Monday, October 31, 2016


Rachel Mairs, Maya Muratov, Archaeologists, Tourists, Interpreters: Exploring Egypt and the Near East in the Late 19th-Early 20th Centuries. Bloomsbury Egyptology. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. Pp. 147. ISBN 9781472588807. £20.00. ISBN 9781472588821. ebook.

Reviewed by James Fraser, Project Curator for the Levant, The British Museum (

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Anglo-American experiences in Egypt and the Near East have been a popular subject in post-colonial studies since Edward Said published his seminal work Orientalism in 1978. Little attention, however, has been given to the "dragomen" that were often employed as interpreters and guides. These local men (and it was invariably men) were a conduit through which early travellers experienced the Orient and interpreted what they saw. In this well-written and good-humoured book, Mairs and Muratov examine the relationship between dragoman and client, and investigate the ways in which dragomen both reinforced and confronted Western perceptions of the East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Although voiceless in the recorded history of the region, dragomen survive in the letters and memoirs of the clients they served, where they were often reduced to caricatures such as the wily rascal or self-important buffoon. This book is motivated by biographical research into two dragomen whose voices have, by chance or good fortune, resonated louder than most. Drawing on a scrapbook of 80 client testimonials discovered on e-bay, Mairs examines the relationship between Solomon Negima and his clients who toured the Holy Land in 1885-1933. In contrast, Muratov overviews the well-recorded career of Daniel Z. Noorian, who guided the Wolfe Expedition through Mesopotamia in 1884, and who worked as foreman to the University of Pennsylvania's excavations at Nippur between 1888-1890. The book is fundamentally structured on these two figures, and indeed might have been called "A Tale of Two Dragomans", as the authors remark (p.6). The result is two distinct studies that are individually strong, but together feel like two books in one.

Building towards the Negima case-study, Chapters 1 and 2 investigate the role of dragoman as tourist-guide by drawing on an impressive comparanda of sources including memoirs, cartoons, letters, guidebooks, testimonials and postcards. The dragoman is explored as a cultural arbiter, who selectively interpreted aspects of his own culture to negotiate the distance between his clients' romanticized image of the Orient, and the realities that they found. The underlying tension in this relationship concerned a perceived inversion of rank. Pilgrims reading The Church Weekly in 1898, for example, were cautioned against the dragoman who "glories in the joy of having a white man under his thumb, and asserts his power in a hundred ways" (p. 20). The authors successfully identify recurrent themes of status and honesty, in which a 'good' dragoman is one who knows his place in the colonial order, and an 'honest' dragoman is one who does not exploit his elevated role.

These chapters expose as trite the image of the banal or boorish traveller, as successfully as they do the stereotypical descriptions of their guides. The banal tourist was, of course, a well-recognized cliché at the time: hackneyed memoirs of countless journeys through Egypt and the Levant had come to define a new (and often turgid) genre of travel writing. Accounts such as Four Months on a Dahabëeh by Miss M. L. M. Carey (1863) provided a rich satirical vein for humourists such as Thackeray and Twain, although one reviewer for the Spectator had enough, describing the Nile as a river "as familiar as the Thames", and Miss Carey's book as one which "ought to exist, but in manuscript only".

Yet it is clear, from the range of examples cited, that dragomen were as ethnically diverse as the clients they guided. Reflecting the cosmopolitan world of the east Mediterranean under Ottoman control, dragomen were Arab, Turkish, Circassian, Armenian, Italian and Greek. Did travellers relate differently to dragomen from particular ethnic backgrounds? And did dragomen change their behaviour when guiding tourists from America, Europe, Britain or its Dominions? These questions are best explored through the finer-grained lens of a case-study, and in this respect Chapters 1 and 2 neatly lay the foundations for Chapter 6, which examines the dragoman-client relationship using the testimonial book of Solomon Negima. Mairs convincingly depicts Negima through the eyes of his clients as a demure yet resolute man who took his responsibilities seriously. Additional travel writings also help articulate the distance between client and guide. While Miss Ellen E. Miller provided only a two-line testimonial praising Negima's "honesty, straight-forwardness & general good conduct" (p.120), she chided his timorousness more fully in her memoir Alone in Syria (1891). As Mairs suggests, Miller was probably naïve of the dangers from which she had been sheltered, or of the damage to Negima's livelihood should misadventure occur.

I wonder just how 'typical' a lens Negima provides for examining the post-colonial themes developed in Chapter 2. Negima was born a Syrian Roman Catholic, was educated in a German Protestant Mission, and had joined the British Army as a young man; he even served in the famous Relief Expedition sent to rescue General Gordon at Khartoum. His clients valued this background, and Negima certainly used it to his advantage. These experiences likely made him more effective at navigating his clients' colonial expectations than most of his contemporaries, and they probably underlay his success. Yet this apparent singularity is, perhaps, the case-study's greatest value, as it confounds the notion that a 'typical' dragoman ever existed.

Despite its neat segue to Chapter 6, Chapter 2 is followed by three chapters that explore the relationship between early archaeologists and the interpreters and foreman they employed, including the case-study of Daniel Z. Noorian. We can assume a very different relationship between foreman and archaeologist than between dragoman and client. Archaeologists had at least a basic knowledge of local culture and language, and they employed foremen for very different tasks, including the management of large excavation teams. While foremen still influenced the experiences of the archaeologists they served, the inherent colonial tensions between tourist and guide so well described in Chapter 2 were perhaps manifest in different ways. It is therefore disappointing that these chapters all but abandon these post-colonial themes.

Chapter 3 briefly overviews the archaeological careers of Petrie, Lawrence, Woolley and Mallowan, as well as Agatha Christie, Mallowan's wife. Although the chapter promises to approach this well-trodden ground from the unique perspective of their foremen, it essentially distils to a discussion of how much Arabic or Turkish each archaeologist spoke. A particular oversight is the absence of Sheikh Hamoudi Ibn Ibrahim, foreman to the British Museum's excavations at Carchemish, and later to Woolley's excavations at Ur. Upon hearing of the death of Lawrence, Hamoudi is reported to have said, "it is as if I had lost a son".1 Woolley considered Hamoudi a life-long friend, writing that "too much could not be said" of his remarkable field skills or his ability to manage his men,2 and Katherine Woolley cast his likeness in bronze. 3 Hamoudi left a strong footprint in the historiography of the period, and it seems a lost opportunity, in a book such as this, to overlook the relationship between this celebrated foreman and some of the most influential archaeological figures of the time. The single-line reference to Hamoudi as guide for Mallowan and Christie's tour of Syria in 1932 (p.66) reflects, perhaps, an over-reliance on Mallowan's autobiography, particularly concerning the discussion of Woolley at Ur.

Chapter 4 describes the role of Daniel Z. Noorian as interpreter to the Wolfe Expedition (1884) and as foreman at Nippur (1888-1890), while Chapter 5 overviews Noorian's subsequent career as antiquities dealer in New Jersey. These chapters present a comprehensively researched biography of a fascinating man. However, Noorian's visibility in the historic record, including in American newspapers, reflects his unusual position as foreman at the time, at least compared to foremen such as Hamoudi. An auburn-haired Armenian Christian from Sirt, Noorian had been schooled at Rutgers Preparatory School in New Jersey before he joined the Nippur team, and he returned to the US to become a naturalized citizen, eventually marrying into an established Anglo-American family.

Given this background, Noorian was likely placed in an unusual position as foreman at Nippur in respect to both his American employers and to the workmen under his command. These relationships provide fertile ground on which to explore the post-colonial themes outlined in Chapter 2, and Muratov demonstrates the high esteem in which Noorian was held by listing the range of tasks that his employers entrusted him to perform. However, the chapter refrains from exploring the potentially more interesting relationship between Noorian and the labour-force. Noorian's habit of carrying a light chain into the trenches to encourage flagging basket-carriers (p. 87) suggests that this relationship exaggerated, in some way, a perceived colonial relationship between the archaeologists and Noorian himself. The fact that the first campaign ended prematurely after dissatisfied workers burned the expedition camp to the ground suggests that Noorian's tenure as foreman had not been a success—an inference borne out by his resignation letter in which he claimed he was in fear for his life. Although he returned to Nippur for the second campaign, Noorian's contract was not renewed thereafter. Muratov is not convinced by the suggestion, which emerged in the infamous Hilprecht-Peters controversy, that his role was terminated partly because he had demanded baksheesh from the workers he oversaw.

While the book presents a fresh and inclusive social history of formative archaeological work and, especially, early tourism in Egypt and the Near East, its greatest strength ultimately lies in the detailed biographies of its two key protagonists. In this respect, however, it is already partly overshadowed by Mairs' definitive biography of Solomon Negima that Bloomsbury Academic published very shortly after,4 and presumably Muratov will publish an extended study of Daniel Z. Noorian in due course. One cannot help but feel that this slim volume would have a more lasting impact if it had developed further its post-colonial themes, particularly concerning the role of local foremen in shaping early archaeological field-work. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating book that finds a ready place alongside post-colonial studies such as Stephen Quirke's seminal research into Petrie's Egyptian workforce through the archives at the Petrie Museum,5 or the many volumes published by the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East.


