every contribution to the Renaissance reception of Virgil and Ovid need or could take the form of a 'reception-commentary' but Ziosi convinces that, in this case, it is appropriate. Ziosi is as at home in the technical aspects of Latin scholarship as in the conceptual advances of modern Latin literary study, nor does he ignore the solid achievements of earlier scholars. His mastery of his other field is for others to assess. Latinists with an interest in Renaissance reception will be excited by Ziosi's revelations of the power and depth of Marlowe's reading of his Latin authors and his creative transformation of them. Since the book offers stimulating new ways of understanding the play it is to be hoped that some Anglo-American Marlowe specialists will be able to cross the double linguistic barrier.

Table of Contents

1. Le due Didoni e i molti Marlowe
Il romanzo di marlowe/La battaglia delle due Didoni
2. Didone tragica
Remeber me/Una questione de... genere/Didone a teatro e un'altra regina
3. La tragedia di Didone, regina di Cartagine
Dido, Queene of Carthage/Il Virgilio di Marlowe, o la epische Technik/Nell'officina di Marlowe: analisi di alcune scene di Dido
The Tragedie of Dido, Queene of Carthage
Atto I
Atto II
Atto III
Atto IV
Atto V
Indice dei nomi
Indice dei passi citati


1.   Sara Munson Deats and Robert A. Logan, eds, Christopher Marlowe at 450 (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited), 2015.
2.   Ruth Lunney, Dido, Queen of Carthage, pp. 13-49, at p. 42.
3.   H.J. Oliver, ed. Dido Queen of Carthage and The Massacre at Paris (London, 1968); M. E. Smith, "Love Kindling Fire": A Study of Christopher Marlowe's "The Tragedy of Dido Queen of Carthage" (Salzburg, 1977).
4.   Vol.1, p. vii.
5.   1.1.155 read "cleare", 2.1.107 read "a-fire"; 2.1.322 read "flye"; 3.3.43 read "lade", 83 read "gaine"; 3.4.41 read "worths", l. 49 is omitted; 5.1.13 read "loade".
6.   At 3.4.24-27 the translation does not match the text; at 4.3.3. "illes" should not have become "colli"; at 4.4.95 the translation of "runne aground" does not seem quite right; similarly at 5.1.176 of "Which if it chaunce".

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Stanley Lombardo (trans.), Statius: Achilleid. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2015. Pp. xxxv, 53. ISBN 9781624664069. $9.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Leo Landrey, Fordham University (

Version at BMCR home site


Stanley Lombardo has produced a sparkling translation of Statius' fragmentary gem, the Achilleid. This slim paperback contains an introduction by Peter Heslin; a brief translator's note; Lombardo's translation; and a glossary of names.

Stanley Lombardo is one of the contemporary Anglophone world's major translators of classical epics, and readers of his previous translations will come to this one with a good idea of what to expect. Features such as a readable, well- apportioned line, similes set off in italics, and occasionally colloquial turns of phrase can all be found here. If Lombardo does dip now and then into the parlance of our day, as when he has Ulysses mention Thetis' "grand larceny" (grandia furta, 2.36), this is no slang Statius.

Instead, Lombardo plays in the space between Statius' terse, demanding style and the debatable gravity of his epic's tone and subject matter. He locates the Achilleid precisely where he should, in the beguiling presence of simultaneously conflicting and complementary forces. Moving through the translation can feel like walking down a sidewalk on a warm spring day that turns chilly when the wind picks up. Is it hot or cold, winter or summer, or all of the above? If these warring elements prompt the reader to investigate how the whole coheres, so much so the better.

Consider Lombardo's Thetis as she ponders where to hide Achilles from the Achaeans. As she runs through a list of ancient place names that is sure to intimidate undergraduates, we see her dismiss Thrace as "nearest/ but much too martial," thereafter "nixing first Myconos, then lowly Seriphos,/ then Lemnos as too inhospitable to males, and Delos as too hospitable to everyone" (9). Students might miss the reason why Lemnos and Delos are problematically (in)hospitable, but they should recognize the portrait of a nervous perfectionist dissatisfied with her options but toiling to find the perfect solution. We've all struggled with the problem of choice when trying to reach a consensus on which movie to watch, or perhaps we've combed through a catalogue looking fretfully for that perfect birthday gift for a family member. Thetis knows the experience. But is this the stuff of epic? It is, if we cast such decisions out of everyday life and into Aegean topography and factor in the fate of Western culture's most lionized murderer. This moment, like so many in Lombardo's translation, captures both Statius' hefty demands on his readership and his finely drawn characterization.

In another example, Lombardo effectively conveys Statius' sudden shift from Achilles' survey of the silent woods to his violent rape of Deidamia (23):

So he speaks, and thanking the night's thick shade
that his stealth is steeped in a listless, timely silence,
he gets his way by force, putting all his heart
into authentic embraces.

Comparing Lombardo with Dilke's Latin (the translation is based on this text and Shackleton-Bailey's Loeb), both texts give us two lines of tranquil description that turn immediately in the next line into a scene of rape ("he gets his way by force" ~ vi potitur votis, 1.642). When the chorus of worshippers stirs from sleep and takes Deidamia's screams as cues to further revelry, and when both perpetrator and victim collaborate to hide the truth of Achilles' assault, Statius and Lombardo prompt us to consider the authenticity of Achilles' embraces (veros/... amplexus, 1.642–643). Nor does Statius, and Lombardo with him, shy away from showing the impact of Achilles' crime on his victim (24):

The princess was in shock, stunned by these outrages,
even though his good faith had been suspect for some time.
She was horrified to be up close to him, and his face
was severely altered as he confessed. What should she do?

The translation here is sensitive to the depth of the experience conveyed by the poetry. The simultaneous revelations to Deidamia of Achilles' true sex, of the ruse Thetis had designed for him, of his sexual feelings towards her, and, most importantly, of his rape fuse with a reconsideration of her earlier suspicions to create a visceral, horrifying moment of rejection.

Lombardo doesn't always strike the right note, and it is naturally impossible for one translation to satisfy all tastes. In the poem's opening scene, for example, Lombardo's "deep in the vitreous water" both renders too faithfully Statius' vitreo sub gurgite (1.26) and also shakes off some of its beauty. On the other hand, a few lines later he offers "Atreus' bloated sons," a take on the Latin (tumidis... Atridis, 1.36) that translates Thetis' bitter resentment nicely. On the balance, Lombardo's translation presents restrained interpretations of the Latin that honor the rigorous style and ambiguous tone of the original.

Still, this Achilleid is a relatively accessible read. Lombardo's lines flow together with clear, unimpeded sense, except in those places where Statius wanted the sense impeded. When Thetis presents her son disguised as a girl to Lycomedes, she adds a disruptive aside, which Lombardo captures well (14):

"I present to you, lord, my Achilles' sister
(and doesn't she look just like her fierce brother?)
for your safekeeping."

Thetis' broken syntax perhaps contains a rhetorical ploy designed to disarm the king's probing gaze and distract him from his duty to the truth. This is a ploy with a price, since Lycomedes becomes evidently too well convinced, and fails to keep his ward safe from Ulysses, the task Thetis has in mind here. Lombardo's readers are confronted with the same effect. This Achilleid is as worthwhile a translation of Statius' text as we could ask for.

Peter Heslin's introduction, which runs 31 pages, is almost as long as Lombardo's 37-page translation. Heslin focuses his remarks on a broad outline of the poem's varied interpretive difficulties, which also effectively functions as a story summary. The question of the poem's seriousness preoccupies Heslin, who argues that Statius was not writing a "Very Serious Epic" (xi, again at xvi), but instead "commits from the outset to two epic models: Homer and Ovid" (xxxi). Heslin also adduces comedy and tragedy as influences, without however considering how their generic priorities might be reshaped in the process of adaptation to epic.

Heslin's occupation with the Achilleid's seriousness dominates the introduction to the exclusion of other considerations. Heslin has almost nothing to say about Statius' life, times, or overall poetic output; the Silvae and Thebaid appear by name only once each, towards the introduction's close (xxvii and xxxi, respectively). The word "serious," however, recurs in most of his section headings, as in "The Prophecy of Calchas: Divining the Report of a Very Serious Soothsayer" (xvi) and "Serious Censorship: Deidamia's Future in Epic According to Herself" (xxi). This focus provides a useful enough hook onto which first-time readers can hang their encounter with the text, but it also seems likely to narrow a reader's horizon before s/he even reaches the translation. Although Heslin's efforts to foreground literary considerations are thorough, the reader mostly learns what the poem isn't, not what it is. Heslin's emphatic focus runs the substantial risk of advising readers to treat the Achilleid exclusively as a trivial nugget of text, even when they encounter such moments as Deidamia's reaction to Achilles' rape. Lombardo's translation does a far better job of capturing the dimensionality of this moment than its introducer. In this reviewer's opinion, Heslin's introduction seems mistakenly to fight last generation's battles in a text aimed at a new generation of readers.

But this introduction does not purport to offer the final word on the poem, and if it serves as a point of departure for conversation, then Heslin will have done his job well. Teachers who assign this excellent translation should be prepared to address in class some of the numerous facets of the Achilleid not included in Heslin's introduction before their students let Wikipedia fill in the gaps.

Although there are no notes at the end of this book, students struggling with Statius' frequent barrages of proper names can bail themselves out by turning to the book's thorough Glossary of Names. This glossary is well matched to the need of readers who might turn to it in crisis over whether they should know who Caeneus is or not. The entry for Caeneus concisely explains why Thetis cites him in her catalogue of transvestite and gender-bent exemplars: "Thessalian hero who had been born a girl (named Caenis), was raped by Neptune, and then transformed by him into an invulnerable man" (43). The glossary answers the reader's basic question, even if it declines to direct her to the passage in Ovid's Metamorphoses where Caeneus takes center stage. Help with place names provided by the Glossary might have been reinforced by a map, but no map is included. This feels like a lost opportunity, since all of the major locations in the poem could have been included in a single image.

