Friday, April 29, 2016


Olivier Devillers (ed.), Autour de Pline le Jeune: en hommage à Nicole Méthy. Scripta antiqua, 74. Bordeaux: Ausonius Éditions, 2015. Pp. 321. ISBN 9782356131324. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Ulrike Roth, University of Edinburgh (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The study of Pliny the Younger has benefitted from a significant recent revival. This is particularly true for what has been termed Pliny's 'private' correspondence, which is now widely viewed as a literary art-work, but also as an 'imperial project' in which Pliny attempts to design and shape his role—and that of the senatorial élite at large—in the world the emperors made, in clear (and sometimes not so clear) dialogue with other writers. But the Plinian Spring has also caught onto his correspondence with that seemingly best of emperors, Trajan; and the results are not unlike those established for Pliny's 'private' letters: when once the Pliny-Trajan exchange was the treasure grove for the industrious ancient historian who sought to patch together from these epistolary snapshots the workings of the Roman provincial system, through what has been called '(crudely put) socio-historical data-mining campaigns',1 scholars now readily talk of the letters' 'social economy', even of an 'ideology of Empire', and of 'the poetics of empire' crafted by Pliny's pen.2

The present volume is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Pliny and his world. It is a Festschrift for Nicole Méthy, the author of Les lettres de Pline le Jeune. Une représentation de l'homme (Paris, 2007), and edited by O. Devillers, primarily known for his work on Tacitus.3 It presents 20 chapters, by colleagues and friends, and Méthy herself, a total of 17 scholars, in 4 different languages (12 French, 5 English, 2 Italian, 1 Spanish), grouped in three parts: 'The political and ideological context'; 'The cultural and literary context'; 'Plinian themes and texts'. The cover blurb states that 'the book focuses on Pliny the Younger', aiming primarily though to contribute 'to a better understanding of the 2nd century'. It is opportune to ask in this review how the volume responds (and contributes) to the modern monumentalisation of the man from Como (and to what has been called hyper-critically 'fashions' in Plinian-studies),4 and to current understanding of the 2nd century.

It comes as no surprise that the reader should enjoy some serious analyses of Pliny's intertextual adventures. I. Marchesi and M. Neger both take Pliny's relationship with Martial (and friends) to task, with some very good results, showing, inter alia, how Pliny invites to dinner, to put into its place the genre we call satire, or how Martial functions as a foil for Pliny's self-fashioning as a distinguished poet. C. Whitton's cliff-hanger takes the reader into one of those thick forests of purple prose on an audacious hunt for a richer understanding of Ep. 9.26, or at least of its opening lines' complex relationship with earlier texts, in both Greek and Latin, and the verbal metaphors not otherwise typical for Pliny: he avoids, like Pliny, the media via, by stretching the bounds of genre, here academic writing. S. Tzounakas discusses skilfully Pliny's own skilful self-identification with Demosthenes (to the detriment of Cicero). A similar theme is picked up by L. Deschamps in her chapter on Pliny's take on M. Terentius Varro, who emerges as an exemplum in his Plinian garb (and as Pliny's mirror image—and vice versa), precisely because of his 'faults', i.e. the love of different genres, light and serious: here is another nihil peccat ... not!

Not strictly intertextual, but still concerned with questions of responding to (and aiming to overcome) other (textual) representations, A. Billault argues that Pliny's (and Trajan's) sketch of Dio Chrysostom makes all but disappear the man's place amongst the league of orators, instead representing (Cocceianus) Dio as a subject of empire (perhaps because he was too close a competitor to Pliny's claim to be the new Demosthenes, as discussed by Tzounakas?). The idea of seeing individuals or communities as subjects of empire instead of recognising their persona (also) in other contexts challenges Méthy's argument (in a previously unpublished study) that next to the political voice in Trajan's replies, there is also a strong personal voice that treats individuals (including Dio Chrysostom) as human beings, and humanely, rather than as mere objects of power, based on 'le sentiment d'humanité' (elaborated in her 2007 book). Ethical considerations, and existentiential questions of being, are also central to the two chapters discussing the body, health, disease and pain, by G. Galimberti Biffino and S. Stucchi, concluding that disease and pain are yardsticks for individual dignity and greatness in Pliny. Would it be twisting Pliny's arm too much to go beyond what meets the eye and to flesh out the scholarly chin-wag on empire with (t)his epistolary body-map? I.e. to see the imperial body-politic through this literary skeleton of health and disease (as has been done with other writers), its pressure points, warts and loose limbs, its potions, remedies and cures?

The spectrum of interpretative possibilities of the emperor's actions is explored in the deft analysis of the vicesima hereditatum in Pliny's Panegyricus by E. Manoloraki, who shows with great clarity how Pliny not only used a seemingly dry administrative matter to shape the emperor's profile, but also his own as the 'architect of the imperial persona' (p. 258). The pax Traiana thus inaugurated could have been picked up in the discussion of familial and conjugal harmony in the survey of women's images in Pliny's letters by N. Boëls-Janssen, relegated to the cultural and literary part of the volume, and not concerned with its location in the Plinian imperial project, or with the role of Pliny's women, familial serenity and autonomia in his sketch of libertas. Differing (less charming) representations of women are explained through genre, e.g. Juvenal's satirical punch. Yes—but why and what for? Women's changing images (as those of some men) are also discussed by M.P. Gonzáles-Conde Puente with particular regard to those belonging to the gens Ulpia, in Pliny's Panegyricus and other (later) sources, to show how Trajan's rise to power required different representations of (for instance) Plotina and Marciana than Hadrian's reign. The theme of diverse depiction is developed further by S. Benoist, who argues for a fundamental unity even in contrasting representations of emperor and empire, such as in Pliny and Fronto, as proof of a shared responsibility towards construction of a political ideal: 'la preuve d'une construction collective d'un modèle politique idéal' (p. 47).

Back to Book 10, H. Zehnacker's survey of Pliny's (and Trajan's) use of Greek is introduced with an emphasis on the reciprocal influence of Latin and Greek. The chapter concludes that Pliny and Trajan (or his Chancellery) took different approaches to the use of Greek, and suggests that the emperor who was in charge of what was eight pages before referred to as 'un État officiellement bilingue', in which Greek dominated the eastern part, did not think Greek terms, loanwords, or Graecisms appropriate for use in communication with his provincial governor. This may well be so, and the Suetonian Tiberius serves as a role model for a bilingual emperor's avoidance of Greek in governmental contexts (Suet. Tib. 57.1): but why should it be emblematic of Roman rule in the 2nd century? And what does it say about Pliny to have fashioned a contrast between the good senator and the best of emperors in their choice of language? The role played by Greek (and Latin) amongst earlier emperors is discussed in the chapter by B. Rochette, mainly on the basis of the evidence provided by Suetonius: the conclusion that the attitude of the Julio-Claudians towards Greek is a reflection of an inherent ambivalence towards the Greek language at Rome, which one can never really master ('langue du même et de l'autre à la fois', p. 168), subscribes to the 'half-empty glass' approach, that perhaps not all living and working in two languages would inherently embrace without socio-linguistic proof. The last of the Julio-Claudian emperors, Nero, allows Devillers to explore some of the ways in which Pliny showcased Trajan as the better (and good) emperor, and to compare Nero's reign with that of Domitian—all neatly framed by Pliny's efforts to build a statue for his uncle. The volume is brought to a close with the chapter by G. Flamerie de Lachapelle, who discusses an entirely different reading of Pliny, by the 19th century French writer—one might say minor—Jules Janin, who, for us amusingly, rejected wholeheartedly the tempting notion, entertained by 'le républicain de 1789' Vittorio Alfieri (aka M. le comte Alfiéri d'Asti), of a Plinian attempt at persuading Trajan to abdicate in order to re-establish republican government.

Numerous issues explored in the volume would have benefitted from exchange between the contributors: the motivations for and effects of Pliny's use of silences, for instance (e.g. Billault and Marchesi); or the nature and purpose of Pliny's intertextual engagement with his contemporaries, Martial and others (e.g. Marchesi, Neger, Whitton); or his self-fashioning through alignment or contrast with one or other Greek or Roman (e.g. Deschamps, Tzounakas, Whitton); or his approach to and use of Greek (e.g. Tzounakas, Whitton, Zehnacker), as well as the issue of bilingualism (e.g. Rochette, Zehnacker); or, very generally, the representation of emperor and empire, and Pliny's (rhetorical) function in empire-building (e.g. Billault, Boëls-Janssen, Devillers, Manoloraki, Méthy, Rochette, Zehnacker). Naturally, such overlaps cannot always be explored without loss of focus or theme; but the complete isolation of the different chapters from one another makes for a somewhat odd read if the volume is enjoyed as a whole. There remains also the standard differentiation between the so-called 'private' letters and the ('public'?) correspondence with Trajan: given the recent revision of understanding of Book 10, there is surely scope to undo that separation with some good results? And what about intertextuality? A heavily employed concept in many contributions, and for a very good reason. But whether or not one should privilege oral delivery over textual consumption of Pliny's epistolary activity, as T.P. Wiseman has challenged us to do with regard to earlier Latin literature,5 if the Plinian exchange with (for instance) Martial is understood as a serious, and perhaps not entirely conjugal dialogue, then that exchange is not just taking place at the textual level, but has very serious roots and ramifications at the personal, social and political level. The question that arises is what we should call the exchange we refer to as 'Intertextuality' when not reduced to its present apogee, i.e. the surviving text?