1.   Bolton, K., "Forward" to T. E. Lawrence Seven Pillars of Wisdom. London: Black House Publishing. 2013. p.8.
2.   Woolley, C. L., Ur Excavations. Volume II: The Royal Cemetery. A Report on the Predynastic and Sargonid Graves Excavated Between 1926 and 1931. New York: Publications of the Joint Expedition of the British Museum and the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania to Mesopotamia. 1934. p.8.
3.   McCall, H., "Sheikh Hamoudi Ibn Ibrahim", Ur Online,
4.   Mairs, R. From Khartoum to Jerusalem: the Dragoman Solomon Negima and his Clients (1885-1933) . Bloomsbury Academic: London. 2016.
5.   Quirke, S., Hidden Hands: Egyptian Workforces in Petrie Excavation Archives 1880-1924. London: Duckworth. 2010.

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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 (

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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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Emily Allen-Hornblower, From Agent to Spectator: Witnessing the Aftermath in Ancient Greek Epic and Tragedy. Trends in Classics—Supplementary Volumes, 30. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. Pp. viii, 336. ISBN 9783110439069. $112.00.

Reviewed by Kirk Ormand, Oberlin College (

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This is a splendid book.1 Emily Allen-Hornblower has written a lucid study of a particular narrative situation in the Iliad and Greek tragedy (especially Sophocles) that is clearly and carefully focused. Within the limits defined by her method, moreover, the study presents broad, compelling interpretations of several works, articulating in new terms the way that those works create psychologically coherent characters and manipulate the audience's sympathies towards those characters.

The notion of an internal audience is one that has been familiar to scholars in the field for some decades now, particularly when dealing with dramatic genres; the dual role of the chorus as both a (collective) character and an internal audience for the events on stage has received important attention recently.2 While Allen-Hornblower is familiar with this recent work, her focus is more specialized: she analyzes the development of those main characters who, in the course of a work, reflect back on their own actions. Her method is, then, narratological: she is concerned with the way that the characters' self-assessment directs and manipulates the external audience's reading, both of events and of the characters. But at the same time, Allen-Hornblower's interests are fundamentally humanist. These moments of self-reflection become, for Allen-Hornblower, a key to understanding the character's motivations, flaws, and emotional makeup, often with a view towards human helplessness in the face of traumatic events.

The following summary touches only on the main points of Allen-Hornblower's argument; along the way, she brings in numerous other texts and passages as comparanda, which I pass over in the interests of space. In the first of four long chapters, Allen-Hornblower treats the curious case of the death of Patroclus. Allen-Hornblower argues effectively for seeing this episode as unique: in every other death of a major character in the Iliad we not only witness the death, but we witness an onlooker witnessing the death, either a human companion or, in some important cases, a sympathetic divinity. The experience of these onlookers is key, in that they express regret over their inability to save the falling hero, thereby creating an additional level of pathos for the reader (or listener). In Patroclus' death alone, the hero dies alone; no divinity debates whether or not to save him and, of particular significance, Achilles is deliberately not there, and does not see his companion die. Allen-Hornblower builds this case carefully and elegantly, with numerous comparisons. From there, the argument takes a somewhat more speculative direction: building on the earlier work of Mueller and Martin,3 Allen-Hornblower suggests that the famous apostrophes to Patroclus (in the voice of the narrator) echo Achilles' concerns, and become a kind of representative of Achilles' absent observation. This is tricky: Allen-Hornblower would have the narrator's voice both call to mind Achilles as an observer, and underscore the fact that he is not there to observe (esp. 78). Not every reader will be convinced by this reading, but Allen-Hornblower provides, in any case, a compelling explication of the way that a significant shift from the usual pattern evokes the audience's sympathy for the hero in this most notable of deaths.

Turning next to Sophocles' Trachiniae, Allen-Hornblower demonstrates the ways in which this play makes Deianeira, almost obsessively, a watcher of her own actions and their consequences. She not only narrates moments from her life before the play, she observes the arrival of Iole and reflects on what this will mean for her in Heracles' household; after she has sent the poisoned robe to Heracles, she sees the tuft of wool that she used to anoint the robe dissolve, allowing her to see in advance, as it were, what will happen to Heracles; in hearing Hyllus' narrative of his father's death, she observes the event again, while the external audience watches her for a reaction that never quite comes. Deianeira is the agent-turned-spectator par excellence. The point of this repeated narrative circumstance, for Allen-Hornblower, is one that largely lines up with the humanist readings of a previous generation: Deianeira is exemplary of the theme of "late learning," articulated so effectively by Whitman.4 But more than that, Allen-Hornblower sees Deianeira as entirely innocent of evil intent: her actions are without exception well-intentioned and her sympathy for Iole (among others) make her profoundly sympathetic to the external audience. ("Her character is deeply compassionate, reasonable, and moderate," 101.) At only one point does Deianeira slip, and here Allen-Hornblower's analysis is particularly incisive: at 582–3 Deianeira, about to put her disastrous plan into action, states explicitly, "May I not know about bold crimes, and may I not learn about them; I hate the women who dare them." As Allen-Hornblower argues, Deianeira's wish for ignorance here is a form of declared innocence, but even so "the wish not to know is uncharacteristic; it reeks of wishful thinking and weak resolution," (122, emphasis in original).

Allen-Hornblower next turns her attention to a specific narrative situation in tragedy, those moments when a character who has murdered another becomes the "messenger" who relays the narrative of that event. After discussing Clytmnestra's murder of Agamemnon in Aeschylus, this third chapter focuses specifically on the three "Electra plays," and engages in an enlightening discussion of Orestes' and Electra's willingness—or failure—to become spectators of their own murder of Clytemnestra. In both Aeschylus' Choephoroi and Sophocles' Electra, Allen-Hornblower shows that the characters go to some lengths to avoid looking at the body of their mother, and their narratives of the event remain centered on the political situation. In Euripides' version, by contrast, the siblings return with obsessive attention to the body of their mother (figured as such, rather than in political terms), and it is this act of observation that results in their psychological crisis as they recount the murder. The distinction that Allen-Hornblower draws here builds on established interpretations, but the emphasis on Orestes and Electra as self-aware spectators brings Euripides' psychological drama into sharp focus.

A chapter on Sophocles' Philoctetes rounds out the book. Here again, Allen-Hornblower's analysis tends to confirm what earlier readings of the play have contended: that the drama presents us with a story of the moral development of Neoptolemos, who learns nobility and honor through his sympathy for Philoctetes. What is new about Allen-Hornblower's reading is, again, the emphasis on Neoptolemos' close observation of the elder hero's agonies. Odysseus, who in this play rarely strikes readers as sympathetic, is notable in that he "…never looks upon Philoctetes' suffering directly," (279). The book closes with a brief meditation on the extra-textual future for Neoptolemos, and the likely understanding that he will go on to murder Priam, a suppliant on the altar of Zeus; here, Allen-Hornblower argues, "Sophocles reminds his audience of how easily a man can lose sight of the humanity of others when caught up in the heat of action and the pleasure of victory" (310).

A few words are in order about Allen-Hornblower's general approach. As I have mentioned, the book is informed by a humanist outlook that hearkens back to the work of Whitman, Knox, Winnington-Ingram, Dodds, and numerous other scholars (many of whom are generously cited). We read, e.g., that "Every one of Deinaeira's interactions…is exemplary for its profound humanity" (107); "Only then…do [Orestes and Electra] grasp the full moral and human cost of having avenged their father" (245); "The status of helpless observer…is…a poetic instantiation of the very nature of the human condition" (248). That is to say that this is a profound, literary reading; Allen-Hornblower is not concerned, for the most part, with the kinds of political and social-historical readings of tragedy that have characterized much work from the last twenty years or so. For Allen-Hornblower, the humanity that these characters and scenes exemplify is a condition of helplessness—of watching a person (or fictional character) undergo tragic circumstances, and being unable to change those circumstances. To be sure, it is refreshing to read a work that deals seriously and empathetically with the large issues raised by these texts. Even so, it is perhaps worth pointing out that this notion of the human condition is one that these texts (i.e. the Iliad and Greek tragedies) have fostered. If we find Deianeira an exemplar of the human condition, it is in part because in the West we have defined the human condition through the act of reading the tragedies of Sophocles, and taking them to be essential.

Finally, some readers might be surprised to find that Allen-Hornblower does not provide a comprehensive theory of the relation between the internal spectators and the external audience. Allen-Hornblower states specifically that she will not focus on that dynamic, though it does come up frequently in the course of particular interpretations (4). Rather, her concern is with the different poetic effects that the ancient authors produce by rendering major characters spectators of their own actions. Allen-Hornblower correctly notes that these effects are many and varied: our response to Deianeira's self-observation is, and should be, different from our reaction to Clytemnestra's narration of killing her husband. The strength of Allen-Hornblower's reading, then, is that she treats each act of self-reflection in context, rather than attempting to force each internal spectator into a prescribed model of interpretation.

In sum, Allen-Hornblower has produced a perceptive and cogent reading, one that takes on the fundamental problems of meaning produced by these texts. She demonstrates in new ways the mechanisms of spectatorship though which Homer and the tragedians evoke a range of emotional and ethical responses to the performance and observation of terrible events. She does so, moreover, in style that is admirable for its clarity and elegance of expression.

