Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Bruno Poulle (ed.), L' Etrusca disciplina au Ve siècle apr. J.-C. Actes du colloque de Besançon, 23-24 mai 2013. La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique, 10. Besançon: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2016. Pp. 259. ISBN 9782848675527. €24.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Christopher Smith, British School at Rome / University of St Andrews (cjs6@st-and.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

This series of volumes has included several useful surveys of references to the Etruscans and divination, the last of which, published in 2005 and sadly very difficult to find, was devoted to the fourth century AD. This neat and comprehensive volume will hopefully remain more accessible; it offers a fascinating picture of the frustrations of distinguishing fact from fiction. The contributors were clearly given authors to consider, and the volume's scope is somewhat limited by the focus on divination. The absence of an index is unfortunate, but it is nonetheless a useful and well curated overview.

The volume is divided into four sections: pagan writers, Christian fathers, poetic or literary sources and the grammarians. Yet despite the different genres, what is clear is that knowledge of anything genuinely Etruscan was extremely weak, and to a large extent what we are seeing is the construction and repetition of a version of the Etruscan world that is to a large extent an invention. There is inevitably a degree of similarity between the authors surveyed so I shall pick out some key themes and findings.

The key focus of the volume is the haruspices, but an honourable mention has to be given Tages, who as the supposed founder or revealer of Etruscan religion, crops up repeatedly in ancient sources. Briquel once wrote that Tages was turned into a sort of pagan alternative to Jesus, and he was certainly mentioned frequently, without much consistency or detail. In fact, throughout the volume, the overwhelming sense is of authors with a handful of facts, and an apparatus of criticism. Even authors who appear to know rather more relied on a small number of sources and possibly at second or third hand.

Macrobius stands out as perhaps having a significant and genuinely different set of evidence, with a reference at Sat. 3.7.2 to Libri Etrusci and an Ostentarium Tuscum. The unlucky trees that are described verge away from portents and into the sort of generalised description of the interrelationship between the natural world and the world of human action that one can also see in the brontoscopic calendar which we have from Nigidius Figulus via John the Lydian. Oddly, this absolutely fundamental survival is treated rather briefly, and without reference to Jean MacIntosh Turfa's recent edition.1 Guillaumont instead focuses on the treatment by Lydus and Proclus of the story of Tages.

Etruscan religion seems to have had the advantage of profound obscurity, which permitted it to be adapted to various uses. As Haack shows, there was an easy move to equate Etruscan religion with eastern or Orphic religion, and overlay it with Gnosticism, and this then only enhanced the Christian critique. Many of the writers surveyed made reference solely in a generic way to Etruscans, with a favourite criticism being that they had commerce with demons. Inevitably Augustine has the most nuanced and also destructive account; Champeaux and Buchet both show in different ways that even when Augustine was mocking the daft superstitions of the ancients he was aware of their potential power to mislead others (hence his critique of the maintenance of theatrical displays) and to do genuine mischief. For Augustine, as for some pagan writers, the Etruscan religion was of the same kind as that of the magi, and it had an element of the dangerous. It is interesting too that Jerome uses haruspices to translate into Latin the sense of the Chaldaean priests in the Book of Daniel, and perhaps the alleged eastern origin of the Etruscans aided this view.

Briquel shows that Orosius handles this rather differently. With his obvious classical source, Livy, Orosius engages rather in a reinterpretation and a recovery of the religious past of Rome, as a precursor to the true religion of Christianity. This is not dissimilar from the treatment of the scattered poetic references, though Zarini's account of Corippus, interesting as it is, fits less well and is less convincingly Etruscan.

Finally van Heems brings us face to face with hard realities. All the reminiscences of and remonstrations against Etruscan paganism can be as relatively light touch as they are because the religion had been comprehensively snuffed out by the late- fourth-century decrees against divination, and whilst fourth-century legal sources seem reasonably knowledgeable (if no doubt via tralatician copying), the fifth century shows less understanding, and the Theodosian and Justinianic codes are more or less silent on the topic.

Zosimus (5.41-2) has a strange story of Etruscan priests offering to help the Romans on the eve of the sack by Alaric—their activities had driven the enemy from the gates of Narnia. The pope Innocent I permits a secret performance of the rites, but the priests insist on proper public performance, and no-one has the courage for that. The story raises the question as to whether there was more local performance than the sources give credit for—and maybe the insistence of the legal texts on private haruspices (CTh IX.16) is telling. Sadly the evidence for this is largely beyond our grasp, and the bulk of what is left to us, and which is presented here, bears only the faintest resemblance to the rich tradition of practice of the Etruscans, but attests to the later scholarly imagination of a world they had already forgotten.

Table of Contents

Avant-propos / Bruno Poulle

I. Les derniers païens et l'Etrusca disciplina
Macrobe et l'Etrusca disciplina : ostentarium Tuscum et ostentarium arborarium / Charles Guittard
Suadebat Etruria (De nuptiis z, 141) : l'Etrusca disciplina chez Martianus Capella / Jean-Yves Guillaumin
L'usage de la référence étrusque au Ve siècle : L'exemple de Lactantius Placidus et Longinien / Marie-Laurence Haack
Proclus, Jean le Lydien et le mythe de Tagès / François Guillaumont

II. Les dernières luttes des auteurs chrétiens
Deux écrits polémiques chrétiens : le Carmen contra paganos et les Sermons de Maxime de Turin / Catherine Cousin
La Vie d'Ambroise de Paulin de Milan / Dominique Briquel
Des haruspices aux démons : L'Etrusca disciplina selon Augustin, Cité de Dieu / Jacqueline Champeaux
Image des haruspices dans l'oeuvre de saint Augustin / Elisabeth Buchet
Orose / Dominique Briquel
Les haruspices de saint Jérôme / Bruno Poulle
Salvien / Dominique Briquel

III. Survivances poétiques et littéraires
Claudien, poète officiel païen au sein d'une cour chrétienne / Catherine Cousin
Souvenirs d'Étrurie dans le De reditu suo de Rutilius Namatianus / Catherine Sensal
Sidoine Apollinaire / Dominique Briquel
L'Etrusca disciplina chez Dracontius / Étienne Wolff
L'Etrusca disciplina chez Fulgence le Mythographe / Étienne Wolff
Une survivance de l'Etrusca disciplina vers 500 apr. J.-C.? L'étrange témoignage de Corippe (Ioh., III, 79-155) / Vincent Zarini

IV. Textes techniques : droit et exemples de grammairiens
L'Etrusca disciplina dans les sources juridiques des Ve et VIe siècles / Gilles van Heems
Les Étrusques et leur art dans la grammaire latine scolaire / Guillaume Bonnet.


1.   J. M. Turfa, Divining the Etruscan World: The Brontoscopic Calendar and Religious Practice (Cambridge, 2012).

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Warwick Ball, Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. Second edition (first published 2000). London; New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. xlii, 551. ISBN 9780415717779. $49.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Lee E. Patterson, Eastern Illinois University (lepatterson2@eiu.edu)

Version at BMCR home site


The publication of the second edition of Warwick Ball's Rome in the East could not have been more timely. As I write this near the end of 2016, the world has seen remarkable events in the last year and a half. The recent upheavals in American politics have brought to the fore more public discussions, productive and otherwise, about Eurocentrism. Meanwhile, events in Syria led Ball to issue this dedication in his book: "In memory of Palmyra, a city twice sacked." The world watched in horror at the cultural (and other) atrocities committed in Palmyra by Daesh starting in May 2015, and after several turns of fortune, the drama of Palmyra continues to play out today. In addition to the human cost, what fuels our anxieties is the cost to historical memory. Palmyra in antiquity was a crossroads that maintained a distinct identity for centuries in the face of the massive tidal forces of the Romans in the west and the Arsacids and Sasanians in the east. How we remember Palmyra and other places like it is, in essence, at the heart of Ball's study.

Ball's thesis has not changed since the first edition1: the true nature of the Roman world must be seen in light of mutual cross-cultural influence. Traditionally, Ball contends, consideration of the Roman Empire has been unduly "Eurocentric," with emphasis on Roman influence in the Near East. The reality is that it went in both directions and that the influence of the East on the cultural forms and political fortunes of the Roman Empire has traditionally been underestimated in modern scholarship. Moreover, the cultural grip the Romans had on the Near East was not as strong as that of the traditions originating there. When the first edition of Rome in the East appeared in 2000, it drew varied replies in reviews and other scholarly engagements. The general view was that the book was epic, ambitious, and valuable; important for drawing more attention to the eastern provinces and frontiers; attractive for its lavish illustrations, friendly prose style, and easy-to-digest generalizations about the Roman Near East; but ultimately flawed in its execution (including significant gaps in the bibliography), in the handling of some specifics (often not on the radar of non-specialists), and more broadly in an overzealous presentation of a thesis that makes insufficient allowance for contrary evidence and argues too strongly in favor of the one (the eastern perspective) and against the other (the western, or "Eurocentric").

In the preface of the second edition, Ball acknowledges many of these criticisms but remains "unreformed" as he "wholeheartedly reaffirms" his thesis (p. xxxvii). Although the bibliography almost doubles in size, most of the presentation remains the same, with occasional new insights and evidence (and updated discussion of such topics as the Gurgan Wall, p. 365) but otherwise no changes in the main lines of argumentation. In short, the strengths and the flaws of the first edition remain. The new version of Rome in the East is still a major scholarly achievement worthy of praise for its wealth of detail on architecture, urban planning, religious cults, and so on. It has even more photos, most of them taken by the author himself. The notes at the end of the book in the first edition have been moved to the end of each chapter, a slight improvement though footnotes on each page would still be optimal. On the other hand, Ball's contribution to the discussion is as one-sided as before, downplaying the Roman (i.e., "western") contribution, even as he acknowledges that cross-cultural influences went in both directions (p. xxxvii). Moreover, Ball often fails to remedy some of the problems of the first edition, including some glaring factual errors that reviewers had pointed out.

