Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Julien Aliquot, Corinne Bonnet (ed.), La Phénicie hellénistique: Actes du colloque international de Toulouse (18-20 février 2013). Topoi Supplément, 13. Lyon: Société des Amis de la Bibliothèque Salomon-Reinach, 2015. Pp. 396. ISBN 17640733. €30.00.

Reviewed by Paul Keen, University of Massachusetts Lowell (paul_keen@uml.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

As noted by Aliquot and Bonnet in the introduction to this volume, scholarship has often been inclined to treat Hellenistic Phoenicia either obliquely as (to borrow Sartre's phrase from the conclusion, p. 367) a "somewhat banal Hellenistic province" or as a unique example of Hellenization in which Greek culture found a ready footing among Phoenicians participating in the Hellenistic koine while simultaneously retaining their own language and certain cultural and religious habits.1 In recent years, scholarship on the Hellenistic and Roman Levant, as well as the Punic west, has done much to increase the sophistication and breadth of our understanding of continuities and change in terms of cultural and religious identity beyond the binaries encapsulated in the increasingly out-of-favor concept of Hellenization.2 Nonetheless, outside of Bonnet's Les enfants de Cadmos, published only shortly before this volume, Hellenistic Phoenicia as a region and chronological period in its own right had eluded monograph- length treatment since Grainger's 1991 survey.3 Here, Aliquot and Bonnet, two of the principal protagonists of scholarly advances in the region, have sought to remedy this gap and to broaden our understanding of the region and period through the publication of fifteen papers and a concluding analysis by Maurice Sartre, each focused on our understanding of, and the evidence for, the shifting political, economic, and cultural dynamics of the period.

The first section of the volume examines changes in local political and cultural institutions as well as the dynamics of royal power exercised by the Ptolemies and Seleucids. Both Phoenicia and Cyprus experienced tremendous political change in the early years of the Hellenistic period characterized above all by the disappearance of the institution of local kingship in the early third century. While these changes have been sometimes characterized as relatively un-complex shifts towards the institutional forms of the Greek polis, the two contributions of Apicella and Briquel Chatonnet on Phoenicia, and Sabine Fourrier on Cyprus, each demonstrate the complexities of this transition in usefully complementary studies emphasizing local agency in shaping the new political order. Apicella and Briquel Chatonnet argue for a model of absolute monarchy in pre-Hellenistic Phoenicia, noting that non-royal institutions, such as popular assemblies, the suffetes, and magistracies defined by the title of RB (rab), are first clearly attested only in the early Hellenistic period. As a result, rather than viewing the political transition from city-kingship in terms of a simple exposure of non-royal institutions after a sort of peeling away of a royal superstructure, the authors emphasize the ways in which these shifts were based on non-local models and vocabularies of governance from Carthage and the Greek poleis. In Cyprus, where such shifts are often seen as more dramatic based on the rapid decline of Phoenician in public epigraphy, Fourrier finds remarkable continuities between the world of the city-kings and that of the Hellenistic period through an analysis of Phoenician inscriptions from Idalion and Larnakas-tis-Lapethou. The Phoenicians of Cyprus may well have adopted Hellenic institutional vocabularies, but what is most noteworthy is the way in which notable families under the city-kings retained their significance in the new world order. Turning to the Ptolemies and Seleucids, Lorber provides a highly useful survey of Hellenistic coinages in Phoenicia, noting in particular the approaches taken by the Ptolemies and Seleucids in their monetary systems and relationships with the Phoenician cities. Lastly, Yon concludes the section by highlighting a little-known fragmentary inscription from Byblos to be added to the now-famous dossier of correspondence between Seleucus IV and Heliodorus found in fragments at Marisa with a synthesis of views on the dossier now published as SEG 57.1838.4 The Byblos fragment contains only a portion of the texts known from the Marisa dossier, but clearly records the same royal letter of Seleucus IV. For Yon, the royal letter, which appoints Olympiodorus as a royal official in charge of the sanctuaries of Syria-Phoenicia, signals the integration of Syria-Phoenicia, and Byblos, into wider patterns of Seleucid territorial administration and emphasizes the way in which the importance of the appointment of Olympiodorus and his remit over the sanctuaries of the newly Seleucid territory was disseminated throughout the region.

