Thursday, July 20, 2017


Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr., The Other Middle Ages: A Medieval Latin Reader. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2016. Pp. xxxvii, 357. ISBN 9780865168374. $29.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Mark Alonge, Boston University Academy (

Version at BMCR home site

Kitchell has produced a terrifically useful and enjoyable book. As the "other" in the title implies, this compilation of medieval Latin texts is not a standard anthology of medieval Latin literature in the mold of Harrington's Medieval Latin or Godfrey's Medieval Mosaic, the latter also published by Bolchazy-Carducci.1 Many of the biggest names of medieval Latin literature are unrepresented. Kitchell's book shares only four texts with Godfrey's much more canonical collection.2 And while Kitchell is certainly keen to inspire interest in further study of the Middle Ages, the book is primarily intended to help "intermediate" (i.e., newly post-textbook) Latin students develop their translation skills through the reading of texts that are more "level-appropriate" than the classical Latin authors, with whom students typically begin their Latin reading careers, such as Cicero, Caesar, Ovid and Vergil. Medieval Latin offers a nearly inexhaustible store of texts that intermediate and advanced Latin students can read with relative ease. Kitchell hopes that more satisfying and less frustrating reading experiences will make for happier and more engaged Latin students and more prolonged careers of Latin study. And if students develop an abiding interest in medieval Latin and the Middle Ages along the way, all the better. In meeting its expressed goals the book is an unqualified success, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Kitchell has shown superb judgment in selecting seventy-nine fascinating, and often funny, readings. The readings are not arranged chronologically or by level of difficulty, but in eleven thematic chapters, the titles of which attest to the collection's rich variety: Everyday Life, Echoes of Antiquity—Alexander the Great, The Black Death, Perspectives on Women, Anti-Semitism, Wonders and Marvels, The World of the Church, Ritual, Attacks on the Church, Carmina Burana and Goliardic Tradition, and The World of Nature and Science. Each chapter begins with a short preface, the last of which, on animal lore, is especially fine. There is something for everyone in Kitchell's collection. And for someone not well-versed in medieval Latin literature (including the reviewer), the book is an absolute revelation, and I suspect that even experienced students of medieval Latin will find more than a few surprises. There is hardly a dud in the bunch. Particularly enjoyable readings include two anecdotes about St. Francis (nos. 40 and 41), a story about a witch's demise (no. 34), an account of the arrival of the plague (no. 15), an obscenity-filled dialogue between a teacher and student (no. 43), a joke about a cleric's poor Latin (no. 58), a precursor to King Lear's test of his three daughters (no. 3), and transgressive parodies of the Tridentine Mass (nos. 49, 51 and 53), which are wisely paired by Kitchell with their solemn models (nos. 48, 50 and 52). The last batch of passages, from medieval animal lore, is the book's best—as well as its largest, consisting of sixteen readings (nos. 64–79). The paucity of passages by female authors is disappointing. Only Hildegard of Bingen is represented, by two passages (nos. 25 and 72).

Many of the seventy-nine Latin readings are only a page or so long, with the longest being four pages. Each passage is preceded by a short but informative introduction, providing necessary background on the author and cultural context. The introductions are engagingly written and include useful translation advice, which is addressed directly to the student. Kitchell frequently recommends internet searches ("Faust legend movies," for example [p. 192]) that will enrich the translation experience. Kitchell also indicates whether a passage has been adapted, shortened or edited; most have been, but often only slightly. Generous assistance is provided in the "Notes and Vocabulary" that accompany every reading. To illustrate Kitchell's thoroughness (and the audience he is addressing), while Godfrey provides eight notes on all sixty lines of "Stabat Mater" (pp. 212–4), Kitchell provides sixteen on just the song's first eighteen lines (no. 54). Kitchell's notes are arranged by line number and very conveniently placed, either on the same page as the text to which they refer or on the facing page. Twenty-six illustrations, mainly of medieval art, are sprinkled among the readings; most are well chosen, clear and appropriate to the text they accompany.

The book begins with an Introduction, which explains the goals of the collection and provides a superb summary of how medieval Latin differs from the classical Latin that students will have studied; many of these discrepancies are also pointed out in the notes on each reading (and often with reference back to this summary at the front of the book). The Introduction ends with a bibliography, which includes, among other things, all of the sources of the seventy-nine readings. Kitchell very helpfully indicates which books are available online—the copyright has expired for quite a few of them—and even provides the (often unnecessarily cumbersome) URLs for some. A complete lexicon, including every word that appears in the Latin passages whether glossed in the notes or not, follows the readings and rounds out the book. The medieval Latin summary in the Introduction and the comprehensive lexicon facilitate reading the passages out of order and taking advantage of the collection's thematic arrangement, even if a little more help is given in the notes on the earlier readings, especially pointing out non-classical spellings (hec for haec, michi for mihi, e.g.) and glossing vocabulary ("the first three times" a word occurs [p. xvii]).

My own experience using the book in the classroom has been extremely positive. During the just completed school year I assigned all or part of about a dozen passages in Kitchell's collection to my 10th-grade students in Latin 2 (the equivalent of the second semester of a university first-year Latin course). My students were able to translate the passages with relative ease, even before completing the textbook (Wheelock). I frequently ended a grammar unit with a passage that had good examples of what my students had just learned. For example, after they studied the comparison of adjectives, they translated "Tongue for Dinner: A Servant's Revenge" (no. 11). This reading, like many in the collection, also gave the students plenty to think about and discuss. How does the pun on "tongue" work in the story? What lesson is the servant trying to communicate to his master? For many of my students these medieval passages were their favorite readings from the year. Two stories that feature clever, quick-thinking characters were very well received, one about how Alexander the Great's wife seduced Aristotle (no. 12)—there are also many amusing representations of this episode in medieval art—, and another about a blind man's wife, who commits adultery with a young man in a pear tree (no. 21). And I know my students will not soon forget the passage about beavers (no. 64). But the reading that left the biggest impression on them and about which they had the most to say was a song from the Carmina Burana that is sung from the perspective of an unwed mother, who is victimized for her pregnancy both at home and in public (no. 63; Carmina Burana 126). This simple and profoundly moving song is, to my mind, the highlight of Kitchell's collection; I do not know another Latin text like it.

The editing of the book is generally very good. I did not detect any errors in the Latin texts themselves. There are, however, several spelling and formatting errors in the introductory material and notes, but fortunately the majority of them will neither mislead nor confuse the student reader. I list below the mistakes that might be obstacles to proper translation and comprehension of the texts:

p. 11, note on line 34: the note on ipsam refers to ipsam in line 35, not ipsam in line 34.
p. 15, note on line 3: proxime is not the medieval spelling of proximae, but the adverb.
p. 25, note on line 2: forestum is not masculine, but neuter and is modified by the preceding quoddam.
p. 95, note on  line 22: operiri is not from deponent operior, but from operio and is passive.
p. 101, note on lines 40-41: desiderati must be genitive singular; it cannot be nominative plural here, at least not for the reason stated, which requires that the perfect passive participle be translated actively.
p. 143, note on line 58: three interpretations of solveris are discussed, but the verb is not future perfect (active)—Kitchell's preferred interpretation—, but either present passive or (better) future passive: "you will be freed."
p. 143, note on line 65: misera imposita is nominative and is the subject of disparuit in line 66.
p. 247, note on line 8: indicant does not mean "judge"; iudicant in line 9 means "judge."
p. 293, note on line 13: in Coloniensi is not "at Cologne"; Coloniensi is an adjective modifying the subsequent word, foro: "in Cologne's forum."
p. 296, note on line 5: Ysengrinus is not the fox's name, but the wolf's.

These errors aside, I have nothing but praise for Kitchell's achievement. Reading through the collection has certainly inspired me to read more medieval Latin literature, especially the texts excerpted by Kitchell. And after seeing how successfully and enthusiastically my students translated Kitchell's selections, I fully intend to make greater use of medieval Latin texts in the classroom, as well, not only because they work well as a bridge between "textbook Latin" and classical Latin literature but also because they are worthy of attention and consideration in their own right. Kitchell's book will produce many converts to the study of medieval Latin, and I wholeheartedly count myself among them.


1.   K. P. Harrington, Medieval Latin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Second edition, revised by Joseph Pucci (BMCR 1998.12.03); A. W. Godfrey, Medieval mosaic: a book of medieval Latin readings. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2003.
2.   Kitchell nos. 3, 54, 55 and 61.

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Benjamin Anderson, Robert G. Ousterhout, Palmyra 1885: The Wolfe Expedition and the Photographs of John Henry Haynes. Edinburgh: Cornucopia Books, 2016. Pp. 128. ISBN 9780956594877. $30.00.

Reviewed by Pau Kimball, Bilkent University (

Version at BMCR home site

Financed through the generosity of its eponymous benefactor and led by the clergyman and amateur Orientalist William Hayes Ward, the Wolfe Expedition to Babylonia traveled to Ottoman Mesopotamia in the spring of 1884 with the mission of identifying a promising site for an American excavation in the Near East. John Henry Haynes accompanied Ward as expedition photographer and field manager, joining his friend, the Classical epigrapher John Robert Sterrett, and a young Armenian translator, Daniel Z. Noorian. The volume under review features approximately two-thirds of the one hundred or so photographs taken by Haynes at Palmyra over the course of five days in April 1885 during the expedition's return journey to Beirut by way of Syria. Six (unnumbered) chapters offering background information and historical context precede the collection of images. The first gives an account of Haynes' life and career, the second recounts the genesis and organization of the expedition, the third introduces the history of Palmyra and its famous queen, Zenobia, and the fourth provides an overview of the city's topography and major monuments illustrated by several of Haynes' panoramas of the city. A fifth chapter discusses the various depictions of Palmyra from the first European visitors to the development of photography, and the sixth chapter describes the particulars of the expedition's visit and Haynes's methods while on site.

