Friday, March 24, 2017


W. V. Harris, Roman Power: A Thousand Years of Empire. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xxi, 357. ISBN 9781107152717. $49.99.

Reviewed by Charles Goldberg, Bethel University (

Version at BMCR home site

Editor's note: William Harris's Roman Power attracted a great deal of interest when it was published, and so BMCR decided to commission two reviews, in the hope that providing contrasting perspectives would enable richer conversation in the field at large. The other review is written by Harriet Flower, BMCR 2017.03.40.


Comprehensive modern accounts of the longue durée of Roman imperialism are few and far between (though note Greg Woolf's Rome: An Empire's Story, BMCR 2014.02.44). Roman Power provides a synthetic account of the growth and decline of Roman power from its early years as a middling Italian city-state in 400 BCE to the 7th-century CE Islamic invasions of the Byzantine East. Harris is concerned not only with the allocation of military or political force on external enemies, but with myriad forms of power—economic, legal, social, and the power of gender and ideas. The work is comparative in two respects, first by comparing the centuries of Roman expansion with those of its fall, and second by considering how the "soft" forms of power at work in the interior of the empire mentioned above affected and were affected by the external, "hard" application of imperial-military power.

After an introduction, Harris surveys the structural factors that encouraged territorial expansion and consolidation in the earlier republic (chapter 2). Borrowing the work of sociologist Michael Mann, Harris focuses on the use of "new organizational techniques that greatly enhanced the capacity to control peoples and territories" (29).1 By these, Harris means the mélange of strategies familiar to most students of Roman imperial history (29-33): unbalanced treaties that favored Rome; the transformation of enemy territory into ager publicus; the collaboration of local elites; and the extension of various forms of citizenship in exchange for military service. In addition to these, Harris continues the line of argumentation he first set forth in 1979's War and Imperialism in Republican Rome, namely, that a singularly militaristic culture provided powerful incentives to elites and non-elites alike to view nearly continuous warfare as desirable.

Chapter three, "The Romans against each other, from republic to monarchy," examines the aristocracy's socio-political power, and how late republican challenges to it forced the reformulation of political legitimacy under Augustus. Harris takes a strong position against those who see a significant democratic element in the republican constitution, feeling that this scholarship has taken insufficient account of how elite authority permeated throughout society, despite the legal authority of the assemblies. Through war, elites acquired tremendous economic power via land and slaves (86). Many from the lower classes, who might have represented a threat to aristocratic political power at the assemblies, were instead settled in colonies far from Rome or situated within the patron-client relationship, which nullified their potential political influence. For Harris, the chief factor in the tumult of the late republic was not so much warring aristocratic factions nor a newly politicized military, but widespread popular discontent and aristocratic apathy. While others have stated similar objections to the "democratic Rome" argument, Harris' rebuttal is a well-stated reminder of the material basis of both aristocratic hegemony in Rome and late republican lower class unrest.

Chapters four and five consider external and internal power from 16 to 337 CE, charting a shift in attitudes whereby both elites and non-elites (Italians, at any rate) ceased to view military service in positive terms, becoming more or less content with the extent of Roman territory (112-125). Factors cited in explanation include the emperor's desire to maximize his own personal honores, as well as the fact that individual rulers often had little experience in war. Specious claims of impressive military accomplishments, such as Claudius' boast to have subjugated Britain "without any losses" (ILS 216), "indicated both that the emperor could tell foolish lies and that the Roman people was losing its historical appetite for warfare…" (128). When facing external foes, the decision to fight was often rooted in financial calculus. And yet, despite significant internal unrest (68-9, 193-6, 235-84, and 205-24 CE were particularly volatile years), the empire abided. Harris attributes this long-lasting stability to impressive financial and manpower reserves, and to Rome's ability to persuade provincial elites to contribute to governance. Harris pushes back against the widespread scholarly disuse of the term "Romanization," finding it the most accurate descriptor of the process under consideration.