Lombardo's Achilleid is a welcome translation that makes the text available for regular classroom instruction. Although the Achilleid has long been available to scholars and graduate students in a number of texts and translations, this is the first stand-alone English translation to be published in recent history. This fact lends the book the sort of pedagogical flexibility that facilitates its inclusion on a syllabus and brings its price down substantially from the cost of its nearest competitor, Shackleton-Bailey's Loeb edition of Thebaid 8–12 and Achilleid 1–2. Let us hope that the translation finds as many receptive teachers and curious students as it deserves. In the meantime, the growing ranks of Flavian epic enthusiasts should hope that Lombardo might next consider other desiderata of ours, like a translation of Silius Italicus' Punica.

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Nicolas Wiater, Dionysius von Halikarnass. Römische Frühgeschichte, Band 1: Bücher 1 bis 3. Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur, Bd 75. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 2014. Pp. viii, 365. ISBN 9783777214047. €194.00.

Reviewed by John Noël Dillon (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This is the first volume of a new German translation of the Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, covering books 1-3 of Dionysius's account of the origins and early history of the Roman people. For German-speakers, this translation is indeed a very welcome replacement of the nineteenth-century translation of Schaller and Christian.1 For international scholars who read German, it also represents a significant improvement over the aging Loeb translation by Ernest Cary.2 Only in French have two volumes (1 and 3) of a new Belles Lettres edition of Dionysius' Antiquities appeared, as well as translations of books 1 and 2 and the fragmentary books 14-20.3

This volume in particular is valuable for its detailed introduction (55 pages), in which Wiater provides the reader with a valuable overview of Dionyius of Halicarnassus' intellectual and social background, his classicizing worldview, and the Antiquities itself as a historiographical work and as a historical source. Wiater's discussion of the principles behind the translation itself also gives insight into Dionysius' idiosyncratic style by comparison to German academic prose. On the whole, in just 55 pages, Wiater succeeds in giving an outstanding, accessible introduction to this important historiographical work.

For Wiater, Dionysius' classicizing worldview is the basis for understanding his historical work.4 He thus begins by placing Dionysius in the context of likeminded Greek intellectuals in Augustan Rome against the background of Greco-Roman cultural exchange. Dionysius was one of several prominent Greeks (e.g., Strabo and Nicolaus of Damascus) pursuing a revival of classical Greek style under Augustus. Dionysius' classicism, however, was more than an aesthetic preference for the classical age (9). It entailed political and moral conceptions that Dionysius sought to establish and reinforce in his own day. In his view, the "philosophical rhetoric" of the classical age had declined after the death of Alexander the Great. As the Greek heartland lost its political and cultural importance, the classical political and moral values it embodied also gave way to the barbarized forms of the Hellenistic period, until the triumph of Rome in the age of Augustus made it possible to return to the classical ideals. As Wiater succinctly puts it, "classical Greek culture is spread over the entire inhabited world by Roman power, but Roman power under Augustus may be considered a positive development only because the Romans themselves have made these classical Greek moral, political, and aesthetic ideals their own" (11).

The broad purpose of the Antiquities itself is to promote this classical revival in the shadow of Roman power, while claiming Rome itself for Greece. Dionysius' immediate goal to that end, as Wiater concisely states, is to prove that the Romans are ethnically and culturally Greek (16). Dionysius is genuinely interested in Roman history and values, but he views everything from the perspective of the Romans' Greek identity and their relationship with contemporary Greeks (ibid.). Dionysius' account is written against the background of the mutual ambivalence the Greeks and Romans felt toward one another and the importance of diplomatic kinship relations in Greek thought (17). Wiater emphasizes that the Romans adapted Greek culture; they did not slavishly imitate it. Yet adaptation also induced an "anxiety of influence" in Roman intellectual culture, leading some Romans to assert the independence of their achievements. Dionysius paradoxically cuts this knot by acknowledging the achievements of Rome while claiming them for Greece. The Antiquities is ultimately "the most comprehensive and ambitious attempt in the Greek language to determine the essence of the Romans... The question of the Romans' essence and their relationship to the Greeks is the framework in which all other topics are discussed to begin with" (23).

Wiater considers potential Greek and Roman reactions to Dionysius' Antiquities before moving on to consider the work as a historical source. With respect to the question of whether the Antiquities is pro- or anti-Augustus, Wiater regards that dichotomy as a chimera: Dionysius was profoundly conservative, and his views thus bear some affinity to Augustus' conservative restoration program, but there is nothing to suggest that the Antiquities was composed as a propagandistic work for or against Augustus (31-33).

To situate the Antiquities as a historical source, Wiater devotes several pages to reviewing early Roman historiography and the pitfalls of using it as a source for early Roman history. Wiater is squarely in the camp of the skeptics. The conclusion is that "one should not expect too much of the Roman Antiquities as a historical source": Dionysius' sources may have preserved authentic information, but there is no way to verify it (41, reiterated 44). The Antiquities is, however, a valuable historical source of another sort: as a cultural-historical document, it gives us a reliable picture of what Romans in the first century BC believed about their origins. The Antiquities is especially valuable for giving a snapshot of the influence that contact with the Romans had had on Greek thought and the Greek worldview (45).

Wiater concludes his introduction with an interesting discussion of the principles of his translation. The text and transmission of the Antiquities, as well as modern editions of the text, is briefly discussed in an earlier section (13-16). The translation is based primarily on Carl Jacoby's Teubner edition (1885-1905), but for books 1 and 3 Wiater has also consulted the new Belles Lettres editions by Fromentin and Sautel. Divergences from Jacoby's text are duly noted in the footnotes to the translation.

In translating Dionysius, Wiater strives not only to be accurate and readable, but also "to convey to the reader the same impression as the original" (48). In that, he has brilliantly succeeded: his German Dionysius, to my mind, has virtually the same feel as the Greek original. Even allowing for the breaking up of long periods and modern punctuation, the German text breathes the same factual yet involved style that makes Dionysius a more challenging author than first meets the eye. Wiater aptly characterizes Dionysius' style as "procedural" or "academic," reminiscent of scholarly German prose of the 19th century: "All syntactical possibilities are exhausted to cram as much information as possible in every sentence" (46). The result is "artistic, but not elegant" (ibid.). In other words, Dionysius recalls rather the complex, dense prose of vintage Pauly-Wissowa articles, while he lacks "the stylistic virtuosity and analytical acuity of a Mommsen" (47). Wiater captures this peculiar style brilliantly and similarly conveys the stilted formalism of the fictional speeches that Dionysius liberally inserts throughout the Antiquities (though they are still relatively short in the first few books). If Wiater errs in any way, it is perhaps by making Dionysius more elegant in German than he is in Greek.

Despite the fluency of Wiater's German Dionysius, an important orthographic choice reinforces the impression that one is reading a Greek work of Roman historiography: rather than use conventional Latin or even Latinized names for persons and places, Wiater transcribes Dionysius' Greek orthography as it appears in the Greek text. The German translation thus nonetheless has an alienating effect on the reader, as Dionysius' Hellenization of the Romans is inscribed in the text itself. The seven kings of Rome, for instance, are Romylos, Nomas Pompilios, Tyllos Hostilios, Ankos Markios, Leukios Tarkynios Priskos, Serouïos Tyllius, and Leukios Tarkynios Souperbos (148f.). To avoid confusion, Wiater provides the reader with the conventional forms in brackets when each is first mentioned (the index likewise uses the conventional forms). The effect of the Greek transcriptions, however, is sometimes startling. Fabius Pictor and Cato the Elder, for example, appear as Koïntos Phabios and "Katon der Porkier" (146), and names such as Laouïnion (Lavinium) may not be self-evident to the uninitiated. Wiater's translation thus compels readers to view the Romans from Dionysius' Greek perspective, as Dionysius himself intended.

Besides its high inherent quality, the translation is also extremely user-friendly. Wiater has divided each book into discrete sections according to Dionysius' subject, and these are all indicated in the table of contents of the translation and repeated at the beginning of each book, so that readers can easily skip to whatever part interests them most. These section headings likewise appear as running headers throughout the book. Wiater has further divided each section into episodes. For example, in book 1, a section titled "Identität, Abstammung und Schicksal der Gründer Roms," covering chapters 76-85 (148-162) is divided into five episodes: Amulius and Numitor, the rape of Ilia and birth of Romulus and Remus, the rescue of the twins by the wolf, the capture of Remus and reunion with Numitor, and alternative versions of the story.

The translation is also provided with informative footnotes treating a wide variety of details of potential interest to both experts and amateurs. Wiater devotes considerable space to discussing textual-critical problems and departures from Jacoby's standard edition. His textual proposals merit serious scholarly attention. The footnotes furthermore explain Greek and Latin etymologies, references to historical and mythological persons and places, Dionysius' sources, and other historical and literary questions, drawing primarily on the New Pauly and the French commented editions of Fromentin and Sautel. The notes thus amount to an unobtrusive commentary on the text and tend to accumulate precisely where they are of the most immediate help to Roman historians. Finally, readers will benefit from the updated bibliography appended to the end of the introduction (51-55), and an index of persons, names and things at the end (357-366).

To conclude, Wiater has produced an outstanding translation of Dionysius' Antiquities that will undoubtedly serve as the standard translation among scholars writing in German. The accuracy and elegance of Wiater's translation moreover recommend it to any German-reading scholar seeking to come to terms directly with the Greek text itself. The only major drawback to this translation is the publisher's price tag of €194, which will relegate it largely to wealthy research libraries and encourage readers to continue to rely on the translations freely available online, whether in English at Lacus Curtius or German at Google Books.