Of the plates that follow the final chapter, all but the first seven (plates 39-45) are organized into subheadings, but their titles do not appear in the table of contents. In order of appearance these subsections are dedicated to "Funerary Monuments," comprising both tower tombs and funerary sculpture from the private collection of the local governor (plates 47-52), "The Great Colonnade," by far the largest grouping of images (plates 53-75), focusing on the decumanus and its associated buildings from the third-century funerary temple in the west to the Monumental Arch and beyond to the Temple of Bel in the east. These include several views of the surrounding structures and landscape from the vantage point of the city center. The Temple of Bel and its precinct are the focus of the penultimate section and a single image of Qalaat Shirkuh, the twelfth/thirteenth-century CE fortification overlooking the city, concludes the volume. The publication of these photographs has twofold purpose. The first is to document the condition of Palmyra and its structures at the end of late nineteenth century, and no doubt many will turn to this collection with an eye to the history of the site especially in light of its capture and recapture by Islamic State forces over the past two years. The wanton demolition of such a significant quantity of Palmyra's in situ cultural heritage has attracted the interest of a wide audience, both professional and public, as evinced by the extensive press coverage of the fate of Palmyra's remains. 1 Haynes's images represent one of the largest early photographic dossiers of the site, and as such they complement earlier travel accounts and the views assembled by Haynes's predecessors. Yet despite the obvious significance of these' photographs, the authors do not exaggerate their documentary value. Haynes had neither the time nor inclination to assemble a comprehensive record of the extant remains , and indeed the authorstwice comment (pp. 35 and 64) on the paucity of detail he recorded in his logbooks while ranging over the site. The importance of Haynes's photography derives in part from what he did not record, i.e. the results of excavation and reconstruction that only commenced at the start of the twentieth century.2 Anderson and Ousterhout point out that two of Palmyra's best known monuments destroyed or severely damaged during the most recent occupation by Islamic State forces, the tetrapylon and the theater, were themselves twentieth-century reconstructions unavailable to Haynes's camera.

This brings us to the second purpose of this publication, namely to reconsider Haynes's own contribution to a uniquely American history of early archaeological photography. Palmyra 1885 is in many ways a companion and sequel to Ousterhout's 2011 study of Haynes's life and work, and a revised and expanded second edition of the latter text was published at the same time as the present volume.3 Having learned his métier as an assistant to the well-known photographer of the Athenian acropolis, William Stillman— as Anderson and Ousterhout observe —Haynes's photography inhabits a middle ground of sorts between "the documentary function of the architectural drawing and the artistic ambitions of the picturesque view, meant to capture a fleeting moment in the history of a site" (p. 54). The authors further note that this particular quality of Haynes's work is demonstrated by his images of the Temple of Bel in which local habitations and an associated cemetery feature prominently in the foreground only to be uprooted and relocated in 1930. The real value of Haynes's photographs thus results from their attention to the lived space, both ancient and contemporary, of Palmyra's urban fabric: they are not simply static commemorations of an ancient past. Anderson and Ousterhout connect this aspect of Haynes's style to the aesthetics of American landscape painting harking back to Stillman's own mentor, the painter John Ruskin.4 The chapter in which they evaluate both Haynes's debt to this tradition and the broader reception of Palmyra in visual culture from the late seventeenth to the late nineteenth century,(titled "Beasts, Men and Stones: Palmyra in Photography and Imagination") is perhaps the most insightful and informative part of the text.5 This discussion complements and to a degree serves as a foil to the Getty Research Institute's continuing online exhibition on Palmyra, which covers much of the same ground based on the Getty's extensive holdings, including fully accessible, digitized versions of Louis Vignes's collection of views of Palmyra from 1864 and the proof plates of volumes II and III of Louis-François Cassas' album of architectural engravings of the city published at the turn of the nineteenth century.6

As in the case of Ousterhout's earlier volume on Haynes, the images are beautifully reproduced on high-quality paper, but a hardbound version of both texts would have been welcome. This reviewer might have preferred a larger plan of the site on the inner flap of the front cover in place of Haynes's 1876 yearbook photograph, but that is a minor quibble. In sum, by calling attention to John Henry Haynes's sojourn at Palmyra in April of 1885, the authors have done a real service to those interested in the past and future of this important site, as well as to students of the history of American archaeology and archaeological photography.


1.   On the recent destruction of the city's monuments, sculpture, and funerary architecture, the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives (ASOR website) includes an indexed archive of weekly reports. A brief update on the situation after the March 2, 2017, recapture of the site by the Assad regime and its allies is also available.
2.   For the earliest German excavations at Palmyra, see Michael Rostovtzeff's review of Krenckner et al. Palmyra. Ergenbisse der Expeditionen von 1902 und 1917 in AJA 37 (1933) 183-186.
3.   Robert Ousterhout, John Henry Haynes: A Photographer and Artist in the Ottoman Empire 1881–1900 rev. 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Cornucopia Books, 2016).
4.   For a biography of Stillman, see now Stephen L. Dyson, The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014). The comparison between Haynes and Stillman is instructive: both men had fraught relationships with the scholarly establishment, and both occupied consular posts (Haynes became the first American consul appointed in Baghdad) in lieu of academic positions for which they did not possess the required credentials. Dyson also notes that Stillman unsuccessfully supported Wolfe Expedition member John Sterrett's candidacy as director of the newly founded American School for Classical Studies in Athens (Dyson, p.196).
5.   Ousterhout revisited some of the material discussed in chapter five in a brief article earlier this year: Robert Ousterhout, "The Desert Discovery that Delighted the World" Cornucopia 55 (2017) 4-7.
6.   "The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra", curated by Frances Terpak and Peter Louis Bonfitto for the Getty Research Institute.

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Julia Budei, Gallorömische Heiligtümer: neue Studien zur Lage und den räumlichen Bezügen. Studia archaeologica Palatina, 2. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016. Pp. 137. ISBN 9783447106252. €24.00.

Reviewed by Eleri Cousins, University of St Andrews (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This volume, based on the author's 2015 doctoral thesis, is a useful though occasionally somewhat cursory overview of the so-called 'gallo-römisch' or 'Romano-Celtic' temple type (i.e. temples consisting of a cella surrounded by an ambulatory), focusing in particular on the place of these structures and their sanctuaries in the natural landscape.

Chapter One gives a brief historiography before setting out the work's intentions. Budei makes clear that she is not attempting a comprehensive study of this temple type, but has chosen temples for discussion based primarily on their publication and excavation status, but also with an eye to having a representative sample from the whole distribution area roughly from Britain to the Danube (a distribution which makes the traditional appellation for these temples as 'gallo-römisch' all the more obviously flawed). Rather frustratingly, however, neither here nor anywhere else does she list the sites chosen; a map on page 7 shows their locations but is unmarked with names and keyless.

Chapter Two turns to an overview of the structure type, examining first patterns of orientation before discussing potential meanings and use of the temple ambulatory and sanctuary boundaries more generally. Here, as elsewhere, a clearer accounting of Budei's site selection process would have helped frame her presentation of the material. When she argues that such temples are almost always roughly oriented to the east, for example, is she basing this claim only on her sample, and if so, how can she be sure the sample is representative? This question is particularly important given her claim that this consistent orientation is to be linked to a long-standing (i.e. pre-Roman) tradition of solar worship in the north-west provinces of the empire. With respect to the meanings of the ambulatories, she is surely correct to ascribe at least part of their purpose to demarcation of degrees of sacred space within the already sanctified temenos zone, although her reasons for dismissing any sort of processional purpose to the ambulatories are rather unconvincing.

Chapter Three, which comprises almost half the book, analyses in turn various location categories for 'gallo-römische Heiligtümer', namely mountain/hilltop sanctuaries, water sanctuaries (subdivided into spring, sea, lake, and river), sanctuaries associated with villas, sanctuaries in towns, and sanctuaries associated with roadways. Each section begins with a more general and anthropological discussion of the reasons behind veneration of such places; for mountain and water sanctuaries, this is followed by sub-sections on relevant cults and deities in Roman, Celtic, and Germanic culture. These sections vary considerably in their strength and utility. The more general discussions, which verge on the phenomenological, raise some interesting albeit not culturally specific points concerning human experience of mountains and springs in particular. She argues, for instance, that mountains represent a meeting point between divine and human planes of existence, and highlights the experiential qualities of springs, e.g. greenery, and, in the case of mineral springs, their smell and steam. These observations are perhaps not groundbreaking, but are an important reminder of the role of nature in the creation of sacred space. However, the sections on particular cults and deities overall are too short to offer much in the way of either new information or new analysis, and are discouragingly reliant on Tacitus and Caesar when it comes to identifying the 'most important' Germanic and Celtic deities (ethnic categories which in themselves are quite problematic).

Following these introductory sections, Budei moves on to broader discussions of the place of Romano-Celtic temples in each landscape zone. These sections consist primarily of descriptions of examples of sites for each category. The information for each site, drawn from published excavation reports, is clearly presented and well illustrated with plans or reconstructions, and overall the examples give a good sense of the range and variety inherent in this temple type. What is harder—and where Budei does not entirely succeed—is to make these site descriptions more than the sum of their parts. Ultimately, despite the contextualizing discussion at the beginning of each section, this chapter functions less as an analysis and more as a catalogue or a gazetteer.

In Chapter Four, 'Vorgängerbauten', Budei considers the evidence for earlier structures on the site of Romano-Celtic temples, in an attempt to trace potential cult continuities from the pre-Roman period. She examines in turn temples that were constructed on the site of earlier 'Celtic' sanctuaries, on necropolis sites, and on the site of pre-Roman settlements. The conclusions she is able to draw concerning the significance of sanctuaries built on pre-existing sites are ultimately rather uncertain. In the case of Romano-Celtic temples built at earlier sanctuaries, their construction may well be rooted in a continuing conception of the site as 'sacred' by the local population, but, as Budei makes clear, equally important to trace are the ways in which the ritual landscape was transformed in the Roman period. The significance of funerary contexts for temple sites is more ambiguous. Budei distinguishes between temples built over cemetery sites with multiple burials, e.g. Nitry in Champagne, and temples associated with the burial of a single individual, for instance Folly Lane at St Albans. For the former category, she tries to differentiate, with limited success, between sites where the graves became the focus of ancestor-cult, and sites where the temple phase was more disconnected from the cemetery phase. For the latter category, she argues more convincingly that these are sites which grow out of the veneration of a locally important, elite, individual. For Folly Lane, this is certainly true, although it is worth pointing out that Budei's discussion of this site throughout the book is rather confused. In Chapter Two, she suggests it as a possibility for a pre-Roman example of an ambulatory-style temple, which, given the central place of Roman goods in the grave furnishings at Folly Lane, and consequently its importance for our understanding of the use of Roman material in the construction of British elite identity in the pre-conquest period, is slightly baffling; meanwhile, in Chapter Three, she lists it amongst temples associated with villas, a categorization which is simply erroneous.

When it comes to temples on the location of earlier settlements, Budei argues that on the whole the site's previous use seems largely unrelated to its later ritual purpose, given in particular the usually quite long lapse between the settlement's abandonment and the re-use of the location as a sanctuary setting. In the case of temples in former oppida, she argues that the connection is likely to be coincidental and connected instead to the fact that hilltops and higher ground were favoured as locations for both temples and oppida. However, she does suggest that the presence of visible ruins may have added to a location's sense of sacrality in later periods; this is an intriguing proposal, although there is little evidence for it.

