Friday, June 30, 2017


Christian Laes (ed.), Disability in Antiquity. Rewriting Antiquity. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. Pp. 490. ISBN 9781138814851. $240.00.

Reviewed by Jane Draycott, University of Glasgow (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

A considerable amount of scholarship focusing on impairment and disability in the ancient world has been published over the last few years. Treatments range from general surveys of the subject organised according to historical period, geographical region, or culture and society to detailed studies on specific physical or mental conditions.1 Consequently, one might reasonably query the necessity of commissioning yet another edited volume claiming to elucidate the subject further still. However, Routledge's new Rewriting Antiquity series aims to offer scholars in Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology, and associated disciplines a platform from which "to examine major themes of the ancient world in a broad, holistic and inclusive fashion," with each volume offering wide-ranging coverage so as to provide as full an appreciation of the topic as possible, not bound by either chronology or geography. To date, volumes focusing on sex and women have been published, while volumes on childhood and globalisation are planned.2 The unique selling point of this particular work thus lies in the breadth rather than the depth of its coverage (although individual contributions venture very deeply indeed into their topics; see, for example, Evelyne Samama's chapter on the extensive Greek vocabulary of disability) and the fact that it can serve as a convenient and useful starting point for future in-depth research on a variety of topics. Indeed, the editor of this volume noted in the introduction to his last edited collection on this subject, published in 2013, that it was a desideratum for scholars to expand their horizons, and here he and his contributors have provided not just a means for them to do so but also something of an example to follow.3

It is not feasible to provide a detailed summary of each one of the volume's thirty-two chapters here, but I shall attempt to offer some information on them before assessing the volume as the sum of its parts.

The first nominal part of the volume contains two chapters that each offer something of an introduction to the subject of impairment and disability in the ancient world. They cover the methodologies and scholarship devoted to the subject to date (Christian Laes), and the importance of considering context, particularly in relation to the role that environment and climate play in demography (April Pudsey). The second part, comprising six chapters, focuses on what it terms the "Ancient (Near) East," with its explorations ranging from the Hittite civilisation to China. It offers a series of windows onto cultures and societies that to date have been rather overshadowed by Greece and Rome in discussions of disability in antiquity: the Hittites (Richard H. Beal), Mesopotamia and Israel (Edgar Kellenberger), Persia (Omar Coloru), Egypt (Rosalie David), India (M. Miles), and China (Olivia Milburn). The third part, comprising six chapters, covers the Greek world from Classical Athens through to the Second Sophistic by way of subjects, and examines vocabulary (Evelyne Samama), oratory (Martha Lynn Rose), drama (Robert Garland), law (Matthew Dillon), art (Alexandre Mitchell), and philosophy (Michiel Meeusen). The fourth part, comprising seven chapters, covers the Roman world in a similar manner to the Greek, examining satire (Sarah Bond and T. H. M. Gellar-Goad), law (Peter Toohey), art (Lisa Trentin), and philosophy (Bert Gaevaert), with the addition of archaeology (Emma-Jayne Graham), and two studies on different aspects of mental illness (Chiara Thumiger and Danielle Gourevitch). The fifth part, comprising nine chapters, approaches the late antique world. Here the chapters are oriented towards religion, with aspects of the treatment of disability in Christianity (Anna Rebecca Solevåg, Martin Claes and Anthony Dupont, Jenni Kuuliala, Carol Downer, and John W. Martens), Islam (Matthew Alan Gaumer, Hocine Benkheira), and Judaism (Julia Watts Belser and Lennart Lehmhaus), although the political entity of the Byzantine Empire is also considered (Stephanos Efthymiadis). The sixth part, comprising two chapters, highlights the survival of ancient attitudes towards disability long after the end of what could reasonably be considered antiquity, focusing specifically on canon law and the clergy in the medieval period (Irina Metzler) and views of ancient Greek physicality in Nazi Germany (Toon Van Houdt).

Each chapter cites its scholarship in-text, although in some cases explanatory notes are offered, and while each chapter has a bibliography, in some cases this is separated into primary and secondary sources. This is particularly helpful in the case of the chapters that venture into disciplines with which most classicists are unlikely to have more than a passing acquaintance, as full details of the texts, translations, editions, and commentaries are included to facilitate attempts to engage with this unfamiliar material. There are relatively few illustrations (as one might expect, most of these are positioned in the two chapters that deal specifically with material culture), but full details regarding source and provenance are included.

As an ancient historian currently working on impairment and disability in classical antiquity, I found the second part, with its focus on the civilisations adjacent in time and space to Greece and Rome, the most thought-provoking. While there appears to have been some degree of overlap in the conditions that these societies recognised as impairments (e.g. blindness, deafness, mobility limitations), there are considerable differences in the quantities of evidence available to examine them (they range from scarce to abundant), and even in the extent to which—or the nature of the ways in which,—the scholars of those disciplines have engaged with them to date. What emerges more clearly than ever is the importance, in fact the necessity, of contextualising as fully as possible any aspect of ancient impairment and disability one is proposing to examine.

As stated at the outset, the volume's strength is the breadth of material that has been selected for inclusion. It also incorporates a variety of approaches as dictated by the evidence available (or not available), with some chapters offering broad surveys, others offering more focused studies (e.g. the works of the authors Plutarch, Galen, Caelius Aurelianus, and Augustine). Simultaneously, it manages to avoid, for the most part, returning to well-worn sources (whether literary, documentary, or archaeological) or simply repeating or summarising discussions that have been had elsewhere, or even repeating material from chapter to chapter. Yet there are not any obvious oversights or deliberate exclusions. Thus the volume serves as a fitting starting point for a new era in disability history focussing on the ancient Mediterranean.

Authors and Titles

Introduction: Disability History and the Ancient World: Past, Present and Future - Christian Laes.
Disability and Infirmitas in the Ancient World: Demographic and Biological facts in the longue durée - April Pudsey.
Disabilities from Head to Foot in Hittite Civilisation - Richard Beal.
Mesopotamia and Israel - Edgar Kellenberger.
Ancient Persia and Silent Disability - Omar Coloru.
Egyptian Medicine and Disabilities: from Pharaonic to Graeco-Roman Egypt - Rosalie David.
India: Demystifying Disability in Antiquity - M. Miles.
Disability in Ancient China - Olivia Milburn.
The Greek Vocabulary of Disabilities - Evelyne Samama.
Ability and Disability in Classical Athenian Oratory - Martha Lynn Rose.
Disabilities in Comedy and Tragedy - Robert Garland.
Legal (and Customary?) Approaches to the Disabled in Ancient Greece - Matthew Dillon.
The Hellenistic Turn in Bodily Representations: Venting Anxiety in Terracotta Figurines - Alexandre Mitchell.
Plutarch's "Philosophy" of Disability: Human after All - Michiel Meeusen.
Roman Perfect Bodies: The Stoic View - Bert Gevaert.
Foul and Fair Bodies, Minds, and Poetry in Roman Satire - Sarah Bond and T.H.M. Gellar-Goad.
The "Other" Romans: Deformed Bodies in the Visual Arts of Rome - Lisa Trentin.
Mobility Impairment in the Sanctuaries of Early Roman Italy - Emma-Jayne Graham.
Mental Disability? Galen on Mental Health - Chiara Thumiger.
Madness and Mad Patients According to Caelius Aurelianus - Danielle Gourevitch.
Disability in the Roman Digest - Peter Toohey.
Hysterical Women? Gender and Disability in Early Christian Narrative – Anna Rebecca Solevåg.
Augustine's Sermons and Disability - Martin Claes and Anthony Dupont.
Infirmitas in Monastic Rules - Jenni Kuuliala.
The Coptic and Ethiopic Traditions - Carol Downer.
The Disability Within: Sexual Desire as Disability in Syriac Christianity - John W. Martens.
The Disabled in the Byzantine Empire - Stephanos Efthymiadis.
What Difference did Islam Make? Disease and Disability in Early Medieval North Africa - Matthew Alan Gaumer.
Impotent Husbands, Eunuchs and Flawed Women in Early Islamic Law - Hocine Benkheira.
Disability in Rabbinic Judaism - Julia Watts Belser and Lennart Lehmhaus.
Then and now: Canon law on Disabilities - Irina Metzler.
The Imperfect Body in Nazi Germany: Ancient Concepts, Modern Technologies - Toon Van Houdt.


1.   For Graeco-Roman antiquity: R. Garland (1995) The Eye of the Beholder: Deformity and Disability in the Graeco-Roman World (Ithaca: Cornell University Press), reissued as R. Garland (2010) The Eye of the Beholder: Deformity and Disability in the Graeco-Roman World (London: Bristol Classical Press); M. L. Rose (2003) The Staff of Oedipus: Transforming Disability in Ancient Greece (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press), reissued as M. L. Rose (2013) The Staff of Oedipus: Transforming Disability in Ancient Greece (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press); R. Breitwieser (2012) Behinderungen und Beeinträchtigungen / Disability and Impairment in Antiquity (Oxford: Archaeopress); C. Laes, C.F. Goodey, and M. L. Rose (edd.) (2013) Disabilities in Roman Antiquity: Disparate Bodies a capite ad calcem (Leiden: Brill); C. Laes (2014) Beperkt? Gehandicapten in het Romeinse rijk (Leuven: Davidsfonds); C. Krötzl, K. Mustakallio and J. Kuuliala (2015) Infirmity in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Social and Cultural Approaches to Health, Weakness and Care (London: Routledge). For Judaism, Christianity and the Bible: J. Z. Abrams (1998) Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli (Washington DC: Galludet University Press); H. Avalos, S. Melcher and J. Schipper (edd.) (2007) This Abled Body: Rethinking Disabilities in Biblical Studies (Atlanta GA: Society of Biblical Literature); S. Fishbane (ed.) (2008) Deviancy in Early Rabbinic Literature: A Collection of Socio-Anthropological Essays (Leiden: Brill); S. Olyan (2008) Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). For studies on specific conditions, see for example V. Dasen (1993) Dwarfs in Ancient Egypt and Greece; W. V. Harris (ed.) (2013) Mental Disorders in the Classical World (Leiden: Brill); L. Trentin (2015) The Hunchback in Hellenistic and Roman Art (London: Bloomsbury).
2.   For the recent BMCR review of Sex in Antiquity, see BMCR 2016.07.17. For the recent BMCR review of Women in Antiquity, see BMCR 2017.05.44.
3.   C. Laes, C. F. Goodey, and M. L. Rose (2013) 'Approaching Disabilites a capite ad calcem', in C. Laes, C. F. Goodey, and M. L. Rose (edd.) (2013) Disabilities in Roman Antiquity: Disparate Bodies a capite ad calcem (Leiden: Brill), pp. 1-16, p. 10.