Chapter One provides the historical background, summarizing events in the Roman Near East from the Hellenistic period to the reign of Heraclius. While this brief treatment provides a useful historical framework for the rest of the book, there are unfortunately two egregious errors (p. 17) left over from the first edition. Bahram II is still called "Gur," but this appellation applies to Bahram V, while the claim that Narseh defeated Galerius and "was able to retake Mesopotamia" is bizarre, since the events of 298 show the opposite result, a point of particular opprobrium for Shapur II several decades later (Amm. Mar. 17.5.6). Given that this chapter takes a broader view, it has a tendency to make sweeping statements that break down upon closer examination. Especially dangerous are blanket assertions, such as "No attempts were made at gaining worthwhile intelligence" (p. 2). Ball mentions the isolated case of Aelius Gallus in Yemen (p. 23, n.8), a definite failure, to be sure, but certainly cases of intelligence gathering can be found.2

With Chapter Two we get overviews of so-called "princely kingdoms," essentially Roman vassals in the Near East: Emesa, Judaea, Nabataea, Palmyra, Edessa, and the confederations of Tanukhids and Ghassanids. While there is detailed and excellent analysis of these individual realms, early on there are once again some troubling general statements. Ball says of vassal kingdoms, "If they misbehaved or if the ruler died without a successor, they would be annexed and ruled directly, although very occasionally client status could be restored (as in the case of Judaea)" (p. 28). Although I'm not entirely sure what "very occasionally" means, I think the reality was more often the reverse. A kingdom that demonstrates the point well is Armenia, one of the most important vassal states (despite its fluctuating political orientation), but which is not on Ball's radar, even though he describes it as "important—indeed crucial" to the history of the Roman Near East (p. 29). With the notable exception of Trajan, the Romans generally made every effort not to annex Armenia. As Pompey's incorporation of the moribund Seleucid domain in Syria shows, the Romans usually undertook annexation in the East only when they felt local authorities had insufficient means (and often motivation) to maintain order, stabilize the frontier, and support Roman endeavors there.

Chapter Three assesses the extent of Roman penetration east of the usual boundaries in Mesopotamia. Under discussion are the military debacles of Antony in Media and Aelius Gallus in Yemen; the deportation of Roman prisoners of war after the battles of Carrhae (53 BCE) and Edessa (260 CE) to parts of Iran, Central Asia, and elsewhere; the extent of Roman involvement in trade with India, China, and Central Asia; and the remarkably "Roman" appearance of Gandharan art in central Asia. To show how light the Roman footprint in the East was, Ball discusses, for example, Antony's and Gallus' lack of understanding of the regions they invaded, the exaggeration in modern scholarship of Roman involvement in eastern trade, and the Eastern impetus for Gandharan artistic inspiration.

The material evidence covered in Chapters Four through Seven is where Ball, an archaeologist, is understandably most comfortable, and his thesis is best demonstrated in these pages. Chapter Four looks at towns and cities, especially in the second to third centuries CE, while Five considers the countryside, mainly in the late period. Urbanization in the Near East long predates the coming of the Romans, and even Roman expansions of cities starting in the second century are merely an enhancement of local urban achievements. The countryside, and especially the Dead Cities region in Syria, demonstrates a material prosperity that should more properly be attributed to local enterprises than to Roman initiatives.

Chapters Six and Seven were originally one very long chapter about architecture and related topics. Six covers secular architecture while Seven covers sacred. Here, Ball collects an impressive array of evidence that seems to minimize the credit the Romans could take for many infrastructural and architectural features, such as the layout of cities (the famous Hippodamian grid pattern), colonnaded streets, forums, temenos temples, high places (possibly traceable back to ziggurats), tower tombs, and many other features. Ball finds Near Eastern precedents for these features, though his case sometimes seems circumstantial.

Chapter Eight, where Ball presents his conclusions, highlights the roles of the Severan emperors (and also Philip the Arab), Lepcis Magna, and Christianity (as a phenomenon anchored in eastern traditions) in transforming the Roman Empire. At this point, it bears noting that much of what Ball has been talking about is the question of what we mean by "Roman," even though he prefers not to address that topic directly: "Philip—and the Severan emperors—were 'Romans' above all. But that is irrelevant" (p. 470). In doing so, he has squandered an opportunity to explore the vital issue of constructed identity that might have served him well. Much of the book describes precedents that informed later Roman developments, but also in play is a contemporary syncretism that complicates matters of identity. Ball offers tantalizing glimpses of syncretic tendencies in Cappadocia and Commagene (pp. 487-88). Even after these regions became Roman provinces in the first century CE, Zoroastrianism remained an important part of the religious landscape. Certainly it influenced Roman culture beyond Anatolia, not least through Christianity. In Anatolia, to be "Roman" was no simple matter; Ball effectively demonstrates this in the case of Syria and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Anatolia and neighboring regions to the east are largely outside the scope of the book, and that has resulted in unfinished business. Including these regions would have complicated Ball's arguments, but would have also made them more honest. Again I briefly offer Armenia as an example of where Ball's thesis comes up short. As in Cappadocia and Commagene, an Iranian substratum was very strong in the culture of Armenia, even into late antiquity. This resulted in such things as a political structure that more closely resembled that of Iran, where an often precarious relationship between the king and the noble houses prevailed, a state of affairs that cannot be said to have influenced the Roman system at all. One cannot place very much emphasis even on Armenia's conversion to Christianity (officially in the early fourth century), whatever syncretic developments may have led to it, as Ball briefly implies (p. 488). While the conversions of Tiridates and Constantine did politically align Armenia and Rome, in the end the two churches went their separate ways, especially after the Romans rejected monophysitism at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. One other note regarding Iranian influence on the West: to say that the priest Kartir's organization of a Zoroastrian "church" in Iran provided a precedent for Constantine's takeover of the Roman Christian church is not credible. For one thing, the modern consensus now is to reject the idea of an organized Zoroastrian church in the Sasanian realm.3 Secondly, saying that Zoroastrianism was "an extension and instrument of Iranian state policy" (p. 486) is highly problematic if that instrument is placed in the hands of the priests. Kartir was powerful, to be sure, but more often the great kings were the real architects of "state policy," and their use of religion tended to be motivated by political, not theological, concerns.4 In short, broadening the scope of his book would have likely forced Ball to adjust his thesis, but the examples of Anatolia and Armenia to which he briefly eludes, when given a fuller accounting, make his broader characterizations less facile. Eastern influence on the Roman world is undeniable, but Ball has overstressed its extent.

The above criticisms notwithstanding, the book is still outstanding in its scope and detail. Anyone reading it will learn a great deal about the culture and history of the Roman Near East, especially in the chapters that cover Ball's areas of expertise. As for his accounting of the cultural dynamics of the region, his attempt to strengthen his case in the second edition is more quantitative than qualitative. While that may not be enough for some of his critics, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since the first edition. Ball's position has remained steady while broader swaths of scholarship have now come around to it by giving greater consideration to postcolonialism, Eurocentrism, and other paradigms with which the study of the ancient world must grapple. Perhaps Ball's most important contribution is the cultivation of a self-awareness to which all scholars should aspire. Whether one agrees with Ball's conclusions or faults him for his lack of balance, there is certainly no harm, and much benefit, to being aware of one's biases when subjecting literary, material, and other evidence to the interpretations that frame our discussions, professional and otherwise, and inform our understanding of the Roman Empire and other ancient venues. To that extent the new edition of Rome in the East successfully furthers the conversation.


1.   For Geoffrey Greatrex's review of the first edition, see BMCR 2001.08.32.
2.   See, for example, A. D. Lee, Information and Frontiers: Roman Foreign Relations in Late Antiquity, Cambridge, 1993.
3.   K. Schippmann, Grundzüge der Geschichte des Sasanidischen Reiches, Darmstadt, 1993, pp. 92-93; J. Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia from 550 BC to 650 AD, London, 2001, pp. 211-13.
4.   Lee E. Patterson, "Minority Religions in the Sasanian Empire: Suppression, Integration, and Relations with Rome," Sasanian Persia: Between Rome and the Steppes of Eurasia, Eberhard Sauer, ed., Edinburgh, forthcoming.

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Valentin Kockel, Sebastian Schütze (ed.), Fausto & Felice Niccolini. Houses and Monuments of Pompeii / Häuser und Monumente von Pompeji. Köln: Taschen, 2016. Pp. 648; 400 plates. ISBN 9783836556873. $200.00.

Reviewed by Eric M. Moormann, Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen (e.moormann@let.ru.nl)

Version at BMCR home site


A large quarto volume contains all plates from a serial work produced between 1854 and 1892 by members of the Neapolitan family Niccolini. Its original title, Le case ed i monumenti di Pompei, adorns the first page, but lacks on the frontispiece. The editors' texts are in English, German, and French; Italian translations—maybe an option for an audience in the country of provenance—have not been included. Benedikt Taschen is well known for publishing huge coffee table books, full of high-quality illustrations and interesting texts; very few of them are related to antiquity. The question is whether the Niccolini album is something more than a splendid showpiece and deserves to be reviewed for a scientific audience of scholars.

The book opens with two well-written and -researched essays by the editors. Valentin Kockel, emeritus professor of classical archaeology from Augsburg and a renowned Pompeii scholar, discusses the Niccolini album in the context of nineteenth-century excavations and documentation. He first sketches the history of the fieldwork, from 1748 until the late nineteenth century, and distinguishes three phases. The last one, during which the Niccolini brothers were most active, was that of the young Kingdom of Italy after 1860, with the extraordinary archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli as a groundbreaking excavator. The Fiorelli publication stands in a tradition of documentation with drawings, watercolours and photographs. A seminal forerunner was François Mazois' Les ruines de Pompéi; both his erudition and artistic skills are still admirable and have produced still important data. Other important works were William Gell's Pompeiana and the series of the Real Museo Borbonico. In these sixteen volumes both excavation reports and finds were published. The editor, Antonio, was the father of the Niccolini brothers, and an influential man in scientific and cultural circles in Naples. As to paintings, Wilhelm Zahn and Wilhelm Ternite reached a high level in publishing colored lithographs. The attention for ornaments of murals and floor mosaics in Zahn's work aimed at the use of such motifs in modern arts and crafts. The texts in many of these works (I cannot mention all, well analysed by Kockel) often are brief and of little value, in contrast with Mazois' and Gell's illuminations.