In the final chapter before the conclusion, Budei turns to the later history and use of sites with Romano-Celtic temples. She looks first at sites where the ambulatory temple was later replaced by a classical temple, and quite rightly dismisses previous suggestions that the ambulatory form became 'taboo', and also surely correctly puts these transformations down to local initiative, rather than any centralized program from Rome. From here she turns to their eventual abandonment in Christian late antiquity. Overall the reasons for abandonment seem to be both varied and hard to define with exactitude. Very, very few temples become the site of later churches, and she suggests that when this does happen, it is more likely to be for practical reasons, e.g. re-use of convenient building materials. She does argue that Christian veneration of holy springs is descended from pre-Christian water cult; however, against this one might place her arguments in Chapter Three that veneration of water is a universal human trait.

In the concluding chapter, Budei emphasizes again the importance of understanding the landscape context of temples, including not only their connections with natural features such as hills or springs, but also their visibility and sight lines, as well as prior use of the site for ritual purposes. She then moves on to a brief, and largely under-theorized, discussion of ambulatory temples and Romanization, before concluding with a call for further investigation of the significance of natural spaces in ancient societies.

Overall, this book is a useful resource, and serves in particular as a good testimony to the variety of sites and locations where Romano-Celtic temples can be found. Its abundant illustrations, mostly site plans and reconstructions reproduced from other sources, but also including the author's own photographs illustrating landscape settings, are particularly welcome, since they enable the reader to compare and contrast a large number of different sites with ease. The emphasis on landscape and nature is also refreshing. It could go considerably further, however, in its analysis of both the religious and the social roles of these structures in the north-west provinces. Given the broad geographical scope, I am troubled, too, by the lack of attention paid to potential regional variations in temple use and meaning. The paucity of citations relating to broader topics on both ancient religion and the construction of provincial society is telling. The discussion of 'Romanization' in the final chapter, for instance, relies almost entirely on Woolf (1998), ignoring more recent debates.1 Meanwhile, to return to the Folly Lane example, Niblett's 1997 site report has been used,2 but not the important discussion in Creighton (2006), which would have been particularly valuable for her evaluation of the site's connections to elite burial.3 Overall, however, this is a worthwhile addition to the literature on 'Romano-Celtic' temples, and hopefully will serve as the springboard and inspiration for further contextualized studies.

The volume on the whole is very well-produced, with few errors and generally clearly-reproduced illustrations. On page 18, the caption for Figure 14 should presumably be Forêt d'Halatte, not Lamyatt Beacon (it would appear the caption from Figure 13 has been accidentally repeated).


1.   Woolf, G. (1998). Becoming Roman: The Origins of Provincial Civilization in Gaul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2.   Niblett, R. (1999). The Excavation of a Ceremonial Site at Folly Lane, Verulamium. Britannia Monograph Series 14. London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.
3.   Creighton, J. (2006). Britannia: The Creation of a Roman Province. Abingdon: Routledge.

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N. K. Rollason, Gifts of Clothing in Late Antique Literature. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. viii, 203. ISBN 9781472435736. $149.95.

Reviewed by David Woods, University College Cork (

Version at BMCR home site


This is a revision of a PhD dissertation successfully submitted at the University of Nottingham in 2013. The title is slightly misleading because the focus is actually far more specific than it suggests, on gifts of elite male clothing in particular rather than that of any other group, and not just on any items of elite male clothing, but on three items of clothing that had a special association with secular or religious authority—the trabea, the chlamys, and the pallium. The main argument is that when ancient authors described the gifting of these items in Late Antique literature, they generally did so in order to discuss ideas concerning the nature and transfer of authority. This is not an original argument in itself, but the author analyses a large variety of texts from across the Late Antique period in order to establish this much more firmly than previously.

An introductory chapter is followed by four chapters dealing with the main substance of the argument and a final chapter drawing the conclusions together. Each of the four main chapters is clearly and carefully subdivided into about seven parts so that it is easy to follow the stages of the argument throughout. After outlining its main argument, each chapter concludes with a detailed analysis or 'case study' of a particular passage or example in proof of this argument. The final chapter is followed by comprehensive bibliographies of ancient and modern sources and a single index listing people, places and key terms or topics. There are also three black-and-white figures.

The first of the main chapters, 'Threads of history: Clothing gifts in Greek and Roman society before Late Antiquity', sets the historical and cultural context for the discussion of the symbolism of gifts of clothing during Late Antiquity. As one might expect, therefore, it proceeds in chronological sequence surveying the occurrence and symbolism of gifts of clothing during the Homeric period, in Classical Greece, during the Hellenistic period, and during the Roman Republic. It concludes with a case study from the early Roman Imperial period, a discussion of the significance of gifts of clothing in the poetry of Martial.

The second chapter, 'Weaving a tranquil work of peace? Clothing gifts in Late Antique diplomacy', examines the role and symbolism of gifts of clothing in Late Antique diplomacy. It begins by describing how a woven textile could act as a symbol of peace, partly because of its nature as a whole drawing strength from the harmony of its individual threads, and partly because of the identity of its main agents and centre of production, women in a domestic setting. It then examines how gifts of clothing could be used to intimidate, because of what they say about the wealth and sophistication of a society that could afford to produce or acquire such things, and the damage that it could inflict should it decide to withhold them from others. The role played by such gifts in the Romanisation of those who received them is then examined, before turning to the manner in which such gifts also rendered those receiving them subordinate to those giving them. The exceptional rarity of gifts of clothing in diplomatic contacts with the Persian Empire is also analysed. The concluding case study focusses on the role of clothing in the investiture of King Tzath of the Lazi by Justin I in 522 as described by John Malalas.

The next chapter, 'Portable portraits: Consular trabeae and figural decorations in Late Antiquity', turns from relations without the empire to those within the empire, focussing on the significance of the gifts of highly decorated trabeae to newly promoted consuls, particularly the gift by the emperor Gratian of a trabea decorated with a portrait of his deceased father-in-law Constantius II to Ausonius of Bordeaux upon his consulship in 379. The chapter begins with a consideration of figural decoration on clothing more generally, then discusses the nature and identification of a trabea, and investigates whence consuls normally obtained their consular garments. It next surveys the two main sources of evidence for figural decorations on trabeae, the consular diptychs and the literary evidence, chiefly of Ausonius, Claudian, and Sidonius Apollinaris. The concluding case study consists of a detailed study of Ausonius' poem of thanks to Gratian for his trabea.

The fourth chapter, 'Clothing gifts in late antique Christian contexts', argues that Christian authors described gifts of clothing for the same reasons as did their secular contemporaries, to discuss the nature and transfer of authority, although, in this case, from one Christian leader to the next, and spiritual as well as temporal power. The chapter begins with a discussion of the development of a new Christian motive for gifts of clothing, Christian charity in fulfilment of the commands of Christ and the model of the saints. It then discusses the development of a new kind of gift, clothes or parts as clothes venerated as relics because of their alleged contact with Christ or his saints. An examination of the disasters that could occur when those who were unworthy of such items came into possession of them occurs next. There follows a discussion of the symbolism involved in the successful gifting of clothes from one worthy possessor to another, with due emphasis on the biblical model provided by the prophet Elijah's gift of his cloak to his successor, the prophet Elisha. Finally, the case study investigates two contradictory accounts of the manner in which the Egyptian monk Antony, normally regarded as the founder of eremitic asceticism, disposed of his pallium, the first by bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in his Vita Antonii, the second by Jerome in his Vita Pauli, in order to highlight their different literary aims.

Rollason's arguments are generally convincing, but some minor criticisms are possible. She explains her decision to focus on the giving of clothes rather than of other items such as coins, jewellery or silverware on the basis that 'the general meanings of these other items do not appear to be markedly complex' (p. 56), or as she again puts it, 'the multi-layered symbolism inherent in clothing is not found in these other diplomatic gifts' (p. 80). This is simply untrue. These other items also took a distinctive Roman form, with distinctive Roman inscriptions or figural decorations, with the same potential to Romanise or subordinate those receiving them, or however else one likes to characterise the effects of gifts of clothing on those receiving them. Next, Rollason repeatedly emphasises the potential of a woven textile, and therefore of clothing, to act as a symbol of peace because of its 'harmonious interweaving of disparate elements' (p. 44), or as she again puts it, 'the harmonious nature of cloth itself' (p. 157). This is true, but textile is not necessarily unique in this. Indeed, one could claim the same of any item manufactured from a number of different pieces, whether jewellery or tableware. On the whole, therefore, Rollason tends to exaggerate the symbolic potential or distinctiveness of clothing vis-à-vis other forms of gifts.

While the first chapter setting the historical and cultural context for the discussion of the symbolism of gifts of clothing during Late Antiquity is effective, Rollason betrays her training in Classical Civilisation and the general biases of that field in two ways. First, she springs from the Early Empire to Late Antiquity with no attempt to survey any developments in the gifting of clothing during the second and third centuries AD. Second, and far more importantly, she does not survey the treatment of the gifts of clothing in Jewish or Biblical tradition, despite the huge influence of this tradition on how the Christian majority of Late Antiquity viewed gifts of clothing. After all, there was more to this than just Elijah and Elisha mentioned subsequently (pp. 145-46). One could argue that the space devoted to surveying the gifting of clothing during the Homeric period would have been better devoted to this instead.

Finally, it is noteworthy that there is no firm definition of the time-span to be covered by this study, which naturally excludes any clear explanation as to why these chronological limits were chosen. Rollason defines the time-span as 'between the late 300s and the sixth century' (p. 13), but also declares that one chapter has a 'broad chronological focus (from early fourth to seventh centuries)' (p. 57). In reality, the main focus is from the late fourth to the early sixth centuries. This is a pity because it means that it excludes any consideration of one of the most important and potentially symbolic gifts of clothing during Late Antiquity, when bishop Sophronius of Jerusalem offered a gift of fresh clothing to the caliph 'Umar upon his entry to that newly conquered city in 638.1 The caliph refused the gift, which suggests that he shared much the same viewpoint as Rollason does concerning the potential symbolism of such, but he did at least agree to borrow the clothing while his own was being washed. Modern commentators on this incident would have benefitted greatly from a book such as the present.2

In conclusion, Rollason has produced a highly informative and readable book on the reality and literary representation of gifts of elite male clothing during the period from the fourth into the sixth century AD. It is a welcome addition to the bibliography on gift-giving and the symbolic use of clothing during this period, and will serve as an excellent starting point for any further studies of specific examples of such.


