Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Kurt A. Raaflaub (ed.), Peace in the Ancient World: Concepts and Theories. Ancient world: comparative histories. Oxford; Chichester; Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Pp. x, 186. ISBN 9781118645123. $89.95.

Reviewed by Richard J. G. Evans, University of Leicester (

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This book is intended as a continuation of Kurt Raaflaub's previous edited volume: War and Peace in the Ancient World, (Oxford, 2007).1 Outlined within Raaflaub's introduction (1-11), the work's purpose is the study of 'ancient efforts to identify, explain, and resolve the relevant problems [of peace] on a conceptual and theoretical level' (1-3). Consequently, the volume's key question is why explicit discourses, concepts and theories of peace occurred, or did not occur, within certain societies (2).

Raaflaub's opening chapter, 'Abhorring War, Yearning for Peace' (13-42), submits the book's framework and core thesis: that concepts and theories of peace relied on three inter-connected conditions. The first condition, war beyond normal expectations, providing a heightened need for peace, is presented through five brief case-studies: the Iroquois League; China in the Warring State Period; Classical Athens; the Late Roman Republic; and St Augustine's City of God (13-18). All demonstrate how, under particularly intense or protracted conditions of warfare, peace-making and the debate over peace could arise within a society. However, Raaflaub's focus on intense warfare as a catalyst for peace consideration inadvertently ignores other influences (17-18). To take the Iroquois League, although the five Iroquois tribes enacted peace between themselves through the formation of the league (13-14), due to their continual conflict, the confederacy resulted in a powerful military alliance, which was used almost immediately for aggressive expansionism, resulting in the displacement of several other tribes across numerous regions.2 Consequently, the need to establish peace among the Iroquois appears to have been driven by, or at any rate not to have inhibited, territorial and imperial ambition, and not just strained conditions of conflict.

Continuing, Raaflaub outlines the concern for peace within ancient societies, submitting that it can be found within every culture, primarily within their religious or intellectual sphere. He is careful to point out, however, that while all ancient religions had some idea of peace, or at least peace-making, not every society had a deity or cult dedicated to it (19-24). In regard to intellectual concerns regarding peace (26-29), Raaflaub emphasises that far fewer societies produced, or have left evidence of, specific concepts or theories. Why this did, or did not, occur within particular societies is left to the later chapters, but Raaflaub does present his two additional conditions for concepts and theories of peace to arise: the capacity for abstract and philosophical thinking, and the political and critical independence of said thinkers (30). Although the three conditions for potential peace theorising are reasonable, albeit narrow, it is unclear whether enacted politics fits into Raaflaub's definition of concepts and theories of peace, which proves problematic for the later chapters.

Susanne Bickel's chapter, 'Concepts of Peace in Ancient Egypt' (43-66), is the first of four to focus upon a specific civilisation, in order to test the overriding thesis and the conditions for peace outlined above. Beginning with Egyptian cosmology, Bickel succinctly details how antagonism was key to Egyptian ideological concerns over the cosmos (44-5). Maat, a goddess who represented order, justice and cohesion, acted as a linchpin to both cosmological and social order, but was forever threatened by disruptive forces, thereby requiring continual conflict to restore and maintain her (45-6). Consequently, Bickel argues Maat was not opposed to conflict or violence; rather, it was about the correct order of things, not the violent processes that were required to maintain it (46).

Building upon this, Bickel demonstrates how this cosmological narrative was closely intertwined with Egyptian state policy: it was a Pharaoh's duty to maintain state order, which demanded the subduing of outside forces that could threaten Egypt's stability (48-9). Subsequently, military campaigns against Egypt's neighbours were frequently encouraged, rarely questioned and usually framed as defensive in nature (48, 52-8).

Bickel's argument that this ideology prevented concepts and theories of peace from emerging within Egypt is convincing, up to a point. However, where the assumed dominance of Egyptian ideology comes unstuck is in her treatment of the Egyptian-Hittite treaty (c. 1259 BC). Despite emphasising that the traditional ideological superiority of Egypt was promoted internally (59-60), she offers no suggestion as to why this ideology did not hold back Ramesses' II Realpolitik peace-making with the Hittites; indeed, if ideology was so vital to conceptualising and theorising peace, why was it so easily abandoned by the Pharaoh when the situation required?

'Thinking about Peace in Ancient India' (p. 67-97), by Johannes Bronkhorst, is an exploration of Brahmin and Buddhist ideological positions regarding power and the state, from approximately 300 BC to AD 1000. Brahmanism (69-73) is judged the more pragmatic of the two, concerned primarily with statecraft (69). Briefly considering key Brahmin texts, Bronkhorst emphasises that Brahmanism had a stratified vision of society, promoting conquest and thereby maintaining its position within ruling elite circles (70-2). Consequently, the author is at pains to emphasise that the Brahmins were not concerned primarily with peace; however, it is clear that they did envision peace, albeit through conquest and unification (69, 71). The rest of Bronkhorst's paper is concerned with the Buddhist tradition (73-87). It surmises that Indian Buddhism did not at first concern itself with statecraft, but did so later, adopting Brahmin texts and their justifications for conflict; from this it is concluded that the Buddhists did not develop ideas about political peace (87).

Due to Bronkhorst's focus, his concern is largely with how the two ideologies dealt with matters of the state, rather than peace itself. Furthermore, he is particularly concerned with refuting the myth that ancient Indian culture was non-violent. However, his assertion that 'Indian antiquity has produced no credible ideas about political peace' (87) is even contradicted by his own conclusion, which admits that the Brahmins' idea of peace obtained through conquest was actually achieved during certain periods of Indian history (88). While Bronkhorst is probably correct that the Brahmins were more concerned with their own position than with peace itself, this does not prove that they did not possess a working concept of peace, albeit one that Bronkhorst finds uncomfortable.

Robin Yates's paper, 'Searching for Peace in the Warring States' (98-121), centres on the political schools and philosophers that arose during China's Warring State Period (c. 500-221 BC). However, before discussing their thoughts on peace, Yates carefully examines how the conditions for these thinkers' work arose, emphasising that it was the lead-up to the turbulent period that created the political and economic context for the rise of state advisers (101-2). It was these exact conditions that allowed thinkers not only to demand peace, but accordingly to contemplate what actual peace could be (104).

Yates provides a brief analysis regarding definitions of peace, highlighting that it can be defined with numerous conditions; in this, he emphasises that the Warring State Period thinkers, although considering peace, were more concerned specifically with order and disorder (105-6). Due to this, Chinese philosophers were deeply concerned with the ideal ruler, who, coincidentally, would bring about peace, much like the Brahmin thinkers of India (above). Peace, therefore, was primarily conceptualised through subordination and order, brought about by a strictly defined hierarchy (111).

In directly addressing Raaflaub's three conditions for peace theorising, Yates notes that the debate over war and peace began in the 6th century BC, not during the protracted warfare witnessed later; furthermore, the Chinese philosophers, due to their intimate ties to the ruling classes, did not possess much political independence when compared with those of Greece and Rome. Besides these marked differences from the book's thesis, peace theorising occurred widely throughout the history of Chinese philosophy, which probably hinged on the fact that China was not yet a unified empire. With conflicting states and interests, much as in Greece, ideas of peace were perhaps more free to develop than within single empires like Egypt.

Kurt Raaflaub addresses ancient Greece within 'Greek Concepts and Theories of Peace' (122-57). From the start of Greek literature, the Iliad, he postulates that the Greeks had 'developed procedures to … avoid war and resolve conflicts peacefully' (125), though they were not always successful. He goes on to explain that the Greeks had an on-going dialogue concerning peace, which can be found throughout their history and writing; this provides the primary focus for the rest of the chapter. Raaflaub first demonstrates this concern through enacted politics and political rhetoric, including inter-polis organisations and treaties, Isocrates' ideas concerning peace, and Athens' prevention of stasis after the fall of the Thirty oligarchs (127-33). For Raaflaub, these actions and thoughts reflect this underlying Greek discussion of peace, which as he goes on to demonstrate was taking place not only in philosophical circles, but within drama and the historians' writings (134-44).

Raaflaub's central argument is persuasive: that peace was a multifaceted issue within ancient Greece, that it had early origins, that it was discussed within numerous circles, and that there was an array of ideas and practices designed to tackle peace. Of all the four societies explored, ancient Greece appears to fit the underlying thesis particularly well. However, up until this chapter, enacted politics has been ignored in favour of ideological and philosophical positions regarding concepts and theories of peace; with the inclusion of Greek inter-polis organisations and treaties (common peace), this chapter changes the pitch. This is particularly problematic considering that Bickel disregards the Egyptian-Hittite peace-treaty as evidence for Egyptian peace theorising, which is ironic considering that it lasted longer than any known Greek treaty.

The Hellenistic period is also strikingly absent from the book, aside from a rather odd remark within Raaflaub's conclusion, which asserts that '338/7 … ended an experiment … of independent collective "war and peace management" by an assemblage of free poleis.' This ignores Hellenistic poleis' collective efforts to create peace, or at least durable independence, such as in the Achaean koinon, which for a certain time was completely independent of direct Macedonian influence (c. 281-226 BC). It also ignores the independent peace-making and arbitrations that poleis frequently undertook throughout the Hellenistic period, whether they were under Macedonian influence or not.3 Furthermore, this comment is at odds with Raaflaub's analysis of the most famous Greek 'common peace', namely the King's Peace of 387 BC, which was underpinned by the outside involvement of the Persian king and imposed by a hegemonic Spartan state.

Hans van Wees's concluding chapter, 'Broadening the Scope: Thinking about Peace in the Pre-Modern World' (158-80), provides a broad categorisation framework for the different concepts of peace that developed in the aforementioned societies, dividing them into 'universal peace' (159-61), 'inner peace' (161-3) and 'common peace' (164-73). 'Universal peace' is outlined to be characteristic of empires, like Egypt, which envisioned a state of peace through a powerful ruler and coercive power. Oddly enough, van Wees does not place Indian thinkers, especially the Brahmins, within this category, even though they themselves, as noted by Bronkhorst, saw stability and peace as being attained by conquest and unification (cf. 69-73). Chinese thinkers are also mentioned, albeit very briefly.

Van Wees's 'inner peace' is the counterpart of 'universal peace', which rejects peace attainment through violent coercion; rather, 'inner peace' is gained through the rejection of personal desires. Such ideas arose strongly within schools of Chinese, Indian (Buddhist) and Greek thinkers (161-3), in the so-called Axial Age. However, due the structure of such philosophy, 'inner peace' is primarily focused around the individual and the ideal, with the result that it took barely any political root. Van Wees is surely right, though, to emphasise that despite their political shortcomings, particularly in India and China, these new ideas did provide a new way of conceptualising peace as an idea, separately from militarily applied coercion.