The enterprise of the Niccolinis was a commercial success. They had worked with their father as editors of the Real Museo Borbonico and launched the Case as a project of their own. Antonio, son of Fausto, continued the project when Fausto and Felice died (both in 1886) and would be responsible for 149 plates until the project's completion in 1892. Like Zahn and Ternite, the Niccolinis edited fascicles of large folio plates to be sold by subscription. Its original size is like those of famous predecessors (Mazois 57 x 40.5 cm; Zahn 71 x 55; Ternite 70 x 55 cm; Raoul-Rochette 61 x 44 cm; D'Amelio 64 x 46 cm), that is 60 x 43.1 In contrast the amount of text (548 pp.) and plates (451) surpasses that of the other series. The precise sequence of the 137 fascicles cannot be reconstructed, as we do not know either the number of copies and the way the high-priced project was financed.2

The editors have chosen not to reprint the original Italian texts (or translations thereof), so that the reader has to rely on Kockel's resumés and cannot check the Niccolinis' opinions on specific topics. Sometimes Kockel gives a glimpse of particular ideas, e.g. when he notes that they interpreted the representation of a ship on a tomb (p. 162) as symbolizing 'the voyage of life'.

In the beginning, members of the Accademia Ercolanese were responsible for these texts, among them a hotshot of the Neapolitan intelligentsia, Luigi Minervini, who praised the project in a high pitch. No systematic choices of specific monuments among temples, public buildings, houses, and tombs can be recognized, so that 'new' finds stand next to 'old' well-known complexes excavated in the 1760s. The discussions would be very thorough and include the presentation and, therefore, recontextualization of finds, making each chapter a highly relevant documentation carried out in an excellent manner. Volume II contains a 'Descrizione generale', an in-depth discussion of the whole site of Pompeii (here pp. 238-357, with 96 plates), and volume III starts with its topography (pp. 358-365, with 11 plates, providing a set of plans). Kockel recognizes Fiorelli's influence, for instance in the use of reference numbers for the buildings and their entrances. Some vedute are similar to the paintings sold by the hundreds to tourists, showing visitors and guides walking around between the ruins. There follow valuable sections by Antonio Niccolini on subjects like trade and industry (pp. 394-403), plaster casts of victims (pp. 404-409, but also p. 263), and arts in Pompeii (pp. 410-467). Many restored images of buildings have a too highly fantastic a character to be taken as serious reconstructions (pp. 534-577). Sometimes they combine data from the old Mazois and Gell illustrations, sometimes we see next to a reconstruction the actual situation. Kockel (p. 534) signals the gross chronological and antiquarian mistakes these plates include. A peculiar case is the plate of a fancy atrium which is more or less that of the Crystal Palace's Pompeian Court in London (pp. 542-543). Many of these plates, therefore, correspond with the paintings by the late nineteenth-century 'néo-pompéistes' and the aforementioned Alma Tadema, and have a different charm than the more or less archaeological depictions (e.g. the bar in Mercury Street, p. 549, and the remake of the House of Marcus Lucretius, pp. 550-551, which could almost be a still from one of the early twentieth-century Pompeii movies). Three stark naked white bathers in the Stabian Baths (p. 553) are accompanied by a strikingly ugly 'primitive' black man, clearly their slave, who seems to steal a golden vessel... An impressive image is that of the town being obscured by ashes from Vesuvius (pp. 574-575).

The makers of the images often are no more than mere names, printed under the plates, but Kockel singles out some who are known as independent artists (Gigante, Duclère, Lorio) or as designers for other projects like Zahn's Ornamente and Real Museo Borbonico (Abbate, Discanno). Gradually, photography would replace the documentation in situ as well as in the museum. The Niccolinis made use of photographs (see the colored photograph of a mythological scene, fig. 52, those of the amphitheatre, p. 367, as well as the gypsum casts pp. 407-409) and 'translated' them into lithographs. Line drawings of two or more plates are sometimes combined in a smaller scale on one page (e.g. plates 2 and 5 on p. 128; 8-9 on p. 121). Other, colored ones, may occupy double pages. Hence, the formats of the originals and those printed in this book do not always match.

Kockel draws rather positive conclusions about the value of Niccolini's Case e Monumenti and stresses Fiorelli's influence on the choice of depicted views and objects, so that the value of the plates' archaeological information was warranted. The work is, to quote Kockel in his native German, 'ein eigenständiges Monument' (p. 44) that marks an important period of transition in the production of scientific publications on Pompeii.

Sebastian Schütze, professor of art history in the University of Vienna, sketches the visualization of Pompeii in the arts 'between appropriation and reinterpretation' (the title of his essay, p. 66).3 Schütze discusses the evocations of Pompeian motifs in interior decoration of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He singles out the Pompejanum in Aschaffenburg and the Maison pompéienne in Paris, both designed by skilled artists. The discovery of large figural scenes like those in the 'Basilica' in Herculaneum led to the production of history paintings in a new, neo-classical style. Schütze observes that the ancient images met with approval thanks to their appealing esthetic features. Lost paintings, like those by Polygnotos, were 'remade' with the help of Pompeian imagery. Quasi-soft-porn images of nude women in a Pompeian interior got a certain popularity from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards. Schütze recalls the Victorian artist Lourens (or Lawrence) Alma Tadema and also gives some examples of Pompeian themes of the twentieth century. A genre sui generis is the representation of the victims, for which artists were inspired by the gypsum casts (also represented by Niccolini, see above). A very impressive elaboration is George Segal's Holocaust memorial of 1984 in San Francisco (p. 91, fig. 28).

A few repetitions and contradictory remarks in the two essays are only a nuisance for a reader of the book as a whole, but will not bother those who peruse the fine essays independently.4 A map designed by Kockel shows the excavation phases until 1900 and is helpful for both the essays and Niccolini's work (pp. 102-103).

The Niccolinis' plates comprise the lion's share of the volume, edited with comments by Kockel (pp. 104-619). The order is that of the original sequence. The work starts with various houses excavated in the first half of the nineteenth century, e.g. that of the Tragic Poet, which was a highlight for visitors and used as the residence of the male protagonist of Bulwer-Lytton's The last day of Pompeii. The House of Siricus (p. 148) was the first, in 1852, to be excavated more or less stratigraphically. In each case, Kockel introduces the reader to the complex and points to specific items of interest. The endnotes contain brief but pertinent bibliographical references to modern scholarly literature and, as to pieces brought into museums, inventory numbers of the objects and cut-out paintings.

The (unexplained) mix of building categories is confusing nowadays, but may have been made on purpose by the editors in order to create an attractive variation in the fascicles' topics. The subscribers could enjoy, as it were, every delivery as a novelty, differing from the previous ones. Sometimes the reader may feel him- or herself involved in a visit, since various plates show people strolling the ruins. A striking case is that of plate 11 of the House of the Dioscuri (p. 125), with a correspondence in attitudes of the Medea wall painting and the female visitor. Other plates show artists working, e.g. in the House of the Colored Capitals (p. 171) and in the House of Cornelius Rufus (pp. 270-271). Some fascicles mix up images from two buildings, e.g. the villas of Diomedes and Cicero (pp. 222-231). Surprisingly, objects from other sites like Cumae appear next to Pompeian pieces (p. 341). There are repetitions of images in the run of the project; Kockel gives cross-references.

Most finds can be found in the Archaeological Museum in Naples, but even large objects like two grand marble statues from the Temple of the Fortuna Augusta (p. 134-135) are sometimes lost forever. The choices made by the Niccolinis can surprise us: the Alexander mosaic from the House of the Faun is only represented in two line drawings (p. 141), while a potpourri of mobile objects fills a fancy plate as if it were a Tadema still life (pp. 144-145).

Five appendices give notes (in English only), bibliography, topographical index of Pompeii, index of objects in the Archaeological Museum in Naples, and a glossary of terms.

I put aside this beautifully edited book with mixed feelings. Kockel and Schütze have fulfilled a great task in making available these fascinating plates and enriching this documentation with careful commentary. At the same time, the Niccolinis' texts still have to be consulted in one of the specialized libraries. The reproductions of the plates also leave mixed feelings: they are less glossy than the original ones, being printed on a sort of matte paper. The plates of entire wall systems seem to have a greater exactitude than those of the figural scenes, which show a really late-nineteenth-century gusto. Whether you like them or not is a question of taste, but I think that for a Pompeii lover they bring a lot of pleasure, as they do for the scholar, who will definitely find a lot of lost information. If this project turns out well and profitably, Taschen might do a good job in editing some other great scholarly works like Mazois' Les ruines de Pompéi, which would find a serious audience.


1.   The sizes of copies of these works may differ due to different bindings. The series Häuser in Pompeji has similar gigantic sizes of 50 x 34 cm. The Taschen volume measures 40.5 x 29.5 cm, i.e. ca 2/3 of the original.
2.   The headers refer to the volume I, II, III, or IV, but give no fascicle numbers, which makes a precise quotation difficult. The easiest way is to refer to the page numbers of the present edition. See the reconstructed sequence at p. 640 in which, indeed, there are many lacunae.
3.   Some pertaining essays on the same topic were almost simultaneously published in M. Osanna et al. (eds), Pompei e l'Europa. Atti del convegno, Milan 2016.
4.   The edition of the eighteenth-century Le antichità di Ercolano esposte is estimated at some 1.500 copies by Kockel and as rare by Schütze (pp. 12 and 66 respectively in the English text). The history of discovery and early excavations is briefly summarized at the beginning of both essays.

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Monday, January 30, 2017


Matthias Becker, Porphyrios, 'Contra Christianos'. Neue Sammlung der Fragmente, Testimonien und Dubia mit Einleitung, Übersetzung und Anmerkungen. Texte und Kommentare, Bd 52. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. x, 667. ISBN 9783110440058. $196.00.

Reviewed by Ariane Magny, University of Ottawa (amagny@uottawa.ca)

Version at BMCR home site


In this colossal and meticulous work, Matthias Becker offers a new collection of the fragments of Against the Christians by the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry of Tyre. C. Chr. has survived only fragments in the works of late antique, Christian scholars. Becker's is the first fragment collection to be produced by a German scholar since Adolf von Harnack first published his in 1916. Recently, other collections have been produced in English, Spanish, and Italian.1 A French one is currently in progress for Les Belles Lettres (by Sébastien Morlet). This interest in C. Chr. is part of a wider, renewed interest in Porphyry's work in general,2 and contributes to our understanding of late antique inter-religious debates, for it seeks to reconstruct an anti-Christian treatise that was destroyed on the orders of various Christian emperors.

In the first section of a lengthy introduction, Becker explains that his work is meant to discuss Porphyry as a pagan Neoplatonist, a philologist and an educated man, not to study the transmission of C. Chr., nor attempt its reconstruction (p. VI). He then proceeds with the minutiae of the scholarship on Porphyry's biography and the C. Chr.. Of particular interest is his presentation of Porphyry's time towards the end of his life (AD 268 and 272/3) in Lilybaeum, Sicily, a Christian city that, according to Becker, was a dynamic commercial, political and religious centre. Lilybaeum, Becker argues, might have been central to Porphyry's anti-Christian project, which he produced late in life (12-3). The philosopher may therefore not have sought intellectual isolation in that place, as Eunapius had led scholars to believe in his biography of the man (11). Becker is thus distancing Porphyry from Rome (14).