1.   For translations of the key sources, see R.G. Hoyland, Theophilus of Edessa's Chronicle and the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam, Translated Texts for Historians 57 (Liverpool, 2011), pp. 114-17.
2.   See e.g. H. Busse, 'Omar b. al-Ḫattāb in Jerusalem', Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 5 (1984), pp. 73-119; P. Cobb, 'A note on 'Umar's visit to Ayla in 17/638', Der Islam 71 (1994), pp. 283-88.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Nathalie Rousseau, Du syntagme au lexique: sur la composition en grec. Collection d'études anciennnes. Série grecque, 154. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2016. Pp. xiii, 678. ISBN 9782251446493. €59.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Olga Tribulato, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (

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Several languages possess compounds in which a preposition governs a nominal constituent. One example is the English adjective up-stream, where up syntactically governs the noun stream. Ancient Greek too possessed a class of compounds of this type (e.g. ἐπιδήμιος 'among the people'), not to be confused with other formations in which the prepositional constituent does not govern the noun, but modifies it: e.g. ἐπίχρυσος 'with gold on top, overlaid with gold'. Nathalie Rousseau's extensive and thoughtful book is devoted to the development of the former category of compounds, whose structure she analyses as [preposition + noun radical (+ suffix) + ending]. This wide-ranging, linguistically and philologically informed study amply shows that these prepositional compounds, far from being marginal, were a productive category from the very first stages of written records in Greek. Rousseau's account is based on a corpus of c. 400 forms extending from Mycenaean to Aristotle, which she assembled on the basis of existing dictionaries and indexes (pp. 14-15). The focus, therefore, is mostly on literary texts, but the odd epigraphic or post-Classical form is also included.

The volume is divided into two parts. The first part is devoted to the morphology of prepositional compounds and the surrounding theoretical issues. The second part provides a lexical and semantic analysis of the compounds by lexical domain and a close consideration of their context of use up to the end of the Classical age. Both parts, which may be of interest to different kinds of readers, are rich in information and of overall excellent quality. This review will first focus on some aspects of Rousseau's theoretical approach and will then provide an example of her lexical analysis.

The methodological approach that this volume adopts, and at the same time critically reviews, is based on the assumption that prepositional compounds are linked to the syntactic phrases ("syntagms") formed by preposition + noun. Although this link is clear, the theoretical issue here concerns whether each and every compound must have a syntagm behind it, i.e. a syntactic origin. The way we view this issue has an impact on the definition of these prepositional formations. Are they 'true' compounds (i.e. the compounding of two lexemes) or derivations (i.e. forms derived from a lexeme through the use of a suffix)? Rousseau's conclusion is that preposition + noun nominals show the typical traits of compoundhood: they are lexicalized (i.e. have different meanings from those of the corresponding syntagms) and therefore manifest a semantic evolution that is unique to them.

Chapter 1 ("Un procédé relevant à la fois de l'hypostase, de la dérivation et de la composition") is devoted to an overview of this theoretical issue within the history of studies on Greek compounds. The chapter addresses the meaning, definition and function of the technical term 'hypostasis', which identifies a problematic mechanism at the crossroads between derivation and compounding. In her very informed review of previous works Rousseau shows that this phenomenon and the very term 'hypostasis' have been received and treated in very different manners in the scholarship.

Chapter 2 contains a formal analysis of features that characterize prepositional compounds: accent, nature of the first and second constituents, and suffixes. Rousseau illustrates the five grammatical categories to which prepositional compounds may belong: adjectives (mostly thematic ones), nouns (mostly derived from substantivized adjectives), adverbs (construed with special suffixes), verbs derived directly from the corresponding syntactic syntagms (for the most part -ίζω verbs), and finally the forms derived from all the above categories. The most substantial and informative section of the chapter is devoted to the role that suffixes play in all the above categories. Although some compounds may not show any suffix (see the case of δῆμος and ἐπίδημος), the use of suffixes—the most common of which are -ο-, -ιο-, -ιδ-, and -ιδιο- (the last three associated to consonantal stems)—marks prepositional compounds against their nominal bases.

Suffixes also distinguish prepositional compounds from possessive compounds (e.g. ῥοδοδάκτυλος), which tend to omit the use of a special suffix when the second constituent is a thematic noun (cf. δάκτυλος and ῥοδοδάκτυλος). Similarly, the lack or presence of a suffix allows us to tell prepositional compounds apart from determinative ones with a prepositional first constituent. Rousseau concludes that the use of suffixes constitutes the main identifying characteristic of prepositional compounds (pp. 92- 93). The variety of the employed suffixes also determines another trait of these compounds: the high number of doublets whose only difference is the final suffix, e.g. ἔννυχος / ἐννύχιος 'at night' (pp. 109-119). Ad hoc explanations aside (e.g. metrical constraints), according to Rousseau there are no real differences between these competing forms, which often co-exist in the same chronological period.

For its theoretical interest, chapter 3 (tellingly entitled "Au delà du syntagme") comes across as the most engaging in Part 1. Here Rousseau further explores the relation between prepositional syntagms and compounds. Introducing the question of how compounds can issue from syntagms, she rightly notes that prepositional compounds derive first and foremost from a process of lexical formation, subjected to reinterpretation and analogical processes that, as it were, distance them from their theoretical syntactic sources, the syntagms. This all the more so since such syntagms often are not even attested. Rousseau rightly considers unsatisfactory the explanation that this is owed to the vagaries of textual transmission. Her proposal is that there exists a structural correspondence that allows the creation of compounds from prepositions and nouns: the resulting compound corresponds to these associations, but it is not necessarily its genetic issue (p. 124).

Rousseau therefore postulates an organized and cohesive system in which compounds may be created through analogical processes even in the absence of an attested corresponding syntagm, according to Saussure's "notion du relativement motivé" (p. 124). In other words, when a syntagm is not present, the compound system itself allows the analysis of certain compounds as prepositional formations, based on an analogical criterion. Pp. 129-151 address the issue of how these prepositional compounds become part of the compound system, focusing on their potential structural ambiguities, since prepositional compounds may be confused with possessive or determinative compounds marked by the same suffixes.

The last part of chapter 2 goes back to the role of lexicalization in the relation between syntagm and compound. Starting from a well-known and much-debated theory of Benveniste's, according to which compounds transfer the syntactic predication onto a virtual level,2 Rousseau suggests that prepositional compounds have a "virtual value", because they express qualities, whereas their corresponding syntagms have an "actual value", because they express "la circonstance d'un procès". However, there also are a few compounds that express an actual value, forms which Rousseau identifies as the first step in the transition from syntagm to the lexicon (p. 157): this is because the compound possesses the formal traits of an adjective, but is not yet lexicalized and therefore remains closer to the syntagm (which, as just mentioned, expresses an "actual value"). The acquisition of a "virtual value", which marks the loss of all connections with the syntagm, is identified by lexicalization.

As these notes show, the first part of the volume is characterized by a very theoretical approach, which may perhaps appear slightly too abstract to some readers (who may therefore find it useful to read the more approachable general Conclusion first (pp. 599-607). The second and more extensive part of the volume, however, provides a useful practical application of the principles enunciated in the first part to the context of use of each compound. Textual philologists, commentators and translators will find accurate semantic notes on many literary passages here. Rousseau describes the evolution of each compound, commenting on its productivity (Is it a hapax? Is it a poetic formation? etc.), examining the potential adherence to syntactic phrases (according to the criteria addressed in Chapter 2 of the first part), and finally discussing its use in context.

The chapters from the second part of the book are organized according to the spatial, temporal or abstract meaning of the compounds. In the very long Chapter 1 ("Situation dans l'espace", pp. 171-460) readers will find an analysis of compounds relating to the human body (pp. 171-266), animate or inanimate bodies (animals, vegetables: pp. 267-299), constructions (pp. 299-347), the political space and society (pp. 347-381), nature (381-419) and the universe (pp. 420-460). Chapter 2 ("Situation dans le temps") analyzes the compounds conveying temporal notions (e.g. "night", pp. 461-488) and human occupations (e.g. daily occupations such as lunch, pp. 489-508). Chapter 3 addresses the "Situation abstraite", namely those compounds describing human relations (pp. 510-527), ethical notions (527-559), logical notions (e.g. calculation, pp. 559-581), and finally emotions (pp. 581-598).

I have found Chapter 1 particularly interesting as it addresses many terms pertaining to the technical vocabulary of medicine and science, in which Rousseau is an expert. The section devoted to the human body shows the dramatic increase that prepositional compounds relating to the human body underwent with the invention of Greek technical vocabulary. Rousseau here comments on the doublets made up by a current word and its technical counterpart (e.g. ὑπώπια vs. ὑποφθάλμια 'parts under the eyes'), and on the alternation between the technical term and a substantivized syntagm (e.g. τὰ ὑπὸ τοῖσιν ὀφθαλμοῖσιν, attested in Hippocrates). In this respect, it is regrettable that the painstaking one-by-one analysis of such medical compounds, their corresponding syntagms, and the context in which both occur does not address such co-occurrence in the broader context of the strategies employed by Greek medical writers to endow the language with a new technical vocabulary. The alternation between phrasal terms (or 'syntagms') and compounds has long been recognized as one such strategy (together with reduced syntax, nominal style, and affixal derivation among others) and has been specifically addressed in the literaure.2

In a similar way, the classic linguistic framework adopted in Rousseau's book may lead some linguists to lament the lack of a theoretical updating, chiefly with regard to the topics of the syntax/morphology interface, prepositions, and classification of compounds. Rousseau makes sparse reference to typological accounts of compounding;3 some of the latest studies on Greek compounding are also missing (this may partly owe to the fact that the volume is the revision of a doctoral dissertation completed in 2003, but some omissions are nevertheless notable).

In spite of these minor shortcomings, for the wealth of information it provides and its careful treatment of both the linguistic and philological side of compounds, Rousseau's study comes as a very welcome addition to the existing bibliography on Greek compounding, most of which is now outdated. Linguists will find a morpho-semantic approach that, in the spirit of the best French philological tradition, carefully combines linguistic theory with a pronounced literary sensitivity.4 Classicists interested in the meaning and contextual use of many prepositional compounds will profit from Rousseau's balanced and well-informed discussions, sensitive to textual criticism and the history of Greek literature.


1.   É. Benveniste, 'Fondements syntaxiques de la composition nominale', BSL 62, 15-31.
2.   E.g. by D. Langslow, Medical Latin in the Roman Empire, Oxford 2000, pp. 206-279.
3.   The literature on all these topics is vast. For an introduction to the modern theoretical frameworks readers may start from R. Lieber, P. Štekauer (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Compounding, Oxford 2009.
4.   This is apparent both in its pronounced theoretical bent and in the many references to Saussure, Benveniste, Chantraine, and Lamberterie to name only a few authors.