The book has been carefully produced and edited. I have only two quibbles: first, a separate index locorum would have been of considerable help to scholars, though mentions of ancient works are listed in the general index. And second, the publisher has made the odd choice of having footnotes numbered consecutively, rather than restarting at 1 with each chapter; by the time we reach n. 825, this seems unnecessarily cumbersome. This curious procedure should, one presumes, be attributed to the Press, and not the author.


1.   Full disclosure: I have had several friendly conversations with Allen-Hornblower at conferences, and am thanked in the acknowledgements to this book.
2.   See, e.g. Gagné, R. and M. Hoppman (eds.), Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy, (Cambridge, 2013); Kitzinger, R., The Choruses of Sophokles' Antigone and Philoktetes: A Dance of Words (Boston, 2008).
3.   Martin, R., The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance in the Iliad (Ithaca, NY, 1989); Mueller, M., The Iliad (London, 1984).
4.   Whitman, C., Sophocles: A Study in Heroic Humanism (Cambridge, MA, 1951).

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Adam T. Smith, The Political Machine: Assembling Sovereignty in the Bronze Age Caucasus. The Rostovtzeff Lectures. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015. Pp. xv, 242. ISBN 9780691163239. $39.50.

Reviewed by Geoffrey D. Summers, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago (

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Both size and format of the book under review reflect its origins in the four Rostovtzeff Lectures that its author, Adam T. Smith, presented at New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in April 2013. A combination of political theory, material objects and assemblages at the core of archaeology, and a testing bed for explanations in the Caucasus could hardly have been a more fitting subject; Rostovtzeff himself would surely have approved. It should be said at the outset that this is a book focussed on archaeological theory rather than on the archaeology of the Caucasus. The objectives are clearly set out in a 23-page introduction entitled "Reverse Engineering the Polity". The rest of the book is divided into two equal parts. "Part I: The Machinery of Sovereignty" comprises two chapters, "On Assemblages and Machines", and "On the Matter of Sovereignty". These, as the chapter titles indicate, are mostly concerned with theory of things and assemblages and their relationships to the political. "Part II: Assembling Sovereignty" attempts to employ the theoretical ideas explored in Part I in seeking explanations for major stages of cultural and socio-political development in the Bronze age Caucasus as defined by analysis and interpretation of archaeological evidence, with a chapter devoted to each of the Early, Middle, and Late, Caucasian Bronze Ages. Part II ends with a concluding chapter, followed by a bibliography and an index.

On p. ix it is stated that a "central contention of the book is that this work of socio-political reproduction is accomplished in large measure by the operation of material assemblages, what I will call machines", and a couple of pages later Smith poses his central question "What role do material assemblages play in binding political associations, in reproducing the attachments of subjects and sovereigns?" At the end of the first chapter we are given definitions of three terms that recur throughout: sensibility, "the physicality of things"; sense, "a domain of evocation, of signification, where assemblages work to (re) define value"; and sentiment, "the imagined capacity of things". Central to the second chapter is the question "How can we reinsert things into the body politic?" Philosophical engagement from Prometheus to Ian Hodder is invoked to support the importance placed on things and assemblages in reaching understanding of sovereignty and the political, with apposite examples drawn exclusively from Western Civilization ancient, medieval and modern.

The target audience is one primarily made up of American graduates and academics, that is, the sort of people who would themselves have attended the Rostovtzeff lectures. Written in an engaging style, many of the examples chosen to support the emphasis placed on things and assemblages, such as Barack Obama and the lapel flag pin (of which much is made on pages 1-4) that is seen as "a singular instantiation of a spatially and historically complex material assemblage", or the legal and ethical issues surrounding robotic weapons systems, are surely intended to make archaeology relevant to current affairs. It seems to this reviewer that there little of help to students of the Caucasian Bronze Age to be found here.

The theories of things and assemblages propounded in this book make a welcome addition to the growing interest in archaeological and anthropological materiality. What is new in the work under review is an emphasis on assemblages in explanations of political continuity (rather than cultural change). Central to the arguments is the role of these things and assemblages socio-political replication through the long duration of each stage of the Caucasian Bronze Age. Smith himself has elsewhere written about other factors, not the least of which are environment and landscape, but objects or things, alone or as parts of assemblages, are here given priority. In the second part of this work the three divisions of the Bronze Age in the Caucasus, which make up a large part of Smith's own ongoing archaeological fieldwork, are employed as case studies. It is necessary, therefore, to assess how well application of the theories holds up against the evidence. Here there are undoubtedly problems. Some of these, which can only be touched upon in this review, stem from the origins and aims of a book that of necessity restricts accounts of the archaeological evidence in both geographical extent and depth.

The third chapter, "The Civilization Machine in the Early Bronze Age", is concerned with the Kura-Araxes culture, also known as the Early Trans-Caucasian, which lasted for more than 1500 years and, at its greatest extent, stretched from the Caucasus to the Levant and from the Upper Euphrates River to the shores of the Caspian Sea. Readers wishing to learn more about this extraordinary phenomenon are referred to the collection of papers in Paléorient 40.2 (2014), which is devoted to Kura-Araxes studies.1 The most striking aspect of Kura-Araxes is, as Smith correctly emphasises, its conservativeness and homogeneity over time and space. Smith is concerned with explaining this through the study of assemblages of things that range from architecture to symbolic designs on ceramics. Much that has been written about this topic in the past has focussed on both the origins of the culture, a subject about which there is not yet full consensus, and on the role of migration in explaining its spread. Smith rejects the widely, but not universally, held view that the spread of the Kura-Araxes culture is to be explained by large-scale migration. The major reason adduced by Smith for rejecting such migration is based on population dynamics which, it is suggested, cannot account for large scale migration in the Early Bronze Age. The problem with such a rejection is that some explanation for the uniformity and conservativeness of the cultural assemblage has to be sought. Smith struggles to convince that other peoples were entirely sucked into the Caucasian culture, and that this is demonstrated by the assemblages of houses, hearths, pottery and other objects. In Northwestern, in every instance known so far, Iran the Kura-Araxes arrives fully fledged following a hiatus at the end of the Late Chalcolithic. Even as far south as the Amuq Plain, at Tabara el Akrad, the full cultural assemblage of ceramics, portable hearths and other objects appears to arrive undiluted.2 Smith follows the general consensus that the bearers of this culture rejected the central characteristics of more complex Mesopotamian civilizations, including urbanism, organized religion centred on temples and priesthoods, and highly stratified societies. Furthermore, he accepts the suggestion that narcotic and hallucinating substances were important in maintaining cohesion, and that this is reflected in shamanistic-looking designs on ceramics and in metalwork.3 Perhaps, but this reviewer maintains a healthy scepticism in the absence of firm archaeometric evidence. The thorny and much discussed question of Kura-Araxes culture and language families is not discussed. A final comment to be made on chapter three is that commencing the Early Bronze Age as early as 3,500 BCE may fit very well in the Caucasus, but in Anatolia, Iran and Northern Mesopotamia it is still accepted that the Late Chalcolithic extends to about 3,100 BCE. This difficulty, if nothing else, demonstrates how inappropriate the terminology of the Three Age System has become.

With chapter 4 "The War Machine in the Middle Bronze Age", geographic scope is more closely restricted to the Caucasus. According to Smith, the huge changes that took place following the disappearance of the Kura Araxes culture came about rapidly as the result of an influx of new peoples with an entirely different mode of existence based on pastoral cattle-breeding. This rapid change heralded a millennium in which evidence of permanent settlement of any kind is apparently absent. Violence, it is noted, is displayed through weaponry, pictorial representation, and human sacrifice in elite kurgan burials. One major outcome was "territorialisation". Another, Smith claims, was the inability of the war machine to replicate itself as a result of its inherent violence.

Transition into a period characterised by fortified citadels with surrounding settlements and the emergence of political and territorial sovereignty is the subject of chapter 5, "The Political Machine in the Late Bronze Age." The civilization machine and the war machine of the earlier parts of the Bronze Age are, according to Smith's thesis, incorporated into the new political machine, not replaced by it.

The concluding chapter starts off with the self-immolation, in 2010, of Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia and the way in which his fruit cart "changed the course of history" (186). The purpose is to show that the reproduction of a political machine through collaboration of assemblies and assemblages can be forestalled by human agency. The next example, located in the Caucasus, describes the exploitation of Urartian iconography in architectural embellishment and the marketing of cigarettes in post-Glasnost Armenia. Here the claim is made that that the Armenian sense of a nation had survived throughout the Soviet era and did not need to be reinvented. What of language and the Armenian diaspora? Furthermore, Smith recounts that at the Urartian capital of Tushpa, by the modern city of Van in Eastern Turkey, Urartian iconography is forcefully invoked to promote both Turkish and international tourism without any reference to things Armenian, the latter beginning only in the Christian period. The final paragraphs relate the comic Armenian fable of "Brother Axe" in which an object, the axe, is seen anthropomorphically. This reviewer found it a struggle to relate any of this to the archaeology of the Caucasian Bronze Age.

Illustrations are poorly reproduced and over-reduced. For instance, the details described on one map (fig. 14, p. 112) are not visible even with the aid of a magnifying glass, and arguments concerning developments in arrowheads are diluted by reproduction at different scales (fig. 32, p. 143).