There are other questions that press forward. What does it mean, for instance, for our understanding of the élite's role in the early second century that Pliny plays Demosthenes, or that he engages in a not entirely appreciative dialogue with Martial? How can (t)his ever better understood literary activity be used to advance our understanding not just of the texts that we study, or of the particular type of discourse, but of the society that has produced these? Put differently, how can one use Pliny's correspondence as a guide to what must have been an extraordinarily diverse ecology of political ideas, including disagreement on such fundamental concepts (and realities) as slavery and freedom, status and class, rights and duties? In his study of the allusive escapades of a quite different author in a quite different period, G. Kelly contends that '(b)y failing to read intertextually, political historians risk missing the politics'.6 It is a shame in this context that the papers put together to address the political and ideological situation in Part 1 do not engage as much as one would hope with those aspects and issues that are at the forefront of the papers more closely concerned with literary analysis of one kind or another. The tripartite grouping of the contributions is more generally not entirely satisfactory: many of the contributions in Part 2 could easily be fitted into Part 3, and vice versa. Why group them at all? And as with most volumes of this type, the quality of the contributions varies, as does their engagement with relevant scholarship, weakening the potential impact of the ideas presented on the debate, through a preference for unproblematised description and narration. Many of the chapters would have gained from being more tightly drafted. I personally see no need for an English abstract for a volume of this kind; but if one is offered, it should be in English. Leaving these quibbles aside, there is much here that will excite and enthuse, and not just those interested in Pliny's writings. Notwithstanding the original contribution on offer in many of the chapters, the volume leaves plenty of scope for future contextualisation of Pliny's 'architectural' endeavours towards the biggest-ever Roman building programme—and to get a better sense of the different roles played by planners, engineers, masons, sculptors, and brick-layers on the one hand, and squatters, saboteurs, industrial thieves and arsonists on the other, precisely to gain 'a better understanding of the second century', beyond the harmonising gaze on the best of worlds constructed by Trajan (or was it Pliny?). On y va.

Table des matières

Autour de Pline le Jeune. En hommage à Nicole Méthy
Avant-propos : p. 9
1. Le contexte politique et idéologique
Nicole Méthy : "L'Optimus Princeps : idéal et réalité. Les lettres de Trajan à Pline le Jeune" [inédit] : p. 13
Nicole Méthy : "Vainqueur et vaincu dans la pensée des empereurs romains de l'époque antonine" [1990] : p. 25
Stéphane Benoist : "Pline le Jeune et Fronton, deux protagonistes d'un discours impérial en actes" : p. 37
Pilar Gonzalez Conde : "El papel de la gens Ulpia durante el gobierno de Trajano: el Panegírico de Plinio y otras fuentes documentales" : p. 49
Olivier Devillers : "Néron selon Pline le Jeune : entre Pline l'Ancien, Tacite et Trajan" : p. 61

2. Le contexte culturel et littéraire
Nicole Méthy : "Le patriotisme des auteurs africains de langue latine au iie siècle p.C." [1982] : p. 75
Nicole Méthy : "Magie, religion et botanique. À propos de la formule herbae felicitas dans un passage de Pline l'Ancien" [1999] : p. 89
Nicole Boëls-Janssen : "L'image de la femme dans les Lettres de Pline le Jeune à la lumière de son environnement littéraire" : p. 103
Ilaria Marchesi : "The Unbalanced Dinner between Martial and Pliny: One Topos in Two Genres" : p. 117
Margot Neger : "Pliny's Martial and Martial's Pliny: the Intertextual Dialogue between the Letters and the Epigrams" : p. 131
Hubert Zehnacker : "Les mots grecs dans la Correspondance de Pline le Jeune avec l'empereur Trajan" : p. 145
Bruno Rochette : "Suétone et le bilinguisme des Julio-Claudiens" : p. 155

3. Thèmes et textes pliniens
Giovanna Galimberti Biffino : "'Scrivere' il corpo o della salute e della malattia nell'epistolario di Plinio il Giovane" : p. 169
Silvia Stucchi : "Lutto, dolore e dignitas in Plinio il Giovane" : p. 183
Lucienne Deschamps : "M. Terentius Varro vu par Pline le Jeune" : p. 197
Spirydon Tzounakas : "Pliny as the Roman Demosthenes" : p. 207
Christopher Whitton : "Pliny on the Precipice (Ep., 9.26)" : p. 219
Alain Billault : "L'image de Dion Chrysostome dans la correspondance de Pline le Jeune (Ep., 10.81-82)" : p. 239
Eleni Manoloraki : "Death and Taxes: The Vicesima Hereditatum in Pliny's Panegyricus" : p. 245
Guillaume Flamerie de Lachappelle : "Jules Janin et Pline le Jeune" : p. 259

Travaux et Publications de Nicole Méthy : p. 271
Bibliographie : p. 283
Index des passages : p. 311
Index des noms : p. 317


1.   I. Marchesi (ed.), Pliny the Book-Maker. Betting on Posterity in the Epistles (Oxford, 2015), 4.
2.   P. Stadter, 'Pliny and the ideology of Empire: the correspondence with Trajan', Prometheus 32 (2006), 61-76; C. Noreña, 'The social economy of Pliny's correspondence with Trajan', American Journal of Philology 128 (2007), 239-77; G. Woolf, 'Pliny/Trajan and the poetics of empire', Classical Philology 110.2 (2015), 132-51.
3.   e.g. O. Devillers, L'art de la persuasion dans les Annales de Tacite (Brussels, 1994); Tacite et les sources des Annales. Enquêtes sur la méthode historique (Louvain, Paris, Dudley/MA, 2003).
4.   'Moderichtungen': E. Lefèvre, Vom Römertum zum Ästhetizismus. Studien zu den Briefen des jüngeren Plinius (Berlin and New York, 2009), 14-8.
5.   T.P. Wiseman, The Roman Audience. Classsical Literature as Social History (Oxford, 2015).
6.   G. Kelly, Ammianus Marcellinus. The Allusive Historian (Cambridge, 2008), 30.

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Luke Lavan (ed.), Local Economies?: Production and Exchange of Inland Regions in Late Antiquity. Late antique archaeology, 10. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015. Pp. xiv, 637. ISBN 9789004277038. $97.00.

Reviewed by Damián Fernández, Northern Illinois University (

Version at BMCR home site

The essays collected by Luke Lavan aim at assessing the significance of local exchanges in late antiquity, especially with regard to inland regions. Most studies on the late antique economy place considerable emphasis on the highly visible aspects of pan-Mediterranean trade (predominantly, though not exclusively, finewares and amphorae of African and Eastern Mediterranean origin). This volume's major contribution is to bring to the fore the non-coastal regions of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic world during late antiquity. While the chapters do not take a unanimous stand on the long-debated question of the relative prominence of taxes/government requisitions vs. market exchanges as drivers of the Roman economy, most of them endeavor to confront this historiographical issue. Indeed, one of the strengths of the volume is its presentation of a wide range of nuanced takes on this particular question.

The book is divided into four sections. The first section includes five bibliographical essays, including two essays by Alyssa Bandow (one on theoretical and methodological approaches to the late antique economy, the other on transport and distribution infrastructure), two by Andrea Zerbini (settlement patters and rural and artisanal production), and a final essay on ceramics and trade by Stefano Costa. For reasons of space I will not review them here, but they provide useful guidance for those interested in these issues.

The second section, titled "Theoretical Papers," consists of two chapters by Mark Whittow and Peter Sarris. In his contribution, Whittow addresses the question of marked change in the evidence for economic exchange between 400 and 700 (which he labels a "decline"). Based on comparative evidence from medieval England, he argues that the late antique economy was predominantly (though not exclusively) market-driven because of the cumulative effect of small, almost imperceptible transactions by peasants who had to pay rents and taxes. This model remained possible as long as the state secured the predictability of market exchanges, which, Whittow argues, it no longer did after the so-called fall of the western empire and the Islamic conquests. Sarris, on the other hand, sees the late antique economy as an aggregate of regional markets, many of which preceded the Roman Empire. The late Roman state would intervene in these markets for specific fiscal and political purposes. At the same time, the state fostered markets through the transportation of products to the capitals and the demand for tax payments in cash. But Sarris claims that the state alone cannot explain the late antique exchange system per se. As in his previous scholarship, he brings to the fore the role of local landed elites in stimulating exchanges, with their production oriented towards markets. Sarris believes that post-Roman elites in the West gave up certain economic privileges and the trade network stimulated by the late imperial tax system in exchange for local autonomy and enforcement of property rights. Overall, these two essays draw attention to the regulatory aspects of state intervention, without completely rejecting the role of state-sponsored tax collection in stimulating commercial exchanges.

The theory section is followed by six chapters dealing with production in inland regions. In the first chapter, Kim Bowes invites us to reconsider the significance of late antique rural villas in inland Hispania. Contrary to theories that relate these villas to property concentration and/or direct tax collection and transportation, Bowes argues that rural mansions were built to advance the interests of a landowning class in the context of a more intense bureaucratic (i.e. state) presence. The wealth-generating opportunities of the tax system allowed local elites to compete among themselves by investing in projects in the countryside, where the state's gaze was more intense due to the thinner urban network in Hispania. In the second chapter, Tamara Lewit analyzes the location of inland Gallic fineware workshops and the circulation of their products, which were widely distributed within Gaul though they scarcely made it out of the region in late antiquity. Lewit argues that fineware distribution had its own characteristics and that it was separate from the transportation of other local bulk products. Trade in fineware ceramics, Lewit suggests, was profitable enough to have its own dynamic, independent of tax-based circulation—at least at the local and regional levels. The third essay of this group, by Emanuele Vaccaro, also questions the primacy of the fiscal model as an explanation for the distribution of goods throughout the Mediterranean. In particular, he asserts that Sicily supplied Rome after 332 not only with taxes in kind but, more importantly, through the sale of agricultural surplus. This explains what Vaccaro sees as the late antique agricultural boom in inland Sicily. Through the study of the agro-town of Philosophiana, he traces the intense commercial contacts between inland Sicily and the Mediterranean (largely through African finewares and amphorae) into the second half of the fifth century, if not later. Vaccaro suggests that this marked continuity shows the relative independence of the inland Sicilian rural economy from the annona system. Elizabeth Fentress then looks at the highlands of Numidia in the region of Diana Veteranorum (Zana, Algeria). Through survey analysis, she argues that there was economic prosperity in the region during late antiquity, which may be puzzling since the earlier military garrison at Lambaesis no longer existed and there is little evidence of large-scale agricultural commodity production. Fentress argues that textile production, which was oriented towards local markets in smaller border garrisons and provincial capitals, must explain the apparent wealth of the region. She also suggests that the horse- and slave-trade provided the exchange network that facilitated textile distribution.