1.   Gottfriend Jakob Schaller and Adolph Heinrich Christian (trans.), Urgeschichte der Römer, 12 vols. (Stuttgart: Metztler, 1827-1849).
2.   Ernest Cary (trans.), The Roman Antiquities, Loeb Classical Library, 7 vols. (Cambridge, -MA: Harvard University Press, 1937-1950).
3.   Valérie Fromentin (ed. and trans.), Antiquités Romaines, vol. 1, Introduction Générale – Livre 1 (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1998); Jacques-Hubert Sautel (ed. and trans.), Antiquités Romaines, vol. 3, Livre III (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2002); Valérie Fromentin/Jacques Schnäbele (trans.), Denys d'Halicarnasse: Les Origines de Rome (Les Antiquités Romaines livres I et II), Les Belles Lettres, La Roue à livres 2, (Paris 1990); Sylvie Pittia (ed., trans.), Denys d'Halicarnasse: Rome et la conquête de l'Italie aux IVe et IIIe s. avant J.-C., Les Belles Lettres, Collection Fragments 2 (Paris 2002).
4.   Readers should consult Wiater's own important work on this subject: Nicolas Wiater, The Ideology of Classicism: Language, History, and Identity in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte, 105 (Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 2011). Reviewed in BMCR 2012.06.41.

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Jürgen Hammerstaedt, Martin Ferguson Smith, The Epicurean Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda: Ten Years of New Discoveries and Research. Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2014. Pp. 288. ISBN 9783774939271. €69.00.

Reviewed by Pamela Gordon, University of Kansas (

Version at BMCR home site

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

That Epicurus was such a prolific writer irked his ancient detractors. Epictetus thought that Epicurus' efforts to compose and broadcast his texts contradicted his stance on friendship (Discourses 2.20.20), and Plutarch claimed that Epicurus' energetic communications with an array of readers violated the "live unnoticed" precept attributed to him (Moralia 1128). Diogenes of Oinoanda would have caused similar consternation. Faced with human suffering, Diogenes considers it the responsibility of "any good man" (χρηστὸς τις ἀνήρ, fragment 2 II 11-12) to run to the aid of his contemporaries (an intervention he expresses with the pun ἐπικουρεῖν fragment 2 V 7).1 This philosophical rescue effort took place not just among small circles of like-minded friends, but on the walls of a stoa in the thick of things in urban Oinoanda (in southwest Asia Minor, now Turkey). Of all known inscriptions from Greek and Roman antiquity, Diogenes' is the longest. According to the preface by Hammerstaedt and Smith, this limestone inscription of Roman imperial date ("probably the first half of the second century AD") "may have occupied about 260 square metres of wall-space and contained about 25,000 words" (p. 1). Oenoanda had a rich epigraphic culture, and it seems highly relevant that Diogenes chose the medium favored by other wealthy elites and public benefactors, particularly in the Greek East.

It is fitting that such a generous, affable, and industrious Epicurean should have the expert support of Hammerstaedt and Smith, who have not only devoted considerable effort to the discovery and preservation of the fragments of Diogenes' dismantled inscription, but who have also published the new fragments and new readings of rediscovered stones within months of their discovery (along with indispensable commentaries and translations). Smith has been the international leader of work on Diogenes of Oinoanda since 1968, and most of this volume presents the fruitful results of his collaboration with Hammerstaedt, a relative newcomer.

In 2007, a new survey-project in Oinoanda began under the directorship of Martin Bachmann, of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Istanbul. Between 2007 and 2012, 76 new fragments were discovered (some of them quite substantial). The editors are optimistic that more fragments will soon emerge, so this is not yet the time to produce a full, consolidated edition of the inscription. The present volume comprises seven previously published articles that present the Greek texts of these new fragments along with photographs, English translations and commentary, and abstracts in Turkish, all of which appeared in Anatolian Studies or Epigraphica Anatolica. In addition, there is a brief but informative preface, a crucial three-page section aptly titled "Finding and Citing the Latest Edition of a Diogenes Fragment," a previously published article on the text (in German), and a new 25-page section that prints lists of corrections and additions, the "Theological Physics-sequence" as one continuous text (old and new fragments combined, with translation), and Greek indices of all of the fragments and new readings first published in 2003-2012. This new material will be essential to any scholarship on Diogenes, but even the (uncorrected) reprinted articles are valuable, as many university libraries do not subscribe to the journals. Moreover, Epigraphica Anatolica does not appear in the usual online databases and sometimes passes under the radar of Google Scholar. Here I will mention only a few of the new discoveries, and I will refer to the translations rather than to the Greek text.

New Fragment (henceforth NF) 157 and Hammerstaedt's and Smith's commentaries will be relevant to any discussion of Epicurean attitudes toward sexuality. In the new fragment, Diogenes seems to say that lovers ("those who are sick with the passion of love") are not aware "that they derive pleasure to the highest degree from looking even without copulation" (p. 89). Here Hammerstaedt and Smith disagree about the significance of this text, which Smith takes as a statement of an orthodox position that both Epicurus and Lucretius would affirm. Hammerstaedt—rightly, in my opinion—finds Diogenes' "positive attitude to the pleasure obtained from looking at an attractive person" (p. 90) at odds with Lucretius' treatment of the connection between vision and erotic desire (Lucr. 4.1937- 1287). The inclusion of Hammerstaedt's and Smith's divergent views here will benefit future scholarly debate.

Refuting the notion of divine providence in NF 182, Diogenes refers to thunder, hail, violent winds, and other phenomena (including nighttime) that he pronounces "useless" or "even harmful" (p. 118). Hammerstaedt and Smith note incidentally that a violent storm that damaged the local apple crop coincided with the chance discovery of NF 182. Thus Diogenes' interest in storms "would have seemed highly appropriate" to the inhabitants of his mountainous region (p. 118).

Also of particular importance is NF 186, which adds a small but significant piece of evidence for the existence of female students of Epicurean philosophy. This fragment "may or may not belong to Letter to Menneas," one of the "Ten-Line-Column Writings" that may have been in the central course of the apparently seven-course inscription (p.129). Almost an entire column of NF 186 is well preserved, and one feminine pronoun and one feminine participle are clearly legible. Hammerstaedt and Smith translate: "… [I shall help them (?)] [in every] way, when I can. As you know, we do not have better things to offer them (N.B. 'them' is feminine) than our own good fare. For indeed they happen already to have done some tasting of the doctrines of Epicurus, but to be sure not in such a way that [the disturbances] that strike [them have been removed]" (p. 130). The commentary suggests plausibly that the addressee is "an Epicurean or Epicurean sympathizer" and that "our own good fare" may refer to Epicurean philosophy (p. 130). Sadly, the next column is too damaged to read more than a few characters. Perhaps future discoveries will reveal whether these women belonged to some sort of circle of seekers or students, or if they were simply two or more acquaintances or correspondents.

In NF 192, addressing "Zeno and Cleanthes, and you, Chrysippus," Diogenes asserts that the Epicurean telos is not the pleasures of "the masses," as the Stoics claim, but is like the Stoic telos, though the Stoics "hate the name of pleasure" (p. 153). Diogenes' naming of Chrysippus, who is not mentioned in other fragments, will be of interest to scholars who think that Epicureanism continued to develop after the lifetime of Epicurus. Chrysippus (born c. 280 BCE) was only a boy when Epicurus died in 270 BCE.

This leads me to one aspect of the fine work of Hammerstaedt and Smith that is not to my taste, though it may bother only a minority of other scholars. I would have liked to see in the commentaries more attention to Diogenes' particular context in the Epicurean tradition. While acknowledging that later Epicureans seem to have been eager to demonstrate their loyalty to the teachings of Epicurus or, more generally, to the teachings of "The Men" (Epicurus, Hermarchus, Metrodorus, and Polyaenus), I agree with Snyder that Epicurean texts were "not simply a static body of documents to be restored, but a sinuous, evolving entity."2 Philodemus' allegiance seems to be to "The Men," but so far it appears that Diogenes saw himself as a follower solely of Epicurus, whom he mentions eight times in the known fragments if we count one certain and one uncertain reference to "son of Neocles" (the fragment numbers are listed on p. 131). And yet, Diogenes does not deliver wisdom straight from the books of Epicurus, as his inimitable voice and aspects such as his reference to Chrysippus make clear.

But Smith's approach to these fragmentary texts often involves filling in lacunae with words imported from the texts of Epicurus, though Hammerstaedt and Smith do take care to remind readers that Smith's restorations are merely suggestions. For example, in the notes on NF 156, they write: "S.'s restoration of the whole maxim…is closely based on the passages in which Epicurus (especially Hdt. 49-50) and Diogenes (especially fr. 9, 43) describe how the images cause vision, thought, and dreams, but of course he does not claim to show how the text went, only how it might have gone" (p. 59). Sometimes the editors have found that "how it might have gone" was clearly not how it went. NF 157 was discovered in 2008 (published expeditiously in 2008), but the full text on the stone was not uncovered until the following season (and then published in 2009). For the 2008 publication, Smith presented restorations and a translation of the text as it had so far been revealed (p. 60). But when the rest of the stone was uncovered a year later, Hammerstaedt and Smith discovered that half of that restored text and most of the translation were incorrect, as the full photograph, text, and translation demonstrate (p. 89). To their credit, Hammerstaedt and Smith call attention to the hazards of restoration by issuing "a mild 'health warning'" (p. 3) and a list of updates (p. 5) for readers who would otherwise be unaware that a proposed restoration has become untenable.

This book will be essential for scholars and fans of Diogenes of Oinoanda, and the wealth of detail it contains about the extensive recovery, recording, and preservation efforts should make any reader optimistic that Diogenes has even more to tell us.