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Rémy Poignault, Catherine Schneider (ed.), Présence de la déclamation antique (controverses et suasoires). Caesarodunum, 46-47 bis. Clermont-Ferrand: Centre de Recherches A. Piganiol – Présence de l'Antiquité, 2015. Pp. 495. ISBN 9782900479209. €65.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Manfred Kraus, Philologisches Seminar, Universität Tübingen (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The present volume is one half of a twin publication (for the corresponding volume see BMCR 2017.03.37) that collects the proceedings from two conferences on declamation held in Clermont-Ferrand in September 2011 and in Strasbourg in June 2012 respectively. Like its counterpart, the volume contains selected papers from both conferences along with a small number of original contributions. While the corresponding volume is dedicated to questions of the forms, structures and literary contexts of ancient declamation from the Elder Seneca to Late Antiquity, the present one focuses on its place and setting in society, its relationship to other literary genres and its aftermath from medieval times to the present day, which appropriately places it in the Présence de l'Antiquité series within the collection Caesarodunum.

The volume presents 23 contributions, mostly in French (4 papers are in Italian, 2 in German, and one in English—by a German author), preceded by an Avant-propos by the two editors (pp. 7-16), which, combined with the bilingual abstracts placed at the end of the book (pp. 485-495), gives the hasty reader a convenient survey of the contents of the book.

The individual chapters are arranged in three main sections, the first of which is dedicated to polemics about and within declamation. Within this section, the first three contributions deal with the presence of declamation in situations outside the classroom. Johann Goeken reminds us of the fact that while declamation was a frequent topic of conversation in the relaxed atmosphere of banquets, declaiming at such occasions was regarded as rather out of place, as is demonstrated for instance by the conversation between Trimalchio and the rhetor Agamemnon in Petronius' Satyricon (pp. 19-37). The same scene is analyzed by Jean-Pierre De Giorgio as an example of a breach of the 'fictional contract' in declamation on the part of the audience, alongside two other cases in point: the whistling of Maecenas at an awkward passage in a declamation delivered by Porcius Latro, and the stupid reply of Javolenus Priscus to an apostrophe in an elegiac poem, as reported by Seneca the Elder and Pliny the Younger respectively (pp. 39-56). Valérie Pageau's contribution concerns the critical view on emperors declaiming in office as exhibited in the fourth-century Historia Augusta, which, although referring to emperors of the second and third century (such as Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Alexander Severus, Aurelianus, Numerianus, and above all Elagabalus and his 'musical' declamations), in her view in reality addresses the situation in the late fourth century (pp. 57-73).

Another group of studies concerns contemporary political or religious controversies as reflected in declamations. Florence Klein argues that intertextual reflections of popular declamatory themes on Alexander's excessive greed for power and Cicero's proscription and death in the passages in Ovid's Metamorphoses and Tristia on the survival of his poems give to these passages a marked political meaning with respect to emperors' and poets' apotheoses (pp. 75-88). Étienne Wolff (pp. 89- 100) and Annick Stoehr-Monjou (pp. 101-126) both analyze declamations in verse from the Anthologia Latina and from Dracontius that deal with problems of poverty and pagan religion, thus pointing to the persistence of the declamatory tradition as late as the fifth-century North African Vandal Kingdom.

'Cross-genre' problems are the topic of the second main section. Ovid gets the lion's share in its first subsection on metamorphoses and avatars of the genre. While Hélène Vial gives a comprehensive and instructive survey of repercussions of declamation throughout Ovid's oeuvre from Amores to Tristia, observing that in such passages Ovid never uses suadeo in the first person and that many of these attempts at persuasion actually fail (pp. 147-176), Alessandra Romeo focuses on innovative influences of declamatory form and diction on the epic style of central passages of the Metamorphoses, finding a productive antagonistic tension between sententious declamatory style and the emulation of Virgil (pp. 129-146). Béatrice Larosa, on the other hand, identifies a strong revival of declamatory elements of persuasion and self-defence in the exiled Ovid's Letters from Pontus (pp. 177-192). This bulk of Ovidian studies is counterbalanced by one single contribution, by Pascale Paré-Rey, on the presence of declamation and its dramaturgic, dramatic, and aesthetic effects in the Younger Seneca's tragedies. Paré-Rey finds elements of deliberative suasoriae to be more frequent and placed rather in the beginnings or the middle of the plays, thus retarding the play's action, but the less frequent judicial controversiae rather towards the end, leading to a final acceleration of the action, and the antithetical, sententious style of declamation to be a perfect means for highlighting the pointed issues of Stoic ethics (pp. 193-213).

Seneca is again picked up by Alfredo Casamento in his contribution to a subsection on stock characters from declamation. Casamento analyzes the stereotype of Roman fathers and the facets of father-son relationships as reflected in the Elder Seneca's excerpts from declamations and the Younger Seneca's tragedies respectively, as well as the former's potential influence on the latter (pp. 215-237). One of the highlights of the entire collection is Nicola Hömke's analysis of Lucan's depiction of the character of the Younger Cato in his Bellum civile. Hömke convincingly argues that Lucan intentionally deconstructs Cato's life and death, which in contemporary declamatory tradition had become a Stoic exemplum virtutis and exemplum moriendi. Cato's pointless march through the African desert and his mock-heroic death (which Hömke presumes Lucan had intended to describe in the unfinished final books) thus turn into symbols for absurdity and anti-heroism (pp. 239-256). Finally, based on Danielle Van Mal-Maeder's groundbreaking research on the fictional character of declamation, 1 Anne-Marie Favreau-Linder embarks on a comparative study of the mutual influence of declamation and the ancient novel, using as an example the character of the pirate, popular as a background figure in both genres (pp. 257-284).

The book's third main section is dedicated to ancient declamation's aftermath proper. Mickael Ribreau's and Dafne Maggiorini's contributions deal with the adaptation of declamation to Christian literature. Ribreau describes how Augustine's early rhetorical training has left traces in form and content of his Soliloquies and the City of God as well as in his sermons (pp. 287-311), whereas Maggiorini investigates how in Byzantine declamation ancient influences of the Aphthonian and Hermogenian tradition were adapted to Christian topics, as demonstrated especially in examples by George Pachymeres (13th century) and Manuel II Palaiologos (14th/15th century) as well as in the progymnasmata by Nikephoros Basilakes (12th century) (pp. 313-327).

The next subsection takes the reader to the medieval and early modern periods. Gernot Krapinger gives a survey of the discontinuous history of declamation from latest antiquity (Ennodius, Dracontius etc.) via the Englishman Walter Map's misogynic suasoria against marriage (12th century) to Juan Luis Vives' Sullan declamations and Erasmus' Encomium matrimonii in the 16th century (pp. 329-354), whereas Jean-Luc Vix describes how, on the one hand, the rediscovered ancient Greek declamations (μελέται) were enthusiastically embraced for educational purposes and diligently printed by humanists (such as Joachim Camerarius), but how on the other hand there was some confusion about the distinction between (infinite) thesis and (finite) hypothesis, which both went under the name of declamatio, a misunderstanding that, alongside the failure to acknowledge the fictional character of these pieces (which made for an indistinct application of the term to fictional as well as real speeches), was also at the base of the theological controversy about Erasmus' Encomium matrimonii (pp. 355-375). A similar problem of genre is posed by the Discours de la servitude volontaire (1576) by Montaigne's friend Étienne de La Boétie, disdainfully called a "déclamation" by Sainte-Beuve. Michael Boulet undertakes to analyze the relationship La Boétie's piece has with ancient declamations, only to find that it is better explained with reference to the contemporary humanist understanding of declamatio and as an experimental work at the crossroads of many genres that raises questions and stimulates the reader's curiosity by means of a deliberate employment of the rhetorical strategies of declamation (pp. 377-396).

In the final section, dedicated to modern repercussions of Seneca the Elder and Pseudo-Quintilian, Jean-Louis Charlet deals with the citations from the pseudo-Quintilianean Major Declamations that Niccolò Perotti in his Cornu copiae borrowed from Lorenzo Valla's Elegantie. Since (like Valla) he took them to be genuinely by Quintilian and hence documents of the best of Latin styles, he exploited them from an exclusively grammatical point of view. The meticulous table Charlet draws up of all citations and their grammatical content will prove a helpful basis for future research (pp. 397-415). By way of an analysis of the extracts from the Elder Seneca's collection of suasoriae in the Campi eloquentiae of the Spanish humanist Juan Lorenzo Palmireno (1574), Stefan Feddern sets out to demonstrate not only that and in what way the ancient tradition of declamation was revived in sixteenth-century humanist schools, but also that Palmireno is depending on the exercises in Erasmus' De ratione studii (pp. 417-434).

The Venetian scholar Lorenzo Patarol (1674-1727), who wrote responses to all of the unpaired pieces of the pseudo- Quintilianean Major Declamations, is the subject of Lucrezia Martella's contribution. By way of an analysis of Patarol's response to declamation 8, especially its exordium and peroratio, Martella aptly demonstrates how the Venetian scholar imitates the style and diction of Pseudo-Quintilian's accusation speech and at the same time reverses its arguments, further seasoning his speech in erudite manner with plenty of citations from various classical authors (pp. 435-449). With a contribution on a piece of present-day literature editor Rémy Poignault rounds off the collection. Based on Seneca the Elder, but also freely inventing not only biographical details, but also flourishes and sentences of declamatory style, in La Raison (1990) the French author Pascal Quignard retells the life of the rhetor and declaimer M. Porcius Latro, making of Latro a defender of sentiment and emotion against Greek rationalism, and thus at the same time paying an affectionate tribute to ancient Roman declamation and providing it with a congenial modern continuation (pp. 451-472).

In lieu of a summary or epilogue, Luigi Spina concludes the volume with a brief tour de force of the manifold contemporary reincarnations of ancient declamation: 'impossible' interviews or conversations with characters from antiquity or other historical periods, imaginary dialogues, virtual trials, counterfactual narratives or any other kinds of products of fiction that enhance our understanding of the world we live in (pp. 473-482).

All chapters collected in this volume are of high scholarly quality and are exciting and thought-provoking reading. There are certainly some overlaps, but also gaps, as is however almost inevitable in a volume of conference proceedings. There is a certain predominance of focus on Roman declamation rather than Greek that one may find regrettable. One might for instance wish to read more about the Second Sophistic, and a pivotal Greek author such as Libanius is only mentioned occasionally and in passing.

All chapters are equipped with rich annotations and ample bibliographies. All Greek and Latin citations are translated into the respective vernacular. The volume has also been very professionally edited, and proof-reading is almost perfect. In combination with its twin brother, this volume will prove an indispensable tool and pool of material for further research on ancient declamation and its afterlife in all periods to the present day.