The section on 'common peace', which occupies the bulk of van Wees's paper, follows on from Raaflaub's Greek chapter and focuses on Greek arbitration, treaties and inter-polis organisations. For van Wees, it is these political negotiations and the accompanying Greek attitudes that resemble most closely modern thinking regarding peace (164-5): that is, something to be negotiated between conflicting parties (164). An interesting insight offered by van Wees is that Greek historiography stands out as particularly distinctive, in that numerous Greek thinkers early on framed conflict around competing mortal interests, even when the gods were involved (165-7). Consequently, by the time Thucydides was analysing the Peloponnesian War, he did so in entirely secular terms (167). It is this distinctive inquiry concerning human interests running throughout Greek writing that van Wees sees as enabling the Greeks to develop complex peace processes, including their large common peace agreements, which saw numerous poleis sign up to a series of contractual terms. While admitting that the work on ancient peace is hardly finished, van Wees's paper is an interesting contribution on ancient forms of peace theorising, particularly how unique and somewhat modern the Greeks' ideas of peace were.

Considering how under-studied ancient peace is compared with conflict, this work is a welcome and important contribution to an increasingly topical subject; the issues addressed concern scholars not only in peace, but in international relations, state doctrines, philosophical schools and historiography, which provides the book with the benefit of a wide readership. By allowing for cultural comparisons, the book allows for a wider engagement concerning the issues that are usually omitted in political discussions of antiquity. However, the book's strength proves also to be its greatest weakness: the sheer breadth and scope means that all four selected cultures are only provided with 20 pages or so to summarise their thinking concerning peace, sometimes over millennia. No matter how concise the discussion, details are going to be omitted in such a slim volume. Consequently, the claims made within each chapter require further elaboration through the consultation of more detailed, specialised publications. Raaflaub and the other scholars deserve credit for bringing this research gap to the forefront, with the next logical step being the development of larger, society-specific studies of peace, or at least particular periods of history, fleshing out the details covered, and adding those omitted, within this work.

Where the book falls short is the handling of peace itself, in both form and conception. Neither Raaflaub's introduction nor his opening chapter deals directly with what peace is. Bickel is the first to do so, framing peace as the opposition to conflict or aggression (43). Bronkhorst has a different focus, namely whether peace theories are 'politically credible' (87), whereas Yates goes further by exploring the multitude of ways in which peace can be conceptualised (105-6). Such discussions could usefully have been put at the beginning of the work when the framework was being introduced. As such, each chapter has a slight variation in how peace is framed, adding a serious problem to the overall comparison between the cultural case-studies; fortunately, van Wees carefully deals with this shortfall in his discussion of peace categories. Furthermore, as mentioned above, how peace theories and concepts relate to enacted politics is never addressed. The result is that Bickel's, Bronkhorst's and Yates's papers are predominantly focused upon philosophical positions, whereas Raaflaub's and van Wees's allow Greek arbitration, treaties and inter-polis organisations to contribute as evidence for Greek peace theorising. There is a subsequent disconnect and inconsistency here concerning peace, which ultimately lets the book down on what is an important premise. 4

Table of Contents

Notes on Contributors vii
Series Editor's Preface ix
Introduction, Kurt A. Raaflaub 1
1 Abhorring War, Yearning for Peace: The Quest for Peace in the Ancient World, Kurt A. Raaflaub 12
2 Concepts of Peace in Ancient Egypt, Susanne Bickel 43
3 Thinking about Peace in Ancient India, Johannes Bronkhorst 67
4 Searching for Peace in the Warring States: Philosophical Debates and the Management of Violence in Early China, Robin D. S. Yates 98
5 Greek Concepts and Theories of Peace, Kurt A. Raaflaub 122
6 Broadening the Scope: Thinking about Peace in the Pre-Modern World, Hans Van Wees 158
Index 181


1.   Reviewed in BMCR by Peter Hunt, BMCR 2008.01.53.
2.   For analysis of Iroquois expansionism, see Diana Muir, Reflections in Bullough's Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England (Hanover, NH, 2002), 13; John Parmenter, The Edge of the Woods Iroquoia, 1534-1701 (East Lansing, MI, 2010), esp. 13, 14ff, 41ff; cf. Ian K. Steele, Warpaths: Invasions of North America (Oxford, 1994) and Paul A. W. Wallace, Indians in Pennsylvania (University Park, PA, 2007).
3.   See Sheila Ager, Interstate Arbitrations in the Greek World, 337-90 B.C. (Berkley, CA, 1996) in particular for evidence of collective poleis peace-making and arbitration processes. On Hellenistic Greek leagues or koina, including the Achaean koinon, see in particular J. A. O. Larsen, Greek Federal States: Their Institutions and History (Oxford, 1968) and Emily Mackil, Creating a Common Polity. Religion, Economy, and Politics in the Making of the Greek Koinon (Berkeley, CA, 2013); see also Beck and Funke (eds.), Federalism in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge, 2015).
4.   From a technical standpoint, the book suffers from editorial issues. The index features only proper names, with occasional incorrect reference locators. Regarding the papers, some rely heavily on secondary references in regard to primary material, which proves frustrating for locating particular material evidence; there are also missing references within the bibliographies.

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Christoph Horn (ed.), Aristotle's Metaphysics Lambda - New Essays. Proceedings of the 13th Conference of the Karl and Gertrud-Abel Foundation Bonn, November, 28th-December 1st, 2010. Philosophie der Antike, 33. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. xi, 311. ISBN 9781501510915. $112.00.

Reviewed by Lloyd P. Gerson, University of Toronto (

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Table of Contents

The present volume is a solid addition to the many valuable contributions to the study of Aristotle's Metaphysics Book Lambda seemingly inspired by the meticulous chapter-by-chapter commentary on that work by those participating in the Symposium Aristotelicum volume on Lambda edited by David Charles and Michael Frede (Oxford, 2000). Among the many problems that have always faced students of this text, the two central issues concern the internal unity of the Book and its place within the Metaphysics as a whole. The first problem is glaringly evident in the seeming disconnect between chapter 1-5 on the one hand, and 6-10 on the other. The second, which may or may not be solvable without solving the first, is whether or how the account of the Unmoved Mover in that Book fulfills the various programmatic statements made by Aristotle in other Books regarding the science of what is variously indicated by him to be concerned with "substance," "wisdom," "principles and causes," "being qua being," and "theology." A subordinate problem, not the focus of any paper in this volume, is how the account of multiple movers in chapter 8 coheres with the account of the unicity of the Unmoved Mover in chapters 6, 7, and 9-10, but also in 8 itself. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that, even if we could determine that Lambda (or an earlier version of it) was written prior to the central Books, it is entirely possible that the Lambda we have was intended to fulfill or contribute to the fulfillment of the project announced in Book Epsilon, chapter 1. In that case, we are still left with the reconciling of theology and a perhaps more universal science of being. As the editor notes, Book Lambda is not an "organic part of this extensive work." But that still leaves open the question of whether or not it is an organic part of a unified science whose establishment Aristotle evidently seeks.

The ten papers in this volume are:

Matteo Di Giovanni and Oliver Primavesi, "Who Wrote Alexander's Commentary on Metaphysics Lambda? New Light on the Syro-Arabic Tradition"
Enrico Berti, "The Program of Metaphysics Lambda (chapter 1)"
Christof Rapp, "The Principles of Sensible Substance in Metaphysics Lambda 2-5"
Michel Crubellier, "What the Form Has to Be and What It Needs not Be (Metaphysics Lambda 3)"
Marco Zingano, "Individuals, Form, Movement: From Lambda to Z-H"
Stephen Herzberg, "God as Pure Thinking. An Interpretation of Metaphysics Lambda 7, 1072b14-26"
Silvia Fazzo, "Unmoved Mover as Pure Act or Unmoved Mover in Act? The Mystery of a Subscript Iota"
Alberto Ross, "The Causality of the Prime Mover in Metaphysics Lambada"
Maria Liatsi, "Aristotle's Silence About the Prime Mover's noesis"
István Bodnár, "Cases of Celestial Teleology in Metaphysics Lambda"
Christoph Horn, "The Unity of the World-order According to Metaphysics Lambda 10"

The paper by Di Giovanni and Primavesi is the longest and most historically complex. This paper examines the 19th century contention that the extant Greek commentary on Lambda ascribed by some to Michael of Ephesus (fl. early to mid 12th century CE) cannot be traced back to the partially extant commentary of Alexander of Aphrodisias. The main reason for this is that there seem to be inconsistencies between this commentary and the commentary of Averroes who quotes a portion of the commentary by Alexander. The conclusion of this very detailed study is that Averroes' commentary probably does go back to Alexander, but only in its revision by later Neoplatonic commentators, including the removal of Book 2 of Metaphysics from its place after Book 1.

Berti addresses the question of the relation between Lambda and the program set forth in Gamma, Epsilon, Zeta. He argues that Lambda is a separate "Prinzipienlehre" that is neither physics nor theology, though one based on a physical rather than a logical or dialectical method. Berti takes this doctrine to be set in opposition to the Prinzipienlehre of Plato, that is, of the derivation of all things from the One and Indefinite Dyad. He speculates that Book Alpha elatton might be an introduction to this new line of research, and that perhaps Book Nu may, too, belong to this "Ur-metaphysik." In thus separating Lambda from the central Books and thereby rejecting the view of Burnyeat and others that Lambda is in effect a summary of Zeta, chapter 1, Berti claims to have discerned a critical distinction made by Aristotle between theoria, on the one hand and sophia or philosophia on the other, assigning the first term to the Ur-metaphysik and the second to the program in the central Books.

Rapp's paper is a careful analysis of the course of the argument in Lambda, chapters 2-5. Rapp takes the concluding line of chapter 5 to give us the explicit theme of these four chapters: the principles and causes of sensibles. The examination is done according to an account of the principles of change, form, matter, and privation. The thematic thread of 2-5, then, leaves open the question of the principles of unchangeable things, and the problem of whether or how there can be identical principles for both. The connection, Rapp thinks, is made by distinguishing principles of change from principles of changeable things, qua things, not qua changeable. There is a further link with the introduction of an efficient cause of the change of changeable things added to the principles and causes, and the conclusion in chapters 6-10 to an Unmoved Mover. But the sense in which the Unmoved Mover is a principle or cause in analogical, not literal. For there is no generic unity between the realm of the changeable and the unchangeable. Thus, Lambda should not be viewed as an earlier version of the project in the central Books nor as a competing project.

