Monday, October 30, 2017


Arnold Alois Oberhammer, Buchstaben als 'paradeigma' in Platons Spätdialogen: Dialektik und Modell im 'Theaitetos', 'Sophistes', 'Politikos' und 'Philebos'. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde, 353. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. vii, 322. ISBN 9783110462166. $112.00.

Reviewed by Verity Harte, Yale University (

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Based on Oberhammer's University of Hildesheim doctoral dissertation, this worthwhile book is organized around detailed discussion of those passages of the Theaetetus, Sophist, Politicus and Philebus in which Plato explores questions about philosophical method by means of the model of letters and syllables.1 Aptly enough for a book in which the Politicus model of weaving also occupies a central place, the book pursues three, somewhat loosely interwoven threads.

The first and major thread is the announced thesis (1) that in these late dialogues central epistemological and ontological points are expressed and grounded by means of the model of letters and syllable. Stated thus baldly, this thesis might underwhelm. But readers should not be misled: there is considerable substance in the way that Oberhammer unpacks this thesis in the detailed discussions of Chapters Two (primarily on the discussion of the 'dream theory' in the Theaetetus), Four (on the initial use of angling as a paradigm and the later discussion of dialectic in the Sophist), Five (a particularly valuable discussion of the nature and use of paradigm as method in the Politicus) and Six (on τέχνη and the divine method in the Philebus). Indeed, one element of the undoubted value of the book is that any scholar interested in one or more of these late works can expect to find many fine-grained observations that engage and, sometimes, provoke, so that these chapters repay careful reading.

Oberhammer is at his best when, as in the bulk of these chapters, he is working carefully through individual passages in their context. Occasional, more sweeping claims disappoint. For example, while I find it plausible (if, on this point, not especially original) that a broadly "atomistic" picture is foregrounded as a source of epistemological and ontological difficulties in the discussion of the third definition of knowledge in the Theaetetus, Oberhammer's striking assertion (e.g. 69-70, 74-5) that such atomism underlies all three of the dialogue's proposed definitions seems to me far from obvious and I did not find it anywhere fully explained or defended.2

A second thread of the work seeks to set Plato's methodological investigations in an ethical context, encouraged, Oberhammer suggests, by Plato's dramatic, temporal situation of the series, Theaetetus, Sophist, Politicus, in relation to Socrates' trial and execution. This thread is pursued primarily in Chapter Three, focused on certain passages of the Sophist and the Politicus concerned with the character and difficulty of their project of distinguishing sophist, statesman and philosopher, and on the Theaetetus digression (172c-177c). While an attempt to tease out ethical dimensions of Plato's philosophical methodology is certainly to be welcomed, the claims advanced by Oberhammer here struck me as somewhat broad and underdeveloped. No doubt it is true, for example, that in the Theaetetus digression Plato brings together the dimension of wisdom and knowledge and that of the good and happiness (124), and also that knowledge of justice has a central role to play in this connection (123). But I found myself wanting more explanation than offered of how these connections should be fleshed out.

The third and perhaps least developed thread, but one that may in part be intended to bind the other two, concerns what Oberhammer calls "die «Fragilität»" of knowledge (e.g. 295). Fragility here seems to be, not an unstable condition of knowledge itself, but the circumstance that we very often find ourselves not well situated for the achievement of knowledge and, perhaps, that the vehicles required for the acquisition of knowledge may themselves constitute—or be close cousin to what constitute—such a non-ideal circumstance. As a theme, this comes into focus only infrequently over the course of the book. But it is primarily this, I think, that Oberhammer means to prepare us for by discussion of the twin topics of the book's first chapter, focused on passages of the Phaedrus and Cratylus. These topics are: (i) the vexed, but inescapable relation between language and world; (ii) the slippery notion of similarity or likeness, which encompasses the genuine kinships that Oberhammer sees at the heart of dialectical method as well as the method of paradigm, but also the superficial resemblance of misleading or deceptive imitations.

While readers with relevant interests will find good food for thought throughout the book, its central contribution is undoubtedly its rich and close engagement with the letter and syllable passages and the account it builds thereby of the interplay between dialectic, paradigm and τέχνη. While the focus is the specific, concrete paradigm of letters and syllables, what is especially fruitful is Oberhammer's careful analysis of Plato's methodology of paradigm-use in general, what is involved in one thing becoming—and being grasped as—a paradigm for another. In the discussion of the Politicus, this also provides a very helpful framework for understanding the shift that takes place in the dialogue from a focus on the activity of herding to discussion of weaving in the bid to understand the activity of the statesman.

More controversially, Oberhammer has a somewhat complex view of the way in which paradigm and dialectical method interrelate, a view to which the conditions of individuation—a thing being the same as itself and different from others—are central. My concern here is that, while these conditions may indeed be common to the structure of a paradigm and of dialectic, this may be because this is a condition of reasoning quite generally, and not a sign of some particular connection between paradigm and dialectical method. More broadly, while Oberhammer is surely right that the fact that individuation is a condition on combination explains the inclusion of sameness and difference amongst the "greatest kinds" of the Sophist, it is less clear to me how much this contributes to Oberhammer's case for Plato's development of a new, broadly relational conception of being in this passage. I found this element of his discussion somewhat elusive.3

As for τέχνη: dialectic itself is, on Oberhammer's view, a τέχνη; at the same time, dialectical method, the grasp of a unitary domain of being as a complex unity, is a prerequisite of every τέχνη, a somewhat demanding requirement. Oberhammer rightly insists on the deep connections between the divine method characterized in Philebus 16c5-17a5 and τέχνη; and he does a fine job of drawing them out. I was particularly taken with his suggestion that, in this dialogue's brief nod to the story of Theuth's invention of writing, we should distinguish what Theuth discovers (entdecken)—linguistic articulation as a distinct and distinguishable realm of being—and what he invents (erfinden), the method of classifying the phonetic elements thereof. Though Oberhammer does not emphasize the fact, this brings us full circle to the relation between language and reality from which we began with the Cratylus, and raises questions of broader interest about realism that also surface in other places in the book, but which Oberhammer does not directly pursue.

Overall, Oberhammer's book makes a welcome contribution to scholarship on Plato's late metaphysics and epistemology and has the distinct advantage of coming at these subjects with a methodological focus that is less commonly the avenue of approach to them. The book is largely well-produced by the Press, though I did notice some inaccuracies in the printing of Greek.4


1.   Oberhammer wisely favours "Modell" over "Beispiel" as translation of παράδειγμα for reason discussed p. 3, n. 1. I shall use "model" or, simply, "paradigm".
2.   I find it less helpful to describe this atomism, as Oberhammer does, as "ein logisch Atomismus" (e.g. 75). Certainly, the position so characterized is not that of Wittgenstein's Tractatus. In contrast, the "logical atomism" of Wittgenstein and Russell is the point of reference for Gilbert Ryle's posthumous paper "Logical Atomism in Plato's Theaetetus", Phronesis 35 (1990), 21-46.
3.   In this connection, one notable omission from Oberhammer's bibliography is M. M. McCabe, Plato's Individuals (Princeton 1994).
4.   E.g. τάντων for πάντων on p. 271, and a handful of comparable misprints.

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Arjan Zuiderhoek, The Ancient City. Key themes in ancient history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xiii, 225. ISBN 9780521166010. $29.99 (pb).

Reviewed by Gareth Sears, University of Birmingham (

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In his book The Ancient City Arjan Zuiderhoek seeks to explore the character of the Graeco-Roman city from the Archaic period to Late Antiquity. Specifically he aims to examine what he believes are the key features of the Graeco-Roman city that together make them distinct from other forms of urbanism at other periods. This is no small task given the complexities of the theories that he engages with and the potential scope of the subject. That Zuiderhoek is successful in providing a sense of the character of the classical city that could allow for comparison with other city types from other societies, in a relatively short book, is testament to great economy of writing and impressive planning. It is also rather more sophisticated than other brief assessments of the ancient city, although it is also more restricted than some works that examine non-classical urbanism as well. One could potentially argue that the title of Zuiderhoek's book is slightly misleading with the Graeco-Roman city being one particular type of ancient city. Egyptian, Babylonian and other civilisations provide different models of ancient cities and the conflation of 'ancient' with Graeco-Roman could be seen as an example of classical civilisation being perceived as normative for western academic traditions. However, Zuiderhoek's work actually does much to challenge that historic, and indeed current, approach to the ancient world in several of his chapters.

Despite one aim of the book being to provide a framework that would allow for comparison between the classical city and other forms of urbanism in other time periods, Zuiderhoek sensibly eschews much in the way of comparisons to other cultures in time and space except where the models he discusses intrude such comparisons (p. 1, 3). He is, however, clearly alive to literature discussing other urban cultures and to the recent scholarship that has attempted to compare Rome to China for instance (p. 14). The focus is then, squarely, on the classical city, its origins, structure and society, and economy.

The book is organised into ten chapters. Chapter 1 is an excellent introduction to what cities are and the alleged peculiarities of the Graeco-Roman city. Fustel de Coulanges, Weber and Finley are all examined and there is a particularly persuasive response to the Horden and Purcell challenge to the study of the city as an entity in its own right. For Zuiderhoek the city cannot just be an epiphenomenon because of the ecological and demographic impact on its hinterland (16-17).

Chapter 2 examines the origins of the Graeco-Roman city. Key elements in the structure's success were: population growth from the 10th century BC, causing border disputes and militarisation as part of which élites ceded some power in order to create larger forces; the formalisation and codification of law to prevent catastrophic internal disputes and the importance of relatively wide political participation; and, later, the fact that cities were integral to large empires—the Hellenistic kingdoms and the Roman empire—which promoted them outside of their traditional heartlands of the Aegean and Italy.

Chapter 3 'City and Country' provides a compelling analysis of the relationship between the city and its rural territory, dealing with some of the key theses about city networks: Von Thünen's theory, Central Place theory, Rank Size theory and Lo Cascio's arguments that see the Roman empire's high rate of urbanisation as a proxy for agricultural productivity are all addressed. Zuiderhoek's examination of the consumer city model of Finley and others is a robust defence of the concept as a whole, if not of all Finley's arguments. He also notes the differences between the ancient world and the urban networks of the early modern period, pointing to the impact of empire and imperial courts creating a few huge centres to the detriment of middle ranking cities. Perhaps one area that is missing from the analysis is an examination of the relationship that different types of ancient cities might have had with their territories. It is hard to believe that Classical Athens had the same relationship with Attica that the Roman citizens of Carthage had with some of the more distant elements of their territory; organic evolution and colonial implantation could create very different urban-rural relationships—was there a normative relationship?

Zuiderhoek has avoided much physical description or analysis of urban topographies or building types. Given that there are many books that go into detail about different structures and the cultural practices that went on in them this is a generally welcome decision. Chapter 4 'Urban Landscape and Environment' does, however, examine how the city was structured and how it might have been experienced by its inhabitants (see also pp. 29-30). Key debates are again to the fore particularly the debates over disease and population reproduction (including the Urban Graveyard model) and debates over what the structure of the city might mean (here Zuiderhoek is commendably cautious when it comes to Fustel de Coulanges and Rykwert's theories on the city).

