Monday, September 19, 2016


Sophie Montel (ed.), La sculpture gréco-romaine en Asie Mineure. Synthèse et recherches récentes. Institut des Sciences et Techniques de l'Antiquité. Besançon: Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2015. Pp. 282. ISBN 9782848675411. €34,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Anja Slawisch, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

This eclectic and welcome collection of essays reflects the outcome of a colloquium that took place in Besançon, France in 2014. The 15 papers assembled here cover a very wide chronological field, with comments on sculpture from the Archaic to the Roman period, albeit predominantly from sites from coastal Asia Minor. The expressed aim of the meeting and this book is to encourage more research on sculpture from Asia Minor. It is true that detailed research on sculpture seemed to fall out of fashion for a while, especially wider and more comprehensive perspectives on the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic eras, but it should also be noted that two large international conferences had dedicated themselves to Roman sculpture from this region during the last 10 years.1

The chronological breadth and diversity of the volume presents a challenge for the reviewer, of course, but equally this means many readers will learn a lot from reading outside their own specialist fields. Individually, each essay provides plenty to think about. It seems equally clear, however, from the brief preface by S. Montel (p. 9–12) and the summarising chapter by N. de Chaisemartin (261–265) that the same diversity of subjects resisted any straightforward synthesis or clear themes. Missing is any kind of linking thread (besides the topic of sculpture) or dialogue between approaches and case-studies. As such the volume more often fulfils the second part of its subtitle (recherches récentes) rather than the first (synthèse), which may disappoint some, but also offers opportunities for future directions.

The volume is divided into three parts: Part I includes so-called overviews, Part II the sculpture in its territory and Part III technical and stylistic studies. While laudable groupings, in practice there is little cohesion or dialogue between essays within each section and for the purpose of this review, the essays are instead discussed in chronological groups.

Archaic sculpture

A. Hermary (p.15–26) offers a re-interpretation of archaic kouroi and korai, by means of three case studies. He emphasises the multi-functionality and hence equivocal nature of these statues and the possibility of drawing opposing meanings depending on the given context. He also argues convincingly against the assumption that korai depicted with a hare held to their breasts are necessarily intended to represent children, and instead prefers to see them as generalised young maidens. He thus rejects the general thesis that the choice of particular motifs could be used as a marker for a very specific age group.

H. Aurigny (27–44) focuses on bronze votives found in Greek sanctuaries, objects assumed to have been made in Asia Minor and other parts of Anatolia during the Archaic period but deposited throughout the Mediterranean world. It becomes very clear that defining the production centre (Anatolian, Phrygian, Ionian, or manufactured by Ionians in the sanctuaries?) for specific objects or types, usually based on style alone, remains extremely difficult and thus a pressing task for current and future research in order to answer questions of reciprocal influences, trade patterns and dedicational preferences.

A. Duplouy (79–101) devotes his essay to sculpture from Lydia during the Archaic period. Examining examples made from a wider range of materials than tends to be studied under the 'sculpture' rubric (including metal, ivory and terracotta), he explores stylistic references and similarities to East Greek workshops. Duplouy's holistic approach to a large variety of artefacts from Sardis effectively reopens the debate on the existence of a Lydian-Ephesian School. He ultimately concludes that these objects are products of an eclectic Lydian taste, inspired and part of a north-Ionian artistic landscape.

The following paper by L. Rohaut (103–122) focuses on Archaic naïskoi from Miletos. She rightly bemoans the lack of published research on artwork from the site, which has led to a disregard of the importance of the city as an artistic centre before 500BC in recent research. Rohaut takes at face value M. Kerschner's preliminary interpretation that the structures on the eastern hilltop of the Milesian Kalabaktepe were once a sanctuary for Artemis Kithone and hence concludes that the two small naïskoi with seated figures which were found in its vicinity were votive offerings for Artemis.