Crubellier, too, argues for the independence of Lambda 2-5, particular chapter 3, from the main line of investigation in the central Books. He focuses on the principle of synonymy, that is, the principle that things are generated from other things of the same name. Crubellier proposes that this text is particularly directed against Plato's account of causality in the "autobiography" of Socrates in his Phaedo. Aristotle, according to Crubellier, is searching for a solution to the problem that led Plato, against Anaxagoras, to say that the true cause of something being large or beautiful is the Form of Largeness or Beauty, not, say, the builder or the parents. Insofar as this analysis captures the goal of chapter 3, it leaves open the causal role of the Unmoved Mover in chapters 6-10 who cannot be synonymous with anything it supposedly causes.

Zingano thinks that Book Lambda generally is to be located midway in the development from a doctrine of substances in the Categories and the doctrine of substance in Books Zeta-Theta of the Metaphysics. Zingano argues that, whereas in the Categories sensible individuals are primary substance, in the central Books of the Metaphysics form has priority over the composite owing to the latter's being enmattered. Book Lambda is midway between these two fundamentally different positions because, while it retains the primacy of individuals, it explores the possibility of a causal connection between sensible and non-sensible substances or individuals. Zingano rejects the idea that this causal connection is the focal reference of Book Gamma; rather, the only causal connection employed is that between properties of a substance and the substance itself, a very different sort of causal connection. So, the causal connection that Lambda develops is that of a cause of motion, with the Unmoved Mover being the cause of the motion of everything else.

Herzberg's paper is the first in the volume concerned with chapters 6-10, the proof for and deduction of the properties of the Unmoved Mover(s). He argues against the most frequently sustained position that our thinking or theoria is not the same kind of activity as that of the Unmoved Mover. The fundamental difference is that our thinking does not occur without imagination or phantasia, whereas that of the Unmoved Mover cannot possibly require imagination at all. There is, indeed, an affinity between human and divine thinking, which is precisely that each is self-thinking or cognitive identity with the knowable. More precisely, the active part of thinking, which for us does not occur without the passive or receptive part, is divine thinking, the divine in us. Thus, the active or agent intellect in us is not the Unmoved Mover itself but the divine element in us. Herzberg's argument concludes with an appeal to Nicomachean Ethics Book 10, chapter 8, on the divinity of human contemplation.

Fazzo's paper focuses on a particular textual issue, but has far-reaching implications. She questions the text at 1072a26 where Aristotle concludes that the Unmoved Mover is energeia, arguing that errors in transmission occlude the fact that the correct reading is energeia(i) with an iota subscript, indicating the dative. So, the claim that the Unmoved Mover is "in act" was changed to indicate that the Unmoved Mover is "pure act." If this is true, then Book Lambda does not complete the project of identifying the primary sense of "being" as "pure act"; rather, the Unmoved Mover is permanently in act. Fazzo argues that for Aristotle it makes no sense to say that a substance—even the immaterial substance that the Unmoved Mover is —is act. Fazzo rejects the traditional inference that since Aristotle identifies form and act in Book Theta, an ontologically separate form would be "pure act." She attributes the "correction" of the text to "Neoplatonizing" commentators.

Ross defends the traditional reading of Lambda according to which the causality exercised by the Unmoved Mover is exclusively final. He is particularly concerned to argue against a number of scholars who have in the past fifteen years or so tried to show that there is a sense in which the Unmoved Mover is an efficient cause. This study focuses on chapter 6-10 and those passages that could be taken to indicate efficient causality. Ross collects seven specific objections to the traditional interpretation including those that rest upon the textual assertion that the Unmoved Mover is kinētikon and poiētikon. Ross presents a detailed refutation of the claim that final causality alone cannot account for the use of these terms. He does not, however, address the problem that for many led to the rejection of the traditional interpretation in the first place, namely, that as final cause alone, the Unmoved Mover is not obviously identifiable as the focus of the science of being qua being that, in Book Epsilon, is identified with theology.

Liatsi takes a minimalist approach to the very old question of the content of the Unmoved Mover's thinking. She distinguishes formal and material lines of interpretation, according to which the Unmoved Mover is either "pure self-consciousness" or eternally thinking all that is thinkable. She opts for the former interpretation, rejecting the latter as a Christian accretion. The paper is a nice complement to Ross's paper, since if her argument is correct, it makes it all the more difficult to see in what sense, if at all, the outermost sphere of the heavens aims to emulate the Unmoved Mover, to say nothing of the claim that its life is one to which we can aspire.

Bodnár's paper is the only one devoted to the very difficult chapter 8, in which Aristotle considers the multitude of unmoved movers governing the heavenly spheres. In particular, he aims to show the connection between the Unmoved Mover and the mover of the outermost sphere. He explores the various cases of relative or qualified unmoved movers in the corpus, including animals and the arts, arguing that each sphere is a self-contained teleological system. Each unmoved mover moves the sphere as object of desire, presumably analogous to the way a soul moves a body on behalf of fulfilling its own desire. Perishable sublunary things imitate this type of celestial motion, principally by reproduction according to kind. The pervasive and complex universal teleological order is reflected in chapter 10, the conclusion of the Book.

Horn examines this universal order in his own contribution. He defends the interpretation of the unity of the cosmos as provided by the Unmoved Mover. Thus, the teleology is theological, a "divine design-argument." He tries to show that the unified teleology of the cosmos is not at odds with Aristotle's overall teleological doctrine according to which a goal is always indexed to a species or member of a species. If this is so, how can the multitude of species be unified in a cosmic teleology? The answer, according to Horn, is that the unity is just the order of the cosmos, not the achievement of individual living things, a sort of "ananthropocentric" perfectionism. This is a sort of "meta-teleology, " integrating the goal-directed behavior of all things. This view meshes nicely with the resolutely "impersonal" account of divine thinking in Liatsi.

All in all, this is a fine collection of essays, valuable for anyone seriously engaged with Aristotle's monumental metaphysical project.

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Lucia Cecchet, Poverty in Athenian Public Discourse: From the Eve of the Peloponnesian War to the Rise of Macedonia. Historia-Einzelschriften, 239. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015. Pp. 283. ISBN 9783515111607. €59.00.

Reviewed by Alex Gottesman, Temple University (

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If it is clear that we "will always have the poor," it is less clear who or what the poor are. For instance, the idea of the poor as people in particular need of charity is a discovery of the Church. The idea of some poor as actually undeserving of charity is an invention of the Industrial Revolution. What about classical Athens? Greek sources mention the poor quite frequently, suggesting that they at least had some idea about who the poor were. Aristotle took democracy's defining feature to be rule by the poor (Pol. III. 8). If you could have a city where the rich formed the majority, he suggested, it would still be an oligarchy. It is incidental to democracy that the poor tend to be in the majority. For elite writers like Aristotle, at least, writing for elite audiences, the demos was the poor. Would most members of the demos have agreed that they were the poor? It is the goal of Cecchet's book to explore the "public discourse" of poverty and to situate it in its proper historical context, in the "prevailing systems of social relations, behaviours, legal norms and collective perceptions" (20-21). Cecchet is mainly interested in poverty as a concept rather than in poverty as economic fact. In this revised version of her PhD thesis, she argues that a discourse around poverty existed in Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries that can be traced in texts of oratory, tragedy and comedy.

But the first chapter is devoted to the most famous beggar of Greek literature: Odysseus. Cecchet argues that not only did Odysseus provide a stylized model for later literary depictions of beggary, but he also shows how beggars were seen more broadly. A key passage is Melanthios' abuse of Odysseus at 17.219-32. She suggests that the image is "associated with idleness, criminality and moral degradation" (55). The key takeaway, for Cecchet, is that the figure of Odysseus shows that "poverty is not conceived and described as a condition given by birth, but as a state that can be brought about by one's own actions" (66). The suitors' abuse of the beggar is based on the shared understanding that one is responsible for where one lands in the social hierarchy.

The second chapter examines the representation of beggars on stage, specifically in the plays of Euripides and Aristophanes. Euripides' habit of bringing beggars on stage was something that his contemporaries found remarkable, at least judging by the treatment it gets at the hands of Aristophanes. And yet other tragedians also depicted characters as beggars to elicit pity (like Xerxes in Aeschylus' Persians or Oedipus in Oedipus at Colonus). Aristophanes was especially responding to in Euripides, according to Cecchet, because of the "complex argumentative and rhetorical strategies" (69) that Euripides used beggarly garb to convey. For instance, in the fragmentary Telephus, Euripides employs a complex warp of associations, depicting Telephus both as a victim of Greek aggression and as a perpetrator. In the play the Mysian king disguised himself as a beggar and claimed to be a Greek veteran in order to get an audience in Agamemnon's palace in Argos. His beggarly disguise (which is apparently superfluous to the demands of the plot, as Cecchet rightly notes) allows Euripides to evoke the experience of ordinary war veterans. He employed beggars similarly elsewhere. Thus, "[t]his crippled and rag-wearing hero [Philoctetes] embodies the frustrated ideal of veterans betrayed by their comrades and commanders, of those who cannot reintegrate in the community, of the disillusioned who nourish hostility for their own country" (75). In other words, Aristophanes criticized Euripides' beggars because of their topicality.

To make this case, Cecchet needs to show that the years of the Peloponnesian War during which Euripides staged his "beggar plays" were ones of increasing poverty, or rather, of an increasing awareness and discussion about poverty that connected it to the failures of Athens' imperialist policies. The theme of the beggar extends from plays dating probably to the 430s and 420s (Telephus, Philoctetes and Bellerophon) to the Helen of 412. This is a long time during which, if Cecchet is right, there was a great deal of discontent about the war effort. And, what is most surprising, that discontent would have come not from the upper classes (the normal suspects) but from the lower ones. Or rather, it is unclear from Cecchet's book whose attitude we should consider to be reflected in the plays since she has argued that they reflect ideas that broad audiences would have endorsed.

One might ask, were things really that bad? The excursus into economic history in Chapter Three therefore aims to answer this question: "Was widespread poverty a real problem from 404 to the 330s"? It answers confidently, No. Without denying that the Athenian economy must have gone through some stressful decades in the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War and the rise and fall of the Second Athenian League, Cecchet insists that "Fourth-century Athens offered citizens many possibilities to escape destitution" (138). The argument here is that the poor could look to many possible sources of income, such as distributions from increasingly effective fiscal policies, and employment in the thriving Athenian labor market. Though public building was not on the scale of the 5th century, Cecchet infers from the relatively low price of businesses in mortgage inscriptions that opportunities for employment must nonetheless have been abundant. Information about rising wages seems to go hand-in-hand with a rather rosy picture of the Athenian economy (although our ignorance about prices does not permit us to know if higher wages were due to a good overall economy and not simply to inflation and/or currency devaluation).