'Political Institutions', and particularly debates over where power lay in classical Greek cities and Republican Rome, form the basis of Chapter 5. Oligarchy and democracy, councils and assemblies, popular participation (particularly Millar's thesis) and magistracies are all debated. In general Zuiderhoek's Graeco-Roman city is one characterised (whether they were democracies or oligarchies) by repeated interactions between the elite—those who ran for office—and the rest of the population who either voted for those office holders directly or whose tacit consent was needed to make society work. Zuiderhoek makes a valuable point that the democracy/oligarchy division was not the crucial one and notes that whereas at classical Argos there was a property qualification for the assembly in Sparta the qualification was solely citizenship (p. 89). However, whilst this is strictly speaking true, Sparta had already winnowed out poor Spartans from citizenship because they could not pay their way in the syssition system.

Chapters 6 on 'Civic Ritual and Civic Identity' and 7 on 'Stratification and Mobility' address the ways in which the ancient urban communities worked. In Chapter 7 the pervasive influence of western exceptionalism in approaches to the ancient city is addressed, and most specifically the debate over the existence of a 'middle class' or 'bourgeoisie'. The chapter demonstrates effectively the ways in which different statuses interacted with occupations and wealth in both Athens and Rome. The conclusion that we should see a 'middle group' (p. 129) below the élite, whilst not getting locked into thinking of them as a 'class' in modern terms, is a sensible nuanced position.

Chapter 8 particularly deals with economic specialisation, civic taxation and expenditure and the urban political economy and makes some interesting suggestions about the way in which broad political participation might have encouraged the development of 'human capital' and thus have a positive effect on the economy (p. 148).

Chapter 9 examines whether the cities were city-states and the interaction between cities and larger Mediterranean powers. Zuiderhoek firmly argues against the idea that the cities were states in the modern sense of the word: many were not independent from outside authority even before the Battle of Chaeronea (although, of course, many modern states also cede some independence to other bodies—the European Union springs to mind in particular). This allows Zuiderhoek and others to argue for greater political continuity for cities between the Classical and Hellenistic/Roman periods, with the royal and imperial systems adopting relatively limited predation, partly due to their reliance on the cities for much tax collection.

The danger with a chapter on Late Antiquity at the end of a book on any theme or construct in the ancient world is that it comes across almost as an envoi—an examination of an ending rather than as part of an ongoing process—and is therefore guaranteed to annoy specialists on that part of antiquity. Chapter 10 'The end of the ancient city?', however, deals with the Late Antique period in a brief but rather more sophisticated way than many approaches to the post-third century city. This chapter is not so much about the end of urban settlement that originated in the ancient period as about the end of the 'ancient' aspect of those cities; by the sixth century those cities that remained—and many did—were no longer 'ancient', as their physical environment, political structures, and élites were all now substantially different, and more ad hoc, but they were still urban.

In a book of this length covering such a broad spectrum there are inevitably elements that might have benefitted from further elucidation, and where the reader must restrain themselves from thinking about specific places that do not quite match the model proposed. As Zuiderhoek reminds us, models tell us about a norm and do not cover all variants. However, the necessity for clarification or extension can be seen in various places. One example is city populations (p. 52-4). Although one cannot expect detailed calculations to be put forward for each city, references to where calculations have been made would have been useful, or at least a clearer sense of what is being included in the calculation. For instance, does the 500,000 figure for Carthage include the population of the urban area or the territory? If the former, the figure is surely too high, but if the latter it is difficult to know how it would have been calculated given the lack of clarity on the limits of the dis-contiguous pertica Karthaginiensis.1

Another example where more detail would have been appreciated is Childe's Urban Revolution theory. It is mentioned on several pages, but only two of the ten features of urbanism in his theory—'truly monumental public buildings' and 'economic specialisation'—are actually mentioned (p. 53 and 131). Obviously the reader can go to the original paper for the list, but more comprehensive detail might have been expected to do justice to the importance of the theory.

Finally, as the book avoids describing what a city looks like through any extensive examination of building types (excepting perhaps the agora/forum model, which is given a slightly fuller treatment if not a sustained investigation), perhaps a few more images to illustrate key features would have been useful—the five plans of well-known sites in Chapter 4 are welcome but fairly limited in what they show.

The Ancient City is an impressive and concise tour of the key features of the Graeco-Roman city as Zuiderhoek perceives them to be. It deals deftly and clearly with a range of important debates regarding key aspects of the city's character —the consumer city and human capital, for instance—and makes some interesting contributions to those debates.


1.   See Hurst, H. 1993. 'Cartagine la nuova Alessandria' in A. Carandini, L. Cracco Ruggini and A. Giardina (eds.) Storia di Roma III.2, Rome: 334-7 (327-37) and Gros, P. 2000. 'Carthage romaine. Résurrection d'une capitale' in C. Nicolet, R. Ilbert and J.-C. Depaule (eds.) Mégapoles méditerranéennes: Géographie urbaine rétrospective. École française de Rome-MMSH-Maisonneuve, Rome; Aix-en-Provence; Paris: 534-44.

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Katharina Waldner, Richard Gordon, Wolfgang Spickermann (ed.), Burial Rituals, Ideas of Afterlife, and the Individual in the Hellenistic World and the Roman Empire. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge, 57. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. Pp. 264. ISBN 9783515115469. €52.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Nicolas Laubry, Université Paris-Est Créteil (

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

Ce volume, issu d'une rencontre tenue à Erfurt en 2012, s'inscrit dans un ensemble plus large de recherches menées depuis plusieurs années au Centre Max Weber. Portant sur le rôle de l'individu dans les religions de l'Antiquité, elles ont déjà donné lieu à plusieurs ouvrages, dirigés notamment par J. Rüpke, le principal promoteur de ces programmes.1 L'une de leurs finalités est de proposer un cadre d'analyse et d'interprétation pour dépasser les approches des religions anciennes orientées par le concept de « polis religion » ou par l'examen de cultes spécifiques. Conçue moins en opposition que comme alternative à celles-ci, cette perspective insiste sur l'action des individus, sur leur appropriation des pratiques ou des discours religieux et sur le rôle de ces derniers dans les processus d'individuation dans les sociétés antiques. Les gestes et les attitudes face à la mort et aux morts constituent donc un champ d'investigation privilégié, à la fois parce qu'ils relèvent de la sphère privée et parce qu'ils sont perçus comme le lieu par excellence où est susceptible de s'exprimer autant une appartenance à un groupe qu'un rapport à soi. C'est précisément l'objet de ce volume, rappelé en introduction par les éditeurs, que de mettre en évidence les interactions de ces pratiques entre elles et avec l'individualité dans un cadre chrono-culturel large, celui de la Méditerranée depuis l'époque archaïque jusqu'à l'époque romaine. Les onze contributions ont été regroupées suivant trois fils directeurs.

La première section sur les conceptions de l'au-delà privilégie les textes, littéraires ou épigraphiques. K. Matijević s'appuie sur les descriptions du sort des défunts dans les poèmes homériques pour discuter de leurs éventuelles mutations à l'époque archaïque. Face aux tenants d'une individualisation précoce qui serait perceptible entre l'Iliade et l'Odyssée et à ceux qui privilégient un cadre fondamentalement stable des attitudes face à la mort, l'auteur adopte une position nuancée qui réfute un développement linéaire et insiste sur la coexistence des représentations, avec une tendance à l'affirmation de la survie individuelle mise prudemment en relation avec l'essor des cultes héroïques. J. Bremmer livre pour sa part une analyse des lamelles d'or orphiques afin de saisir les choix qui s'offraient à l'individu pour construire son destin post mortem à la fin de l'époque classique et à l'époque hellénistique. Il reprend trois étapes structurant le scénario du parcours de l'initié après son trépas (« Le moment de la mort », « la rencontre avec Perséphone », « la destination finale ») et retrace la genèse de leurs composantes : éléments égyptiens pour la topographique de l'au-delà, mystères d'Éleusis pour la formule rituelle et fonds indo-européen pour les prairies du monde souterrain. Il en conclut que ce scénario est le produit d'un bricolage, dont les éléments trahissent une alternative aux idées dominantes véhiculées par exemple dans la poésie homérique ou à celles de la « polis religion ». Centrée sur des épigrammes inscrites des I- IIIe s. p. C., la contribution de M. Obryk rappelle les topiques qui présidaient aux évocations de l'au-delà, puis se concentre sur quelques aspects de l'évocation per negationem au regard du monde des vivants pour terminer sur l'analyse d'un poème romain (IGUR, 1146) illustrant ce motif. Enfin, W. Spickermann livre une synthèse des idées relatives aux pratiques funéraires et aux représentations eschatologiques disséminées dans les œuvres de Lucien de Samosate, dont les critiques bien connues portent tant sur les conceptions homériques ou platoniciennes des groupes lettrés que sur celles des couches populaires. La comparaison avec les idées de l'apologue chrétien Tatien, annoncée par le titre, reste toutefois ébauchée.

Le deuxième ensemble de contributions est regroupé dans une section dont le titre affirme un lien plus étroit avec la problématique annoncée : la construction de l'individu. On y trouve la seule étude reposant sur la documentation proprement archéologique, relative à la nécropole romaine de St. Gereon à Cologne (I-IVe s. p. C.) et due à C. Höpken. Elle s'intéresse aux tombes atypiques de cet ensemble, qui le distinguent des autres lieux funéraires de la colonie de Germanie inférieure : sépultures d'animaux, tombes d'auxiliaires, de femmes ou d'immatures, morts déposés en procubitus ou urnes avec une cavité secondaire (« trou pour les âmes »). Si le dossier interroge les notions de norme, de marginalité ou de déviance en matière funéraire, les conclusions, qui convoquent l'idée de peur des revenants ou le caractère déterminant des appartenances et du statut social dans les modes de sépulture, sont plutôt conventionnelles. V. Rosenberger revient sur la « déification privée », expression dont il rappelle qu'elle est problématique. Sa thèse est que cette divinisation, s'exprimant dans les formules épigraphiques ou dans l'iconographie, était moins la rupture d'un tabou que l'intensification de rituels relatifs à la mort et au deuil : il souligne l'importance du medium épigraphique et des mises en œuvre rituelles comme vecteurs d'individuation, en particulier pour certains groupes de la société (les affranchis et les femmes) chez qui cette pratique a connu un retentissement plus marqué.[[2] V. Gasparini analyse les formulaires de six épitaphes d'époque romaine en lien avec le culte isiaque et témoignant du rôle des divinités égyptiennes dans les attentes de certains dévots sur la destinée post mortem. Leurs conceptions trahissent une connaissance de la religion égyptienne traditionnelle et, en outre, une tendance à revenir à des concepts gréco-romains plus familiers. L'auteur insiste sur le caractère sélectif de l'appropriation de ces idées ainsi que sur la notion de bricolage, tandis que leur lien avec d'éventuels mystères ne lui semble guère manifeste. Les idées égyptiennes sur l'au-delà sont également au cœur de la dernière étude de cette section : en s'appuyant sur plusieurs cas particuliers (un dignitaire gréco-égyptien de l'époque ptolémaïque, une égyptienne de l'époque de Néron, un citoyen romain d'origine indéterminée), M. A. Stadler dégage la diversité des profils d'individus qui ont opté pour ces conceptions, mais refuse d'y voir la conséquence de l'attrait pour un au-delà idéalisé. Relevant leurs dimensions négatives et parfois leurs contradictions, il les attribue à une spécificité de l'anthropologie égyptienne, faisant coexister depuis l'époque pré-hellénistique différents modes de perpétuation du défunt, à la fois dans le monde souterrain, au ciel ou dans des lieux de culte.