The Political Machine surely succeeds in bringing the political back into the mainstream of archaeological theory. Smith's provocative work will be studied by all interested in ontology and the epistemology of things, and by archaeological theorists. Because of the ideas propounded and theories proposed, despite its sometimes too brief overviews of evidence related to the Caucasian Bronze Age, it will be of interest to archaeologists concerned with the Caucasus and its southern neighbours.

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Introduction: Reverse Engineering the Polity 1
The Conditions of Sovereignty 4
Machine Politics 7
Bodies and Things 11
Into the Caucasus 16
Schematic 20

Part I: The Machinery of Sovereignty

Chapter 1. On Assemblages and Machines 27
Things and Objects 29
The Exile of Things 33
Nature Morte 40
The Assemblage Assembled 43
The Efficacy of Machines 48
Sense, Sensibility, and Sentiment 54

Chapter 2. On The Matter of Sovereignty 59
Sovereignty Disassembled 61
Prehistory and the Political 64
Archaeologies of Sovereignty 67
Assembly and Assemblage 72
Origin Myths 73
Wayward Things and the Dual Sovereign 78
Exit Objects 1: Liberal Theory and Things 81
Exit Objects 2: Marx and Matter 83
Sovereign Matter, Governmental Machines 86
The Sovereign Conditions 91

Part II: Assembling Sovereignty

Chapter 3. The Civilization Machine in the Early Bronze Age 97
The Kura-Araxes 102
Sensibility 105
Sense 110
Sentiment 122
An Early Bronze Age Public 125

Chapter 4. The War Machine in the Middle Bronze Age 127
The Caucasus in Transition 130
Sensibility 138
Sense 144
Sentiment 148
Territorialization and Contradiction 151

Chapter 5. The Political Machine in the Late Bronze Age 154
The Caucasus at the Beginning of the Late Bronze Age 157
Sensibility 165
Sense 171
Sentiment 178
The Enduring Political Machine 183
Conclusion 186

Erebuni-Yerevan 188
Brother Axe 194


1.   "The Kura-Araxes culture from the Caucasus to Iran, Anatolia and the Levant: Between Unity and Diversity" Paléorient 40.2 (2014) Thematic issue Coordinated by C. Chataigner and G. Palumbi.
2.   Hood, S. 1951 "Excavations at Tabara el Akrad, 1948-49". Anatolia Studies 1, 113-147.
3.   Sagona, A. and Sagona C. 2009 "'Encounters with the Divine in Late Prehistoric Eastern Anatolia and Southern Caucasus" in Sağlamtimur, H., Abay, E., Derin, Z., Erdem, A. Ü., Batmaz, A., Dedeoğlu, F., Erdalkıran, M., Başturk, M. B., and Konakcı, D. (eds) Studies in Honour of Altan Cilingiroglu A life dedicated to Urartu on the Shores of the Upper Sea, pp. 537-63. Istanbul: Arkeoloji ve Sanat. Sagona, C. and Sagona A. 2011 "The Mushroom, the Magi and the Keen-sighted Seers" in Tsetskhladze, G. R. (ed) The Black Sea, Greece, Anatolia and Europe in the First Millenium BC, pp. 387-436. Leuven: Peeters.

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Ranjan Sen, Syllable and Segment in Latin. Oxford studies in diachronic and historical linguistics, 16. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xvi, 272. ISBN 9780199660186. $115.00.

Reviewed by Paola Cotticelli Kurras and Alfredo Rizza, University of Verona (;

Version at BMCR home site


This work deals with five phenomena of Latin phonology, all concerning sound change, that so far have not been tackled in a comprehensive way. They are: vowel colouring before clear and dark /l/ (Ch. 2); the littera-rule (Ch. 3); syllabification and vowel reduction before stop plus liquid (Ch. 4); vocalic epenthesis in stop plus /l/ (Ch. 5); and, finally, assimilations: syllable structure and segment sequence (Ch. 6). Previous studies focused on syllable structure and its influence on the phonological change in the last decades (see p. 3). In our opinion this book stands as an innovative, well documented and important contribution to the solution of some problematic sound changes in Latin on the basis of the most recent discussion in phonological theory. The author intends to isolate "the precise phonological conditions" (p. 1) of these phenomena and motivate "why those conditions existed and were instigators of change in the language" (p. 1). Synchronic phonological structure is contrasted to phonetic pressure alone in order to find a solution. This is certainly one of the major points of interest in the book.

Chapter 1 briefly introduces the debate between "reductionists" and "non-reductionists": the former argue that phonetic pressures alone motivate sound change; the latter seek an innate or universal mental linguistic structure that can guide phonological changes. As the author argues (p. 5) "the present volume does not focus upon addressing this debate", but "the analyses offered are most in harmony with a reductionist account", and this is a second major point of interest, in that the author embraces both synchronic and diachronic perspectives. In particular the question is focused on how "synchronic phonological structure, in the shape of syllable structure" (p. 6) could influence diachronic sound change. Syllable structure can influence sound change in two ways, direct, and indirect: in the second case, it conditions surface variants that will drive sound change over time. The majority of the phenomena under scrutiny are indirectly influenced by syllable structure. Vocalic epenthesis, treated in Ch. 4, however, is somehow considered an exception and motivated as an analogically driven process: it is still a case of indirect influence, but highly sensitive to morphological structures. The author considers also the role of synchronic morphological structure, crucial in vowel reduction (Ch. 4) and assimilation (Ch. 6).

Chapter 2 deals with the different realizations of /l/: clear and dark variants depend respectively on the onset or coda position of the segment in the syllable structure, resulting into the reconstructed non-contrastive categories of archaic Latin /l/: dark /l/ in codas, clear /l/ in geminates and /l/ underspecified in onset. The last condition is a novelty in Sen's explanation: the "darkness" of /l/ before vowels, hence in onset, was gradient and conditioned by the environment, i.e. its realization was darker before /a, o, u/ than before /e/. Sen analyses direct and indirect sources to highlight this evidence, from the attestations in Pliny the Elder and the quotations in Priscian G.L. 2.29 and Consentius, who use the metalinguistic terms plenus, 'full' or pinguis, 'fat', for dark /l/ in word and syllable final position, medius, 'middle', for ambiguous realizations in other positions, and exilis, 'thin', for clear geminate /ll/. The analysis of the Latin grammarians is described in Table 2.2, p. 33. Sen presents the phonological analysis of /l/ with its three surface variations as evidence for contrast in backness: dark /l/ in coda is [+back], clear geminate /ll/ is [-back], onset /l/ is underspecified, [Ø back]. The author resumes in very clear Tables (2.3, pp. 38-40) the sound change with vowel colouring in five environments: (a) coda /l/; (b) onset /l/ before /a o u/; (c) before /e/; (d) onset /l/ before /i/; and, finally, (e) geminate /ll/. The back – front continuum of the tongue position accounts for each variant realization as darkest, darker, dark or clear resonance of /l/. Some examples are: (a) sepeltos : sepultus; (b) Grk. epistolá = Lat. epistola (and epistula) ; (c) silentus; (d) agilis; (e) fefelli. Underspecified /l/ is darkened by a following back vowel, /a, o, u/, but is not as dark as in coda position: compare */wél.tes/ > /vul.tis/ with */wé.lo:/ > /vo.lo:/; the latter is backening the preceding vowel only to /o/. Similarly onset /l/ before /e/ was dark, but less dark than all others. We wonder why the counter-evidence to colouring before /le/ in cases such as (*/akwalentus/ >) /aquilentus/ or /pestilentus/, which are compounds, were not explained by the author as conditioned by morphology: the final /i/ in the first member of a compound does not change.

In Chapter 3, under the label "littera-rule", Sen deals with a sporadic Latin sound change whereby a string composed by a long vowel and a simple consonant changes into a short vowel plus a double consonant (/V:C/ > /VCC/, /li:tera/ > /littera/). The first important step is to isolate the correct phenomena in term of diachronic change. As a matter of fact there are very similar phenomena involving this alternation that need not be examples of the "littera-rule", but are most probably assimilations (pp. 53-54); analogical processes (pp. 54-55), spontaneous geminations (pp. 55-56, 60-62) or synchronic variation (pp. 72-73). Sen gives an accurate philological examination of the phenomena and is able to reduce to 35 the number of possible examples of diachronic change. Within these we have to eliminate some more ten examples, which for phonetic reasons are better interpreted as synchronic variations even if this alternation is philologically not recoverable (pp. 72-73). Then the author (p. 65) distributes the examples in three phonological patterns: (a) high vowel + voiceless stop; (b) /a/ + sonorant; (c) front vowel + /l/. Only (a) is the relevant sequence for a diachronic sound change, while (b) more likely results from synchronic variation; (c) is also to be interpreted as synchronic variation, but under different conditions, where morphology plays a significant role. The "littera-rule" is sometimes listed as an example of "inverse compensatory lengthening", because the long feature of the vowel is transferred to the following consonant that works then simultaneously as coda and onset in contiguous syllables resulting in syllable length preservation. This can be described, in Latin, in terms of syllable weight as well: /CV:/ syllables have the same mora counting as /CVC/ ones. Still, the preservation of a phonological structure that has two alternative surface realizations cannot motivate the reasons for a sound change over time but can provide the environment for it. Sen makes some important observations in cross-linguistic phonology. High vowels are phonetically shorter than others, and any vowel is phonetically shorter in front of voiceless stops. So our pattern (a), i.e. phonologically long high vowel plus voiceless stop, will tend to be realized with vowels that are phonetically shorter than expected. Moreover, a voiceless stop can easily be prolonged as this gesture does not present aerodynamic problems. So, even if Sen tends to prefer a "reductionist" account for sound change, we still see phonological structures reducing the possible outcomes of changes motivated firstly by phonetic reasons, as some sort of structure preservation over time is evident.