1.   Danielle Van Mal-Maeder, La fiction des déclamations, Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2007.

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Pietro Li Causi, Rosanna Marino, Marco Formisano, Marco Tullio Cicerone. De oratore: traduzione e commento. Culture antiche. Studi e testi, 28. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2015. Pp. xxxvi, 601. ISBN 9788862745963. €50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Javier Gómez, Universidad de Zaragoza (

Version at BMCR home site

Over a decade ago Classical studies began to take a different view of the philological investigation of Cicero's De oratore. The work under review here continues the same line as previous works by May-Wisse (2001), Fantham (2004) or Dugan (2005), all of whom took their lead, one way or another, from the colossal commentary undertaken by Leeman and Pinkster in 1981.1 In addition to progress made in understanding this work, it is also quite obvious that Cicero's masterpiece still retains many aspects that need to be clarified. This recent reading on the subject should thus prove to be of great interest to specialists.

Li Causi, Marino and Formisano present their new edition and translation of De oratore along with a following commentary. The entire book is structured in the traditional manner beginning with an introduction (VII-XXXVI), by professor Elisa Romano and titled 'Il De oratore: retorica, cultura e politica a Roma negli anni 50 a. C.'. Here the reader will find the core principles contained in the subsequent commentary. The book begins with the presentation of Cicero's Latin text based on Kumaniecki's edition of 1969 alongside a new Italian translation (2-375).2 It has to be pointed out that this translation lacks both notes to clarify some key concepts and epigraphs to differentiate the subjects tackled throughout the dialogue. All interpretative tasks are put aside until the third part of the book (377-583), where an analysis is undertaken of each passage of Cicero's text. The study also includes an extensive bibliography (585-601) listing a large number of studies devoted to the interpretation of this particular work as well as Cicero's thought, dating from 1892—the year Wilkins' commentary was first published—to 2014, the year one of the most recent papers by the authors of the book.3

Without diminishing the relevance of a new translation into Italian of De oratore, a task that has not been tackled since 1994,4 the pages devoted to the commentary ad locum are the most interesting part of the whole work. Its layout is as follows: an entry is dedicated to each and every one of the sections contemporary editions have customarily divided Cicero's text into, although not all of them conform to the same pattern or share the same profile. Most, using the conventional division into sections, explain the line of argument of the dialogue and the development of the ideas expressed throughout, explaining their ideological relevance from the author's point of view and the context. Other entries, however, seek to satisfy a totally different need by offering information about historical facts or characters that might be unknown to a reader who is new to or little acquainted with this work and its background. The two extremes appear unbalanced, as on the one hand we have highly specialized and theoretical entries that, positing arguments about some polemical aspects of the text, refer directly to other studies on De oratore, while in contrast, some entries are essentially aimed at occasional readers of Cicero or possibly young students coming to the Classics for the first time. Consequently, this structure will sometimes deprive one of these two kinds of potential readers of some valuable information, because whoever the reader of this book is, the presentation of the information in the commentary will be a burden and a cause of distraction for their reading of the text, as some of it will prove unnecessarily difficult or simplistic in one case or the other. In other words, the specialist on Cicero or ancient rhetoric will have no difficulty recognizing some of the people or facts mentioned by Cicero in his work, as in the case, for instance, with names such as Polykleitos or Rutilius Rufus (whose biographical details are explained on pages 473 and 442), but it is also true that in order to fully understand the text this information is essential to the reader who comes to De oratore for the first time. Of course, these data are genuinely useful to readers unaccustomed to reading classical literature, but they would better suit a different publication and translation accompanied by footnotes throughout the entire text.

This same factor might similarly deter specialists from making use of this new investigation into De oratore and might therefore miss the clear and well-researched contribution made by Li Causi, Marino and Formisano, not forgetting the valuable introduction made by Romano at the outset of the book. With De oratore Cicero, to summarize the accepted and agreed point of view of all four authors of this volume, is redefining the ideal education for upper-class Roman males of his time. This involves making oratory one of its most relevant aspects whilst also including encyclopaedic, humanistic Greek education as one of its foundations. Cicero gives Greek culture, which was quite widely accepted within the Roman elite at the time, a prominent place amongst the traditional requirements for achieving a successful public career, in tandem with the skills of war and the knowledge of law.

The commentators, throughout this part of their work, detail the way in which Cicero introduces Greek education into the mos maiorum, and the structure of the dialogue itself is a fine example. Here Greek culture can be taught to great elderly Roman men or to youngsters of the next generation, as happens in the scene Cicero is describing to us: Crassus and Antonius are bestowing some part of Greek rhetoric and philosophy on Cotta and Sulpicius and Romans in general. In this sense, it is really well observed in the commentary (see the entry to De Or. I 96, page 412) how speaking about the rhetorical τέχνη is permitted without violating the basis of the Roman tradition because of Cotta and Sulpicius' insistence that the elders do this. Thus the seniores, Crassus and Antonius, although judging these kinds of Greek topics derisory, are compelled to tackle them because the younger noblemen consider them essential to their oratorical education and the Roman nobiles must therefore impart this knowledge to the junior members of the nobilitas, even if such knowledge happens to be Greek in origin. The aim of the dialogue is, therefore, to modernize the Roman nobilitas' educational programme. Cicero's goal in writing De oratore is carefully explained in the entry to De Or. I 101 (see p. 413): the authors of this commentary accept Dugan's (2005) proposal, according to which De oratore is part of Cicero's project of self-aggrandisement (BMCR 2006.09.03), but the commentary adds to this idea that Cicero has an interest in the expansion of the Roman intellectual heritage and that the instructions given for future generations will enable them to take full advantage of it.

The authors express their viewpoint throughout the whole commentary while contemplating the ideas of other specialists, which may not be fully in accordance with their own, additionally making a meticulous record of the bibliography. This feature allows the reader to gain access not only to Cicero's work but also to a century of philological studies concerned with it: this is an incentive for the specialist reader I mentioned before. It is also highly praiseworthy that the authors do not demur from taking sides in controversies that are still open to debate. For instance, they lessen the influence of Aristotle's Rhetoric on Antonius' scheme docere, conciliare, movere, stressing the emotive profile of the second of these three kinds of rhetorical proof, which was lacking in the exclusively logical account of the Greek philosopher (see p. 484-485).

Although the comprehensive, up-to-date bibliography is one of the achievements of this work—in this sense this volume may prove to be a useful reference for specialists who want to delve deeper into their analysis—, I find one reference missing that could have been genuinely important to the global interpretation of this reading of Cicero's De oratore. I am referring to the recent work on the key concept of persona in Cicero by Guérin (2009-2011).5 The ideas expressed by the French scholar would match the theories held by Romano and shared by the authors of the commentary as well. Guérin maintains that eloquence was a social patrimony in the hands of the Roman aristocracy for centuries, but he also explains the way in which changes in social and cultural paradigms in the early first century B.C. forced a change in the nobilitas and how its members had to retain their monopoly over public speech. The conflict which the nobilitas, on the edge of losing one of their distinguishing features, had to confront is what shapes De oratore, according to Guérin, and would be a complementary idea to the position of Li Causi, Marino and Formisano.

To sum up, this is a book with a lot to offer, because of its well-researched documentation and its own contribution to current discussions underway regarding Cicero's De oratore. However, all the work invested herein is beyond the reach of the actual needs of most readers. We should question whether a meticulous commentary ad locum is the best approach in making a modern study of this sort about this or any other piece of classical literature. This type of commentary has been made almost completely obsolete due to modern computerised methods of text searching. Against this background, the readers of the work of Li Causi, Marino and Formisano will have to sift through large amounts of information that are not always relevant to them. And the result achieved is in fact two distinct books within the same volume: one is an introductory book addressed to students in the process of learning, and the other is a specialized work on De oratore. Anyone interested in reaching a deeper understanding of the title written by the author from Arpinum will inescapably need to go through the entire book—at times dealing with an excess of information irrelevant to what they may be seeking.


1.   Anton D. Leeman, Harm Pinkster, M. T. Cicero De Oratore libri III, vol. I (1, 1-165). Heilderberg: Carl Winter, 1981; James M. May, Jakob Wisse, Cicero, On the Ideal Orator. New York-Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Elaine Fantham, The Roman World of Cicero's De oratore. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. John Dugan, Making a New Man. Self-Fashioning in the Rhetorical Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
2.   Kazimierz F. Kumaniecki, M. T. Cicero De Oratore. Leipzig: Teubner, 1969.
3.   A.S.Wilkins, A. S., Marci Tulli Ciceronis De oratore libri tres. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Elisa Romano, 'Eruditio libero digna: modelli educativi e formazione politica in Cicerone, Atti del V Simposio Ciceroniano. Cassino: Università degli Studi di Cassino e del Lazio Meridionale, 11-28.
4.   Cicerone, Dell'oratore, intro. E. Narducci, trad. M. Martina, M. Ogrin, I. Torzi, G. Cettuzzi. Milan: BUR, 1994.
5.   Charles Guérin, Persona. L'elaboration d'une notion rhétorique au Ier siècle av. J.-C., 2 vol. Paris: Vrin, 2009-2011. See also BMCR 2012.01.06.

(read complete article)


Michela Spataro, Alexandra Villing (ed.), Ceramics, Cuisine and Culture: The Archaeology and Science of Kitchen Pottery in the Ancient Mediterranean World. Oxford; Philadelphia: Oxbow Books, 2015. Pp. viii, 278. ISBN 9781782979470. $80.00.

Reviewed by Vladimir Stissi, University of Amsterdam (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents
[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

[The author apologizes for the lateness of this review.]

Kitchen pottery has never been a popular research subject in Mediterranean archaeology. Surely, millions of cooking pot sherds have been thrown away as undateable, uninteresting coarse ware. Although complete excavated cooking pots were often kept, and even put on display in museums to illustrate household activities, especially in 'Classical' contexts study has mostly remained limited to basic typology and chronology and elementary discussion of the functioning of specific types of pots. In processual prehistoric archaeology, cooking and food received somewhat more attention, though with a strong practical, social and ecological focus.

However, in recent decades things have changed, stimulated by developments in analytical technology, the popularity of 'chaîne opératoire'-based approaches to pottery and the growing interest in the technical and material aspects of objects, also beyond processual approaches. Moreover, the archaeology of daily life has been rediscovered as a field where much remains to be explored. Several of these trends come together in the 23 papers collected in this volume, which form a varied showcase of new approaches and possibilities. Together, they give a good impression of this large and lively academic field. Indeed, it may be time to shed the slight inferiority complex displayed through the often repeated and almost ritual apologies for the newness and the lack of existing work, also expressed in the introductions of many of the papers in this volume. Studying kitchen pottery has clearly outgrown its infancy.