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Adrian Goldsworthy, Pax Romana: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2016. Pp. ix, 513; 16 p. of plates. ISBN 9780300178821. $32.50.

Reviewed by Michael J. Taylor, University of California, Berkeley (

Version at BMCR home site


Adrian Goldsworthy's Pax Romana represents a broad and reputable survey of the history of the Roman peace from roughly 150 BC to AD 235, with pax here seen not as a blissful moment of non-violence, but rather as a state of control established and continuously enforced by organized coercive force. It is worth highlighting at the start a few pitfalls into which such a work could easily descend. It could devolve into a 'guts and glory' military history narrating Rome's conquests and imperial wars, with purple passages describing gladii carving through various aspects of human anatomy. The dust jacket provided by the press, featuring a handsome Imperial helmet, certainly seeks to appeal to those book buyers with a taste for old-school military history.

The Roman army is an ever-present institutional actor in his story, and the violence it precipitated an ever-present reality, but this is not a history of warfare. The book, for example, largely glosses Republican conquests, so that its first major discussion of the Roman army in action provocatively explores a massacre in a supposedly conquered province: the treacherous slaughter of surrendered Lusitanians by the forces of Ser. Sulpicius Galba in 150 BC. Here Goldsworthy does discuss the grisly nature of killing with a sword, but his point is not some tired variation on the theme that 'war is hell,' but rather to highlight the disciplined physical exertion and the perilous moral ease with which Rome's citizen soldiers butchered defenseless men, women and children. When G. discusses the conquest of Gaul in Chapter 3, he focuses on Caesar's divide and conquer strategy, and emphasizes how the sudden appearance of a Roman general with a powerful army inspired ready collaboration as well as resistance, fragmented along traditional internal and external rivalries.

Nor is it a narrative history in the strictest sense, being rather a set of chronologically ordered thematic chapters. These are organized into two major sections, the Republic and the Principate, with the book concluding with the collapse of the Severan dynasty. The first part discusses Republican institutions (Chapter 1), Roman warfare, including war motives (Chapter 2), Roman diplomatic strategies (Chapter 3), the Roman diaspora (Chapter 4), provincial governance (Chapter 5) and relations with Hellenistic kings (Chapter 6), including the doomed romance between Antony and Cleopatra. The second Part, on the Principate, opens with a discussion of the Augustan peace (Chapter 7), and subsequently examines provincial rebellions (Chapter 8), the critical problem of banditry (Chapter 9),provincial governance and corruption (Chapter 10), the advantages and costs of empire to subjects (Chapter 11), Roman military deployments on the frontiers (Chapter 12), small-scale raids and Roman countermeasures (Chapter 13), and finally looks outside the Pax Romana, both geographically, beyond the frontier, and also temporally, to the Third Century Crisis (Chapter 14).

A project entitled Pax Romana could easily take a Life of Brian turn by listing every good thing that came from Roman domination (such as, roads, wine, and sewers), the sort of rosy-glassed vision of empire that still lingers in some Anglophone conservative circles. At times, Goldsworthy does come dangerously close: "A century or so ago most — though not all — people in the West had a vague sense that empires could be, and often were, good things. Nowadays the opposite is true…. The danger is that we have simply replaced one over-simplification with another. Dislike of empire tends to encourage skepticism over its achievements" (p. 14). Interestingly, Goldsworthy does not affiliate himself with a good deal of the recent scholarship on the Roman economy, a field that has over the last generation become positively Pythonesque, having cast aside the Marxist pessimism of Moses Finley to laud with neoliberal optimism what the Roman Empire did for the Mediterranean economy (pointing towards accelerating urbanization, robust industrial production that darkened Greenlandic ice, and brisk trade that sprinkled the seafloor with ever more wrecks). For Goldsworthy, peace and prosperity emerged as a largely unintended consequence of the blunt Roman quest for security and control.

Many of the issues discussed are familiar case studies in Roman provincial administration: Cicero's governorship in Cilicia, Pliny's letters from Bithynia, Judea as presented in both the New Testament as well as Josephus, the Roman diaspora in the provinces, etc. Several provincial rebellions challenged the Roman peace, ranging from Arminius' ambush at the Teutoburger Wald/Kalkriese, a unique case of a rebellion that led to a permanent loss of territorial control, to a slew of failed rebellions: Tacfarinas in North Africa, Boudicca in Britain, and the three great Jewish rebellions. Goldsworthy raises an important point: by the High Empire, schismatic rebellion had all but ceased. Even the Jews, the religiously inspired arch-rebels of the Roman world, who had previously carved their own kingdom out of the flailing Seleucid Empire, did not revolt again after the failure of the Bar Kochba rising. The end of schismatic revolt is all the more puzzling given that such actions would have been more than feasible during the chaotic Third Century Crisis. But all subsequent rebels posed as pretenders rather than schismatics (including Postumus in Gaul and Zenobia as regent for her son), aspiring to rule the whole empire rather than separate themselves permanently from it.

Much recent scholarship has emphasized the failure of Roman authorities to control banditry within the empire, while deemphasizing the threat of raiders from the outside. Since the seminal work of Brent Shaw, banditry has been widely viewed either as a repudiation of Rome's hegemonic pretensions, or even as the embodiment of resistance to Roman rule.1 Goldsworthy argues, in a compelling analogy, that banditry should perhaps be viewed the way as we do automobile accidents: a serious, and even lethal threat, to be sure, but ultimately a negative externality upon an economic system characterized by high mobility and general prosperity. This certainly sounds correct: despite the threat of banditry, people travelled for quite casual reasons, just as the risk of serious automobile accidents do not deter most from driving to the movies. This is a point worth developing further, but also a frustration with a book written by a scholar for a non-scholarly audience: right when Goldsworthy makes an interesting and important intervention, he moves on to keep up the brisk pace.

Meanwhile, raiders across the frontier are often viewed in recent scholarship as either a minor nuisance, or even as an excuse for unnecessary, aggrandizing imperial warfare. Goldsworthy, however, argues that Roman authorities took frontier peoples with martial traditions of raiding as a serious threat, suggesting the substantial violence deployed against them was often rooted in defensive calculations, and from the perspective of those living within the frontiers, largely salutary. I agree that this is basically correct, although the book breezes on, rather than grapple in depth with the large body of cogent scholarship suggesting otherwise (relevant counter-studies, for example the work of Benjamin Isaac and Susan Mattern, are briefly engaged with in the notes, and the bibliography is overall quite solid).2

One tidbit (illustrated in the plates) is nonetheless quite instructive. During the first and second centuries AD, the Romans built numerous walls, both for military installations and around thriving cities. Many of these sported towers that barely projected out from the curtain wall, limiting the ability of soldiers in the towers to provide enfilading missile fire against anyone trying to scale the wall. Some of these walls may have still served a pragmatic purpose by providing barriers and control points, but they were not designed to endure direct assault. In the third century AD, not only did new walls go up, but the towers began to project far from the curtain, an acknowledgment in stone of metastasizing threats, and a reminder of the privileged complacency the lengthy period of relative peace had engendered even in the realm of military architecture.

The book succeeds admirably at its goal of communicating the complexities of Roman imperial history with great clarity and insight. Pax Romana is a well-crafted piece of historical writing that will certainly enlighten a wide audience.


1.   E.g. Shaw, Brent. "Bandits in the Roman Empire." Past and Present 105 (1984), 3-52.
2.   E.g. Isaac, Benjamin. The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East. Oxford University Press, 1990, and Mattern, Susan. Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate. University of California Press, 1999.

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Daniel J. Gargola, The Shape of the Roman Order: The Republic and its Spaces. Studies in the History of Greece and Rome. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 289. ISBN 9781469631820. $45.00.

Reviewed by Karl-J. Hölkeskamp, Universität zu Köln (

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This book is yet another contribution to the ongoing process of "de-modernizing" the Roman Republic.1 The author wants to overcome not only the (originally Mommsenian) Staatsrecht and Rechtsstaat paradigm and its "pervasive legalism", but also a traditional 'nation-state model' underlying much modern work on "Rome's political order, its hegemony in Italy, and the organization of its transmarine empire", which has "frequently been conducted in terms of formal institutions and overarching structures and against the background provided by the modern state" (10-11). This background is based on a set of (at least partly implicit) assumptions, according to Gargola (7-8): nation states are characterized by, first of all, "some cultural unity of the populations" which they preside over; secondly, by administrations which "enclose territories under their control within clear boundaries"; thirdly, by "bureaucratic organizations" which ensure that "the making of decisions is highly concentrated in a capital. Fourthly, however," "the responsibility of implementing" these decisions "is dispersed among officials who supervise defined territories, often at some distance from the center."

As Gargola hastens to acknowledge, international research on Republican Rome, its social structure, institutional setup and particular 'political culture' has been moving way beyond this paradigm during the last five decades.2 Scholars have increasingly become aware of the combination of factors "which may have long impeded the formation of any overarching system of firm controls": "poor communications, primitive transport, and uneven control over subordinated territories"—or rather, for that matter, over "subordinated communities"—as well as "the elite's worldview, which encompassed their restricted knowledge, the traditions of their polity, and the limited nature of public institutions." The character, the levels and degrees of formalization, systematization and 'integration', however, remain a matter of dispute. On the one hand, "integration outside the formal apparatus of government" by social links and marital ties between individual members and families of the Roman elite with those of Italian communities seem to have played a role, although the meagre evidence makes it difficult "to assess just how pervasive these connections actually were and how thoroughly they penetrated all parts of the peninsula." (8-9) On the other hand, the degree and place in time of the gradual emergence of what may be called "a common political culture" or "community of interest" in the wake of a greater integration of regional elites and the Roman ruling class, imperial expansion and economic change remain a matter of dispute (9). In a particular aspect of this debate, Gargola himself maintains a clear standpoint: he takes issue with traditional positions which "view Italy of the middle Republic as a formally regulated order in which subordinated polities occupied clearly defined positions with respect to Rome", depending on their status as citizen or Latin colony, municipium, civitas sine suffragio or ally with a foedus aequum or iniquum. It is this "depiction of Italy as a formal legal order", which Gargola considers "necessary for viewing the Republic as a Rechtsstaat rather than a Machtstaat" and which represents "one of the most enduring representations of the republican System." (10).

