Monday, February 20, 2017


Vanessa Cazzato, André Lardinois (ed.), The Look of Lyric: Greek Song and the Visual. Studies in archaic and classical Greek song, vol. 1. Mnemosyne Supplements. History and archaeology of classical antiquity, 391. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xii, 391. ISBN 9789004311633. $175.00.

Reviewed by Amy Lather, Wake Forest University (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

This volume is a substantial and welcome addition to the burgeoning field of ancient sensory studies. As a conference proceedings of the Network for the Study of Archaic and Classical Greek Song, it vividly illustrates (as befits a study of vision) how traditional methods of analyzing Greek lyric can be fruitfully applied to new questions: here, the role and nature of sight and spectator in the lyric corpus. As Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi sets out in the introduction, "lyric vision" is a broad category that includes forms of lyric performance spectatorship as well as the techniques of visualization available to lyric poets that constitute a "visual imagination" (2). Given this concentration on visuality as both an embodied practice as well as a feature of poetics, this volume is also richly interdisciplinary. Numerous essays put lyric texts into dialogue with sculpture, architecture, and painting in order to contextualize lyric within a broader visual culture, and this is one of the great strengths of the collection. The diversity of the contributions testifies to the rich multiplicity of what Peponi terms the "visual demeanor" (p. 1) of lyric poetry, and the combination produces a veritable kaleidoscope of perspectives on the lyric eye.

In her introduction, Peponi (ch. 1) invokes the oft-cited Simonidean assertion that painting is "silent poetry" and "poetry painting that speaks" (Plut. De glor. Ath. 346f.) in order to delineate the two broad questions that shape the collection as a whole: (1) the particular visual sensibilities and practices that are manifested in the lyric corpus as well as in the material record; and (2) the politics and sociology of spectatorship. As each essay attests, these lines of inquiry are not easily untangled, nor would their division be desirable given their mutual influence on one another. Swift's contribution (ch. 11), for instance, is particularly illustrative of this overlap in her reading of parthenaic lyric. According to this argument, partheneia's emphasis on the attractive physical appearance of its performers constitutes a formal and distinctive feature of the genre (a "parthenaic motif," p. 276) that corresponds to its social function of publicly displaying marrigeable young women.

Athanassaki (ch. 2) also tackles the interconnectedness of imagery and politics. Her contribution explores the political ramifications of Delphic sightseeing in focusing on the portrayal of Theseus in both the Athenian Treasury at Delphi and Bacchylides' Fourth Dithyramb. While Athanassaki makes a case for the influence of Theseus' depiction in the metopes on Bacchylides' dramatization of Athenian trepidation at Theseus' arrival, Lulli (ch. 3) identifies the converse interaction at work in the Pergamon Frieze's visualization of Telephus. On this argument, Telephus is portrayed in the frieze in a way that reflects the influence of Archilochus' and Pindar's treatments of this figure, an evocation that seems designed to illustrate Pergamon's status as an intellectual hub to rival Alexandria. Widening the lens to survey choral performance imagery more generally, Carruesco (ch. 4) offers a fascinating study of the geometric aesthetics present in painting and in descriptions of choral choreography. While at times his exegesis is as dizzying as the imagery he describes (especially in his discussion of concentric circles on the shield of Achilles, pp. 78–9), this is nonetheless a deeply thought-provoking interpretation of the relationship between chorality and kosmos.

In the first of several contributions devoted to sympotic imagery, Steiner (ch. 5) delves into the significance of Archilochus's choice of the ape to characterize Kerykides in frr. 185–187 W. Drawing attention to how the figure of the monkey is consistently anthropomorphized as a site of social critique in both the literary and visual record, this essay offers a convincing new perspective on the poem by illuminating why the monkey is a fitting image with which to characterize an uncouth party guest. Jones (ch. 6) considers that ambiguous genre of the skolion, and while he presents a convincing case for a connection between the skolion and the symposium, the essay's avowed concentration on generic categories renders the relationship between lyric diction and the examples of painting he adduces rather less clear than in other contributions. Cazzato (ch. 7) similarly restricts her scope to the generic context for Praxilla, but delivers a subtle re-interpretation of the view that understands Praxilla as a hetaira and the composer of bawdy songs. Demonstrating first how the attribution of a vase inscription to Praxilla has in fact misled scholars because of its sympotic imagery, she then demonstrates how the very kind of looking described in Praxilla fr. 8 would be at home in an epithalamium, given the dichotomy it depicts between the appearance of a maiden and that of a bride. Clay (ch. 8) caps off this set of contributions by offering a short but stimulating discussion of the different ways that poets visualize the symposium in terms of spatial organization.

Trieschnigg's (ch. 9) is the sole contribution devoted entirely to tragic lyric, which recalls the distinction raised in the introduction between the "fixity" of Athenian drama and the "generally itinerant and centrifugal" (p. 5) nature of the lyric genres. It is for this reason that drama features relatively scarcely in this collection, but the inclusion of this essay reveals the interface between dramatic and non-dramatic forms of lyric vision as a fruitful direction for further study. This piece examines the prologue and parodos of Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes, which is fertile territory indeed for the study of the relationship between seeing and hearing that she considers here. While she makes the intriguing suggestion that the chorus and the scout perceive the Argive army in distinctive ways because of their differences in gender and status, I was less convinced by her interpretation of the synaesthetic terminology in the chorus's entrance song. In her attempt to demonstrate the chorus's reliance on hearing as opposed to seeing, the emphatically visual language in this passage, and in particular the epithets used to describe the appearance of the army, are dismissed as "stock epithets," which "may explain their presence in a narrative dominated by sound" (p. 223).

In chapter 10, Briand details the significance of light imagery (and φάος in particular) for the thematic and narrative structures of Pindar's Olympians. While he is certainly right to identify images of bright, dazzling light as indications of the ability of praise to function as "a visual piece of art" (p. 250), I was left wondering about the implications of the "clair-obscur" device he identifies in several instances (pp. 244, 246). If darkness (and obscurity) is the natural counterpart of light, then it seems as though darkness (and not seeing) is equally as constitutive of praise's "spectacular efficiency" (p. 247) as light itself. Swift (ch. 11) brings us into the realm of partheneia and the unique style of self-referentiality employed by singers of this type. First, she draws attention to how an emphasis on the visual splendor of performers is unique to partheneia and is conspicuously absent from male choral songs. She then offers a reason for this, arguing that young women in choral performance "actively attempt to control and direct the gaze of their audience" (p. 282) in order to highlight their transitional status as potential brides. Equally attentive to the sexuality of the gaze is Calame's contribution (ch. 12), which sets out to illuminate how archaic lyric evokes the eye of its audience in order to communicate asymmetric erotic desire as a physical sensation mediated through the gaze in particular. He thus ascribes a dual "semantic and enunciative role" (p. 299) to lyric descriptions of looking, since such allusions may be both a formal feature of poetic diction as well as a gesture to the physicality of choral performance.

In chapter 13, Bierl offers a nuanced study of the layers of interpretation implied in the transmission history of the Cologne Sappho. Disputing the popular reading of the Tithonus poem as Sappho's personal lament about old age, he instead identifies its central themes as "aesthetic education in the Sapphic circle and…ideas of rejuvenation" (p. 312). It is particularly because of the latter that this poem came to be grouped with the two others that appear on this papyrus. All three poems, he argues, are united by the facets of Orphic beliefs that appear in each. This thematic arrangement in turn reflects the different performance traditions and transmission processes associated with the Sapphic poems. Similarly focused on transmission history is Ladianou's contribution (ch. 14), which vividly explores how synaesthetic constructs in Sappho were treated by later authors as "an inherent characteristic" (p. 344) of her poetry. She argues further that these later authors also associate the fusion of the senses specifically with choreia, and thus suggests that post-classical readings of Sappho may provide evidence in support of the view that understands Sappho as a composer of works intended for choral performance. Both chapters (13 and 14) are exemplary readings that amply demonstrate the utility of the visual (and of constructions of the senses more generally) as a heuristic tool for literary history.

Kantzios (ch. 15) provides an appropriate finale to the collection through his lucid analysis of the complex ways of seeing adumbrated in the portrayal of a hetaira and an eromenos in poems 16 and 17 respectively of the Anacreontea. In both poems' portraits, the dynamics of viewing mimetic art provide the template for a sophisticated way of visually objectifying the beloved, as each poems' speaker imagines each beloved in the form of a naturalistic portrait of the ideal beloved. This in turn draws attention to the fact that the poems are themselves imitations of Anacreon's poetry.

In the arrangement of the contributions a progression from macro-to micro-perspective becomes apparent, commencing with studies of modes of public and monumental viewing related to particular artifacts (Athanassaki, Lulli) and ending with a focus on the role of the individual reader-as-viewer (Bierl, Ladianou, Kantzios) in the classification of authors and genres. Given the multifarious nature of the topic, however, combined with the number and length of the contributions, the collection would have benefitted from a more systematic table of contents to alert the reader to the points of convergence and divergence between contributions. For instance, this reader was somewhat disoriented by the logic behind the organization of chapters 7–10 and their respective discussions of Praxilla fr. 8 (Cazzato), the organization of sympotic space (Strauss Clay), vision and sound in Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes (Trieschnigg), and the mytho-poetic significance of light imagery in Olympian 1 (Briand). More satisfyingly coherent is the last set of essays (11–15), which focus on the eroticism of lyric perspective and which thus usefully complement one another in their successive placement.

All in all, this volume comprises an invaluable resource for scholars of archaic and classical lyric and art and will prove equally useful for anyone interested in visual dynamics in the ancient world. The bibliography for each essay is thorough and up to date, further bolstering the work's utility. It is a pity, however, that timing did not permit cross-referencing with the recently-published Sight and the Ancient Senses,1 as a number of essays in that volume would have provided useful corollaries to several of those contained here. But since the stated focus of this volume is Greek lyric rather than vision writ large, it is no grave matter and I cite this work only for the reader's benefit.

The volume is extremely well-produced. I noted only the following handful of errata: "Atlanta" should read "Atalanta" on p. 138, there should be a space in "kottabosstand" on p. 161, and "consistently" should be replaced with "consistent" on p. 322.