Two eastern Mediterranean case studies close this section of the book. Adam Izdebski takes the reader to the Anatolian countryside, where he also traces signs of prosperity in inland areas and coastal zones. Vine, olive, and walnut pollen is found in both regions, which leads him to stress the fundamental similarities between coastal and inland Anatolia. Their general prosperity, deduced predominantly from field surveys, allows him to argue that Constantinople, which was predominantly supplied from coastal areas, was not the only market for Anatolian agricultural products. Rather, he contends, we need to look at villages and small towns as places to which inland production was oriented, at least until the late fifth century. In the last chapter of this section, Fanny Bessard directs our attention to late antique cities east of the Jordan Valley. The main argument of her contribution is that this region had an active local exchange network during the Byzantine period, to which pottery attests. It was also in contact with Egypt and Arabia, in what Bessard calls "short-range trade." Under the Caliphate, however, short-range trade intensified and the region also fostered contacts with Iraq, supported by pilgrim routes and the caliphs' infrastructural investments in the road system. Bessard argues that this internationalization of exchanges may have favored the concentration of workshops in certain cities, in a virtuous circle of mutual reinforcement. The fourth and final section of the book, titled "Exchange in Inland Regions," offers five papers covering a wide range of the empire's geography. Jeremy Evans looks at the pottery evidence from late Roman Britain to demonstrate the increasing regional dimensions of the island's exchange network after the third century. While he does not deny the potential role of the army, he suggests that the military was supplied by local, rather than trans-regional (especially Mediterranean), sources. Evans suspects that both cash transactions and direct military appropriations in the form of taxes fomented the exchanges between southern Britain and the northern garrisons, but he seems to favor taxes as the principal engine behind circulation of goods. Phil Mills also analyzes British evidence, this time ceramic building materials. Mills describes the changing nature of regional demand from military and urban civilian constructions (early empire) to villa construction in southeastern Britain (late empire).

These two chapters on Britain are followed by three contributions dealing with Central Europe, Africa, and Syria. Piroska Hárshegyi and Katalin Ottományi analyze imported and locally produced pottery in Pannonia. While African wares reached Pannonia in late antiquity, the authors describe local traditions of finewares that supplied most of the sites—some traditions imitating Roman wares, others following traditions from outside the empire's borders. The presence of Mediterranean products is attributed to the annona and commercial exchanges. But these products overlapped in some sites, with local productions imitating Roman finewares. The question of ethnicity in relation to burnished wares appears at several points in their chapter. The authors suggest that this ceramic tradition was introduced by barbarians through trade and migrations/invasions. Michael Bonifay's chapter moves the focus to late Roman Africa, in which he compares the consumption of ceramics in inland and coastal regions. Whereas the coasts were in contact with the main pan-Mediterranean exchange networks (ARS wares, African, Spanish, Eastern Mediterranean, and Sicilian amphorae), the inland areas had scarce signs of amphorae and a limited variety of African finewares. Nevertheless, Bonifay is able to trace micro-regional variations in inland sites, from which he concludes that a closer look at the evidence reveals a less stark contrast between coast and interior in terms of distribution patterns. The final chapter of this section, by Agnès Vokaer, also focuses on local and imported ceramics, in her case from Syria. This region also participated in the pan-Mediterranean world of late antiquity, as the presence of African and Eastern Mediterranean wares indicates. More importantly, Syria was supplied by local producers of so-called "Brittle" cooking wares and other forms as well as Syrian amphorae, probably used for transporting wine. Vokaer seems to favor the idea that the success of these wares and amphorae was due to the trade routes associated with military garrisons.

It is clear from this brief (and irremediably incomplete) summary that the debates over the relative importance of taxes versus commercial exchange as drivers of the late antique economy, recently re-sparked by Chris Wickham's book, lie behind several of the contributions.1 In the case of inland economies, approaching this question is particularly challenging. While it is relatively simple to stress the fiscal connection between, say, Africa and Rome, it is almost impossible to trace "micro-tax worlds"—that is, circulation based on local networks of tax collection (at the estate, village, and city levels). What some of the papers seem to illustrate is the regionalization of exchanges during late antiquity (Gaul, Britain, Pannonia, Jordan). Does this mean that we are dealing with less commerce or with intensified local commerce? What is the role of the new tax system in this "regional turn"? These and other questions are crucial to understanding these "local economies" but are rather difficult to answer with the extant archaeological evidence.

Moreover, as some of the contributions stress, the interior and the coast could have been more connected economically than finewares and amphorae reveal. This leads us to the other looming question throughout the book: regional connectivity. This is crucial to defining an "inland region," since the connectedness of a region depends not only on its distance from the coast but also on the connectivity infrastructure. Has the recognizability of African and eastern Mediterranean products in the archaeological record exaggerated the apparent density of commercial exchange in coastal areas? The chapters on Anatolian, Sicilian, and African production and exchanges may suggest so. Perhaps a more direct engagement with Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell's work (and the responses of their critics) throughout the volume would have allowed for more explicit engagement with the complexities of overlapping regional and interregional systems of production and exchange.2

This reader's overall impression of this book is marked by the diversity of the inland world of late antiquity and the balance between trans-regional systems and local networks in each of the regions discussed in the contributions. The volume addresses one of the fundamental historiographical questions of the period (state-sponsored vs. market-driven exchanges) from a less studied angle (inland regions). The answers may not be uniform, and are in some cases very provisional due to the nature of the evidence. But the contributions confirm that we must take inland regions as more than a mere appendix to the ongoing discussion about what made the late antique Mediterranean economy tick.


1.   Chris Wickham. Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean 400-800. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
2.   Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell. The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History. Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

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Nina Zimmermann-Elseify, Corpus vasorum antiquorum. Deutschland, Bd 99; Berlin, Antikensammlung ehemals Antiquarium, Bd. 16: Attische Salbgefässe. Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck, 2015. Pp. 127; 24 p. of figures, 60 p. of plates. ISBN 9783406683534. $98.00.

Reviewed by Mary B. Moore, Hunter College, CUNY (

Version at BMCR home site

This volume completes the publication of the small oil vessels begun in CVA Berlin 8, 1991. The present fascicule contains alabastra, a red-figured aryballos, cylinder lekythoi decorated in Six's Technique, and squat lekythoi. It concludes with alabastra and lekythoi that were destroyed or lost (Beilagen 20-24). The author generously thanks her many friends and colleagues who assisted with this fascicule. The excellent color photographs were taken by Johannes Laurentius. The drawings are by Jörg Denkinger and printed at a scale of 1:1. The foreword concludes with detailed bibliographical abbreviations. Each entry begins with the accession number, the provenance (if known) and the former collection, measurements, bibliography and condition, followed by careful descriptions of shape, ornament and decoration, date and artist. Comparanda are as detailed as one may wish for.

ALABASTRA: pp. 15-48, pls. 1-16. The author gives a full description of the history and development of this elegant little oil vessel that is characterized by a flat mouth, a short narrow neck and a long cylindrical body that widens slightly before tapering to a rounded underside (pp. 15-17). It fits nicely in the palm of the hand. The shape derives from Egyptian prototypes and appears in Attic workshops around the middle of the 6th century B.C., Agora P 12628 by the Amasis Painter dating about 560 B.C. being one of the earliest.1 Slightly later is Inv. 2029 (Pl. 1) from the Circle of Lydos, dating ca. 550-540. Production ceases about 400 B.C. Besides the black-figured examples, alabastra occur in red-figure and in Six's technique (the figures are painted in white slip on the black glaze or left the reddish color of the clay). The largest number in this fascicule are in white ground with the figures in outline often augmented with added red or white.

The alabastron was a container for perfume used in daily life, and the scenes on them are usually quiet ones in domestic settings, most often with women, sometimes men and youths. A good example of the latter is F 2030 (pl. 2) dating about 520-510 that depicts a squatting man and youth, each holding a fighting cock, a quiet moment before the fierce action begins. On F 31390 (pl. 5, 5-8 and pl. 6), ca. 500-490, from the Group of the Paidikos Alabastra, a youth with a spotted dog on a leash stands between two others, each leaning on a knotted stick. F 2258 (pl. 8, 5-5 and pl. 9), ca. 490-480, a very elegant white ground alabastron from the Circle of the Brygos Painter, depicts Nike holding a bird and a nude athlete standing opposite, his hand touching the fillet around his head. On F 2257 (pls. 10-11,1-2), ca. 480, the Brygos Painter depicted an elegant woman holding out a phiale toward a youth seated on a diphros; next to her is a spotted cat that may be a cheetah. F 2256 (Pl. 14), ca. 460-450, shows a woman seated on a diphros facing a maid who holds up a mirror, a peaceful domestic scene. The latest alabastron, V.I. 3254 (pl. 15), ca. 410-400, depicts a woman (Aphrodite?) seated in a chariot drawn by Eros,2 accompanied by Hermes and Eros.

ARYBALLOS: Pls. 17-18. The aryballos has a spherical body that may be rounded or flat on the bottom, sometimes with a ring base, a short flaring neck and a broad mouth.3 It contained oil used by athletes after exercise. F 2326, attributed to the Clinic Painter and dating ca. 480-470, is the only aryballos in this volume and it depicts the unsuccessful Mission to Achilles from Book IX of the Iliad. All of the figures are inscribed. Achilles sits dejectedly on a diphros facing Odysseus seated on a folding stool. Ajax, Phoenix and Diomedes complete the scene. Three dogs decorate the shoulder of the aryballos (pl. 18, 4-5); the breed is not a Spitz (p. 51), but a Maltese lapdog, called a Melitaion in ancient Greek.4

LEKYTHOI IN SIX'S TECHNIQUE: pp. 52-59, pls. 19-24. The author presents a very clear discussion of this unusual technique, which was used from about 530-480 B.C., especially by the Sappho and Diosphos Painters, who were active in the early years of the 5th century. These rather fragile vases were used as funerary gifts and dedications in sanctuaries. The subjects focus on the Dionysiac thiasos or erotic themes. F 2239, F 2242 and F 2241 (pls. 19-22) are good illustrations: a nude maenad pursues a satyr; two satyrs run away from each other; a satyr steals up on a sleeping maenad and is about to seize her. F 2243 (pl. 23) shows a satyr with a lyre; F 2244 (pl. 24) depicts two satyrs approaching a maenad who leans against a rock playing the aulos.