It is against this backdrop that Gargola unfolds his program of describing the Republic "as a territorial order"—or rather, a "spatial and temporal order" in the broadest possible meaning of the concept. In more concrete terms, Gargola wants to offer 'a view from the top', as the emphasis of his study "lies on the ruling elite's views of their polity and its power, their personal experience while performing public functions, the kind of activities that they undertook at Rome and abroad and how they sought to regulate and describe them, and the ways they conceptualized spatial relationships over the broad range of Rome's activities." (2) Therefore, Gargola takes what he calls "spatial considerations"—or more precisely, the whole spectrum of methods, means and media of constructing, organizing and controlling space—"as points of entry into the ways that members of the ruling elite viewed their polity and its empire." (3) In terms of the underlying general framework of systematic categories, Gargola not only applies the spatial divisions in the shape of dichotomies such as domi versus militiae, in(side) versus out(side), left versus right, north versus south and east versus west. Moreover, he not only looks at boundaries of all kinds, such as (unsurprisingly) the pomerium and the one-mile zone around it. He also and above all offers a careful and differentiated analysis of the construction and uses of public spaces and above all sacred structures in the complex urban topography of Rome itself as well as of the hinterland and the territories further afield: Gargola analyzes the spatial organization of Rome, Italy and the empire in terms of a hierarchy of zones in a sort of concentric circles with the urbs Roma in the focus, with a concomitant descending degree of integration and control from the city as center to the marginal periphery of the empire.

These recurrent themes and patterns permeate the concrete aspects and topics, which Gargola systematically treats in six chapters. The chapter on "representing the res publica" deals with the ways and genres in which Roman historians, antiquarians, jurists and—last but not least—priests construed the world of Rome and the origins of its institutions and cults. This largely concentrated on the city itself, even if—like the elder Cato and Cicero—these figures stressed their links to their ancestral communities outside Rome (12-43). Much of this is well-trodden ground (cf., e.g. 33; 38), but Gargola succeeds in reading relevant sources afresh in order to show that "they emphasized the city itself over the territory that it dominated, even those regions and settlements that were inhabited by Roman citizens."(43)

The second chapter (44-82) revolves around the activities of Roman magistrates both as "public actors" in Rome as "the clear center of public life" (44, cf. 51) and as figures acting away from Rome in different official capacities (e.g. as founders of colonies, legati and commanders). Gargola emphasizes the "clear spatial implications" of different magisterial tasks and assignments as well as of the journeys from and to Rome they required (80-81). Therefore, he also looks at the function of roads and, time and again, at the elite's conception of the 'empire' as "power over peoples or polities" or "a poorly defined set of subordinate communities", and "not over territories" or "places and regions" (55, 70, 81). He further considers the concepts of imperium and provincia in general and their complex relation to the idea of (according to Gargola, rather indeterminate) "boundaries" of spaces and places in particular.

In the third chapter (83-118), Gargola looks at Italy as "an exception", because in the third and second centuries, the Roman elite "imposed upon it a level of organization not found elsewhere" in the empire through the definition of "formal frontiers" and "a set of overarching statuses" encompassing citizens, Latins and allies (83, 118, cf. 88-95). Gargola returns to the theme of activities of magistrates and priests, treating things ranging from jurisdiction and the expiation of prodigies to census and dilectus. He shows that these activities, their intensity and frequency once again indicate "informal or implicit zones" with a decreasing degree of density from "the city and its immediate vicinity" to the limits of Italia (99, 118).

In the fourth chapter (119-153), the augurs take center stage. Gargola dissects their functions vis-à-vis Rome's gods and their sacred spaces. He pays particular attention to the role of the augural discipline in general and the importance of (the inauguration of) templa for public activities in particular. He further emphasizes the augurs' crucial function of ritually constructing and defining boundaries such as "the pomerium, the limits of the augural ager Romanus, and terra Italia. Once again, the most relevant activities were obviously "concentrated in and near the city" (152).

The fifth chapter (154-186) takes up the topic of templa and offers a fine analysis of their complex spatial layout. It also describes how other functionaries, magistrates and commanders with imperium created spaces as a defined 'inside' set against, and sharply separated from, the 'outside' with "clearly defined focal points or even centers." The acts of constructing camps in the field and establishing colonies and "large-scale field systems" for settlers enabled these officials to carry out particular formal duties which would otherwise have been performed in the city (181-2, 186).

The sixth chapter (187-223) begins with a programmatic declaration: "Spatial considerations permeated Roman laws, edicts, and decrees" (187). Although Gargola repeats some of his previous arguments concerning the foundation of colonies, he has a few further interesting observations to offer. He shows in detail how "magistrates or legates defined the limit of some space and imposed rules on it" and that, in this way, "legal practice resembled augural techniques" of constructing spaces and boundaries (189). Once again, this legal practice indicates that "many measures applied only to Rome and its immediate vicinity", simply because they regulated matters that were confined to the city itself. Generally, "the framers of these norms appear to have been more concerned with the city than with other places and with regions close to Rome than with those at a greater distance." (190). In this context, his 'close reading' of thesenatus consultum de Bacchanalibus deserves special mentioning (204, 206-10).

The conclusion (224-229) offers a clear and dense summary in which Gargola rightly highlights the complex interrelation between the various aspects and different levels of Roman-style 'spatiality' and between the short-, middle- and long-range reach of Roman organization of supremacy, power and control.

The theoretical basis and methodological approach of this book—as in Gargola's earlier work on the rituals, legislation and other rules concerning the ager publicus3—seem to be inspired by the so-called 'spatial turn'. However, Gargola wisely steers clear of the sweeping claims of certain prophets of this recent turn, who declare it as the quintessential 'master turn' of all 'turns' and advocate a radically new all-embracing view of the world.4 He offers a fresh look at the political culture of the Republic based on pure and simple empirical analyses. To cut a long story short: all in all, this is a well-argued, original and, indeed, inspiring book.


1.   The term was coined by Laurens E. Tacoma, Moving Romans. Migration to Rome in the Principate, Oxford 2016, pp.1-5.
2.   Cf. Karl-J. Hölkeskamp, Reconstructing the Roman Republic. An Ancient Political Culture and Modern Research, Princeton 2010, and now the contributions in: Matthias Haake, Ann-Cathrin Harders (eds.), Politische Kultur und soziale Struktur der Römischen Republik: Bilanzen und Perspektiven, Stuttgart 2017, for a survey of modern approaches. Cf. also the contributions in Wilfried Nippel, Bernd Seidensticker (eds.), Theodor Mommsens langer Schatten. Das römische Staatsrecht als bleibende Herausforderung für die Forschung, Hildesheim etc. 2005, for modern approaches to the Rechtsstaat (or rather: Staatsrecht) paradigm.
3.   Daniel J. Gargola, Lands, Laws, and Gods: magistrates and ceremony in the regulation of public lands in Republican Rome, Chapel Hill 1995.
4.   Cf. Karl-J. Hölkeskamp, 'Performative turn' meets 'spatial turn'. Prozessionen und andere Rituale in der neueren Forschung, in: Dietrich Boschung, Karl-J. Hölkeskamp, Claudia Sode (eds.), Raum und Performanz. Rituale in Residenzen von der Antike bis 1815, Stuttgart 2015, 15-74, especially pp. 33-40, with references.

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Dino De Sanctis, Emidio Spinelli, Mauro Tulli, Francesco Verde (ed.), Questioni epicuree. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2015. Pp. 262. ISBN 9783896656810. $30.52.

Reviewed by Sergio Yona, University of Missouri (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This volume, which exemplifies the spirit of Epicurean camaraderie within the context of philosophical examination, showcases studies by both senior and junior scholars whose research is centered on Epicurus' works. To be more exact, it includes essays on these texts' complicated transmission (Dorandi) and style or contents (De Sanctis, Erbì, Heßler and Erler), as well as considerations of their scientific (Morel) and physiological (Konstan, Leone and Verde) implications, not to mention their engagement with ethics (Hammerstaedt and Spinelli). The editors have organized the volume around these five aspects in such a way that each chapter expands upon or takes its cue from the previous study, proceeding in more or less chronological order. The text of the volume itself is clear, well annotated and supplemented by various indices.

In the opening chapter, Dorandi offers a detailed consideration of the circulation, transmission and current state of the existing fragments of Epicurus' masterpiece On Nature. After an overview of sources of information (pp. 23-4), the discussion turns to the question of how popular this work was at Herculaneum. There are at least three books of On Nature that were present in multiple copies at the Villa dei Papiri: Books 2, 11 and 25. Emphasizing the impossibility of creating a proper stemma due to lack of evidence, Dorandi introduces three copies of Book 25 and provides a brief examination of their relationship to one another (pp. 35-7). Perhaps, he hypothesizes, there was a "modello virtuale" (called α), which may also help to explain the many textual variants of two copies of Book 2 in the sense that, since one does not appear to have been copied from the other but rather subjected to a "lavorio critico," they might have had a common origin (pp. 37-8). The chapter concludes with an explanation of scholars' conflicting considerations about the nature of an "official" text, which, following the tradition of other philosophical sects, might have been safeguarded by certain Epicureans residing in the Garden (pp. 38-42). The question is left open as to the details of the transmission of On Nature, the original copying center's exact location and the extent to which critical editions were produced by scholars like Demetrius of Laco (pp. 42-3).