La dernière section thématise les relations de l'individu au groupe. C. D. Bergmann étudie les textes apocalyptiques juifs d'époque hellénistique et romaine qui évoquent des pratiques de commensalité dans le monde à venir. À partir de l'analyse de la consommation de trois formes de nourriture (Léviathan et Béhémoth, les fruits de l'arbre de vie et la manne) et en se fondant sur l'analogie avec le sens des banquets dans le monde d'ici-bas, elle souligne l'importance des aspects sensoriels et de la réjouissance personnelle générée par les mets présentés ; plus encore, l'évocation de ces repas réservés aux justes qui agissaient selon les normes sociales et religieuses de la communauté contribuait selon elle à l'affirmation de l'individu et de son appartenance à la collectivité juive, à un moment où son identité était mise en question après la destruction du Second Temple. A. Merkt aborde le problème débattu des modalités de définition d'une identité chrétienne par le biais de textes (littéraires ou épigraphiques) et des lieux de sépulture3 : il réaffirme l'importance croissante d'une définition religieuse de l'identité ainsi que la signification eschatologique de l'appartenance communautaire qui s'accompagne, à partir de la fin du II e s. p. C., de l'essor de la responsabilité individuelle allant de pair avec une dissolution croissante des affiliations sociales traditionnelles et notamment des liens avec les ancêtres et la postérité familiale. Enfin, R. Gordon reprend la question de la place de l'eschatologie dans le mithriacisme impérial. Plutôt que de considérer les témoignages à notre disposition comme le produit d'une doctrine unifiée possédant originellement une dimension eschatologique, il propose une analyse fine des pratiques et de l'iconographie qu'il considère comme révélatrices des modalités différenciées d'appropriation individuelle de ce culte et de la dynamique des « options » religieuses. Malgré l'absence de sources explicites, il suggère que certains aspects mythiques (le miracle du fons perennis, Mithra sur le quadrige de Sol, le repas) ont pu générer des interprétations sur la destinée individuelle post mortem, peut-être par le biais de l'influence de certains « mystagogues ».

Le volume livre donc un ensemble de contributions souvent riches sur des thématiques variées, même si le caractère novateur n'apparaît pas toujours d'emblée pour certaines d'entre elles. Le rattachement au questionnement de départ est même parfois diffus, peut-être parce que les notions cardinales d'individu ou d'individualité rassemblent en fin de compte des définitions ou des perspectives assez disparates. Elles sont ainsi envisagées sous le prisme tantôt psychologique, tantôt social, au travers des conceptions de la survie personnelle ou de la construction de l'identité ici-bas. À plusieurs reprises, l'individualité est débusquée dans l'originalité, ce qui ne va pas sans poser des problèmes de méthode en raison des choix opérés dans les sources et de leur représentativité. En revanche, la mise en évidence d'un « bricolage » (au sens de Cl. Lévi- Strauss), de réappropriations voire de « façons de faire » (M. de Certeau), qu'elles soient proprement individuelles ou qu'elles s'insèrent dans un rapport à un groupe, est digne d'intérêt, surtout dans les contextes où il n'existait pas de doctrine eschatologique figée produite par une autorité. Certes, cette impression s'explique partiellement par la multiplicité même des enjeux au cœur des notions d'individu, voire d'individuation et d'individualisation. Celles-ci, qui ont donné lieu à des définitions par ailleurs, auraient sans doute gagnées à être discutées plus amplement dans l'introduction.[[4] On peut regretter en effet que le cadrage conceptuel et le positionnement historiographique n'aient pas bénéficié d'un traitement un peu plus ample. Outre l'affiliation aux programmes déjà cités, les éditeurs, qui revendiquent une démarche anthropologique, se prévalent presque uniquement des travaux de Maurice Bloch sur la définition de l'individu comme entité plurielle et compartimentée avant et après le trépas. Sont en outre invoquées des analyses d'E. J. Graham, qui ont reformulé des idées apparentées pour le contexte antique. La place et le rôle de l'individu constituent pourtant un présupposé récurrent dans l'étude des pratiques funéraires et des discours eschatologiques dans l'Antiquité, et on aurait pu souhaiter sinon une mise en perspective historiographique complète qui aurait excédé le projet du volume, du moins un aperçu plus spécifique et articulé qui aurait constitué un utile point de référence, tant pour les auteurs que pour les lecteurs. De ce point de vue par exemple, les pistes ouvertes par les réflexions menées jadis par J.-P. Vernant sur la notion connexe de « personne » auraient mérité plus qu'un simple renvoi bibliographique en note de bas de page. Si ce travail reste donc à accomplir afin de donner toute sa valeur opératoire à cette approche pour la religion des morts dans les mondes anciens, l'ouvrage offre néanmoins plusieurs bonnes études de cas qui illustrent un champ dont de larges pans restent à explorer à nouveaux frais, que ce soit par la relecture des textes ou par l'interprétation des données sans cesse plus précises que fournit l'archéologie.

Table of Contents

K. Waldner, R. Gordon, W. Spickermann, Introduction (7-14).

1 — From Homer to Lucian – Poetics of the Afterlife.
K. Matijević, The Evolution of the Afterlife in Archaic Greece (15-29).
J. N. Bremmer, The Construction of an Individual Eschatology : The Case of the Orphic Gold Leaves (31-51).
M. Obryk, Prote im Land der Negationen : per negationem definiertes Nachleben in einer grieschischen Grabinschrift (53-66).
W. Spickermann, Tod und Jenseits bei Lukian von Samosata und Tatian (67-81).

2 — Individual Elaborations in the Roman Empire.
C. Höpken, Gefangene zwischen Diesseits und Jenseits: Außergewöhnliche Bestattungen im römischen Gräberfeld um St. Gereon in Köln (83- 108).
V. Rosenberger (†), Coping with Dead: Private Deification in the Roman Empire (109-123).
V. Gasparini, "I will not be thirsty. My lips will not be dry". Individual Strategies of Re-constructing the Afterlife in the Isiac Cults (125-150).
M. A. Stadler, Dioskourides, Tanaweruow, Titus Flavius Demetrius et al. Or: How Appealing was an Egyptian Afterlife? (151-166).

3 — Making a Difference : Groups and their Claims.
C. D. Bergmann, Identity on the Menu: Imaginary Meals and Ideas of the World to Come in Jewish Apocalyptic Writings (167-188)
A. Merkt, "A Place for my Body": Aspects of Individualisation in Early Christian Funerary Culture and Eschatological Thought (189-206).
R. Gordon, „Den Jungstier auf den goldenen Schultern tragen": Mythos, Ritual und Jenseitsvorstellungen im Mithraskult (207-240).

Index of Sources.
General Index.


1.   Voir entre autres J. Rüpke (éd.), The Individual in the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean, Oxford, 2013 et, en dernier lieu, Id., On Roman Religion: Lived Religion and the Individual in Ancient Rome, Ithaca, London, 2016.
2.   Je me permets de renvoyer ici à N. Laubry, « Sepulcrum, signa et tituli : quelques observations sur la consecratio in formam deorum et l'expression du statut des morts dans la Rome impériale », dans S. Agusta- Boularot, E. Rosso (éd.), Signa et tituli. Monuments et espaces de représentation en Gaule méridionale, Paris, 2014, p. 159‑173 (avec des positions similaires).
3.   On relève à cet égard l'absence dans la bibliographie d'études importantes de É. Rebillard, dont The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity, Ithaca, 2009 (éd. fr. 2003).
4.   Par exemple dans les références citées n. 1.

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Martin Antonius Menze, Heliodors 'klassische' Ekphrase: die literarische Visualität der Aithiopika im Vergleich mit ihren Vorläufern bei Homer und Herodot sowie ihrer Rezeption bei Miguel de Cervantes. Orbis antiquus, 51. Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2017. Pp. x, 360. ISBN 9783402144572. €52.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Maria Fernanda Ferrini, Università di Macerata (

Version at BMCR home site

L'analisi del modo in cui un autore riesce con le proprie parole a dare vita a un'immagine e a renderla visibile agli occhi dei suoi ascoltatori o lettori, attraverso una breve o lunga descrizione, ha avuto un grande impulso negli ultimi anni. In particolare, il tema dell'occhio e della sua funzione, del vedere e dell'essere visti, il tipo di sguardo costituiscono motivi ricorrenti in molta della produzione letteraria greca, a vari livelli e in diversi ambiti. Nel romanzo, in particolare, si riflettono acquisizioni scientifiche e credenze popolari affinate dalla scienza, e filtrate spesso attraverso la mediazione di altre opere letterarie, e si colgono significativamente anche echi di teorie ottiche.1

L'attenzione oggi rivolta in molti studi allo 'sguardo' dello scrittore, e alle strategie adottate per guidare lo 'sguardo' dell'ascoltatore o del lettore nel percorso di progressiva visualizzazione di ciò che si sta descrivendo, si avvale in ogni caso degli approfondimenti riguardanti la tecnica dell'ekphrasis, da intendere in senso esteso e non limitato alla descrizione di un'opera d'arte, e i concetti a essa strettamente legati (energeia, enargeia, evidentia), e dell'applicazione degli schemi e dei metodi dell'analisi narratologica.

Lo studio di Menze si inserisce, come dichiarato nell'introduzione (I. Einführung, pp. 1-4), nella "Ikonische Wende" degli ultimi decenni. Le lunghe ekphraseis contenute negli antichi romanzi, soprattutto in quelli cosiddetti sofistici, rendono necessario esaminare più da vicino e nel dettaglio, anche in prospettiva diacronica, un legame che appare evidente fra "Literarische Visualität" e "Antiker Roman" (p. 1). Menze intende così integrare e ampliare le analisi dedicate a questo aspetto del romanzo, conducendo una ricerca diacronica delle tecniche descrittive, della loro struttura e delle loro funzioni: pur all'interno di linee guida a cui gli autori si attengono, consapevolmente o inconsapevolmente (come noto, l'ekphrasis viene teorizzata solo in epoca imperiale), non esiste uno schema fisso e rigido per l'ekphrasis, come Menze mette spesso, e giustamente, in rilievo.

La ricerca di precursori e di modelli del romanzo antico risale al primo studio fondante di Erwin Rohde ( Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer, 1876); nel lavoro di Menze essa è limitata a due autori, Omero ed Erodoto, e mira a essere più specifica: continuità e somiglianze, oppure novità e differenze, emergono da un capillare, sistematico e ampio confronto dei testi. La scelta di questi autori, tra i molti che potrebbero essere messi a confronto, viene motivata in base al fatto che essi sono maggiormente rappresentativi dei rispettivi generi letterari e delle caratteristiche dell'ekphrasis (pp. 56-62). Nel romanzo sofistico l'ekphrasis ha un posto centrale; bisogna allora chiedersi fino a che punto la tecnica compositiva e di inserimento delle descrizioni ecfrastiche sia ideata e applicata già nei precursori classici del romanzo, e fino a che punto il romanzo stesso di Eliodoro poté essere a sua volta considerato un classico a questo riguardo (p. 57). Omero appare così, nella prospettiva diacronica proposta da Menze, il primo modello; Erodoto ha il ruolo di mediatore, considerando la sua stretta relazione con l'epos omerico; ed Eliodoro è un classicista, in quanto fa riferimento a modelli classici, ma diventa a sua volta un classico, da imitare e superare, per Miguel de Cervantes (da qui, il titolo del libro: "Heliodors 'klassische' Ekphrase").