Table of Contents

Finding and Citing the Latest Edition of a Diogenes Fragment
New Fragments (NF) 136-212, and Some Additions to "Old" Fragments
1. MFS, In praise of the simple life: a new fragment of Diogenes of Oinoanda [= Anatolian studies 54 (2004) 35-46]
2. MFS, JH, The Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda: New Investigations and Discoveries (NF 137-141)." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 40 (2007) 1-12]
3. JH/ MFS, Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Discoveries of 2008 (NF 142-167) [= Epigraphica Anatolica 41 (2008) 1-37]
4. JH/ MFS, Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Discoveries of 2009 (NF 167-181)." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 42 (2009) 1-38]
5. Hammerstaedt, Jürgen, and M. F. Smith. "Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Discoveries of 2010 (NF 182-190)." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 43 (2010) 1-29]
6. Hammerstaedt, Jürgen, and M. F. Smith. "Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Discoveries of 2011 (NF 191-205, and Additions to NF 127 and 130)." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 44 (2011) 79-114]
7. Hammerstaedt, Jürgen, and Martin Ferguson Smith. "Diogenes of Oinoanda: new discoveries of 2012 (NF 206-212) and new light on" old" fragments." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 45 (2012) 1-37]
Further Contributions
8. JH, Zum Text der epikureischen Inschrift des Diogenes von Oinoanda [= Epigraphica Anatolica 39 (2006) 1-48]
9. JH / MFS, The Continuous "Theological Physics-sequence" (NF 167 + NF 126/127 + fr. 20 + NF 182)
10. JH / MFS, Additions and Corrections
11. JH / MFS, Greek Indices


1.   For the text of this and other fragments discovered before 1993 (through NF 124), see Martin Ferguson Smith, Diogenes of Oinoanda. The Epicurean Inscription, La scuola di Epicuro, Supplemento 1, Naples, Bibliopolis, 1993. Fragments discovered after that publication (through NF135) can be found in Martin Ferguson Smith, Supplement to Diogenes of Oinoanda, The Epicurean Inscription, La scuola di Epicuro, Supplemento 3, Naples, Bibliopolis, 1993. The publication under review here includes corrections to those editions.
2.   H. Gregory Snyder, Teachers and Texts in the Ancient World (New York: Routledge, 2000), 53.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Barbara Levick, Claudius. Second edition (first edition 1990). Roman imperial biographies. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. xxiv, 262. ISBN 9780415703574. $145.00.

Reviewed by Megan M. Daly, University of North Florida (

Version at BMCR home site


In her preface to this second edition, Levick lists the many works pertaining to Claudius and the theoretical advances that have appeared since the publication of the first edition in 1990, pledging to incorporate them into this updated work. Although much seems to remain unchanged, the attentive reader can find the more recent scholarship sprinkled throughout as promised. Many additions are relegated to the footnotes, but some significant changes can be observed in the text as well.

The principate was nearly seventy years old when Claudius came to power. Chapter 1 examines this stretch of time and sets the stage for Claudius by discussing the nature of the principate in general, from its very beginnings in the Republic through the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Gaius. Levick then turns to a thorough analysis of the phases of Claudius' life and the facets of his principate. Chapter 2 focuses on Claudius' younger years and education while simultaneously covering the fates of those around him during his upbringing. When discussing Claudius' health issues, she updates the discussion by citing Osgood's recent diagnosis of dystonia in a footnote;1 Chapter 3 covers his life in the background behind Tiberius and Gaius,2 while Chapters 4 and 5 detail his sudden rise to power and his establishment of support and stability in his principate. Wiseman's take on the conspiracy which brought Claudius to power is also cited as an update.3

Chapters 6 and 7 examine the composition of Claudius' imperial court, and Levick points out that the concept of a court was by no means new to the Roman political system. What was new with Claudius' court was the power of freedmen and women. Messalina and Agrippina are given special attention in these chapters. The question of whether Claudius was "the dupe of wives and advisers" (90) is not profitable in the eyes of Levick, since Claudius' interests were often similar to theirs. Indeed, even when discussing his rise to power, Levick suggests the possibility of Claudius acting as a Henry II, Elizabeth I, or Reagan, using the technique "of allowing others to act or engineering them into it, while the principal continues 'ignorant' of what is going on" (42). Indeed, as Levick points out, upon his ascent to power, Claudius claimed that he "pretended to be a fool to save himself" (31).

Levick also tackles the argument that Claudius adopted a policy of centralization during his principate. She analyzes each claim in favor of this idea and asserts that "together the materials are mutually supportive. Looked at more closely, however, the changes seem more scrappy and even inconsistent" (95). Indeed, she shows that Claudius had a "taste for doing things himself" (95), but she shows that these do not equate with a policy of centralization.

Claudius' relationship with the Senate and Knights is handled in more detail in Chapter 9, while his bond with the people of Rome and Italy is discussed in Chapter 10. Claudius became emperor without the support of the Senate and knights, so had to make "heroic efforts" during his reign to repair the damage. Levick shows that, while falling short with these two groups, he wins the favor of the people.

The next five chapters, 11-15, focus on Claudius' handling of justice, finances, military affairs, and the provinces. In contrast to Tiberius and Gaius, Claudius' interest in sitting on tribunals and presiding as an advisor in court was seen as "intense activity" (137). His legislation in general was praised, as it upheld the social structure while offering protection for property owners and looking out for the welfare of individuals, particularly slaves, women, and minors. Levick outlines several specific pieces of Claudian legislation to illustrate his innovations in these areas (143-6).

Claudius' handle on the imperial finances was considered good, in that it did not attract much attention (153).4 Levick effectively shows that Claudius' spending was not necessarily bad. His building projects, for example, put money into the hands of working plebs. The invasion of Britain, covered in detail in Chapter 13, brought glory and loot during Claudius' reign, but was ultimately a financial drain and overall a "mistake," with the gains failing to outweigh the losses (173).5 More profitable military exploits were to be fought elsewhere. Chapter 14 covers Claudius' affairs in Mauretania, Lycia, Thrace, Noricum, the Danube basin, the Crimea, and Armenia. Most importantly, Levick describes his activity in Germany as a "turning point" (180): Claudius had some wooden forts made stone and settled the colony among the Ubii, but Germany was not to be annexed.

Levick's final chapter provides details of the portrait of Claudius throughout literature and history. Although he was the butt of many jokes, especially in Seneca's Apocolocyntosis, his image was rather favorable throughout much of the Neronian and Flavian periods. As for historians, Levick traces the traditions from the Elder Pliny, Cluvius Rufus, and Fabius Rusticus, through Suetonius and Tacitus, all the way through Mommsen and Momigliano. Ultimately, she describes Claudius as an emperor who contributed to change in two major ways: in his manner of succession, and in his survival in power and his ability to pass that power smoothly to an heir.

Significant additions about the material culture from Claudius' reign have been made in this second edition. New paragraphs at the end of Chapter 8 (104-5) and the beginning of 16 (222) assert that Claudius was practical rather than elegant, and that the art, literature, and architecture he promoted reflected this. Throughout the book Levick scatters new morsels about Claudius' works, including his harbour (127), coins (130), arches (133 n.11, 176 n.24), aqueducts (155), roads (218 n.14) and other monuments (179-80).

The chapters are well organized and the style is decently easy to read. The footnotes are not long and drawn out, but offer sufficient information for the reader to look further into topics of interest. A careful eye will discover Levick's updates in scholarship cited here. A table of key dates from 31 BC to 69 AD is carried over from the first edition. Also carried over are seven maps and two family trees as well as some other images, particularly of coins. For whatever reason, the map of Britain which appeared in the first edition does not appear in the second. The amount of detail is the kind welcomed by scholars and advanced students, but makes this a heavy read for anyone not already familiar with Claudius or the Julio-Claudian era. This study would prove manageable to students of the Classics at the advanced undergraduate level and above.

Levick's work on Claudius continues to make a valuable contribution to the field and offers not just a strong foundation of information for those interested in Claudius, but also worthwhile material for anyone studying the Julio-Claudians or the Roman world of the first century CE.


1.   Osgood, J., Claudius Caesar: Image and Power in the Early Roman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
2.   And others, like his brother Germanicus. Levick in Chapter 3 footnote 2 cites Malitz, J. 'Claudius (F. Gr. Hist. 276) – der Princeps als Gelehrter', in Strocka 1994, 133-44.
3.   Wiseman, T. P., Death of an Emperor: Flavius Josephus, translated with an Introduction and Commentary, Exeter Studies in History 30 (Exeter University Press, 1991).
4.   Levick's discussion of finances has been particularly updated with Alpers, M., Das nachrepublicanische Finanzsystem: Fiscus und Fisci in der frühen Kaiserzeit. Untersuchungen zur antiken Lit. u. Geschichte 45 (Berlin, 1995).
5.   Chapter 13 is perhaps one of the more heavily updated chapters. See especially a new discussion of the landing in Britain (167) and the risk of advancement there (168).

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Charlotte R. Potts, Religious Architecture in Latium and Etruria, c. 900-500 BC. Oxford monographs on classical archaeology. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xxix, 178; 24 p. of plates. ISBN 9780198722076. $125.00.

