Monday, October 31, 2016


Susanne Pilhofer, Romanisierung in Kilikien?: das Zeugnis der Inschriften. 2., erweiterte Auflage. Quellen und Forschungen zur antiken Welt, 60. München: Herbert Utz Verlag, 2015. Pp. xv, 324. ISBN 9783831643677. €34.00 (pb).

Reviewed by George Watson, Goethe Universität (

Version at BMCR home site

The work under review here is the second edition of a book that originally appeared in 2006. Given that of the first edition was an expanded version of a Master's thesis, the initial work for which had to be completed in only four months, it is in many respects an odd choice for re-publication.1 However, as the author notes in her preface to the new edition, much new research has been undertaken in Cilicia in the intervening ten years, which has revealed interesting new material and necessitated the updating and revision of the book. That said, the text remains largely unchanged (the text of the first edition is available here): only three new footnotes have been added. Aside from the new afterword, the only significant change to the body of the work is the addition of twenty-six new names to the conspectus of Romans known from the region of Cilicia.

The new edition is divided into three sections. The first is a discussion of the book's main theme, namely the impact of Rome upon Cilicia, a region on the south coast of Asia Minor stretching from the gulf of Antalya in the West to the border with Syria in the East.2 This section briefly lays out various theories of Romanization and describes the evidence available in Cilicia, before exploring various themes and case-studies. The second section is a catalogue of fifty inscriptions relating to Roman involvement in Cilicia, with accompanying German translations and commentary, followed by lists of Roman citizens known from the region. The final section is entirely new to the second edition, an afterword by Philipp Pilhofer surveying developments in Cilicia in the last ten years, with updated bibliography.

The heart of the book is the catalogue of inscriptions. By giving an overview of the relevant epigraphic evidence, which has hitherto been published in widely dispersed locations, Pilhofer provides a useful service to future scholars. Indeed, the only previous general collection of Cilician inscriptions, the Repertorium der westkilikischen Inschriften, needs to be used with great care, and Pilhofer gives a good overview of some of that work's pitfalls (pp. 22-4). Many of the inscriptions have been examined by the author in person, and her commentary will be a useful aid to those approaching this material for the first time. It is only to be regretted that nowhere does the author make clear her criteria for selecting these fifty inscriptions. Also included in the second section are lists of all Roman citizens, soldiers and veterans known from Cilicia. These lists too are a good starting point for exploring Roman involvement in the region.

Pilhofer is clearly at her most comfortable with the epigraphic material and her best moments come when discussing individual texts. She has some particularly good insights into bilingual inscriptions and, for example, her discussion of an honorary inscription for a C. Herennius Maximus at Syedra (pp. 58-9) contextualises the inscription well next to other bilingual epigraphic texts.

The book's great weakness, however, is its lack of theoretical engagement, and this is evident throughout the first, analytical, section. This under-theorisation can be broken down into three separate categories.

The first encompasses issues surrounding the concept of Romanization in general. Whilst Pilhofer does give an overview of some of the main scholarly contributions to the Romanization debate, and is aware of the limitations of the term, five pages scarcely seem adequate to do justice to the quantity and complexity of previous theories. In general, she seems most attracted to the propositions of Leonard Curchin and Greg Woolf, though states at one point that she intends to take no theoretical position, but simply to let the evidence speak for itself (p. 13). This is a fallacious position, and the contribution of theory to this topic deserves to be more fully expounded and utilised. Here in particular it is disappointing that the revised edition was not taken as an opportunity to engage with some more recent contributions to this debate.3