Chapter 4 deals with the syllabification of the cluster stop (T) plus liquid (R) and vowel reduction before the cluster. Heterosyllabic coda plus onset or tautosyllabic complex onset conditioned surface variants of the preceding vowel, resulting in diachronic vowel reduction. Vowel reduction is not always straightforward: sometimes the vowel rises to /i/, as if it were in open syllable, sometimes to /e/, as if it were in closed syllable. Therefore analysis of the syllabification process of the TR cluster is decisive. The author describes Old Latin evidence such as *kekadai > cecidi, with open syllable, and *perfaktos > perfectus, with closed syllable. Some developments are unconditioned: all vowels in internal open syllables were neutralized to /i/; others are conditioned: foros > -feros showing /r/ conditioning or *opitemus > optimus / optumus showing labial conditioning. Tables 4.1-4.3 summarize the phenomena. Sen challenges some explanations for vowel reduction before TR under the premise that TR clusters were heterosyllabic in Old Latin. Morphologically governed syllabification of TR as unambiguous feature in literary Latin seems to be a plausible support to Hoenigswald's theory, which states that the quality of the vowel before TR depends on syllable structure (open or close) and the "syllable boundaries in TR were aligned with morphological boundaries, rather than uniformly preceding or bisecting the sequence" (p. 92). The analysis of extensive material on pp. 95-111 and the discussion of forms examined therein (derived with –bra, -trum/-tra, -bulum, -culum/-cula, -crum, -trix, -bilis, -bris, -cris, -brum/-bra, -bris; pp. 112-118) lead to the conclusion of a progressive development of the syllabification of TR, based on the hypothesis that TR was heterosyllabic in archaic Latin, but, due to the alignment of morpheme and syllable boundaries, open or closed-syllable vowel reduction were realized on the basis of the syllabification; open-syllable reduction before TR was influenced by three different environments: r-conditioning, labial conditioning and back-conditioning.

The analysis of vocalic epenthesis in Tl (Chapter 5) has been undertaken according to different parameters: syllable structure, metrical structure, morphological structure, diachronic development of the single clusters (/bl/, /kl/, /pl/ and /gl/). Chronologically, vocalic epenthesis took regularly place in the fourth century in word-internal onset /bl/ and in the late fourth to the second century in onset /kl/; evidence for epenthesis in onset /gl/ is practically non-existent. Syllabification in /pl/ was operative over a shorter period of time, from the mid-third to the second century and epenthesis failed in heterosyllabic /bl/ and /kl/ as the following examples show: *pe.ri:klom (5th cent.) > / (2nd); *pó (5th cent.) > /pú-bli.cus/ (2nd ) and *sta-blis (5th cent.) > / (3rd) and *sta-blom (5th cent.) > /sta.bu.lum/ (3rd).

Chapter 6, on assimilations in consonantal clusters, is again an impressive piece of scientific, philological and linguistic analysis. Again the author gives a comprehensive account of diverse phenomena concerning syllable structures and segmental phonemic lines. Sen's hypotheses heavily relies on typology: assimilations in Latin are described in terms of known phonological hierarchies. Latin assimilations conform to the "Place Hierarchy" (p. 179) and to the "Manner Hierarchy". It is important to stress that the mentioned hierarchies are better understood in a linear approach, and "there is no motivation for reference to syllable position" (p. 179). Assimilation in nasality is treated along similar lines and with similar conclusions: "a parsimonious approach would do away with reference to syllable position, referring only to linear sequence" (p. 183). Things, however, get a little more complicated when dealing with voice assimilation in TR clusters (pp. 186-194). Latin evidence may be distributed in this way: sonorants are underspecified for voice [∅voice], but get a [+voice] feature in syllable onsets. In this case, there is voice assimilation of the preceding obstruent: * > segmentum. In all other cases assimilation is not active, so we can find contrast in voice: e.g. vs. It is however quite important to notice that a complex onset does not allow voicing of the sonorant: e.g. planta vs. blanda. In this case syllable structure is decisive. Sen concludes the chapter treating some counterexamples, which can all be convincingly explained.

In chapter 7 the author offers a set of interesting conclusions about the methods for reconstructing phonological change. The Appendix gives a philological examination of the "littera-rule" forms. The book is conveniently furnished with indexes of Latin words, subjects, languages, authors, and selected sources.

While not all solutions may be considered conclusive, the book will certainly stimulate specific studies of Latin sound change as well as more general considerations about theoretical and historical phonology.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016


Peter Barrios-Lech, Linguistic Interaction in Roman Comedy. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xxiii, 381. ISBN 9781107129825. $120.00.

Reviewed by Eleanor Dickey, University of Reading (

Version at BMCR home site

[A full table of contents is given at the end of the review.] 1

This excellent work offers new insights into the ways Plautus and Terence use language. The author defines his subject, linguistic interaction, as 'linguistic features that emerge from interaction and reflect or even alter the relationship between its participants: commands and requests, conversation particles (command softeners and strengtheners, statement hedges), and conversational formulae and devices: attention-getters, interruptions, and greetings and closings' (p. 4). Of course, many other linguistic features besides the ones listed could be included under the definition of 'linguistic interaction' given: in fact what Barrios-Lech actually does is to include only those interactional linguistic features on which he has a real contribution to make and leave aside those for which he considers the existing literature adequate. This approach, though slightly confusing for readers new to the subject, is a valid one also used by other scholars in the field.2 It results in a book that packs a lot of scholarly punch per page by declining to rehash the findings of earlier work, but does not provide a full overview of the topic it claims to treat, offering instead a doughnut-shaped perspective that omits a core of already-understood material. Despite this drawback from the perspective of the novice reader, the book is not inaccessible; indeed it is remarkable how well Barrios-Lech has managed to cater for such readers, and it is to be hoped that this book will serve as an entry point to the field as a whole.

Much of the book focusses on the use of language in character portrayal. It has long been appreciated that Terence assigned different types of language to different characters (differentiating e.g. by gender, age, and social status as well as by individual personality), but Plautus' practice is less well understood. Barrios-Lech joins a significant number of recent scholars in making the case that Plautus too engages in linguistic characterization; in general he makes this case convincingly, but readers may not accept every single point. Particularly notable in terms of linguistic characterization are the disguised characters who adopt speech characteristics of the people as whom they are disguised, and therefore chapters 16 and 17 contain detailed analyses of three such disguised figures: Philocrates and Tyndarus in Plautus' Captivi, Chaerea in Terence's Eunuchus, and Demea in Terence's Adelphoe (readers may or may not accept that this last is a disguised character, but the case for treating him as one is well argued). Although the discussion here is extremely interesting, I was uncomfortable about the fact that the linguistic features identified are not always ones that have been discussed earlier in the book. Some of this disconnect is due merely to the fact that Barrios-Lech does not re-discuss topics that have already been well handled elsewhere, but some of it is more worrying. We are told that when Philocrates and his slave Tyndarus reverse roles, the slave pretending to be a free man uses a greater variety of subordinate clauses and more complex subordination than does the free man pretending to be a slave (pp. 245-6)— but Barrios-Lech presents no evidence to show that these features actually distinguish the language of higher-status characters from lower-status ones in Roman comedy, and as far as I know no such evidence has been gathered by anyone else.

Another significant focus of this book (especially in chapters 9-11) is politeness and impoliteness. Although much has been written on Latin politeness in recent years, that work tends to be concerned with specific words or constructions and often takes a diachronic perspective, considering not only early but also Classical and later Latin. Such a diachronic perspective is probably the best way to understand particular words, but Barrios-Lech's holistic approach, considering all sorts of different phenomena and the way they interact with one another, is clearly the best way to understand the politeness system of Roman comedy. Impressively, he manages both to synthesize the earlier studies into a unified and coherent discussion and to go beyond previous research and identify hitherto unrecognized patterns.

A considerable part of the work (chapters 2-8) is dedicated to a study of commands and requests, covering everything from abrupt, rude orders to the politest of gentle suggestions. This research inevitably overlaps considerably with two pre-existing books on Latin directives, the 1993 one by Rodie Risselada and the 2009 one by Luis Unceta Gómez,3 but nevertheless it is the first large-scale study of this topic to be usable by most of the readership of BMCR: both Risselada and Unceta Gómez take a heavily linguistic perspective and make extensive use of terminology and theory derived from pragmatics and Speech Act theory. Barrios-Lech's work (which also has a solid grounding in linguistic theory but makes that fact unobtrusive) is also the first to focus on usage in Roman comedy, and the first to be based on really convincing data about Roman comedy: Risselada's work relies on a corpus that combines a small amount of Plautine data with samples from Cicero and Pliny, while Unceta Gómez's work has no corpus but is based on examples from a wide range of Latin texts going up to Late Antiquity.