SQUAT LEKYTHOI: pp. 60-116, pls. 25-60. Pp. 60-63 offer the reader a comprehensive overview of this type lekythos, which is very popular in the 5th century. It has a short, almost globular body (hence the term 'squat'), a ring base, a short neck, and a calyx-shaped mouth. The handle rises from the shoulder and curves inward attaching to the neck. This lekythos also held fragrant oil; its use ranged from daily life to funerary, and its subjects vary considerably. V.I. 3340 (pl. 25), ca. 470, depicts a serious-looking man walking to right holding a barbiton, preceded by a small satyr carrying a club that looks like the one that belongs to Herakles. Kalos is written in front of the barbiton. Nothing could be more different from this narrative scene than the decoration of the next three, F 2496, F 2494, F 2495 (pl. 26) from the workshop of the Seireniskos Painter (ca. 460-450): the first depicts a siren, the second a woman's head, the third an owl looking out at the viewer. Taken together, these four vessels illustrate the range in figural decoration on this type of lekythos. V.I. 3140,67 (pl. 29), ca. 440-430, is a tall variant of the shape. A woman stands to right behind a klismos, below which is a small rock partridge (Steinhuhn). Facing is a woman holding a box. F 2476 (pl. 30) in the manner of the Washing Painter (ca. 430- 420) depicts two nude women at a laver, a quiet scene in Athenian life. Two Amazons in their colorful dress appear on F 2475 (pl. 32) from the circle of the Eretria Painter (ca. 425-420); usually depicted as active in battle, these are as quiet in their demeanor as the Athenian woman depicted on F 2476 (pl. 30), even though they are armed with spears. On V.I. 4982,35 (pls. 33, 4-9) from the circle of the Meidias Painter, ca. 410-400, two Erotes fly towards a seated women, the scene flanked to left and right by a frontal youth, each armed with a spear. The woman is probably Aphrodite, though the presence of the spears is problematic (pp. 82-83). The subject of the scene on V.I. 4906 by the Pronomos Painter (pl. 34), ca. 410-400, is also puzzling. A woman sits to left on a box, looking back at Eros who faces her, and behind him is a youth with a spear. A white Eros flies toward the woman and another stands at the far left. This is a very elegant vessel, but its subject is quite unclear. The subject on F 2690 (pl. 39), ca. 400-390, is perfectly straightforward: a mounted Amazon, accompanied by a companion on foot holding a spear and a pelta, fights two Greeks, one of them fallen, the other attacking. More interesting is V.I. 3375 (pls. 43-44, dating ca, 390-380, which shows a Gigantomachy, the Greek in a chariot drawn by two ferocious griffins attacking a fallen Giant with snake legs, a subject that is rather unusual at this time. On V.I. 3406 (pls. 45-46, 1,2), a youthful centaur grasps a woman who tries to escape, another centaur grapples with a youth, and a Greek followed by a woman comes in from the left. Though animated, this scene of ca. 380 lacks the true threat of fifth century illustrations of this myth. On F 2688 (pls. 48-49), ca. 380-370, a lovely Aphrodite sits on the back of a swan flying to left over the waves, a scene that may signal the beginning of spring. The figures on F 2704 (pls. 53-54), ca. 370-360, are presented in relief and depict a scene in the women's quarters. On V.I. 3248 (pls. 55-57) from the Apollonia Group, ca. 360, a woman stands on a ladder pointing toward a woman holding a bowl. An Eros flies between them, and behind the woman on the ladder a seated woman plays the aulos. A thymiaterion stands on the ground indicating a ritual with incense. Standing women frame the picture. The exact subject is uncertain, perhaps a ritual concerning Aphrodite (the ladder) or Adonis (discussion, pp. 110-111). The last squat lekythoi (pp. 115-116), attributed to the Bulas Group (ca. 400-350), are decorated with a net pattern (pl. 60). The subjects of the lost vases (pp. 117-118, Beilagen 20-24) are briefly described.

Pp. 119-127: The text concludes with 9 indices: I Concordance of Inventory numbers, Plates and Beilagen; II Origin: Provenances; III Origin: Collections and Purchases; IV Measurements; V Technical features; VI Representations; VII Inscriptions; VIII Potters, Painters and Workshops; IX Supplementary drawings and photographs.

This new Berlin fascicule conveys the remarkable diversity of shapes and variety of illustrations present in small vases that are sometimes eclipsed by the large vessels with their more animated and elaborate subjects. These smaller cousins are just as important and this welcome new addition to the CVA series makes this crystal clear.


1.   Agora XXlll, p 253, no. 1257, pl 88.
2.   Zimmerman-Elseify (p. 46) calls this a two-wheeled wagon. A wagon has cross-bar wheels; this vehicle has four spoked wheels, and is thus a chariot.
3.   To the bibliography given for the shape on p. 51, add Agora XXX, pp. 50-51.
4.   For this dog, see M. B. Moore, "The Hegesiboulos Cup," Metopolitan Museum Journal 43, 2008, pp. 16-18 with bibliography.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016


Molly M. Lindner, Portraits of the Vestal Virgins: Priestesses of Ancient Rome. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015. Pp. xxii, 291. ISBN 9780472118953. $95.00.

Reviewed by Peta Greenfield, The University of Sydney (

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Publisher's Preview

This book examines Vestal portraiture and reflects Lindner's progression on the subject since her 1996 dissertation.1 The sculptures are considered through the paradigm of Art History, a pertinent fact for readers specialising in other disciplines. The book opens with a series of introductory chapters that serve to establish aspects of cult practice (Chapters 1-2), a history of the archaeological activity at the site of the atrium Vestae (Chapters 3-4), and a discussion of major points relating to iconography (Chapter 5-6). The centrepiece of the work is Chapter 7, 'Catalog of Sixteen Vestal Portraits', where Lindner proposes a chronology for the portraits and establishes visual signifiers of Vestals in sculpture. The portraits in the catalogue date from the Trajanic period (Cat. 1 dated to c. 100 CE, p. 128) to the Middle to Late Severan (Cat. 16 dated to c. 235 CE, p. 156). Chapters 8-14 further analyse the catalogue entries and expand consideration of the role of Vestal portraiture by locating it in the broader context of concurrent female portraiture.

Lindner provides a comprehensive overview of the Vestal college in the first half of the book, with some moments of speculation. The suggestion that statues allowed the Vestals to enter the "'modern' era" is oblique and greater expansion of the meaning is needed. That statues permitted Vestals to "balance their aura of inapproachability and mystique by increasing the Roman populace's awareness of their humanity" (p. 73) is somewhat at odds with Lindner's earlier proposal that many of the Vestal statues were displayed in the atrium Vestae, to which public access was restricted (p. 64). Some dates drawn from the fasti require revision. The assertion that the Temple of Vesta was cleaned prior to the entry of Roman women during the Vestalia (p. 24) is contradicted directly by Ov. Fast. 6.713-4; the accompanying point that women brought laurel branches to decorate the Temple after the Vestalia is likewise incorrect, with this event falling in March (Ov. Fast. 3.141-144) while the Vestalia takes place in June (Ov. Fast. 6.249-468). Lindner finds firmer ground with the history of archaeological excavation of the atrium Vestae, which is discussed chronologically. The thorough consideration of the major archaeological excavations and the principle scholarly work drawing upon the archaeology in Chapter 3 underpins the arguments advanced in Chapter 4 regarding the display of Vestal statuary in the atrium Vestae. The discussion of topics such as the history of dedications to Vestals, likely statue locations within the atrium Vestae, and the relationship between bases and statues are each of interest and provide a clear sense of the major features of the site, as well as a solid understanding of the scholarly work in this area.

Lindner proposes that Vestal portraiture evolved over the second and third centuries CE and that differences in type reflect changing values. This thesis is most demonstrable in Lindner's proposed 'Vestal Burning Incense' (VBI) type (p. 226). The figure is defined as 'active' rather than 'passive' (p. 262) and engaged in the process of sacrifice, i.e. standing and holding accoutrements of sacrifice such as a patera, acerra, simpulum, or secespita. This portrait type cannot be directly extrapolated from the catalogue provided, as most Vestal portraits survive in fragmented form, either as heads or busts. Of the sixteen portraits in the catalogue, five are in a complete enough state to permit discussion of arms and hands (Cat. 3, 7, 9, 10, and 13). Given the limitations of the sculptural evidence, Lindner builds the case for the VBI type through examination of Vestal dress as a signifier of distinct status from other Roman women, particularly the infulae, suffibulum, and vittae. There are particular challenges with such an approach, however, which Lindner acknowledges. The visual distinction between Vestals in sculpture and other women is complicated by the increasing cooption of traditional Vestal signifiers, such as the seni crines hairstyle, by other Roman women (Chapter 8). Lindner argues that this ambiguity in visual signifiers is a consequence of Domitian's prosecution of the Vestal cult between 82 and 91 CE, a central turning point that ushers in a new morality for the cult. As a consequence, the visual signifiers of Vestals are increasingly adopted by Roman women during the second and third centuries in order to demonstrate their pudicitia (Chapter 9). Matronal pudicitia is read as in a dynamic relationship with Vestal chastity (pp. 190-1). While the moral character of the Vestal cult is an issue under Domitian, the connection between imperial women and the Vestal Virgins dates to Augustan era legal privileges of Livia and Octavia. The increasing parallels between Vestal iconography and visual signifiers adopted by Roman women in the second century is likely, in part, the expansion of statuary generally to Roman citizen women, and the stylistic convention of emulating imperial style, a feature Lindner readily acknowledges in order to date the Vestal statues.

Visual alignment between Roman women and the Vestals in sculpture confirms the inherent ambiguity in drawing meaning from the evidence, and this is both the strength and challenge of the work overall. Lindner's proposal that '[t]his book relocates the Vestal Virgins' portraits in the history of Roman art and ... shows that their influence as artworks extended into the imperial court as well as into the Roman middle class' (p. 5) is supported by the examination of shared signifiers between the Vestals and Roman women, but also ensures that proposals to identify a figure as either category need to be scrutinised carefully. On the basis of visual signifiers, Lindner builds a case for distinguishing the Virgo Vestalis Maxima in iconography from imperial women. The argument focuses on the depiction of the infulae, vittae, and suffibulum; in particular, Lindner proposes that the visibility of the vittae marks out a Vestal as opposed to an imperial woman (p. 230). Lindner's work in this area serves as an alternative to the scholarship on Vestal sculpture (notably Mekacher),2 and on Vestal dress (notably Sebesta, Olson, and Fantham).3 The difficulty in reconciling the literary source descriptions of parts of dress and the variety apparent in archaeological evidence remains.