The next section begins with a chapter by De Sanctis on language and communication in the epitomes addressed to Herodotus, Pythocles and Menoeceus. Epicurus sets out to provide his followers with an explanation or rationale for the nature of the universe, which depends on clear communication and the avoidance of ambiguity (pp. 58-60). De Sanctis considers the philosophers' explanation in his Letter to Herodotus of how words must immediately reveal their relationship to the things they indicate. The same work highlights Epicurus' concern for clarity through his careful definitions of key terms and his assertion that only the void (as opposed to the soul, which is made up of atoms) is asōmaton in the true sense of the word (pp. 62-4). Finally, De Sanctis shows how in the Letter to Menoeceus Epicurus emphasizes the necessity of having a correct understanding of the nature of things, which he imparts through sayings that express basic elements of his teaching (pp. 67-8). Erbì's chapter continues this discussion by examining the fragmentary evidence of Epicurus' correspondence with friends and individuals associated with the Garden. These letters, which were intended for wide circulation, touch on many subjects and provide, as Erbì notes, "una fotografia preziosa" of daily life among members of the community (p. 78 n. 10). Epicurus' correspondence with two friends in particular illustrates the genuine nature of his concern: he does not condemn Idomeneus for his involvement in politics but offers helpful reflections and a warm invitation to a more contemplative and happier way of life; and he does not criticize Mithres for his wealth but encourages him to bear its loss with philosophical equanimity (pp. 79-86). The chapter ends with two touching passages from Epicurus in which he communicates to each of these individuals, just before his death, the pleasure derived from past conversations and his concern for the well-being of members of the Garden (pp. 88-9).

Heßler's essay continues this line of thought by offering a consideration of the Epicurean view of the commemoration of past pleasures in connection with deceased members of the sect and its place in a long tradition of literature. The correspondence with Idomeneus quoted in the previous essay reappears, and segues into another passage, in which Plutarch observes that the Epicureans did not condemn grief and sorrow in response to the death of a friend (pp. 95-6). As Heßler explains, Epicurus emphasizes elsewhere that fond memories of past interactions with these friends is sweet and can produce pleasure even in the midst of suffering (pp. 96-8). The sentiment is illustrated by parallels from Plato and from funeral speeches, conveying Epicurus' theme of strength in the face of tragedy, whether among members of the polis in times of war or among members of the Garden as concerns life in general (pp. 98-102). Heßler closes with an examination of Hyperides' funeral speech for the victims of the Lamian War, which underscores the pleasure of remembering fallen soldiers, the benefits of such commemoration for the entire population and the importance of not fearing death (pp. 102-7). Plato provides a link to the next essay, in which Erler explores the rhetorical background of the technique of "taking up a starting point" (aphormēn labein) in the works of Colotes, Philodemus of Gadara and Sextus Empiricus. After Colotes, Erler introduces an example of "taking up a starting point" from Callimachus vis-à-vis Plato before turning his attention to Philodemus, who similarly takes Homer out of context in On the Good King according to Homer for the purpose of offering moral and political advice that is consistent with Epicurean ethics (pp. 118-21). After more examples from Sextus, who underscores philosophers' use of the technique for exegesis and therapy (Erler uses the phrase interpretatio medicans), the chapter ends with a consideration of the rhetorical origins of "starting points" (aphormai) based on key passages from Euripides (pp. 121-4).

Morel's essay offers two considerations regarding experience and demonstration in Epicurean "canonic." The first is that Epicurus' rejection of the necessity of demonstration in seeking out the truth should be interpreted in its proper context: for Epicurus, empirical observation and words used in accordance with their obvious meanings reveal truth more clearly than do fancy definitions or dialectical reasoning (pp. 132-3). Morel then moves on to Philodemus' methodological treatise On Signs, which adds to what we know about Epicurean empiricism and epistemology within the context of logical debates with the Stoics. He argues that, through the observations of similar events in nature (e.g., motion), one may infer something through analogy about what is not manifest (e.g., the void), the truth of which is necessary and is guaranteed by the reliability of clear sense perceptions rather than by formal propositions (pp. 134-8). Morel ends with a consideration of the differences of approach between Epicurean and Aristotelian apodeixis of invisible realities (pp. 138-45). Konstan's short contribution explores the issue of where in the psyche mental pleasures are experienced. Having discussed the difference between the rational part of the soul (animus) and the non-rational part (anima), and having distinguished between katastematic and kinetic pleasures (pp. 151-5), he identifies mental pleasures as ataraxia, which is katastematic, and chara, which is kinetic (pp. 155-6). Introducing an analogy by way of explanation, he concludes that these mental pleasures are experienced or perceived by the non-rational part of the soul (pp. 157-8).

Leone's chapter looks at the different influences on Epicurus' view of the nature of winds, and how these contribute, through analogy or similarity, to the development of certain doctrines. A brief overview of the role of winds in the works of poets like Homer and Hesiod, as well as in the more "scientific" treatises of pre-Socratic thinkers, illustrates the context in which Epicurus adapts and challenges such views, but with an important difference regarding intent: for the Master, the study of celestial phenomena is essential only because it leads to the elimination of false fear and the attainment of ataraxia (pp. 160-4). Leone then identifies a treatise of Theophrastus dealing with the origins and dynamics of meteorological phenomena as another important source for Epicurus (pp. 166-8). The study concludes by looking at how Epicurus and Lucretius employ various analogies involving everyday experiences in order to elucidate invisible realities like wind, which conceptually resembles the approach of Empedocles (pp. 169-73). Following this is Verde's examination of a late antique commentary on Aristotle's Physics and how it contributes to our understanding of the development of Epicurean doctrine. The evidence from Simplicius deals with a series of interconnected refutations of atomistic theory, such as the notion that division ad infinitum is impossible because atoms are "partless" (amerē). In the case of this first example, Aristotle's criticism led Epicurus to state (like Democritus) that such division is impossible, but (unlike Democritus) not because atoms are partless; rather, it is impossible because they are "impassive" or apathē (pp. 180-3). The second case involves Aristotle's convictions regarding the divisibility of space and time, which threatened the indivisibility of atoms; this resulted in the Epicurean assertion that atoms move through indivisible units of space and at the same speed (pp. 183-5). The final case Verde introduces is the observation of Simplicius and Themistius concerning the troubling consequences for movement of this very assertion, which Epicurus addresses by introducing a concept that is rather obscure and does not appear in his surviving works, namely, the "granularization" of space, movement and time (pp. 185-91).

Hammerstaedt next introduces evidence from Diogenes of Oenoanda's famous inscription, on which a treatise concerning old age is partly preserved. Drawing from different sources on the same topic, Hammerstaedt explores Diogenes' convictions regarding the benefits and advantages of being old, beginning with his criticism of the negative descriptions of old age (pp. 200-2). Other fragments reveal quotations from Homer's epics concerning Laertes and Nestor, whom later authors like Cicero and Plutarch defend as examples of the peace and wisdom that accompany old age. Of particular interest is a damaged fragment referring to a passage from the Iliad, which is a description either of Nestor's voice (1.247-9) or Achilles' anger (18.107-11) as "sweeter than honey" (pp. 202-5). This leads to a consideration of the differences between the temperaments of young and old men, which, according to Cicero, explains why senior citizens make the best leaders. Diogenes supports the idea of such men governing the state and denies that defects like dementia are necessarily the byproducts of old age (pp. 204-7). Hammerstaedt concludes with a fragment that perhaps relates to the folly of desiring lavish funeral rites (pp. 208-9). Spinelli's essay closes the volume with an examination of the relationship between Epicurean and Skeptic arguments against divine providence. After explaining Epicurus' description of the nature of the gods as undying, perfectly blessed and completely removed from all human affairs (pp. 214-23), Spinelli considers the evidence from Lactantius regarding arguments in support of Epicurus' apronoēsia (pp. 223-5). At this point the focus shifts from Lactantius to Sextus, whose Outlines of Pyrrhonism shows some engagement with Epicurean criticism of providence as a doctrine, particularly in response to the Stoics. As Spinelli says, however, the "Santa Alleanza" between these two philosophical traditions is not perfect: unlike Epicurus, the Skeptics hold no beliefs about the nature of the gods (instead, they have a "teologia elementare della consuetudine"), but like him they subject everything to empirical observation in investigating the "disegno razionale che governa la realtà" (pp. 225-9).

This volume raises important questions for the study of Epicureanism throughout the centuries and offers many intriguing observations along the way. Mistakes are inevitable, but they are few and never present the reader with obstacles to comprehension. Overall, these essays clarify key doctrines of Epicurus that are often misunderstood and explore them in various contexts, hence contributing to a better understanding of life within the Garden.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017


Stéphane Marchand, Pierre Ponchon, Gorgias de Platon suivi de Éloge d'Hélène de Gorgias. Traduction, Introduction et Notes. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2016. Pp. 399. ISBN 9782251446028. €17.00.

Reviewed by Roberta Ioli, University of Rome Tor Vergata / University of Bologna (

Version at BMCR home site

Secondo la testimonianza di Ateneo, Gorgia, dopo aver letto il dialogo platonico che porta il suo nome, avrebbe riconosciuto l'abilità di Platone nel "prendere in giro" (82A15a DK). Tuttavia, il Gorgia non può essere ridotto a una semplice burla: è invece guidato da un intento serissimo, che il libro di Marchand e Ponchon tenta di ricostruire anche alla luce del confronto diretto con l'opera del sofista. Gli Autori propongono una traduzione in francese del Gorgia di Platone, seguita da una traduzione dell'Encomio di Elena di Gorgia. Ogni traduzione è preceduta da un'introduzione ampia e dettagliata e da una partizione argomentativa del testo. A seguire, un'appendice cronologica con gli eventi principali compresi tra il 512 a.C. (spedizione di Dario contro gli Sciti) e il 338 a.C. (morte di Isocrate), ordinati in base ai riferimenti testuali rintracciabili nel Gorgia. Chiude il volume una bibliografia ragionata, divisa in letteratura primaria (edizioni e traduzioni) e secondaria, a sua volta organizzata in base ai nuclei tematici e problematici ritenuti più rilevanti.

Il Gorgia può essere considerato il testo fondativo della separazione tra filosofia e retorica, la prima caratterizzata, nell'ottica platonica, dal discorso intorno alla verità, la seconda dall'interesse esclusivo per l'eloquenza. In continuità con una lunga tradizione di studi, viene suggerito dagli Autori che fu probabilmente lo stesso Platone a introdurre per primo il termine "retorica" per indicare quella specifica tecnica del logos persuasivo che, nell'autonomia dalla filosofia come disciplina del vero, è destinata a un profondo impoverimento del proprio statuto epistemico. Viene poi sottolineato come, nel dialogo, Gorgia non sia mai definito "sofista", ma solo "retore". Distinguere sofistica e retorica offre a Platone un duplice vantaggio strategico: da un lato gli permette di separare Callicle e Polo da Gorgia (a differenza, infatti, dei suoi discepoli, e di Callicle in particolare, il maestro non promette mai di insegnare la virtù, ma l'arte di ben parlare); dall'altro, tale divaricazione consente a Platone di riflettere sulla questione che più gli sta a cuore, quella di un'arte della parola che si concentra esclusivamente sulla τέχνη τῶν λόγων e sulla pratica argomentativa a fini politici.