I criteri e i metodi che guidano l'analisi sono esposti nel secondo capitolo (II. Methodenkapitel, pp. 5-62), in cui si fa un più diretto riferimento alle teorie letterarie moderne, debitrici, pur con le dovute e ovvie differenze, di quelle antiche. Dal punto di vista antico, sono centrali alcune nozioni, su cui Menze si sofferma, esaminando i testi di Aristotele (Rhetorica, Poetica), dello Ps.-Longino (De sublimitate), di Cicerone (De inventione, Partitiones oratoriae, De oratore), dell'Autore della Rhetorica ad Herennium, di Quintiliano, e dei retori di età imperiale, Elio Teone, Ps.-Ermogene, Aftonio e Nicolao (ai quali si devono la definizione e l'elaborazione teorica dell'ekphrasis): ἐνέργεια, ἐνάργεια, πρὸ ὀμμάτων ποιεῖν, ὑπ᾽ὄψιν ἄγειν, φαντασία, εἰδωλοποιία, σαφήνεια, ἡδονή, evidentia, demonstratio, ante oculos ponere, sub aspectum subicere. In una breve nota (p. 19, n. 71) Menze spiega i motivi per cui non ha incluso nell'esame Demetrio, Dionigi di Alicarnasso e Orazio. In realtà Demetrio avrebbe forse meritato qualche considerazione, per le osservazioni che l'autore fa sugli ὀνόματα che possono risultare piacevoli sia alla vista sia all'udito (De elocutione 173-174).

Nell'analisi delle singole opere, distribuita in capitoli (III. Homers Odyssee, pp. 63-118; IV. Herodots Historien, pp. 119-173; VI. Heliodors Aithiopika, pp. 189-285) si segue questo schema (rivelatore dell'impianto teorico basilare), che Menze presenta e discute preliminarmente (pp. 43-56): 1. Einleitung; 2. Formelle Analyse; 2.1 Ebene der Deskripteme; 2.2 Ebene der Deskription; 2.3 Ebene des literarischen Werkes; 2.3.1 Art der narrativen Vermittlung der Ekphrasen; 2.3.2 Strukturtypen der Beschreibung; 2.3.3 Sprachliche Angebundenheit der Ekphrasen; 2.3.4 Objekt der Beschreibung; 2.3.5 Rezeptionsbezogenheit und Funktionalität der Ekphrase. Si procede poi a un esame dettagliato dei passi scelti in ciascun caso. I contributi più significativi consistono proprio nell'esauriente indagine condotta a livello formale, stilistico e lessicale; nell'attenzione rivolta all'uso dei tempi, al loro valore aspettuale, importante per capire la prospettiva da cui ci si pone, e al diverso rapporto che gli autori stabiliscono tra passato e presente: la categoria del tempo, fondamentale, insieme con quella dello spazio, per capire la struttura narrativa e i suoi piani, è applicata con successo all'analisi romanzo greco, anche in questo studio. Altri interessanti risultati riguardano l'individuazione delle principali funzioni (ornamentale, strutturale, semantica, psicagogica), e dei fulcri (focalizzazione su oggetti, luoghi, persone, eventi, creature straordinarie, piante, animali, edifici, ...) dell'ekphrasis; i livelli (extradiegetico, intradiegetico) in cui essa si colloca; la sua contestualizzazione linguistica e semantica, la sua motivazione implicita o esplicita, le connessioni intratestuali o intertestuali, il grado di ampiezza e di completezza, e di elaborazione linguistica (uso oculato di sostantivi e dei loro epiteti, di verbi e avverbi, di particelle e di nessi preposizionali) e stilistica (paragoni e similitudini, sinestesie e metafore). L'insieme dei mezzi tecnici e delle modalità espressive è finalizzato a creare effetti visivi, tenendo conto della ricettività, delle reazioni e del gusto del potenziale pubblico, spettatore interno ed esterno al racconto.

La scelta dell'Odissea, invece dell'Iliade, che contiene la notissima ed emblematica descrizione dello Scudo di Achille (18.478-613), considerata già dagli antichi una mimesis, sorprende in un primo momento il lettore. Menze la giustifica con le peculiarità che questo poema ha nei confronti dell'Iliade, e osserva, riprendendo le parole di Jonas Palm, "dass die Erzählung der Odyssee an sich sehr ekphrastisch ist" (p. 65). Sull'ekphrasis dello Scudo di Achille, definita prototipo di tutte le descrizioni di opere d'arte, e per questo diversa, secondo Menze, dalle ekphraseis contenute nell'Odissea, torna brevemente (pp. 115-118) mettendo in evidenza due note particolarità ("Die erste Besonderheit besteht in der Beschreibung des Entstehungsprozesses des Schildes sowie der Lebendigkeit der Schildbeschreibung"; "Die zweite Besonderheit betrifft den Paragone, den Wettkampf der Dichtung mit den plastischen Künsten"). In questa sezione emerge una categoria interpretativa ricorrente: l'opposizione tra ekphrasis statica e ekphrasis dinamica, a seconda dell'oggetto e del modo di descriverlo. Essa è certamente utile per cogliere tendenze e preferenze dei singoli autori, ma un netto confine tra le due tipologie appare difficile da stabilire, come d'altra parte anche Menze ammette (vd. per es. pp. 118; 128; 277). Dal punto di vista di Aristotele, che riconosce a Omero la capacità di dare movimento e vita a tutte le cose, l'energeia è kinesis (Rhetorica 1412a 10): il principio di rendere animato l'inanimato (Rhetorica 1411b 10) resta largamente condiviso e applicato dagli autori fin dall'Antichità. Inoltre, anche quando si descrive un oggetto non in movimento, l'occhio dell'ascoltatore o del lettore è guidato da una sapiente tecnica, per cui le immagini sono presentate in una efficace sequenza e concatenazione, a seguire un percorso visivo, a fermarsi su questo o quel particolare: ne risulta una visione dinamica.

Il capitolo riguardante Erodoto si apre opportunamente ricordando un passo dell'Anonimo del Sublime, secondo cui Erodoto trasforma in visione quello che si ascolta (26.2 τὴν ἀκοὴν ὄψιν ποιῶν), e lo stretto rapporto che lega le Storie all'epos omerico. Dall'analisi dei passi vengono esclusi gli excursus geografici e quelli etnografici (p. 123). L'esclusione dei primi viene motivata dal fatto che le descrizioni di questo tipo appaiono come una specie di carta geografica, "nicht jedoch als eine zusammenhängende, anschauliche Topothesie". Ma forse proprio da essi si potrebbe capire meglio come si integrino, nella descrizione erodotea, un punto di vista odologico e uno cartografico dello spazio.2 L'analisi dettagliata di molti passi è conclusa da alcune considerazioni sul forte contrasto, in Erodoto, tra passato e presente: "Herodot führt dem Leser auch vor Augen, was nicht mehr da ist" (p. 173). Segue una ricapitolazione (V. Synopse: Die 'klassische' Ekphrase bei Homer und Herodot, pp.175-187) delle caratteristiche e delle differenze che contraddistinguono la tecnica ecfrastica in Omero e in Erodoto, e dei principali elementi che costituiscono il nucleo dell'ekphrasis classica presenti in entrambi ("eine Verdichtung des Ausdrucks [...], eine klar strukturierte Gliederung gerade der längeren Ekphrasen sowie die damit verbundene Technik der Beschreibungskette", p. 187). Questo incontro di elementi fissi e di flessibilità rappresenta una straordinaria potenzialità per l'imitazione dell'ekphrasis classica.

La sezione dedicata a Eliodoro (VI. Heliodors Aithiopika, pp.189-285) ripercorre nell'introduzione alcune posizioni degli studiosi soprattutto riguardo al collegamento tra ekphrasis e Seconda Sofistica, sul rapporto tra descrizione e azione, e sul confronto con il romanzo di Achille Tazio, che contiene numerose ekphraseis. Menze mette in evidenza che il romanzo di Eliodoro è il più complesso, tra quelli antichi, dal punto di vista narrativo, e che resta insuperato per quanto riguarda la tecnica di visualizzazione. Il carattere metanarrativo e metapoetico di alcuni passi costituisce, insieme con l'esemplarità delle descrizioni e del loro inserimento nella narrazione, uno dei motivi per cui Cervantes emula Eliodoro, aspirando a superarlo. Il contrasto tra arte e natura, e la tendenza alla teatralità sono altrettanti punti che accomunano i due autori, come Menze sottolinea nel penultimo capitolo (VII. Cervantes' Persiles), in cui affronta brevemente un aspetto molto indagato dagli studiosi: la fortuna di Eliodoro nel Cinquecento e nel Seicento. Nell'ultimo capitolo (VIII. Resümee) si delineano le linee di ricerca seguite e i risultati. Nel confronto tra Eliodoro e Cervantes (la cui "metapoetica" [Menze, p. 328] risente anche del neoaristotelismo del suo tempo), emerge in particolare una differenza: "Während Heliodor den Grundgedanken der Ekphrastik, eben jenes 'Sehenmachen durch Worte', einschließt, sind Cervantes die narrative Anbindung der Ekphrasen sowie die Orientierung am Publikumsgeschmack offensichtlich wichtiger" (p. 328). Le teorie retoriche antiche hanno avuto una decisiva influenza sull'estetica moderna, come noto: in particolare, il concetto aristotelico di eusynopton (di 'ciò che può essere facilmente abbracciabile con lo sguardo'), applicato al discorso, e la riflessione aristotelica sulla complessità della comunicazione linguistica hanno favorito nel tempo il formarsi di una teoria della ricezione.

Consapevole della complessità e della vastità del tema trattato, Menze accenna, concludendo, ad alcune questioni che rimangono aperte. In ogni caso, questo lavoro costituisce un documentato e notevole contributo all'approfondimento di molti aspetti della tecnica ecfrastica e della sua utilizzazione nel romanzo, e si rivolge in modo particolare agli specialisti in vari settori (anche studiosi e teorici della letteratura e linguisti), e inoltre a chi voglia comprendere meglio le potenzialità espressive del romanzo greco e la sua influenza sulla narrativa occidentale.


1.   Rinvio brevemente a un mio saggio: M.F. Ferrini, 'Τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ἅλωσις: echi di teorie ottiche nella narrativa greca', A. I. O. N. (sezione filologico-letteraria) 15 (1993) pp. 145-168.
2.   Vd. A.C. Purves, Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative, Cambridge 2010.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017


Catherine Wolff, Patrice Faure (ed.), Les auxiliaires de l'armée romaine: des alliés aux fédérés. Collection Études et recherches sur l'occident romain - CEROR, 51. Lyon: CEROR, 2016. Pp. 796. ISBN 9782364420731. €70.00 (pb).