Reviewed by J. Marilyn Evans, Swarthmore College (

Version at BMCR home site


This book, based on the author's 2011 doctoral thesis, offers a reassessment of the archaeological evidence for religious architecture in Etruria and Latium during the Iron Age and Archaic periods. On these grounds alone it will certainly be of interest to archaeologists and architectural historians of early central Italy. The special emphasis placed on the development of monumental religious architecture as a means of encouraging cross-cultural contact will also appeal to specialists interested in Mediterranean connectivity and urbanization. The value of the book lies primarily in the synthesis of an impressive amount of archaeological material in English, with an emphasis on the data recovered from the past fifty years or so of systematic excavation and study. The book's secondary value lies in the author's use of the archaeological evidence to challenge existing hypotheses concerning the identification of religious buildings and to propose new ways of understanding the role of monumentalization in the reconstruction of ancient societies. As such, it complements recent approaches to the study of monumentality in early central Italy that emphasize the role of technical innovation, social ideology, cultural practice and political strategy in the development of large-scale architecture.1

The book's narrative text is divided into two parts and consists of eight chapters augmented by maps, figures and tables. Part 1 (Chapters 2-4) traces the emergence and development of religious architecture and decoration in Etruria and Latium prior to 500 BCE. Part 2 (Chapters 5-7) considers this evidence in a broader architectural, religious and topographical context, and offers possible explanations for the emergence of a distinctive form of religious architecture. Following these chapters are an appendix, catalogue, bibliography, index and plates, which are useful supplements to the main text.

Chapter 1 introduces Potts' approach to the topic and lays out the organization of the study. Potts explains the need for a reassessment of the evidence for religious architecture, particularly in light of the significant contributions of the past few decades of archaeological investigation. A brief overview of the more significant discoveries highlights the wealth of data that have transformed our knowledge of Etruscan and Latial societies. It also serves to underscore a basic position Potts adopts in this book, that the material evidence recovered from cult sites must be contextualized with that recovered from settlements. In subsequent chapters these comparisons prove useful to highlight the ambiguity of the earliest residential and religious structures; this in turn places special significance on when, where and why distinctive forms of religious architecture emerge.

In Chapter 2, Potts reviews the evidence for the first religious structures, the so-called sacred huts, and questions the extent to which they can be identified archaeologically. The author challenges the method commonly applied to identify such huts, which relies mainly on the idea that topographic continuity indicates functional continuity. Thus, huts found beneath temples are often characterized as sacred. While Potts acknowledges this as an acceptable working hypothesis, she rightly stresses that artifacts are a more reliable indicator of ritual activity. A review of the material evidence for hut architecture reveals the difficulty of ascribing any singular function to these buildings. The size and function of huts vary considerably, with no evident correlation between the two, and the finds recovered within them are utilitarian items used for both domestic and religious practices. Only the huts at Satricum and Tarquinia stand out as possibly sacred since they are connected with contemporary votive deposits, but, as Potts points out, these structures were not visually or topographically distinct from the other huts in the compound. Taken together, these data reveal that there is no evident distinction between ritual and non-ritual buildings in western central Italy during the early Iron Age, and no unequivocal evidence for sacred huts.

In Chapter 3, Potts traces the emergence of a distinctive form of architecture for religious buildings during the seventh and sixth centuries BCE. The beginning of this period witnessed the replacement of huts with structures comprised of stone foundations and tile roofs, which eventually acquired regularized plans in three distinctive types. Initially, religious activities occurred in or near buildings with a variety of ground plans, though it more commonly occurred in association with small rectangular buildings with one or two rooms. By the beginning of the sixth century BCE, the monumental temple emerged as a distinctive architectural form, characterized by its elevated substructure (podium). Potts refines the criteria for distinguishing podia from other types of substructures (e.g., platforms and terraces) and adds that this feature was more widely implemented in the religious architecture of Latium before it became a common feature in Etruria. This conclusion will likely present a challenge to scholars who view the development of religious architecture primarily as an Etruscan innovation.

In Chapter 4, Potts considers the architectural adornment of shrines and temples during the seventh and sixth centuries. Ceramic roof tiles and architectural terracottas comprise the bulk of the evidence, and the latter are the focus of the study. The author observes regional distinctions in the use of architectural terracottas, and argues that Latium and Rome were leaders in the use of architectural decoration to distinguish specific buildings from other monuments. The author downplays the role of Greek influence on the gradual restriction of architectural terracottas to religious buildings, and views this development instead as a local phenomenon that operated in tandem with the emergence of monumental temples. Potts does not discount the role of Greece and the Near East entirely, however. An iconographic analysis of the terracottas reveals that the most common motifs belong to a generic set of designs (e.g., sphinxes, Gorgoneions and female heads), reflecting the adoption of a Mediterranean koine. In Chapter 7 the author suggests that this shared imagery reflects a shared patronage, and its value may have lain in being recognizable to visitors from disparate regions.

In Chapter 5, Potts evaluates the archaeological evidence for altars and cult statues, and questions the role these structures played in the construction of monumental temples. Temples, altars and cult statues are widely regarded as integral components of late republican and imperial cult sites, and the author is particularly interested in determining whether this "canonical trinity" (p. 65) can be recognized archaeologically in Iron Age and archaic central Italy. What emerges from an overview of the material evidence is the wide-ranging appearance of cult sites in the pre-republican period. Altars appear both in association with religious buildings and as standalone structures, and, of those altars built near temples, the proportion, orientation and location are divergent. Potts uses these data to conclude that altars and temples were not conceived as physically and conceptually integrated units. The absence of any convincing evidence for cult statues reinforces this idea, and, perhaps more significantly, challenges the assumption that temples were built to house them.

In Chapter 6, Potts considers the physical setting of monumental temples, both in relation to the landscape and to other features (e.g., votive deposits and roads), and argues that their placement was designed to facilitate external contact and interaction. The author focuses on the functional role of temples as meeting places for religious and commercial activity. Potts deemphasizes the connection between monumentalization and urbanization, presenting an alternative to the traditional typology that classifies temples and sanctuaries in relation to urban areas. In so doing, Potts builds upon recent work in republican central Italy, where scholars are seeking other models to explain the development of cult sites.2 The author's conclusions are compelling and in alignment with current approaches to archaic central Italy which characterize the region as open and outward-looking. However, these arguments would have benefited from a more direct engagement with the models Potts seeks to replace, particularly those which interpret cult sites in connection with topographical, political and territorial boundaries (e.g., François de Polignac, Alessandro Zifferero and Ingrid E.M. Edlund-Berry).

In Chapter 7, Potts expounds upon the theme of cross-cultural interaction as she aims to answer this question: why did archaic communities decide to invest considerable resources in the construction of monumental temples as opposed to other forms of architecture? The author applies the concept of connectivity to explain the material evidence from a local context and argues that the construction of temples allowed settlements in Tyrrhenian Italy to participate in a wider network of cross-cultural interaction. A broad overview of the earliest temples across the Mediterranean reveals that temples emerged as a distinctive form of architecture in locations favorable to trade and religious tourism in the late seventh and early sixth centuries BCE. In western central Italy, a preexisting relationship between monumentalization and economic activity seems to have contributed to the monumental construction of temples. This may explain the corresponding decline in courtyard complexes (e.g., Poggio Civitate) and increasing investment in religious buildings. Temples, by the sixth century BCE, were recognized as a Mediterranean-wide locus of interaction and were constructed in monumental form by agents desirous of external contact. Potts perceives the nature of this interaction through a rather positive lens: temples are meeting places that encourage peer-polity interaction, and these interactions may have "prompted…collaboration for mutual benefit" (p. 117). While this reviewer finds it useful to explain architectural innovation as a product of such benign relationships, a more careful consideration of the kinds of rivalries that may have played a role in monumentalization would lead to a more thorough and satisfying conclusion about the nature of early sanctuaries.

In Chapter 8, Potts restates the arguments made throughout the book and explains their significance for our understanding of ancient architecture and society. In particular, the author contextualizes her study within broader debates about the character of archaic Rome, suggesting that it was an outward-looking city and a willing, if not leading, participant in Mediterranean-wide networks.

This book is a welcome contribution to the archaeology of early central Italy. The conclusions drawn here will certainly fuel the discussion about Rome's place in the archaic Mediterranean, the relationship between monumentalization and urbanization, and architectural traditions in western central Italy. The book offers a synthesis of a wide range of archaeological material from religious contexts, which will be useful for considering alongside the settlement and funerary data. Readers will not find this overview comprehensive: the author includes in her analysis and catalogue only "the most commonly cited examples of early religious architecture" (p. 125). This approach allows Potts to call into question the unreliable criteria used to identify early religious buildings and to stress in her conclusions the lack of distinction between ritual and non-ritual spaces in Iron Age contexts. This leaves as an open question how archaeologists should understand the nature of these early settlements. By the author's own admission (p. 123), there is one curious omission from the text's main narrative: the archaic temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in Rome. Potts explains in an appendix her reasons for excluding the temple from the study, citing the lack of definitive evidence regarding its appearance. Her justification is valid, insofar as it allows the author to identify broad patterns from a wide-ranging body of archaeological evidence, but in places some discussion of the temple seems warranted, particularly the sixth chapter concerning ritual topographies.


1.   M. L. Thomas, G. E. Meyers and I. E. M. Edlund-Berry (eds.), Monumentality in Etruscan and Early Roman Architecture: Ideology and Innovation (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012), BMCR 2013.03.11.
2.   For instance, N. T. de Grummond and I. Edlund-Berry (eds.), The Archaeology of Sanctuaries and Ritual in Etruria, JRA Supplementary series, 81 (Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2011), BMCR 2012.04.42; T. Stek, Cult Places and Cultural Change in Republican Italy (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009), BMCR 2011.04.25.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Alain Bresson, The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth in the City-States. Expanded and updated English edition, translated by Steven Rendall; originally published in French 2007-2008. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016. Pp. xxvi, 620. ISBN 9780691144702. $45.00.

Reviewed by Donni Wang, Shanghai University (

Version at BMCR home site


The French original of The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy was published in 2007-8 and received a lengthy and sympathetic review in BMCR 2009.08.17. On the occasion of this fresh translation, therefore, I take the opportunity to devote more space to critical engagement and less to summary. Bresson sets out to prove and explain the occurrence of sustained economic expansion in ancient Greece through the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods. For those who have embraced the use of social science methods and neoclassical economic theory in the study of the ancient economy, Bresson's work will be very satisfying. In his text, economic concepts like incentives, uncertainty, and information asymmetry are featured prominently and supplemented by quantitative evidence whenever possible, some of which is derived from the latest archeological findings.