By contrast Barrios-Lech's assertions about commands and requests are based on a corpus of 6,981 examples in Plautus, Terence, and the fragments of early Roman drama (p. 25, with a superb footnote giving the corpora used by a large number of other studies). This wealth of data allows him to find subtle patterns and to produce both a more detailed and a better-founded, more convincing analysis of early Latin usage than either Risselada or Unceta Gómez (though of course those works remain essential for understanding usage in Classical and later Latin).

The size of the corpus is not the only respect in which the evidence underpinning this work is impressive. The data (both those on commands and requests and some smaller collections on other features) were collected not via electronic searches but by reading through the plays. This method of data collection allows the author to speak authoritatively about features that cannot easily be identified via electronic searches, such as imperatives, hedges, and even indirect requests (ones not actually expressed but inferrable from the context, e.g. 'it's awfully cold in here' used to mean 'please close the window'). Moreover the data are analysed and the argument presented using both statistical analyses and close examination of particular passages; this is an excellent system and inspires confidence in the results.

The specific results of this study are too numerous to be listed here, so I include only a few particularly interesting ones. Plautus' 'clever slave' characters are politer (specifically, they soften a higher percentage of their imperatives) than other male slaves; this surprising finding seems to be due to the fact that 'clever slaves' spend more time talking to high-status people whom they need to trick and cajole than do other slaves (p. 49). The phrase noli + infinitive, which in Classical authors simply expresses a negative command, is polite in Plautus (p. 77). In the long-running debate about whether the 'jussive' second-person present subjunctive has the same meaning as the imperative, is more polite, or is less polite, Barrios-Lech sides with the view that this subjunctive does not differ in meaning from the imperative (pp. 64-7). Barrios-Lech also suggests an interesting explanation for the great popularity of the gerundive of obligation, that eternal bane of Latin students: that it is part of a larger pattern whereby impersonal ways of giving instructions (e.g. 'X is to be done') are preferred to personal expressions (e.g. 'Y should do X') because of an inherent ambiguity about who, in a slave-owning society, should actually be viewed as performing an action: the master who gives the order, or the slave who executes it? Such ambiguity would of course have directly affected only certain kinds of actions, but nevertheless it could have been frequent enough to influence the Romans' entire attitude to the expression of obligation (p. 97).

The book is for the most part clearly written; technical linguistic terminology is used only when absolutely necessary and then is clearly explained. Nevertheless there are a few points to which readers will find a key useful. Barrios-Lech uses forms of facio as shorthands for similar forms of any verb, so when he talks e.g. about the characteristics of faciamus, he means the characteristics of the first person plural present subjunctive of any verb. When facio itself is not attested in comedy in the form under discussion, another verb is used with the same generalizing function. Thus we find the statement, 'Indeed, most—77 of the 101 dan-type commands—expect an affirmative response in the form of a compliance' (p. 84); this refers to commands made by attaching -ne to the second person singular present indicative (das + ne appearing as dan in texts of Plautus).

There are frequent 'summary' and 'conclusions' sections, which are probably the best place for readers who want a general overview to start. Particularly helpful is a chart (p. 111) summarizing the results of chapters 6-8, which lists some (but unfortunately not all) ways of forming commands and requests with brief indications of the contexts in which they occur, their politeness values (if any), and the types of speakers who use them.

The book has five appendices. The first underpins the statistics on usage by character type, explaining how many lines in each play are spoken by each character type and how this is calculated. The second explains what types of material are included and excluded from the corpus of directives; the corpus itself is not given in the book, which is a pity as it would have been extremely useful to other scholars. The third lists occurrences of politeness phenomena in Roman comedy; this will be very welcome to other scholars. The fourth is a collection of passages in which Donatus discusses the politeness of a phrase or word in his commentary on Terence, and the fifth gives a long list of references to passages supporting specific assertions made in the book. (The fourth and fifth appendices are not in the book itself but can be downloaded from; this URL is given only once in the book, and that not in a prominent location (p. 287 n. 94), so it is easy to miss the fact that these appendices exist at all.) A good set of indices concludes the work.

In short, this book makes a valuable contribution in a number of different areas and will be welcomed by a wide range of scholars.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 He said, she said
1.2 What is linguistic interaction?
1.3 Why Roman comedy?
1.4 Previous work on linguistic interaction
1.5 Some useful tools and concepts
1.6 Overview of this book

Part I: How to command and request in early Latin

2 Introducing Latin commands and requests, or directives
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The directive database
2.3 Identifying directives
2.4 Characteristic speech acts of fac, facito, facias, and faciamus
2.5 Politeness
2.6 Direct and indirect requests
3 Fac, facito ('do,' 'you shall do'): the present and future imperative
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Fac: characteristic speech acts
3.3 'Commanding' women and submissive men in Plautus
3.4 'Commanding' women and men in Terence
3.5 Politeness styles of men and women in Roman comedy
3.6 The future, or -to imperative
3.7 Conclusion: 'masculine' and 'feminine' linguistic interaction
4 Facias, faciamus ('do,' 'let us do'): jussive and hortatory subjunctives
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Facias: more or less polite than fac?
4.3 Faciamus: the first person plural 'hortatory' subjunctive
4.4 Conclusion
5 Ne facias, ne fac, noli facere, and other Latin prohibitions
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Ne fac and others
5.3 Noli facere: a polite prohibition?
5.4 Summary
5.5 The Latin prohibitions and linguistic characterization
6 Quin facis? ('Why don't you do?'): Latin 'question requests'
6.1 Introduction: using a question to convey a request
6.2 Some Latin 'question requests'
6.3 Conclusion
7 Aequom est te facere ('It's right that you do') and other Latin impersonal requests
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Aequom est te facere
7.3 Expressions of necessity
7.4 By way of conclusion: the personal request in comedy and didactic prose
8 Potin ut facias? and volo ut facias: possibility and volition
8.1 Introduction
8.2 'Can you' requests in Latin
8.3 The volo command in Roman comedy
8.4 Summary
Summary of Part I

Part II How to say 'please' in early Latin, and more: exploring parenthetical particles

9 Fac amabo: how to soften a command
9.0 Overview
9.1 The polite parentheticals
9.2 Blanditia
9.3 Words for 'please' and linguistic characterization
9.4 Prayers in Roman comedy
9.5 Conclusion
10 Quin fac!: how to strengthen a command
10.1 Introduction
10.2 The imperative strengtheners
10.3 Summary
10.4 The imperative strengthener and linguistic characterization
11 Pluet cras, ut opinor: how to soften a statement in Latin
11.1 Hedges in everyday talk
11.2 Research on hedges
11.3 Latin hedges
11.4 Conclusion

Part III How to greet and gain attention, and when to interrupt: exploring dialogue signals in early Latin

12 Interruptions and attention-getters
12.1 Introduction
12.2 Interruptions
12.3 Attention-getters
12.4 Conclusion
13 Conversational openings and closings in Roman drama
13.1 Introduction
13.2 Conversational openings in Roman drama
13.3 The social parameters of the Roman greeting
13.4 Conversational closings: the case of numquid vis
13.5 Summary

Conclusion to parts I-III

Part IV The language of friendship, the language of domination

Introduction to Part IV
The language of friendship and domination in imperial school texts
Analyzing talk: methodology
14 Friendly talk
14.1 Introduction: Roman amicitia
14.2 Friendly talk in Roman comedy
14.3 Friendships between slaves
14.4 Conclusion
15 Talk between masters and slaves
15.1 Introduction
15.2 Courtesans and the scin quid question in Roman comedy
15.3 Masters and slaves and the imperative
15.4 Greetings between masters and slaves
15.5 Summary: master and slave interactions by the numbers
15.6 Masters and slaves: beyond statistics
15.7 Conclusion

Part V Role shifts, speech shifts

16 Trading roles, trading speech in Captivi
16.1 Overview
16.2 Ambiguity in Captivi
16.3 Trading roles, trading speech
16.4 Conclusion
17 Changing speech patterns in Terentian comedy: Eunuch and Adelphoe
17.1 Introduction
17.2 Eunuch
17.3 Adelphoe
17.4 Conclusion

1 Speech and character types in Roman comedy
2 The directives database
3 Politeness phenomena in Roman comedy
Index rerum
Index vocabulorum et locutionum
Index locorum potiorum


1.   Disclaimer: I commented on this book in draft form (for which service I am thanked in the preface), but did so in a wholly unofficial capacity and have no personal acquaintance with the author.
2.   Used e.g. by J.N. Adams in Social Variation and the Latin Language (Cambridge 2013).
3.   R. Risselada, Imperatives and Other Directive Expressions in Latin: a study in the pragmatics of a dead language (Amsterdam 1993); L. Unceta Gómez, La petición verbal en latin: estudio léxico, semántico y pragmático (Madrid 2009), reviewed in BMCR 2012.09.24.