In the second section of his introduction, Becker applies critical theory to Porphyry's corpus. Scholarly views on the role of Porphyry in the politics of the late Roman Empire diverge. While some ascribe a purely philosophical agenda to Porphyry's work, 3 others have interpreted it as politically oriented, arguing that Porphyry and his circle had strong ties with their political world. 4 Becker seems to belong to the latter group. He has in fact rooted his discussion of the political role of C. Chr. in the sociological and political theory developed by Werner Schirmer.5 Schirmer's theory is a hermeneutical instrument used to analyse the modes of communication between historical and contemporary figures. It posits a model of "communication of threat" (Bedrohungskommunikation) in which a given group identifies a specific threat to its physical integrity (or security), whether it is initially real or merely perceived. The said group then collectively develops a rhetorical discourse that engages the opposite party into a war of words. Becker shows that Porphyry and his circle identified the expansion of Christianity as a threat to traditional piety, and thus formed a Platonic resistance group. This, according to Becker, explains Porphyry's lengthy project, which aimed to counter the Christian threat by using pagan literary strategies as a mode of communication (36). According to Becker, it is therefore possible that Porphyry's intended audience was the political élite of his time. Becker thus argues in favour of a political agenda by applying Schirmer's theory to the remnants of C. Chr. (39). He does so, however—and by his own admission—with mitigated results, given the fragmentary state of Porphyry's corpus (40). For instance, Becker's position as regards Eusebius' first fragment is invalidated by this theory. Indeed, if we reject fragment 1, as Becker (and others) suggest we do (25 and 456-7),6 we lose an important piece of evidence for Porphyry's recommended punishment for Christians (death) for disobeying divine law. Becker thus has to use passages from other Porphyrian works, such as On Abstinence, for instance, in order to show how Porphyry held divine law in high regards (50). Furthermore, he does not explain whether Schirmer's theory influenced his fragment collection.

But Becker's analysis makes a useful contribution to our understanding of the contemporary pagan reception of the rapid rise of Christianity amongst the elites. Using Porphyrian fragments, he notably identifies how Porphyry belonged to an anti-Christian, philosophical movement that was used as a political weapon, leading to the Great Persecution of 303-311 (53-5). Becker reminds us, however, that we have no evidence that C.Chr. ever called for anti-Christian resistance, or that Porphyry himself ever helped plan the Great Persecution (57). Becker also introduces a new and interesting dichotomy between Origen and Porphyry by opposing Origen's main argument in Against Celsus—that Jesus is the only way to worship God—to surviving ideas from C. Chr.—that Jesus is the biggest threat to religious polytheism (58-9). Scholars had not previously analysed the corresponding Eusebian fragments in connection with Origen's argument.7

Becker's aim is to find, amongst the authentic fragments of C. Chr., evidence for a "communication of threat" between Porphyry and the Christians. However, whilst he does so, Becker regularly resorts to using Porphyry's other works to deduce some of the unknown content of C. Chr. For instance, he used a combination of fragments from Phil. Or. and C. Chr. to support the idea that the anti-Christian treatise did contain a "threat scenario" (Bedrohungsszenario), that is, an important aspect of the "communication of threat" (59-60). But Becker's original analysis of Porphyry's Greek language allows him to draw interesting conclusions as regards Porphyry's portrayal of Origen as a 'sophist', that is, a manipulative rhetorician and teacher using the allegorical method of interpretation to read Scripture and lie to his followers about its real content (81). This portrayal of Origen, an apostate of Hellenism and fake philosopher, allowed Porphyry to construct the image of the enemies of polytheism (81). Porphyry, Becker suggests, wished to show that Christianity, a new religion (84), was threatening polytheism by appropriating Platonism and turning it against Hellenism (67-70).

In the third section of his introduction, Becker discusses previous approaches to the fragment collections of C. Chr. since the 17th century, and then exposes the elaborate methodology for his own collection. The author is very clear: his new collection is not a critical edition, but rather offers a new presentation for 132 fragments and testimonies gathered from late antique, Byzantine and post-Medieval sources (86). Becker's collection presents significant additions to the renowned Harnack collection (1916) comprising 97 fragments, of which 52 came from the Anonymous Greek in Macarios Magnes' Apocriticos. But Becker does not think that Macarios should be considered as a source for Porphyrian material, as opposed to Harnack and Jurado et al. (see n. 1 above), but in line with Muscolino (n. 1 above).8 All additional fragments therefore come from recent collections (Jurado et al. and Muscolino, in particular) and a series of articles by authors who found new Porphyrian fragments.9

In the second part of the volume, Becker presents his fragment collection. Between the maximalist approach of Harnack and the minimalist approach preached in recent papers,10 Becker has opted for a middle way (94). He did not consider the fragments that have been overly contested in the literature (the Macarios fragments, for instance); however, he included all the sure fragments, as well as testimonies and the passages of the works in which they were embedded, thus answering a call I made to present the fragments within their contextual framework (94-6).11 He chose to let the reader make their own judgement as to the authenticity and meaning of fragments / testimonies, but has provided them with a most useful commentary on each fragment / testimony in order to help with their decisions (94-6).

The collection is thus divided into three, innovative sections: (I) Fragments (F) and testimonies (T) mentioning Porphyry by name and associated with a book number (46 texts); (II) Fragments and testimonies mentioning Porphyry by name, but not associated with a specific volume (35 texts); (III) Uncertain fragments (D, for Dubia), that is, those mentioning neither Porphyry, nor a volume, but which content can be linked to passages from sections (I) or (II) (51 texts). Each section is comprised of the text in its original language followed by the author's translation and then remarks meant to guide the reader through the contentious aspects of each fragment or testimony discussed in the scholarship. The emphasis of the collection is rightly on the authenticity of fragments and testimonies, rather than on reconstruction (which would be impossible). Indeed, the texts (Texte) are ordered according to their level of authenticity, not chronologically, and ordered thematically within sections (I) and (II). As a result, the Porphyrian attacks on the Evangelists, for instance, are spread over sections (I) and (II), which can be rather misleading.

I have identified, in addition to the few problems mentioned above, a minor error that does not impede the general argument. Becker states that Porphyry read the Septuagint, when Jerome, in order to discredit the philosopher's biblical source material, states in Commentary on Daniel that he actually read the non-canonical version of Theodotion (28).12

Becker's study is at the forefront of the latest scholarly developments on C. Chr. Scholars working on Porphyry's C. Chr. can no longer ignore the problems related to the authenticity of the fragments and testimonies, and Becker's collection equips them well to navigate the complexities laid by its fragmentary state. It is a must-read for any Porphyrian scholar, and will certainly also be of great use to those working on the gathering of late antique, polemical fragments.


1.   R. M. Berchman, Porphyry Against the Christians (Brill, 2005); E. A. Ramos Jurado et al. (eds.), Porfirio, Contra los Cristianos. Recopilacion defragmentos, trad., introd. y nota (Publicaciones de la Universidad de Cádiz, 2006); G. Muscolino, Porfirio Contro I cristiani. Nella raccolta di Adolf von Harnack con tutti i nuovi frammenti in appendice (Bompiani, 2009).
2.   By Gillian Clark, Elizabeth DePalma Digeser, Mark Edwards, Aaron Johnson, Sébastien Morlet, Jeremy Schott, Michael B. Simmons, Andrew Smith and myself to name a few.
3.   A. Johnson, Religion and Identity in Porphyry of Tyre: The Limits of Hellenism (CUP, 2013), in particular.
4.   See, for instance, D. O'Meara, Platonopolis: Platonic Political Philosophy in Late Antiquity (OUP, 2003); E. DePalma Digeser, A Threat to Public Piety: Christians, Platonists, and the Great Persecution (Cornell University Press, 2012); M. B. Simmons, Universal Salvation in Late Antiquity. Porphyry of Tyre and the Pagan–Christian Debate (OUP, 2015).
5.   W. Schirmer, Bedrohungskommunikation. Eine gesellschaftstheoretische Studie zu Sicherheit und Unsicherheit (VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2008).
6.   See, in particular, A. Johnson, "Rethinking the Authenticity of Porphyry, c. Christ. fr. 1," Studia Patristica 46 (2010), 53-8. The passage indeed occurs in this collection as 88D, among the 'Dubia'.
7.   Eusebius, PE 5.1.10 and HE 6.19.7. In this respect, Becker's overall commentary within his fragment collection serves to highlight, interestingly, Porphyry's debt to Celsus's argument.
8.   On this topic, Becker might also want to consult J. M. Schott and M. J. Edwards (trans.), Macarius, Apocriticus: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (Liverpool University Press, 2015). Schott raises doubts as to the Porphyrian origin of the Macarios fragments.
9.   See S. Morlet, "Un nouveau témoignage sur le Contra Christianos de Porphyry?" Semitica et Classica 1 (2008), 157-66; R. Goulet, "Cinq nouveaux fragments nominaux du traité de Porphyry 'Contre les Chrétiens'", VChr 4 (2010), 140-59; and C. Riedweg, "Ein neues Zeugnis für Porphyrios' Schrift gegen die Christen: Johannes Chrysostomos, Johanneshomilie 17.3f." in I. Männlein-Robert and M. Becker (eds.), Die Christen als Bedrohung? Text, Kontext und Wirkung von Porphyrios' Contra Christianos, forthcoming.
10.   Cf. Muscolino (n. 1 above); S. Morlet (ed.), Le Traité de Porphyre contre les Chrétiens (Brepols, 2011); Johnson (n. 2 above).
11.   A. Magny, "Porphyry in Fragments: Jerome, Harnack, and the Problem of Reconstruction", JECS 18 (2010), 515-55 (online at Project Muse).
12.   Jerome, Commentary on Daniel, 4.11.44-5.

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Angela Longo, Daniella Patrizia Taormina (ed.), Plotinus and Epicurus. Matter, Perception, Pleasure. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xviii, 236. ISBN 9781107124219. $99.00.