The second section concentrates on the relationship between the Phoenician cities and their chora, an important topic ultimately beguiled by the general paucity of evidence. Sader opens the section by tracing the available evidence for civic territories from the Late Iron Age through the Hellenistic period. The survey profitably brings together the available, yet (as she notes) scarce, evidence for these fluctuations and serves a useful function in highlighting the ways in which the territories of these cities shifted over time, while emphasizing the large territories held, in particular, by Tyre and Sidon. The limitations of the evidence noted by Sader's contribution also highlight the advantages of the geospatial modeling employed by Guillon as a means of understanding the territorial organization of northern Phoenicia. Guillon's presentation of her methodology is perhaps rather difficult to follow due to its complexity but the proof is, ultimately, in the pudding. Here, the conclusions presented are not overly unexpected—Arwad functioned both as a gateway to the Mediterranean and the Syrian interior with certain shifts in these networks over time (usefully presented in map form at the conclusion of the chapter)—but, as Sartre also notes in the conclusion, the use of such models is a promising avenue for research in the future as her study increases in scope and additional evidence becomes available. Happily, Walissewski and Wicenciak's report on the Polish-Lebanese excavations of Jiyeh, indeed add to this evidence through a discussion of the role of the site, which they identify as ancient Porphyreon and as a secondary urban formation in the chora of Sidon providing new insight into such sites in the Phoenician countryside and their interactions with the larger cities of the region. Interestingly, despite the early link to Sidon, the authors note that pottery forms produced at the site begin to more closely align with pottery produced at Berytos towards the end of the second century as Berytos grew in importance.

The volume is in many ways at its best in its treatment of material culture and the participation of Phoenicians within the Hellenistic Mediterranean koine with contributions stressing the complexities of how we understand these dynamics. Following Stucky's essay tracing Greek and Phoenician cultural interpenetration along the Phoenician coast, Nitschke directly approaches the matter of how to define Phoenician material culture itself through a study of the Sidonian Tomb at Maresha (anc. Marisa). Nitschke pushes against interpretations of the tomb as a Phoenician tomb dressed up with new influences derived from Alexandria or as generally participating in a wider Mediterranean koine and prefers to place the tomb and its wall paintings into a longer-term perspective of Phoenicians actively interpreting non-local architectural and cultural forms. Oggiano is similarly interested in material culture change and interpreting the changes manifested in the dedications of terracotta figurines from Kharayeb, a rural sanctuary approximately 15 km from Tyre. Whereas dedications from the fifth and fourth century BC show a focus on maternity and local traditions, the Hellenistic period introduced a voluminous explosion of dedications of more generic and "Hellenic" types produced from moulds. As Oggiano clearly emphasizes, the figurines raise the key question of the role of technological and market shifts encouraging the mass production of stock figurine types. Rather than seeing the shift in figurine types as an expression of Hellenism or a shift in the form of cult practiced at the sanctuary, the figurines might be equally well understood as a function of the votive market in the region and as a means through which even dedicants in rural sanctuaries were able to actively define their own identity by purchasing a generic figurine and interpreting its meaning within their own context and intentions. Similar questions are also raised by the contributions of Élaigne on dining-ware and Eristov on wall-painting, both from excavations in Beirut. Élaigne's study points to interesting shifts in patterns of imported tableware as Attic pottery declined as the table-ware of choice in place of pottery produced in the Gulf of Iskenderun and Rhodes, while Eristov's study of wall-painting demonstrates the ways in which elite housing echoed similar forms known from Pergamon and Delos with few local innovations. In this, I agree entirely with Sartre that the central question seems to be one of how to explain these patterns as functions of individual taste or as a result of wider patterns of shifting markets and the repertoire of artisans in the region.

These themes continue to be built upon in the final section. Bonnet presents an analysis, found in greater depth in her recent monograph, of Greek and Roman accounts of Alexander's siege of Tyre emphasizing the ways in which the Tyrians were represented as the quintessential barbaroi, with particular echoes of the Trojans, as a means of legitimizing their conquest. Garbati tackles a passage in Quintus Curtius in which certain Tyrians, hard pressed by Alexander's siege, proposed reviving a tradition, abandoned at Tyre but continued at Carthage, of sacrificing a free-born male infant to Saturn (Quintus Curtius 4.3.23). On the basis of this passage, he proposes a Tyrian origin for the ritual of child-sacrifice and that the tophet formed an important site of memory for the link between Carthage and Tyre. As Sartre also notes, this conclusion relies perhaps overly heavily on the first century, and Roman, source of Quintus Curtius but nonetheless sheds an interesting light on links between Carthage and Tyre, about which we are otherwise left largely in the shadows. Lastly, Aliquot's contribution demonstrates the ways in which Phoenician identity could mobilize identity and local history by absorbing Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus into their mythical cycle of founders, again stressing the Phoenician ability to absorb and interpret new influences.