In Chapter I, Bresson provides an account of his methodology, situating it within the tradition of scholarship on the ancient economy. After this introduction, Part I of the book ("Structures and Production"), approaches the economy from several basic aspects: environmental factors (Chapter II and III), land use (IV), taxation (IV), agricultural production (V and VI), non-agricultural production, and the rate of innovation and growth (VII and VIII). Part II ("Market and Trade") covers the more advanced aspects of the economy: property laws and commercial centers (IX), money and credit (X), international trade and tax policy (XI), the emporium and commercial regulation (XII), international trade, economic performance, and the city-state ecology (XII-XV).

Bresson's main argument is that the ancient Greek economy, contrary to claims of it being primitive and stagnant, enjoyed significant growth as a result of steady development of institutions (xxii). According to the author, an institution is what introduces stability and predictability by establishing rules and regulations for social relationships. This facilitating role reduces the cost of transactions, which are coextensive with human interactions in social life (19-20). Bresson does not clarify how he uses this broad theoretical concept to identify institutions. To judge from the specifics in this book, institutions include the exploitation of land and resources, the change in technology, the collecting of taxes and duties, the minting and circulation of coins, the making of loans, the maintenance of the agora, the spread of an international trade network, and the implementation of laws that control prices and regulate commerce.

An important critique of this approach can be made regarding the unquestioning use of new institutionalism, which has introduced flaws into the conceptual model. The problems that arise are the omission of alternative structures, the conflation of different institutional goals, and a blindness to ethical and normative issues of import.

First, by focusing on formal institutions, Bresson overlooks a whole group of economic practices that stem from beliefs, norms, and traditions, all of which heavily shaped the Greek world until at least the Hellenistic period. New institutionalism must take full blame for this huge blind spot. Although Douglass North defines institutions as "all forms of constraint" (19-20), and Alain Bresson includes symbolic and kinship institutions (26), in actuality, he identifies only those that are well-established in the modern West, namely those that employ economic incentives and legal sanctions backed by the power of the market and state. This bias causes Bresson to miss a number of important elements in the economic life of ancient Greece that are not based on the market and do not involve the state. For example, Greek historians agree that most city-states were made of small independent farmers who subsisted on the land that they possessed, which contributed to the political stability and social cohesion of Greek communities.1 This unique outcome was not a product of market transactions and legal enforcement but, rather, arose from the custom of distributing land widely through individual allotments and the norm of forbidding the sale or purchase of ancestral land. Next, when we consider labor, most citizen craftsmen at Athens were independent workers, a dynamic that made a huge impact on the level of operational size, industrial distribution, and technological development. This environment, which was conducive to small, family-sized businesses, was a result of the cultural premium placed on individual autonomy and dignity. This value-laden preference discouraged Greeks from willingly working under someone else as an economic underling, a notion that has been derided as unprofitable by analysts influenced by modern economics.2 In Chapters XII–XIV, Bresson discusses trade, but not gift exchange, which was a strong paradigm in the Homeric world and Archaic Greece.3 In terms of wealth management, there were certainly private individuals who profited from offering commercial loans. But it was also customary for aristocrats to provide gifts and assistance to the community. Their desire for obtaining people's gratitude and favor (charis) and good reputation differs from the conventional calculations of financial gain.

As we can see, with regard to property, labor, exchange, and transfer, a unique set of ancient Greek discourses—ones that did not structure behavior according to the institutional assumptions of scarcity and utility maximization—played an important role. Although these cultural norms were not the only factors important at the time, excluding these from an analysis has consequences for the study of the ancient Greek economy. This neglect creates a bias, which treats any economic production that is not quantified, monetarized, and then anonymously exchanged in legally defined terms as if it simply did not exist. In fact, it can be argued that the more invaluable an economic activity is—such as bearing and raising children, fighting for the homeland, providing for loved ones, and supporting the community—the more ideal for it to take place among parties bound by trust, good will, and honor. Arrangements based on intimate mutual understanding and consensus obviate the need for formal safeguards and the concomitant bureaucratic documentation. As a result, some of the most effective and noble economic acts become "invisible" by taking on forms that do not translate easily into the conventional type of economic data that Bresson surveys.

The second problem with Bresson's analysis is that even manifest institutions can serve completely different ends, an ambivalence that Bresson does not underscore. Many fiscal and financial policies of the Greek city-states addressed the redistributive needs of the polity, rather than the materialistic ambitions of the individual. At Athens, for example, the state coordinated and sponsored festivals, public building projects, jury pay, games, food relief, etc., transferring resources from the rich to the underprivileged and the poor. These programs preserved the dignity and welfare of the small men who worked for a living and were the bulwark of Athenian democracy. Furthermore, the city's regulation of the agora, which standardized weights and measures and protected against fraud, benefited the small producers and consumers first and foremost. We can imagine that the landlords, big bankers, and economic elites would not have much to fear if the market was left to regulate itself—they would likely tilt the game in their own favor at the expense of widowers, peasants, and small craftsmen. In this light, the logic of "institutions" itself becomes contested: is it about assisting the common goals of the civic polity or the private interest of competitive individuals? While the case of the Greek polis suggests the former, the latter outlook, which is rooted in methodological individualism and rational choice theory, is the one that informs the modern economic concepts that Bresson uses in this study.

Thirdly this growth model leads Bresson to rationalize practices that are unacceptable by our standards. For example, Bresson first explains that the massive expulsion of small tenant farmers made possible the agricultural revolution in early modern England. Based on this phenomenon, he concludes that the failure to forcefully evict peasants owning small and middle-sized properties in antiquity "limited the transformations of agriculture, and hence an increase in production" (170). This remark treats violent expropriation as a beneficial development that increases scale and spurs innovation. In another passage, Bresson acknowledges that the most ambitious innovations are connected with great landlords, whose political position "gave them a power of coercion over a workforce that could be used for large projects" (167). Once again, the subjugation of human beings is seen as enabling growth and innovation. This underlying ideological stance becomes fully evident when Bresson muses that "one cannot consider solely the possible negative effects of the existence of kingdoms and other zones of domination" (422). On page 189, Bresson refers to the two factories owned by Demosthenes' father that employed slaves as examples of "bringing workers together" to specialize, like a modern industrial enterprise. In this example, slavery is presented as a means to modernize production. On page 280, Bresson discusses a speech in which Socrates advises Aristarchos on how to "put free women to work . . . just as if they were slaves."

Even for those who take pride in shunning any sort of normative "politicization," Bresson's picture is still deeply problematic. First, the presence of informal practices complicates the simple correlation between formal institutions and economic prosperity. We certainly can no longer be sure that the material basis for the flowering of Greek civilization in the Classical era was the formal, modernistic sectors, rather than the less visible cultural traditions. Secondly, the sequence of events casts doubt on the long-term prospect of this kind of growth, even if it is positive for the time being. After all, Bresson admits that it was the civic framework that made possible exceptional development (217). Nevertheless, as economic growth accelerated in the Hellenistic era, the egalitarian civic framework progressively dissolved and strictly hierarchical relationships were introduced in social and political life. The new power dynamic slowed the momentum of an incipient enlightened culture in Greece that was responsible for breakthrough scientific knowledge, the real engine of social progress (218). When we connect individual accumulation, wealth inequality, and social disintegration, we could see that growth could very well bite the hand that feeds it, namely a fair, egalitarian, and civic-minded society.

For these reasons, Bresson's story of economic expansion driven by new institutionalism can be misleading. Nonetheless, Bresson and his translator must get credit for laying out the argument and evidence lucidly, making it easier for interlocutors like me to engage with.4 In Vlassopoulos's recent review of Ober, the author intimates that if his critical comments could generate meaningful discussion about the big picture in Greek history, they will have served a useful purpose. I shall simply echo that sentiment and hope for the same.


1.   See Victor Davis Hanson, The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization. New York: Free Press, 1995.
2.   See Edward Cohen, "An Unprofitable Masculinity," in Money, Labour and Land: Approaches to the Economies of Ancient Greece, edited by Paul Cartledge, Edward E Cohen, and Lin Foxhall, (London: Routledge, 2002): 100-112.
3.   The prominence of the gift paradigm is addressed in Ian Morris, "Gift and Commodity in Archaic Greece," Man 21(1) (Mar., 1986): 1-17.
4.   It is easier to critique someone else than to create something new oneself. With that in mind, my forthcoming book features a new model that overcomes the shortcomings of new institutionalism, see The Olympian Economy: An Alternative to the Market System (Common Ground, 2016).

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Gwendolyn Compton-Engle, Costume in the Comedies of Aristophanes. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. xiv, 198. ISBN 9781107083790. $99.00.

Reviewed by Natalia Tsoumpra, University of Glasgow (

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Recent trends in scholarship reflect the growing interest in aspects of performance both in Greek and Roman contexts. This book makes a most welcome contribution to this field by providing an engaging and insightful analysis of the workings of costume in Aristophanic comedy. The purpose of the book is not to give a systematic analysis of the materiality of comic costume and its use in each of the Αristophanic plays (though in many ways it does that, too); rather, it focuses on costume as a means of empowerment for both the comic (female and male) characters, who compete with one another through costume manipulation, and the comic poet, who often vies for status and asserts comedy's superiority over the rival genre of tragedy through costume. It should be noted that this is the first systematic study of the agonistic nature of costume in Aristophanic comedy. It brings to the fore important relationships between gender, genre and performance, issues that were only briefly addressed or treated circumstantially in previous scholarship.