Reviewed by Lloyd P. Gerson, Gerson University of Toronto (lloyd.gerson@utoronto.ca)

Version at BMCR home site


Porphyry tells us in his Life of Plotinus that the Enneads are packed with Peripatetic and Stoic doctrines. A perusal of the index fontium of the critical edition of the Enneads will provide some measure of the truth of this statement. The presence of Peripatetic and Stoic doctrines in Plotinus' writings is both positive and negative. Plotinus appropriates and criticizes his predecessors in his ongoing project to provide a systematic expression of Platonism. Unmentioned by Porphyry is the presence of Epicureanism and Scepticism, both of which are consistently treated negatively by Plotinus. The present collection of essays is a welcome and original addition to the literature. The ten essays included probe the treatment by Plotinus of Epicureanism in the matters of divine providence, atomism, and hedonism. On all three counts, Epicureanism is rejected not primarily because it is opposed to Platonism but because it does not stand up to philosophical scrutiny in its own terms.

The essays are: "The School and Texts of Epicurus in the Early Centuries of the Roman Empire" (Tiziano Dorandi); "The Mention of Epicurus in Plotinus' tr. 33 (Enn. II 9) in the Context of the Polemics Between Pagans and Christians in the Second to Third Centuries AD: Parallels Between Celsus, Plotinus and Origen" (Angela Longo); "Epicureans and Gnostics in tr. 47 (Enn. III 2) 7.29-41" (Manuel Mazzetti); "'Heavy Birds' in tr. 5 (Enn. V 9) 1.8: References to Epicureanism and the Problem of Pleasure in Plotinus" (Mauricio Pagotto Marsola); "Plotinus, Epicurus and the Problem of Intellectual Evidence": Tr. 32 (Enn. V 5) 1" (Pierre-Marie Morel); "'What is Known Through Sense-Perception is an Image'. Plotinus' tr. 32 (Enn. V 5) 1.12-19: An Anti-Epicurean Argument?" (Daniella Patrizia Taormina); "Corporeal Matter, Indefiniteness and Multiplicity: Plotinus' Critique of Epicurean Atomism in tr. 12 (Enn. II 4) 7.20-8" (Marco Nicci); "Plotinus' Reception of Epicurean Atomism in On Fate, tr. 3 (Enn. III 1) 1-3" (Erik Eliasson); "Athroa epibolē: On an Epicurean Formula in Plotinus' Work": (Andrei Cornea); "Plotinus and Epicurus on Pleasure and Happiness" (Alessandro Linguiti).

The historical essay by Dorandi collects the evidence for the availability of Epicurean texts in the 3rd century CE. Dorandi concludes that in all likelihood Plotinus had available to him not only doxographical reports on Epicurus and Epicureanism, but texts of Epicurus himself. It seems that certainly in Athens and in Alexandria but probably elsewhere, Epicureanism still flourished during Plotinus' career. Thus, Plotinus probably encountered Epicureanism when he was a student in Alexandria and then later, when he moved to Rome, knew of it as an extant philosophical school deserving of at least some attention.

Longo analyzes the only passage in the Enneads, II 9 [33], 15 in which Plotinus explicitly mentions Epicurus. She focuses on Plotinus' arguments against Epicurus' rejection of providence. According to Longo, the principal consequence of Epicurus' error is to be found in his hedonism, the idea being that, without divine providence, the attraction of hedonism cannot be resisted. The mention of Epicurus is found in the treatise primarily directed against Gnostics. Longo's interesting claim is that Epicurus is introduced by Plotinus to highlight the even more egregious failings of Gnostics whose lapses in virtue, though not tending towards hedonism, are also a consequence of their misconception of providence. She adds the intriguing possibility that this approach by Plotinus to the Gnostics is paralleled by Celsus' polemic against Christians. The latter did not deny providence; rather, they denied universal providence, limiting it only to the elect. Without a commitment to universal providence, the appeal of at least psychological hedonism would be greater than it ought to be.

Mazzetti argues that a passage in Plotinus' treatise "On Providence," III 2 [47], 7, has Epicurus as a target, although he is not explicitly mentioned. Plotinus argues against those who hold that providence exists, but that it does not extend down to the earth. Specifically, the Epicureans are taken to hold that the gods, being good, can do no evil. But their blissful lives mean that they do not concern themselves with affairs on earth. Plotinus' commitment to Plato's defense of divine providence in Republic X and Laws X would have made this position unacceptable even if its illogical commitment to the limited goodness of the divine were not the case.

Marsola examines V 9 [5] 1, where Plotinus gives a typology of lives: the life of pleasure seeking, the life of practical affairs, and the life of contemplation. Plotinus draws from both Plato and Aristotle in his analysis of the three, with his likely target in his criticisms of the first life being Epicurus. But Plotinus takes the opportunity to connect the hedonistic life with the atomistic materialism of the Epicureanism. They seek pleasure and avoid pain because they are convinced that they are merely bodies, and so are "weighted down" by them. The thought here is that, in order to pursue a contemplative life and so, on Platonic principles, the most virtuous life, one must identify oneself as "weightless," that is, immaterial.

Morel considers Plotinus' multiple attacks on those who maintain that knowledge or epistēmē can be obtained from sense-perception. Although Plotinus does not identify this view exclusively with the Epicureans, Morel argues that the evidence—in particular, the use of technical Epicurean (and Atomist) terminology—indicates that Epicureans are probably included, along with Peripatetics, in Plotinus' attack. Morel makes the important observation that Plotinus frequently focuses on a philosophical position, in this case "empiricism," rather than a particular philosophical school or person. He does this as well for Platonism. That he should have thought he found an error common to Peripatetics and Epicureans is unsurprising. It is an error that contradicts the Platonic account of knowledge as exclusively of the intelligible world.

The related paper by Taormina takes up the same text as Morel and should be read alongside it. Taormina, too, suggests that Epicureanism is subsumed under Plotinus' general attack on empiricism. Given the context of the entire treatise, namely, the argument that intelligibles are not outside the Intellect, we can perhaps see Plotinus' net cast even wider to include both those who deny the possibility of infallible cognition, namely, Sceptics, as well as those who, like Epicureans and Stoics, seek to retain infallibility at the same time as they espouse materialism. The reason for insisting on infallibility within a materialistic context is basically that fallible knowledge is difficult to distinguish from mere true belief, a fatal result for those who viewed philosophy as pursuing an exalted form of cognition.

For me, the highlight of the volume is the paper by Nicci, who provides a detailed examination of Plotinus' reasons for rejecting Atomism. The paper is especially illuminating in showing how Plotinus draws on Aristotle's physics to refute Epicurean claims regarding the motion of bodies. Here is one passage that helps us to understand the later Neoplatonic view that Aristotle's authority in physics, broadly speaking, is compatible with Platonic metaphysical principles. In addition, Nicci nicely exposes Plotinus' Platonic and Aristotelian arguments against the possibility of accounting for soul in atomistic terms. Surprisingly, Plotinus will even employ Stoic arguments for the infinite divisibility of bodies to counter Atomism, at the same time as he argues that the Stoics can no more account for the soul and its properties than the Epicureans can. It is on the basis of the priority of the intelligible to the sensible generally that Plotinus rejects the shared materialism of Epicureans, Stoics, and no doubt others.

Another paper on Plotinus' criticism of Atomism is that of Eliasson. The criticism is found in Plotinus' treatise on fate (heimarmenē). Epicurus' explanation for his denial of determinism, namely, the "swerve" of atoms, is found unacceptable on the grounds that it posits uncaused causes. But without the swerve, determinism still does not follow since Atomism cannot account for psychical action. Thus, a providential world is saved from Epicureanism.

Cornea traces the technical Epicurean term, athroa epibolē from its first use in the Letter to Herodotus to its appropriation by Plotinus. It means something like "comprehensive grasp" or "overall application" and is clearly distinguished from epibolē kata meros, meaning a "partial grasp," that is, a grasp that proceeds seriatim through the many technical discussions contained in Epicurus' treatises. Plotinus, somewhat surprisingly, takes over the term to refer to the possibility of Soul's having comprehensive cognition of intelligibles, something that has already been argued to be possible for Intellect alone. Cornea suggests for athroa the English translation "concentrated," perhaps in the sense of an epitome. Plotinus probably knew the Letter to Herodotus and other Epicurean texts, here showing his willingness to employ somewhat alien terminology.

Linguitti provides a brief but helpful survey of Plotinus' various encounters with hedonism in those treatises devoted to happiness (I 4) and the role of Forms and the Good in human life (VI 7). He shows how Plotinus evaluates the claims of hedonism in the light of his own anthropology, that is, his distinction between the embodied individual human being and the person, which itself is bifurcated into the rational (embodied) intellect and its "undescended" paradigm. Further, in the treatise responding to the question "does happiness increase with time?" (I 5), Plotinus sides with Epicurus in arguing that it does not, for one reason with which Epicurus would agree and one with which he would not. Happiness does not increase with time for the embodied person since, as Epicurus and Stoics both maintain, happiness, when attained, is perfect at any moment. But it does also not increase for the person that one really is since that person is eternally contemplating all that is intelligible.

The volume has a clear and comprehensive stage-setting introduction by the editors and a full bibliography. There is hardly a sentence in the Enneads that is not rooted in the history of philosophy as Plotinus knew it. This book is a valuable addition to the scholarship seeking to illuminate this background.

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Peter Adamson, Classical Philosophy. A history of philosophy without any gaps, 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xx, 346. ISBN 9780199674534. $29.95.

Reviewed by Eve A. Browning, University of Texas at San Antonio (Eve.Browning@utsa.edu)

Version at BMCR home site


Since 2010, Peter Adamson has been at work on a monumentally extensive series of podcasts designed to deliver the history of philosophy "without any gaps". The podcast collection now extends from Thales through early Christian philosophy, medieval philosophy (with especially strong coverage of Islamic philosophers), and into Indian philosophy. Averaging from 15-20 minutes in listening time, all podcasts are available here: Preview

With this book, handsomely produced by Oxford University Press, Adamson moves these podcasts into print with only the most minor of changes (a very occasional word substitution). The podcasts translate into individual chapters of 5-10 pages.

The podcast is a medium typically enjoyed under conditions of some degree of distraction: running on a treadmill, washing the dishes, waiting for a plane, actually suffering through air travel. For that reason the podcasts that work best employ a somewhat simpler mode of conceptual delivery than books, to which we usually try to bring our A-game in terms of concentration.

Adamson's podcasts are pleasantly read from a script verbatim, and are more challenging than a typical podcast but less demanding than a typical book. Reading them in book form, therefore, is a mixed experience. The level of analysis and interpretation is unavoidably thinner than we typically expect when reading histories of philosophy.