Table of Contents

Lyric Vision: An Introduction (Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi)
Political and Dramatic Perspectives on Archaic Sculptures: Bacchylides' Fourth Dithyramb (Ode 18) and the Treasury of the Athenians in Delphi (Lucia Athanassaki)
The Fight of Telephus: Poetic Visions behind the Pergamon Frieze (Laura Lulli)
Choral Performance and Geometric Patterns in Epic Poetry and Iconographic Representations (Jesús Carruesco)
Making Monkeys: Archilochus frr. 185–187 W in Performance (Deborah Steiner)
Observing Genre in Archaic Greek Skolia and Vase-Painting (Gregory S. Jones)
'Glancing Seductively through Windows': The Look of Praxilla fr. 8 (PMG 754) (Vanessa Cazzato)
How to Construct a Sympotic Space with Words (Jenny Strauss Clay)
Turning Sound into Sight in the Chorus' Entrance Song of Aeschylus' Seven against Thebes (Caroline Trieschnigg)
Light and Vision in Pindar's Olympian Odes: Interplays of Imagination and Performance (Michel Briand)
Visual Imagery in Parthenaic Song (Laura Swift)
The Amorous Gaze: A Poetic and Pragmatic Koinē for Erotic Melos? (Claude Calame)
Visualizing the Cologne Sappho: Mental Imagery through Chorality, the Sun, and Orpheus (Anton Bierl)
Female Choruses and Gardens of Nymphs: Visualizing Chorality in Sappho (Katerina Ladianou)
Imagining Images: Anacreontea 16 and 17 (Ippokratis Kantzios)


1.   Squire, M. (ed.), Sight and the Ancient Senses (Routledge, 2016).

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Giampiero Scafoglio (ed.), Studies on the Greek Epic Cycle (2 vols.). Philologia antiqua, 7 (2014) - 8 (2015). Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2015. Pp. 139; 165. ISBN 9788862278317. €245.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Alberto Bernabé, Universidad Complutense de Madrid (

Version at BMCR home site

El Ciclo épico ha generado en los últimos años un creciente interés que se ha reflejado en una amplia serie de artículos y de libros. Baste hacer referencia a algunas obras significativas sobre el particular, una de Burgess sobre la tradición de la guerra de Troya,1 un estudio de West sobre el ciclo en su conjunto,2 las entregas del comentario de M. Davies, prometido en 1986, sobre algunos poemas:3 una sobre los poemas tebanos, 4 y otra sobre la Etiópida, 5 y sobre todo el completo y útil Companion editado por Fantuzzi y Tsagalis. 6 En tales obras se ha ido configurando una nueva postura más flexible frente al Ciclo Épico y sus relaciones con la épica homérica y hesiódica y que excede el marco tradicional de considerar los poemas del Ciclo como epígonos de la poesía homérica destinados a "cubrir las lagunas" de información sobre diversos temas míticos. La presente obra reúne una serie de trabajos de diversos especialistas y se organiza desde una perspectiva concreta: estudiar el Ciclo épico en un desarrollo dinámico, en el curso de la tradición oral y de las prácticas rapsódicas y en sus relaciones con la tradición homérica. Se trata, pues, de entender las obras que lo componen como productos de una historia compleja, en la que Homero y el Ciclo se interrelacionan mutuamente, al tiempo que se proyectan en otras obras posteriores, dentro de la misma dinámica. Lo componen diez trabajos, precedidos de una breve introducción de Giampiero Scafoglio, "Introduction. An Epic Cicle Revival" (vol. 7, pp. 11-13).

1. Gregory Nagy, "Homeric cross-referencing to a Cyclic tradition of performance" (vol. 7, pp. 15-31). Este ensayo complementa al presentado por el autor en el Companion de Fantuzzi y Tsagalis. 7 Propone que la poesía homérica puede hacer referencias cruzadas a la tradición del Ciclo y que estas son un aspecto de la tradición oral. Presenta como ejemplos de tales referencias el primer canto de Demódoco (Odisea 8.72-83), la profecía de Apolo en lo que llama "la microIlíada de la Odisea" (8.79-81) en relación con la disputa entre los mejores aqueos. Señala que la Ilíada referida en ese pasaje no es la homérica y será retomada por el tercer canto de Demódoco. Asimismo sostiene que κύκλος significaba "rueda de carro" y, en sus usos más antiguos, hace referencia a poesía compuesta por Homero. En relación con esta metáfora se inclina a aceptar la etimología del nombre de Homero como *hom-āros 'the one who fits/joins together' (cf. ar-ar-iskein).

2. Giampiero Scafoglio, "Un guerrier qui vient de loin. Ajax de la tradition pré–homérique à l'Iliade" (vol. 7, pp. 33-59). Este capítulo se ocupa de Ayax, el mejor de los aqueos en ausencia de Aquiles (Il. 2.768-769); señala su "estatus especial" en la Iliada, por su aspecto, sus armas y su manera de luchar y considera que la inadecuación entre su valor y su falta de éxito quizá puede ser atribuida a su posición particular en el contexto social y cultural del poema. En pp. 39-40 propone una etimología micénica del nombre para la que no se aportan argumentos convincentes, pero que le sirve de apoyo para postular su presencia en una tradición muy antigua. Concluye postulando que Ayax es el protagonista de un canto oral que ha dejado huellas en la Iliada pero que nunca tomó una forma literaria autónoma (ni en el Ciclo épico) o, en otras palabras, "el héroe de un poema que no existe y que nunca existió en una elaboración escrita".

3. Françoise Létoublon, "Le Palladion dans la guerre de Troie : un talisman du cycle épique, un tabou de l'Iliade" (vol. 7, pp. 61-84). La autora se ocupa del Paladión que, según ella, "constitue ... l'un des nœuds de la relation entre l'Iliade et le Cycle épique". Pretende poner a prueba una hipótesis que se resume en tres puntos: 1. "cet object joue un rôle crucial dans la mythologie de la guerre de Troie". 2. "Il en est peut-être question dans au moins un episode de l'Iliade sans que son nom soit prononcé, ce qui pourrait s'expliquer par les propriétés mystérieuses de la statue". 3. "Après la prise de Troie, le Palladion ou les Palladia continuent d'exercer une sorte de fascination dans la mythologie des Retours ... et il est ... lié para là au mythe des origines troyennes de Rome". Concluye que el Paladión era una de las claves de la seguridad de Troya, que ese papel era conocido por la Iliada, aunque no hay ninguna mención explícita de ello, y que otros textos señalan el temor religioso que inspiraba y las interdicciones que lo rodeaban (por ejemplo, no podía ser visto ni se podía hablar de él sin riesgo, lo que explicaría el silencio de la Iliada). Cree, por último, que el carácter de talismán precioso de la estatua podría explicar por qué los troyanos conservan la estatua de una diosa que no les ama.

4. Elton T. E. Barker - Joel P. Christensen, "Odysseus's Nostos and the Odyssey's Nostoi : rivalry within the Epic Cycle" (vol. 7, pp. 85-110). Los autores estudian la forma en que los nostoi de otros héroes son aludidos en la Odisea. En concreto, analizan el interés de la audiencia y la manipulación del narrador de las historias en los contextos de Ítaca, Piloy Esparta. Se señala que configuran una estructura en espiral. La Odisea sitúa a sus narradores y audiencias en un ambiente simposíaco y, a través de Menelao y de Néstor, se apropia de otras narrativas de nostoi y de materiales del Ciclo Épico, preparando así el camino para una narrativa más amplia de los regresos de los héroes.

5. Jonathan S. Burgess, "The Death of Odysseus in the Odyssey and the Telegony" (vol. 7, pp. 111-122). El autor compara la muerte de Odiseo en la Odisea y en la Telegoníaa través de la profecía de Tiresias, si bien no cree que exista una intertextualidad directa. El punto de partida del autor, según el cual el Ciclo épico representa una potente tradición prehomérica, había sido defendido por él en publicaciones anteriores.8 Aunque en gran medida comparto dicho punto de vista, en mi opinión el caso de la Telegonía es particular en el conjunto de las obras del Ciclo, dado que considero que es el poema más dependiente de Homero (al tiempo que contiene notables e incluso extravagantes innovaciones del poeta). Centro del análisis es la interpretación de dos expresiones ambiguas: ἐξ ἁλός y ἀβληχρός, a las que el autor dedica un detenido estudio, dado que su interpretación condiciona el desarrollo argumental de la muerte de Odiseo en la Telegonía.

6. Livio Sbardella, "La Teogonia esiodea e quella ciclica : competizione narrativa e tradizioni rapsodiche" (vol. 7, pp. 123-136). El autor trata de explicar la contradicción existente entre los "programas" del ordenamiento de los temas en el proemio de la Teogonia hesiódica (104-1015), solo uno de los cuales se desarrolla en el texto del poema, y lo hace sobre la base de una visión viva y dinámica de la tradición rapsódica arcaica, especialmente en las competiciones de rapsodos. La "teogonía alternativa" enunciada en el proemio y no desarrollada en el poema habría que buscarla en el Ciclo Épico. El autor busca las huellas de tales versiones en la Titanomaquia cíclica y en otras posibles teogonías como la citada en la Crestomatía de Proclo (Ciclus epicus test. 13 = Theog. fr. 1 Bernabé).

7. Jean-Fabrice Nardelli, "L'Orient dans le Cycle" (vol. 8, pp. 11-115). Se estudia la presencia de temas orientales en el Ciclo que no tienen precedentes homéricos. El autor se basa en la hipótesis de la condición itinerante de los poetas del Ciclo que pudieron conocer algunos elementos de la cultura asiria tardía. Los paralelos señalados son principalmente en hebreo, sumerio y acadio, a menudo se trata de expresiones de un par de palabras o incluso de una sola. A pesar del impresionante aparato de referencias, subsisten dudas sobre matices importantes: por ejemplo, si se trata de préstamos verbales y de uso posterior de tales préstamos, ya incorporados a la lengua, por los poetas, o si se trata de préstamos literarios. Al análisis de los temas presentes en cada uno de los poemas se añade una monumental bibliografía y un apéndice sobre el enigma hexamétrico de la Esfinge.

8. Evina Sistakou, "The epic mythology in Apollonius Rodius' Argonautica" (vol. 8, pp. 117-128). Se trata de un análisis de las historias que Apolonio Rodio introduce en las Argonáuticas y que proporcionan un fondo y una profundidad al universo de la épica del autor. Se examinan las estrategias por las que se incorporan tales mitos en la narrativa y se trata de determinar qué poetas épicos no homéricos (como Eumelo, los autores de la Teseida o la Miniada) han podido ser el intertexto de la interpretación del poema.

9. Giovanni Cerri, "I poemi ciclici nel giudizio di Aristotele e di Quinto Smirneo" (vol. 8, pp. 129-149). El capítulo se pregunta por los motivos por los que Quinto de Esmirna compone entre los siglos II y III d. C. un poema en que vuelve a narrar las historias míticas que habían sido tratadas por los poetas del Ciclo en torno a un milenio antes. Señala dos: el primero, el menosprecio sufrido por tales poemas de acuerdo con una línea de crítica que se remonta a Aristóteles y prosigue con la erudición alejandrina, y en especial en autores como Calímaco o Aristarco, y el segundo, como consecuencia del anterior, su progresiva desaparición de las bibliotecas públicas y privadas. Tras presentar las opciones de Quinto frente a la crítica, el autor señala la unidad de acción de su poema para acabar ocupándose del juego literario del pasaje 12.306-313, una especie de sphragis, en la que, del mismo modo que los poemas cíclicos fueron atribuidos a Homero y a otros autores, atribuye al mismo tiempo su poema a Homero y a sí mismo.

10. Thomas Gärtner, "Mantik und Heilkunde. Zukunftsvoraussage und Zukunftsgestaltung im Oenone-Mythos" (vol. 8, pp. 151-161). Se propone que el mito de Paris y Enone se configura sobre el modelo de la narración cíclica sobre Paris y Helena. El autor hace un recorrido desde los manuales de mitología griegos a las Heroidas de Ovidio y las Posthoméricas de Quinto para continuar en autores renacentistas que escribieron en latín como Camerarius, Boyd o Fracco. Examina en particular algunos pasajes especialmente interesantes, como una respuesta de Boyd alternativa a una "carta de Sabino" o un pasaje de Fracco que termina con la evocación del epitafio de la urna en que yacen juntos los dos amantes.