In Chapter 1, the author offers a comprehensive introduction to her project, explicating her academic precursors and influences as well as her methodology and approach. Most importantly, this chapter introduces the four basic types of costume manipulation which are examined in the subsequent chapters (voluntary stripping, involuntary stripping, addition of clothing or accessories, and costume changes and exchanges). This classification is indeed helpful (although, as the author acknowledges, there is significant overlap and interplay among the four types). However, since the important key to understanding costume dynamics, according to the author, is that of control, I wonder whether the main distinction should have been between voluntary and involuntary changes of costume.

Chapter 2 examines "the comic body as costume" and is particularly laudable for its survey of the visual and material evidence (much of it published subsequent to Stone's study).1 The author rightly notes that we are never allowed to permeate the bottom layer of costume (since no part of the σωμάτιον or mask of an actor is ever removed on stage), but we are nevertheless constantly reminded of its artificiality (as also evidenced by comic art practices, which choose to highlight the fakeness of the body suit). This artificiality, it is argued, moderates the pornographic effect that certain actions might have produced on stage, while the artificiality of the male (nude) comic body in particular refutes the claim that concealment and artificiality are especially associated with women. Moreover, an important observation is made regarding women and (degrees of) artificiality: women in vase painting are not consistently presented with the same degree of artificiality and grotesqueness as male comic characters, but may be rendered more realistically. If this reflects actual stage practice it may mean that attractive women (by contrast to the unattractive ones) were rendered as non-artificial on stage, which of course would have had an impact on the way they were seen and perceived. A more extensive discussion of the debate about the conception of the comic body as anti-civic would be desirable, apart from the rather laconic comment that "there is more in play here than Athenian notions of conduct (un)-becoming a citizen" (p. 26).

Knights and Lysistrata are discussed as case studies in which the comic body performs a number of functions. In Knights, not surprisingly, the male comic body serves as a visual representation of the bodily metaphors which are integral in the play. The discussion of Lysistrata is engaging and informative: the emphasis on the nude male body as patently artificial in this play effectively refutes the claim for the gendering of artificiality as female. What is more, the author convincingly argues for the women's (temporary) control over (male) body costumes, although I am more inclined to see the men's erect phalli as a pathology and a sign of their failure to control their bodies, rather than as the "reclaiming of the comic stage by protuberantly male bodies" (p. 55). Similarly, I would argue that the dressing of the male chorus by the female one effectively signifies the humiliation of men and victory of women, and not the recovery of men's control over an exposed woman's body (p. 56). Lastly, since the author throughout the book draws comparisons with epic with reference to the control of costume/clothing/armour, it would perhaps have been pertinent to mention here examples of women in the world of epic who exert power through clothing and cloth manipulation.

Chapter 3 focuses on the second layer of comic costume, that is the characters' clothes, in Wasps, Assemblywomen and Wealth. It is argued that there is a strong correlation between boots, cloaks and participation in the assembly. Cloaks and shoes do indeed delineate the border between oikos and polis, yet I think the connection between shoes and political participation in the assembly is rather overemphasized. embades and Lakonikai are footwear for the outdoors that all men would have been expected to wear when going out of the house; this covers a much wider range of activities than just assembly or court attendance. When the chorus wonders about Philocleon's failure to appear for jury duty, the loss of his embades is only one of the possible reasons they contemplate among minor house injuries or medical problems due to old age (l. 273–8). Thus, the loss of their shoes is listed among a number of reasons that would prevent someone from going out of the house, not because the shoes are linked to jury duty (as Compton-Engle suggests) but because it would simply be unimaginable to go out of the house without shoes. Moreover, Philocleon's reluctance to wear the Lakonikai shoes later on, because they are the "hateful shoes of the enemy" (l. 1159–60), shows that these two types of footwear cannot be grouped together. Despite this minor quibble, the Wasps section argues well the political and social implications of Philocleon's attempted, but failed, transformation. Philocleon's claimed resemblance to Odysseus is intriguing and offers an alternative model for understanding the relationship between costume and character. The likeness of Philocleon to Odysseus lies, it is argued, mostly in his "utter resistance to any actual change of character", and his final costume is that "of a comic character stripped down to his bodily essence" (p. 73). Here it would perhaps have been useful to touch on issues of genre competition too, and to discuss the role of costume in Philocleon's transformation from what could be seen as a tragic character (an old, sick man) to a purely comic one (especially in the final dancing scene). Finally, the discussion about how costume change in Assemblywomen reflects the socioeconomic themes of the play is insightful and leads to an equally engaging analysis of reversals of socio-economic status and genre rivalry effected through costume change in Wealth.

Chapter 4 ("lightly revised," 165, n. 1, since its first publication in 2003, mostly through the inclusion of a section on the St. Agata vase) deals with disguise, the layers of costume added on top of the comic actor's σκευή, and gender and genre issues in Acharnians, Women at the Thesmophoria and Frogs. As far as gender is concerned, the main argument is that costume mastery correlates with masculinity, costume failure with feminization. This is true for all the male characters, but may be less accurate for the female ones. For instance, the women in Assemblywomen never appear masculinized, but their femininity is retained and repeatedly emphasized when in disguise (and so I do not agree that this play confirms the correlation between control of costume and heightened masculinity, p. 100). The term "costume failure" (used for the piggies and eunuchs in Acharnians, the Proboulos in Lysistrata and the Relative in Women at the Thesmophoria) is rather loosely applied: does it denote a failure to deceive or lack of control or both? At any rate, the Relative's disguise does deceive the women up until the advent of Cleisthenes.

The author also argues that characters who experience costume failure are not only feminized and ridiculed, but also connected with tragedy, while characters who exhibit costume dominance are linked to the comic poet. This is due to comedy's fondness for "correlating tragic parody with failed female disguise" (p. 102). This position is demonstrated well through the examples of Dikaiopolis in Acharnians (where the assimilation of Lamachus at the end of the play to a lame Euripidean hero could be emphasized more), of Agathon, the Relative, and Euripides in Women at the Thesmophoria, and of Dionysus in Frogs. However, the idea also presents some difficulties: Dionysus in Frogs, much like Euripides in Women at the Thesmophoria, has limited success with his disguise, and it does not become very clear why his buffoonery increases at the end of the play. Most importantly, why should we connect Dionysus unequivocally with the world of tragedy? One could argue that Dionysus emerges as the typical male Aristophanic hero, who finally opts for the manly, virile art of Aeschylus and experiences sexual rejuvenation at the end of the play.

Chapter 5 is devoted to choral costumes, which are normally distinguished from the actors' costumes, with the exception of Birds, in which "costume achieves its most spectacular effects by fusing the animal-chorus tradition with the costume- control dynamics that we have seen expressed by successful Aristophanic protagonists" (p. 110). This chapter is extremely well- written and, in my opinion, the best one of the book: it contains valuable information about visual evidence for animal choruses as well as a lucid survey of choral costume in Attic comedy. The section on Birds showcases very effectively that "the wings and beaks that fill the play function not merely as metaphors but as tangible objects on stage that reify the play's imagery, propel the plot's development, and signal the status of the characters" (p. 130). The chapter also brings together all the earlier examined stock elements of costume manipulation in order to explain and elucidate Peisetairus' gradual ascent to power; as such, it provides a most fitting conclusion.

The last chapter, in lieu of a conclusion, looks ahead to costume developments in Middle and New Comedy, and to potential future research on costume in the area of Roman comedy.

All in all, Compton-Engle has produced an important, thought-provoking work, badly missing from scholarship to date. Despite recent work in the field, comic costume remains still a mainly untrodden path, and this book will no doubt impel further discussion and scholarly debate. It is well-written and well-produced, and highly recommended to students and teachers, to specialists of comedy, and to those interested in gender and performance studies.


1.   Stone, L. M. Costume in Aristophanic Comedy. New York: Arno Press, 1981.

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Monday, July 25, 2016


Michele Solitario, Leonidas of Tarentum: Between Cynical Polemic and Poetic Refinement. Quaderni dei Seminari romani di cultura greca, 19. Roma: Edizioni Quasar, 2015. Pp. 110. ISBN 9788871406077. €31.00.

Reviewed by Taylor Coughlan, University of Cincinnati (

Version at BMCR home site

Michele Solitario's Leonidas of Tarentum: between Cynical polemic and poetic refinement, a revised and translated version of the author's tesi di laurea magistrale at La Sapienza – Università di Roma, examines, as his title suggests, the two most well-known aspects of the early Hellenistic epigrammatist's surviving oeuvre, namely his engagement with Cynic thought and use of elaborate diction in epigrams with humble subject matter. Once characterized as a strict adherent of Cynicism and dismissed for his baroque style, Leonidas has emerged in recent literature as an assured and self-conscious poet, who thoughtfully (and sometimes humorously) engaged with contemporary intellectual and cultural concerns and contributed meaningfully to the aesthetics of Hellenistic poetry. Despite these advances in criticism, Solitario believes that significant "preoccupations or simple evaluations" remain concerning Leonidas' Cynical outlook and poetic style, "which have hampered the possibility of capturing the cultural richness contained in his epigrams" (1). While Solitario is correct to stress the need for continued critical study of Leonidas' poetics, starting with a new edition of and commentary on the epigrams, his own contribution is limited by the questions he asks and the approaches he employs.

In addition to a summary introduction, the monograph consists of two chapters and two appendices, followed by a bibliography and three indices.