Given the burdensome scope of the project Adamson is imposing on himself, he frequently attempts to lighten the mood through humor, including individual podcast and chapter subtitles such as these: "All You Need is Love, and Five Other Things: Empedocles" (64), "We Don't Need No Education: Plato's Meno (123)", "God Only Knows: Aristotle on Mind and God" (278). Sometimes he seems to be addressing a younger reader, as when he refers to Anaximander's structured cosmos as "pretty cool" (11). He also employs lightening devices such as a somewhat tone- deaf running joke about James Brown's dancing that adversely affects the chapter entitled "Soul Power: Aristotle's On the Soul" (250). And there are puns—so many puns. The cumulative effect of the puns alone is that of being repeatedly dug in the ribs by a mischievous sibling.

Beginning a history of philosophy 'without any gaps' with Thales might seem odd, since at least as regards a written tradition, Thales is mostly one enormous gap. Adamson explains the widespread choice of Thales to begin western philosophy as follows: "(H)e was the first person to gain a reputation for the sort of independent analysis of nature we describe as 'scientific'" (6).

The chapters all aim at providing entry-level discussions while not avoiding complexities—a difficult balancing act, and one at which Adamson is quite skilled. The approach is least well exemplified when treating individual dialogues of Plato, where it tends to devolve into play-by-play paraphrase of the form, "And then he said . . ." For example, "Here Critias makes a surprising move . . . This leaves Socrates more confused than ever . . . (etc.)" (111). In chapters like these, it is hard not to conclude that the reader would be better served by just reading the dialogue.

However there are some really significant strengths. Chapter 11 on the Hippocratics ("Good Humor Men: The Hippocratic Corpus") and Chapter 12 on the Sophists present treatments that are both nuanced and sympathetic.

Adamson is at his best when he abandons the text-by-text organizational scheme and the attempt to cover individual texts from front to back. Thus, Plato's Republic gets two chapters, 21 and 22, and takes up only two themes but those of enormous importance: justice, and the Allegory of the Cave. Adamson is able in these two chapters to provide important textual and conceptual beacons that would be of significant help to a reader who ventures further into the work itself.

The chapters on Aristotle's logic (30 and 31) do a wonderful job of explaining the relation of the several logical works in the Aristotelian corpus to one another; I have never seen this done so well or so clearly. Adamson discusses Aristotle's Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, and Posterior Analytics, giving a surprising amount of clear coverage in chapters that add up to only 14 pages. Every student or reader who enters into these challenging texts, and every instructor who takes on the fearsome responsibility of teaching them, would be benefitted by a careful reading of these two chapters.

Also very strong are two thematic chapters on Plato: Chapter 26 on the Timaeus, and Chapter 28 on Plato's use of poetry and myth. Here Adamson is at his best, making the philosophical issues fresh and enticing, giving enough analysis to equip a reader to appreciate what is at stake and the tools to venture further.

The penultimate Chapter 42, "Anything You Can Do: Women and Ancient Philosophy" devotes 8 pages to the sadly few names of women philosophers that have come down to us (e.g. Perictione, Theano, Aspasia) with appropriate circumspection as to the authenticity of claims made about them. It also reminds us of some key texts in previously discussed male philosophers which have implications for ancient views on sex and gender.

In summary, there are real treasures here. These are the same as those that are available on the website noted in the first paragraph of this review. (The website has recently made all podcasts searchable by theme.) This fact makes me wonder about the thinking behind Oxford University Press's decision to publish the podcasts in book form.

However there is no question that Adamson has done, and is doing, the discipline of philosophy an enormous service with his huge and growing collection of podcasts. The website has a 'comments' section below each individual recording, and there are numerous loyal and faithful listeners who give heartfelt thanks, or ask questions that Adamson frequently answers. Through prodigious labor, he has opened doors, and opened a dialogue with the wide world concerning the history of philosophy that is invaluable and he is to be warmly thanked for this.

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Stephanie McCarter, Horace between Freedom and Slavery: The First Book of 'Epistles'. Wisconsin Studies in Classics. Madison; London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2015. Pp. xi, 359. ISBN 9780299305703. $65.00.

Reviewed by Chrysanthe Tsitsiou-Chelidoni, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (ctsitsiou@lit.auth.gr)

Version at BMCR home site


In this handsomely printed book Stephanie McCarter discusses one of the most (self)-contemplative and interpretatively demanding poetry collections preserved from classical antiquity. This is a bold endeavour and one which, irrespective of the outcome, does great credit to its author.

McCarter is not the first person to recognize the concept of freedom as being one of the core themes in Epistles. In fact, she is admirably meticulous in recording her debts to others. Via close readings of the poems, her contribution lies principally in maintaining that the poet acts not simply as a teacher — a role long recognized — but also as a student. In the latter guise, the poet imparts to his readers what he gradually comes to learn: anyone seeking prominence and public distinction without losing his autonomy, i.e. the ideal degree of freedom on various levels of everyday life, should opt for the middle way between the extremes of unlimited freedom on the one hand and slavish compliance on the other. Moderate freedom means displaying adaptability to circumstances as they arise. Almost all the poems in the collection are interpreted through the prism of this ideological standpoint, whether as direct or indirect declarations of it, or as compositions highlighting the state from which the poet could attain the desired solution if he were to adopt the proposed modus vivendi. McCarter's monograph thus reduces what is an ideologically diverse and at bottom emotionally unsettled poetic work centering, among other things, on recte vivere, to a collection conveying a somewhat simple moral message. This, we are to suppose, the poet decides to implement over the course of the collection and in the immediate aftermath of a grave spiritual crisis, in the belief that it will lead him to equanimity.

In McCarter's view, Horace owes this 'life principle' to Aristippus. As the author herself acknowledges, she is not breaking new ground in identifying the poet's overall philosophical mood in Epistles I, or his particular affinity with the Cyrenaic philosopher. The originality of her contribution lies in her attempt to reduce almost all the poems in the first book of Epistles directly or indirectly to Aristippean ideas, and to interpret them accordingly. Indeed, it is only in the conclusion that McCarter curiously notes that the Epistles 'have no clear model, either poetic or philosophical' (p. 261).

Even in the very first Epistle, the poet confesses he is occasionally captivated by the Aristippean principle et mihi res, non me rebus, subiungere conor ('and I try to make things subject to myself, not myself to things', Epist. 1.1.19).1 'What Horace stresses about Aristippus', notes ΜcCarter, 'is not his hedonism, but his extraordinary ability to adapt and to make every circumstance suitable to himself without becoming enslaved to it' (p. 37). Besides, in McCarter's opinion the confession deferor hospes ('I am a guest (wherever the storm takes me)', Epist. 1.1.15) is a reference to the philosopher: in an incident recounted by Xenophon in the Memorabilia, Aristippus appears to state that 'I do not shut myself up in a regime but am a guest everywhere' (Mem. 2.1.13). The intertextual relationship has long been recognized, as McCarter points out, but she sees Xenophon's account as enabling us to comprehend the kind of freedom proposed and laid claim to in the first book of Epistles. In the story, Aristippus appears to have no wish to belong either to rulers or to their subjects; indeed, he chooses to tread what he believes to be the path of freedom, which he defines as the path to bliss and the middle way between the two extremes represented by rulers on the one hand and subjects on the other (Mem. 2.1.8-11). 'Horace's challenge', notes McCarter, 'is how to re-embrace his former poetry and Maecenas without letting them shut him into the servile gladiatorial arena, and he will do so by walking the path of freedom between ruling and slavery that Xenophon's Aristippus has proposed' (p. 41). However, Socrates' own reaction to his interlocutor's views is potentially didactic: the 'middle way' is unattainable in a political society, where those not wielding power eventually come to be ruled over (Mem. 2.1.12-16).

In her study, McCarter regards the first book of the Epistles as forming a unified whole. Her book is divided into eight chapters, with an introduction and a conclusion. Despite the author's view that the poet gradually comes to see the way out of his personal crisis, her examination does not follow the epistles sequentially; rather, each chapter is dedicated to a particular topic. The book is rounded off with a strikingly comprehensive bibliography and indices (nominum and locorum).

The freedom that the poet will espouse, notes McCarter in the introduction, 'is designed for a new political age' (p. 5), which is the spirit befitting the transitional era from republic to empire. A clear historical identity is thus attributed to Horace's perception of freedom: an intriguing thought indeed. Yet this position is not as easily compatible, as McCarter believes, with her assessment that the collection affords no access to the 'historical Horace', his biography, and his relations with those he addresses.

The opening chapter focuses on Epistles 1.1. According to McCarter, the poet adopts a moderate stance towards philosophy: he declares his dedication to it, but remains unattached to any particular dogma, thus treading the middle path between the extremes of freedom and slavery. Furthermore, Epist. 1.1.19 (et mihi res, non me rebus, subiungere conor) sums up the Aristippean ideological principle of adaptability, which the poet supposedly adopts throughout. Thus in McCarter's view, the way is shown from the very first Epistle: 'Adaptability, the middle path, true libertas: these will be the central ethical lessons of the Epistles.' (p. 42) Here the author links her two (contradictory) views on the poet via a simplistic thought: his stance towards philosophy is interpreted as Aristippean, since in every case he advocates adaptability and moderation, while at the same time aiming for independence.

In the second chapter, McCarter discusses the poet's role as a student at the beginning of the collection. Here the focus of attention is on Epistles 1.1, 1.8, and 1.15. In 1.8 the poet remains in an impasse, but by 1.15, in McCarter's view, he has decided to follow the Aristippean way to enjoy wealth — he will enjoy it for as long as it is offered to him, without depending on it. The link between Epistles 1.15 and Aristippus has been recognized for some time — here again, McCarter is consistent in acknowledging her debts. Yet her rather extreme position that the poet is being entirely serious and honest in his stance overlooks the epistle's self-deprecating dynamics.

Chapter Three highlights the poet's role as teacher. In Epist. 1.2, Horace credits the Odyssey with superb morally didactic power, thus lending precedence to poetry rather than philosophy as a bearer of moral instruction — the Epistles themselves are the libellus (Epist. 1.1.37) from which one may await salvation. Yet this leaves one wondering how the priority accorded to poetry over philosophy as a cure for spiritual illness can be reconciled with the acknowledgement of Aristippus' philosophical views as a model means of therapy.