1.   J. S. Burgess, The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle, Baltimore-London, 2001 (cf. reseña en BMCR 2002.09.04).
2.   M. L. West, The Epic Cycle, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 (cf. reseña en BMCR 2014.10.06).
3.   M. Davies, "Prolegomena and Paralegomena to a New Edition (with Commentary) of the Fragments of Early Greek Epic", Nachr. Akad. Wissensch. Göttingen (Phil.-hist. Kl.) 2, 1986: 91–111 (especialmente p. 91).
4.   M. Davies, The Theban Epics (Washington DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2015) (reseña en BMCR 2015.12.11).
5.   M. Davies, The Aethiopis: Neo-Neoanalysis Reanalyzed, Hellenic Studies Series 71, Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. 2016. The Aethiopis.
6.   M. Fantuzzi & Ch. Tsagalis (eds.), The Greek Epic Cycle and its Ancient Reception. A Companion, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015 (BMCR 2016.04.45).
7.   G. Nagy, "Oral Traditions, Written Texts and Questions of Authorship", in Fantuzzi-Tsagalis (citado en n 6): 59-77.
8.   Especialmente en J. S. Burgess, The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle, citado en n.1.

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Mauro Bonazzi, À la recherche des idées: Platonisme et philosophie hellénistique d'Antiochus à Plotin. Histoire des doctrines de l'Antiquité classique, 46. Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 2015. Pp. 176. ISBN 9782711625789. €22.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Adrian Mihai, Université Laval (

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The present book, In Search of the Ideas. Platonism and Hellenistic Philosophy from Antiochus to Plotinus,1 is a history of Platonic philosophy in four rich but often neglected centuries of philosophy, running from the 1st century BCE to the 3rd century CE. What distinguishes this book from other histories of the reception of Plato is that Bonazzi switches the main focus of his research to epistemology (the doctrine of ideas and, more generally, the study of the nature of human knowledge), while others have concentrated mostly on cosmology and ontology. In his previous works, Bonazzi analyzed skeptical tendencies in Platonism, seeing skepticism both as the cause of the 'crisis of Platonism' during these centuries, and as the basis for finding a common identity among all these thinkers who traced their philosophical roots back to Plato's philosophy.2 In the present work, Bonazzi looks at the relationship between Platonism and Stoicism. Looking at the epistemological positions of these philosophers provides a way to grasp the various and complex issues involved in the dispute between the Platonists and Hellenistic philosophies, chiefly Stoicism.

His account must first wrestle with the appellation "Platonist." In fact, much scholarly debate surrounds the history of Platonic philosophy in general, and in particular the Platonism(s) of the period situated between the revival of the "Old" Academy by Antiochus, through the so-called Middle Platonists (for example, Plutarch, the anonymous commentator on the Theaetetus, Alcinous, Apuleius, Numenius), up to Plotinus. This is due in large part to a change or shift in the nomenclature of Platonic philosophers, which had also institutional implications, because most of them (Dörrie and Baltes listed around 170 philosophers), from around the 1st century BCE onwards, called themselves "Platonikoi" or "Platonici", instead of the common name "Akademaikoi". Much ink has been spilled over the implications of this shift in appellation. And for a good reason: What did it really mean to be a "Platonist" in the last century BCE and the first three centuries CE?

According to Bonazzi, Platonism had entered a time of identity-crisis during the 1st century BCE, a crisis precipitated by the triumph of skepticism in the Academy. Furthermore, the crisis was not only institutional, but also doctrinal, since the other philosophical schools were trying to appropriate the doctrines of Plato. "Prendre le contrôle de Platon signifiera prendre le contrôle de la philosophie" (p. 19). Thus, the Platonists' ambition was to show that, correctly understood, the philosophy of Plato could resolve problems that the other schools could not. In the first chapter (pp. 15-68), Bonazzi details how Antiochus tried to remedy to this situation by showing that the Stoics and the Platonists defended the same doctrines and belonged to the same philosophical tradition (p. 24). Hence, Antiochus wanted to appropriate Stoicism, to integrate it into the Platonic system. He tried to do this by identifying the Platonic Ideas with the Stoic ennoiai (p. 31), showing a structural affinity between both theories (p. 34). As explained by Bonazzi, "les ennoiai sont le point de départ qui nous permet d'accéder à la connaissance de l'objet que l'on recherche; et, si cela est possible, c'est grâce au fait que les ennoiai sont ce qui reste dans l'intellect humain de la vision prénatale des Idées (c'est-à-dire, la réminiscence)" (p. 44).

The second chapter (pp. 69-115) is mainly dedicated to Plutarch and to the anonymous commentary on Plato's Theaetetus, and ends with a discussion of Alcinous. In this chapter, Bonazzi looks at the epistemological consequences of two fundamental tenets of Platonism, to wit, the transcendence of the intelligible and divine Principles (God and the Ideas or Forms) and the dualism between the sensible world and the intelligible. In order to avoid the philosophical problems of skepticism, Plutarch adopts a dualist ontology and epistemology, according to which there is an intelligible, and so stable, world beyond the empirical, unstable reality of everyday life. The Epicureans, for example (still according to Plutarch) are merely empiricists, that is, they consider as real only the sensible and material world. This attitude leads unequivocally towards radical skepticism. According to Plutarch, the notion of "metaphysical skepticism" is the common denominator of Arcesilaus' (and of Plutarch's) anti-empiricism and dualism. This sort of skepticism has almost nothing to do with Pyrrhonist skepticism, and allows thus Plutarch to include Arcesilaus in the Platonic tradition. Furthermore, the Commentarium in Platonis "Theaetetum", a papyrus found in 1901 in Egypt, and dated to the first half of the first century CE, or the middle of the first century BCE (the date is still a controversial question), shows how a Middle Platonist could integrate the skepticism of the New Academy within a unitary view of the history of Platonism.

The third and last chapter (pp. 117-51) deals with Plotinus and his polemic against skepticism. Starting with a discussion of Ennead V 5 [32] ("That the Intellectual Beings are not Outside the Intellect, and on the Good"), Bonazzi discusses the hypothesis according to which Plotinus constructed his dogmatism through his confrontation with skepticism. He argues, on the contrary, Plotinus never considered skepticism as a menace to knowledge. Thus, Bonazzi thinks that Plotinus, in his treatise, is arguing against not only Cassius Longinus, one of the first teachers of Porphyry, but also against all Platonists who distinguished between the Intellect and the Ideas. In Treatise 32, Plotinus affirms the cognitive identity between the Intellect and the Intelligibles, that is, between the intellect and its objects. Therefore, according to Plotinus, those who do not accept the identity between the intellect and the Intelligibles fall into skepticism – like the empiricists, who maintain a firm distinction between the knowing subject and the object of knowledge. Moreover, Plotinus tried to rethink Platonism from a critical confrontation with Aristotle (p. 148).

Perhaps because of the difficulty of the subject, due in part to the scarcity of our sources, we are not told what this 'new' Platonic identity consists in. For example, were there something like building blocks (Bausteine) or common doctrines held by particular Platonists from the first century BCE onwards?3 We know that despite various and fundamental doctrinal differences (I think especially of the debate between Iamblichus and Porphyry / Plotinus), the Neoplatonists, from Plotinus to Simplicius, identified themselves as belonging to a specific school of thought because they shared some basic common beliefs, aims and worldview. But what about the "Platonists" analyzed in this book?

Through his subtle analyses, Bonazzi does show the intense and creative power of various Platonists who distinguished themselves from all the other Hellenistic philosophies to assert a specific identity. But though specific, this identity was not adopted by most later Platonists. As far as their epistemologies were concerned, neither Antiochus nor Plotinus had many followers.

Following Bonazzi's claims, perhaps all we can really ascertain is that, notwithstanding their differences, all the Platonists of the period under discussion accepted the Platonic dialogues as the main source of their philosophies. And it is because of their high regard of Plato's writings, in which one can find support for two contradictory opinions, that the Platonists differed in so many ways. The best solution may consist in acknowledging the constitutive ambiguity of Plato himself (p. 150).


1.   I think it is interesting to note the similarities (and differences) between Bonazzi's project, and title, and Jan Opsomer's In Search of the Truth. Academic Tendencies in Middle Platonism (Brussels: KAWLSK, 1998): BMCR 2003.08.19.
2.   See Bonazzi's PhD Dissertation on the debate in the Platonic circles around the skeptical interpretation of Plato, published as Academici e Platonici. Il dibattito antico sullo scetticismo di Platone (Milan: Led, 2003).
3.   See H. Dörrie's introduction to the monumental 8 volumes (4 more are in preparation) of Der Platonismus in der Antike. Grundlagen – System – Entwicklung (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1987-2008).

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Florian Steger, Asklepios: Medizin und Kult. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. Pp. 162. ISBN 9783515114479. €26.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Michaela Senkova, University of Leicester (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Asklepios: Medizin und Kult is a systematic assessment of medical care provided by the sanctuaries of the healing god Asclepius, mainly in the Roman principate (c. 27 BC – AD 284). It is based on the author's 2004 monograph Asklepiosmedizin: medizinischer Alltag in der römischen Kaiserzeit, now out of print, and closely follows its format. 1 Steger builds upon the evidence collated by Edelstein and Edelstein (1945)and includes new interpretations of numismatic, epigraphic and archaeological sources.2 He interrogates this material for individual healing experiences, which he contextualizes within the broader context of imperial medicine. Notably, his analysis of self-reflexive reports of the "patients" of Asclepius reveals the combination of customary mythic and ritual traditions with the "scientific" understanding of human health as presented in the writings of contemporary professional doctors, such as Celsus and Galen. In short, Steger argues that the medicine practiced in the Asclepieia of the Imperial Roman period was a separate, and important, form of healthcare that was characterized by the interweaving of cult and medicine.

The book contains an introduction, two main chapters, and a brief closing summary. In the introduction (9–17), Steger reviews previous scholarship and emphasizes the need to investigate the development of medical practice within the cults of Asclepius from its beginnings in the fifth century BC to the imperial period. Chapter II (17–36) defines the spectrum of the "healing market" within the Roman Empire. Over several sections, Steger addresses the cultural development of healing opportunities across diverse medical traditions: from the practice of professional physicians to midwives, magic and religion. Cultural influences from beyond the Mediterranean world (especially Babylon and Egypt) become apparent in this chapter, and the author stresses that ideological exchange had a direct effect on the development of the Asclepius cults.

Chapter III (37–131) forms the main part of the book and concentrates solely on Asclepius. It establishes Asclepius as the most important pagan healing deity and examines his shrines for their social function based on the needs of their supplicants. In the first instance, Steger examines the topography and architecture of major Asclepius sanctuaries and reveals the significance of environment. Access to a water source, for instance, seems to have been a key requirement, both in ritual purification and in therapeutics, and other facilities, such as libraries and theaters, were pleasant surroundings supporting the regimen. On the basis of these observations, Steger questions the actual experiences of supplicants. He argues that though Asclepius worshippers normally offered dedications to the god after the course of their cure (e.g. anatomical votives, inscriptions), it is often difficult to distinguish between instances of miraculous healing and propaganda when reading this data. Instead he evaluates treatment reports by three individuals who explicitly comment on their personal healing experience within the Asclepieia at Pergamum and Epidaurus. These are P. Aelius Aristides (104–119), M. Iulius Apellas (119–126) and P. Aelius Theon (126–131). Steger's discussion of the three testimonies is especially interesting because it reveals that the treatment recommended by the healing god, in addition to means specific to the Asclepius cult (e.g. ritual bathing), also involved remedies based in contemporary medical ideals (e.g. dietary recommendations). Moreover, it contained further measures such as sports or rest that appear logical even from the modern perspective. Steger's analysis is persuasive and leads to clear conclusions, namely that the shrines of Asclepius employed a complex network of therapies in the Imperial period, where both medicine and cult played an important role, forming a unique form of health care available within the Roman healing market.