Readers interested in the archaeological history of the atrium Vestae, the connection between individual portraits and prevailing imperial styles, and the contribution that sculptural evidence can offer to the study of the second and third centuries will benefit from considering Lindner's work as part of the scholarship on this period. There are moments when more detail would be welcome, such as when Lindner notes scholarly disagreement about the existence of a statue of Vesta in Augustus' Palatine shrine (p. 80). The late offered thesis that '[w]omen will seek out each other when pressures mount that threaten their security or when men enforce laws and policies that require women to change their public behaviour' (p. 261) is broad and would benefit from explicit framing throughout. Moments when the argument is poised on the cusp of theoretical engagement, but does not pursue it, such as the conclusion of Chapter 5—'Theories of visuality offer a way to explicate the many layers of meaning in such a complex set of visual connections'—may leave readers who value a clear theoretical framework unsatisfied. The extent to which these features of the text reflect the disciplinary approach of Art History is difficult to assess; nevertheless, historians and classicists may find the arguments advanced open to question as a consequence.

The organisation of this book is not immediately intuitive for the reader. The catalogue of Vestal portraits appears in the central chapter (Chapter 7), but catalogue entries are mentioned in earlier chapters with no explanation of how the catalogue system works. The placement of the catalogue roughly in the middle of the text means that following up on internal references to the catalogue requires extra attention from the reader in order to precisely locate each entry. Such issues are cosmetic and do not impinge on the argumentation overall. A more curious feature of the catalogue is entry Cat. 4, which is referred to on a number of occasions in the text, most notably pp. 133-4, but for which there is no accompanying figure provided in Chapter 7 or in the List of Figures. No rationale is offered as to why the image of Cat. 4 is missing from the catalogue, leaving the reader to speculate. Readers interested in Lindner's case for viewing Cat. 4 as a fake must seek out a reproduction of the image in other scholarly works.

There are a few minor errors in the text itself. Most do not detract from the work as a whole and are likely a result of the proofing process. A penchant for 'ascension' rather than 'accession' is notable on a couple of occasions (p. 48, 123). There are a few errors in spelling. There is also an error in measurement in the description on p. 131: "The sculptor of Cat. 2 used asymmetry to give the face expression. For example, the left eye is about 4cm higher on the face than the right." Reasonable deduction from the accompanying figure suggests that 4mm is the intended scope of the asymmetry.


1.   Lindner, M. M. M. The Vestal Virgins and Their Imperial Patrons: Sculptures and Inscriptions from the Atrium Vestae in the Roman Forum. Diss. The University of Michigan, 1996.
2.   Mekacher, N. Die vestalischen Jungfrauen in der römischen Kaiserzeit. Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2006.
3.   Sebesta, J. L. 'Symbolism in the Costume of Roman Women' in Sebesta, J. L., Bonfante, L. (eds.) The World of Roman Costume. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison: 46-53, 1994; Olson, K. Dress and the Roman Woman: Self-presentation and society. Routledge, Abingdon, London, 2008; Olson, K. 'The Appearance of the Young Roman Girl' in Edmondson, J., Keith, A. (eds.) Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture. University of Toronto Press, Toronto: 139-57, 2008; Fantham, E. 'Covering the Head at Rome: Ritual and Gender' in Edmondson, J., Keith, A. (eds.) Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture. University of Toronto Press, Toronto: 158-71, 2008. ​

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Ine Jacobs, Aesthetic Maintenance of Civic Space: The 'Classical' City from the 4th to the 7th c. AD. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 193. Leuven: Peeters, 2013. Pp. 1028. ISBN 9789042923027. $162.00.

Reviewed by Benjamin Anderson, Cornell University (

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Table of Contents

Students of the late Roman city can learn a lot from American university campuses—from the discussions that they host, to be sure, but also from the peculiarities of their expansion and upkeep. Potential euergetai entertain "naming opportunities," whereby the prestige of the new building exceeds that of repair and renovation. Curious hybrids result: glassy atriums abut moldering landmarks. Neither construction nor maintenance directly reflects communal prosperity or need; rather, both form part of a social-symbolic calculus whose constituent values are legible only to dedicated experts ("development officers").

These reflections are prompted both by the view from my office window and by Ine Jacobs's outstanding monograph, which reconstructs the values peculiar to the Roman East, above all to Anatolia and Syria, in late antiquity. Some aspects of the story reinforce now-standard accounts (civic monuments are out, churches in), while others will be uncannily familiar to American academics: "governors had a marked preference for new construction and ... were reluctant to repair old buildings" (537); "a general plan ... had been laid out beforehand, and ... its separate parts ... were then 'offered' as possible benefactions to members of the community" (524). The totality, however, is both original and persuasive.

Jacobs can surprise because her study is based on the first-hand inspection of archaeological remains: "one has little choice but to start at the lowest level of the individual structure or statue" (8). The discussion proceeds through a functional typology that owes much to William MacDonald. Walls come first, followed by colonnaded streets and the decorative monuments that adorn them, religious buildings (decaying temples and newly-built churches), and statues. Jacobs adopts a visitor's point of view, so that "residential or artisanal quarters" are consciously omitted (12), although the labor that non-elite residents contribute to construction and upkeep is acknowledged (14).

Each functional type receives a chapter, producing a series of compact and confident architectural histories that are supported by appendices containing catalog entries on individual sites and monuments. The fourth- and fifth-century boom in fortifications announces the beginning of a new era of building. Solid ashlar masonry gives way to sandwich construction ("two faces of large rectangular blocks with an interior fill of rubble and mortar" [25]) with extensive use of spoils (38). Quality is uneven, with greater finish applied to gates. Passage through one of those main entries invariably leads to a colonnaded street, usually laid out in the second and third centuries AD but continually augmented and maintained in late antiquity. Paving required constant repairs (148). Diachronic shifts are clear: the stylobate, deemed essential in earlier centuries, was optional by the sixth (163), just as pillars could eventually replace columns (169) and impost capitals replace the orders (172). Despite occasional efforts to cut new elements in imitation of the originals, most repairs may be immediately recognized (177). Decorative monuments work in concert with colonnaded streets to frame vistas, an effort that was also abandoned in the sixth century (271).

Integration of churches into existing architectural frameworks is addressed via location (311), and through an important discussion of entrances. The atrium is often approached via a staircase, a propylon, and a monumental doorframe. In the most ambitious buildings, like the cathedral at Jerash, these three features "were combined into an elaborate... ensemble" (336), while humbler churches incorporate only one or two of them. When possible, church walls are constructed of ashlars, but in comparison to older buildings basilicas "possessed a rather boring exterior" (350), even if some offered panoramic views from their atriums (354). Church interiors are productively compared "with the exterior space of streets and squares. Churches are the only other newly constructed large complexes in which columns were needed in sizable quantities, and that even possessed the same directionality inherent to an elongated space flanked by two columnar rows" (371). The chapter on statues briefly returns to the streets and includes important remarks on positioning (423).

These monument-based chapters are followed by three thorough (and eminently readable) thematic accounts, first of the primary architectural changes observed: the emergence of heterogeneous colonnades, the construction of walls out of reused blocks, and the direct correlation of a monument's visibility to its maintenance. Homogeneous colonnades are found mostly in churches, and patchwork assemblages in streets and squares (446). In the latter, individual pieces may be used in unorthodox fashion (capitals as column bases, columns as statue bases, etc.) but "architectural elements became completely alienated from their original function" only in the sixth century (469). Maintenance was reserved for monuments positioned on high points and along main streets, while "others on less visible locations were destroyed or left to decay" (475), and usually screened off by "a new visual boundary" (476).

The second thematic chapter focuses on patronage and labor. Local residents assumed increasing responsibility for construction—whether through levies (503) or labor (513)—and maintenance (520). The distinction between churches' uniform colonnades and the mixed assemblages that lined city streets derives in part from different degrees of central organization and access to resources (532). A final chapter addresses the uses of urban space, including a crucial discussion of "everyday maintenance," a task left primarily to local populations (593). Although trash was supposed to be carried outside the walls, in reality the disused and dilapidated buildings that were hidden from public view became dumps (611). Encroachment, especially on porticos, does not indicate the failure of civic government; rather, municipalities viewed it as an opportunity to raise revenue through taxes, rents, and fines. This privatization of public space had begun already in the fourth century (632), and accelerated through the sixth, when "spaces were ... given completely new purposes that seldom complied with their original function" (639).

The conclusion begins as a lengthy abstract of the whole book, and finishes with a summary judgment: "the entire period can be seen as a decline in comparison with the first two centuries of the Roman Empire," even if it "can also be valued on its own terms" (674). The middle of the sixth century marks a crucial break, after which citizens were no longer able, or willing, to maintain urban infrastructure.

In a more recent monograph, Hendrik Dey posits that "ongoing use and occupation of old buildings tends to be one of the hardest things to document archaeologically because archaeology is generally better at revealing change and destruction than persistence and maintenance."1 Jacobs presents a strong case for the ability of nuts-and-bolts classical archaeology—close analysis of structural elements, from stylobate to entablature—to document and date maintenance, especially of those colonnaded streets on which both authors focus. If the two studies are read side-by-side, productive contrasts emerge. To take only one example: ʿAnjar, the eighth-century foundation in Lebanon depicted on the cover of MacDonald's "urban appraisal," is for Dey evidence of the survival of a specific "urban ideal",2 for Jacobs "no more than a conservative, and maybe even a failed experiment" (677). Both views are defensible, and will continue to attract champions, but all future historians of the late Roman city will need to take seriously Jacobs's evidence base, methods, and conclusions.