The fourth chapter is dedicated to an examination of Epistles 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, and 1.12. In McCarter's view, having recovered from the impasse in Epist. 1.1, Horace here assumes the role of a healthy guide, who advocates moderation and adaptability as a way out of spiritual dead ends. It is nevertheless questionable whether, for instance, the poet asks Albius to show moderation and adaptability when he supposedly behaves immoderately (in Epist. 1.4), as McCarter argues.

Chapter Five examines Epistles 1.7 and 1.16. In the first of these, McCarter maintains that the poet undergoes a regression. Yet in McCarter's view, in the same epistle he proposes an 'Aristippean freedom' as a compromise with Maecenas: the latter must grant the poet some freedom, and he must accept a degree of dependence. McCarter offers a sensitive and considered discussion of relations between the two men and also looks carefully at the letter as an intertext of Serm. 1.6 and 2.6. To her mind, among all of Horace's Epistles, 1.16 is the 'most difficult to decipher' (p. 146). Here the poet places limits on his willingness to compromise.

In the sixth chapter McCarter offers a reading of Epistles 1.10, 1.11, and 1.14. In all cases she identifies a lack of happiness on the poet's part, which could be remedied only if Horace (and/or his interlocutor) were to adopt the principle of Aristippean freedom, i.e. adaptation to circumstances as they arise. The lion's share of the chapter is dedicated to what the poet does not say, but should say if he were on the (supposed) road to redemption. Indeed, in Epist. 1.14, where the poet highlights the positive side of life in the country, far from the city, we read: 'As an Aristippean Horace can go back and forth between city and country and all that each implies. In 1.14, however, he is trying to conform to a perspective that does not in fact fully suit him' (p. 188) — an obvious petitio principii.

In Chapter Seven, McCarter reads Epistles 1.17 and 1.18 as serious and sincere answers to the question of how he can lead a beneficial life close to powerful (political) figures 'without sacrificing his autonomy or consistency of character' (p. 190). In Epist. 1.17 Aristippus explicitly emerges as a role model. Yet contrary to McCarter's contention, one wonders why the Aristippean modus vivendi in the company of the powerful (as proposed to Scaeva by the poet) necessarily concerns the creator's own present and future rather than simply his past alone. Besides, the turn of phrase McCarter uses for the poet's relationship to Lollius, the recipient of Epist. 1.18 — a relationship important to McCarter's argumentation — is awkward: 'I would emphasize … the parallelism between Horace and Lollius, but I would agree there is a contrast between the two' (p. 319, n. 68). And yet, the difference between the two characters is more than evident: the bleak future still awaiting Lollius is described as something which for the poet represents a difficult but now completed past, which he can view from a distance, with a sense of relief.

Chapter Eight is dedicated to an examination of Epistles 1.3 and 1.19. As McCarter argues, the poet has now come to appreciate the middle road and is no longer interested in absolute freedom, avoiding both daring avant-gardism and slavish imitation of literary models. This particular stance, in McCarter's view, marks a distancing from the demand for absolute liberty (Epist. 1.1).

In the conclusion McCarter summarizes the above views and offers a somewhat opaque treatment of Epistles 1.13 and 1.20. Thus Epist. 1.13 allegedly highlights the poet's desire, in the name of the 'mean way', not to fully submit to the princeps, which is why he opts to address a wider public (Epist. 1.20). If nothing else, this position militates against the interpretation of Epist. 1.19, where in McCarter's view the 'middle path' is identified with the poet's turning towards a small, elite readership. To explain these contradictions McCarter claims that Epistles 1.13 and 1.20 'illuminate the two conflicting sides of the Horatian epistolary persona', and that in them the poet merely 'effectively reverses' the stances he had avowed in Epist. 1.1 and 1.19 (pp. 256-7). Whatever the case may be, the reader is left nothing if not bewildered by the claim that: 'the compromise Horace enacts over the course of the book is not without discomfort; no matter how much freedom it allows him, it also requires him to acknowledge the servile, dependent part of himself.' (p. 255).

McCarter divides each chapter up into smaller units, articulating her key positions at the beginning and end (as well as elsewhere), most probably so as to facilitate reading. Almost every page includes excerpts from the bibliography, often discussed with a critical eye. Of particular interest are the views expressed in Chapter Two on the relationship between the Satiresand the Epistles. In the sixth chapter (pp. 179-180) McCarter offers a thought-provoking comparison of Epist. 1.11 with Seneca's 28th Letter to Lucilius, touching on a theme of considerable scope and obvious interest.

The overall undertaking is nonetheless dogged by some methodological weaknesses, not least of which is an almost obsessive attempt to reduce almost all the epistles directly or indirectly to the same philosophical dogma, though not without noting the poet's emotional ups and downs across the collection. At the same time, in order to demarcate the dogma, and chiefly so as to apply it to every poem, the author bases her argument on extremely broad-ranging concepts ('moderation', 'adaptability', 'the middle path'), which are not always well defined. The argumentation is thus often vague, though clearly worded, and sometimes even problematic. Despite the respect one may feel for the effort involved in the book, it is hard to avoid the impression that ultimately, in her own study the author implemented the Aristippean principle et mihi res, non me rebus, subiungere conor.2


1.   McCarter's translations are here used throughout.
2.   Though typographical errors are not the ultimate determinants of a book's quality, I mention the following: Alaeus (pp. 28, 250, for Alcaeus), (sub) corpora (p. 54, for corpore), sit (p. 96, for si), perterbationes (p. 110, for perturbationes), ad (pede) (p. 145, for ac), partier (p. 163, for pariter), verus (p. 168, for versus), οὐκ (p. 170, for οὐχ), (tonsa) cuta (p. 207, for cute), fluetem (p. 224, for fluitem), gemisi (p. 265, for gemis), Il dispiaceri di uno epicuro (p. 337, for I dispiaceri di un epicureo), Holtzberg (p. 339, for Holzberg), Dissociabilies (p. 343, for Dissociabiles).

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Sunday, January 29, 2017


Albio Cesare Cassio, Storia delle lingue letterarie greche. Seconda edizione (first edition 2008). Firenze: Le Monnier Università. Mondadori Education, 2016. Pp. xix, 501. ISBN 9788800745796. €36.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Bruno Rochette, Université de Liège (bruno.rochette@ulg.ac.be)

Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview

Depuis la poésie épique jusqu'à ses développements à la fin de l'Antiquité et à l'époque byzantine, le grec caractérise un peuple parlant une langue qui, indépendamment des différences locales, s'est imposée, après Alexandre le Grand, comme véhicule de culture au-delà même des limites territoriales de la Grèce. Hérodote parle de l'Ἑλληνικóν, ensemble uni opposé au monde barbare. L'ouvrage que voici, dont la première édition a paru chez le même éditeur en 2008 (XVI+396 pages), entend mettre en évidence les différences entre les dialectes authentiques – connus essentiellement par les inscriptions—et leurs utilisations littéraires, qui ont font des Kunstsprachen, c'est-à-dire des réélaborations artistiques à partir des langues locales et sous l'influence de la koiné ionienne-attique. C'est à dessein que l'auteur parle de « langues littéraires » et non de « dialectes littéraires » pour faire la distinction entre le concept de dialecte et celui de littérature. C'est aussi une façon de souligner la profonde unité de la langue grecque depuis ses origines au moins jusqu'à la koiné. Après une note sur les systèmes de transcription et une carte géographique montrant la diffusion du grec et la fragmentation du territoire, l'ouvrage se présente en deux parties, d'importance inégale. La première, due à A.C. Cassio, est intitulée « Introduction générale ». Elle se compose de quatre chapitres (chap. 1-4), suivis chacun de la bibliographie. La seconde partie, consacrée aux « Langues littéraires grecques. Profils et textes », est l'œuvre de différents savants. Elle est divisée en quatorze sections (chap. 5-18), dotées chacune d'une bibliographie et illustrées par des textes commentés.

La première partie de l'introduction générale est consacrée aux mouvements de population et aux groupes dialectaux, très différents entre eux, comme le montre la Loi de Gortyne (vers 450 av. J.-C.) écrite en dorien (accompagnée ici d'une transcription en attique). Les remarques sur le mycénien font écho aux travaux d'A. Morpurgo Davies sur les rapports de filiation entre le mycénien et l'arcado-cypriote et à « l'hypothèse Porzig-Risch », selon laquelle il aurait existé, au second millénaire, un « grec de l'Ouest » (ancêtre des groupes dorien et éolien) et un « grec de l'Est » (ancêtre de l'ionien-attique et de l'arcado-cypriote). Ce premier chapitre passe en revue les principaux traits caractéristiques des différents dialectes aux époques archaïque et classique. Il se termine par des considérations sur la littérature dialectale qui soulignent le prestige de la littérature ionienne, puis attique, et la pénétration de formes hyperdialectales ainsi que les normalisations effectuées sur base de l'ionien-attique, qui forme une sorte de koiné ante litteram. Le deuxième chapitre décrit les principaux phénomènes phonétiques du grec en accordant une attention particulière à la palatalisation et à la dépalatalisation, sans oublier la théorie des laryngales et les allongements compensatoires. Alors que la troisième section propose une introduction à la morphologie verbale et nominale, le quatrième chapitre est entièrement consacré à l'écriture. Après une réflexion sur la coexistence de différentes formes de communication et des remarques sur les supports matériels de l'écriture, il contient une série de paragraphes sur la notation du grec : le linéaire B, l'alphabet, les alphabets archaïques, la graphie standard, les problèmes spécifiques aux textes de la lyrique chorale. Il se termine par l'étude du texte du traité entre Cnossos et Tylissos conclu, vers 460-450 av. J.-C., sous le patronage d'Argos et écrit dans l'alphabet de cette ville.1

La partie consacrée aux langues littéraires s'ouvre par un chapitre sur la langue épique (chap. 5 ; E. Passa). Parmi les questions débattues par les spécialistes plusieurs problèmes sont mis en exergue : les origines de l'hexamètre, le système formulaire, l'élément éolien, l'existence (difficile à défendre) d'une phase proprement achéenne, la composante ionienne. Cinq phénomènes sont étudiés plus particulièrement : le digamma, la métathèse de quantité, la διέκτασις, c'est-à-dire la présence de formes qui subissent une distension (une longue accentuée peut faire naître une brève), le –ν euphonique, la désinence secondaire –σαν qui se substitue à –ν (< *-nt). Enfin, une synthèse est consacrée à la question difficile de la transmission des poèmes homériques, de la composante attique à la paradose alexandrine. Le chapitre se conclut par des observations sur l'épopée après Homère et Hésiode jusqu'à Nonnos de Panopolis.2