In comparison with the 2004 volume, Asklepios: Medizin und Kult has been revised to encompass the latest research (e.g. Oberhelman 2013), but it is also much condensed.3 A discussion of further developments in medical thought within medieval cultures that resulted from ideological migration at the end of antiquity, to which Steger dedicated a whole chapter in his 2004 volume (chapter IV), is omitted altogether in his new monograph.

Steger covers a broad ground in this concise study but takes care to include much contextual information that makes his text accessible to broader audiences rather than only to the ranks of expert classicists. All sources that he analyzes in detail (e.g. the inscription of M. Iulius Apellas) are punctiliously translated with careful referencing throughout. Additionally, eighteen black and white plates accompany the text, providing a useful visual aid. These are mostly the plans of sanctuaries that Steger discusses in detail (e.g. Epidaurus and Pergamum) and photos of specific architectural features within these sanctuaries that illustrate his points (e.g. accommodation and bath facilities). There is also a generous bibliography (138- 157), and two compact indices organized by general terms and proper names (159-162) – a welcome format that allows for easier orientation in the book and further research. Although errors are kept to minimum, it needs to be said that Juliette Harrisson's name is misspelled throughout, including in the bibliography.4 This is only a minor slip, but it could ultimately result in confusion for Steger's readership, especially when considering the book as an innovative, wide-ranging survey that may potentially facilitate further study. Nevertheless, Steger succeeds in every way in presenting a well-researched and at the same time approachable piece of work. Overall, Asklepios: Medizin und Kult is an engaging as well as informative read and it will surely appeal to readers from both academic and non-academic backgrounds.

Table of Contents

I. Einleitung
II. Die Asklepiosmedizin im Kontext
II.1 Die Anfänge des Asklepioskultes in Rom
II.2 Die Beziehung zum alten Babylon und Ägypten
II.3 Medizinische Traditionen
II.4 Medizin jenseits der Traditionen
II.5 Medizinische Praxis
III. Die Praxis des Asklepios
III.1 Mythos und Heilkult um Asklepios
III.2 Der Ort der Asklepios-Praxis
III.3 Die Quellen – nur Wundergeschichten?
III.4 Methodische Überlegungen
III.5 Patienten in der Praxis des Asklepios
III.5.1 P. Aelius Aristides in Pergamon
III.5.2 M. Iulis Apellas in Epidauros
III.5.3 P. Aelius Theon in Pergamon
IV. Zusammenfassung
V. Anhang
V.1 Textausgaben und Übersetzungen
V.2 Literatur
V.3 Abbildungsnachweise
V.4 Sachregister
V.5 Personen- und Ortregister


1.   Steger, F. 2004. Asklepiosmedizin: medizinischer Alltag in der römischen Kaiserzeit. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.
2.   Edelstein, E. and Edelstein, L. 1945. Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. 2 volumes. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
3.   Oberhelman, S. M. (ed). 2013. Dreams, Healing, and Medicine in Greece From Antiquity to the Present. Farnham; Burlington, VT:  Ashgate.
4.   It is also surprising not to see, in Steger's bibliography, Harrisson's recent book Dreams and dreaming in the Roman Empire (London; New York:  Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), where she has a lot to say about Aristides.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017


Sabine Luciani, Patricia Zuntow (ed.), Entre mots et marbre: les mètamorphoses d'Auguste. Scripta antiqua, 82. Bordeaux: Ausonius Éditions, 2016. Pp. 298. ISBN 9782356131515. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Edwin Shaw, University of Bristol (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume, including twelve papers in French and one in Italian, represents the fruits of the symposium "Auguste en mots", organised in Paris in 2014 alongside the exhibition "Moi, Auguste, empereur de Rome" commemorating the bimillennium of Augustus' death. In the survey of the exhibition included here, curators Cécile Giroire and Daniel Roger discuss the absence of the literary dimension from the exhibition: without "les écrivains absents", a whole side to our understanding of the Principate must be lacking, hence the collection under review. The attempt to provide a literary supplement to the artistic and material artifacts of the Augustan period is worthwhile; but focusing on the literary aspect also carries the risk of eliding the metamorphoses of Augustus across the other cultural productions of the period,1 and indeed the "marble" of the book's title is somewhat lacking.2

Sabine Luciani in her introduction sets out four key aspects of the relationship between Augustus and the literature of his period: the personae of Augustus in literature, literary life under the Augustan principate, authors and the emperor, and the relationship of authors to the Republican past. While these four are treated more or less fully in the articles which follow (the last, in particular, is little discussed), there is no attempt to draw the papers together; while some articles include cross-references to others in the volume, most do not, despite multiple discussions of the same material.3 Generally, the contributions strike a balance between those on larger questions such as the freedom of speech of poets and historians, and those dealing with the portrayal of Augustus in specific authors; the overall focus is somewhat diffuse, and the articles themselves are of variable quality. The editors have exercised a light touch: some of the essays include text and translation, others one or the other; the contributors differ markedly in the generosity of their footnotes. Generally the book is well edited and put together, with consolidated indices locorum and nominum and attractive colour pictures.

Space precludes discussion of all of the articles; they cover a variety of authors (although other than Devillers' discussion of Nicolaos of Damascus and the material in part IV on Augustus' Nachleben these are largely limited to the Augustan "usual suspects"), and individual chapters will be of value to those working on specific texts, but it is a shame that the broad themes discussed in the introduction are not more clearly treated throughout. Some papers are more clearly relevant to the book's title and themes than others; Casanova-Robin's chapter on Ovid's Metamorphoses, in particular, makes only very limited reference to Augustus.

Somewhat oddly in the light of the themes identified in the introduction, the opening two articles explore different aspects of the self- presentation of the Augustan regime. John Scheid's chapter on the Res Gestae, with extensive discussion of previous bibliography, considers the text against the categories of either a work of literature or a political accounting, a strictly drawn opposition to which he recurs throughout. As in his edition of the text,4 Scheid's stress is on reading the inscription within a tradition of political communication, and the parallels he adduces for this are effective; he suggests that the literary attention which the Res Gestae has received has been inflated by our ignorance of comparable works of political testimony. Nonetheless, the conclusion that the Res Gestae should be viewed as the product of the Augustan chancery, not reflecting either the hand of Augustus himself nor any particular artistry of composition, is unlikely to convince those who take the opposite view, and despite brief mention of some more recent contributions on the Res Gestae Scheid's argument does not advance far beyond the views already set out in his edition.

Francesca Rohr Vio's chapter on Augustus' marriage to Livia in 38 BC (the sole contribution in Italian) stresses the importance of Octavian's marriage to Livia as a political strategy; by marrying Livia Drusilla, daughter of M. Livius Drusus Claudianus, Octavian could ally himself to families at the heart of Rome's Republican traditions, and thus strengthen his position with the nobiles who made up the support of Sextus Pompey. Rohr Vio considers in particular the moral and social significance of Livia's existing pregnancy, at the time of the marriage, by Tiberius Claudius Nero, who had to be either persuaded or coerced by Octavian into giving her up; the second half of the chapter develops some useful Republican parallels for Nero's divorce of Livia and Octavian's marriage to a woman already pregnant. Rohr Vio suggests that the historical tradition on Cato's politically-motivated ceding of his wife Marcia to the orator Hortensius in 56 BC, and their subsequent remarriage on Hortensius' death in 50, is coloured by Augustan attempts to use this as a precedent for his own marriage; the argument here is mostly persuasive, although the suggestion that the reputations of both Hortensius and Cato were systematically recuperated by the Augustan regime as a direct consequence of this connection seems rather speculative.

Philippe Le Doze's chapter begins the section on poetic views of the principate with a discussion of the vexed questions of freedom of speech and of inspiration. Beginning from Augustus' conspicuous success in creating concordia, Le Doze considers the significance of freedom of speech as an adaptation of the Republican virtue of libertas, and a requirement for the ideological legitimacy of the new regime (although Le Doze's association of Republican libertas with freedom of speech requires further discussion).5 Any form of instrumentalisation of the poets by the princeps, Le Doze argues, would have been both dangerous and ineffective. Instead, writers' engagement with Augustan themes was driven by their own desire as poet-citizens to contribute to the restoration of the state, and as vates to exercise a didactic influence on the princeps himself; Augustus' own literary role was largely reactive. The arguments against official interference in the poets' subject-matter are very useful, but the discussion of the poets' didactic ambitions (for which Le Doze draws parallels with Lucretius' Epicurean project and Horace's discussion of Homer's Odysseus in Ep. 1.2) needs further substantiation. The chapter is also rather selective, with little mention of the elegists (Le Doze does discuss their recusationes, but not, for example, Propertius' remarks on Augustus' moral legislation in 2.7) or any expressions of disquiet with the new state of affairs.

Of the section dealing with historiography, Paul Marius Martin's chapter on the "surveilled freedom" of the historians provides a neat counterpoint to Le Doze's, despite not referring to it directly. Martin considers the supposed tendency among historians to avoid the triumviral period in their works; this, he suggests, was less due to any centralised censorship than to to self-censorship on the part of the historians, and to a desire to forget the traumatic experiences of the civil wars. This did not apply consistently; while members of the elite (such as Asinius Pollio, protected by his neutrality and aristocratic status) might write about the civil wars with relative impunity, the same latitude was not extended to the less distinguished (Martin's example is Titus Labienus, the supporter of Pompey, whose books were burned in 8 AD). Those without the independent means of a Pollio could not risk the displeasure of the princeps. There is clearly some connection here to the themes of Le Doze's chapter, on the ideological connection of free speech to the virtues of the Republican aristocracy, although Martin does not discuss this. The latter part of the article treats Livy as an example of this stratified freedom: Martin suggests a connection between the period of writing of Livy's civil war books, reserved for publication after Augustus' death, with Livy's encouragement of the historical interests of the young Claudius, which supposedly began with a work treating the period from the death of Caesar onwards.6 The suggestion is intriguing, but the evidence only circumstantial.

In the final paper, which best encapsulates the book's subtitle, Emmanuèle Caire uses the citation of Augustus in the sixth-century chronicle of John Malalas as a starting-point from which to explore the reception of Augustus across the following six centuries. Beginning from Malalas' citation of Augustus as mystikos archiereus kai basileus, Caire traces a Christianising interpretation of Augustus, through the specific report of the oracle at the end of Augustus' rule prefiguring the coming of Christ. Caire locates Malalas' version within a complex set of influences, including the vogue for oracular literature, literary diffusion of the theme of awareness at Rome of the coming of Christ, the Christian interpretation of Virgil's fourth Eclogue, and Christian literature which made Augustus himself a precursor to Christ; she then goes on to demonstrate the connection between Malalas' version and the many later accounts of the foundation of the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Stressing a continued process of enrichment of the legend from other sources and unpicking the stages of etiological evolution, Caire places Malalas' version at the centre of a long history of a legend in constant evolution (and for which she provides a provisional history). The chapter illuminates a fascinating example of the complex history of Augustan reception, and its demonstration of the mutability of his legend is a fitting conclusion to the volume as a whole.