The reason for this economic history excursus in what is otherwise a work of literary analysis is that Cecchet wants to abstract the discussion of poverty in 4th century texts from economic realities. Poverty, for Cecchet, is an ideological and rhetorical construct more than a reality. Therefore, she finds echoes of discourse about poverty already in the prosecutions of generals in the 5th century for embezzlement of public funds. The accusation that a politician's wealth is due to shady dealing occurs frequently in oratory and comedy. Characterizations of poverty and wealth are primarily moral categories; they "evoked notions of injustice and misconduct" (162). Thus Lysias can describe as penetes people who paid the eisphora. When he says that someone is "poor" he is presenting him as a victim of injustice, not necessarily as someone of a certain property or income classification. The discourse of poverty could be similarly used to adumbrate foreign policy ideas. When Xenophon argues in the Poroi that there were better ways than war to address the city's poverty, he should not be taken to address an economic problem but rather to comment on the common notion that an aggressive foreign policy is the key to domestic flourishing. Isocrates in On the Peace and Areopagiticus is similarly trying to influence the discussion. His comments about impoverishment and roving bands of mercenaries should not be taken at face value. Cecchet reads Aristophanes' Wealth as offering a critique of how politicians abuse the concept of poverty to gain what they want. Aristophanes wants to warn "the audience against the improper use of the arguments based on poverty" (173). The play's fundamental utopian contradiction—whether only the just should be rich, or everyone should be equal—in this reading is not a flaw in the play but an intentionally discordant note meant to invite critical reflection on how nebulous the concepts of poverty and wealth ultimately are.

Chapter Five examines the concept of poverty more broadly, arguing that the sources make a distinction between "active poverty" and "inactive wealth". The former is praiseworthy. It ties in with the ideology of the peasant hoplite while the latter relates to the arrogant rich man who uses his position to lord it over his betters. It seems unlikely that the Solonian "law against idleness" was ever enforceable; nonetheless the fact that Athenians believed it existed reveals their attitude that a person was responsible for earning his livelihood, and that the way in which he did so reflects his character. Cecchet also traces how speakers like Lysias and Demosthenes use the rhetoric of poverty and wealth to draw sharp characterizations and evoke powerful emotions. The concept turns out to be remarkably flexible. Some orators speak as if the Athenians were biased against the poor (e.g. Dem. 57. 45). Others seek to enflame the passions of the jurors against the arrogant wealthy (e.g. Dem. 21. 96), while others in turn might criticize them for precisely that kind of arrogance (i.e. Din. 1. 34-7). And even someone like Apollodorus the son of Pasion could portray himself as a pauperized victim of injustice, even if he really was among the wealthiest men in Athens (Dem. 45. 73-4).

This book shows how various and multifaceted the rhetoric and ideology of poverty was. It was far from the more homogeneous and monolithic concept it would later become. As far as I am aware, this is the first book to treat the topic of the Athenian concept of poverty at length. Its collection and discussion of relevant texts from multiple genres is praiseworthy. It will thus be the essential launching pad for anyone interested in further studying the topic. One question that further studies should tackle more carefully is this: Whose concepts of poverty, wealth, and work do we have? Cecchet argues that the public nature of our texts should assure us that we have the raw material of an ideology to which a wide swath of Athenians would have subscribed. As she notes, "these ideals could never have successfully been promoted—and the very fact that they reappear so often in public discourse shows that they were—if, on the other end of the communication channel, the audience was unwilling to share these values" (35-6). From this perspective, it requires some special pleading to show that even texts that we know or can be fairly certain were not performed in any form like what we have, such as Demosthenes' Against Meidias and Isocrates' epideictic works, can still be thought to reflect broader ideas. We need a better model (or a model, for that matter) of the economic possibilities Athenians enjoyed before we can clearly see the outlines of their ideology and how it influenced their decisions, individually and collectively, and also how it responded to changing circumstances.1 Such a model should complement nicely the approach that Cecchet has taken in the book.


1.   In that vein, see P. Acton, Poiesis: Manufacturing in Classical Athens (Oxford, 2014).

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Nathan T. Elkins, Monuments in Miniature: Architecture on Roman Coinage. Numismatic studies, 29. New York: American Numismatic Society, 2015. Pp. ix, 230. ISBN 9780897223447. $100.00.

Reviewed by David Braund, University of Exeter (

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This is a welcome study of the images of buildings (and architectural features of many kinds) on Roman coinage across much of Roman history, from the republican period through the late empire. The structures here take different forms, ranging from port installations to wells and the occasional column, but with particular structures, like temples, especially often represented. In numismatic studies, architectural depiction is an established focus of research, a sub-field in which M. J. Price and B. L. Trell's Coins and their cities: architecture on the ancient coins of Greece, Rome and Palestine (London; Detroit, 1977) is probably the best-known work yet published. However, the category is not unproblematic. While there is coherence around the theme (especially when given the narrower focus of e.g. Price and Trell's book), its considerable diversity can also be disquieting: how much does the depiction of part of a column on a coin have in common with, say, a range of temples on coins? Why should an ancestral achievement portrayed in material form on a coin be set apart from achievements and ideas evoked in other ways, whether on coins or otherwise? And, of course, there is the whole set of questions that surround the choice of images. These are questions of mechanism as well as fashion or ideology, with associated headaches over the distribution of new coins, the long circulation of old coins and the "audience" for coin images.

In addition to covering far more ground than Price and Trell, this study has a rather more ambitious set of objectives, together with more overt reflection on matters of methodology. In sum, it seeks to bring "architectural numismatics" together with art history, archaeology and – perhaps more surprisingly – social history. A work of considerable scope in every sense, it goes about its business also after the manner of a catalogue, offering brief comment on individual coin types as well as occasional forays into much bigger topics. There is a lot of good stuff here, and the book will undoubtedly be useful to a wide range of scholars. Unfortunately, however, the coin-illustrations are far too small and murky. (Price and Trell illustrate fewer coins, but their images are incomparably better.) In general this is a handsome volume, so that one wonders how the American Numismatic Society came to permit the inclusion of such poor images.

A thoughtful introduction sets out the considerable scope of the book, and fairly insists on the breadth of its innovative approach, while also explaining in some detail its position on previous scholarship on "architectural numismatics". In Chapter 1 we meet the beginnings of "architecture" on coins, which emerges as a habit rare among Greeks before the Roman period, though it remains unclear why that should be. The phenomenon takes hold in Rome itself only towards the late Republic, and also becomes popular around the Greek world, where abiding localism discourages much faith in acculturation to Roman practice as a satisfactory explanation. It is argued here that the change to architectural images in the coinage of Rome itself should be viewed together with changes in Roman wall-painting, where "architecture" becomes fashionable at (very broadly) the same time. However, the association remains elusive, while it might also raise questions: what of the buildings depicted on Greek walls which did not make it onto earlier Greek coinage, for example? What of the particular importance of moneyer-related structures on Roman coins (about which Elkins has a lot else to say)? How much did those specific structures really have to do with this general style in Roman wall-painting? Meanwhile, the chapter conveniently sets out the coin types in question, with a valuable page or two on each example.

The next three chapters follow a similar path: Ch. 2 on the Principate, Ch. 3 on the later empire (from Severus Alexander to Valentinian III), and Ch. 4 on provincial coinage (a traditional grouping in numismatics, but also perhaps peculiar category in historical terms) across the centuries. While larger points are made (e.g. on the multiple evocations of a particular structure), readers will find valuable comments too in the details of this extended survey of the coins themselves, as we are taken through a series of key imperial buildings and related structures – rostral columns, Diana's temple on the Aventine, the Curia Julia (as it seems to be), and so on.

This is much more than a routine catalogue. Some of these coins raise problems of identification and interpretation that take the scholar in all kinds of different directions. Important large points emerge, for example confirmation of the problems in expecting coins to show a "photographic" image of their buildings. By and large, all this is handled well and concisely. It is an extended story of evolution rather than revolution, with occasional shifts that accord with the Zeitgeist (notably the disappearance of the moneyer from the coinage with the advent of the Principate, or the local tendencies that run strong in the provinces in the context of subsequent weakening in control or concern from the centre). The author is very comfortable with the numismatics, though rather less precise with the literary material at times. For example, on the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Athens, he follows those scholars who have identified the building on the basis of Suetonius, Augustus 60. But this text shows only that a plan of completion was formed by friendly kings; it is no help at all in identifying the structure on the coins in question. Evidently the unknown plan came to nothing, and in all likelihood failed to gain imperial approval, leaving a major opportunity for Hadrian. This kind of knotty problem is very hard to tackle in the context of a survey-catalogue, and yet it is fundamental to the identification of the building and therefore the possible evocations of its image.

Each chapter has a short, helpful conclusion. The book closes with a general conclusion and tables of coins in four appendices, with bibliography and a user-friendly index. The general conclusion is rather brief (pp. 167-70), especially for a book which aims to do so much. This reviewer was left with the feeling that there are two principal dynamics in this book: each would make a fine book, but they sit rather awkwardly together. On the one hand, there is a desire to collect and catalogue this (rather elastic) category of coins. On the other, there is an admirable ambition to demonstrate and explain how this category of coins might be a window upon a wide range of social and political phenomena through hundreds of years of Roman history from the later second century B.C. onwards (and indeed vice versa). It seems to me that the resultant book succeeds rather well in achieving the first of these goals. However, the second requires a far larger canvas of its own, so that, while we may well agree that coinage (being part of society) should be understood in a more integrated way, in the context of social history and the rest, this book prompts further reflection without really setting out the kind of full-blown manifesto and demonstration that seem to be promised at the outset. It may well be that Elkins' next book will do that, and perhaps for Roman coinage more generally.

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Laurialan Reitzammer, The Athenian Adonia in Context: The Adonis Festival as Cultural Practice. Wisconsin studies in classics. Madison; London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2016. Pp. xii, 261. ISBN 9780299308209. $65.00.