La critica platonica allo statuto della retorica come technē non coincide con la messa in discussione della sua utilità o della potenza dei suoi effetti, ma denuncia la mancanza di una seria riflessione da parte dei retori intorno alla finalità della loro pratica. Tale critica, inoltre, si basa su due obiezioni principali: una di tipo epistemologico e una di ispirazione morale. Per la prima, la retorica non è una vera technē perché non è pratica razionale, ma solo empirica; è semmai ἄλογον πρᾶγμα (465a6) o τριβή (463b4), costruita sui presupposti di un metodo congetturale. L'obiezione morale, invece, si concentra sulla finalità dell'autentica technē che è sempre un agire in vista del bene o del meglio, mentre la retorica pare priva di un chiaro orientamento o guidata esclusivamente da fini utilitaristici a vantaggio del retore.

Il Gorgia è un dialogo ricchissimo di allusioni storiche: fortemente ostile alla democrazia ateniese, Platone ne individua le figure più rappresentative in Temistocle e Pericle, che meglio incarnano la fallimentare politica espansionistica e democratica della città, le cui principali attività, dalle pratiche giudiziarie alla politica al teatro, finiscono per essere assimilate a un esercizio di pura retorica. La democrazia stessa, con la sua idea di uguaglianza e l'esaltazione della massa, è retorica. La similitudine tra salute e malattia, che attraversa a più riprese il dialogo, è evocata anche a proposito della critica alla politica imperialistica, considerata il morbo della città, così come il morbo è un'infezione del corpo (518c-d). La riflessione morale si intreccia con quella più strettamente storico-politica, mostrando come la divaricazione tra retorica e filosofia diventi insanabile anche nell'uso del linguaggio. Termini condivisi come franchezza di parola (parrēsia), bene e giustizia sono interpretati da Socrate e Callicle in maniera inconciliabile: il piacere di cui parla Callicle non potrà mai concidere con il fare o il volere il bene; analogamente, la parrēsia va strappata all'artificiosità retorica per diventare parola di coraggio ed espressione di benevola sincerità; infine, la giustizia di Socrate non potrà mai essere il diritto del più forte, ma solo la scienza del bene.

Nel confronto tra Socrate e i tre retori, Platone mostra una diversa considerazione dei suoi interlocutori, ed è indubbio che l'atteggiamento verso Gorgia riveli un rispetto molto maggiore di quello tributato ai suoi due allievi, testimoni della sofistica deteriore. Tuttavia, il Gorgia si configura come un dialogo tra sordi, in cui Socrate finisce per porsi domande e darsi risposte: la conversione alla vita filosofica richiede evidentemente altri mezzi rispetto alla pura argomentazione. A questo scacco risponde forse anche la scelta di presentare il mito finale sul giudizio delle anime: falliti il dialogo e l'elenchos come strumenti per confutare Callicle, viene introdotto un mito escatologico che, benché problematico in un dialogo che si propone di stabilire, contro la retorica, le condizioni per un uso razionale del discorso, è però tanto più efficace quanto più l'elenchos ha fallito. Il mito può allora considerarsi, come suggeriscono Marchand e Ponchon, un racconto dalla validità argomentativa, il cui fine non è quello di sancire il trionfo ultimo della giustizia per anime che saranno ricompensate o punite in base alla loro condotta morale, ma quello di illustrare, ancora una volta in perfetta coerenza con la finalità del dialogo, il divario incolmabile tra una maniera retorica di giudicare (davanti a una folla stolta che si ferma alle apparenze) e una filosofica, in cui l'anima è posta, finalmente nuda, di fronte a un giudice saggio, in grado di sondarne in profondità la natura. Parallelamente, all'elenchos retorico dei tribunali e delle contese eristiche si contrappone l'elenchos filosofico che ha a cuore la giustizia dell'anima e la verità intorno alla sua condotta. Resta dunque la domanda cruciale dell'intero dialogo: come bisogna vivere? (cfr. 487e-488a). La vita filosofica finisce per coincidere con il modello di vita socratico, con il suo metodo di ricerca della migliore hairēsis e con l'indagine sulle motivazioni che guidano le nostre azioni.

In questa direzione gli Autori individuano infine due principali elementi di novità del Gorgia: si tratta del primo dialogo che pone esplicitamente il problema della scelta del miglior modo di vivere come questione personale e universale insieme, a cui tutti sono chiamati a rispondere affrontando il dilemma tra vita retorica e vita filosofica. Una seconda specificità del dialogo consiste nella particolare concezione della vita filosofica, che non è intesa come pura attività teoretica e contemplativa staccata dalla comunità degli uomini, ma come pratica politica legata alla riflessione sulla giustizia e sul bene.

Nella seconda parte del libro, l'Encomio di Elena viene introdotto non solo come esempio di quelle epideixeis a cui Platone fa riferimento all'inizio del Gorgia (447b), ma anche perché il cuore dell'orazione gorgiana è la stessa questione discussa nel dialogo platonico: lo statuto del logos, il suo potere, il suo legame con il piacere. Per comprendere dunque finalità e obiettivi polemici del dialogo è necessario non perdere di vista l'orazione di Gorgia. Gli Autori si pongono l'annoso problema di come conciliare il trattato gorgiano Peri tou mē ontos, in cui si sostiene la non comunicabilità dell'essere e del sapere, con un'orazione che fa della potenza del logos il suo centro propulsivo (Hel. 8-14). La risposta che viene suggerita si pone in continuità con una tradizione di studi ormai consolidata, che vede nel PTMO la critica alla filosofia nella sua pretesa di instaurare un rapporto privilegiato con la verità e la persuasione, dunque nella sua presunzione di primeggiare sulle altre modalità di argomentazione. Mentre però si tende generalmente a distinguere le finalità del logos filosofico (PTMO) da quelle del logos retorico (orazioni), la tesi di Marchand e Ponchon è che Gorgia non stia mettendo in discussione l'efficacia del discorso filosofico in quanto persuasione razionale, ma solo la sua pretesa esclusività.

La retorica è troppo spesso ridotta, per un pregiudizio moderno, alla dimensione puramente formale del linguaggio, e la valutazione delle orazioni gorgiane rischia di non sfuggire a questo pregiudizio. Contro le letture che privilegiano un'interpretazione magica e irrazionale della retorica, gli Autori insistono sugli aspetti che confermano la centralità del logos come argomentazione razionale, dal procedimento apagogico alla logica del verosimile (eikos), di cui Gorgia, pur non essendone l'inventore, ha fatto un uso sistematico. La scelta dunque di tradurre la maggior parte delle occorrenze di logos con "argument" (così come nel dialogo di Platone) corrisponde alla volontà di rispettarne la natura unitaria, pur nelle diverse manifestazioni. Forse su questo punto varrebbe però la pena considerare la specificità dei diversi logoi che Gorgia analizza, introdotti inoltre da puntuali formule di passaggio (come quella attestata tra Hel. 9 e 10, nella transizione dalla trattazione del logos poetico a quello magico, che invece gli Autori assimilano in un'unica argomentazione).

Che il Gorgia di Platone possa essere letto come la risposta della filosofia alla concezione retorica del discorso viene confermato da numerosi richiami intertestuali: la questione dell'onnipotenza del logos; il tema del kosmos, concetto sicuramente programmatico per Gorgia dal momento che è posto in apertura dell'orazione e ampiamente attestato anche nel dialogo platonico; il parallelismo tra potere dei logoi e medicina; la definizione del logos poetico (per la quale gli Autori parlano di una "quasi-citation" tra Hel. 9 e Gorg. 502c). Costante e puntuale è inoltre il rovesciamento degli argomenti gorgiani da parte di Platone, nel tentativo di spogliare la retorica del suo valore, mostrando che la sua presunta onnipotenza riposa in realtà sul supremo inganno della lontananza dalla verità.

Per la traduzione del Gorgia gli Autori hanno seguito l'edizione del testo greco di Eric Robertson Dodds (1959), a parte pochissimi casi segnalati in apertura, due dei quali mi paiono degni di nota: la scelta di adottare in 464b8, 464c2, 465c5 la lectio δικαστική (piuttosto che δικαιοσύνη), consegnataci dal manoscritto F, comporta che nel regno della politica le due arti in stretto rapporto l'una con l'altra siano l'attività legislatrice (νομοθετική) e quella giudiziaria (δικαστική), e non la virtù della giustizia; quanto alle forme peggiorative, l'attività legislatrice degenera in sofistica, quella giudiziaria in retorica. Altro cambiamento rispetto all'edizione Dodds è in 484b7, dove si preferisce seguire la lezione dei manoscritti (βιαίων τὸ δικαιότατον) piuttosto che restituire il testo di Pindaro (fr. 169 Snell), come appare in Aristide e nello scolio a Pind., Nem. 9.35 (δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον). Ne risulta che Platone avrebbe modificato il verso pindarico in modo che così risuoni nelle intenzioni di Callicle: "faisant violence à ce qu'il y a de plus juste", e non "justifiant la plus grande violence" (nota 47 p. 223). Si aprono in questo caso due ordini di problemi: il primo è legato al fatto che Platone cita correttamente il frammento pindarico in Leg. 715a1-2 (ma in questo caso si può pensare, come fa Wilamowitz, a un copista più affidabile o, come suggeriscono Marchand e Ponchon, a una volontaria manipolazione del testo nel Gorgia). La difficoltà maggiore riguarda la lectio tradita βιαίων τὸ δικαιότατον accolta solo da Libanio (con accento βιαιῶν), ma indifendibile soprattutto perché l'ipotetico verbo βιαιόω non è altrove attestato. Per la traduzione dell'Encomio di Elena è stata invece seguita, pressoché concordemente, l'edizione di Francesco Donadi (1982).