Table of Contents

Préface / Carlos Lévy
Introduction. Auguste en Mots. Le princeps au miroir de la littérature / Sabine Luciani
Auguste à Paris / Cécile Giroire et Daniel Roger

1. Biographie, littérature et politique
"Les Hauts faits du Divin Auguste". Texte littéraire ou bilan politique? / John Scheid
Le nozze di Augusto tra azione politica et strategie propagandistiche / Francesca Rohr Vio
Auguste et ses Res Gestae mis en mots par Properce: un regard élégiaque sur le principat/ Marie Ledentu

2. Inmania Caesaris acta condere. Regards poétiques sur le principat
Vox Apollonis / Vox Augusti: liberté d'insipration des poètes et principat augustéen / Philippe Le Doze
Qu'y a-t-il dans un nom? Technique poétique et histoire contemporaine dans les Géorgiques de Virgile / Damien Patrick Nelis
Le Prince et les bonnes moeurs: la restauration du mos maiorum dans les Odes érotiques d'Horace / Bénédicte Delignon
Chanter l'origine de Rome dans les Métamorphoses d'Ovide / Hélène Casanova-Robin

3. Écrire l'histoire sous Auguste
L'écriture de l'histoire sous Auguste: une liberté surveillée / Paul Marius Martin
Tite-Live et Auguste / Bernard Mineo
Octave comme modèle politique universel. Remarques sur le thème de la famille et des amis chez Nicolas de Damas / Olivier Devillers

4. Auguste jugé par l'histoire
Du Vengeur de César au Prince de la Paix, une longue métamorphose / Isabelle Cogitore
Auguste selon Suétone / Giuseppe Zecchini
Octavien-Auguste chez Dion Cassius: entre propagande et objectivité / Marie-Laure Freyburger-Galland
Auguste grand prêtre initié et roi. La légende augustéenne chez Jean Malalas / Emmanuèle Caire.


1.   In this connection it is perhaps surprising that Karl Galinsky's Augustan Culture: An Interpretive Introduction (Princeton University Press, 1996) is cited only twice, and briefly (p. 16, 89).
2.   The Res Gestae are discussed quite extensively, particularly in Scheid's chapter, but there are only brief references to e.g. the evolution of Augustan portraiture or the metamorphosis enacted on the city through Augustus' architectural programme.
3.   Martin's and Mineo's chapters in particular overlap (albeit understandably, given the subject-matter).
4.   Scheid, Res gestae divi Augusti. Hauts faits du divin Auguste. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2007).
5.   See Arena, V. Libertas and the Practice of Politics in the Late Roman Republic, (Cambridge University Press, 2012), which is not cited.
6.   Suetonius, Claudius 41.1-2.

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Barbara Sielhorst, Hellenistische Agorai: Gestaltung, Rezeption und Semantik eines urbanen Raumes. Urban Spaces, 3. Berlin, München, Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. Pp. x, 354. ISBN 9783110344851. €119.95.

Reviewed by Caterina Parigi, Universität zu Köln (

Version at BMCR home site


Il volume di Barbara Sielhorst, che rappresenta il terzo della serie "Urban Spaces" edita da Susanne Muth, Jennifer Trimble e Ulrike Wulf-Rheidt, ha come argomento le agorai di età ellenistica con particolare attenzione alla loro organizzazione, ricezione e semantica come spazi urbani.

Il libro è suddiviso in due grandi sezioni: la prima di testo, articolata in dieci capitoli, e la seconda di catalogo. Il primo capitolo (pp. 3-20), in qualità di introduzione, chiarisce alcuni aspetti generali della ricerca, quali il tema oggetto di studio e le domande a cui il lavoro intende dare una risposta; esse concernono principalmente la struttura delle piazze ellenistiche, la presenza di principi di costituzione specifici per questo periodo, le funzioni e il rapporto che intercorre fra la strutturazione della piazza e la società che lì agisce.1 L'arco cronologico in esame è compreso fra il 400 a.C. e il 50 d.C., includendo così le fasi immediatamente precedente e successiva a quella ellenistica, in modo da rendere maggiormente efficace l'osservazione dei fenomeni tipici del periodo oggetto di studio. I confini geografici della ricerca sono rappresentati dalla Grecia, le isole dell'Egeo e la zona occidentale dell'Asia Minore; in queste aree sono scelte le 66 agorai sotto analisi, fra le quali 16 vengono prese in esame in modo più dettagliato (cap. 4), in quanto si tratta di piazze molto ben ricostruibili. Inoltre viene tracciata una chiara e particolareggiata storia degli studi (1.2). Dispiace, però, constatare che sia in questa che nel corso di tutto il volume le ricerche italiane siano quasi totalmente ignorate, in particolare per quanto riguarda i numerosi contributi su Atene2 e gli studi recenti realizzati dalla Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene a Sparta.3

La strutturazione e l'organizzazione architettonica, le funzioni, la ricezione estetica e la semantica delle piazze ellenistiche sono i criteri che stanno alla base dell'analisi sistematica delle agorai oggetto del secondo capitolo (pp. 21-66). Questi vengono discussi sia a livello generale sia attraverso gli esempi ricavati dall'analisi delle 66 agorai, che permettono di proporre una serie di conclusioni relative ai singoli criteri considerati. L'autrice pone l'accento in particolare sulla crescente tendenza in età ellenistica all'esclusione dall'area dell'agora delle principali arterie cittadine, così come sulla multifunzionalità dello spazio che, attraverso la strutturazione della superficie della piazza e l'utilizzo di specifiche tipologie architettoniche ai lati di questa, si presenta regolato da criteri strutturali unitari. Di maggior interesse risultano le conclusioni relative alla ricezione estetica e alla semantica delle agorai. Qui il ruolo principale è assunto dalla stoa che fornisce da un lato una chiusura verso l'interno, circondando la superficie centrale della piazza su tutti i lati, e dall'altro un collegamento verso l'esterno, potendo essere considerata da fuori come parte integrante del paesaggio urbano della città e fornendo la possibilità di mettere in relazione da un punto di vista ottico ed estetico la piazza con i dintorni (panorama). Inoltre le stoai assicurano l'unificazione delle facciate degli edifici, integrando anche altri monumenti, come propilei o scalinate, e nascondendo alle loro spalle edifici quali Bouleuteria e Prytaneia. Questa precisa strutturazione della piazza ha, secondo l'autrice, anche un'influenza sui fruitori delle agorai che sarebbero indirizzati nei loro movimenti all'interno dello spazio della piazza e fra i suoi monumenti. Particolarmente interessante risulta l'idea secondo la quale la presenza delle stoai tutto intorno alla piazza porti a nascondere le funzioni degli edifici che si trovano alle sue spalle che sarebbero, però, allo stesso tempo richiamate dal posizionamento di statue, a cui le facciate delle stesse stoai forniscono una quinta e che risultano suddivise in gruppi in base al significato che sono chiamate a simboleggiare. L'esempio principale fornito qui dall'agora di Atene mi sembra particolarmente calzante.

Il capitolo 3 (pp. 67-77) discute l'idea dell'agora ellenistica come fenomeno sociale, arrivando alla interessante e condivisibile conclusione che la strutturazione delle piazze e la scelta dei monumenti abbiano come scopo da un lato l'autorappresentazione e la celebrazione delle élites locali e dall'altro la tendenza a richiamare alla mente la storia cittadina e ad orientarsi in modo sempre crescente agli interessi locali. Questa stessa tendenza a rivolgersi verso il proprio glorioso passato insieme ad una predominanza dell'élite locale, infatti, è riscontrabile anche all'inizio dell'età imperiale e trova ottimi confronti ad esempio con quanto accade ad Atene fra la fine del I sec. a.C. e l'inizio del I sec. d.C., dove è proprio l'élite cittadina a promuovere l'integrazione dei nuovi elementi romani all'interno della tradizione ateniese.4

Le analisi delle sedici agorai, che occupano il capitolo 4, sono suddivise sulla base di tre criteri: forma, funzione e topografia, a loro volta comprendenti ciascuno due sottoinsiemi sempre diversi. Non sempre risulta chiaro, in particolare nel caso delle agorai suddivise topograficamente fra quelle che si trovano vicino al mare e quelle, invece, nell'interno, il valore che questo ha per la piazza, così come a volte sfugge il legame con gli elementi analizzati in precedenza, cosa che comporta in questi casi il perdere di vista i concetti d'insieme. Per questo la lettura del capitolo 5, dove viene riassunto il significato di forma, funzione e topografia per l'organizzazione delle agorai in età ellenistica, risulta fondamentale per la comprensione dei singoli casi di studio. Altre schede, invece, offrono una perfetta analisi integrata dei criteri generali discussi nel capitolo precedente mostrati in relazione al caso specifico di volta in volta preso in esame, come ad esempio quelle di Assos (pp. 148-152) e di Thasos (pp. 152-159).

Lo studio dell'agora di Atene presenta alcune imprecisioni, fra le quali: l'affermazione della presenza di una stoa che nel III sec. a.C. ingloberebbe il Vecchio e il Nuovo Bouleuterion e la Tholos (p. 40), che invece non risulta in nessun periodo legata agli edifici vicini; la costruzione del bema considerata quasi contemporanea a quella della Stoa di Attalo (p. 56), mentre la datazione del monumento non risulta precisa e potrebbe scendere fino all'88 a.C. Inoltre l'autrice considera sicura l'identificazione del monumento sul lato settentrionale della piazza come un propileo di accesso e lo utilizza come prova del fatto che propilei vengano inglobati nelle facciate delle stoai e che gli accessi alle piazze siano regolati e precisamente definiti, senza accennare al fatto che sull'interpretazione del monumento esistono opinioni contrastanti. Sia la Monaco sia Winter, infatti, ritengono che si tratti dei basamenti di due monumenti diversi.4 Se da una parte non si può pretendere, da un lavoro che prende in esame non una ma 66 differenti agorai, un'analisi estremamente dettagliata di ciascuna di queste, dall'altra ci aspetteremmo che almeno per le 16 piazze analizzate in dettaglio venissero presentate le diverse interpretazioni o teorie, quando presenti e soprattutto quando queste vanno a toccare monumenti o aspetti che sono utilizzati dall'autrice a sostegno delle tesi avanzate nel volume.

I successivi capitoli presentano i risultati dello studio (cap. 6), riassunti e articolati secondo i quattro criteri seguiti nell'analisi sistematica delle agorai, e una brevissima panoramica dello sviluppo delle piazze all'inizio dell'età imperiale (cap. 7).

Dopo due abstracts, uno in inglese (cap. 8) e uno in francese (cap. 9), e le abbreviazioni bibliografiche (cap. 10) si trova la seconda parte del volume costituita dal catalogo delle 66 agorai (pp. 216-349) suddiviso in due parti: le schede delle 16 sedici piazze analizzate in modo più approfondito e le schede delle restanti 50 agorai prese in esame nel volume. Per ogni piazza vengono forniti i dati relativi alla posizione, alle misure, al periodo di utilizzo, al contesto urbanistico, alla presenza di edifici e monumenti – questa parte risulta molto più particolareggiata e suddivisa in fasi per le 16 agorai analizzate nel dettaglio – e alla bibliografia. Le 16 schede contengono anche una breve storia degli studi.