Reviewed by Jeremy McInerney, University of Pennsylvania (

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The Adonia, a ritual celebration of the death of Adonis by the women of Athens, is one of those festivals that is traditionally classified as either a private festival or a women's festival. Among its distinctive features were the small potted gardens, so called "Gardens of Adonis", cultivated by Athenian women and used in a ritual lamentation on behalf of Aphodite's consort, conducted by women who moved the pots onto the roofs of their houses. Reitzammer's study of this festival represents the first detailed examination of the Adonia since Detienne's Les Jardins d'Adonis, and Reitzammer's work deserves to be recognized for extracting a good deal from the little evidence we have regarding the cult. Based on the literary and visual evidence, which is slim, Reitzammer argues that the central action of the festival, the transfer of the pots to the rooftops, suggests the movement between the underworld and heaven (20). Building on this, Reitzammer reads the Adonia's focus on the relationship of consort and goddess as a commentary on marriage, with the beautiful Adonis dying just as the bride dies in marriage. She links the mourning for the dead Adonis with social practices of mourning and funeral commemoration, emphasizing the notion that the female participants in the Adonia adopted the role of Aphrodite and thereby acquired a degree of agency otherwise denied them by most Athenian cults. Accordingly, Reitzammer's study of the Adonia is explicitly recuperative, designed to put women back into the fuller picture of Athenian religious practice. The aim of the book is entirely laudable, and as an example of subaltern studies it represents a very good example of what such an approach can accomplish as well as its shortcomings.

Chapter 1 surveys attitudes ancient and modern to the cult, the nature of these miniature gardens of Adonis, death and lamentation, and the possible eastern origins of the cult. The shadow of Detienne looms large here and no more than when Reitzammer deals with the basic question of what the miniature gardens at the heart of the Adonia were. Detienne showed how the Adonia could shed light on Athenian culture: his contrast between growing mint and lettuce, (the one a sterile plant, the other an anti-aphrodisiac), in a culture that dwelt at length on the much more important question of cereal cultivation, enriched our understanding of the Athenians. So what are these women doing hauling broken pots of dried-out shoots up to the roof? Is this a version of female cultivation that mocks and inverts plowing and threshing? This a central question, the answer to which will take us to the heart of the cult's function, but Reitzammer, careful not to push the evidence too far, gives nothing away, and does not develop an answer until returning to the question later (82).

Chapter 2 deals with weddings. That the Adonia relates to marriage practice is a plausible observation, since Adonis was Aphrodite's lover, but the central elements of the Adonia—a ladder and an ascent to the roof—represent a peculiar tangent to the usual components of the wedding ceremony. Accordingly, Reitzammer offers a detailed treatment of the iconography depicted on a series of vessels that show women climbing up or down ladders. It is here that the limitations of what can said with confidence about the Adonia begin to emerge. As Reitzammer acknowledges, the image of the woman on the ladder may refer to the Adonia or to the Epaulia, the ceremony held one day after the marriage celebration, when gifts were deposited upstairs in the women's quarters. The woman on the ladder is surely a reference to one or other of these two events, but which one? Reitzammer's conclusion is inconclusive: "To argue that the female figures are headed to the roof (Adonia) or to an upper story (epaulia) may be misguided." (31) As a note of caution this is justified, but it leaves the reader wondering whether we can legitimately hope to crack the cult's code when we can't even be sure if it is being represented.

It is important for Reitzammer to get the entire discussion of ladders and rooftops right, especially because she will develop the intriguing argument that in the Lysistrata the Akropolis functions as the rooftop of Athens, and that the action of the Lysistrata is designed to evoke (though not reenact) an Adonia. Ladders mean rooftops, rooftops mean Adonia, to put the argument crudely. But there is a very detailed and significant discussion of rooftops, households, and public space in John Graham's article, "The Woman at the Window,", in which the author argues for a powerful association between rooftops, households and prostitution.1 This is a very different recipe from the one Reitzammer is using, with its emphasis on marriage.

Reitzammer reads the Adonia as a commentary on marriage, with the beautiful young man dying just as the bride dies in marriage. In other words, the Adonia evokes an inversion of gender roles. Here the study is both on firmer ground and more convincing. Reitzammer explores the many occurrences of Aphrodite in mourning settings, as if the love of goddesses turns the table on heroes and threatens to unman them and put them in the place of a powerless bride. This is based on a view of Greek marriage, surely correct, that emphasizes marriage as a kind of abduction, resulting in symbolic death (39). Few will take issue with the broad backdrop against which Reitzammer locates the story of Adonis and Aphrodite's decision to secrete him away. Her close reading of the language of concealment, and her discussion of the trope of the young male consort hidden by the goddess is very convincing. Even so a very well written section is marred by a poorly worded final observation. Of Adonis, Reitzammer remarks, "Like a vulnerable kore picking flowers in a meadow, Adonis just might be abducted by a goddess." That 'just might' is oddly jarring. Was he or wasn't he? The phrase leaves one with the unfortunate impression that Reitzammer's reading is only tentative.

As part of her discussion of the Adonis/Aphrodite story Reitzammer offers some remarks on the iconography of Adonis and Phaon (another beautiful young lover of Aphrodite), whom Reitzammer sees as interchangeable with Adonis. Surely this begs for a further exploration of the two figures. Aelian's account (12.18; unmentioned by Reitzammer) suggests that there is a second tradition, distinct from the Adonis story, that associates myrrh with transformation: "One day Aphrodite arrived and wished to cross; [Phaon the Ferryman] welcomed her with pleasure, not knowing who she was, and guided her most attentively where she wished to go. In return the goddess gave him an alabaster pot. This contained myrrh, and when Phaon rubbed this on himself he became the most handsome of men. The women of Mytilene fell in love with him. But in the end he was caught in flagrante and executed." The transformative power of myrrh surely has something to tell us about the festival and the scenes on the vases showing women pouring it from alabastra. Reitzammer devotes a key section to Vessels and Myrrh (52-55); the omission of the Aelian passage is a serious oversight.

Reitzammer gets to the nub of the matter in a discussion of a red-figure lekythos from Karlsruhe depicting a naked woman climbing a ladder as a winged Eros passes her a garden of Adonis. This is neither an Epaulia scene nor a re-enactment of the Adonia but a depiction of the foundation myth behind the Adonia. Now begins a series of observations that reflect a growing assertiveness in the book's central argument: "… iconography associated with weddings resonates within the context of an Adonia" (56). But resonance quickly morphs into something more: "Perhaps…the Adonia festival offers the women who perform the ritual a different perspective on the traditional wedding." (59) Then, by p. 60 this is no longer a 'different perspective' but the assertion that the Adonia "critiques the wedding ceremony" (emphasis added).

In order to test her thesis Reitzammer identifies a second field in which the Adonis myth operates: mourning. Accordingly chapter 3 is entitled Funerals, although a more accurate title would be Aristophanes and the Adonia. The chapter is a stimulating close reading of the Lysistrata as an evocation of the Adonia (not an enactment, or re-enactment.) Taking a cue from a scholion that says the Lysistrata was subtitled the ' Woman at the Adonia' Reitzammer claims that the play evokes a performance of the festival, with the Acropolis evoked as the roof top to which the women would normally repair to celebrate the festival. The chapter has many sidetracks, including a somewhat labored treatment of foreign cults, which, along with a recent generation of scholars, Reitzammer sees as less genuinely foreign and more new-fangled. Reitzammer is less concerned with what happened than with Athenians ' fascination with supposed "foreignness ", by which they usually meant untraditional cults. Reitzammer reveals a set of associations— sex, drugs and kettledrums—that form a kind of nexus in which the Adonia finds itself.

Most of this discussion distils recent treatments by others and is cogent. Reitzammer's treatment of the relationship of Aphrodite and Athena, based on the archaeology of the Akropolis, is a little less satisfactory. Reitzammer claims a marginalization of Aphrodite on the North Slope compared to Athena on the Akropolis, which she takes as metaphorically equivalent to the roof of the city. This is a subordination of Aphrodite which the Lysistrata will reverse by bringing sex talk, seduction and the other attributes of Aphrodite to the Akropolis. But Reitzammer's choice of the Aphrodite and Eros cult on the North Slope as the proof for Aphrodite's subordination to Athena is frankly arbitrary. In the Agora, at Daphni and by the Ilissos we encounter Aphrodite Ourania, Aphrodite Pandemos and Hegemone, as well as "en kepois". The discussion of Athenian topography is selective, ignoring the rich body of evidence showing that Aphrodite was looked upon as an important goddess of the polis. In particular, it seems very odd to postpone to a footnote (104, n.61) a discussion of Aphrodite en kepois in a book centered on the gardens of Adonis, consort of Aphrodite. There is a lengthy discussion of this avatar of Aphrodite in Rachel Rosenzweig's 2004 study of Aphrodite (in Reitzammer's bibliography but not cited in her discussion ad loc. cit.)

In these passages Reitzammer has a tendency to overreach, as when she discusses the men of the Lysistrata taking on the "characteristics of mortal men in goddess-mortal pairings , as the women play the role of Aphrodite." But is this so? How closely does the ache of sex-starved Greek soldiers suggest the death of Aphrodite's young consort? And probably more important is the question, in what sense does the evocation of the Adonia, if it is being evoked, influence our reading of the play? I am not, of course, suggesting that a play like Lysistrata doesn't resonate in all sorts of interesting ways. Reitzammer notes Loraux's reading of Lysistrata's women as parthenoi and Stroup's reading of them as hetairai. But it is unclear what flavour the Adonia adds to the Lysistrata. Reitzammer develops the theme of subversion based on Foley's treatment of threnos as " a critique of the rhetoric of the epitaphios logos" (86), but one hardly needs veiled references to the Adonia to see the Lysistrata as a comic inversion of Perikles' vision of Athens, and for much of the chapter the elements of threnos and funeral no more than lurk on the margins.

The sense that the Adonia is more condiment than key ingredient in Athenian cultural life is particularly evident in chapter 4, entitled Philosophy. In reality this chapter is less about the Adonia as cultural practice and more about ludic elements in Socratic philosophical self-presentation. For Socrates flashy trite philosophy is like cultivating a garden of Adonis. The real philosopher is like the serious farmer. As a study of metaphorical language in Plato, the chapter offers some interesting results: writing, for example, is associated with the playful, the trivial, and the Gardens of Adonis. But the close readings amount to a series of interesting aperçus, not a sustained argument, or at least not one about the Adonia. Socrates certainly likens noisy, playful but vacuous activity to the Adonia, but what does this amount to? It does not make the Adonia into a vehicle for social criticism. It's just a byword for noisiness, like a car with busted exhaust.

The danger for a study of a previously underestimated phenomenon is that the author will see its presence everywhere. Reitzammer falls into this trap. One notable example of this type of reductive fallacy is Reitzammer's treatment of bookishness (114). The Greeks tell lots of stories about writing, runs the syllogism, but the Greek alphabet was actually Phoenician. "[T]he Phoenician syllabary truly was an import from the East", whence also come the words biblion, byblion (book) and Byblos (papyrus). Byblos was also a centre of Adonis cult. Adonis was buried there. And there the syllogism stops. What are we to make of these observations? That the Adonia casts its shadow over every library in Athens? That reading was subversive? What exactly does Reitzammer intend us to make of these connections?