The strength of this volume lies primarily in the emphasis laid throughout on the active negotiations of Phoenicians with wider patterns as a means of understanding both continuity and change within the region. Similarly, by presenting the evidence from sites such as Jiyeh, Kharayeb, and Hellenistic Beirut, the volume does well to demonstrate the promise of new finds and excavations in the region. Especially when read alongside Bonnet's monograph-length study and recent studies on Punic culture in the Hellenistic west (see note 2), the volume will serve as a valuable resource for scholars interested not only in Phoenicia itself but also in the cultural, political, and economic dynamics of the Hellenistic world more broadly.

Table of Contents

Julien Aliquot et Corinne Bonnet, « Introduction» 5-7
Cités et royaumes, des Achéménides à Rome
Catherine Apicella et Françoise Briquel Chatonnet, «La transition institutionnelle dans les cités phéniciennes, des Achéménides à Rome » 9-29
Sabine Fourrier, «Chypre, des royaumes à la province lagide : la documentation phénicienne» 31-53
Catharine C.Lorber, «Royal Coinage in Hellenistic Phoenicia : Expressions of Continuity, Agents of Change » 55-88
Jean-Baptiste Yon, «De Marisa à Byblos avec le courrier de Séleucos IV. Quelques données sur Byblos hellénistique» 89-105

Villes et campagnes du pays phénicien
Hélène Sader, «Les territoires des cités phéniciennes entre continuité et changement» 107-121
Élodie Guillon, «Les rapports entre les cités phéniciennes et leurs arrière-pays en Phénicie du Nord» 123-153
Tomasz Waliszewski et Urszula Wicenciak, « Jiyeh (Porphyreon). Nouvelles découvertes sur le territoire de Sidon à l'époque hellénistique» 155-179
Rolf A.Stucky, «Dorf und Stadt. Griechische Präsenz an der phönizischen Küste während der Perserzeit und im frühen Hellenismus» 181-205

Culture matérielle et koinè hellénistique
Jessica L.Nitschke, «What is Phoenician about Phoenician material culture in the Hellenistic period? » 207-238
Ida Oggiano, «Le sanctuaire de Kharayeb et l'évolution de l'imagerie phénicienne dans l'arrière-pays de Tyr» 239-266
Sandrine Élaigne, «La vaisselle de table en Phénicie à l'époque hellénistique » 267-294
Hélène Eristov, «Le décor des maisons hellénistiques de Beyrouth» 295-314

Mémoires de la Phénicie hellénistique
Corinne Bonnet, «Le siège de Tyr par Alexandre et la mémoire des vainqueurs » 315-334
Giuseppe Garbati, «Le relazioni tra Cartagine e Tiro in età ellenistica. Presente e memoria nel tophet di Salammbô» 335-353
Julien Aliquot, «Bibulus, fondateur de Byblos» 355-365
Maurice Sartre, «Conclusions» 367-374
Julien Aliquot, «Index » 375-396


1.   On Phoenicia and Hellenization, see, most significantly, Fergus Millar, "The Phoenician cities: A Case-Study of Hellenisation" PCPS 29 (1983), pp. 55-71.
2.   Most recently and significantly, see especially Corinne Bonnet, Les enfants de Cadmos: le paysage religieux de la Phénicie hellénistique. De l'archéologie à l'histoire (Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 2015); Josephine Crawley Quinn and Nicholas C. Vella (eds.), The Punic Mediterranean: Identities and Identification from Phoenician Settlement to Roman Rule (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014); Nathanael Andrade, Syrian Identity in the Greco-Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); and Julian Aliquot, La vie religieuse au Liban sous l'Empire romain (Beirut: IFPO, 2010).
3.   J.D. Grainger, Hellenistic Phoenicia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).
4.   The Byblos inscription was uncovered in 1930 and first published as M. Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, II/2, 1933- 1938 (Paris, 1958), p. 614, no. 13575 and pl. 143.

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