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Maria Salanitro, Petronio e i 'Veteres Poetae' a Reims. Nuovi Saggi 117. Pisa; Rome: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2015. Pp. 106. ISBN 9788862277792. €38.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Daniel H. Abosso, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (

Version at BMCR home site

Does anything delight classicists more than the discovery of a new manuscript of a work or author long thought lost? No less exciting can be the discovery of new witnesses to extant texts. Virtually no ancient text is ever perfectly transmitted. When new evidence comes to light, we can hope for a sounder text from which obeli are removed and misguided conjectures are banished to dusty oblivion. But finding new witnesses can be difficult. Libraries and archives possess riches that not even expert cataloging can reveal: the research must be done in situ, and very often a researcher finds nothing. But there are almost certainly new witnesses to ancient texts that have yet to be unearthed. Maria Salanitro believes she has found new manuscript evidence for some of the poetry in the Satyricon, not in a 9th century manuscript, but in a 17th century paper commonplace book.1

The Satyricon is famously transmitted as membra disjecta. The editio princeps of 1482 presented just one group of excerpts; it was not until the second half of the 16th century that French scholars, using manuscripts no longer extant, gathered together all the excerpts known at the time and published them. A century later the manuscript (now Par. Lat. 7989) of the Cena Trimalchionis was found in Venetian Dalmatia, apparently an Italian copy of Poggio's apograph of the manuscript he found in Cologne, which is now, of course, lost.2

Salanitro's commonplace book was compiled by canon Jacques Favart, in Reims, between 1656 and 1709. Very little is otherwise known about Favart. He excerpted from the Satyricon and other Latin poems from various periods. Salanitro's book is arranged according to the order of the excerpts in Favart's manuscript. After a brief introduction, she prints each excerpt and provides a commentary. Two appendices, an index nominum, a black-and-white facsimile of the corresponding pages in the commonplace book, and a vignette of Reims in the 17th century make up the rest of the volume. There is no bibliography; sources are given in footnotes.

Favart mostly copied texts in French from printed books, such as works by Corneille and La Fontaine. Indeed, of the six bound manuscript volumes that make up Favart's compilation, only eight pages contain Latin texts. According to Salanitro, Favart copied them before 1657 (17). Salanitro notes that Favart used both manuscripts and printed editions (17), but elsewhere assumes that Favart used a manuscript of Petronius (or at least with excerpts of Petronius) unknown to us (27, 65, 66, 68). If Salanitro is right, then Favart's excerpts could offer, at the very least, valuable clues to the nature and circulation of the Satyricon in manuscripts in 17th century France.

Three problems should be discussed. First, Salanitro assumes a terminus ante quem of 1657 for the Petronius excerpts based on the structure of Favart's commonplace book. The date Favart copied the excerpts is not, of course, crucial to Salanitro's argument. Second, Salanitro does not discuss the transmission of the Satyricon and the relationship between its witnesses and Favart's exemplar.3 Third, Salanitro notes that Favart used texts copied from manuscripts or printed editions (17, on 18 Salanitro explicitly states that Favart was familiar with printed editions of the Satyricon) but does not state which editions he was using in the case of Petronius. To disentangle for the reader the jumble of manuscripts and printed editions would have been helpful. There were, after all, nearly 60 printed editions of Petronius by 1657.4

Salanitro does not localize her text within the transmission of the Satyricon, but she compares it mainly to Müller's (1995) and Buecheler's (1862) editions. It thus becomes clear that, if Favart had access to a manuscript unknown to us, it was of little value: the majority of differences between Favart's texts and those of modern editors are ones of punctuation and capitalization.

But as it turns out, Favart's manuscript is known to us. The tip-off is in the facsimile. On each page of the manuscript there are two sets of numbers. The first set, at the head of each page, corresponds to the pagination of Favart's manuscript. The second set – never mentioned by Salanitro – sits next to each excerpt. They cannot be line numbers (e.g. one excerpt consists of a single line and is numbered 482). They look suspiciously like page numbers. And that is precisely what they are. Favart copied, verbatim, portions of the Satyricon and other Latin texts not from a manuscript, but from the 1669 Amsterdam edition of the Satyricon– the first edition to include all extant text of the Satyricon.5 The page numbers in Favart correspond exactly to the page numbers in this edition.6

This oversight is a salutary reminder, because it was not uncommon for manuscripts to be copied from printed books, as Michael Reeve showed long ago.7

Even if Favart's text is without critical value, there remains Salanitro's commentary. Here too there are problems. It suffers from an unclear focus and audience. Consider, for example, Sat. 43.6: Nequaquam recte faciet, qui cito credit. Salanitro gives the context of the sententia, then tells us that "[c]osì si legge nel codice di Traù. Numquam si riscontra anche nel Florilegium Parisinum e in Iacobus Magnus. La lezione nequaquam del nostro compare nell'editio Tornesiana (t), ma questo non postula alcuna parentela fra i due testi in quanto la Tornesiana presenta reddit, un'evidente corruttela di credit" (23).

The Tornesian edition of 1575 (named for its editor and printer, Jean de Tournes) to which Salanitro refers does indeed print reddit but in a note attributes the correct credit to Cujas' manuscript on leaf 109 verso.8 She then states that "[s]iamo di fronte ad un modo di dire a cui Petronio dà particolare impronta sfruttando due diversi significati del verbo finale che qui può significare sia 'dà fiducia' sia 'dà credito', nel senso della concessione di una somma o di un bene a titolo di prestito" (23). This observation is true, but Petronius' wordplay here has been commented upon previously by Schmeling in his 2011 commentary (171). Then, "[p]arecchi editori segnano una lacuna fra credit e utique homo negotians" (23). Which editors, and why? Salanitro does not say. She then translates the excerpt. Finally, she reminds readers that "la presenza del proverbio è un'attestazione della consuetudine di estrapolare dal S. proverbi e frasi sentenziose, una consuetudine che risale al Medioevo come ci conferma la già segnalata trascrizione dello stesso proverbio nel Florilegium Parisinum composto nel XIII sec." (24; a similar statement is on 54). One can add up such elementary statements: "Il nostro carme è in esametrici, un metro epico" (34); "perché ci sono casi in cui è necessario nonostante il consensus codicum" (40-1).

Despite these criticisms, scholars will find some parts of Salanitro's commentary useful. Because the differences between Favart's readings and modern editions are negligible, not much can be said, for example, when Favart excerpts Dignus Amore locus (Sat. 131.8) – so Salanitro comments on the entire poem instead. She often sets out arguments of previous commentators (with the notable exception of Schmeling, whom she cites only once) on the Satyricon, and she often translates the passage in question, a commendable practice that all editors and commentators ought to follow.

The book is beautifully produced, printed on fine paper and very handsomely designed. Typographical errors are few. But one should note that the page count is misleading: there are six entirely blank pages before the introduction (which starts on page 13), and there are numerous pages which contain little more than a sentence.

It is commendable that Salanitro visited libraries and searched for new witnesses. A professor of mine was fond of saying that classicists "believe OCTs grow on trees," because (in his opinion) they so often fail to do the hard work of looking for and sifting through the manuscripts. And even if one finds no new witness to an extant text or no ancient manuscript of Ovid's Medea, one could still illuminate a text's reception. Indeed, I found myself wondering why Favart copied the Latin texts he did, and why in a commonplace book hundreds of pages long he copied a rather motley assortment of (mostly) poetry, some of it racy in a scant eight pages. The last Latin text Favart copied was the raunchiest part of Ausonius' Cento nuptialis. Perhaps there is a story waiting to be told here?

List of texts in Salanitro's book

The Latin texts in the order Favart excerpted them are: Sat. 43.6, 79.8, Anthologia Latina (AL) 651, Sat. 131.8, 132.15, 137.9, AL 468, 464, 650, 694, 700, 701: q. Ciceronis de mulierum levitate. epig., Pentadii de Beata vita. The Veteres Poetae in the book's title is a reference to a section in Favart's manuscript entitled Veterum Poetarum, which includes the incipit from Pervigilium Veneris, AL 246, AL 250, two versus populares from Suetonius' life of Caesar (Iul. 51 and 49), AL 714, AL 892, Ad Lydiam, and vv. 101-131 of Ausonius' Cento nuptialis.

Table of Contents

Petronii Satyricon
Fr. 1. Qualis nox fuit illa, dii deaeque!
Fr. 2. Nequaquam recte faciet, qui cito credit.
Fr. 3. Somnia quae mentes ludunt volitantibus umbris.
Fr. 4. Dignus Amore locus …
Fr. 5. Nam quis concubitus, veneris quis gaudia nescit?
Fr. 6. Quisquis habet nummos, secura naviget aura
Fr. 7. Non bene olet qui bene semper olet
Fr. 8. Uxor legitimus debet quasi census amari
Fr. 9. Inveniat quod quisque velit, non omnibus unum est
Fr. 10. Fallunt nos oculi, vagique sensus
Fr. 11. Quod satiare potest dives natura ministrat
Fr. 12 = AL 700 R. Foeda est in coitu et brevius voluptas
AL 701 R. Accusare et amare tempore uno
q. Ciceronis, de mulierum levitate. Epig.
Pentadii De Beata vita
Veterum Poetarum
Elogio di Claude Binet
Quando un grande filologo dormicchia
Apparato iconografico
Index nominum


1.   The catalog entry for Favart's commonplace book is here at Catalogue Collectif de France.
2.   In the case of the lost manuscripts of the 16th century, printers often simply discarded them as no longer useful after the edition went press.
3.   S. does not mention T. Wade Richardson's important work Reading and Variant in Petronius: Studies in the French Humanists and their Manuscript Sources (Toronto 1993).
4.  See the excellent A Bibliography of Petronius by Gareth L. Schmeling and Johanna H. Stuckey (Leiden 1977) for a convenient list.
5.   Titi Petronii Arbitri equitis Romana Satyricon cum fragmento nuper Tragurii reperto : accedunt diversorum poëtarum : Lusus in Priapum, Pervigilium Veneris, Ausonii ceno nuptialis, Cupido crucifixus, Epistolae de Cleopatra, & alia nonnulla : omnia commentariis, & notis doctorum virorum illustrata : concinnante Michaele Hadrianide (Amstelodami : Typis Ioannis Blaeu, MDCLXIX).
6.   The 1669 edition can be viewed here.
7.   "Manuscripts Copied from Printed Books" In: Manuscripts in the Fifty Years after the Invention of Printing, ed. Joseph Burney Trapp (London: 1983), 12-20. Conveniently reprinted in Michael D. Reeve, Manuscripts and Methods: Essays on Editing and Transmission (Rome 2011).
8.   nunquam r.f.q.c. credit (in Cuiac.) ​

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Mark Edwards, Religions of the Constantinian Empire. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xi, 365. ISBN 9780199687725. $49.50.