Viennent ensuite les chapitres sur la lyrique monodique et chorale (chap. 6 ; O. Tribulato), distinction plus moderne qu'antique, l'élégie et l'épigramme sur pierre (chap. 7 ; E. Passa) ainsi que l'iambe (chap. 8 ; S. Kaczko). Les exemples littéraires étudiés sont mis en parallèle avec les textes épigraphiques, spécialement dans le cas d'Alcée et de Sappho, dont l'édition pose d'épineux problèmes. Le chapitre, qui offre un panorama des principales caractéristiques de l'éolien d'Asie, se termine par l'évocation de la poétesse de l'époque d'Hadrien, Julia Balbilla, qui est une héritière des poètes lesbiens. Il n'oublie pas la poétesse Corinne, dont les fragments présentent un grand nombre de formes typiques du béotien.3 La lyrique chorale est née probablement dans le domaine dorien et a été progressivement influencée par une tradition poétique éolienne d'Asie Mineure.4 Le chapitre sur l'élégie commence par rappeler la publication, en 2005, d'un papyrus (POxy LXIX 4708, IIe s. apr. J.-C.) contenant un ensemble de 28 vers d'une composition élégiaque d'Archiloque de Paros, plus connu pour ses iambes. Il contient des réflexions sur le genre littéraire de la thrénodie et, plus particulièrement, sur la monodie en distiques élégiaques entachée de dorismes de l'Andromaque d'Euripide (v. 103-116), un unicum dans le théâtre grec conservé qui pourrait venir directement de l'ancienne tradition de l'élégie thrénodique.5 L'analyse de la langue de l'élégie est assez délicate : on y trouve des éléments ioniens, mais aussi des traits dialectaux étrangers à l'ionien. La langue des iambographes est caractérisée par des éléments ioniens, épiques, un lexique « bas » chez Hipponax, qui utilise aussi des néologismes et des mots étrangers, ainsi que des traits attiques chez Solon. Suivent quelques brèves remarques sur les rares inscriptions archaïques en mètre iambique.6

Le chapitre sur la tragédie (chap. 10 ; S. Kaczko) est assez bref. Aristote soulignait déjà le caractère non réaliste de la langue des tragiques. Parmi les caractéristiques de la langue tragique, les dorismes et l'alpha impurum sont mis en évidence.7 M. Bellocchi s'attache ensuite à la comédie (chap. 11) en commençant par la comédie dorienne d'Épicharme, bien connu par des papyrus pourvus de signes destinés à aider un lecteur du IIe s. apr. J.-C. confronté au dorien. Pour la comédie attique, après une présentation du dialecte attique à l'époque d'Aristophane, l'attention se concentre sur les parodies des oracles et de passages tragiques. Les nouvelles tendances linguistiques (p. ex. les adjectifs en –ικóς [cf. Cavaliers, 1378-1380]) ont sans doute subi l'influence de la sophistique, mais sont peut-être aussi issues de la langue technique (les adjectifs en –ικóς se trouvent déjà dans les inscriptions). La comédie est aussi intéressante pour les dialectes autres que l'attique qu'elle contient, procédé qui correspond sans doute aux exigences du réalisme comique. Le chapitre se termine par des remarques sur la langue des esclaves et des gens incultes, y compris certains barbares,8 comme le dieu Triballe des Oiseaux (1615-6 ; 1628-9 ; 1678-1681) et l'archer scythe des Thesmophories (1001-jusqu'à la fin).9

Le chapitre 12 (C. Vassella) est consacré à l'émergence de la prose à partir du VIe s. adaptée à un nouveau public et à un nouveau contenu. L'apparition des textes en prose correspond à la tendance à éliminer les particularités exclusivement locales des dialectes et à les uniformiser dans une koiné ionienne-attique. L'ionien est le dialecte dans lequel sont écrits les plus anciens textes en prose. La prose attique a elle aussi une importance, sans oublier la prose dorienne attestée à la même époque, au moins en Sicile et en Grande Grèce, et fondée sur le Doris severior. 10 Suit un chapitre sur la koiné (chap. 13 ; S. Kaczko), qui met en lumière la variété stylistique et linguistique de la production littéraire des époques hellénistique et romaine en soulignant la variation diastratique qui caractérise la prose de cette période. L'influence des langues étrangères est soulignée, en particulier celle du latin.11

Nous arrivons à l'époque hellénistique. D'une étude par genre littéraire, on passe à un traitement par auteurs considérés individuellement : Ménandre et la comédie nouvelle (chap. 14 ; C. Vessella), Callimaque et la poésie alexandrine (chap. 15 ; C. Vessella), Hérondas (chap. 16 ; E. Passa) et Théocrite (chap. 17 ; C. Vessella). Des découvertes papyrologiques ont fait progresser notre connaissance des textes de cette époque. La langue de Ménandre comporte des évolutions morphologiques et lexicales, particularités qui lui ont valu de faire l'objet d'une véritable damnatio memoriae de la part des atticistes du IIe s. apr. J.-C.12 Le chapitre consacré à Callimaque est très succinct : il est question du dorien littéraire de Callimaque ainsi que d'Isyllos d'Épidaure, connu par une inscription de 79 lignes (début du IIIe s. av. J.-C.) découverte dans le sanctuaire d'Asclépios d'Épidaure en 1885.13 Un papyrus du British Museum, publié en 1891, a fait connaître sept mimes presque entiers d'Hérondas et des fragments d'un huitième. La langue de cet auteur est un mélange de différents dialectes avec une prédominance de l'ionien.14 Enfin, la langue de Théocrite pose d'épineux problèmes : la distinction entre Doris severior, mitior et media est impossible, car il s'agit d'une langue artificielle, purement littéraire, même si des tentatives ont eu lieu pour rapprocher le dorien de Théocrite d'un dialecte réel.15

Le volume se termine par une brève synthèse sur la lexicographie atticiste (chap. 18 ; C. Vessella), déjà citée à propos de Ménandre, puisque sa langue a été considérée comme un attique de mauvaise qualité. L'exposé couvre la période alexandrine, qui se consacre surtout à l'étude d'Homère, et impériale (Phrynichos Arabios, Moeris, Pollux et Athénée de Naucratis).16

L'ouvrage, dont une des spécificités est le parallélisme constant établi entre les textes littéraires et les documents épigraphiques,17 a été étoffé et remis à jour (il tient compte en particulier des nouvelles découvertes papyrologiques, comme dans le cas de Sappho). Il s'agit d'une contribution précieuse, un instrument de travail de qualité qui permet de comprendre les problèmes que posent les premiers développements de la langue grecque et son évolution à travers les siècles. Cette seconde édition est dotée d'un utile index analytique qui faisait défaut. En réalité, il aurait fallu plusieurs index (index des textes cités, mots grecs, savants modernes, notions) et des renvois plus simples, aux pages plutôt qu'aux paragraphes.


1.   ICret, I, viii, 4B = SIG356.
2.   Textes analysés : Homère, Iliade, XXII, 344-366 ; Hésiode, Op. , 663-677 ; l'oinochoe du Dipylon et la Coupe de Nestor, œuvres portant les deux plus anciennes inscriptions connues réalisées au moyen de l'alphabet grec ; Apollonios de Rhodes, III, 422-431.
3.   Textes analysés : fragment 34 Voigt de Sappho, fragment 34 Voigt d'Alcée, un traité monétaire entre Mytilène et Phocée (IG, XII, 2, 1, 4-13) et le fragment 17 Gentili d'Anacréon.
4.   Textes analysés : Alcman, PMGF, I, 36-49, inscription de Sparte (IG, V, 1, 213, 1-10) ; Stésichore, PMGF, 222(b) ; Pindare, Ol. , VII, 1-10.
5.   Textes analysés : Mimnerme fr. 5, 4-8 West ; Tyrtée fr. 4 West ; épigramme du Polyandrion d'Ambracie ; épigramme funéraire de Thyrrheion.
6.   Textes analysés : Archiloque fr. 19 West ; Hipponax fr. 7 Degani ; épigramme funéraire de Thasos.
7.   Un seul texte tragique est analysé : Eschyle, Choéphores, 205-219.
8.   Un procédé analogue se trouve déjà dans les Perses de Timothée de Milet (cf. S. Colvin, Dialect in Aristophanes. The Politics of Language in Ancient Greek Literature, Oxford, 1999, p. 54-56).
9.   Textes analysés : Epicharme fr. 32, 1-12 K.-A. ; deux dédicaces syracusaines de Delphes et d'Olympie ; Aristophane, Nuées, 488-507 ; exemple de « langue basse » : defixio attique moitié du Ve s.
10.   Textes analysés : Hérodote, I, 93, 1-2 ; inscription du Pedon à Priène (SEG, XXXVII, 994) ; Thucydide, III, 82, 2-4 ; Platon, République, 398e1-399a4 ; Xénophon, Helléniques, II, 4, 8 ; Démosthène, Sur la paix, 1- 2 ; Décret de Chalcis en Eubée (IG, I3, 40), 3-20, 71-76 ; Architas de Tarente fr. 3 Huffman ; Tables d'Héraclée, I, 151-153 Uguzzoni, le plus long document que nous possédions en dialecte tarentin.
11.   Textes analysés : Polybe, III, 4, 12-13 ; 15, 3-7 ; OGIS, I, 224 ; Ge 39, 1-10 ; BGU 423.
12.   Textes analysés : Ménandre, Dyscolos, 669-688.
13.   Textes analysés : Isyllos fr. F 62-66 et A 7-9 Powell ; Callimaque, Hymne à Déméter, 1-12.
14.   Textes analysés : Hérondas, Mimiambes, III, 30-41.
15.   Textes analysés : Théocrite, Idylles, V, 55-71 ; XXIX, 1-15.
16.   Textes analysés : Moeris σ 33 Hansen ; Phrynichos, Ecloga, 411 Fischer ; Lucien, Lexiphanes, 2. Il faut citer E. Dickey, Ancient Greek Scholarship. A Guide to Finding, Reading, and Understanding Scholia, Commentaries, Lexica, and Grammatical Treatises, from Their Beginnings to the Byzantine Period, Oxford, 2007.
17.   La même démarche a été adoptée par V. Pisani, Manuale storico della lingua greca, Brescia, 19732.

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