Beyond their differences, both authors share an explicit and exclusive focus on primary arteries, and a largely negative view of the remaining urban fabric. For Dey, the "monumental armature ... screened from view all the squalor and filth that may have prevailed elsewhere."3 Jacobs makes only passing reference to the second lives of dilapidated civic structures: "less visible locations were not only dismantled or left in ruins, but were also redeveloped in new residential and artisanal quarters" (477). Porticoes and squares must figure in any account of late antique cities, but residential and industrial development can be viewed as the other half of the same story. When state and civic authorities neglect their duties, associations of different kinds (guilds, factions, neighborhoods, religious fraternities, etc.) will fill the resulting vacuums (assuming maintenance both of physical infrastructure and of social cohesion). Jacobs detects non-state actors only when their priorities overlap with the traditional concerns of state and city, as when guilds restore the colonnades that frame their members' shops (520), or neighborhoods assume responsibility for local stretches of wall (496). Yet these associations' primary energies were probably directed elsewhere— only concerned with the monumental boasts of a failing order when they satisfied immediate (commercial or defensive) needs.

The middle of the sixth century is for Jacobs the moment when "residents either no longer cared about how the city was perceived by local citizens—and more importantly, by outsiders—or they were no longer able to take the necessary measures" (678). For a historian of medieval Constantinople, by contrast, it marks the point when "urban culture was not abandoned ... but crystallised around a different set of nuclei," namely, "hospitals, churches, diakoniai, [and] monasteries."4 The next step is to embrace both phenomena within a single analysis that does not blame local residents for state failure, but assumes their ability to act rationally, both through justifiable neglect of a discredited "ideal" and through the advancement of new positive standards.


1.   Hendrik Dey, The Afterlife of the Roman City: Architecture and Ceremony in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2015), 247.
2.   ibid., 213-15. Future discussion of the site should heed the multiple contributions of Barbara Finster, e.g.: "Researches in ʿAnjar. I. Preliminary Report on the Architecture of ʿAnjar," BAAL 7 (2003), 209-44; "Researches in ʿAnjar. II. Preliminary Report on the Ornaments of ʿAnjar," BAAL 11 (2007), 143-65; "ʿAnjar: spätantik oder frühislamisch," in Karin Bartl and Abd al-Razzaq Moaz, eds., Residences, Castles, Settlements: Transformation Processes from Late Antiquity to Early Islam in Bilad al-Sham (Rahden, 2008), 229-42.
3.   Dey, Afterlife, 13.
4.   Paul Magdalino, "Medieval Constantinople," in idem, Studies on the History and Topography of Byzantine Constantinople (Aldershot, 2007), I.54.

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Peter Mack, John North (ed.), The Afterlife of Ovid. BICS supplement, 130. London: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2015. Pp. xi, 237. ISBN 9781905670604. £45.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Jo-Marie Claassen, University of Stellenbosch (

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This collection of essays is the tangible fruit of a conference held jointly by the London Institute of Classical Studies and the Warburg Institute, funded by the Dean's Development Fund of the School of Advanced Studies, University of London. As the title indicates, it treats of Ovid's Nachlebung, ranging in subject matter from his influence on authors such as Dante and Milton and other English poets, to his influence on the visual arts as represented by Renaissance book illustrations and the painters Correggio and Rubens. A set of conference papers cannot be expected to be representative of every facet of Ovidian reception, a sort of "Compleat Ovid" in the style of the various available Companions. Yet the range of papers gives a very good impression of the pervasiveness during the Renaissance of Ovid's influence throughout the arts.

The editors set the scene in a thorough introduction, predictably commencing with Ovid's assertion of his own lasting fame from Metamorphoses 15 (877–9). They explain that emphasis will be on the "central period" of Ovid's output, with most attention being concentrated on his multi-faceted epic of transformations. Ovid's treatment of his store of myths offered writers "many rich ways of thinking about time, change, and love" (p.viii). A rapid review of individual papers gives a quick guide to potential "dipping," but the book as a whole rewards being read as an entity, with one important caveat: it is a pity that the editors did not display a firmer hand in more careful text editing, as errata abound in the first two thirds of the volume (see below).

In the first paper Ingo Gildenhard explores the complex relationships among Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Bible, and Dante's Divina Commedia (pp.1–21). Even if Dante in the end rejected "literary glory" in favour of "true immortality," still "Ovid remains an intertextual presence as well in Dante's transfiguration" (p.20).

Caroline Starke next reflects on aspects of Ovid's tale of Narcissus as both an example of his narrative art and as symbolic of the transfigurative power of the visual arts (pp.23–41). Starke quotes from Met. 3 (418–24) to support her interpretation of Narcissus' fixation on his own image as a form of appreciation of a painting, with its power both to capture "perfect beauty" and to "simulat[e] reality" (p.27). Dante, Ariosto, and Tasso feature as "insightful readers of the Metamorphoses" (30) who use the story of Narcissus 'to explore both the power and the danger of art' by reminding readers to reject sensory pleasure (41). I was perhaps not fully convinced by Starke's thesis, but this is no doubt the result of a lack of insight on my part. Starke quotes fairly copiously from the Italians but provides suitable translations, mostly based on work by other scholars.1

In the third paper Frank T. Coulson for the first time publishes his interesting discovery that a commentary on the Ibis, now to be found in the Vatican Library, was composed by the fifteenth century rhetorician Bernardo Moretti of Bologna. The paper (pp.43–58) is rounded off with a one-page appendage, Moretti's Life of Ovid in Latin verse. After a rapid survey of Moretti's career and his three biographies of Ovid (two in prose), Coulson concentrates on the stuff of the commentary. Here, unfortunately, more rigorous typographical editing would have enhanced the value of this important paper.2

Next Hélène Casanova-Robin, in a paper titled "From Ovid to Pontano" (61–79), considers myth as a forma mentis, which a further subtitle explains as "[e]laborating humanitas through mythological inventio." The paper deals with the fifteenth century humanist Pontano's multifaceted use of Ovid in his poetry, in particular his use of myth to interpret all aspects of life and letters. A striking apothegm serves to wrap up the argument: "In his verses, Pontano repairs the disjunctions Ovid had wrought." This is followed by a brief recapitulation of the examples Casanova-Robin has discussed (78). Again, some puzzling inconsistencies obtrude.3

John F. Miller next discusses "Ovid's Janus and the start of the year in Renaissance Fasti sacri" (81–93). The introduction briefly recounts the major players in the history of Renaissance reception of Ovid's work on the Roman calendar, after which various poetic calendars are considered. Some took the first day of Advent as the start of the Christian year. For Lazarelli, St. Peter is the Ovidian Janus-figure; for Mantuan Janus was Noah; Ambroglio Fracco adopted the name Novidius (New Ovid) and was predictably the most indebted to Ovid's Fasti, which his version appears to attempt "to trump" (85). This paper has only two misprints.4

Gesine Manuwald's learned discussion of the vast topic of Ovid's impact on neo-Latin verse epistles (95–114) is thorough and wide-ranging, ending with detailed discussion of two very different kinds of "Ovidian" heroines' letters, one a letter-pair by the German Hessus (featuring "Emmanuel"—Jesus—and his mother Mary), the other a single poetic letter by the Scot Boyd (featuring Augustus' daughter Julia). Again, however, I fear that the appearance of the paper invites quibbling.5 The editors' preference for the (to this reviewer) old-fashioned approach to citation, with full bibliographical details of each work cited in a footnote, instead of the shorter (Harvard) method, with a centralized bibliography at the end of the volume and brief reference by surname and date of each author in footnotes, leads to the first few pages of Manuwald's fine article having the appearance of the proverbial 'thin trickle of text' above a vast mountain of footnotes.

Three illustrated papers on visual aspects of Ovid's heritage follow, by Fátima Díez-Platas on fifteenth and sixteenthcentury book illustrations of the Metamorphoses (115–35), by Hérica Valladares on the visual and Ovidian background to Correggio's portrayal of Io from Metamorphoses 1 (with playful punning on the inclusion of the word 'Io' within the painter's name, 137–58), and by Elizabeth McGrath on the artist Rubens and his debt to Ovid.6 The illustrative plates that accompany these three papers make purchase of this relatively expensive paperback worthwhile.

The last three papers show Ovid transported to the English countryside. Maggie Kilgour sets the tone with a wide-ranging overview (pp. 181–202) of Ovid's influence, via Chaucer and English Petrarchism, on the Elizabethan poets Spenser, Thomas Churchyard and Lodge, where Lodge's Scillaes metamorphosis influenced the "Englishing" of the epyllion as genre. This leads to detailed discussion of John Weever's Faunus and Melliflora, or the original of our English satyrs, and ends with the Ovidian elements in John Milton's Comus. Philip Hardie takes up where Kilgour leaves off, treating of Ovidian elements in Milton's great Christian epic Paradise Lost (203–19), concentrating on Milton's "combinatorial imitation" of various figures from the Metamorphoses to portray both Adam and Eve (p.204). Several of the better known myths feature as intertextual reverberations, from Apollo and Daphne to Echo and Narcissus, Pygmalion and Galatea, even Hermaphroditus and Salmacis. Milton's similes and "approximative similes" (214) are [often] "heavily Ovidian" (213), with Eve intertextually likened in turn to various nymphs, some originally Homeric or Vergilian, but mediated through Ovid's appropriation of such. For Hardie, Ovidian influence is not restricted to the narratological, but reflects a "central theological and anthropological theme . . . the correct relationship between original and model" (215). Whereas Ovid refracted the Vergilian Dido through a "multiplicity of women" (219), Milton reassembles these into a unity, according to Hardie.

Victoria Moul ends the collection with discussion of Cowley's transformation of Ovid in his Plantarum libri sex from 1668 (221-34). The first two books of this voluminous collection of poems in various meters comprise altogether 38 elegiacs celebrating the virtues of 31 different herbs. The book was apparently intended as a serious didactic work, celebrating the utility of these plants, particularly for medicinal purposes. The plants "speak" eruditely on their own usefulness. This feature Moul considers as both "very Ovidian…and very un-Ovidian." As female victims of sexual violence, they have undergone metamorphosis, but, unlike Ovid's heroines, they are both eloquent and knowledgeable. The second book, in particular, features herbal abortificants, useful for "girls who have been raped or foolish." These plants are "banished" to Crete, for their "crime" (induction of abortion, 234), which, had they been known to the parents of various great men, would have rendered them unborn, as Cowley's "president of the assembly" declares (232). For Moul, the importance of this generically and thematically Ovidian didactic collection is the challenge they offer Ovidian poetics: here female victims survive with their voices intact and "wield and express the power to prevent exactly the sorts of calamities from which they have suffered . . . Ovid's heroines could have made use of Cowley's Six Books of Plants" (234).