L'assenza del testo greco non rende sempre facile valutare le scelte di traduzione degli Autori, soprattutto quando si tratta di rendere i giochi etimologici e le assonanze dell'originale gorgiano, ma anche del dialogo platonico, che spesso fa il verso allo stile del sofista (ad esempio in 466b1, dove manca un'esplicita resa del poliptoto ironicamente usato da Socrate a imitazione dello stile gorgiano). Inoltre, benché la bibliografia sia ricca e ben strutturata, talvolta è assente nel testo un richiamo puntuale alla storia degli studi che avrebbe invece potuto rafforzare la posizione degli Autori, mostrandone punti di rottura o di continuità rispetto alla tradizione.

Nel complesso, comunque, il libro rappresenta senza alcun dubbio uno strumento valido e serio per affrontare la questione del rapporto tra retorica e filosofia, e ci invita a ripensare Gorgia alla luce di Platone, ma anche viceversa: se infatti Platone fu lettore certamente molto critico nei confronti di Gorgia, fu d'altra parte costretto—suo malgrado—a confrontarsi con l'indiscusso maestro del logos.

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Frederick Jones, The Boundaries of Art and Social Space in Rome: The Caged Bird and other Art Forms. Bloomsbury classical studies monographs. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. Pp. xii, 196. ISBN 9781472526120. $114.00.

Reviewed by Victoria Austen-Perry, Kings College London (

Version at BMCR home site

What constitutes art in the Roman world? This complex question is at the heart of Jones' new book, which offers an ambitious reflection on the boundaries of art in the Roman imagination. His volume focuses on four cultural phenomena from the Late Republic and Early Empire—the Roman garden, the garden painting, tapestry, and the domestic caged bird—and uses them as test-cases against which a number of typically 'artistic' features are measured. This case-study approach dictates the structure of the book: preface, introduction ('Art'), four chapters each dealing with one of the test-cases, and a conclusion ('Self Projecting Inside and Out').

Together, the preface and introduction set out the author's justification for choosing his four test-cases, and provide us with a working framework within which we can approach them. The subject matter and material discussed here are hardly new, but it is important for the author to set out his own parameters for considering "what makes art art". The immediate problem he faces, of course, is that 'art' is still a charged term without an agreed working definition. The boundaries of art are fluid and "subject to ideological and evaluative dispute and to social and intellectual prejudices and predictions" (p. 11). In response, Jones offers us a comprehensive list of factors that may contribute to the categorization of an artifact as 'art': the prestige of the work; the level of public display; the aristocratic buying audience; the production of the artifact from the producer's point of view; external and cultural satisfaction; pricing; expectation of 'meaning'; the artist's intention; and the consensus of the viewers. The author aims to use these factors as a framework within which we can "investigate how artifacts of various kinds impinge upon social space and contribute to the art-user's self-projection, how they work, and whether or not they are called art" (p. 16).

Each test-case raises its own intriguing issues. Chapter 2 ('The Roman Garden') deals with the gardens of Rome from c. 60 BC–AD 60, and sets them within the context of identity, imagination, and cognitive awareness. After framing the book in terms of the boundaries of art, the author puts pressure on these boundaries by first discussing an artifact that we would not generally regard as a work of art in the traditional sense. Undoubtedly, the most unique and compelling part of this chapter is Jones' assertion that the physical and social architecture of the garden within the aristocratic domus had such a profound effect on the cognitive development of the Roman child that it dictated the ways in which the Roman adult thought about and interacted with the outside world.1 This argument hinges on the notion that we mentally map the world as a roughly concentric set of insides and outsides superimposed upon one another over time. At an abstract level, experience tells us that inside equals safe and warm while outside equals unpredictable and unknown; but the concepts of inside and outside are not static, since what is deemed 'safe' by a child grows in the course of their development. Applying this theory to an analysis of the peristyle garden, Jones argues that the domus and the garden retain a special sense of innerness because they form the "original inside" of the cognitive process. This special status, coupled with the multi-sensory experience of the garden and its emphasis on play (also formative for a child), promotes the learning of a set of patterns that can be expanded to fit the larger worlds the developing individual will have to engage with. Jones demonstrates how the opposition between inside and outside first expressed in the domus-garden relationship can be transferred to other dyads within the Roman world (e.g. town-country, client-patron, Rome-provinces).

The opposition between inside and outside entails a boundary, and the notion of boundaries becomes increasingly important as Jones moves on to chapter 3 ('The Garden Room at Prima Porta'). Using the specific example of Livia's Garden Room, the author aims to reflect on the following question: if one of the two entities, the garden and the garden painting, can claim status as 'art', what are the grounds upon which we can deny the status to the other? The first section of the chapter covers a general description of the garden painting's composition and significance (pp. 59-67), particularly focusing on the three levels of boundary at play in the room—real, represented, and imaginary—and how they manifest and embody the tensions between inside and outside as discussed in chapter 2. Jones then pushes into more unfamiliar and perhaps controversial territory. In response to the lack of columns within the composition, the author suggests that there may have been actual columns (perhaps wooden) in the room that acted as illusionary 'support' for the ceiling above. This is a provocative suggestion, based on relatively scant archaeological evidence;2 and it appears to be driven by Jones' disbelief in an unsupported roof as an "adventurous essay in fabulous architecture" (p. 70). In this and the preceding chapter, the author clearly demonstrates that the Romans delighted in playing with boundaries, and yet he does not appear willing to extend this notion of play to a full-scale immersion experiment that removes even vertical support. Whether or not we agree with the notion of illusionary columns in this particular example, the potential for a sort of inside-out peristyle as a lived-in art installation is certainly intriguing.

In the penultimate paragraph of chapter 3, Jones briefly introduces the concept of the caged bird by likening the guests of Livia's Garden Room to the caged nightingale within its painted walls: the bird is enclosed and surrounded by nature within the painting, just as the guests are within the room; and both engage with the room to become "collaborators in its expression" (p. 74). It seems strange, then, that the author's full-scale analysis of the caged bird does not follow directly on in the next chapter. Instead, it forms the basis of chapter 5 ('The Caged Bird'), where it is considered under the headings of luxury and craftsmanship; metaphoric content; cognition, mental modeling, and drama; and social content (collectability, value, and fashion). In this way, Jones' analysis in this chapter engages most explicitly with the framework set out in chapter 1 concerning the definition of art. Of particular interest is the way in which the caged bird is seen as contributing to the cognitive development of the citizen, as already explored in chapter 2. Jones sees the birdcage as a scale model of the human home, a "recursive house within a house", noting that, when Trimalchio's magpie in his golden cage greets the guests, it welcomes them both to Trimalchio's house and its own.3 The caged bird thus becomes an image of the home, its owners, and its dramas. Catullus 2, for example, (pp. 109-11) uses role- play centered on his pet sparrow as a means of working out his feelings for Lesbia—the formative play learnt in the garden is transferred to the role-play used in adult life, and this is implicit in the way Catullus interacts with the sparrow (the ludic element is emphasized by iocari, ludere). It should be noted, of course, that there is no explicit mention of a cage in Catullus, nor in many of the other poems featuring birds, but Jones argues that any reference to a bird as a pet does imply a cage by default (p. 101).

Chapter 4 ('Tapestry in Rome') feels in many ways like the odd one out of the four test-cases. The three other examples have an obvious connection to nature, and they are also shown to contribute to cognitive development in the way they map out and embody the various sets of boundaries within the domus. The analysis of tapestry, however, does not engage directly with either of these factors—Jones quite directly states that, for textiles "there is not so much to say in this regard". In the course of the chapter, the author analyses four Latin passages centered around an ecphrasis of an imaginary textile—Catullus 64 and three accounts of weaving by Ovid4—and uses these examples to demonstrate how, although often fantastical, the tradition of describing representational textile points to an elevated status for textile in general by association with poetry. A key part of Jones' discussion involves the distinction between textile as art and textile as mere craft; and he demonstrates how the ability to convey 'meaning' is integral to establishing this distinction—meaning, and the participation of the subjective viewer in processing that meaning, is viewed as fundamental to the production of textile 'art'.

Creating a coherence between the four chosen test-cases is perhaps the biggest challenge for the author.5 Each test-case on its own delves into a potentially huge and wide-ranging set of topics, and the conclusions in each section relating specifically to the author's central questions are relatively minor; but these threads are eventually brought together in the conclusion. Although the inclusion of tapestry breaks the coherence established by the other three examples, Jones is successful in arguing for the inclusion of all four as "potential art" by drawing our attention to their shared characteristics: they are all framed as elements of visual culture, bound up with the space of the elite domus or villa; they all impact on social space; they are all concerned with the self-projection of the owner; and they are all implicated in the mindset of the society that produced them. He invites us to think of the domus as a sort of themed art-assemblage in its own right, a purposeful arrangement of various artifacts designed to project a metaphorical portrait of its owners. We do not have to accept that every artifact ticks all the boxes from the list of contributory artistic features, but they do all participate in the same cultural language, which is constantly reinforced by a complex pattern of insides and outsides (a pattern shaped by, and helping to shape, the resident's mind). The boundary between art and 'not-art' is clearly fluid, but Jones argues that there is an emergent consensus between artistic objects that prioritizes aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual content, as demonstrated by the four test-cases and the overarching 'system' of the domus.

Overall, this book succeeds in its central tenet of investigating the boundaries of art. Although space only allows for four test-cases, the author's working framework for a definition of art could surely be used to interrogate other artifacts found in the domus. The use of cross-media evidence makes the book approachable to scholars of both literature and material culture; and the emphasis on nature and cognitive awareness in three of the test-cases will make it especially appealing to those interested in landscape, spatial studies, and psychogeography. Jones' brisk style does take some getting used to and may be challenging for some readers, but it is a worthwhile read. The text is supplemented by ten grayscale images, and pertinent endnotes and bibliography. The endnotes are a particularly useful supplement to the discussions of cognitive theory, a topic likely unknown to many readers. There are a few typographical errors, but none that impede the author's meaning.


1.   This notion builds on a 'brief flirtation' with the idea in his previous work on Virgil's Eclogues. BMCR 2012.08.26.
2.   M. Gabriel, Livia's Garden Room at Prima Porta (New York, 1955), 5.
3.   Pet. Sat. 28.9.
4.   The three weaving narratives from Ovid's Metamorphoses discussed are the daughters of Minyas (4.1-415); Philomela (6.412-676); and Arachne (6.575-87).
5.   Note that versions of chapters 2, 3 and 5 have appeared in Mnemosyne 67(5), Latomus 72, and Syllecta Classica 24.