Reviewed by François Gauthier, McGill University (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This collection of 27 essays in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish is based on the sixth Lyon Conference held in October 2014, which aimed at correcting an injustice inflicted upon non-Roman soldiers who, despite their contribution to the Roman army, have been often neglected by modern historiography (p. 11). The work participates in a contemporary change in research on auxiliaries, as illustrated by I. Haynes' recent book on this topic as well as the expected monograph by J. Prag.1 All contributors agreed to dedicate the volume to the memory of D. B. Saddington, who passed away in 2011 and whose research greatly contributed to our understanding of auxiliaries.

In addition to an introduction by P. Faure and Y. Le Bohec offering a general tour d'horizon as well as a brief literature review on auxiliaries, the volume has three chronologically arranged parts. Given the extensive epigraphic and archaeological evidence available for the Principate, the part dealing with that period is by far the longest. It is divided into four sections covering more than 300 pages.

The contributions of the first part cover the republican period up to Augustus. F. Cadiou's paper challenges the common view that citizen cavalry ceased to exist in the first century BCE, arguing that the sources' emphasis on auxilia externa has too often led modern scholars to forget about references to equites Romani. M. A. Speidel's contribution traces the origins of the imperial auxiliary forces to the civil wars of the late republic and offers a useful inquiry into late republican and early imperial auxiliary recruitment, organization, and financing.

The first section of the second part, Les auxilia, l'armée et l'empereur, comprises the papers of W. Eck and P. Le Roux. Building on decades of research, Eck highlights the very diverse nature of recruitment for auxiliary units. While interesting, the contribution of Le Roux, who was not able attend the conference, on the emperor and war does not address the auxilia specifically.

The five papers of the section Le recrutement et l'histoire des troupes bring to light the highly cosmopolitan nature of the Roman imperial army. For example, an auxiliary unit raised in Thrace might be moved to Syria and reinforced by local recruitment there. B. Rossignol ends this section with his essay arguing that the military crises under Marcus Aurelius were met with what should be described more as adaptation rather than innovation as far as auxiliary recruitment is concerned.

The third section of the second part, Aspects des tâches, du fonctionnement et de la vie des auxilia, contains five essays dealing with various specific aspects pertaining to garrison duty and provincial life of the auxilia. P. Cosme demonstrates the existence of a well-organized archival system to keep track of remounts in cavalry units. M. F. Petraccia argues that the extensive depictions of auxiliaries on Trajan's column were a way to acknowledge their participation in the victory in the Dacian campaigns. G. Baratta's and M. Popescu's essays focus on the religious peculiarities of the auxilia.

Provincial and local enquiries on auxiliaries in Spain, Africa, Italy, and Illyria are the focus of the five essays in the last section of the second part, Approches locales et régionales. These contributions greatly rely on archaeology and epigraphy to give a picture of the composition and evolution of different auxiliary provincial garrisons, mostly during the early empire, providing a closer look at units located far away from the better-known legionary fortresses.

The third and last part covers the third century and late antiquity. In his paper, J.-M. Carrié felt obliged to address first the abuse of the term limes by modern scholars to describe a uniform defensive system that did not exist. He also strongly disagrees with concepts of 'grand strategy', 'defense in depth', the idea that limitanei were ineffective peasant-soldiers, and that comitatenses were a central mobile army accompanying the emperor. While I agree with all his conclusions, Carrié's fierce defense of his arguments could have been done with a somewhat milder tone.3 Moreover, I feel that Carrié's views are now commonly accepted by the scientific community, though it is true that they were not in many of the late 20th century studies he discusses.4 That being said, Carrié's paper does a particularly good job of highlighting the progress in scholarly discussions about key issues pertaining to the late Roman army.

In his paper, M. Petitjean argues that, contrary to what is commonly assumed, the proportion of cavalry in the army did not dramatically increase during the third century CE. The biggest increase in the ratio of cavalry to infantry actually took place during the late republic and early empire. In fact, many units considered as being raised from scratch in the third century CE actually originated from detachments drawn from existing units.

G. Sartor's paper looks at what scholars commonly call foederati despite the rare occurrence of that term in the sources. Most of the paper discusses how the foederati were enlisted, how they fought, and how they were paid and supplied by the Roman state. Sartor argues that the gentes foederatae did not have much independence from imperial power and had to comply with its orders. This is to an extent true but it seems to me that this conclusion largely overlooks the fact that gentes foederatae, at least in the west, ended up gaining the upper hand in the balance of power vis-à-vis their imperial employer. Sartor summarizes this with the following: "Si le phénomène [i. e. the use of foederati] échappa au contrôle du pouvoir impérial en Occident, il pourrait avoir inspiré des solutions au pouvoir impérial oriental dans l'organisation thématique byzantine […]" (p. 573). However, he does not address why this loss of control occurred. Perhaps this was not possible given the format since it would have necessitated significant lengthening of the paper.

The volume includes an extensive bibliography of nearly 100 pages as well as an index of ancient sources and auxiliary units, making it easier to consult for research.

A recurrent theme throughout the volume is that of terminology. Indeed, the sometimes imprecise nature of the terms used by our sources can be frustrating to the modern historian eager to neatly categorize everything. For example, socii in the republican period will most often be associated with the Italian allies but the word could also be applied to non- Italian soldiers fighting for Rome. Moreover auxilia, when encountered in late imperial sources, can refer to a great variety of unit types. Most contributors acknowledge that prudence is required with terminology regarding auxiliaries.

Of course, the volume could not be expected to answer every question pertaining to auxilia. However, I was surprised that there was not more discussion in the third section of the impact of the inclusion of foreigners in the late Roman army. In light of the debate about the efficiency of the late Roman army, I think this would have been useful. J.-M. Carrié very briefly mentions the loaded term 'barbarization' but that is about it (p. 453).

That being said, these are minor quibbles and they do not take away from the fact that this is a volume of high quality. Along with Haynes's recent book, Les auxiliaires de l'armée romaine: des alliés aux fédérés is sure to become a standard work of reference for research on auxiliaries.

Table of Contents

Introduction et mise en perspective
Patrice Faure, Les auxiliaires de l'armée romaine : une introduction
Yann Le Bohec, Sur les auxiliaires de l'armée romaine : des alliés aux fédérés
Chapitre 1. Les alliés de Rome, de la République à Auguste
Giovanni Brizzi, Socii et auxilia
François Cadiou, Cavalerie auxiliaire et cavalerie légionnaire dans l'armée romaine au Ier s. a.C
Michael Alexander Speidel, Actium, Allies, and the Augustan Auxilia: Reconsidering the Transformation of Military Structures and Foreign Relations in the Reign of Augustus
Patrick Sänger, "In conclusion, Rome did not disarm Egypt": Some Critical Notes on Livia Capponi's Depiction of Roman Military Policy in late Ptolemaic and Augustan Egypt
Chapitre 2. Les auxilia du Principat
A – Les auxilia, l'armée et l'empereur
Werner Eck, Die Entwicklung der Auxiliareinheiten als Teil des römischen Heeres in der frühen und hohen Kaiserzeit: eine Teilsynthese
Patrick Le Roux, Les empereurs romains et la guerre
B – Le recrutement et l'histoire des troupes
Dan Dana, Recrutement, prosopographie et onomastique au miroir de trois unités auxiliaires
Everett L. Wheeler, Parthian Auxilia in the Roman Army Part I: From the Late Republic to c. 70 A.D.
Christophe Schmidt Heidenreich, Les unités palmyréniennes de l'armée romaine : une approche historique
Agnès Groslambert, Les unités de Numides dans l'armée romaine sous le Haut-Empire
Benoît Rossignol, Nouvelles unités auxiliaires et troupes de renforts dans les guerres du règne de Marc Aurèle
C – Aspects des tâches, du fonctionnement et de la vie des auxilia
François Bérard, À propos de la garnison des provinces sans légions
Pierre Cosme, Les archives de la cavalerie auxiliaire
Maria Federica Petraccia, Gli ausiliari nelle guerre Daciche e loro rappresentazione sulla colonna Traiana
Giulia Baratta, Imaginarii uel imaginiferi: note sul ruolo e le funzioni dei portatori di imagines
Mihai Popescu, Des dieux et des troupes : autour des dédicaces collectives des auxiliaires danubiens
D – Approches locales et régionales
Juan José Palao Vicente, En torno a algunas tropas auxiliares en Hispania durante el Alto Imperio. Tropas regulares vs. tropas irregulares
Jean-Pierre Laporte, Notes sur l'armée romaine de Maurétanie césarienne de 40 à 455
Nacéra Benseddik et Jean-Pierre Laporte, Découverte d'une nouvelle inscription à El Bayedh (ex Géryville)
Cecilia Ricci, Cohortes et alae ad Aquileia. Tra epigrafia e storia (I-III secolo d.C.)
Marc Mayer i Olivé, La presencia de militares en Narona, Vid, Metković, Croacia, y las cohortes auxiliares de la zona
Chapitre 3. Les mutations du IIIe siècle et de l'Antiquité tardive
Jean-Michel Carrié, Les formations « auxiliaires » de l'armée romaine tardive : permanence et innovation
Maxime Petitjean, Pour une réévaluation de l'essor de la cavalerie au IIIe siècle
Guillaume Sartor, Les fédérés (foederati) dans les guerres impériales (IIIe-VIe siècles)
Péter Kovács, Notes on the Pannonian foederati


1.   Haynes, I., Blood of the Provinces. The Roman Auxilia and the Making of Provincial Society from Augustus to the Severans, Oxford, 2013.
2.   For example : p. 453, n. 20 on Elton 1996 : "L'argument onomastique invoqué p. 150-151 est des plus fallacieux."; p. 458: "Dans la bibliographie courante, l'opposition entre armée comitatensis et armée limitanea peut prendre des proportions caricaturales, essentiellement à partir d'une représentation irréaliste de la première. Ainsi chez Treadgold [1995]… "
3.   For instance: Strobel, K. 2007. "Strategy and Army Structure between Septimius Severus and Constantine the Great," in P. Erdkamp, (ed.) A Companion to the Roman Army, Oxford, pp. 267-285; Le Bohec, Y. 2006. L'armée romaine sous le Bas-Empire, Paris.

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Mirko Canevaro, Demostene, Contro Leptine. Introduzione, traduzione e commento storico. Texte und Kommentare, 55. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. ix, 529. ISBN 9783110488685. $168.00.