Chapters six and seven form a similar complement for the period from 337 to 641 CE and consider the causes for disintegration of the western and eastern empires. Harris isolates the period between 370 and 430 in the West as crucial decades of decline. The use of the word "decline" is purposeful, and Harris positions his analysis against those who have viewed late antiquity in terms of continuity or even prosperity. Decline in this context has an important financial dimension: Germanic invasions, even when repulsed, destabilized revenue collection, which meant fewer and less motivated soldiers. The eastern empire, though more prosperous and stable for a time, eventually succumbed to similar ailments. Justinian's reunification of east and west was untenable and created an empire too large for successors to defend or tax adequately. The final wave, the "tsunami" (242) of Islamic invaders, proved irresistible. These external fissures corresponded to internal instability, chiefly caused by the rise of Christianity. The growing political and economic might of the Church weakened imperial control (clergy were exempt from taxes). Tensions between Christians and traditional polytheists sparked social unrest, as did doctrinal disagreements among Christians. All of this eroded societal bonds at the same time that outside threats fractured political ones.

Harris ultimately concludes that the later absence of the factors encouraging the growth of Roman power in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE—notably, the tremendous material benefits of warfare as well as elites and non-elites more or less united by ideals of patriotic citizenship and military service—brought about Roman decline. The strength of this book lies in the ambition of its approach. Syntheses of the entire span of the growth and decline of imperial rule are beyond the reach of scholars lacking Harris' breadth of knowledge and intellectual inquisitiveness, and he is attentive to the appropriate primary and secondary sources throughout his study. Regarding the two comparative foci mentioned above, the book succeeds best when considering the interrelationship between the external and internal outlays of power at Rome, an approach that unites military-political and socio-cultural scholarly conversations that often take place independently of one another. The second comparison, that between the earlier and later years of imperial power, receives less treatment than it might have, and is mostly kept to the conclusion. Comparative empire is a popular approach throughout the Academy at the moment, and Harris is astute to note that the comparison that considers one Roman period against another has many merits. For that reason, one wished for greater exploration of this theme.

Additionally, the strength of the book—its ambition and scope—at times creates its own problems. The need to cover so much ground in so few pages results in occasionally dismissive comments on competing interpretations. I note in particular the remarks on the "realist" approach to Roman imperialism advanced by Eckstein (42-3), which Harris all-too-briefly labels a "silly historical falsehood." Especially because he writes for an educated general audience, not only for specialists of Rome, such truncated remarks give an unfair appraisal of what has become a widely accepted understanding of Rome's Mediterranean context. Furthermore, other interesting avenues are not pursued. To the rather familiar picture Harris paints of the end of the republic, he adds the novel suggestion that elite philhellenism contributed to unrest; namely, that sophisticated rhetorical educations encouraged speakers to rile up hostile crowds, and also that the widespread popularity of Epicureanism encouraged political indifference (109). This deserves further exploration, which I hope Harris undertakes in the future. Finally, I am sympathetic to the minefield Harris traverses regarding periodization, given the enormous swath of time he considers, but in the introduction we are told that the year 16 CE acts as a kind of lynchpin because of Tiberius' decision to halt expansion, but Harris seems later to emphasize Hadrian's reign instead (125).

All told, Harris has produced a comprehensive and learned account of the long arc of Roman rule that will interest Roman historians with disparate chronological and thematic interests. The book is attractively printed with numerous maps and images. Typographical errors are minimal.


1.   Quoting Mann, M., The Sources of Social Power, Vol. 1: A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760, Cambridge, 1986.

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William V. Harris, Roman Power: A Thousand Years of Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xxi, 356. ISBN 9781107152717. $49.95.

Reviewed by Harriet I. Flower, Princeton University (

Version at BMCR home site

Editor's note: William Harris's Roman Power attracted a great deal of interest when it was published, and so BMCR decided to commission two reviews, in the hope that providing contrasting perspectives would enable richer conversation in the field at large. The other review is written by Charles Goldberg, BMCR 2017.03.41.