An Index of close on three pages completes the collection. A composite bibliography, as suggested above, would have been a useful addition to this interesting and thought-provoking volume.


1.   A few typographical errors obtrude: p.35, "gives into despair"; p.40, discrepant highlighting between sections of a quotation from Tasso and its English translation; p.41, "each of the heroes fall victim….."
2.   Errors abound: p.51, rugbigo for, presumably, rubigo; p.55, inconsistency (at the translation of the comment on Ibis 43) in the use of italics); p.56, line 3, inconsistent use of double and single quotation marks, p.57, inconsistent indentation of Coulson's comment on Moretti's treatment of verse 177; passim, why is the perfectly normal English word 'abstruse' consistently italicised?
3.   The name "Phaethon" is consistently misspelled as "Phaeton" from p.63 onward and is printed as "Phateon" on p.77; p.75, par.3 "…dedicatee, whom appears…" (for "who"….); p.77, the translation for instabiles…vices is the rather odd: "most unstable skew."
4.   Both are on p.83: "day's first day" for "year's…."; "celebrations of fixed date," for "…dates."
5.   Three misprints: p.106, "this" for "his"; p.110, par.2, 'Quodq and par.4, adulterij.
6.   Unfamiliarity with (Renaissance) Dutch spelling conventions is sufficient excuse for the mangling of the title of Van Mander's 1604 Uitlegghingh op den Metamorphosis, which became "Wtlegghingh . . . ," and incorrect spacing in a quotation, which should probably read "…[dat] was omdat er…" ("this was because there was….") but became "…om datter . . ." in n.1 on p.159.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016


James Clackson, Language and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds. Key themes in ancient history. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2015. Pp. xiv, 204. ISBN 9780521140669. £19.99.

Reviewed by Staffan Wahlgren, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (

Version at BMCR home site


Students of Greek and Latin more often than not lack an overview of the many (other) languages spoken in the Mediterranean area in Antiquity and the extent of ancient bilingualism or multilingualism. Also, they often know little about sociolinguistics and the linguistic study of class, gender, religion, and the construction of identity. To all this, the present volume provides a handy introduction.

Chapter 1 ("The linguistic ecology of the Mediterranean") sets the scene. It aims at mapping the languages of the ancient Mediterranean (here, some more tables would have been useful) and describing the available evidence in the form of literary sources, inscriptions, documentary papyri etc. Further, it gives an introduction to relevant scholarship on linguistic diversity, the spread of languages and the like. Finally, it presents an overview of modern and ancient societies that may be considered parallel cases to those of the Mediterranean linguistic area (ranging, in the case of modern societies, from Northern Europe to South America, whereas, in the case of ancient societies, particular attention is paid to the Middle East in the preceding millennia). True, the evidence remains in some cases very scanty. However, the overview demonstrates in an impressive, and most encouraging, way recent advances in the understanding of languages such as Phrygian, Ligurian, and Gaulish.

Chapter 2 ("States of languages/languages of states") is devoted to the standardisation of language and the active promotion of languages and language forms. First, the case of Old Persian is discussed. Most of the chapter is devoted to Latin and Greek, and Latin is discussed before Greek. The narrative is very concentrated, and a somewhat fuller treatment of the Greek case would have been particularly welcome (longue-durée perspectives on Greek diglossia are missing; the road to katharevousa is never mentioned). Atticism/Classicism is discussed too briefly, and the reader is led to believe that it is more exclusively connected with the Second Sophistic than is the case (see pp. 55–58). Other points are also open to criticism. The mention of the use of Latin in Byzantine administration (p. 40) fails to recognise that domains originally reserved to Latin (such as law) were increasingly taken over by Greek, as illustrated by laws in Greek from as early as the 6th century and, more fully, by the late 9th-century collection known as the Basilika. The Art of Grammar by Dionysios Thrax is much more limited in scope than is implied here (p. 56). And the claim made on pp. 38 and 105 about the distortion of texts through transmission is in my opinion rather exaggerated.

In Chapter 3 ("Language and identity") major changes in the linguistic landscape, including those caused by colonization and conquest, are discussed. Language death (see, for instance, pp. 65–66 on the death of Gaulish) is discussed, as well as resistance to a dominant language (as illustrated by the use of Etruscan or Oscan instead of Latin because of an anti-Roman sentiment, see pp. 73–78). The evidence of bi- or trilingual inscriptions involving languages other than Greek and Latin is discussed (pp. 78–87, followed by a discussion of Greek and Latin bilingual inscriptions). More than anything else this demonstrates how little there is left to us and how little we know, and how difficult it is to arrive at anything but very hypothetical explanations as to why anyone would put up an inscription in Eteocypriot and Greek, or Latin, Greek and Punic, or Latin and Gaulish. Perhaps the most valuable point in all this is that it may be wrong to believe that all coexistence is resolved in swift death or victory, and that it may be wrong to believe that there is always a struggle between languages. It is convincingly argued that there may have been many stable, long-term cases of bilingualism (or multilingualism).

Chapter 4 deals with "Language variation". After a short introduction, in which, among other matters, the "mismatch between speech and writing" and the "problems" caused by this are laid out, there is a substantial discussion (pp. 99–103) of Labov's investigations into the social stratification of English in New York City. From this we proceed to "Tracking linguistic variation in the ancient world" (pp. 103–08), followed by sections on Greek (pp. 108–13, mainly on comedy) and Latin (pp. 114–18, mainly on comedy and the novel). Finally there is a section on "Language variation and language change" (pp. 118–22). All this makes for fascinating reading, and there are many good points (for instance on the connection between Vulgar and Late Latin). However, an underlying premiss seems to be that spoken language is a worthier object of study than written language, and this tends to take us into territory which is not so easily explored with regard to ancient languages (as illustrated by the discussion of Labov). We may ask whether ancient literary sources could have been exploited more fully in support of Clackson's arguments in this book.

Chapter 5 ("Language, gender, sexuality") deals with gender differences and female speech (pp. 124–34), male speech (pp. 134–37), and obscenity (pp. 137–42). Comedy is an important source of knowledge, concerning Greek as well as Latin. Other sources include Plato's Cratylus, Petronius' Satyricon, papyri and other kinds of documentary evidence, such as the Vindolanda tablets. Hints at gender differences caused by differences in education are played down, and the author seems wary of supposing that women were at a great disadvantage in this respect. Very interesting is the discussion (pp. 131–33) of the use of Greek vs. Coptic in letters (i.e. papyri) from the village of Kellis in Egypt's western desert. Women write in Coptic only, and men writing to women almost always do the same, whereas exclusively male correspondence is in most cases conducted in Greek. Why is this so, and what does it tell us about linguistic competence and gender, and the distribution of domains between Greek and Coptic? Also obscenity is given a good discussion, especially of the two verbs binéo and laikázo. A short note on a statement made by the author on modern languages may be permitted here: it is not universally true (as implied on p. 137) that "modern speakers" prefer obscenities to religious oaths at times of emotion. Scandinavian languages are remarkably much in favour of religious oaths, although obscenities are by no means rare. With other words, even though the preference for obscenities may hold true for English and many other languages as well, it is not safe to imply that there is a general cultural divide here between Antiquity and the modern world.

Chapter 6 ("The languages of Christianity") pursues several of the themes already discussed. The first section, pp. 143–51 ("Bible translators and cradle-snatchers"), deals with the development of a wide range of literary languages alongside Greek and Latin, and with attitudes towards these. There follows a section ("What would Jesus say?", pp. 151–56) on multilingualism in a specific corner of the Roman Empire at a specific time. Then comes a section ("Christian Greek and Christian Latin", pp. 156–63) dealing with the adoption of higher registers by Christian writers as well as with modern scholarship. The final section ("Christianity and local languages in the Roman Empire", pp. 163–70) starts with a discussion of the so-called Peregrinatio Aetheriae (or Egeriae, or Silvae) and the picture it gives of the linguistic situation in the East in the late 4th century. The discussion then moves on to the establishment of Syriac and Coptic as major literary languages and, at its very end, the dominance of Latin, the demise of other languages, and the limits of linguistic diversity within the Roman Empire (Bible translations seemingly thriving outside the Empire). It is not possible to comment upon all this in detail. Very interesting is the discussion of Augustine and his attitude towards Punic (pp. 147–48), as also the counterfactual discussion of what the linguistic future of Europe might have been had the Roman Empire of the West fallen earlier (pp. 167–68). Unfortunately there are some factual inaccuracies. That Mesrop invented alphabets not only for the Armenians but also for the Georgians and Caucasian Albanians is actually quite uncertain and may be a legend; here, it is presented as fact (p. 144). Bishop Wulfila of the Goths is placed in the 3rd century AD (p. 169). Had it not been for reasons of relative chronology (the invasions of the Huns in the 4th and the 5th century are described as taking place later than Wulfila), and for the claim that the Gothic translation of the Bible hails from the Balkans (i.e., it was not made within the Roman Empire: see p. 148 and the discussion of the lack of linguistic pluralism in the Empire), the placement of Wulfila in the 3rd century could be taken for a misprint (on p. 144 correct dates are given for Wulfila, and he is placed in the 4th century where he belongs). But as it stands, and because of its context, the wrong date is confusing. It remains an open question whether the author sees any good reason to doubt that Wulfila's translation was carried out in Nicopolis ad Istrum and therefore in the Roman Empire.

After the six chapters there is a "Conclusion" (with the subtitle "Dead Languages?") in which some general ideas are reiterated and threads tied together. The statement that it may be "pointless to attempt to make sense of ancient linguistic variation through the methods of modern linguistic research" (p. 174) is thought-provoking. Finally, there is a useful but rather too short bibliographic essay, followed by references and an index.

To sum up, this is a really good book. It is up to date, well written and an easy read, and it is well produced with only a very few misprints. The factual errors are neither many nor, on the whole, serious. Perhaps it is not unfair to suspect a certain Anglo-Saxon bias: the bibliography mainly lists works in the English language, and there is an ever so slight tendency to present multilingualism as abnormal. More important, however, is that this is a work with a clear aim and a lot of coherence; it will serve its purpose as an excellent introduction to a vast subject. Comparing it with the many handbooks that are flooding the market, it seems fortunate that it was written by one person only.

