Friday, March 17, 2017


Annick Payne, Jorit Wintjes, Lords of Asia Minor: An Introduction to the Lydians. Philippika, 93. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016. Pp. x, 145. ISBN 9783447105682. €29.80.

Reviewed by H. Craig Melchert, Carrboro, NC (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

This admirably comprehensive introduction to the Lydians consists of six chapters treating history, archaeological excavations, language, inscriptions, culture (money, religion, burial customs), and a brief reception history. It seeks (p. 1) "to strike a balance between offering the latest, reasonably extensive references while at the same time keeping the text readable for a general audience." Achieving this worthy but ambitious goal is a formidable challenge, due to the accelerating pace of scholarly publications and the notorious difficulty that scholars have in truly not taking too much for granted on the part of the general educated reader (I speak from hard personal experience). Reviewing this work is also a challenge, since study of Lydia and the Lydians is mostly the province of Hellenists and ancient historians, while the inscriptions and language fall within the purview of Anatolian linguists. Since I am one of the latter, my review unavoidably represents the viewpoint of a general reader towards the chapters on history, archaeology, and culture, but of an expert towards those on the language and inscriptions.

As far as I am competent to judge, the authors largely succeed in the first of their stated aims. I will for the topics familiar to me duly cite below a handful of missing references and inevitably object to certain claims and interpretations, but none of these deficits is of major import or will seriously mislead the general reader (some points are too minor to merit mention). The coverage of published scholarship is impressively comprehensive, balanced, and up-to-date. Works cited appear in all the major languages, reflecting the research of an international set of scholars. The authors do not shrink from making judgments, but consistently acknowledge the expected diversity of views on many topics. Citations include not only pioneering and "classic" works, but also, in every chapter, books and articles from the last five to ten years.

Also much to be praised is the steadfast refusal to "talk down" to the general reader. The general introduction and the introduction to the historical overview both openly confront and explain the thorny issue of how one defines "Lydia" and "the Lydians". Likewise, the problematic nature of our sources and the subsequent uncertainty of much of the narrative presented is stressed throughout the historical chapter. The repeated attention to this point may at times seem excessive, but in my experience both specialists and general readers tend to pay too little attention to such admonishments, so the constant reminders are fully justified. The same open acknowledgement of the limits of our knowledge and of conflicting opinions characterizes the other chapters. Readers are given as coherent and lucid a picture of various aspects of the Lydians as possible, but the authors make clear that scholarship is (at least) as much about hypotheses as it is about "facts".

The goal of making the material accessible to the general reader is only partially achieved. The English prose is direct and uncluttered and, with very rare and minor (mostly self-correcting) exceptions, idiomatic. The two narratives of the rediscovery of the Lydians, focusing on the archaeology in 2.2 and on the inscriptions and language in 4.1, are lively as well as informative. Due efforts are made in the systematic coverage of topics to highlight things for which the Lydians are reasonably well known (Croesus, coinage, Artemis of Sardis, tumulus tombs). However, section 1.2 seems to have been written for Hellenists—I as a non-specialist found dizzying the stream of names of persons, literary works, and places, presented as if they should all be familiar. Similarly, the section on language seems to have been written for linguists: I dare say that non-linguists will find much of the technical terminology of sections 3.2 and 3.3 impenetrable.

Some user-unfriendly aspects could have been ameliorated with minimal effort. The first map (Fig. 2 on p. 18) is grossly inadequate. Mt. Sipylus, prominently cited already three times in the preceding text, is nowhere to be found, while Sardis (!) finally appears only in the map of Fig. 4 on page 33. This failure is especially frustrating, because there was enough available space for the first map to be almost twice as large (large enough that other cities mentioned in the discussion of sources, such as Xanthus, Halicarnassus, and Cnidus, could also have been shown). The problem is further exacerbated by the total lack of forward cross-referencing—the reader is given no indication that either map even exists until after many of the passages where they would be helpful. The same lack of a cross-reference also greatly diminishes the usefulness of the potentially helpful timeline (pp. 121–2), whose existence should have been pointed out early in Chapter 1. It is also highly regrettable that the value of the very comprehensive and up-to-date coverage of secondary literature praised above is seriously undercut by the unacceptably high number of works that are either misreferenced or entirely omitted in the bibliography. While I make no claim to its exhaustiveness, I have posted a list of all those omissions that came to my attention at While use of proper linguistic terminology in describing the language was unavoidable, it would have cost relatively little space to "gloss" at least some of it: e.g., "phonemes" with "contrastive sounds", "allophone" with "non-contrastive variant", and the like. Since the work is written in English, illustrations would also have been helpful where easily available: "voiceless coronal affricate (like the consonant of "its" or "itch")".