K. Eren (123–136) calls our attention to the fragmentary assemblage of Archaic sculpture from Aphrodisias; sadly all but one piece were found in secondary contexts. Eren presents a range of six lions, which confirm a similar set of stylistic habits to those found at a large number of other places during the period, including Miletos and Didyma. This essay is a useful reminder of our wider ignorance of the function of lion statues in Archaic contexts: most have been interpreted, on rather slim basis, as belonging to either sanctuaries or as having been used as grave markers. A detailed contextual examination of this group of sculpture would be a worthwhile future endeavour.

Hellenistic sculpture

The essay by C. Bruns-Özgan (137–146) focuses on Hellenistic workshops at Knidos and their dependence on the presence of Athenian sculptors, styles and ideas. By means of evidence from inscriptions, she demonstrates that some of Athenian sculptors remained in Knidos and, from the second generation onwards, even adopted Knidian citizenship. She emphasizes that the increasing presence of Athenian sculptors from the end of the 4th century onwards is a result of the Athenian sumptuary laws ascribed to Demetrius of Phalerum. Whether this may have contributed or not, it also worth noting that the process of increasing dependence on Athenian 'artists' in the context of Asia Minor may, however, be traced further back into the 5th century (witnessed, for example in the competition for the creation of the Amazon statues in Ephesos).

Starting from two unfinished statues in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul found in the Aeolian city of Cyme, S. Moureaud (223–238) deals with the technical aspects of copying statues during the 2nd century BC. She convincingly argues that, at this time, Delos can be singled out as a major centre of technical innovations and mass production of marble statues and that the examples found at Cyme should, from the technical point of view, be directly connected with this production. Moureaud encourages further research on unfinished object in order to distinguish territorial differences.

Roman sculpture

A new and refreshing approach to explain the diffusion of sculpture from a city centre to the hinterland is offered by G. Labarre (147–164), based on a set of Roman examples. Based on depictions and inscriptions referring to Herakles in Pisidia during the 2nd and 3rd century AD, he argues that especially the equation of the local god Kakasbos or even assimilation of Kakasbos and Herakles to Herakasbos resulted in a wider acceptance and facilitated the identification of the rural population with the Anatolian interpretation of this god. Closely related is the following contribution by H. Bru (165–176) on stelae from Phrygia and Pisidia of the same period. His careful analyses show the potential for gaining new information on cultural and social identities.

The value of the following essay by E. Laflı and E. Christof (177–206) lies primarily in the presentation and publication of new materials from the museum of Anamur in Cilicia. Even if the original contexts of most monuments remain entirely unclear this is a most welcomed attempt to open the discourse on the production, distribution, function and style of sculpture from the Roman period in this part of the ancient world.

Textual and archaeometric approaches to sculpture

Two further essays stand out from the otherwise near-universal emphasis on stylistic analysis and discussions on sculpture. J.-C. Vincent (59–76) examines text from Pausanias's Travels in which the author mentions Greek statues (especially agalmata and xoana). This intriguing approach aims to understand Pausanias' intentions and the way he uses his references to explain local religious practises, as well the development and dissemination of new techniques. It can only be hoped that the findings can be more closely linked to the archaeological research.

L. Laugier (251–260) presents a summary on the archaeometric analysis of marble objects from Asia Minor in the Louvre. In the course of four years, 89 of 410 sculptures and architectural pieces deriving from Asia Minor were analysed. One major result was the realisation that a Kore from Clazomenai had been falsely assembled with the feet of the 'restored' statue actually being a totally different material. (With hindsight, this result is not surprising, the feet are also stylistically suspect in relation to the rest of the piece). Another wider outcome is the identification of the marble provenance, which offers the opportunity to shed new light on trade and workshop connections within the Aegean.