Reviewed by Johannes Engels, Universität zu Köln; Universität Bonn (;

Version at BMCR home site


Die 20. Rede des Demosthenes Gegen Leptines gehört zu den durch zwei jüngere umfangreiche Kommentare und andere Studien derzeit am Besten erläuterten Gerichtsreden des Demosthenes. Während sich Christos Kremmydas' Kommentar von 20121 vor allem durch kenntnisreiche sprachlich-stilistische und rhetorische Erläuterungen auszeichnet, konzentriert sich Mirko Canevaro im vorliegenden italienischen Kommentar2 auf Erläuterungen zu dem politischen und gerichtlichen System der athenischen Demokratie des 4. Jh., dem legislativen Prozesses und dem Zusammenhang zwischen bestimmten Prozeßformen (graphai) und dem für das 4. Jh. typischen nomothesia-Verfahren, dem Wechselspiel zwischen Euergetismus und reziproken öffentlichen Formen von Ehrungen durch die Polis sowie der politischen Ideologie des spätklassischen Athen nach 355 v. Chr. Das zu besprechende Buch gliedert sich in drei große Teile, 1. Eine substantielle Einleitung (1-105), 2. der Abdruck des griechischen Textes nach Dilts OCT (zu Abweichungen hiervon siehe 103-105) mit italienischer Übersetzung (107-173) sowie 3. den Kommentar (175-431). Das Buch schließt mit einer ausführlichen, erfreulich aktuellen Bibliographie (433-485, Canevaro wertet die einschlägige Fachliteratur systematisch bis Ende 2015 aus) sowie einem index locorum und einem index generale (486-529).

Die Datierung der Rede in das Archontat des Kallistratos 355/54 etwas über ein Jahr nach der Verabschiedung des inkriminierten Gesetzes des Leptines 356/55 v. Chr. und kurz vor der ersten überlieferten Demegorie des Demosthenes (der Symmorien-Rede or. 14) ist gesichert. Die 20. Rede betrifft eine öffentliche Schriftklage, eine graphe nomon me epitedeion theinai, mit dem Ziel der Abschaffung eines Gesetzes des Leptines über die Aufhebung bestimmter ateleia-Befreiungen von Liturgien für Athener und auswärtige Wohltäter der Polis. Diese Klage ist Teil eines nomothesia-Verfahrens zur Verabschiedung eines neuen Gesetzes in dieser Materie.

Canevaro erläutert zunächst Details dieser Verfahrensform (graphe nomon me epitedeion theinai) und ihren Zusammenhang mit dem für die Legislative zentralen, nach 403 neu eingeführten System der nomothesia (12-32). Canevaro rekonstruiert plausibel den juristisch-technischen Ablauf des Verfahrens (31-32) und legt abweichend von anderen Erklärern zu Recht Wert darauf, daß diese graphe gegen Leptines ein regulärer Bestandteil des komplizierten Nomothesieverfahrens war. Zunächst mußte nach einer erfolgreichen graphe das bestehende Gesetz durch ein Gerichtsurteil abgeschafft werden, bevor die Nomotheten das neue Gesetz promulgieren konnten. Das neue Gesetz trat nämlich nicht automatisch schon mit der Abschaffung des alten Gesetzes in Kraft.

Über die beteiligten Hauptpersonen (33-36) haben wir unterschiedlich verläßliche Informationen. Leptines zählte in den 360 und 350er Jahren zu den wichtigen aktiven Rhetoren Athens. Zu den fünf syndikoi zur Verteidigung des Gesetzes gehörten einflußreiche Rhetoren der 350er Jahre, insb. Leodamas, Aristophon von Azenia und Kephisodotos. Im Ankläger-Team fanden sich weniger bekannte Bürger, Apsephion, der Sohn des Batippos, Ktesippos der Sohn des Chabrias, ein Phormion sowie vor allem Demosthenes.

Über die Kenntnis der Hintergründe dieses Falles hinaus sind die konzisen Einführungen Canevaros in das athenische System der Liturgien nützlich (47-54). Die athenische Politik nach 355 unter dem Eindruck der Niederlage im Bundesgenossenkrieges wird heute von den meisten Historikern—so auch Canevaro—als deutlich komplizierter strukturiert verstanden als in älteren Studien, in denen man (anachronistisch) klar voneinander abgetrennte "Parteiungen" um Eubulos, Aristophon und Androtion mit jeweiligen innen- und außenpolitischen "Programmen" unterschied. Es fehlen aber hinreichende Beweise dafür, daß das Gesetz des Leptines auf eine konkrete Initiative der Rhetoren um Aristophon zurückging. Nach 355 war eine Politik der inneren Konsolidierung Athens, der das Gesetz dienen sollte, alternativlos und wurde von einer breiten Mehrheit der Rhetoren getragen. Zweck des Gesetzes des Leptines war es, durch die Abschaffung bisher verliehener ateleia-Befreiungen von kostspieligen regelmäßigen Leiturgien (außer den Trierarchien) und das Verbot zukünftiger solcher Befreiungen dem Mangel an Leiturgiepflichtigen in der Polis abzuhelfen und reiche Bürger in die Pflicht zu nehmen. Canevaro versucht (58) eine Rekonstruktion des Wortlautes des Gesetzes des Leptines. Die Reformversuche des Periandros 357 und des Demosthenes in den 350er Jahren deuten jedenfalls darauf hin, daß das bestehende System der Leiturgien sich in einer strukturellen Krise befand.

Demosthenes spielte im Anklägerteam als synegoros trotz seiner Jugend eine Schlüsselrolle. Dies ist schon aus der auffälligen Länge seiner Rede ersichtlich, die erst an dritter Stelle nach denen Apsephions und Phormions vorgetragen wurde. Die Beschreibung der politischen Position des Demosthenes um 355 am Anfang seines öffentlichen Auftretens ist in der Forschung umstritten. Sein großes Thema des Kampfes für Athens führende Stellung in Hellas und gegen die expansive Politik Philipps II. hatte Demosthenes ja noch nicht gefunden. Weder der Kern des Gesetzes des Leptines noch der Einsatz für die Anklage gegen Leptines durch Demosthenes können simplifizierend als eine elitenfreundliche oder elitenfeindliche politische Initiative erklärt werden (Canevaro 67). Vielleicht dominierten bei Demosthenes damals pragmatisch-utilitaristische Motive und der Wunsch, sich durch Auftritte vor Gericht in öffentlich beachteten Verfahren bzw. vor der Ekklesia als Mitglied der Elite der rhetores kai strategoi zu etablieren (67-69). Eine solche Motivation rechtfertigt jedoch nicht die hyperkritische und simplifizierende Einschätzung des jungen Demosthenes als radikalem Opportunisten und Autopromotor.

Der Kern der Argumentation des Demosthenes in dieser Rede (71-76) zielt darauf, mittels zahlreicher Beispiele aufzuzeigen, daß das Gesetz des Leptines gegen ältere ehrwürdige athenische Gesetze und Grundregeln (z.B. die Gültigkeit einmal vom Demos gewährter Ehrungen oder die Freiheit des souveränen Volkes, solche Ehrungen zu beschließen) verstoße. Zudem untergrabe das Gesetz des Leptines den bewährten Zusammenhang zwischen dem erwünschten und unverzichtbaren Euergetismus durch Mitbürger, Metoiken und Ausländer einerseits und dem reziproken öffentlichen Dank der Polis andererseits. Das Kapitel Canevaros über Euergetismus und die reziproke Ökonomie der Ehrungen (77-97) gibt über den Fall hinaus eine wertvolle Einführung in einen zentralen Aspekt der athenischen und allgemein der griechischen Sozial- und Mentalitätsgeschichte. Demosthenes scheut nicht vor starken rhetorischen Übertreibungen zurück. Er differenziert nicht zwischen Ehrungen, die durch das Gesetz des Leptines gar nicht tangiert waren, und den negativen Konsequenzen der Abschaffung der Befreiung bestimmter Personen von regelmäßigen Liturgien. Diese Demosthenesrede weist nachdrücklich auf die sich nach 355 verstärkende Abhängigkeit von athenischen und auswärtigen Euergeten hin, ein Krisensymptom der spätklassischen athenischen Demokratie. Bereits in der Antike wird der Sieg des Anklägerteams ausdrücklich berichtet. Zweifel daran sind nicht begründet. Außerdem bestätigen mindestens zwei Inschriften, daß noch nach 355 weitere ateleia-Verleihungen in Athen stattgefunden haben (98-100). Dies setzt eine Aufhebung des Gesetzes des Leptines voraus.

Canevaros Übersetzung in elegantem Italienisch versucht, die Rede flüssig lesbar zu übertragen, ohne dabei allzu frei vom griechischen Original abzuweichen.3 Ich kann hier nicht ausführlich auf (wenige) Einzelstellen eingehen, an denen mir andere Übersetzungen besser gefallen hätten.4 Canevaros italienische Übersetzung kann meines Erachtens den beiden modernen englischen Übersetzungen von Harris und Kremmydas gleichwertig an die Seite gestellt werden.

Canevaro faßt vor den Kommentaren jeweils den Inhalt mehrerer Paragraphen paraphrasierend zusammen und erläutert so nochmals seine Auffasung von der Feingliederung der Rede. Die Einzelkommentare zu den regelmäßigen und außerordentlichen Leiturgien sind gründlich und verläßlich (Kap. 18-28). Mit den Erläuterungen zu dem langen Abschnitt über Leukon, den bosporanischen Herrscher, als Euergeten Athens (Kap. 29-40) beginnt der nächste große Abschnitt, eine lange "galleria di beneficiari delle esenzioni onorifiche" (241, Kap. 29-89). Leukon dient Demosthenes als erstes und wohl wichtigstes Beispiel eines durch das angeblich schlechte Gesetz des Leptines geschädigten einzelnen Euergeten, obwohl die Mehrzahl der Ehrungen und Privilegien Leukons von dem Gesetz gar nicht betroffen war. Die kenntnisreichen Kommentare Canevaros geben eine erste Einführung in Grundprobleme der athenischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte des 4. Jh., insb. die politisch-militärischen Zwänge aus den unverzichtbaren umfangreichen jährlichen Getreideimporten nach Athen. Das zweite Beispiel ist Epikerdes aus Kyrhene, welcher der Polis in extremen Notlagen nach der Niederlage in Sizilien und gegen Ende des Peloponnesischen Krieges half (Kap. 41-50).

Danach erwähnt Demosthenes weitere kollektive Wohltäter aus der Periode des Korinthischen Krieges, die proathenischen Korinther, sowie athenerfreundliche Thasier und Byzantiner (Kap. 51-66). Philipp II. wird interessanterweise nur als ein lokaler Herrscher eingeführt (Kap. 61,3), der trotz seiner Eroberungen von Amphipolis, Pydna, Potideia und schließlich Methone zwischen 357 und 354 v. Chr. noch keinen sehr gefährlichen Gegner Athens darstellt (Canevaro 296-97). Kap. 67-87 wenden sich verdienten Feldherren Athens im 4. Jh. zu, die vom Demos außergewöhnliche Ehrungen und Befreiungen erhielten. Demosthenes beginnt mit Konon (304- 313), dessen Seesieg bei Knidos und die Wiederaufrichtung der Festungsmauern Athens als Leistungen hervorgehoben werden. Es folgt als beim Demos sehr beliebter Stratege Chabrias (313-328), der erst kürzlich in der Schlacht von Chios 357/6 v. Chr. verstorben war. Wertvolle prosopographisch-historische Kommentare bietet Canevaro auch zu Iphikrates (330-31) und Timotheos (331-32). Die Kap. 88-104 bringen präzise Kommentare zur Verfahrensform der nomothesia. Das Gesetz des Leptines widersprach nach Demosthenes mehreren wichtigen athenischen bestehenden Gesetzen sowie auch dem "Geist" der "Solonischen", also der guten alten athenischen Gesetze (339-341). Unter den Gesetzen, mit denen das Gesetz des Leptines kollidiere, sei ein Gesetz besonders wichtig (Kap. 96,2), nach dem alle Ehrungen und Vergünstigungen, die der Demos einmal vergeben hat, dauerhaft gültig bleiben sollen.