The second area of concern about the book's theoretical underpinning is its reliance on epigraphic sources. Whilst a summary is given of the literary sources which tell us about Roman attitudes to Cilicians (pp. 25-32), and archaeological and numismatic material is occasionally brought forward, all of the fundamental argumentation is based on inscriptions. Such specialisation is in many respects understandable, since we cannot expect everybody to master all sub-disciplines of the field, but it does of course create an inherent bias. The focus on the elite necessitated by the material is noted by the author, but she seems entirely unaware of alternative approaches. At the start (pp. 6-7) she writes off the possible contribution of material culture with a hypothetical example: a Cilician who eats from terra sigillata does not necessarily feel any more Roman than a neighbour who only owns objects produced by a local potter. The simplification is unhelpful and restrictive, and could easily be posed the other way around: is a man with the tria nomina, but otherwise living his life according to 'indigenous' customs, really any more Roman than a man who is not a citizen but has adopted Roman customs? Particularly for students who might be exploring these issues for the first time, it is disingenuous to suggest that archaeological evidence has no role in these debates, especially when the increasing archaeological work in Cilicia is beginning to provide the sort of material which can be used to address such questions of identity.4

My third comment on the book's theoretical basis concerns its relation to the question of Romanization in the eastern provinces. Pilhofer again deals with this complicated subject in only a short space (pp. 14-16), but concludes that Cilicia can in fact be treated like a western province because it was only very little Hellenized before the arrival of the Romans. This of course ignores what she herself makes clear later in the book, that Greek was widely spoken there from at least the time of Alexander, and many cities had agorai, bouleuteria and other trappings of the Greek polis. A great opportunity for discussion has thus been passed over: to what extent did the Romans aid the spread of Hellenic culture? To what extent was to be Roman also to be Greek? Pilhofer's observation that the use of Latin script and the proliferation of Roman names do not really begin in Cilicia until the mid-second century AD suggests that the two processes were not quite as intertwined is sometimes assumed.

Discussions of identity are never clear cut, especially in a region such as Cilicia where the evidence is patchy at best, and this is what makes a clear theoretical grounding so essential. Without it, this book relies far too heavily on surmise and over- simplification. We are told, for example, that the visits of various emperors in the second and third century must have been a trigger for Romanization (p. 41), that Luwian was almost certainly spoken in everyday life into the imperial period (p. 56) and that not only was a certain Toues who recorded his name in an inscription at Laertes not a Roman citizen, but he also attached no importance to being one (p. 93). Such suppositions are rife throughout the book.

The final section of the book, the afterword by Philipp Pilhofer, begins with an overview of some of the problems facing archaeologists today in Cilicia, and draws particular attention to the plight of ancient sites destroyed to make way for infrastructure projects, or looted by tomb robbers. Despite these issues, much interesting work is going on, and the progress of the last ten years is summarised here. It is to be regretted that the additional bibliography is presented as a separate list and not integrated with that of the original edition, meaning that the authors' intention (p. vi) to provide an overview of research on Cilicia is somewhat hampered. There follows a brief discussion of questions which remain to be explored and a glance forward to late antiquity.

One of the desiderata mentioned in the afterword is for monographs exploring the region of Cilicia as a whole, and not just focused on individual sites. Indeed, it is true that the discipline needs books with titles such as the one under review here. The issue of Romanization in the eastern provinces is severely under-explored, but such works must engage with the relevant theoretical debates in order to be useful, even to newcomers to the topic. It is a shame that the opportunity of a second edition was not seized upon to really update this work and make it into a book that would have stimulated discussion in this important field.


1.   Elements suggesting the book's origins in a Master's thesis were noted by a reviewer of the first edition: Tomaschitz, K. (2006) 'Rezension von: Susanne Pilhofer: Romanisierung in Kilikien? Das Zeugnis der Inschriften, München: Herbert Utz Verlag 2006' sehepunkte 6 nr. 9 [15.09.2006], URL:
2.   Pilhofer uses Cilicia to refer to the ethnographic unit, rather than the Roman province, whose boundaries changed during various provincial re- organisations.
3.   Many of these are listed in the afterword, but not engaged with by the text.
4.   See, for example, Rauh, N.K., R.F. Townsend, M.C. Hoff, M. Dillon, M.W. Doyle, C.A. Ward, R.M. Rothaus, H. Caner, Ü. Akkemik, L.Wandsnider, F.S. Ozaner & C.D. Dore (2009) 'Life in the Truck Lane: Urban development in Western Rough Cilicia', JÖAI 78, pp. 253–312.

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