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Katarzyna Marciniak (ed.), Our Mythical Childhood... : The Classics and Literature for Children and Young Adults. Metaforms, 8. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xv, 526. ISBN 9789004313422. $202.00.

Reviewed by Nadya Williams, University of West Georgia (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

As a Classicist and a mother, I have been following with excitement for over a decade now the publication of literature on Classical themes for children and young adults. My eleven-year-old is an avid reader and has enjoyed such books as the Harry Potter series, and anything by Rick Riordan. Thus, when I heard of this volume, I was curious to see what academics might have to say about the books that I have read with my son. On a less scholarly note, I had also hoped to get ideas for what else we could read. The volume fulfilled both goals, to an extent, but overall this turned out to be a very different book than I expected, which is by no means a bad thing.

As the title states, this is a book that surveys the place of the Classics in literature for children and young adults. What perhaps does not come across as fully until one holds this 526-page volume in one's hands, is that this is a very comprehensive survey that looks at the borrowings from the Greco-Roman world in children's literature from all around the globe. Since the volume contains a grand total of twenty-six case-study essays, in addition to an introductory chapter, this review cannot address each contribution but will consider the volume's strengths and weaknesses mostly as a body.

An obvious strength of the collection is its ambitious coverage of the reception of the Classics in literature for children and young adults in such diverse locations as Slovenia, Russia, Israel, and even Japan, in addition to the usual suspects (yes, there are two chapters on Harry Potter, although nothing on Percy Jackson). The temporal scope of coverage is as impressive as the geographical, with coverage from antiquity to the present, although the volume is largely skewed towards the last century or so, for reasons that become readily apparent when reading the volume's introduction and Wilfried Stroh's chapter surveying Latin books for children. The idea of literature specifically for children is, they argue, a fairly modern phenomenon, and one greatly influenced by such Enlightenment thinkers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The project's inclusion of scholars from all over Europe, as well as the United States and Kenya, is equally impressive, and is likely a consequence of the volume's genesis as a special project on the Classics and children's literature between East and West at the University of Warsaw's Centre for Studies on the Classical Tradition. A special highlight of the volume, at least for this reviewer, is a fascinating series of five essays on Aesop's fables and their reception in different national literatures. Another high point is Katarzyna Marciniak's concluding essay on mythological fan fiction, a genre that blurs the old and the new like no other.

While it is impossible to address all of the volume's individual contributions in further detail, I would like to comment further on several essays that stood out to me. I should note that the singling of these four essays is not meant to suggest that the rest are not worthy of comment.

The first part of the book presents a variety of case studies on the appropriation of the Classics in different regions of the world. In his essay on the legacy of the Classics in modern Greek literature for children, P. Kordos takes an ethnographic approach to analyzing the relationship of children who grow up in modern-day Greece to the ruins of Ancient Greece amidst which they literally live, about which they learn increasingly more at each level in their schooling, and about which they read even in works of fiction. Kordos argues that children initially take a matter-of-fact approach to the ancient world and its place in their lives, as exemplified by such everyday phenomena as the use of an ancient arch as a goal for a game of soccer. Public school education, however, over time imbues the children with a greater sense of awe about the legacy of the Ancient Greeks, and their duty to preserve it. But popular fiction for children adds an element of emotion, and connects the ancient ruins to the phenomena of modern life in Greece. One of the three books that Kordos discusses, The Statue That Was Cold, tells the story of an ancient Greek statue from the first century BC. The statue is that of a little boy, and is described as a refugee who is missing his motherland. The overall sense of the book is that of nostalgia for the past. Kordos notes that his own son did not like the book, and concludes the chapter with an exhortation for "less emotional overtones, less politics, and more fun in books for children with ancient themes" (p. 142). While this is a sound recommendation, it may also show the difficulty that scholars may have in relating to children's literature, and especially children's literature from a civilization other than their own. Perhaps a better ethnographic approach to the topic would have been to interview Greek children about their impressions of the books examined in the chapter. 

Edith Hall's essay on Aesop's Fables is one of the gems of the book, and is a standout in the most cohesive part of the book, centering on Aesop and his use in children's literature around the world. Given the popularity of the Fables, Hall asks an intriguing question that hearkens back to the Enlightenment. Are the Fables truly suitable for educating and entertaining young children, the way John Locke and William Godwin recommended, or should we rather side with Rousseau and Paine, who found the Fables to be problematic and potentially damaging to children? Hall sides with the latter, while acknowledging the tremendous influence of the Fables on children's literature. She argues, nevertheless, that the Fables should be best seen as the kind of book that adults believe children should like, because of its focus on animals and the perceived usefulness of its lessons. In reality, however, children do not relate to the Fables, and thus are unlikely to enjoy them or wish to read them at all.

Sheila Murnaghan and Deborah H. Roberts' essay, which opens the third part of the volume, aims to "explore responses to the First World War in texts for children that engage in different ways with the ancient world and present us with oppositions between history and myth, between a more popular and a more rarefied audience, and between celebration of war and the hope for peace" (p. 221). The authors of the chapter aim to show, through such case studies as R. F. Wells's With Caesar's Legions: The Adventures of Two Roman Youths in the Conquest of Gaul, that tales of war, mythology, and heroism abounded in children's literature after the First World War. The message of the works, however, varied based on the author, ranging from praise for the heroism of the fighters to expressing the desire for peace, as seen, for instance, in the writings of Katherine Lee Bates. 

Last but not least, K. Marciniak's fascinating essay concludes the volume by considering the use of ancient Greek and Roman myths in the (arguably) most modern of genres — fan fiction. Marciniak argues that mythological fan fiction seamlessly marries an interest in the Classics with the quest for one's identity on the part of modern youth. The goal of the chapter is three-fold. First, Marciniak aims to present how children and young adults structure and approach their fanfics. The fanfics reflect the writing ability and maturity level of their authors, varying from very poorly written to quite good. Second is the question of whether the creators of mythological fan fiction have a particular canon of works to which they refer most commonly. The surprising answer is that the canon is largely based on the representation of classical myths in modern young adult literature, especially Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson novels. Finally, Marciniak is interested in uncovering the function that such fan fiction serves for its creators. Her argument is that the youthful fans use their writing to cope with common challenges and stress of adolescence while also having some fun. The suitability of ancient myths to these purposes, argues Marciniak, is what makes them truly timeless.

The two weaknesses of the volume are ones that are shared by many such ambitious projects. First, there is no clear overarching thesis to the book as a whole, other than that Classical reception plays an important role in modern literature for children and young adults around the world. Second, and more noticeable, is that the organization of the essays within the volume makes no sense. The volume is divided into four parts, yet most essays could have fit just as well in other sections than the one to which they were assigned. Furthermore, some of the section titles themselves are confusing, such as the title of Part 4, "New Hope: Classical References in the Mission of Preparing Children to Strive for a Better Future." Part 2, on Aesop's Fables and their reception, is the exception to this trend.

These weaknesses notwithstanding, the volume will be a convenient reference work for scholars of children's and young adult literature (the latter being quite a burgeoning field of study now), and thus its appeal is likely to extend well beyond scholars in the field of Classics proper.

Table of Contents

Introduction, "What is a Classic… for Children and Young Adults?"
PART 1. In Search of Our Roots: Classical References as a Shaper of Young Readers' Identity
Wilfried Stroh, "From Aesop to Asterix Latinus: A Survey of Latin Books for Children"
Barbara Milewska-Waźbińska, "Childhood Rhetorical Exercises of the Victor of Vienna"
Katarzyna Jerzak, "The Aftermath of Myth through the Lens of Walter Benjamin: Hermes in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and in Astrid Lindgren's Karlson on the Roof
Jerzy Axer, "A Latin Lesson for Bad Boys, or: Kipling's Tale of the Enchanted Bird"
Valentina Garulli, "Laura Orvieto and the Classical Heritage in Italy before the Second World War"
Agata Grzybowska, "Saul Tschernichowsky's Mythical Childhood: Homeric Allusions in the Idyll Elka's Wedding"
Robert A. Sucharski, "Jadwiga Żylińska's Fabulous Antiquity"
Przemysław Kordos, "A Child among the Ruins: Some Thoughts on Contemporary Modern Greek Literature for Children"
Ewa Rudnicka, "The Reception of Classical Antiquity in Polish Lexicography for Children and Young Adults"
PART 2. The Aesop Complex: The Transformations of Fables in Response to Regional Challenges
Edith Hall, "Our Fabled Childhood: Reflections on the Unsuitability of Aesop to Children"
Peter T. Simatei, "A Gloss on Perspectives for the Study of African Literature versus Greek and Oriental Traditions"
Beata Kubiak Ho-Chi, "Aesop's Fables in Japanese Literature for Children: Classical Antiquity and Japan"
Adam Łukaszewicz, "Vitalis the Fox: Remarks on the Early Reading Experience of a Future Historian of Antiquity in Poland (1950s-1960s)"
David Movrin, "Aemulating Aesopus: Slovenian Fables and Fablers between Tradition and Innovation"
PART 3. Daring the Darkness: Classical Antiquity as a Filter for Critical Experiences
Sheila Murnaghan and Deborah H. Roberts, "Armies of Children: War and Peace, Ancient History and Myth in Children's Books after World War One"
Elena Ermolaeva, "Classical Antiquity in Children's Literature in the Soviet Union"
Elizabeth Hale, "Katabasis 'Down Under' in the Novels of Margaret Mahy and Maurice Gee"
Owen Hodkinson, " 'His Greek Materials': Philip Pullman's Use of Classical Mythology"
Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, "Orpheus and Eurydice: Reception of a Classical Myth in International Children's Literature"
PART 4. New Hope: Classical References in the Mission of Preparing Children to Strive for a Better Future
Lisa Maurice, "Greek Mythology in Israeli Children's Literature"
Joanna Kłos, "Telemachus in Jeans: Adam Bahdaj's Reception of the Myth about Odysseus' Son"
Hanna Paulouskaya, "An Attempt on Theseus by Kir Bulychev: Travelling to Virtual Antiquity
Christine Walde, "Graeco-Roman Antiquity and Its Productive Appropriation: The Example of Harry Potter"
Elżbieta Olechowska, "J. K. Rowling Exposes the World to Classical Antiquity"
Helen Lovatt, "East, West, and Finding Yourself in Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries"
Katarzyna Marciniak, "Create Your Own Mythology: Youngsters for Youngsters (and Oldsters) in Mythological Fan Fiction"
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg, Les chers ennemis: deutsche und französische Altertumswissenschaftler in Rivalität und Zusammenarbeit. Collegium Beatus Rhenanus, 7. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017. Pp. 309. ISBN 9783515116121. €54.00 (pb).