In fact, I would say that is exactly the implicit message of the long introductory chapter "Investigating ceramics, cuisine and culture—past, present and future," by the editors of the volume, Alexandra Villing and Michela Spataro. In just 14 text pages densely packed with information (and a five-page double-column bibliography) they offer an extremely thorough review of ancient cooking pottery, cuisine and food culture. There is hardly a relevant issue they do not touch upon, which in some cases even leads to answers to questions brought up in some of the following papers. Several of the issues treated in the introduction overlap with those discussed in more detail in specialists' contributions. Perhaps it would have been more balanced to include these in a final synthesis, which would also have allowed a more explicit engagement with the content of individual papers. On the other hand, the chapter as it is now is an excellent, somewhat encyclopaedic, introduction to the subject which I would recommend to anyone starting to do research on kitchen pottery and the archaeology of ancient cuisine.

Some confusion because of the overwhelming richness is also what comes up in the further organization of the book, as the editors acknowledge themselves. The papers are divided among three thematic parts, primarily dedicated to ceramic (but also cooking) technology (in Part I. "How to make a perfect cooking pot: technical choices between tradition and innovation"), the actual cooking, though seen through a ceramic/casserole-focused lens (in Part 2, "Lifting the lid on ancient cuisine: understanding cooking as socio-economic practice") and the ways cooking and cooking pots can be seen as cultural markers in areas where cultures meet (in Part 3, "New pots, new recipes? Changing tastes, culinary identities and cross-cultural encounters"). While this division is in itself clear, only the third and much of the first part really offer what they seem to promise, while the second part in particular is a somewhat awkward mix of papers exploring a variety of themes, including a real outlier on pots used to breed dormice (chapter 15). While these are certainly related to cuisine, the contribution is hardly about cooking, but rather about taste and status, and may have fitted better in part 3. On the other hand, Susan Rotroff's excellent summary of the development and relative frequency of cooking pot types in Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Athens (chapter 16) only touches upon the themes of part 3 where it is placed. Readers should be aware that articles relevant to them may not be found where they expect them, and that some contributions spread over the book actually from interesting coherent combinations, which may be overlooked by readers focusing on single chapters or parts.

Thus, the primarily descriptive contributions focusing on materials analysis (chapters 2, 3, 4, 11, also partly 8 and 9) offer a comprehensive view of the ways fabric composition and shapes may be related to functional characteristics (heating efficiency, resistance to thermal shock and breaking) on the one hand and ways of use (cooking technologies, connection between shape and contents) on the other. While some of the resulting insights may not be surprising, the underlying research methods and most of the examples and modelling approaches offered are surely innovative and exemplary. Precisely when viewed in combination, these chapters could be seen as the starting point for a new, more systematic and holistic approach to cooking pot and cooking technology, or can simply form the inspiration, and offer parameters, for new case studies.

A similarly complementary set can be found in the again primarily descriptive group of chapters based on ethnographic research and/or archaeological interpretations of early modern and recent workshop practices and materials (chapters 5, 10, 14), which can profitably be studied with the final chapter on 19th-20th-century cooking pots in Greece, which is placed on its own at the end. Although none of these chapters offers very striking insights in itself, together they offer an interesting overview of much of the chaîne opératoire of the cooking pot, nicely interacting with the ancient cases around them.

Of course, grouping so many papers with such varied contents can never be perfect, and part of the 'problem' of ordering them is also rooted in the interdisciplinary approach of many of the chapters, and the very welcome combination of new data and fresh interpretation most offer. Precisely because the field is relatively young, there is much new to explore, from the already mentioned heating efficiency of clays and shapes (chapters 2, 3, 4, 9) to connections between pottery shapes and culinary developments (chapters 7, 10, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20) or the varied responses to the introduction of 'foreign' kitchen pots, production technology, cooking traditions and cuisine in different areas (part 3, but also chapters 7, 8, 14), to name just a few.

Not entirely new, but quite revealing is how many of the papers show that humble cooking pots were traded over long distances from early on, because of technical qualities and/or their association with functional and identity aspects. Thus, the article on Cretan Early Iron Age material by James Whitley and Marie-Claude Boileau offers a convincing detailed analysis of possible explanations for imitation and imports in a specific, and perhaps surprising, context, while Walter Gauss et al. offer a more general view of the long term popularity of Aeginetan cooking pots in the Aegean and beyond. Susan Rotroff then shows, almost in passing, how Aeginetan (and later other) imports had a major impact in Athens, affecting both local consumption (and presumably cooking) patterns and ceramic production. In the following articles in part 3, particularly those by Anne-Marie Curé and Alessandro Quercia, on assemblages from respectively Southern Gaul and Lucania during the Greek colonial period, impressive, more refined analyses of the interaction between 'local' and 'imported' artefacts, ceramic traditions and ways of cooking and eating are offered. All these articles (and ones I do not mention explicitly here) clearly show how precise contextual research, combining pottery studies and find statistics with insights about cooking habits and food preferences, can offer detailed information about crucial aspects of daily life, social organisation and cultural identities. Of course, many questions remain and new ones appear, and the struggle to get from pots to people is not always completely successful—answers, in the end, often retain a somewhat hypothetical or even arbitrary flavour—but these papers do show that an integrated approach to 'kitchen archaeology' literally bring us as close to the ancient home as we can get.

Unwillingly, this point is also illustrated by the two papers in the volume which are most strongly based on historical sources. Elizabeth Langridge-Noti offers thoughtful analyses of both written evidence on food consumption in Laconia and kitchen pottery from the excavations of Hellenistic Geraki, but in the end the conclusions derived from combining the two quite distinct sources of information remain generic and tentative. On the one hand, we simply do not seem to know enough (yet) about functional aspects of archaeological material, while on the other hand data on food consumption often cannot be connected very easily to material aspects of food processing and preparation. Bringing the two together therefore remains difficult, particularly in a rather basic assemblage like that at Geraki. Andrew James Donnelly's detailed study of the pots mentioned in Late Antique cookbooks leads to an apparently convincing sketch of developing cooking practices, but leaves one wondering about the archaeological counterpart—also because the author himself offers a set of concluding observations and questions which mostly could be (and partly have been) addressed through archaeology. Obviously, such quibbles are only relative, and would probably not have arisen in a book less full of ideas.

As may be clear from the above, this volume is essential for everyone interested in the field, both as a reference work offering many exemplary cases, and as a source of inspiration, offering data and hypotheses which could be further researched, but also a starting point for new ideas and approaches. It also offers a very strong case for the strength of holistic approaches, not only in single case studies, but also in their combination. Precisely the cross-cultural and multi-period set-up of this volume leads to striking juxtapositions of methods and results, which greatly enhance the innovative power of the parts. The production quality (text editing, lay out and images) is excellent overall, also considering the rich and varied contents of the book, and the selling price very friendly.

Table of Contents

1 Investigating ceramics, cuisine and culture—past, present and future, Alexandra Villing and Michela Spataro
Part I. How to make a perfect cooking pot: technical choices between tradition and innovation
2 Materials choices in utilitarian pottery: kitchen wares in the Berbati valley, Greece , Ian Whitbread 
3 Home-made recipes: tradition and innovation in Bronze Age cooking pots from Akrotiri, Thera, Noémi S. Müller, Vassilis Kilikoglou and Peter M. Day
4 Heating efficiency of archaeological cooking vessels: computer models and simulations of heat transfer, Anno Hein, Noémi S. Müller and Vassilis Kilikoglou
5 A contextual ethnography of cooking vessel production at Pòrtol, Mallorca (Balearic islands), Peter M. Day, Miguel A. Cau Ontiveros, Catalina Mas-Florit and Noémi S. Müller
6 Aegina: an important centre of production of cooking pottery from the prehistoric to the historic era, Walter Gauss, Gudrun Klebinder-Gauss, Evangelia Kiriatzi, Areti Pentedeka and Myrto Georgakopoulou
7 True grit: production and exchange of cooking wares in the 9th-century BC Aegean, James Whitley and Marie-Claude Boileau 
8 Cooking wares between the Hellenistic and Roman world: artifact variability, technological choice and practice, Kristina Winther-Jacobsen 

Part 2. Lifting the lid on ancient cuisine: understanding cooking as socio-economic practice 
9 From cooking pots to cuisine. Limitations and perspectives of a ceramic-based approach , Bartłomiej Lis
10 Cooking up new perspectives for Late Minoan IB domestic activities: an experimental approach to understanding the possibilities and the probabilities of using ancient cooking pots, Jerolyn E. Morrison, Chrysa Sofianou, Thomas M. Brogan, Jad Alyounis and Dimitra Mylona 
11 Reading the Residues: The Use of Chromatographic and Mass Spectromic Techniques for Reconstructing the Role of Kitchen and other Domestic Vessels in Roman Antiquity, Lucy J. E. Cramp and Richard P. Evershed 
12 Cooking pots in ancient and Late Antique cookbooks , Andrew James Donnelly 
13 Unchanging tastes: first steps towards the correlation of the evidence for food preparation and consumption in ancient Laconia , Elizabeth Langridge-Noti
14 Fuel, cuisine and food preparation in Etruria and Latium: cooking stands as evidence for change , Laura M. Banducci 
15 Vivaria in doliis: a cultural and social marker of Romanised society?, Laure G. Meulemans 

Part 3. New pots, new recipes? Changing tastes, culinary identities and cross-cultural encounters
16 The Athenian kitchen from the Early Iron Age to the Hellenistic period, Susan I. Rotroff
17 Mediterranean-type cooking ware in indigenous contexts during the Iron Age in southern Gaul (6th–3rd centuries BC), Anne-Marie Curé 
18 Forms of adoption, adaptation and resistance in the cooking ware repertoire of Lucania, South Italy (8th–3rd centuries BC), Alessandro Quercia 
19 Pots and bones: cuisine in Roman Tuscany—the example of Il Monte, Günther Schörner 
20 Culinary clash in northwestern Iberia at the height of the Roman Empire: the Castro do Vieito case study , António José Marques da Silva
21 Coarse kitchen and household pottery as an indicator for Egyptian presence in the southern Levant: a diachronic perspective , Alexander Fantalkin
22 Kitchen pottery from Iron Age Cyprus: diachronic and social perspectives, Sabine Fourrier 
Postscript: Looking beyond antiquity
23 Aegean cooking pots in the modern era (1700–1950), Yorgos Kyriakopoulos
(read complete article)


Gian Biagio Conte, Critical Notes on Virgil: Editing the Teubner Text of the Georgics and the Aeneid. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. xiv, 97. ISBN 9783110455762. $84.00.