Dal punto di vista formale alcuni piccoli errori sono riscontrabili nel testo, senza che questo crei però problemi alla lettura, mentre nelle note molto frequentemente l'elenco della bibliografia citata non appare in ordine cronologico, ma spesso in modo sparso. L'apparato figurativo fornito è molto buono: in ogni scheda di catalogo è presente la pianta della città, con l'individuazione dell'area dell'agora e la pianta dell'agora stessa. Per le 16 agorai analizzate nel dettaglio, inoltre, la presenza delle piante di ogni fase facilita la lettura dei cambiamenti che vengono sottolineati nel testo. Solo in due casi sono riscontrabili degli errori: la Fig. 5 nella scheda relativa all'agora di Atene non è la pianta dell'area nel III sec. a.C., così come indicato nella didascalia, ma quella nel II sec. a.C., risultando infatti identica alla successiva Fig. 6. Nella scheda relativa all'agora di Magnesia sul Menandro, invece, le Figg. 71 e 72 sono invertite rispetto alle relative didascalie e alle indicazioni fornite nel testo: la prima, infatti, è la pianta del periodo compreso fra il I sec. a.C. e il I sec. d.C., mentre la seconda è quella della fase precedente. Per quanto riguarda le Figg. 43-45 nella scheda dell'agora di Thera, le legende troppo piccole risultano illeggibili.

Nel complesso – anche se una maggiore attenzione e precisione nella discussione di alcuni aspetti sarebbero state auspicabili, e se il secondo capitolo incorre in eccessive ripetizioni per la troppo rigida aderenza ai quattro criteri di esame – il volume presenta spunti di riflessione e ipotesi interessanti. La visione dell'agora di età ellenistica, come il luogo principale dove le élites locali agiscono rifacendosi agli eventi fondamentali della storia cittadina, fornisce un'ottima conferma di quanto si riscontra all'inizio dell'età imperiale ad esempio ad Atene, e mostra come questo processo affondi le sue radici già nel periodo precedente. Il catalogo inoltre risulta un utile strumento e punto di partenza per un futuro studio di una o più agorai.


1.   Cap. 1, (p. 16): "die Agora als soziales Konstrukt und somit als Produkt funktionaler, rezeptionsästhetischer sowie semantischer Konzepte zu beschreiben, zu analysieren, historisch zu bewerten und deren Spezifika in der Epoche des Hellenismus herauszuarbeiten".
2.   Mi riferisco in primo luogo alla collana Topografia di Atene diretta da Emanuele Greco e in secondo luogo a contributi su argomenti vari e che forniscono spesso interpretazioni diverse rispetto a quelle classiche di studiosi come ad esempio Enzo Lippolis o Maria Chiara Monaco: M.C. Monaco, "L'Hipparcheion, il lato settentrionale dell'agorà di Atene e l'acquedotto cimoniano", Workshop di archeologia classica 1, 2004, 18-49; E. Lippolis, "Le moderne peregrinazioni di Apollo e di Afrodite nell'Agora di Atene", ASAtene 87, 2009, 235-273.
3.   E. Greco, "Alla ricerca dell'agora di Sparta", ASAtene 89, 2011, 53-77. La scheda relativa all'agora di Sparta (40) indica come incerta la posizione della piazza e come sconosciuti edifici e monumenti, mentre le ricerche italiane forniscono un'interpretazione precisa sulla posizione dell'agora grazie al riesame e a una proposta di identificazione di due edifici: la Skias – già scavata nell'ottocento - e la Stoa persiké – venuta in parte alla luce negli anni '60 del Novecento.
4.   O. Dally, "Athen in der frühen Kaiserzeit – ein Werk des Kaisers Augustus?", in: S. Vlizos (a cura di), Η Αθήνα κατά τη Ρωμϊακή εποχή. Πρόσφατες ανακαλύψεις νέες έρευνες, Μουσείο Μπενάκη Παράρτημα 4 (Atene 2008) 43-53; Th. Stephanidou-Tiveriou, "Tradition and Romanization in the Monumental Landscape of Athens", in: S. Vlizos (a cura di), Η Αθήνα κατά τη Ρωμϊακή εποχή. Πρόσφατες ανακαλύψεις νέες έρευνες, Μουσείο Μπενάκη Παράρτημα 4 (Atene 2008) 11-40.
5.   M.C. Monaco, "L'Hipparcheion, il lato settentrionale dell'agorà di Atene e l'acquedotto cimoniano", Workshop di archeologia classica 1, 2004, 18-49; F. E. Winter, Studies in Hellenistic Architecture (Toronto 2006).

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Adrian Robu, Iulian Bîrzescu (ed.), Mégarika: nouvelles recherches sur Mégare, les cités de la Propontide et du Pont-Euxin. Archéologie, épigraphie, histoire. Actes du colloque de Mangalia (8-12 juillet 2012). De l'archéologie à l'histoire, 66. Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 2016. Pp. 494. ISBN 9782701803647. €59.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Margarit Damyanov, National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The present volume brings together the proceedings of a conference on Megara and Megarian colonization. The title is slightly misleading, as there are no contributions specifically dealing with any of the Propontic and Pontic colonies, except for Kallatis (located at Mangalia, the host city of the conference). The 19 texts vary greatly in length and scope, ranging from two to 113 pages, and are organized in three sections, dedicated respectively to general topics concerning Megarian colonization, the city of Megara, and Kallatis.

The opening contribution, by Alexander Herda, occupies roughly one quarter of the volume and could be expanded into a book by itself, considering the wealth of topics treated in its overly copious footnotes. Herda builds a compelling case for a "colonization alliance" between Miletos and Megara in the Archaic Period. The first part of his text discusses the parallel roles of Apollo Didymeos and Pythios, respectively, in Milesian and Megarian colonization. The second explores similarities in the social and political organization of Miletos and Megara, emphasizing the oligarchic institution of aisymnetai. The third is dedicated to Milesian-Megarian elite interactions, strengthened by mythical kinship, originating as early as the Lelantine War, when both cities were allies of Eretria. Herda considers the Propontic and Pontic colonization a joint venture of the two cities, since, given their locations, the colonies could not have functioned independently. On a mythical level, this cooperation was sanctioned by the Argonauts, who visited (future) colonies of both states.

The remaining texts of the first section deal with epigraphic evidence, mostly for the external relations of the Pontic colonies of Megara. Thibault Castelli explores the networks of Herakleia, Kallatis, Mesambria, and Chersonesos by tracing the activity of their citizens abroad and of foreigners at home. Mostly local and regional networks emerge, but also preferences and specifics—for example the presence of people from all the cities under consideration in the sanctuary of Amphiaraos at Oropos. The proposed explanation is the absence of healing cults in the Dorian cities of the Black Sea and the Boeotian role in the colonization of Herakleia. Victor Cojocaru discusses proxeny decrees issued by Propontic and Pontic colonies of Megara—and for their citizens by other poleis. He notes the numerous decrees for people from Herakleia, Byzantion, and Chalkedon, in contrast to the very few decrees issued by their home states (none are known from Herakleia). One explanation is that the cities on the Bosporus controlled Pontic trade and all parties (both exporters and consumers) sought to secure good relations with them by making their citizens proxenoi, while the opposite was not that necessary. On the other hand, in Cojocaru's opinion, Herakleian trade, limited to mainly within the Black Sea, was channeled through Kallatis and Chersonesos, regulated by the ties of syngenneia. This conclusion is based on amphorae, but overlooks the ample Herakleian imports in Apollonia and its surroundings (commented upon by Castelli) that would suggest direct relations, at least in the 4th c. BC.1 Both Castelli and Cojocaru provide useful tables summarizing the evidence. Federica Cordano discusses personal names and family relations from the area of Selymbria. Combinations of Greek and Thracian names on tombstones are intriguing, although the chronology of the inscriptions is not specified (recently, Dan Dana has dated them to later Hellenistic and Imperial times).2 The contribution of Denis Knoepfler concerns a decree of a religious association in Athens, dated to 214/213 BC and honoring a wealthy Kallatian woman, "overseer" of the cult of Agathe Theos.

The papers in the second section of the volume provide a sketch of the archaeology of Megara, plus a preliminary publication of a rural sanctuary in Megaris. Yannis Chairetakis discusses funerary practices in the 7th and 6th c. BC. Unfortunately, there is no comparable evidence from the early colonies in the Propontis that might reveal continuity of the practices of the mother city; the data from Megara Hyblaea suggest that burial customs were not necessarily replicated in the colonies.3 On the other hand, Adrian Robu identifies a parallel practice at Megara, Kallatis, and Chersonesos, but for a later period (Classical to Late Hellenistic): the insertion of small "funerary plaques" in larger stelae.

Eugenia Tsalkou offers an overview of the current state of the urban archaeology of Megara, discussing fortifications, roads, sanctuaries, etc., and several other contributions supplement and expand on various topics. Of particular interest is Panagiota Avgerinou's discussion of the elaborate water system, which included impressive tunnels and public fountains, drawing comparisons with other Archaic and Classical examples, including Eupalinos' tunnel on Samos. Megara was the motherland of the famous engineer, and the existence of such structures here is not surprising. However, the attribution to Eupalinos of Megara's subterranean aqueduct, dated only on the grounds of its masonry, is perhaps rash.

A specific group of structures deserves attention — the so-called megara, subterranean chambers beneath Megarian houses of the later 6th–4th c. BC, more than a hundred of which have been excavated. On the basis of a local tradition, recorded by Pausanias, that the city was named for the sacred megara of the mysteries of Demeter, Tsalkou suggests a cult function (though conceding they could also have served as storerooms); Eleni Banou supports this interpretation as well. It is unfortunate that neither author gives the chambers' dimensions; associated materials are mentioned only summarily by Tsalkou and are not discussed at all by Banou, who attempts to trace the megara to Minoan structures. While this seems unlikely, another direction of study is worth exploring—the transfer of this typical feature of Megara's domestic architecture to its colonies. A number of Classical and Hellenistic "cellars" have been excavated in Mesambria, the earliest dating in the first half of the 5th c. BC, soon after the city's foundation.4

In the section dedicated to Kallatis, Iulian Bîrzescu and Mihai Ionescu address the main unsolved issue of the Herakleian colony — the date of its foundation. The only written source offers as a dating event the ascension of Amyntas (I or III?) of Macedon. Thus, the alternative dates fall in the second half of the 6th c. (as accepted by A. Herda and T. Castelli in the present volume) or the late 5th–early 4th c. BC (e.g., in the contribution of N. Alexandru). Archaeology has not uncovered anything earlier than the 4th c. BC. Bîrzescu and Ionescu therefore embark on a search for an earlier Greek settlement nearby, encouraged by Pliny's testimony to an earlier name of Kallatis—Cerbatis/Carbatis (an independently attested toponym in the region). They consider this an Archaic Ionian foundation of minor (if any) importance for the future development of Kallatis, which was spurred by the arrival of Herakleians in the early 4th c. BC. Such an analysis seems actually to support the late date of Kallatis' foundation, raising questions about some aspects of the process, e.g. the number of the colonists and their relations with the native population, as within two or three generations Kallatis created a substantial chora and emerged as one of the most powerful West Pontic cities.