In Chapter One, "Leonidas on Poverty", Solitario examines the theme of poverty in the epigrams in relation to (a) Cynic writings on the topic and (b) the "poetical" function of the elaborate diction used to articulate this theme. In Leonidas' surviving corpus, the simple life, built on contentment with little and an attitude of self-sufficiency (αὐτάρκεια), is championed. Notable on this account are G-P 75, an epitaph for a certain Crethon whose poverty is positively evaluated in comparison to the excessive greed of the Persian king Gyges, and G-P 33, an appeal by a nameless speaker to another man to trade in a wandering life for retirement in a small wooden hut. Contentment with little has been associated traditionally with the influence of Cynic thought on the poet. Reconstructing a Cynic approach to poverty from anecdotes about Diogenes of Sinope from Diogenes Laertius and fragments of the early Hellenistic Cynic philosopher Bion of Borysthenes, Solitario observes that extreme poverty, not simply self-sufficiency, had a moral value. Pointing to several places in Leonidas' epigrams where poverty (πενία) is described in unwelcome terms or aspects of the Cynic tropos biou are treated with an ironic cast (here especially the two epitaphs for the Cynic Sochares, which Solitario hyperbolically categorizes as "derisive"), Solitario argues that Leonidas cannot be restating or adopting Cynic ideology; rather the sentiment found in these epigrams should be understood as broadly evocative of a general distaste, perhaps grounded in Spartan culture, for luxury. While the abject poverty of Cynic askēsis, as exemplified in the figure of Diogenes, is not paralleled in the surviving epigrams of Leonidas, this should not come as a surprise, since Leonidas is involved in the project of writing poetry not philosophy. Indeed, it has long been recognized that Leonidas is not versifying Cynic precepts, but rather adapting from Cynicism an ethical outlook that champions simplicity. In collecting and discussing the difference between the praise of a litos bios and self-sufficiency in Leonidas' epigrams and the moral valuation of complete self-depravation in Cynic askēsis, Solitario ably reinforces these findings of previous scholarship; however in the process he fashions a straw man, one who would still believe (as Geffcken once did and then later renounced) that Leonidas was a strict follower of Cynicism, which distorts the history of Leonidean studies on the poet's engagement with philosophical discourse.1

Solitario is on stronger footing when he addresses the uncritical dismissal of Leonidas' poetic style, famously his choice to juxtapose elaborate diction with poor or banausic subject matter. While the pronouncements of Wilamowitz and of Gow and Page (cited passim as only "Gow") undoubtedly impacted Leonidas' reception as a mere virtuoso versifier for several generations, in recent decades his stylistic choices have undergone favorable re-evaluation in terms of a Hellenistic penchant for the combination of low and high styles and a fascination with the poor and grotesque. Again, Solitario sidesteps, downplays, or ignores these scholarly developments, in the service of his argument that Leonidas' stylistic choices are integral to the expression of his thoughts on poverty. Solitario focuses his attention on the language Leonidas used to describe a life of self-sufficiency with some success. Among summaries of previous scholarly exegesis, a practice that belies this work's origins and which would have been better relegated to the footnotes, the author offers several valuable new readings of diction. In an epitaph for the elderly subsistence farmer Cleiton (G-P 87), for instance, Solitario nicely observes that the anaphora of the adjective ὀλίγος "stresses the limited dimension of the place where Cleiton spent his long life, emphasizing the contrast between the narrow spatial extension of his surroundings and the extended temporal dimension, which the peasant lived through on his little patch of earth" (25).

Chapter Two, "Leonidas on Work", examines the theme and language of work in a similar fashion to poverty in the preceding chapter. Leonidas wrote a number of epigrams, primarily dedicatory and sepulchral, for members of the lower echelons of Hellenistic society, such as weavers, carpenters, hunters, and fishermen. Previous scholars have associated the preoccupations of his surviving corpus with Cynicism, given its valuation of manual labor and banausic craft. Solitario questions the specific philosophical underpinnings of these epigrams. He begins the chapter with a survey of the epigrams on carpenters, weavers, hunters, and fishermen. This section focuses on the structure and language of the epigrams. Composed almost as a running commentary, Solitario summarizes the content of the epigram and lists the notable features of its diction. Although repetitive in places, he convincingly notes that, in those epigrams that contain lists of dedicated implements, the elaborate adjectives (whether drawn from Homeric antecedents or neologisms) paired with the tools of humble trades are not mere ornamentation, but rather often invite the reader to imagine the now silenced tools in action. In this way he echoes and expands upon the observations of Kathryn Gutzwiller (uncited in this context), who noted of εὐαγέα ("bright") modifying ῥυκάνον ("plane") that the adjective was welcome, contra Gow and Page, if the reader imagines the glint of the plane in movement from the perspective of the artisan.2 In the remaining sections, Solitario again challenges the traditional assumption that Leonidas' interest in the nobility of lower-class craftsmen derives from Cynic influences. Rightfully rejecting Gigante's politicization of craftsmen as figures of social revolt and democratization, 3 Solitario emphasizes that while Cynics, following in the footsteps of Socrates, favorably valued manual labor, they considered hard work only as a step towards attaining virtue. In the epigrams of Leonidas, however, he argues that work has no explicit moral value; rather it was a means of escaping poverty. In place of a strong Cynic influence (Leonidas does not even mirror the same types of craft praised by Diogenes!), Solitario unconvincingly suggests that the cultural context of Leonidas' native Tarentum was the major factor in his preoccupation with the lives of the lower-class.

This final point brings us to the least persuasive aspect of Solitario's approach to the select epigrams of Leonidas he treats: the use of a biographical reading. Throughout, Solitario naively identifies the voice and circumstances in the epigrams under discussion with the historical figure of Leonidas. From a decidedly programmatic self-epitaph (G-P 93), Solitario extrapolates that Leonidas was banished from Tarentum and eventually died in exile abroad after a life of penury and itinerancy. Nowhere does the author acknowledged that there can be a distinction between the historical identity of the poet and the poetic persona(e) he fashions within individual epigrams or across a sequence or collection; indeed, Solitario altogether disregards the impact of generic conventions on the content, structure, and language of the epigrams he discusses. In the case of this self-epitaph, for example, it has been correctly observed that Leonidas is constructing his poetic identity through, in part, comparison to the Greek wanderer par excellence Odysseus. Indeed, the absence of discussion of Odysseus, a Cynic figure, is glaring, especially given Leonidas' knowledge of and engagement with Homeric diction.4

The monograph concludes with two appendices, which are not referenced in the body of the main text. The first appendix, "The concept of τῦφος: a possible Cynic element in Leonidas' poetry", examines in detail the textually compromised G-P 67, on the brevity of life and the necessity of contentment with little. The epigram is often cited as the clearest expression of Cynic thought in Leonidas. τῦφος, often translated as "pride", was a state of mind to be avoided for Cynics, and it is clear how this concept could be related to Leonidas' epigram. Solitario rightly concludes that "Leonidas might have been familiar with the Cynic concept of tuphos", but in celebrating the ability of the Muses to preserve his memory in perpetuity, the poet remains prideful and thus "strips [τῦφος] of its most extreme features." Again, however, we find the Leonidas of a "Cynic cast" (Clayman 2007, 497) argued for in previous scholarship. The second, shorter appendix, "Cynic bios and Pythagorean bios", compares characterizations of Cynics and Pythagoreans in fourth and early third-century BCE literature, particularly Middle Comedy. Similarities reinforce the conclusion that philosophical content and qualities of Leonidas' verse are not strictly Cynic in origin.

In the final analysis, Solitario reconfirms much of what we have perceived to be Leonidas' engagement with contemporary philosophical thought and continues to advance our understanding of his poetic style, but ultimately the monograph is limited by its dedication to biographical readings and a failure to consider the content and style of the epigrams within their wider generic context.

Solitario should be commended for translating his tesi into English, and thus making it available to a wider readership. A few infelicities of usage are present (e.g. "The production of Leonidas", 1; "The Cynics revalued . . . manual work", 70), but none that detract from the overall clarity of expression and argumentation. Typos are relatively few as well.5 Formatting is another issue; quotations both within the main body of the text and the footnotes are inconsistently italicized and there is no standard pattern of translation when citing Greek besides the quotation of epigrams, with some small phrases receiving translation while long passages of prose remain untranslated (e.g. Teles 2.7-8 Fuentes González at p.19 n. 62).


1.   Besides Geffcken (Leonidas von Tarent. Jahrbücher für classische Philologie suppl. 23, Leipzig 1896), who argues that Leonidas' epigrams depict the poet's initiation into Cynicism (which the author later retracted in his RE article [XII.2, 2023]), the major treatments of the topic all recognize that Leonidas is not espousing strict, systematic Cynic thought; see e.g. M. Gigante, L'edera di Leonidea (Naples 1971), 45-55; K. J. Gutzwiller, Poetic Garlands: Hellenistic Epigrams in Context (Berkeley, 1998), 103-8; and D. L. Clayman, "Philosophers and Philosophy in Greek Epigram" in P. Bing and J. S. Bruss (eds.), Brill's Companion to Hellenistic Epigram (Leiden 2007), 509-12.
2.   Gutzwiller 1998 (n. 1), 92 n. 111.
3.   Gigante 1971 (n. 1), 55-66.
4.   On Odysseus as a Cynic hero, see R. Höistadt, Cynic hero and Cynic king (Uppsala, 1948), 97-8; S. Montiglio, Wandering in Ancient Greek Culture (Chicago, 2005), 187-203; and S. Montiglio, From Villain to Hero: Odysseus in Ancient Thought (Ann Arbor, 2011), 29-31 and 66-73. On the Homeric echoes in this particular epigram, see K. J. Gutzwiller, "Catullus and the Garland of Meleager" in I. Du Quesnay and T. Woodman (eds.), Catullus: Poems, Books, Readers (Cambridge, 2012), 105-7, and C. Campbell, "Poets and Poetics in Greek Literary Epigram" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 2014).
5.   See, e.g., "Gigante 1976" for "Gigante 1971" (15 n. 48); "Apart of Weinreich 1938" for "Apart from Weinreich 1938" (15 n. 48); "e" for "and" in "ὀλιγαῦλαξ e ὀλιγόξυλος" (25; see again at 27 n. 93); "he considered it natural asking money" for "he considered it natural to ask for money" (34 n. 121); "the use of refined expression and rare epithets is . . ." (86).

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