Kap. 105-119 gehen proleptisch auf vermutete Argumente der Verteidiger des Gesetzes ein. So ist es für die ateleia- Regelungen in Athen nach Demosthenes irrelevant, wenn in anderen griechischen Staatswesen wie in Sparta oder Theben solche Privilegien und Befreiungen für einzelne Bürger unüblich sind. Kap. 120-130 wenden sich gegen die erwartete (sachlich korrekte) Verteidigung des Leptines, daß sein Gesetz lediglich bereits verliehene bestimmte Befreiungen aufhebe, keineswegs aber sämtliche bisherigen Ehrungen betreffe oder den Demos für alle Zukunft an Ehrungen hindere. Demosthenes verdreht hier offenbar die Argumentation des Leptines über Choregien und Opferfeste und das Problem der hieron analomata. Kap. 131-138 wenden sich gegen das erwartete Argument der Syndikoi, daß viele Unwürdige mit Ehrungen wie der proxenia oder ateleia geehrt worden seien, darunter sogar Kap. 131,1 douloi kai mastigiai, Sklaven und durch Auspeitschung bestrafte entlaufene Sklaven.

Das Gesetz des Leptines füge Demosthenes zufolge zu einem großen materiellen Schaden für die Polis auch noch die allgemeine Schande in Griechenland hinzu. Er richtet daher einen Appell an die Richter (Kap. 139-145), wenn sie das Gesetz des Leptines nicht aufheben würden, würden sie bei den potentiellen Wohltätern der Polis und in ganz Hellas als phthoneroi, apistoi und acharistoi als "neidische, unzuverlässige und undankbare" Menschen verschrieen werden. Dies werde der Polis insb. in zukünftigen möglichen Krisenlagen materiell schwer schaden und auch in Hellas ihren guten Ruf zerstören. Danach greift er nochmals die stadtbekannten und angeblich rhetorisch versierten Syndikoi des Gesetzes an (Kap. 146-153). Ihre Mitwirkung an der Verteidigung eines solchen Gesetzes sei unehrenhaft, zudem schon formaljuristisch fehlerhaft, da jeder Bürger nur einmal als Syndikos zur Verteidigung eines Gesetzes auftreten könne. In der formalen peroratio der Rede (Kap. 163-167) endet Demosthenes mit einem pathetischen Aufruf an die Richter, die negativen Konsequenzen zu bedenken, wenn sie das Gesetz des Leptines nicht abschaffen und damit den Weg nicht freimachen sollten für ein Ersatzgesetz des Demosthenes und seiner Anhänger.

Canevaros kenntnisreiche Kommentare, ebenso seine italienische Übersetzung der Rede und die ausführliche Einleitung, können allen Lesern nachdrücklich empfohlen werden, die sich für griechische Rhetorik, Demosthenes, athenische Rechts-, Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte interessieren.


1.   Commentary on Demosthenes' 'Against Leptines', Oxford 2012, mit Einleitung und englischer Übersetzung der Rede.
2.   Vgl. Google Preview und siehe als wichtige monographische Vorstudie zu diesem großen Kommentar bereits Mirko Canevaro, The Documents in the Attic Orators: Laws and Decrees in the Public Speeches of the Demosthenic Corpus, Oxford 2013, ferner ders. "L'accusa contro Leptine: crisi economica e consensus post-bellico", Quaderni Rostagni 8 (2009), 117-141, "Nomothesia in Classical Athens: What Sources Should We Believe?", CQ 63 (2013), 139-160 und "The Procedure of Demosthenes' Against Leptines: How to Repeal (and Replace) an Existing Law", JHS 136 (2016), 39-58.
3.   Der übersetzte griechische Text basiert auf Mervin Dilts, Demosthenis orationes II, Oxford 2005. Vgl. auch die derzeit führenden englischen Übersetzungen von Edward M. Harris, Demosthenes. Speeches 20-22, Austin 2008, und Christos Kremmydas 2012, welche die inzwischen veraltete populäre Übersetzung von James H. Vince, Demosthenes I, Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge Mass. - London 1930 (repr. 1989), ersetzen.
4.   Hierfür nur ein Beispiel aus § 131: tines alloi douloi kai mastigiai = "e altri sono ladri e farabutti" (Canevaro). In seinem Kommentar (394-5) nimmt er selbst zur Problematik Stellung, doch douloi sollte hier meines Erachtens eben doch wörtlich mit Sklaven (statt "ladri") übersetzt werden; dies würde die provokative Kühnheit der Stelle unterstreichen, da Sklaven natürlich keinerlei öffentliche Ehrungen oder ateleia-Verleihungen erhalten konnten, vgl. bereits Vince, 1930 repr. 1989, p. 579: "Slaves and gaolbirds", also Sklaven und Galgenvögel.

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Eric D. Perl, Plotinus, Ennead V.1: On the Three Primary Levels of Reality. Translation with an Introduction and Commentary. The Enneads of Plotinus with philosophical commentaries. Las Vegas; Zurich; Athens: Parmenides Publishing, 2015. Pp. 224. ISBN 9781930972919. $42.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Antonella Doninelli, Istituto Teologico Cosentino "Redemptoris Custos", Rende (CS) (

Version at BMCR home site

Questa traduzione in lingua inglese della enneade V.1 si inserisce in un progetto complessivo che vuole fornire il testo inglese e un robusto commento a parti puntuali dell'opera plotiniana, le Enneadi. A questo volume, come ad ogni altro della serie intitolata The Enneads of Plotinus with Philosophical Commentaries, è premessa un'Introduzione dei due curatori del progetto complessivo, John M. Dillon e Andrew Smith, mentre il curatore di questo specifico volume è Eric D. Perl. La scelta di non apporre il testo greco a fronte della traduzione inglese si chiarisce nella chiusa della premessa di Dillon e Smith (p. 10): Plotino è un filosofo che ha qualcosa da dire a noi oggi, e la serie vuole offrire il lavoro di specialisti per consentire a tutti sia di accedere a Plotino nella loro lingua natale, sia di coglierne la valenza teoretica attraverso la ricognizione del commentario di questi stessi specialisti. Vi sono alcuni elementi importanti che sono punti fermi di tutta la serie: l'interpretazione che Plotino offre del testo platonico può apparire a volte sovraccarica di elementi successivi al testo stesso, come è ovvio per un autore che interpreta un testo che lo ha preceduto di molti secoli. Tuttavia, ciò che è caratteristico di Plotino è la scelta di rendere coerente il testo platonico al fine di poter disegnare la filosofia platonica come un insieme di argomentazioni il più possibile prive di aporie e di lacune che ne inficerebbero la completezza (p. 5). Penso che questo sia un punto fondamentale per comprendere il significato della parola stessa 'neoplatonismo', ed è meritorio che Dillon e Smith ce lo ricordino. È oramai acquisito in letteratura che l'oggetto 'platonismo' collegato alla storia dell'Accademia sia talmente multiforme da essere sistematicamente sfuggente (penso a Mauro Bonazzi, Il platonismo, Einaudi, Torino 2015); in un senso, il 'platonismo', l'immagine che passa nella tradizione medievale sino ai nostri giorni, è frutto dell'analisi concettuale dei neoplatonici a partire da Plotino. Ne risulta che il regno ontologico delle Forme platoniche diviene grazie a Plotino un universo intelligibile dinamico e complesso nel quale la dialettica dei contrari, unità e molteplicità, stabilità e attività, si trova conciliata in una struttura concettuale feconda (p. 6). Forse più controverso è un altro punto fermo della serie: consapevoli che la scrittura di Plotino difetta di una propedeutica poiché presuppone nel suo lettore una solida consapevolezza delle idee fondamentali (pp. 9-10), Dillon e Andrews non esitano a riconoscere in Platone, e nello stesso Aristotele, l'azione dell'amore all'interno della causa finale, mentre in Plotino non vedono che l'azione di una attività cognitiva (p. 7). Si tratta ovviamente di una opinione rispettabile, ma che non mi sento di potere condividere, specie se si associa ad una presenza dell'amore nella fonte per eccellenza di Plotino, ossia Platone. Vedrei più coerente, anche se ancora non del tutto condivisibile, una teleologia dell'amore sia in Platone, sia in Plotino; oppure una teleologia esclusivamente cognitiva sia in Platone, sia in Plotino. Differenziarli su questo punto mi suona un poco ruvido, ed è comunque un ottimo motivo per passare alla lettura dei vari volumi della serie per verificare come si traduca in concreto questa differenziazione della teleologia tra Platone e Plotino.

Eric Perl traduce questa idea della serie, tesa a dare alla contemplazione un ruolo centrale, in una frase precisa: in Plotino la metafisica è spiritualità e la spiritualità è metafisica (p. 16). Non sono sicuro che Pierre Hadot, che pure è citato da Perl come fornitore di una eccellente definizione delle ipostasi come "livelli del sé", condividerebbe appieno questa frase emblematica, anche se ad un primo sguardo la frase di Perl parrebbe esprimere proprio l'approccio di Hadot. Almeno non la condividerebbe nel senso in cui Porfirio nella sua biografia di Plotino lo dipinge come un maestro di ascetismo, e comunque io suggerirei di leggere l'affermazione di Perl alla luce costante del volume di Hadot, Plotin ou La simplicité du regard, Folio, Paris 1997, dove ricorre al capitolo 2 l'espressione "livelli dell'io" (come tradotto in Plotino o La semplicità dello sguardo, Einaudi, Torino 1999) e al capitolo 7 la questione dell'ascesi.

Perl stesso ci fornisce una sinossi della prima enneade del quinto libro, in cui si narra l'ambivalenza dell'intelletto e dell'anima tra mondo attuale e mondo ipostatico: si inizia con l'anima umana che non è più consapevole della sua origine divina, si passa alla necessità di acquisire tramite l'anima la consapevolezza della superiorità sul corpo e della sua comunanza con il divino; Plotino poi mostra la superiorità dell'intelletto sull'anima, che si declina nella sua grandezza e nella sua unione con la totalità della realtà intelligibile; in questa ascesa verso il divino l'intelletto è zavorrato dalla sua molteplicità, che può essere alleggerita grazie alla relazione con l'Uno, che è il principio supremo di ogni realtà; Plotino ora mostra che questa mappa ipostatica non è altro che l'autentica dottrina platonica, tinta di elementi pitagorici e presocratici, quindi Plotino non fa che portare alla luce il vero Platone; il percorso si completa con l'attenzione all'interiorità, a ciò che è dentro di noi – inward, nella consapevolezza che i livelli trascendenti di realtà sono sempre insieme a noi, e che per possederli dobbiamo allontanarci dalle cose sensibili (pp. 18-19).