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Marco Fantuzzi, Christos Tsagalis (ed.), The Greek Epic Cycle and Its Ancient Reception: A Companion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. xiii, 678. ISBN 9781107012592. $195.00.

Reviewed by Lyndsay Coo, University of Bristol (

Version at BMCR home site


Few texts from antiquity can be so simultaneously frustrating, intriguing and important as the remains of the Greek Epic Cycle. The role of these poems in shaping Titanomachic, Theban and Trojan myth will have been profound and yet only a handful of verbatim fragments survive, while our main testimonia for the Trojan epics, the summaries of Proclus, present their own problems of interpretation. This volume more than rises to the challenge of how to analyse and appreciate such recalcitrant texts by providing a rich overview of methodological approaches to the Cycle, close commentary on the epics themselves, and discussion of their reception in ancient literature and art. A review of this length can only hope to offer a small sample of the extraordinarily wide-ranging scope of this volume and the detailed work of its thirty-two contributors.

Part I, 'Approaches to the Epic Cycle', assembles an outstanding cast, many of whom have made fundamental contributions to the study of oral poetics and the Epic Cycle over the last few decades, including the editors of two of the three major critical editions of the Cycle, Alberto Bernabé and Martin L. West. Trenchant scholarly debates in this field are evident from how often this group of scholars, both in their chapters in this volume and elsewhere, have engaged with, refined and challenged each others' theoretical and methodological approaches: here we find Gregory Nagy and Martin West, not quite happily side-by-side, but buffered by John M. Foley and J. Arft's excellent chapter that situates Cyclic epic within the wider context of living oral traditions.

Many of these chapters stand as helpful, concise summaries of aspects of their author's definitive work on the Cycle: see, for example, Wolfgang Kullman on motif transference and Quellenforschung, or Margalit Finkelberg on the relationship between the Homeric poems and Cyclic tradition as 'meta-epic' or (drawing on Jonathan Burgess' term) 'meta-Cyclic'. However, in some cases this comes with a slightly disappointing, if understandable, tendency merely to rehearse already familiar contributions: Nagy's discussion of oral traditions, texts and authorship is assembled piecemeal from his many previous works on the subject, while West's chapter on the formation of the Cycle is simply cut-and-pasted from his The Epic Cycle: A Commentary on the Lost Troy Epics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). Other contributors have taken up the challenge to re-frame their work in fresh terms: Burgess's chapter, for example, offers a reminder of the uncertainties involved in analysing the Epic Cycle through an engagingly self-conscious critique of the assumptions underlying his own important book The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).

Rounding off this overview of approaches to oral traditions and the textualization of the Cycle, we find chapters on stylistic aspects, so far as these can be ascertained: Bernabé surveys Cyclic language and metre, while Antonios Rengakos and David Konstan take on the difficult task of analysing, respectively, narrative technique, and the role of wit and irony, in texts that survive only in fragments and summaries. It is well-known that depictions of non-Homeric Trojan War episodes are much more common in early Greek art than the Homeric ones, and in the final chapter Thomas H. Carpenter argues that archaic artists had a particular interest in representing the 'unheroic' aspects of these myths, ending with the briefest of gestures towards how this might inform our understanding of the Cyclic texts.

Part II, 'Epics', comprises chapters on the individual poems: the Theogony and Titanomachy, the Theban poems (with the Alcmeonis, although it is acknowledged that there is debate over its inclusion in the canonical Cycle) and the Trojan poems. The nature of each poem's survival varies greatly; some have very few attributed fragments, and in the case of the Cyclic Theogony, there is only limited evidence for the poem's very existence. It is little surprise that, on the whole, the contributors who have been given more to work with tend to produce richer results. Each chapter includes commentary on some or all of the fragments and testimonia alongside, where possible, discussion of date, authorship and the 'character' of the epic. Aspects of these interpretations are necessarily speculative, but speculation does not have to be a bad thing when carried out self-consciously and sensibly. There are interesting suggestions here, such as Andrea Debiasi's situating of the Alcmeonis within the culture of Cypselid Corinth. Less plausible, to my mind, are hypothetical reconstructions such as Georg Danek's elaborate day-by-day 'time schedule' for the events of the Nostoi (pp. 373–4); the result is neat, but, as he himself acknowledges, 'the few fragments...give no hint at the plot structure.' (p. 355, n. 4). Most of these chapters are excellent; for this reviewer, the stand-out contribution is Adrian Kelly's discussion of the Ilias Parua, a model for how to balance close linguistic commentary with a thoughtful elucidation of the epic's wider narrative themes, movement and tone. Overall, this central section of the collection is extremely valuable and should be a first port of call for anyone seeking not only expert overviews of the evidence, but also stimulating suggestions for further research.

Part III, 'The Fortune of the Epic Cycle in the Ancient World', turns to ancient reception, taking us on a tour of ancient literary criticism, archaic lyric, Pindar, tragedy, the Hellenistic poets, Virgil, Ovid, Statius, the ancient novel, and imperial Greek epic. The refrain throughout is the need for caution, with almost every contributor acknowledging the difficulties both of establishing intertextuality with a non-extant text, and the near-impossibility of distinguishing any direct influence of the Epic Cycle poems from that of the many other artistic and literary versions of the same mythological material. The chapters that tackle this challenge head-on are among the highlights of the whole volume, such as Michael Squire's characteristically sophisticated and engaging examination of Hellenistic and Roman art. Drawing on his previous work on the Iliac tablets,1 he sets these objects alongside examples of Pompeiian domestic wall-painting and the so-called 'Homeric bowls', not in order to reconstruct aspects of the Epic Cycle or to note overlap with the extant fragments, but rather to show how these artworks actively participate in the re-cycling of Cyclic stories by engaging with what he terms a 'circular' semantics. There is of course an important place for the detection of textual correspondences and divergences, and the volume contains some very useful examples of precisely that: see A. H. Sommerstein's catalogue of tragedies based on Cyclic epics (pp. 481–6), Ursula Gärtner's table of Cyclic motifs posited in the Aeneid (pp. 560–4), or Silvio Bär and Manuel Baumbach's tracing of Cyclic influences and differences in Quintus and Triphidorus (pp. 608–13, 616–17). However, as these contributors show, this groundwork is most meaningful when coupled with a wider, critical reflection on methodology and what it might mean for an author to engage with the Epic Cycle within changing cultural contexts. In particular, Gärtner's careful and incisive chapter on the Aeneid, which begins by discussing how even the concept of Virgil's 'use' of the Cycle is a far from clear-cut term, demonstrates that we do not need direct verbal parallels, or even evidence that Virgil knew the original Cyclic texts, in order to trace a more general reception of the concept of Cyclic poetics.

There is an imbalance in this section: the first few chapters take a view of the Cyclic poems as a whole, but as we progress through it the Titanomachy and the Theban poems are increasingly excluded, with minimal or no mention of any non-Trojan Cyclic material in the later chapters on Hellenistic reception (Evina Sistakou), art (Squire), Ovid (Gianpiero Rosati), Statius (Charles McNelis), the ancient novel (David F. Elmer), and imperial Greek epic (Bär and Baumbach). This disparity is perhaps inevitable due to both the content of the texts chosen and the nature of the evidence. The remains of the Titanomachy and the Theban epics are even scantier than the Trojan ones, and the absence of anything comparable to Proclus' summaries means that the details of their content are even less secure. Nonetheless, some opportunities are missed: for example, the decision to restrict the chapter on Statius to an examination of the relationship between the Achilleid and the Cypria, while it leads to a focussed study, does not allow for consideration, however speculative the results might be, of that between the Thebaid and the Theban Cycle.

The book is beautifully produced in CUP's attractive wide-margin format. The footnotes contain helpfully abundant cross-referencing of chapters. I noted very few misprints and errors2; there are, as acknowledged at the start of the volume, some unproblematic inconsistencies of presentation between contributors. The policy of the volume when citing Cyclic fragments (although not followed in absolutely every case) is to give references to all three main editions in the order PEG, Davies, West. Since the numeration, classification and even inclusion of fragments and testimonia often differs between them, this certainly expedites locating references in whatever edition one happens to be using, but in paragraphs that contain very many references the overall effect is rather cluttered.3 A further consequence is that in the (admittedly infrequent) instances where a passage is quoted whose text differs between editions, there is no way of deducing from the references alone which one the author is following, or even that there may be differences between them at all.4

This is an excellent and important Companion that brings together, on an unprecedented scale for this material, clear and detailed summaries of the state of play in a notably complex field of scholarship. If uneven in parts, taken as a whole the volume strikes an admirable balance between reminders and demonstrations of the need for caution, and a more daring—often more interesting—willingness to engage in responsible speculation and to interrogate the very methodologies and assumptions by which one might go about analysing the content and reception of a lost text. The collection stands as a fitting memorial to two of its now sadly departed contributors, John M. Foley and Martin L. West, whose work has done so much to advance the study of ancient oral poetics, and it joins other recent publications on the Trojan and Theban poems in signalling a particularly productive era in our understanding of the Epic Cycle and its composition, transmission, qualities and appeal.5


1.   In particular, M. J. Squire, The Iliad in a Nutshell: Visualizing Epic on the Tabulae Iliacae (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
2.   E.g. for 'Arctinus', read 'Stasinus' (p. 23); a reference at p. 213, footnote 3 gives the page numbers as 000; there are very occasional odd intrusions of the wrong font or type colour. I found the volume's policy of abbreviating to FrgrHist rather than the standard FrGrHist rather jarring.
3.   To complicate matters further, Christos Tsagalis's chapter on the Telegony offers yet another re-numbering of the fragments of that epic to add to those of PEG, Davies and West.
4.   An example: Andrea Debiasi's chapter on the Alcmeonis uses West's text, which differs in several minor ways from those of Bernabé and Davies. At F 2.2 West (and thus Debiasi) prints προέθηκ' where PEG and Davies accept Meineke's παρέθηκ', but the reference provided merely states: 'PEG F 2 (= D., W.)'.
5.   Alongside M. L. West, The Epic Cycle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), see now M. Davies, The Theban Epics (Washington DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2015), which appeared too late for this volume to take into account; further commentaries on the Cyclic fragments are promised by Davies.

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