Nicolae Alexandru discusses the fortified settlements in the Kallatian territory, adding new evidence about the extensively published site of Albeşti and other sites. Livia Buzoianu and Maria Barbulescu present the terracotta figurines from Albeşti, which indicate that mainly chthonic deities (Kybele, Demeter, Dionysos, etc.) were worshiped there. Numerous parallels from other Pontic colonies are adduced, to which one could add the evidence of a cult of Kybele from Durankulak, a rural sanctuary in Kallatis' territory,5 and the numerous female protomes from the necropolis of Mesambria.6 Florina Panait Bîrzescu and Tatiana Odobescu publish two fragmentary marble sculptures from the presumed temenos of Kallatis, which they date to the 2nd c. AD and tentatively identify as depictions of Athena (her cult is known from inscriptions). Gabriel Talmaţchi offers a short essay on the Hellenistic coinage of Kallatis, discussing various types and their chronology. An interesting conclusion is that the city was at its most prosperous in the 3rd and the first half of the 2nd c. BC—contrary to Memnon's claim that it never recovered after its mid- 3rd c. BC war with Byzantion. Finally, Alexandru Avram and Mihai Ionescu add four inscriptions to the corpus of Kallatis, one of which documents the dedication of a stoa(?) and a gymnasium to the Emperor Augustus.

To summarize, the reviewed volume covers a variety of topics and is particularly useful for bridging the ever-narrowing gap between studies of the Mediterranean Greek world and of its Pontic extension.

Table of Contents

Denis Knoepfler, "Avant-propos"
Adrian Robu, Iulian Bîrzescu, "Introduction"

I. Colonisation et contacts des cités mégariennes avec le monde égéen
Alexander Herda, "Megara and Miletos: Colonising with Apollo. A Structural Comparison of Religious and Political Institutions in Two Archaic Greek Polis States"
Thibaut Castelli, "À propos du réseau mégarien du Pont-Euxin: la mobilité spatiale des personnes entre mer Égée et mer Noire aux époques classique et hellénistique"
Victor Cojocaru, "Un espace dorien pontique d'après les décrets de proxénie"
Federica Cordano, "Les familles de Sélymbria et quelques noms personnels"
Denis Knoepfler, "Une femme de Callatis à Athènes dans un nouveau décret d'association religieuse au IIIe siècle av. J.-C."

II. Archéologie et épigraphie des cités de la Mégaride
Yannis Chairetakis, "Burial Customs of Megara during the 7th and 6th Centuries B.C.: The Case of the North-East Cemetery"
Polytimi Valta, "A Rural Sanctuary in the West of Pagai. Preliminary Report"
Eugenia Tsalkou, "A 'Peridiavasis' in the City of Megara in the 5th and 4th Centuries B.C."
Eleni S. Banou, "Megarian Urbanism: A Note on the So-Called 'Megaron'"
Panagiota Avgerinou, "Water Supply Facilities in Megara during the Archaic and Classical Period"
Irini Svana, "A Refuse Deposit of Classical Period from Megara. Reexamination of the Topography and History of the Ancient Town"
Adrian Robu, "Contribution à l'épigraphie mégarienne: les tablettes funéraires inscrites"
Yannis Kalliontzis, "Rapport préliminaire sur le nouveau fragment de l'inscription d'Aigosthènes IG VII 219-222"

III. Callatis et son territoire: nouveaux développements de la recherche
Iulian Bîrzescu, Mihai Ionescu, "Recherches sur la fondation de Callatis: l'apport de la documentation archéologique"
Nicolae Alexandru, "Fortified Settlements in the Territory of Callatis (4th-3rd Centuries B.C.)"
Livia Buzoianu, Maria Bărbulescu, "Les terres cuites d'époque hellénistique d'Albeşti. Représentations de divinités"
Florina Panait Bîrzescu, Tatiana Odobescu, "Découvertes sculpturales de la 'zone sacrée' de Callatis"
Gabriel Talmaţchi, "The Coinage of Callatis in the Hellenistic Period Revisited"
Alexandru Avram, Mihai Ionescu, "Nouvelles inscriptions de Callatis"
Alexandru Avram, "Conclusion"


1.   Chavdar Tzochev, "Between the Black Sea and the Aegean: The Diffusion of Greek Trade Amphorae in Southern Thrace," in D. Kassab Tezgör and N. Inaishvili (eds.), PATABS I. Production and Trade of Amphorae in the Black Sea. Actes de la Table Ronde Internationale de Batoumi et Trabzon, 27–29 Avril 2006. Paris, 2010, 99, pl. 56.2.
2.   Dan Dana, Onomasticon Thracicum. Répertoire des noms indigènes de Thrace, Macédoine Orientale, Mésies, Dacie et Bithynie, Athènes, 2014, 93, 109, 221, 265.
3.   Gillian Shepherd, "The Pride of Most Colonials: Burial and Religion in the Sicilian Colonies," in Fisher-Hansen, T. (ed.), Ancient Sicily (Acta Hyperborea VI), 1995, 56-58, 66-68.
4.   Anelia Bozkova and Petya Kiyashkina, "L'urbanisme et l'architecture domestiques des colonies grecques ouest-pontiques: Mésambria," in Martinez, J.-L. et al. (eds), L'épopée des rois thraces. Des guerres médiques au invasions celtes 479-278 avant J.-C. Découvertes archéologiques en Bulgarie. Catalogue de l'exposition présentée au musée du Louvre, à Paris, du 16 avril au 20 juillet 2015, Paris, 2015, 303; Luba Ognenova-Marinova, "L'architecture domestique à Messambria, IVe-IIe s. av. J.-C." Nessebre III, Burgas, 2005, 11-28.
5.   Henrieta Todorova, "Durankulak—a Territorium Sacrum of the Goddess Cybele," in D. Grammenos and E. Petropoulos, Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2 (BAR International Series 1675), Oxford, 2007, 182, Fig. 22.
6.   Petya Kiyashkina et al., A Guide to the Collections of the Archaeological Museum of Nessebar, Nessebar, 2012, 30, Nos. 46-47.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Juan Martos, Apuleyo de Madauros. Apología o Discurso sobre la magia en defensa propia; Floridas; [Prólogo de El dios de Sócrates]. Introducción, traducción y notas. Alma mater. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2015. Pp. cvi, 607. ISBN 9788400099435. €53.00.

Reviewed by Ian H. Henderson, McGill University (

Version at BMCR home site

The rightly inescapable Metamorphoses of Apuleius of Madauros have often overshadowed the other surviving works of the brilliant North African sophist. In its way, the Apologia pro se de magia is every bit as unique as the Metamorphoses. No doubt it was heavily worked-up for literary circulation, yet the Apologia is the only extant Latin defense speech to come from an actual criminal trial in the Roman Empire. It is also very much pro se and de magia, because Apuleius' main defense strategy seems to be to admit almost all allegations of fact against him and instead to contest whether the alleged behaviours could be magic in a criminal sense if the perpetrator is, like himself, an educated philosophic practitioner. The text is thus almost an encyclopedia of possibly magic practices and of personal ritual experience in the borders between magic and religion. Together with the fragmentary Florida and so-called Prologue attached to the De Deo Socratis, the Apologia is also a treasure-trove of exquisite sophistic Latin discourse.

It is very much to be welcomed, then, that following the publication of an edition and text of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius for the prestigious Spanish Alma Mater collection of Greek and Latin authors, Professor Juan Martos has now given us a single volume bringing together the Apologia pro se de magia and the Florida, along with the so-called Prologue attached to the De Deo Socratis. In keeping with the series in which it appears, the volume includes a Latin text with critical apparatus and a facing-page Spanish translation with notes, as well as ample introductions and rich bibliographies. Also in keeping with the Alma Mater series, the volume is physically beautiful and typographically elegant; together with that graphic clarity, the fact that text, apparatus, translation and notes all appear on one double-page spread makes this volume a convenient resource, over against, say, Vincent Hunink's superb three volumes of text and commentary and the translations and notes in the volume edited by Stephen Harrison.1 Of course, the one-volume format cannot eclipse the rich scholarship and generous scale of such existing multi-volume editions and multi-author translations, but Professor Martos' expertise and judgement have given us a remarkably authoritative yet accessible instrument.

The manuscript tradition for the Apologia and Florida does not invite a dramatically new textual edition, but Martos' independence of judgement is evident and justified in the clear introduction and in the full apparatus of manuscript readings and principal editions. The full apparatus on the same page means that the text itself is as free as possible from editorial signs, a benefit for general readers like this reviewer, while allowing us to be aware of the text's manuscript and editorial history.

The situation for the so-called Preface to the De Deo Socratis is intriguingly peculiar: textually it is witnessed only in manuscripts of "philosophical" works attributed to Apuleius, specifically the De Deo Socratis, not in the manuscripts containing the Metamorphoses, the Apologia and the Florida. In itself, however, the Preface has looked to modern editors much more like a mini-collection of five fragments very like those in the Florida, than like a unified prologue, let alone a prologue to the discourse De Deo Socratis.2 It makes sense, then, to include the Preface in the present volume along with the Florida. On the other hand, debate continues about both the integrity of the Preface and its pertinence to the De Deo Socratis.3 We really don't know how much a prolalia needed to be thematically relevant to the speech for which it might serve as an audience warm-up. Martos (xxxv-xxxvi) therefore wisely prescinds from making definitive claims, but he does print the text and translation as a continuous text, rather than as five fragments. This is in some contrast with Martos' presentation of the translation of the Florida, in which each fragment is introduced as such by an editorial heading (172 n. 515). At any rate, the Preface is a good occasion for thinking about the possible relations between improvisation and composition, Greek and Latin, preface and body in a sophistic discourse.

For all three texts, the Apologia de magia, the Florida, and the so-called Prologue attached to the De Deo Socratis, the single-volume format precludes really detailed introduction or commentary, yet Martos devotes nearly half of almost every translation page to dense annotation identifying allusions and references to other texts and to persons or realia. Most comments are aimed at a fairly general reader, but Martos is particularly helpful on the rhetorical characteristics of these intensely-crafted texts. The translation is designed as an aid to reading the adjacent Latin text, even where the latter is unclear; as far as the present reviewer can judge, Martos probably wisely refrains from trying to simulate Apuleius' florid, scintillating style and periodic architecture. It often falls to the notes therefore to point out aspects of Apuleius' compulsive word-play, punning and rhythmic games and to reassure the first-time reader that Apuleius' special effects are almost always intentional aspects of the total performance.

The contrast in scale and focus between the intricately elaborated, articulated religious-legal argumentative unity of the Apologia and the deliberately fragmentary quality and apparently epideictic purpose of the selected Florida and prefatory fragments from the De Deo Socratis makes this volume especially fascinating and a delight to use.


1.   Apuleius, and Vincent Hunink, Pro Se De Magia: Apologia. v. 1. Introduction, text, bibliography, indexes v. 2. Commentary (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1997); Apuleius, and Vincent Hunink, Florida. (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 2001); Apuleius, S. J. Harrison, John Hilton, and Vincent Hunink, Apuleius: rhetorical works (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
2.   Apuleius, and Jean Beaujeu, Opuscules philosophiques (Du dieu de Socrate, Platon et sa doctrine, Du monde) et fragments (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1973); Apuleius, and Claudio Moreschini, Apulei Platonici Madaurensis Opera quae supersunt. vol. 3 De Philosophia Libri (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1991). Contra see Vincent Hunink, "The Prologue of Apuleius' De Deo Socratis" in Mnemosyne 48/4 (1995) 292-312.
3.   See S. J. Harrison, "'False Preface' to On the God of Scorates Introduction" in Apuleius, S. J. Harrison, John Hilton, and Vincent Hunink, Apuleius: rhetorical works (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) 177-180.