Selected comments on individual points (for references see the bibliography in the work under review):

p. 65: there is no justification for doubting the fundamental analysis of Lydian accent by Eichner (1986ab). It is his application of it to Lydian meter that remains a legitimate matter of debate.

p. 68: I am unaware of any evidence for a suffix -la- forming agent nouns or of -ni- forming diminutives. Supporting examples should have been offered.

p. 69: there is no variant ‑at of the neuter nominative-accusative enclitic personal pronoun; ‑at is a spelling for -ad plus the particle -(i)t.

p. 70: the list of verbal endings includes my proposal of -t(a)λ as a present third person medio-passive ending (properly characterized as merely possible), but misses my claim in Melchert 2004b: 147, note 14, that the preterite third plural active ending is ‑rs~‑iriš, which has justifiably won more approval than the first suggestion.

p. 78: the characterization that I have "dominated" the study of Lydian over the past two decades is flattering, but more than mildly overstated. Diether Schürr alone has contributed several papers beyond those listed in the bibliography: see Incontri Linguistici 23 (2000) 107–21 (on LW 49), ibid. 123–9 (on compounds), and Kadmos 39 (2000) 165–76 and 40 (2001) 65–6 (on Candaules and the putative Lydian word for 'dog').

pp. 83–4 and 99–100: the interpretation of text LW 54 is seriously faulty. The combination nã…qid-g in §5 is equivalent to nãqid 'whatever', and §7 is the apodosis of the sanction formula. What is unusual is that the retribution is not left to divine intervention: "And he who destroys it (the tomb)…whatever property he has (literally whatever is property to him)…, I have consigned/pledged it to Artemis." It is the potential violator's property that has been (in advance) pledged to the goddess, not the tomb—which would be a very peculiar sort of dedication. For the vow to dedicate someone else's property to a deity as a penalty compare that attributed to Croesus (p. 98).

pp. 102–3: for an extended discussion of the much debated possible connection between Kubaba and Cybele (with ample references to other views) see Chapters 2 and 3 in Mark H. Munn, The Mother of the Gods, Athens, and the Tyranny of Asia (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2006).

p. 106: it is highly unfortunate that the extremely important results of the Payne-Sasseville paper cited as forthcoming could not be included in this book. See now Annick Payne and David Sasseville, "Die lydische Athene: eine neue Edition von LW 40", Historische Sprachforschung 129 (2016) 66–82. There they demonstrate that the true name of Athena in LW 40 is not Acνi-, but appears in Lydian as Maλi- and discuss the many implications of this equivalence. The woman's name Malis cited on p. 27 now appears in a new light.

p. 106: references are needed to the very extensive discussion of the precise nature of Hipponax's "interpretation" of the name Candaules as "dog-throttler". See most recently pp. 167–82 with ample references in Shane Hawkins, Studies in the Language of Hipponax (Bremen, Hempen, 2013).

As should be clear, most of the errors and omissions cited are relatively minor. The authors have produced what is surely the most current and comprehensive introduction to the Lydians that is available. It is to be hoped that it achieves sufficient success to justify a second edition in which the most glaring weaknesses in terms of accessibility for the general reader may be addressed.

Table of Contents

1 Historical Overview (J. Wintjes)
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Sources
1.3 The Geography of Ancient Lydia
1.4 Chronology
1.5 Lydian Prehistory
1.6 Early Lydian History – The Atyad Dynasty
1.7 Towards Historicity – The Heraclid Dynasty
1.8 Regional Hegemony – The Mermnad Dynasty
1.9 The End of the Lydian Kingdom.
1.10 Lydia After the Lydians
2 Sardis and the Archaeology of Lydia (J. Wintjes)
2.1 Introductory Remarks
2.2 Lydia Rediscovered
2.3 Sardis
2.4 Beyond Sardis – Central and Greater Lydia
3 The Lydian Language (A. Payne)
3.1 Introductory Remarks
3.2 Phonology
3.2.1 Vowels
3.2.2 Consonants
3.2.3 Accent
3.2.4 Synchronic Variation
3.2.5 Phonotaxis
3.3 Morphology
3.3.1 Nominal Inflection
3.3.2 i-Mutation
3.3.3 Relational Adjective
3.3.4 Pronouns
3.3.5 Verbal Inflection
3.3.6 Preverbs
3.4 Syntax
4 Lydian Inscriptions (A. Payne)
4.1 Decipherment and History of Scholarship
4.2 The Lydian Alphabet
4.3 Lydian Inscriptions
4.4 Sample Inscriptions
4.4.1 LW 20: Greco-Lydian Bilingual
4.4.2 LW 54: Lydian Grave Inscription
4.4.3 LW 1: Aramaic-Lydian Bilingual
4.4.4 Concluding Remarks
5 The Lydian Civilisation (A. Payne)
5.1 Money Matters
5.1.1 Weight Standard and Type
5.1.2 Material and Technology
5.1.3 The Gold Refinery at Sardis
5.2 Religion
5.2.1 Artemis
5.2.2 Qλdãns
5.2.3 Kufawa
5.2.4 Lews
5.2.5 Paki
5.2.6 Other Deities
5.2.7 Cultic Practices
5.3 Burial Customs
5.3.1 Tumulus Burial
5.3.2 Rock-Cut Cemeteries
5.3.3 Sarcophagi and Couches
5.3.4 Grave Goods
6 From Croesus to Scrooge McDuck (A. Payne)
List of Illustrations

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