Reviewed by Anna Van den Kerchove, Institut protestant de théologie, Paris (

Version at BMCR home site


Le IVe siècle est une époque charnière du point de vue de l'histoire des religions, en particulier du fait de la reconnaissance légale du culte chrétien par le pouvoir impérial. De nombreuses études ont été consacrées à la fin du « paganisme » ou des « païens », à la figure de Constantin, à la législation de Constantin et de ses successeurs, au concile de Nicée, etc. Mark Edwards ne livre pas une nouvelle étude spécialisée, qui aborderait des questions relatives soit à la théologie, soit à l'histoire de la philosophie, soit à l'histoire politique, soit à l'histoire des religions. Il reconnaît l'intérêt et la nécessité de telles études, mais il regrette, à juste titre, la vision éclatée qui est ainsi donnée de la période constantinienne (depuis l'accession de Constantin au pouvoir en 306 dans l'empire occidental à sa mort en 337) ; du fait de la spécialisation plus poussée, les chercheurs se tournent peu vers les études menées dans les disciplines autres que les leurs. Mark Edwards propose donc une revue synoptique, « a more holistic approach » (p. viii), de cette période, à l'intention de tout chercheur étudiant cette époque, quelle que soit sa discipline. Il n'a pas l'ambition de proposer une nouvelle théorie, comme il le dit lui-même (p. XI), mais cela ne l'empêche pas de prendre part aux débats sur telle ou telle question (comme celle concernant la conversion de Constantin ou celle sur les liens entre le mode de vie philosophique et le monachisme chrétien). Pour mener à bien son projet, il a fait le choix non pas d'écrire une narration, mais un « conspectus », qui permet de donner un aperçu général de la complexité de la période concernée pour ce qui concerne le religieux, une sorte de galerie d'auteurs et de textes. En effet, de nombreux auteurs et écrits qui sont rarement rassemblés dans une même étude, sauf par allusions, sont ici abordés ensemble. Certains de ces auteurs sont bien connus, comme Eusèbe de Césarée ou Porphyre, d'autres le sont beaucoup moins comme Chalcidius ou Machomius. Mark Edwards donne pour chacun des écrits les grandes lignes de leur contenu. Cela ne dispense pas de la lecture de ces écrits mais fournit au chercheur non spécialiste de tel ou tel auteur une introduction précise. Un tel procédé facilite d'éventuels rapprochements entre des écrits et des auteurs anciens, mais aussi entre les spécialités modernes. La seule réserve vis-à-vis de la méthode adoptée pour l'écriture de l'ouvrage est que le lecteur peut éprouver quelques difficultés à faire le lien entre les différentes sections.

Mark Edwards a organisé son propos en treize chapitres (plus une conclusion) répartis en trois parties. La première partie (« Philosophical Variations », p. 1-107) concerne les rapports des chrétiens à la culture (grecque et romaine) et la façon dont les chrétiens ont construit peu à peu une philosophie qui leur soit propre, à la fois sur le plan conceptuel et sur le plan de la pratique. L'auteur évoque les œuvres apologétiques de l'époque, celles d'Eusèbe (chap. 1), Lactance ou Arnobe (chap. 2), les mettant en regard avec les philosophes néoplatoniciens (chap. 3), notamment Porphyre, mais aussi Jamblique ou Théodore d'Asiné. Il montre comme le néoplatonisme s'est modifié, avec les trois philosophes qui viennent d'être mentionnés, mais aussi avec des philosophes chrétiens comme Méthode. Cette section sur le néoplatonisme l'amène à parler (chap. 4) du theios anêr, notamment à partir de la Vie de Pythagore écrite par Jamblique. Mark Edwards considère que cette vie a été imitée par des Vies chrétiennes, comme celle d'Antoine écrite par Athanase. Néanmoins, il veut montrer l'écart entre le theios anêr philosophique et le « saint » chrétien, notamment dans le cadre du développement du monachisme sous ses deux formes (chap. 5). Cette différence transparaît dans les titres des chapitres 4 et 5 : l'un interrogatif (« Pagan Holiness ? ») sous-entendant une réponse négative, l'autre affirmatif (« New Forms of Christians Holiness »).

La deuxième partie (« Religious Plurality », p. 109-175) aborde les nombreux mouvements religieux qui côtoient le culte chrétien au début du IVe siècle. L'organisation interne de cette partie témoigne d'une classification de ces mouvements religieux en trois catégories. Dans un premier temps (chap. 6), Mark Edwards aborde les cultes polythéistes, dont ceux à mystères (comme celui de Mithra ou d'Isis) ; le titre du chapitre « Religions of the Vanquished » annonce la thèse que Mark Edwards développe : contrairement à ce que d'autres chercheurs ont écrit, il considère qu'aucun de ces cultes n'était en mesure d'être un réel concurrent pour le culte chrétien. Il revient également sur le lien entre les attestations de Zeus Hypsistos au monothéisme. À ces cultes en perte de vitesse, il met en regard ceux, plus récents, qui ont comme points communs de promouvoir une transformation interne en vue du salut et de connaître une certaine vigueur à l'époque constantinienne : « Religions of Transformation » (chap. 7). Il y classe les mouvements gnostiques, le manichéisme, et il fait une place aux écrits hermétiques, terminant par l'alchimie avec Zosime. La troisième catégorie (et le chap. 8) concerne les juifs et la législation constantinienne à propos des juifs visant à éviter des conversions au judaïsme.

La troisième partie traite des relations entre l'Église et le culte civique : « Christian Polyphony » (p. 177-313). Mark Edwards commence par revenir sur le débat concernant la conscience religieuse de Constantin et notamment son « monothéisme solaire » (chap. 9 : « The Religious Integrity of Constantine »). Il appelle en particulier à ne pas déduire de l'action politique de Constantin des informations sur ses convictions religieuses ni à les opposer. Il considère que Constantin serait relativement tôt chrétien en esprit, proposant notamment une datation haute pour son Oraison des saints. Il revient ensuite sur la législation constantinienne vis-à-vis des cultes polythéistes (chap. 10). Qu'aucune loi constantinienne ne mette fin à leur interdiction prouve, selon l'auteur, non pas que Constantin n'a fait rien contre les sacrifices (et donc que sa conversion n'était pas sincère), mais que la fin des sacrifices est en réalité la conséquence de plusieurs mesures et non d'une loi spécifique. Ces mesures se fonderaient sur des écrits chrétiens s'opposant aux sacrifices, prenant la suite de critiques de la part de polythéistes. Un point est fait sur l'eucharistie dont l'écart par rapport aux sacrifices est noté, sauf pour ce qui concerne une fonction commune aux sacrifices et à l'eucharistie : « the consecration of a public space in which all classes and sexes met to affirm their dependence on, and loyalty to, a common social order » (p. 221). Le règne de Constantin est aussi celui où le canon biblique est presque achevé, notamment sous l'action d'évêques comme Eusèbe de Césarée, qui réfléchissent aux deux « Alliances » (chap. 11) et, plus particulièrement, aux évangiles et à leur unité (chap. 12), avec deux postures différentes, celle d'Eusèbe et sa Démonstration évangélique et celle de Juvencus et son Historia evangelica en vers. La période constantinienne est également marquée par la transformation de la manière de traiter des divisions internes. Mark Edwards aborde celles-ci dans le chapitre 13, se focalisant sur les controverses autour de l'héritage d'Origène et des idées d'Arius. Il montre, à nouveau, l'importance du concile de Nicée qui, toutefois, est loin de clore ces dissensions et les débats. Le dernier chapitre propose une sorte de bilan par les contemporains de Constantin du règne de Constantin, avant que les dernières pages ne fassent un « Epilogue » ou plutôt un résumé de l'ouvrage qui permet de mettre en valeur les permanences et les ruptures de la période constantinienne par rapport aux époques antérieures.

À la fin du volume, le lecteur trouvera une bibliographie riche, donnant accès aux principales études, notamment les plus récentes ; il trouvera également un index regroupant noms anciens, thèmes et titres d'ouvrages mentionnés, lui facilitant la consultation de ce livre.

L'ouvrage de Mark Edwards s'adresse à un large public de chercheurs, aussi bien les historiens de la philosophie, que ceux des religions ou de l'histoire politique ou théologique. Chacun y trouvera des informations lui permettant d'avancer dans ses propres travaux, lui donnant une vision plus générale de la période constantinienne.

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