Reviewed by Boris Kayachev, Trinity College Dublin (

Version at BMCR home site


This slim volume is a companion to Conte's Teubner editions of the Aeneid and the Georgics (reviewed here by Heyworth: BMCR 2010.10.03 and 2014.02.47). It consists of a concise Foreword (VII–X), Critical Notes on about two dozens of passages from the Georgics (3–27) and the Aeneid (28–58), and two Appendices: 'Georg. 3.230: pernox vs. pernix' (61–8) and 'The dossier on the Helen episode' (69–87). These are accompanied by a Table of Contents (XI), a list of Editions and Commentaries (XIII–XIV), an Index locorum (91–3) and Index rerum and nominum (95–7). There is no general bibliography. The Aeneid section largely duplicates, but also expands, Conte's 2013 paper presented at a conference in honour of Michael Reeve,1 and there are also some intersections with Conte's 2013 volume on textual criticism.2

Conte's approach is rather selective, both in the choice of textual problems he discusses and of earlier scholarship with which he engages.3 We are thus given a glimpse into the editor's laboratory, but this is hardly a comprehensive companion to the text of Virgil.4 Conte 'could have written additional critical notes beyond those presented here' (IX), and it is a pity that he did not. The majority of Conte's notes aim to justify his editorial choices in the most complicated cases, but he also confesses some second thoughts: he would now print Baehrens's parua initu primo5 (for parua metu primo) at Aeneid 4.176 rather than confining it to the apparatus (VIII), he would accept mitto quae (for mitto ea quae) at Aeneid 11.256 recently proposed by Kraggerud6 (IX), he would prefer teneant to teneam at Aeneid 3.686 (38); and he re-attributes si quos for et quos at Georgics 3.159 to Heyne7 (11). Since Conte's excellence as a Virgilian scholar requires no confirmation, in the rest of the review I feel permitted, in keeping with the spirit of Conte's book, to voice some doubts and disagreements. I arrange my comments in the order of the Virgilian text.

In the second appendix Conte restates his case for the Virgilian authorship of the Helen episode. I am inclined to agree with Conte's rejection of the hypercriticism of the 'exclusionists' (Conte spends several pages, 76–81, on refuting Murgia's arguments8), and his view of the passage as 'a first, provisional, sketch, still awaiting the labor limae' (76) does not seem implausible. Yet some of Conte's new arguments in favour of its authenticity are less compelling than he thinks. Inspired by what art historians call 'Morelli's method' – a method of authentication of paintings based on the study of inconspicuous features such as 'the shape of ears, nails, the form of fingers and toes' (82), to which a forger would not pay attention, – Conte applies a similar approach to the Helen episode and finds in it 'at least two distinct elements of this type […] that bear witness to the Virgilian origin of the passage' (83). One such element is the two striking cases of enallage, which is indeed a characteristically Virgilian figure: Aeneid 2.576 sceleratas sumere poenas and 585–6 sumpsisse merentispoenas (83–5). Yet this feature of Virgil's diction is far from 'surreptitious and almost unnoticeable' (84), so as to escape the attention of a forger. The other element is indeed 'elusive, almost imperceptible' (85), but I doubt that it is specifically Virgilian. Conte notes that the hexameter-ending meorum (which appears at 2.587 cineres satiasse meorum) is frequent in the Aeneid (2.431, 4.342, 544, 6.717, 8.386, 10.853, 904, 11.273, 12.882, 947), but does not occur in the Eclogues or Georgics, nor before Virgil. This is true; but it does occur in Ovid (Met. 2.837, 4.534, 6.198, 7.583, 8.140, 9.621, 755, 13.496, 510, 14.205, 511, 541), not to mention Lucan, Valerius, Statius, and Silius. And in any case Aeneid 2.587 could be explained as based on 2.431 Iliaci cineres et flamma extrema meorum. This is hardly 'an unambiguous example of Virgilian autograph, and a strong clue to authenticity' (86).

Conte presents his note on Aeneid 5.323–6 as an 'homage to the Reverend Richard Bentley, the most glorious master of philology that Cambridge has ever known', in which he endorses 'Bentley's beautifully economical conjecture' ambiguumue in 5.326 transeat elapsus prior ambiguumque relinquat (40). The conjecture is obviously right, but it is less clear whether Bentley made it himself rather than finding it elsewhere (and if he did, he was certainly not the first). A quick search in Google Books reveals that ambiguumue was printed more than once since the sixteenth century. Conte's note thus turns into an homage to Philip Melanchthon.9

Conte insists that at Aeneid 6.602 quo super rather than quos super should be read, referring to Tantalus who will have been mentioned in the lacuna after 601 (41–4). 'Either case is grammatically possible after super',10 but it may be significant that on other occasions Virgil says quem super (Georgics 3.260) and quam super (Aeneid 6.239, 7.344), never quo super or qua super.

Conte argues that at Aeneid 7.543 caeli conuersa per auras 'the text must of necessity indicate where [Allecto] is going in order to meet Juno' (49–50) and that accordingly Schaper's caelo (dative of direction) should be accepted. Yet I wonder whether Conte's own words – 'it seems to me that he errs in an excess of rationalism' (38) – would not apply here and whether 11.595 caeli delapsa per auras (another minor divinity moving in the opposite direction) could not support the transmitted reading.

Conte explains Iuppiter ille (rather than ipse) of the indirect tradition at Aeneid 7.110 as 'an ancient sacral formula by which Jupiter was originally indicated "deictically", that is by thrusting one's finger towards the sky' (34), though admitting that 'the formula is usually pronounced by a speaker and therefore seems linked to an invocation as if in prayer […], whereas in Aen. 7.110 Iuppiter ille is to be referred to the objective impersonality of the narrator' (35 n. 17). This may perhaps be a case of focalisation, but could not the variant 'have arisen from the vanity of some erudite reader eager to "enrich" the text of Virgil' (65)?

Conte argues, against Horsfall,11 that at Aeneid 7.773 Asclepius is referred to as Phoebigenam, not poenigenam (63–5). He may (or may not) be right, but he overstates the strength of the linguistic argument: 'The suffix -gena produces composite forms in which the first part always indicates origin by birth or by geographical locality, i.e. it notes the name of the father or mother or native land' (64). Ovid's ignigenam (Met. 4.12) referring to Dionysus is admittedly not as bold, but it is a revealing parallel: fire in Dionysus' case, punishment in Asclepius', was what both killed the mother and precipitated the child's birth. The Latin ignigena is of course a calque of the Greek πυριγενής / πυρογενής (Str. 13.4.11, AP 9.368.6, App. Anth. 153.3). To prove that poenigena is impossible in Virgil (as Conte insists it is), one must I believe demonstrate that ποινογενής (vel sim.) would be impossible in Greek poetry Virgil might imitate. Given the Homeric μοιρηγενής / μοιρογενής (Il. 3.182), ἀγαθῇ γεγονὼς μοίρᾳ (Hsch. s.v.), εὐτυχής (Hdn. Epim. p. 89), I doubt that -γενής compounds can be restricted to indications of either genealogical or geographical origin.

Conte defends the paradosis at Aeneid 10.366: aspera quis natura loci dimittere quando (51–2). He rightly rejects Madvig's aquis (commonly printed for quis), but his justification of the double subordination (quis and quando) with 4.90 quam simul ac (introducing a new period rather than a parenthesis) seems insufficient. It is not clear why Conte ignores the recent discussions by Nikitinski (conjecturing equis), Hendry (endorsing Parrhasius' quondam for quando), and Trappes-Lomax (deleting 10.366–7 altogether). 12


1.   Now published as G.B. Conte, 'On the text of the Aeneid: an editor's experience', in R. Hunter, S.P. Oakley (eds.), Latin Literature and Its Transmission (Cambridge, 2016), 54–67. The De Gruyter volume reproduces (with expansions) all the notes from the CUP volume, except on 10.385–7, and adds some more. The two English versions, however, are different, and occasionally I find the CUP one more accurate (cf. below n. 9).
2.   G.B. Conte, Ope ingenii: Experiences of Textual Criticism (Berlin, 2013).
3.   An attractive feature of Conte's notes is that they convey a feeling of ongoing dialogue with colleagues, in particular those who reviewed Conte's editions (listed on p. VII), – a dialogue that now continues in E. Kraggerud, Vergiliana: Critical Studies on the Texts of Publius Vergilius Maro (Milton Park, 2017).
4.   Certainly not in the sense in which S.J. Heyworth, Cynthia (Oxford, 2007) is A Companion to the Text of Propertius.
5.   Now also printed by N. Holzberg, Publius Vergilius Maro: Aeneis (Berlin, 2015), 198.
6.   E. Kraggerud, 'On Vergil, Aeneid 11.256: a conjecture', Eranos 107 (2012–13), 21–3. Kraggerud was forestalled by D'Orville: see P. Burman, P. Virgilii Maronis opera, vol. 3 (Amsterdam, 1746), 626.
7.   C.G. Heyne, P. Virgilii Maronis opera, vol. 1 (Leipzig, 17882), 405.
8.   C.E. Murgia, 'The date of the Helen episode', HSCPh 101 (2003), 405–26.
9.   Publius Vergilivs Maro, Philippi Melanchthonis adnotatiunculis, ut breuissimis, ita doctissimis illustratus (Paris, 1534), 111v., is the earliest edition to print ambiguumue that I could find, though it may well not have been the first to do so. Conte admits that 'Nicholas Heinsius claimed he had found ambiguumue in some of his manuscripts, but this reading is surely a conjecture of his' (40). In the twin publication (see above n. 1), the story sounds somewhat differently: 'Nicholas Heinsius stated that he had found ambiguumue in his manuscripts, but this was certainly a conjectural reading' (64). I presume the latter version is closer to what Conte actually meant. The Homeric model with which Conte supports the conjecture (Il. 23.382 καί νύ κεν ἢ παρέλασσ' ἢ ἀμφήριστον ἔθηκεν) is noted already in C.G. Heyne, P. Virgilii Maronis opera, vol. 2 (Leipzig, 1771), 484.
10.   N. Horsfall, Virgil, Aeneid 6: A Commentary (Berlin, 2013), 2.420.
11.   N. Horsfall, Virgil, Aeneid 7: A Commentary (Leiden, 2000), 501–2.
12.   O. Nikitinski, 'Zu Vergil Aen. 10, 366', RhM 139 (1996), 191–2; M. Hendry, 'Two notes on Vergil, Aeneid X', MCr 32–5 (1997–2000), 145–9; J.M. Trappes-Lomax, 'Virgil, Aeneid 10.366–7', CQ 55 (2005), 315–17.

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