Reitzammer's study of the Adonia finishes with a five-page conclusion. The key theme here is dissent: 'the dissenting voice is one that advocates for the inclusion of a new portion of the population in communal discourse.' Really? Plato's use of the Adonia is hardly subversive and does little more than use it as an example of fatuous activity; the supposed funeral associations are really just another reading of the Lysistrata and the notion that an Aristophanic play represents a dissenting voice is pretty much telling us what the text already says. There is no definite theory of resistance or subversion, yet the concept of 'Everyday Resistance' is surely worth exploring if this is truly how Reitzammer reads the Adonia. Ambiguous language, double meanings, humour, especially of women at the expense of men, are all definite examples of everyday resistance. The approach, if applied to the Lysistrata, might raise the possibility of Aristophanes' references to the Adonia being a male appropriation of a subversive women's tradition. That's an interpretation worth considering.


1.   A. J. Graham. "The Woman at the Window: Observations on the 'Stele from the Harbour' of Thasos." The Journal of Hellenic Studies 118 (1998): 22-40.

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Bruce W. Winter, Divine Honours for the Caesars: The First Christians' Responses. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015. Pp. x, 338. ISBN 9780802872579. $35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Scott D. Charlesworth, University of Divinity, Melbourne (

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Winter sets out to show that an all-pervasive imperial cult had a profoundly negative impact on first-century Christians in the Greek East. Discussion of the epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological evidence for imperial cultic worship is in two parts. The spread, characteristics, and operation of the imperial cult in provinces of the East are the focus of Part I (Chapters 2-5). Then the variety of Christian responses to the imperial cult, as found in the New Testament (NT), are the focus of Part II (Chapters 6-12). Each paragraph of what follows is devoted to a chapter of the book.

Part I, Divine Honours for the Caesars and the Roman East

Imperial cultic veneration spread rapidly because it was incorporated into the cultural and sporting activities and liturgical events of Asia. Members of the imperial family were honoured at the regular festivals of cities in the East as well as at entertaining games and spectacles. Significant points in the career of Augustus, including the birthday 'of the most divine Caesar' on which the new year began, were celebrated as 'no work' days throughout the year.

However, Winter wonders whether the words 'imperial cult' adequately describe the reality that the first Christians faced. An inscription from Sardis mentions all three imperial cultic activities: sacrifices to the gods for Augustus; prayers to Augustus; and sacrifices and prayer to the gods by Augustus for the empire.1 According to the inscription, all in the city were to show their loyalty by wearing wreaths on imperial high and holy days when sacrifices were made and prayers offered. Moreover, an endorsement by the koinon of Asia at the beginning of the inscription shows this was not an isolated case. Archaeologists have found seventeen (first-century) and fifteen (first half of the second century) imperial cult temples or sanctuaries in Asia Minor.

The more legally appropriate title divus, rather than deus, was conferred on Julius Caesar and Augustus by the Senate after their deaths. A comparable term did not exist in Greek, so in the East the emperor was often referred to as θεός. However, as Price shows, honours given to emperors in the East 'were equivalent to those given to the traditional gods, but they were not the same'2, i.e., it was understood that the emperors were lesser gods. Thus, Tiberius generally adhered to his father's convention of refusing diplomatic offers from the East, since temples were for the gods alone, but he did approve a cult to himself in Smyrna in 26. Winter suggests, following Fishwick, that this may have contributed to the rise of the Cult of the Sebastoi (divine emperors) after his principate.

Josephus reports a decree of Augustus which gave the Jews the right to follow their ancestral customs (Ant. 16.162). Claudius later affirmed the decree of Augustus for Alexandria and then the empire (Ant. 19.289-91). As a sign of loyalty to Rome, Jews offered a daily sacrifice in the Jerusalem temple to God, not the emperor, for the safety of the latter. Images were not required and Jews did not have to engage in cultic veneration in imperial temples or participate in festive activities. Winter takes this position based on a robust defence of the accuracy of Josephus with respect to decrees that concern the Jews (119-23).

Part II, Divine Imperial Honours and the First Christians' Responses

The first port of call in the NT is Athens. On the basis of imperial cult temples on the Acropolis and in the agora and forum, as well as altars and inscriptions, Winter argues that the first-century response was enthusiastic. He finds philological support for reading Acts 17:16-34 – which he accepts as historically reliable without discussing other views, an anomalous omission given his earlier defence of Josephus – as an official meeting of the Areopagus called to decide whether Paul's new god should be admitted to Athens. Paul appears to reject Stoic and Epicurean accommodation of the imperial cult. This reveals, says Winter, Paul's 'theological framework and arguments against religious pluralism' and the challenge they posed for the Christian communities he established (158-9).

Achaea is examined next. A decree from Messene, dated AD 1 or 2, which marks a victory of Gaius over the barbarians, states that two days were taken from the days of Augustus for annual holidays and sacrifices on behalf of Gaius and all were ordered to wear wreaths and to sacrifice to the gods for his safety. According to another inscription dated to 37, all of the inhabitants of the ancient Greek Leagues personally offered a sacrifice on the accession of Gaius, and there is a description by Philo of altars, victims, sacrifices, and crowds filling the streets for the festivities. Winter then surveys the evidence for imperial cultic activity in Corinth long before Paul came to town, and argues that when the Corinthian Jews brought a case against Paul soon after his arrival in c. 51, the ruling (Acts 18:12-15) of the proconsul effectively identified Christians with Jews and in so doing gave the former a de facto exemption from imperial cultic obligations and the right to meet weekly.

Nonetheless, Winter proposes that some Corinthian Christians elected to participate in imperial cultic celebrations. Paul's mention of 'so-called (οἱ λεγόμενοι) gods either in heaven or on earth' (1 Cor. 8:5) is seen as an allusion to deceased and living members of the imperial family, and a parallel of sorts is found in an Athenian inscription which mentions the office of 'high priest of the divine Caesars and Caesar's family' (204, 212). Paul's admonition not to 'partake of the table of the Lord and the table of δαιμονίων' (10:21) is then interpreted as a reference to the divine genii of emperors rather than demonic forces. 3 Several inscriptions are adduced and a statement by Tertullian that Christians were accustomed to casting out daemons or geniuses rather than swearing by them (Apol. 32.2-3). On these two somewhat tenuous bases, Winter argues that some Christians at Corinth reclined 'in the idol temple' (1 Cor. 8:10) at imperial cultic banquets in 54/55.

From Galatians 4:17 (ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε, 'they want to shut you out so that you would emulate them'), Winter argues that circumcised (Jewish and Gentile) Christians were shutting uncircumcised Gentiles out of fellowship to try to force them to be circumcised and become proselytes, with the sole aim of avoiding legal prosecution for meeting weekly and refusing to participate in the imperial cult. On the basis of literary, papyrological and inscriptional evidence, he proposes that ἒχων πρόσωπον means 'having legal status'. Thus Galatians 6:12a (ὅσοι θέλουσιν εὐπροσωπῆσαι ἐν σαρκί, usually translated 'as many as want to make a fair show in the flesh'), is rendered 'as many as want you to demonstrate legal status in the flesh' or similar. While this is intriguing, there is no evidence for imperial cultic persecution in Galatia and no mention of idolatry in Galatians. So Winter turns to references in Acts (13:50; 14:5, 19; cf. 14:22) which, however, refer not to imperial cultic but to Jewish incited persecution.

Examination of the situation in Thessalonica begins by linking a decree of Claudius against Jews from Syria and Egypt fomenting unrest (dated to 41) with a Jewish accusation before city officials that Paul's associates were revolutionaries plotting against Caesar's decrees (Acts 17:6-7). Winter proposes that when converted the Thessalonians immediately 'ceased giving any divine honours before the statue of Claudius in the imperial temple' (255; cf. ἐπεστρέψατε πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων δουλεύειν θεῷ ζῶντι καὶ ἀληθινῷ, 1 Thess. 1:9b). The description of the man of lawlessness – 'the one opposing and exalting himself above every so-called god (λεγόμενον θεὸν) or object of worship, so that he sits in the temple of God proclaiming himself to be God' (2 Thess. 2:3-4) – is then compared to language used of the emperors. Winter dates Paul's visit to Thessalonica to c. 50-51 and identifies Nero (54-68) as predicted man of lawlessness. Paul's praise for the Thessalonians' steadfast faith under 'persecutions and afflictions' (2 Thess. 1:4-5) is the final plank in an engaging argument. But while Paul may have had a future Roman emperor in mind, neither Gaius nor Nero ever appeared in the temple at Jerusalem claiming to be God.4

Winter then turns to the letter to the Hebrews. 'In earlier times after they were enlightened', the letter's recipients had 'endured much conflict of sufferings', including 'being publicly exposed (θεατριζόμενοι) to both reproaches and afflictions, and had also been partners of those so treated' (10:32-33). In addition, they had 'sympathised with prisoners, and had accepted with joy the seizure of their possessions' (10:34). But none of these verses actually says that the addressees had been imprisoned, as Winter insists. Condemnation on a capital charge brought death, exile, or slavery (48.19.2), as well as confiscation of property (The Digest, 48.20.1).5 Because of the mention of seizure of possessions (Heb.10:34), Winter finds a coded reference to impending exile. But, in context, the admonition 'let us go with him outside the camp bearing his reproach' is hardly more than metaphorical encouragement to willingly imitate Jesus who had 'suffered outside the [city] gate' (Heb. 13:13, 12). So too much may have been read into a metaphor. The Digest also says that there had been instances of relegation which had, properly or improperly, involved confiscation of property (; 48.22.14).

In the final chapter on Revelation, Winter argues that market overseers had such tight control that no one in the province of Asia could 'sell or purchase essential commodities' unless they had '"the name" of "the beast" inked on their right hand or forehead' and had worshipped 'the statue of the emperor in the imperial cult temple' (286). Non-compliance 'resulted in summary execution' (288). Winter identifies Nero as the first (sea) beast and C. Fonteius Agrippa, proconsul of Asia in 68-69, as the second (land) beast of Revelation 13.6 The latter was transferred after only one year; but not before enforcing this unique honour for Nero. The motivation for so doing, Winter speculates, may have been the unprecedented tax exemption granted to Achaea by Nero in 67. In response, an Achaean inscription states, it 'was decided by both the magistrates and councillors and the people to dedicate for the present an altar by [the statue of] Zeus the Saviour, inscribing it, "to Zeus Eleutherios Nero forever"'.7 In support his theory, or perhaps inadvertently, Winter incorrectly translates: it was 'decided by the magistrates and councillors and the people to worship him [Nero] at the existing altar dedicated to Zeus the Saviour forever' (300).