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Shane Butler (ed.), Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception​. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. Pp. ix, 347. ISBN 9781474260510. $34.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Mathura Umachandran, Princeton University (

Version at BMCR home site


[A note from the editors: When BMCR assigned this book, we were not made aware that three chapters were written by faculty at the reviewer's home institution. Upon learning this, we asked the reviewer to omit any mention of essays by faculty exercising a supervisory role over her work, and she graciously agreed.]

A major landmark for classical reception studies is approaching. In 2018, it will be twenty-five years since the publication of Charles Martindale's Redeeming the text [1993]. Deep Classics takes up some of the challenges, anxieties and energies produced by Martindale's Grundtext. In its capacity for provocation as much as theoretical self-awareness, the present volume is a major intervention in classical reception studies. It provides an excellent core sample of the state of the art with the confident hallmarks1 of a sub-discipline that is no longer required to make the case for its existence, or perhaps worse, domesticated as "a detachable postscript," (p 16).

This edited volume of fifteen chapters, emerging from a conference at the University of Bristol, November 2014, is candid about situating itself in the context of reception studies as practiced in the United Kingdom, its preference for Greek rather than Roman antiquity and its focus on the reception of antiquity in the last three centuries (p 17). Beyond this, there are various loose thematic constellations across the set of fifteen papers. Three papers cluster around the uncanny, that is, the contributions by Edmund Richardson, Mark Payne and Davide Susanetti. This review identifies two further themes across the volume: the affective and the [homo]erotic. Since this review cannot cover all the contributions to the volume here, it will discuss a chapter from each of these three themes. To put these contributions in context of the volume as a whole, this review starts with a discussion of the conceptual formulation of Deep Classics.

Deep Classics positions the activity of classicists within the concept of "deep time", that is, alongside that of scientists who deal with vast stretches of time. All these investigators of the human and earthly pasts, Butler claims, deal with evidence that collapses these inconceivable temporal distances to produce sometimes "jarring juxtapositions" (p 4). Classics, then, genetically resembles Enlightenment discourses of scientifically approaching the distant past. Butler complicates this scientificity by pointing to the epistemic resistance that antiquity per se Deep Classics aim to recognize rather than solve this resistance when it occurs. In addition to the problems thrown up from the temporal and epistemological abysses separating the inquirer from the past, Butler indicates that the spatial dimensions of the governing metaphor are also implicated in the conceptual apparatus of Deep Classics.

While it explicitly eschews manifesto-making, this volume has programmatic notions about methodology. Butler calls for a hermeneutics of mediatedness, situated between attitudes to antiquity committed either to assimilation or alterity. By focussing on this tertium quid, Butler intentionally circumvents the agon between aestheticism and historicism that animated classical reception studies in its formative stages. Another concern is to attend to the "pose by which the human present turns its attention to the distant human past" (p 14). This notion of "pose" usefully shifts the immediate point of critical scrutiny to the cultural and political situatedness of a person inquiring after and into Greco-Roman antiquity. How these concerns add up to a "re-thinking of classical reception" will perhaps orient the work of reception scholars to come, taking this volume as a provocative starting point.

Butler's contribution to the volume, "Homer's Deep" puts the punchiness of the introduction to work. Butler argues that John Addington Symonds, Victorian man of letters and friend of Oscar Wilde, is the paradigmatic Deep Classicist. (There will be other nominations for this job: for Jansen it is Borges; Nooter makes the case for Pasolini.) Butler sets up the case for Symonds in an exploration of the interpretative history of the Achilles-Patroclus relationship. In the crucible of that history, polarized between prurience and repression, Butler argues that Symonds's complex classicism was formed. Butler insists that Symonds's grasp of the Achilles-Patroclus relationship extended beyond an idealized and deeply repressed Victorian gay reading of the past. Along parallel tracks of homoerotic love and antiquity, Butler traces how Symonds installs a distance between the dynamics of a desire to know and impossibility to articulate. These emerge as Butler's key criteria of the Deep Classicist that Symonds fulfills, in addition to a keen sense of "untimeliness", that is, anachronistic self-awareness. This essay constitutes a setting out of the stall for Deep Classics in action - it is alive to the politics, vicissitudes and subterranean ways of reading the past.

If the messy range of sexuality is arguably bypassed in Butler's essay, Sebastian Matzner's contribution to this volume does justice to the theoretical and hermeneutic productivity of queerness. "Queer Unhistoricism: Scholars, Metalepsis and interventions of the Unruly Past" works out some of the implications of Matzner's suggestion that reception studies is the queer Other to "straight" classics (p 192). Intersectional postcolonial theorists have recently formulated the rambunctious notion of "queer unhistoricism", that is, a privileging of anachronism as a mapping out of the space between both of the binary choices of straight/gay and past as completely similar/other. Matzner takes up an unruly version of a queer unhistoricist perspective together with the figure of metalepsis, understood as "the rhetorical strategy that links A to D but elides the intervening steps of B and C" (182). He brings these to bear on two postmodern novels: Este latente mundo (1999) by Jose Luis de Juan and Boy Caesar (2004) by Jeremy Reed. Since both novels have scholars as protagonists, Matzner reads them as parables that problematize the epistemic limits, gestures and dynamics shaping the totalizing thrust of academic research. The conceptual work that Matzner calls for, in the end, is "the complex shifting web in which proximity and distance, similarity and difference are constantly re-negotiated" (p 192). The main payoff of this, at least for this reviewer, is the possibility of being able to forge untimely community [both political and erotic] across the abyss. A potential concern of Matzner's approach is that it runs the risk of turning philology into something of a straw, if not straight, man. Despite itself, this essay discloses the working assumption that the inquiring queer subject is "cis-gendered white male". One can only imagine the possibilities that Matzner might open up in considering the variety of epistemic queer subjects gazing into the abyss, instead of re-inscribing the privileged subject within contemporary queer politics. Nevertheless, that is a small objection. This essay has the kind of energy that feminist and queer theory brought to Classics in the first instance and deserves to be read and re-read.

Laura Jansen makes an alternative nomination for Deep Classicist par excellence (p 295) in "Borges and the Disclosure of Antiquity". Jansen starts by arguing that Lucretius's Epicurus is an instantiation of total epistemic mastery offering an impossible model for those interested in knowing the ancient past. Instead, Jansen argues that the pursuit of the past is better described as a douleur exquise (p 293), an epistemic exercise wherein pleasure is derived from the chase rather than the catching of the desired object. Jorge Luis Borges, Jansen claims, has best described this [almost] self-defeating affective dynamic of epistemic pursuit. She points to his short story "The Library of Babel" in which Borges carefully parses the mechanisms of joy and dismay in the failure to master knowledge entirely. Jansen finds Borges's approach to the past valuable because "it's all about the entry points and meaning in between and never attempting to recuperate full what we know, and accept, is lost" (p 304).

Jansen's endorsement of doing classics à la Borges requires bold imagination and self-reflexivity on the part of a reader. Where this approach falls short is made clear by the coda to Jansen's essay that, standing as the last contribution in the volume, also functions as a coda to Deep Classics. Jansen discusses a photograph of an aging and blind Borges gazing at the ruins of Selinunte in Sicily, his back completely turned to the viewer (p 307). In reading this photograph as a description of Borges's complicated limits to knowing the ancient past, Jansen aligns the excavation efforts at Selinunte with an epistemology of totality that she traces back to Epicurus. This reviewer would suggest that engaging with the ancient past materially does not necessarily have to re-ground totalizing ways of knowing. Furthermore, a rejection of "digging into the earth" as an approach to the ancient past is at odds with the metaphor of depth that governs this volume, which depends figuratively if not methodologically on 'digging' down. Thus, the use of the photograph alerts us to how the Borgesian approach to classical past flattens antiquity out to the point of being iconic. Borges' flattening out maneuver crucially misses the historicized situation of knower and un/knowable object. Therefore, while Jansen's conclusion works well as a capstone to her own contribution, it is a jarring note to wrap up volume as a whole.

The final contribution I discuss here is Mark Payne's "Relic | Channel | Ghost: Centaurs in Algernon Blackwood's The Centaur". Payne takes up Algernon Blackwood's 1911 The Centaur, a generically unconventional piece of fiction, possibly a "weird tale". It is about a man, O'Malley, who nearly became a centaur and tried to write about this metamorphic near-miss. O'Malley's friend posthumously attempts to write his biography from the garbled notes that he left behind. It is a real joy to read Payne working through how The Centaur's frame and inset narratives warp the relationships between man and the concept of Nature. Payne hangs his three conceptual hooks (relic, channel and ghost) from the idea that by the turn of the 20th century, the cultural confidence in translating Nature from an ontological to a textual reality had crumbled. For Payne, "relic" takes the place of language to ground the nexus of the past, poetry and nature. Payne argues that the relic is a material and uncanny surplus of the past and therefore "interpolates us" into that lost world of the past. Interpolation here is a mechanism that implies alterity: material, historical, discursive. In the capacity to interpolate, Payne insists that the relic runs a "subvenient" path of communication, which formulates his second term "channel". In order to make sense of these channels, Payne argues that the relic therefore cues the historical philologist to re-create a horizon in which the relic can make sense. Thus, Payne draws a parallel between this horizon-making as the basic conceptual labour of both the historical philologist and the historical evolutionist, who deals with animals as imprints of much older, prior creatures.

If Greco-Roman antiquity and Payne's final term "ghost" register a notable absence in this thumbnail sketch, that is because neither is the main quarry for Payne. Indeed Payne frames his analysis as "a more provocative intervention in our understanding of discourse networks and media theory" (p240). That Greco-Roman antiquity is only one of a set of analytic concepts rather than a governing term is not a drawback per se. However, Payne misses a golden opportunity to refine and push the concept of Deep Classics. The vast timespans of ecological life that Payne explores here in the context of the relic could have productively coincided with the geological chronologies on which the Deep Classics program predicates itself.

If the selected essays discussed here tend towards the theoretical, this is where this reviewer sees the greatest overall strength of the Deep Classics enterprise. Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception is essential and stimulating reading for those both in the field of classical reception studies and beyond: it certainly deserves a wide audience.

Table of Contents

On the origin of "deep classics" / Shane Butler
Homer's deep / Shane Butler
The sigh of philhellenism / Joshua Billings
Feeling on the surface: touch and emotion in Fuseli and Homer / Alex Purves
Perceiving (in) depth: landscape, sculpture, ruin / Helen Slaney
Etymological "alterity": depths and heights / Joshua Katz
Shut your eyes and see / Adam Lecznar
The loss of telos: Pasolini, Fugard, and the Oresteia / Sarah Nooter
Kings of the stone age, or how to read an ancient inscription / Stephanie Ann Frampton
Queer unhistoricism: scholars, metalepsis, and interventions of the unruly past / Sebastian Matzner
Affects and contexts: a deep history of erotic anger / Giulia Sissa
Ghostwritten classics / Edmund Richardson
Relic, channel, ghost: centaurs in Algernon Blackwood's The centaur / Mark Payne
Circulation of spectres: ghosts and spells / Davide Susanetti
Cosmopoiesis in the field of the classical / Brooke Holmes
Borges and the disclosure of antiquity / Laura Jansen.


1.   For example, as an index of self-assuredness, Frampton notes that Deep Classics is always capitalized (p 177 note 5).

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