Reviewed by François Gauthier, McGill University (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is found at the end of the review.]

Modern tourists visiting the French region of Burgundy may encounter a large statue of the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix near Alise-Sainte-Reine. On it, one can read: "La Gaule unie, Formant une seule nation, Animée d'un même esprit, Peut défier l'Univers (Gaul united, Forming a single nation, Animated by a common spirit, Can defy the Universe)." The text was taken from Caesar's Gallic War (7.29) and the statue was commissioned by Napoleon III a few years before the Franco-Prussian War. If the same tourists continue their way into Germany and towards Detmold (North Rhine-Westphalia), they might come upon a huge statue dedicated to Arminius (or Hermann), the German leader who defeated a Roman army in the forest of Teutoburg in 9 CE. The statue holds a sword which bears the following inscription: "Deutsche Einigkeit, meine Stärke. Meine Stärke, Deutschlands Macht (German unity, my strength. My strength, Germany's might)." These two monuments are a vivid reminder of how both France and Germany used ancient history to bolster their political agenda in the late 19th century, the period Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg's volume mostly deals with.

Les chers ennemis is a collection of essays previously published by von Ungern-Sternberg along with a few unpublished contributions. The volume takes its name from a passage in a letter written by the French scholar Ernest Renan addressed to Theodor Mommsen in the context of the Franco-Prussian War: "Tenez donc pour certain, mon cher ennemi que, quoi que vous disiez ou fassiez, vous aurez toujours en moi un admirateur et un ami." (9) The book offers an overview of the relations between French and German classicists in roughly the period 1850-1930.

The first two contributions highlight the collaboration between French and German scholars but also their different understanding of Roman history. Vercingetorix and Arminius are depicted through a detailed look at several French and German late 19th century ancient history works. German historians tended to represent Vercingetorix as a tragic hero whose defeat was ultimately positive because it brought about the emergence of Roman culture in Gaul. On the other hand, their French colleagues, especially after 1871, embittered by the war, depicted Arminius and the Germans in an unfavourable light. The most influential of them, Camille Jullian, the volumes of whose seminal Histoire de la Gaule were published before and over the course of World War 1, while praising Mommsen, went on to declare that: "Toute mon histoire de la Gaule est une œuvre d'insurrection contre les pages de Mommsen qui ont pesé sur toute la science française pendant cinquante ans." (59) A troubling feature of nearly all French and German classicists of the time, even men of immense and unequaled erudition such as Mommsen, was to attribute modern features of national character to the ancient Gauls and Germanic tribes.1 Although some scholars acknowledged that this was nothing more than projecting modern ideas into the ancient world, they were more prone to denounce this tendency among their neighbours on the other side of the Rhine than to admit that they were doing the same.2

The discussion on clientelae by Jean-Michel David was originally published in a Franco-German volume in the early 1990s and offers a useful summary of the origins of modern scholarship on clientelae. David highlights the fact that the first German studies on clientelae in the 19th century focused on the patricians in early Rome as the matrix of Roman society whereas those of the early 20th century (most famously Gelzer) tried to understand the functioning of the entire system. David's chapter is followed by a short response from von Ungern-Sternberg. The next essay zooms in on the work of Gaston Boissier, Matthias Gelzer, and Eugen Täubler on the Roman republic. Von Ungern-Sternberg shows how the society in which each historian lived influenced his perception of Roman history. While Boissier witnessed the power politics of his time in Paris, Gelzer observed the declining aristocratic structures in Switzerland. Partly due to this, both focused on the Roman aristocracy in their work at the expense of other social classes. On the other hand, Täubler, who lived in the province of Posen (modern-day Poznań), was influenced by his perception of the Prussian state in arguing that it was the state which was the most important force in society.

Three essays deal with Mommsen and his relations with French classicists. The great German scholar, whose main works were quickly translated in French, was highly praised in France and he was honoured with membership in several sociétés savantes. While happily working with French colleagues, Mommsen was a staunch German patriot and saw war between France and the German states as unavoidable, though allegedly without wishing it. (135) The letters he wrote to the Italian people advocating the conquest of Alsace-Lorraine infuriated many of his colleagues in France.3 Still, some French scholars expressed their admiration for Mommsen's scientific achievements while criticizing his political views.4

"Die deutsch-französische Zusammenarbeit bei der Edition der Inschriften von Delos" is a tale of cooperation and then confrontation. Originally a project profiting from a well-established bond between French and German scholars, the Great War severed this tie, and the work had to be carried on by the French. Collaboration would only slowly resume in the 1920s.

"Vom Ende einer Freundschaft. Maurice Holleaux und Georg Karo im Herbst 1914" opens with a very moving exchange of letters between Maurice Holleaux und Georg Karo who were good friends before the outbreak of the First World War. While being very respectful of each other in their letters, Holleaux and Karo express very contrasting views, each aligning with his country's political agenda. Their discussion mostly focuses on the German shelling of the cathedral of Reims and the early aerial bombing of Paris. Karo's last letter was never granted a response by Holleaux and the two never met again. After the end of the war Karo was very bitter about Germany's treatment by the Entente. He was especially angry at paragraph 231 of the Versailles treaty which made Germany and the Central Powers solely responsible for the outbreak of the war. Karo's bitterness against the Entente did, however, make it possible to retain his position, under the National-Socialist government, at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Athens until 1936, despite his being Jewish. He then wisely took the decision to move to the United States in 1939.

"Deutsche Altertumswissenschaftler im Ersten Weltkrieg" and "Les conséquences de la guerre sur la communauté scientifique en Europe" cover similar themes. Many enlisted classicists were killed in action and the war created a profound divide between German and French scholars. Several works published after the war made comparisons between Sparta and France on the one hand, and Athens and Germany on the other. The French were keen on banning German and Austrian scholars from international scientific conferences. Although initially somewhat successful, the ban gradually lost its power and German scientists were admitted again in the 1920s.

Von Ungern-Sternberg's book will appeal to those interested in the reception and interpretation of classics in the modern world. More generally, it is also relevant for all classicists since it highlights the social and political background in which several key works of ancient history still relevant today were written. It might be tempting for us in the 21st century to look down upon French and German historians of the late 19th century as shamelessly using ancient history to serve the political agenda of their country. But I wonder whether we would really fare better today.

As is perhaps difficult to avoid in a largely bilingual volume, the book contains some typographical errors, mostly concerning French diacritical signs.5 Moreover, since the tome consists of a collection of articles published in various volumes and journals, there are some repetitions between contributions. The title of the book could have specified a more precise time- frame as there is no essay dealing with the period of the Second World War or its aftermath. This was also a time (sadly) in which classical scholars were pressed into service and when ancient history was twisted for political reasons. The idealization of Sparta by the National-Socialists is a notable example. Thus, a more accurate title for the volume would add: 1850-1930.

Despite these minor criticisms, the book is a useful contribution for all those interested in the founding figures of German Klassische Altertumswissenschaft and French études classiques. By putting modern pioneers of ancient history such as Mommsen and Holleaux in context, the volume successfully demonstrates how historians are always the product of their own time, influenced as they are, for better or worse, by the world in which they live.

Table of Contents

Avant-propos. Notizen zu einer deutsch-französischen Zusammenarbeit
Deutsche und französische Altertumswissenschaftler vor und während des Ersten Weltkriegs
Der deutsche Blick im 19. Jahrhundert auf Vercingetorix – der französische auf Arminius und Varus
La clientèle, d'une forme de l'analyse à l'autre (Jean-Michel David)
Forschungen zur Klientel in Rom. Kommentar zum Beitrag von Jean-Michel David
Drei Beiträge zu einer römischen Gesellschaftsgeschichte: Gaston Boissier – Matthias Gelzer – Eugen Täubler
Rezension zu Elisabeth Erdmann, Die Römerzeit im Selbstverständnis der Franzosen und Deutschen. Lehrpläne und Schulbücher aus der Zeit zwischen 1850 und 1918, 2 Bde., Bochum 1992
Rezension zu Sarah Rey, Écrire l'histoire ancienne à l'École française de Rome (1873–1940), Rom 2012
Theodor Mommsen und Frankreich
Mommsen in Frankreich: Übersetzungen und Rezensionen
Theodor Mommsen und Straßburg
Die deutsch-französische Zusammenarbeit bei der Edition der Inschriften von Delos
Vom Ende einer Freundschaft. Maurice Holleaux und Georg Karo im Herbst 1914
Deutsche Altertumswissenschaftler im Ersten Weltkrieg
Les conséquences de la guerre sur la communauté scientifique en Europe
Vorreden zu den CBR-Newslettern 1998 – 1999 – 2000 – 2007 – 2008


1.   p. 58: "[…] Mommsen wie fast alle seine Zeitgenossen den Nationalcharakter für Zeitlos fortdauernd gehalten hat."
2.   p. 70, According to the French scholar Jules Zeller: "Trop souvent l'histoire, en faisant d'Armin [Arminius] un héros de la liberté germaine, lui a prêté des idées classiques de patriotisme qu'il n'avait pas." Zeller goes to say that Vercingetorix is celebrated in France without being a national hero (!).
3.   p. 142: "Vogliamo non la conquista, ma la rivendicazione, vogliamo il nostro, non più, non meno."
4.   p. 157 The French scholar René Pichon wrote: "Nous admirerons en lui [e.g. Mommsen] le professeur d'histoire romaine, mais nous détesterons le professeur de brutalité germanique."
5.   For example: p. 28: operations; p. 33: majorité; p. 35: è (for à), especes, presenter; p. 37: societies; p. 39: democratique, a (for à); p. 41: a (for à); p. 42: tous les déprédrations; p. 44: a (for à); p. 65 trahision; p. 68: représanter; p. 70: und (for une); p. 72: recontre, greco; p. 135: Louis XIV., Italienne et Espagnol; p. 138: ideal,; p. 142 patriot; p. 149: a detester; p. 153 pluspart; p. 155 doleur; p. 156 mâitre; p. 217 Premiere.

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