Lacunae and future directions

Whilst cross-essay dialogue and synthesis of the results remains missing, as a whole the volume offers a helpful way to reflect on the state of the art in the study of sculpture of the Greek and Roman worlds both in Asia Minor and more generally. It is clear that, despite some years of stagnation, stylistic analysis is still a fertile ground for new interpretations and discussion of important questions of 'artistic' circulation. Significant lacunae are present, however. One serious elephant in the room (or rather not in the room) is the lack of contributions on Classical sculpture: this may or may not reflect a real dearth of material from the record of Asia Minor, but the fact that this is rarely discussed suggests, from this reviewer's own perspective and particular interest in the 5th century, so far we have simply ignored the problem rather than engage head on with questions of regional continuity/discontinuity or of cross-regional rise and fall of artistic centres and their causes. Significantly, stylistic analysis too often remains divorced from archaeological contexts (and, indeed, textual histories): most discussions still revolve around pieces that cannot be linked to others except by 'style', which tends to result in stale or circular arguments. The archaeometric piece by Laugier offers a way out for those pieces where context has been lost, but we should also encourage a greater deal of cross-material assemblages for recent and future excavations. It is further interesting to note from the cited works in each essay that clear 'schools' of the study of sculpture, which broadly follow national boundaries, suggesting the imperative for translation and dialogue (or more open research). Finally, it occasionally feels like ancient sculpture is studied simply for itself ('art for art's sake'): various contributions to this volume offer terse hints, but it would be more satisfying if the wider consequences of the results for the social world of Asia Minor was examined more directly.

The relatively impressive timeliness of this volume (only two years from workshop to publication) is occasionally reflected in various minor imperfections of production: the quality of images is very variable, there are numerous spelling errors and inconsistences of ordering titles by the same author in the bibliography. Additionally, the summary section (267–272) with abstracts for each contribution in English and French does not always match closely the final essays themselves, attesting to the haste.

Nonetheless, this volume represents an optimistic catalyst for further research into sculpture from Asia Minor. Most usefully, new material has been published. This book will definitely be of great interest to classical archaeologists with an interest on sculpture in other parts of the ancient world. For advanced students and researchers interested in on of the aspects directly addressed here, it will also give a welcome starting point and helpful set of bibliographic links.

Authors and Titles

1. Avant-propos / Sophie Montel
2. Kouroi et korai de Grèce de l'Est: questions d'interprétation / Antoine Hermary
3. Les bronzes d'Asie Mineure dans les sanctuaires grecs hellénistique / Hélène Aurigny
4. Sculpture funéraire et statuaire publique à la basse époque hellénistique / Martin Szewczyk
5. Les statues d'Asie Mineure dans l'œuvre de Pausanias: héritages religieux, description des techniques et particularités locales / Jean-Christophe Vincent
6. Observations sur la plastique archaïque lydienne / Alain Duplouy
7. Les naïskoi archaïque de Milet / Laura Rohaut
8. La sculpture archaïque d'Aphrodisias / Kenan Eren
9. Hellenistic Sculpture and Workshophs of Knidos / Christine Bruns-Özgan
10. Réflexion sur la diffusion de la sculpture d'Héraclès en Pisidie aux IIe-IIIe siècles après J.-C. / Guy Labarre
11. Identités culturelles et conformisme social: sur quelques stèles de Phrygie et de Pisidie septentrionale / Hadrien Bru
12. Römische Skulpturen im Museum von Anamur in Kilikien / Ergün Laflı - Eva Christof
13. La tradition de la scultpure parienne en Asie Mineure / Francis Prost
14. Diffusion des technique sculpturales dans l'espace hellénistique. Intérêt des appréciations techniques pour y répondre / Séverine Moureaud
15. Remarques sur l'ornementation en Lycie à l'époque hellénistique / Laurence Cavalier
16. Marbres d'Asie Mineure dans les collections grecques du Louvre: résultat des analyses récentes / Ludovic Laugier
17. Conclusion / Nathalie de Chaisemartin


1.   Francesco D'Andria, Ilaria Romeo (eds.), Roman Sculpture in Asia Minor: Proceedings of the International Conference to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Italian Excavations at Hierapolis in Phrygia, Held on May 24-26, 2007, in Cavallino (Lecce), Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2011; M. Aurenhammer (ed.), Sculpture in Roman Asia. Proceedings of the International Conference at Selçuk 2013 (to be published in 2016 or 2017).

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