In the final analysis, while the evidence for the spread of the imperial cult in the East is sound, Winter's case about its profoundly negative impact on first-century Christians falters in the second half of the book. There are two reasons for this. One is a tendency to overreach when the argument is heavily reliant on the NT. Explanation of the text is either 'bent' to the historical evidence or vice versa. The second reason is that, despite there being plenty of evidence for persecution of Christians in the NT, it is difficult to find anything overt about the imperial cult. For both reasons, the end result is a dense and information-rich but provocative and ultimately flawed contribution to an increasingly contested area of NT related scholarship.


1.   IGRR 4.1756.
2.   S.R.F. Price, 'The Greek Language of the Roman Imperial Cult', The Journal of Hellenic Studies 104 (1984) 88 (79-95).
3.   All translations are mine unless otherwise stated.
4.   While the language of 2 Thess. 2:3-4 clearly alludes to Dan. 11:36-37, as Winter notes, Dan. 8:9-14 (and, therefore, the temple at Jerusalem) is also a point of reference.
5.   The Digest of Justinian, Vol. 4, tr. and ed. A. Watson (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1998).
6.   Cf. It 'is tempting to think that the establishment of the provincial cult of Domitian at Ephesus, with its colossal cult statue, is what lies behind our text': S.R.F. Price, Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) 197.
7.   δεδογμένον εἶναι τοῖς τε ἄρ|χουσι καὶ συνέδροις καὶ τῷ δήμῳ καθιερῶσαι μὲν κα|τὰ τὸ παρὸν τὸν πρὸς τῷ Διὶ τῷ Σωτῆρι βωμόν, ἐπι|γράφοντας, Διὶ Ἐλευθερίῳ [Νέρων]ι εἰς αἰῶνα (SIG3 814, ll. 48-50). My translation slightly modifies that of Price, 'The Greek Language of the Roman Imperial Cult', 83.

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Monday, May 29, 2017


Theodoros G. Pappas, Ἀριστοφάνης: Ὁ Ποιητὴς καὶ τὸ Ἔργο του. Athens: Ἐκδόσεις Gutenberg, 2016. Pp. 559. ISBN 9789600117998. €30.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Andreas Fountoulakis, University of Crete (

Version at BMCR home site

In this book Theodoros G. Pappas provides a comprehensive, detailed and balanced overview of the art of Aristophanes, while he manages to elucidate various more specific aspects of the playwright's work. The tradition of the text, the structure of Aristophanic comedy, the language and style employed by Aristophanes, the lyric elements of his plays, his use of the masks and the gaze, and the function of Aristophanic laughter are the main topics addressed by this study. Pappas is well-known for his anthropological approaches to Aristophanic comedy. 1 He is also the author of Ὁ Φιλόγελως Ἀριστοφάνης, one of the most illuminating monographs on Aristophanes published in Modern Greek. 2 With his new book, some parts of which have already appeared in scholarly journals, edited volumes and conference proceedings (chs. 2, 3 and 7), Pappas manages to expand the horizons of his earlier book to new fields of exploration, while taking into account recent trends and developments in the study of Greek comedy, most of which are reflected in a number of recent monographs and collections of essays on Aristophanes and Greek comedy. 3

In the Introduction (pp. 13–34) Pappas discusses the origins of comedy, the form of the Dionysiac festivals and the organization of dramatic contests in their context. Drawing attention to both internal and external evidence (e.g. Aristophanes, Acharnians 263–70 or Aristotle, Poetics 1449a 9–13), he places comedy's alleged origins in the phallic songs and the rituals of Dionysus, and examines its affiliations with Megarian farce, Sicilian comedy and iambic poetry. The useful information provided on the Athenian dramatic festivals is complemented with perceptive observations on the agonistic context of comic performance and its ramifications with respect to the content of comedy as well as its impact upon the audience.

Chapter 1 (pp. 35–60) focuses on the persona of the comic poet. Pappas adduces evidence mainly from Aristophanic plays (e.g. Knights 512–6, 541–4 or Wasps 1018–22) in order to reconstruct the poet's position in the social, political and intellectual milieu of late fifth- and early fourth-century Athens, while he wisely avoids biographical interpretations of plays surviving either in wholes or in fragments. These plays are assigned to different periods of the poet's career with a fair discussion of the formal and thematic preferences of each period, while there is a useful critical survey of recent editions and translations of Aristophanes' fragmentary plays.

In Chapter 2 (pp. 61–110) there is an illuminating discussion of the textual tradition of Aristophanic comedy from the playwright's original texts to the Aldina of 1498, Bekker's edition of 1829 and Wilson's 2007 edition in the OCT series. Attention is also paid to the contributions of ancient scholars such as Lycophron of Chalcis, Eratosthenes of Cyrene, Didymus and Crates of Mallus, in places as diverse as Alexandria and Pergamum, to the preservation of Aristophanes' text and the writing of relevant treatises and extensive scholia. Taking into account modern research on the transmission of the Aristophanic text, 4 Pappas focuses in particular on the medieval manuscript tradition of Aristophanes and provides a lucid and detailed account of it.

The structure of Aristophanes' plays and the dramatic function of the comic character within the boundaries of their action form the topics of Chapter 3 (pp. 111–51). Pappas examines the conventional structure of Aristophanic comedy in the forms it assumes in the playwright's extant works, and highlights the use of the structural elements explored in the folktale by Propp and detected by Sifakis in Aristophanes. 5 In addition to an acute exploration of the values endorsed by the comic hero, particular attention is paid to the scenic and dramatic function of the character of the Hero-Saviour. 6 This is perceptively examined often beyond conventional schemas relating to ritual or traditional patterns of action.

Chapter 4 (pp. 153–202) raises questions pertaining to language and style in Aristophanic comedy. While Pappas never loses sight of the fact that the language of Aristophanes has features aiming at the construction of the comic atmosphere of his plays, he aptly underlines the fact that it reflects the spoken Attic dialect of late fifth-century Athens, which explains to a certain extent the survival of those plays through their use as school texts throughout the Byzantine period. The diction of Aristophanes' comedies is examined in the light of modern research on Aristophanic language and style from the perspectives of phonology, morphology, syntax and style, while attention is paid to the use of significant names, verbal accumulation, figures of speech, neologisms, puns, metaphors, diminutives, compounds and even non-Attic elements for comic effect. 7 This linguistic variety is further enriched through the use of parody of the formal speech of oracles and decrees or even of genres such as tragedy and oratory. 8 As Pappas points out, such parody results in a comically inverted use of vocabulary and style borrowed from those genres, which is often contrasted with the use of obscene language that stands out as an important feature of Aristophanic satire and humour.

The lyric countenance of Aristophanic comedy forms the focal point of Chapter 5 (pp. 203–54). Returning to a topic various aspects of which he had admirably explored in his earlier monograph,9 and taking into account more recent relevant works, Pappas manages to elucidate a multi-levelled variety attested in the lyric parts of Aristophanic comedy. 10 Cletic hymns and various choral songs, in particular, are permeated in Aristophanes by a variety of linguistic, stylistic and metrical features as well as by complex imagery. Such a variety often combines registers of high poetry known from Greek epic and lyric with the language of ritual as well as of ordinary social experience. This combination is perceptively explored by Pappas who in this context also provides an astute account of the dramatic function of the comic Chorus.

Chapter 6 (pp. 255–86) is devoted to satire and politics, and addresses thus some of the most important aspects of the comedies of Aristophanes. Avoiding the pitfall of biographical interpretation, Pappas considers Aristophanic comedy in the context of the adventures of democracy of late fifth-century Athens as well as in light of the formative dimension of dramatic poetry within the polis under the shadow of the Peloponnesian war and the appearance of demagogues or of intellectual movements such as that of the Sophists. 11 Closer readings of plays such as the Knights or the Wasps manage to highlight Aristophanes' respect for democracy and yet his critical attitude towards contemporary politics and society as well as the nature of his satire not only with respect to the sphere of politics, but also with reference to other poets such as Euripides or contemporary thinkers such as Socrates. And all this is aptly done in connection with a consideration of the comic nature of the genre.

The dramatic function of the mask and the gaze forms the main topic of Chapter 7 (pp. 287–302). With the examination of the occurrence of terms such as πρόσωπον, προσωπεῖον, βλέμμα or ὄμμα in Aristophanes, Pappas reassesses the formulation of scenic action in both tragedy and comedy. He argues that in tragedy the visual perception of the tragic mask on the part of the audience leads to a perception of otherness. By contrast, the comic mask is considered by Pappas as a perverted way of rendering the face of the spectator and subsequently the portrait of a grotesque society. The gaze of the comic characters appears thus to meet the gaze of the spectators in a way which associates the on-stage action with social reality and enables the comic poet to comment upon society through the conventions of the comic genre and the production of comedy.

In the book's Epilogue (pp. 303–13) Pappas sheds light on Aristophanes' unique combination of a social and political sensibility with the reconstruction of an imaginary world within the context of the democratic polis. The key element of such a combination is the production of laughter, which is associated with a culturally specific notion of humour. Drawing upon recent, mainly anthropological works on Greek perceptions of laughter, 12 Pappas notes the social and cultural origins of Aristophanic humour and explores the ways in which laughter becomes the principal tool that contributes to the joyous reversals of the comic genre, while it constitutes a generic feature leading to the comic catharsis.

The book also contains a useful glossary relating to Greek drama (pp. 315–26) as well as a chronological index referring to authors, plays and major theatrical events and developments in relation to their historical context (pp. 327–45). Thus the reader may easily find the meaning of terms such as ἀναγνώρισις, ἐπιρρηματικὸς ἀγὼν or περίακτοι, while being provided with an overview of important people, works and events concerning ancient drama from the 6th century B.C. to modern times. Most of the Greek quotations are translated into Modern Greek and this makes the book more accessible to a wide readership. Its Bibliography is equally useful. Extending to almost two hundred pages (pp. 347–545), it provides the reader with an impressively full list of editions, translations, commentaries and scholarly books and articles concerning Aristophanes and Greek comedy, which appeared up to 2015. This valuable tool for the student of comedy is accompanied by a list of internet sites (pp. 546–7) relating to Greek literature and drama as well as by indexes of Aristophanic passages, names and topics (pp. 548–57).