Non si può dire che questa sinossi sia fuorviante, tuttavia, a differenza della narrazione filosofica di Pierre Hadot, essa sembra mettere in sordina la enneade II, 9, diretta contro gli gnostici, e quei passi plotiniani che ad essa rinviano. Non si può dire che l'universo plotiniano non sia gerarchico, ma forse immaginare la processione delle ipostasi non tanto in senso verticale, quanto piuttosto in senso orizzontale, serve a rimuovere un eccesso di gerarchizzazione senza per questo rimuovere l'ordine ontologico che implica un posto preciso nella serie della realtà ontologiche, un poco come il numero naturale 6 precede il numero naturale 7, ma non per questo l'uno è più o meno importante dell'altro. Una processione orizzontale, una presa sul serio della natura matematica dell'ordine—e vi sono elementi precisi nel sesto libro delle Enneadi—mi pare possa servire a dare all'enneade II, 9 il posto centrale che merita. Un altro effetto storiografico potrebbe essere quello di mettere accanto al valore spirituale di Plotino anche quello di produttore di sofisticate ontologie formali, che richiedono una lettura analitica di tipo logico-formale più che di tipo mistico. Penso a imprese storiografiche come quella di John M. Martin, Themes in Neoplatonic and Aristotelian Logic. Order, Negation and Abstraction (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2004), una raccolta di articoli in cui la gerarchia neoplatonica, Plotino in testa, diviene un oggetto di ontologia formale, non già di spiritualità. Un approccio storiografico non elide l'altro, e mi parrebbe che un commento, seppure informato dai gusti filosofici del suo autore, non dovrebbe ignorare l'esistenza di piste interpretative alternative.

Siamo di fronte ad un progetto di traduzione filosofica estremamente importante, e di un commento filosofico di alto valore e di coerenza puntuale, come è quello di Perl, attento ad una pluralità di nodi concettuali della riflessione plotiniana: a fronte di ventuno pagine della enneade V, 1, seguono centocinquantadue di commentario. Basti solo questo a sottolineare il duplice valore di trasmissione culturale di questo volume: per una enneade emblematica della strategia filosofica plotiniana, Perl ce ne fornisce una accurata traduzione ed una sistematica griglia interpretativa. Sarebbe ingeneroso rimproverargli di trascurare piste che a me sembrano attraenti: per esempio, a p. 130 l'emanazione è da lui detta una metafora, non una teoria, quando a me pare che sia una teoria della processione, distinta appunto dall'emanazione. La necessità di rimuovere il concetto di emanazione dalla lettura della filosofia di Plotino veniva già avanzata dallo storico della scienza Alexandre Koyré, nel suo volume L'idée de dieu dans la philosophie de st. Anselme (E. Leroux, Paris 1923), e mi piace citarlo a preferenza di una letteratura specialistica più recente proprio perché Koyré impostava il suo discorso storiografico nella prospettiva della ricognizione del neoplatonismo come una strategia filosofica che arriva al cuore della filosofia cristiana anche nella sua forma razionalistica, come è quella di sant'Anselmo. Il punto è che il testo di Plotino è assolutamente ricco e fecondo, quindi potenzialmente oggetto di un commento infinito. Quello che resta è un progetto meritorio, quello della serie, e la sua realizzazione precisa e puntuale da parte di Perl. E il desiderio di averlo a disposizione nella propria biblioteca, insieme ai volumi passati e futuri della serie.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017


Aleš Havlíček, Christoph Horn, Jakub Jinek (ed.), Nous, Polis, Nomos. Festschrift Francisco L. Lisi. Studies on Ancient Moral and Political Philosophy Bd. 2. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2016. Pp. 344. ISBN 9783896656971. €48,50.

Reviewed by Hernán Gabriel Borisonik, Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA); National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This compilation commemorates the Argentinean-born professor Francisco Leonardo Lisi Bereterbide's important studies and works, especially about Plato's Republic and Laws, and Aristotle's Politics. Taking Lisi's path, the book encompasses a number of disciplines such as Ancient History, Philosophy, Political Theory, Philology and even Law, not only in ancient times, but also in dialogue with the present.

The twenty-three essays are quite disparate in style, topic, framework, perspective, methods, and goals. Also, they are written in six different languages (English, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Catalan, regardless of the extended Greek references), which makes the reading almost exclusive to a very specific and erudite public. In addition, the immense range of topics only makes sense thanks to the articulating axis of Lisi's work, which also makes this volume a book to be recommended to those who study his legacy.

It is interesting to see, at the very beginning of the Preface, one of the commanding aims of this copious work: to reconnect young students and researchers with the roots of the Western tradition. Lisi himself was very concerned about that disconnection that results in a "lazy" Stimmung and the political danger of "ideological confusion" created by the lack of recognition of the importance of ancient thought for human life as we know it.

The book is divided into six sections, preceded by a foreword (written by one of the editors) and followed by lists and indexes. The first section consists of three essays regarding ancient history and general context in which political philosophy was born. The second section is formed by four papers focused on programmatic and hermeneutical subjects. The third and larger segment addresses some specific themes in the dialogues of Plato. After that, five papers take Aristotle's ideas into consideration. The next group is formed by two contributions that concentrate in the humanistic reception of Aristotle in the 16th century. The compilation closes with a survey of the systemic problem of human rights made by one of the editors. At the very end the book provides a complete list of Lisi's writings.

I would like to single out three of the articles that were of special interest for me, in the order that they appear in the book.

Alberto Maffi's "L'ennemi mis à mort dans l'antiquité grecque" makes an interesting study of the judgments of enemies that relates actions in the 5th century BC with war crime courts of the 20th and 21st centuries AD. Homeric and Xenophonic sources make clear that the actions taken against the defeated was always limited by the beliefs in celestial punishments and the power of public opinion. Dealing with a captive gradually shifted from being a right of the victor to the recognition of a responsibility of acting persons. As a first step in that shift Maffi makes use of Plato's Republic 471a-b, which makes a distinction between war (as a conflict with foreigners) and dissension (among Greeks), and argues that it is necessary to avoid killing in the second case. Maffi then turns to book 3 of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War and continues to analyse the transfiguration of the actions taken by the victor, linked to the idea of responsibility and law. At the very end, the text tries to connect this first change of mentality to the processes of war crimes in our time. Although the philosophical approach and the work with historiographical sources is very well organized and accurate, the links with the last two centuries are only briefly touched upon.

In "Les Lois de Platon, une utopie," Luc Brisson follows one of Lisi's main topics, utopia, with the last Platonic dialogue as a case study. Brisson begins by taking up the historical development of the term "utopia", from ancient Greece to Thomas More and tries to comprehend if it can be applied to Laws. He begins by stating that the idea of "utopia" always implies the evocation of a social and political situation that is applied to a place (topos), therefore it operates within a geography and is not a purely theoretical concept. Hence, utopia must contain a critical moment, a descriptive one and one that represents a desire (or fiction) for a better organization. The question is, then, is there a critical and illustrative programmatic instance in Plato's Laws. For Brisson, Plato thought of this book as a series of activities and human principles that are in close relation with philosophical reflection. He also placed it as a proposal for a colonized Crete. There, the program is a noocratic government (one that rules the polis according to nous, intellect, as opposed to a tyrannical, oligarchic or democratic one); his critics in the dialogue point to some existing governments (in Crete, Sparta, Athens) and his description consists of a spatial, economic, legislative, social, political and legal plan, which, in Brisson's eyes, means it is an achievable plan (at least, much more achievable than Republic). Nevertheless, this utopia is very different from the ones that came after it (especially More's), because it is realizable in the short term. The text is maybe a bit too short to for deep argument, but it has an interesting statement and freshens discussion of Platonic thought.

Thirdly, David Hernández de la Fuente intends to connect virtue and justice through the analysis of citizenship as a passage between individual and social experiences in his (predominantly descriptive) text "Virtud colectiva e individual en Aristóteles: algunas reflexiones sobre la Política". Even when is clear that Aristotle held a particular viewpoint about the connections between physis, justice and happiness, the paper proposes that here he follows Plato 'surely more than in any other aspect' to determine and solve the conflict between the individual and the collective spheres through law, education and sociability. That thesis (Aristotle's propinquity with Plato in this field) is probably the most controversial—and, therefore, the most interesting—aspect of the paper, although its brevity does not allow its author to provide important bibliographic foundations. Nevertheless, he describes the Stagirite as more 'pragmatic' and 'realistic' than his teacher and, consequently, as 'less innovative'. Aristotle solves the problem to create an enduring equilibrium by recombining and synthetizing existing elements into a new one: the middle-class government, crafted with monarchic, aristocratic, oligarchic and democratic components. In the end, Hernandez stresses the great value given by Aristotle to skholé as tied to the political functioning of the community, the virtuous behaviour of individuals and the freedom of citizens, and which also endorses a society directed to those who don't need to work to make a living.

In general, the book touches on most of the central topics in Lisi's concern and some of the most important in our time. Many readers will only come to those articles that are most useful for their interests or research fields, but this volume countenances a very broad depiction of ancient thought, which is of immense necessity in these times. Some chapters are more carefully constructed than others, and there is no lack of contradictions between the different authors, but this enriches the volume. Dedicated to a very selected public, it has the potential to be a great stimulus for revisiting and reflecting about some important Greek ideals, and also for further research.

Table of Contents

Preface, by Jakub Jinek
Solon über den wahren Reichtum, by Damir Barbarić
L'ennemi mis à mort dans l'antiquité grecque, by Alberto Maffi
The Flawed Origins of Ancient Greek Democracy, by Edward Harris
Wie lässt sich die antike Ethik angemessen verstehen?, by Christoph Horn
Platon heute, by Barbara Zehnpfennig
Zur Bezeugung nicht verschriftlichter Ansichten bei Platon, by Thomas Alexander Szlezák
Alcune riflessioni sulla gnoseologia platonica, by Maurizio Migliori
La visione dell'idea del bello: Conoscenza intuitiva e conoscenza proposizionale nel Simposio, by Francesco Fronterotta
Tiresia, Socrate e il vero politico: A proposito della conclusione del Menone, by Franco Ferrari
Placing Respect in the Foreground: Plato on Different Kinds of Recognition, by Elena Irrera
Progress or regress? Plato's account of the beginnings of mankind, by Giovanni Giorgini
Zum Problem des Gehorsams gegenüber dem Gesetz bei Platon, by Jakub Jinek
The Relation of Law and Virtue in Plato's Politeia, Politikos, and Nomoi, by Manuel Knoll
Règims, governs i governants: precisions al voltant d'un fragment d'El polític de Plató, by Josep Monserrat-Molas
Les Lois de Platon, une utopie?, by Luc Brisson
Jaeger's Theory on "Development History" and his Aristotelian Studies, by Arianna Fermani
L'animale politico e i suoi rivali: Aristotele e il conflitto delle antropologie, by Mario Vegetti
An Overdose of Justice or The Chimera of alleged "Distributive Justice" in Aristotle's Politics, by Eckart Schütrumpf
Virtud colectiva e individual en Aristóteles: algunas reflexiones sobre la Política, by David Hernández de la Fuente
Le forme di democrazia nella Politica di Aristotele, by Silvia Gastaldi
Wonder and the Irrational. The Invention of Aristotle's Poetics, 1460a11–18, in the Sixteenth Century, by María José Vega
Felice Figliucci interprete della Politica di Aristotele, by Michele Curnis
On the Very Existence of Human Rights, by Aleš Havlíček
Bibliography of Francisco Leonardo Lisi Bereterbide, by Michele Curnis

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