With this monograph, which stands out for its clarity and fair-minded criticism, Theodoros G. Pappas manages to illuminate a variety of important aspects of Aristophanes' plays. It is a learned, well-documented, up-to-date, carefully produced, reliable and indispensable work for both the non-expert who embarks upon a journey in the field of Greek comedy, and the specialist who may be interested in more advanced, thought-provoking and sophisticated approaches to specific topics relating to the comedy of Aristophanes.


1.   See, among his works, Pappas, Th. (1990). Anthropologie de la comédie grecque ancienne (Athens).
2.   Pappas, Th.G. (1996). Ὁ Φιλόγελως Ἀριστοφάνης, 2nd edn. (Athens).
3.   See e.g. Silk, M. S. (2000). Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy (Oxford); Revermann, M. (2006). Comic Business: Theatricality, Dramatic Technique, and Performance Contexts of Aristophanic Comedy (Oxford); Sidwell, K. (2009). Aristophanes the Democrat: The Politics of Satirical Comedy during the Peloponnesian War (Cambridge); Sommerstein, A. H. (2009). Talking about Laughter and Other Studies in Greek Comedy (Oxford); Dobrov, G. (ed.), (2010). Brill's Companion to the Study of Greek Comedy (Leiden; Boston); Ruffell, I. (2011). Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy (Oxford); Bakola, E., Prauscello, L., Telò, M. (eds.), (2013). Greek Comedy and the Discourse of Genres (Cambridge); Revermann, M. (ed.), (2014). The Cambridge Companion to Greek Comedy (Cambridge); Fontaine, M., Scafuro, A. C. (eds.), (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Comedy (Oxford).
4.   See e.g. Dover, K. J. (1988). "Explorations in the History of the Text of Aristophanes". In The Greeks and Their Legacy. Collected Papers, II: Prose Literature, History, Society, Transmission, Influence (Oxford) 223–65; Wilson, N. G. (2007). Aristophanea: Studies on the Text of Aristophanes (Oxford) 1–14.
5.   Sifakis, G. M. (1992). "The Structure of Aristophanic Comedy". JHS 112, 123–42.
6.   For the dramatic mechanisms employed by Aristophanes for the depiction of character, cf. Silk (2000) 206–55.
7.   Cf. Silk (2000) 98–159; Willi, A. (2003). The Languages of Aristophanes: Aspects of Linguistic Variation in Classical Attic Greek (Oxford) 232–69.
8.   For this variety mainly in terms of religious, technical or female speech, cf. Willi (2003) 8–225.
9.   Pappas (1996) 89–177.
10.   Cf. Silk (2000) 160–206.
11.   On Aristophanes' political treatment of these topics, cf., among others, Sidwell (2009).
12.   See e.g. Desclos, M.-L. (ed.), (2000) Le rire des Grecs. Anthropologie du rire en Grèce ancienne (Grenoble). Cf. Halliwell, S. (2008). Greek Laughter: A Study of Cultural Psychology from Homer to Early Christianity (Cambridge).

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Jonathan L. Ready, Christos Tsagalis (ed.), Yearbook of Ancient Greek Epic, Volume 1. YAGE, 1. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017. Pp. 210. ISBN 9789004334144. $119.00.

Reviewed by Fabian Horn, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The newly established Yearbook of Ancient Greek Epic (YAGE) is dedicated to the publication of articles on all aspects of the Greek epic tradition from Homer to Nonnus. As the editors, Jonathan L. Ready and Christos C. Tsagalis state in their preface (pp. 1–2), YAGE differs from most Classical journals in two respects, which provide the journal with a special and particularly coherent format: YAGE is unusual in its focus on a single genre of ancient literature, and also in its attempt to devote a cluster of articles in every issue to a specific topic (while still including contributions on other topics), thus combining the forms of traditional journal and special issue/thematic collective volume (albeit without coordination of contributions which are thematically related). These features, which distinguish YAGE from other journals, also qualify the volume for review.

The inaugural volume of YAGE comprises eight articles, seven on Homeric poetry and one on the hexametric fragments ascribed to Manetho Astrologus. Of the contributions on Homeric epic, the first six form a thematic cluster addressing and exploring the theme of "the epic middle" from different perspectives, often originating their arguments with small observations, but broadening the scope to include interpretive issues regarding the complete poems and their composition. In this endeavor, they adopt a variety of approaches, ranging from the metrical to the narratological to the oralist, even though explicit theoretical considerations are included only rarely. Thus, even though the individual articles are held together by a common objective, they cover a wide range of topics with great depth.

The opening article, Justin Arft's "Structure as Sēma: Structural and Liminal Middles in the Odyssey" (pp. 5-–5) is well placed at the beginning of the cluster, since it offers theoretical considerations which are central to the discussion of "epic middles", even though they are not revisited in the following contributions and no overt relations between individual articles are established. Arft first provides a discussion of the phenomenon of 'ring composition' in Homeric poetry in order to approach the 'structural middle', acknowledging that ring structures are not the only ones with a middle, but that rings generally highlight their central element more conspicuously than other compositions. He then discusses examples from the middle of the poem, the central positions of Penelope in the Anticleia ring (Od. 11.170–203), of Pero and Melampous in the Catalogue of Heroines (Od. 11.233–329), and of the following intermezzo, the pause in Odysseus' narration to the Phaeacians which constitutes the structural middle of the Nekyia, the Apologoi, and of the Odyssey as a whole. Arft argues that these middles all have thematic connections to Odysseus's nostos and form the pivotal point for his own homecoming which is effected by Arete's speech during the intermezzo. With the more abstract notion of a 'liminal middle', the position of the poet and his work within the framework of his tradition, Arft goes on to explore the role of the seer Theoclymenus who is linked to the structural middle of the poem through his ancestor Melampous and occupies a liminal position between the epic past and the present of Odysseus' return. In adopting this oralist approach, analyzing centrality in the epic narrative as a way of highlighting intratextual correspondences as well as drawing attention to extratextual connections affecting the centrality of the poet's work within the oral tradition, Arft's article shows the importance of epic middles in the Odyssey.

In the next contribution, "Lost in the Middle: Story Time and Discourse Time in the Iliad" (pp. 46–64), Bill Beck explores an aspect of Homeric narrative technique, starting from the observation that in the Iliad, narrative time and discourse time are disproportionate and that plot-significant action is spaced out and continually delayed over the course of the poem. Beck argues that this disjunction was a manipulation of the narrator in order to highlight the middle space of uncertainty, delay, and subplot and to make the audience lose their orientation within the performance. Thus, the article provides an unexpected and surprising answer to a problem which has been recognized and provokes questions about the original performance context and the originality of the poem, which, however, are not considered here.

The following article, Ronald J. J. Blankenborg's "Ending in the Middle? Enjambment and Homeric Performance" (pp. 65–106), approaches the epic middle from a different perspective by reconsidering the meaning of verse-end enjambments. Bolstering his claim with numerous examples, Blankenborg argues that, contrary to the common conception, enjambments do not signal extra emphasis but are poetically meaningless and prosodically unmarked.

Jonathan Fenno's contribution, "Stretching out the Battle: Zeus and Measurement in the Iliad" (pp. 106–36), investigates measuring/balancing metaphors and 'stretching' imagery in the Iliad, taking as its starting point the repeated formula 'the battle was stretched out evenly' for Greeks and Trojans by deities, especially Zeus (Il 11.336, 16.662; cf. 12.436, 14.389, 15.413, 17.543, 17.736; 21.100–1). Homeric metaphor has been largely neglected in the wake of Milman Parry's oralist approach (except for Moulton's 1979 article) and has only recently been studied again. Fenno makes a convincing case, from a close investigation of the imagery's source domain, that the obscure measuring metaphors of the Iliad have programmatic significance for the position of Zeus as supreme ruler and arbiter of the war.

Zina Giannopoulou's piece, "Middles and Prophecy in the Odyssey" (pp. 137–58), explores notions of fixedness and fluidity about the middle of the Odyssey by examining the repeated motif of prophecy about the fate of the Phaeacians (Od. 8.564–71, 13.125–87). In arguing that the middle of the Odyssey can be seen both as fixed and fluctuating, depending on how the relevant sections are interpreted, Giannopoulou's article takes a different approach but reaches a similar conclusion to Arft's contribution in pointing to the significance of "epic middles" for the Odyssey.

The last piece of this thematic sequence, Andrew M. McClellan's "The Death and Mutilation of Imbrius in Iliad 13" (pp. 159–74) focuses on a few lines in one of the battle books, the gruesome slaughter of Imbrius at the hands of Locrian Ajax in Il. 13.201–5, and attempts to endow the scene with structural, thematic, and metapoetic significance for the poem as a whole. Similar importance has been claimed for other passages, but considering the enormous length of the poem, the highlighting of any individual passage of a few verses as crucial for the understanding and evaluation of key themes might be suggestive, but cannot be entirely convincing.

The section on the Homeric poems is concluded by Pietro Pucci's "Divine Protagonists in the Iliad: Hector's Death in Book 22" (pp. 175–205), which is not concerned with epic middles, but rather with the nature of divine intervention in the Iliad. Pucci provides a detailed philological reading of Achilles triumphing over Hector, with particular focus on the participation of the gods which, he argues, reduces Achilles' part in the killing and bestows a tragic and heroic death full of κλέος on Hector (while Achilles receives only κῦδος). Thus, this contribution touches upon many important themes and aspects of heroism in the Iliad, and its argument, which is certainly controversial, aims at the heart of how the climax of the poem is to be understood and interpreted.

The final piece, Konstantinos Spanoudakis' "Manethoniana" (pp. 206–9), while in itself a valuable contribution to scholarship, is at odds with the other articles in this volume regarding both length and subject matter. It is more of a short note (or a compilation of three individual short notes) than a full paper, and offers textual emendations and explanations on the spurious text of the Apotelesmatika of [Manetho]/Manetho Astrologus (1st half of 2nd c. AD).

To conclude, despite the objective to unify contributions under common theme of "epic middles", the inaugural volume of the Yearbook of Ancient Greek Epic first and foremost bears testimony both to the incredible and impressive breadth and theoretical diversity of Homeric scholarship as well as to the fact that the Homeric poems are certainly the most prolific field of Ancient Greek epic studies. Hopefully, future issues of the journal will prove to be a valuable forum for the study of all ancient epic beyond the Homeric poems. However, volume 2 of YAGE (2018) is announced to focus on "Ancient Greek Epic and Ancient Greek Tragedy" and is thus likely to show a similar focus on Homer, according to Aeschylus' well-known dictum that his tragedies were merely "leftovers from Homer's great banquets" (Ath. 8, 347e).

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