Publisher's Preview

William Harris has written a bold and brisk overview of Roman history and imperialism, which spans from 400 BC to the Arab conquest in the seventh century AD (around AD 641). Painting with broad brushstrokes, Harris engages the reader in a lively dialogue about what was really at issue in power politics across a thousand year span. What was Roman power? How did it grow? How did it fail? How did internal political power relations shape and react to overseas expansion over time? Aimed at a general audience of students and anybody interested in ancient history, this book offers a synthesis of issues and scholarly approaches, while highlighting Harris' own considerable contributions to the field. No modern work (in English) has attempted such a wide range or sharp analysis within so broad a framework. This book will be profitable for many kinds of readers and deserves to be read through for its general comparisons, rather than simply being mined for Harris' treatment of individual issues.

Roman Power is divided into 8 chapters, of which six form the body of the text, framed by a shorter introduction and conclusion. Harris has deftly identified three broad time periods to articulate his discussion, namely: 400 BC to AD 16 (early in the reign of Tiberius, at the end of Germanicus' war in Germany); AD 16 to 337 (the death of Constantine); and 337 to 641 (in the aftermath of the Battle of Yarmuk in 636). Each time-period is discussed in two chapters, the first one dealing with external struggles and ambitions, then the other examining society internally but with an eye on imperial themes. Harris builds especially well on the world-history project of Polybius. This organizational format works effectively and allows Harris to make comparisons across wide stretches of time and space, which are further sharpened and nuanced in his final retrospective reflections. The text includes a number of fine illustrations, although some are small and a bit hard to read if one is not already familiar with the image. Seven maps help to situate events and shifts in the geopolitical balance of influence. The summaries at the end of sections and chapters work well to keep the range of issues in view.

The choice of AD 16 is more unconventional than the other two chronological markers, which are familiar watershed points, and does have the effect of putting significant emphasis on the emperor Tiberius as the key figure in the developing narrative of Rome's imperial project. In order to achieve this effect, Harris discounts the notion (p. 130), already voiced by ancient sources, that Augustus envisioned a finite empire in his last years and had even left instructions that Rome's overseas holdings should not be expanded beyond the borders as they existed at the time of his death in AD 14. However one views this particular historical question, Harris shows that he has thought carefully about periodization as a tool of analysis in itself, rather than just a set of random hooks on which to hang his discussion.

Harris is very ambitious in painting a unified picture across time, a picture that, nevertheless, remains vivid and fresh in its detail. His discussion is based on a genuine and profound familiarity with the ancient sources, although the scale of this text does not allow for much detailed analysis of the ancient evidence and the challenges of interpreting what different sources really tell us. He is sharply critical of political scientists and other theorists whose research is divorced from our ancient evidence (p. 13). Harris employs a robust and expansive concept of empire. Using the term "power" instead of the more commonly cited "hegemony" or "empire" allows him to look at Roman politics and policies more broadly, while bypassing at least some of the debates about terminology that have tended to become increasingly circular and detached from the stark uncertainties of ancient Mediterranean warfare and economic exploitation. The paired analysis of internal and external opportunities and constraints also helps to refocus the discussion. Readers will mostly enjoy Harris' characteristically combative stance towards a range of contemporary scholars, some of whom he has been disagreeing with for almost four decades. Meanwhile, the footnotes do tend to focus quite precisely on Harris' own contributions, going back to 1971. His assertion that "the whole system of external power rested on terror" (p. 146) naturally tends to pass over diplomacy and alliance building by other means.

Roman Power is seeking to forge a new path between studying the realia of ancient societies (e.g. available resources and manpower, the limits of communication, economic effects of empire, the cost of continual warfare etc.) and analyzing the more abstract ideas, symbols, and attitudes that created or expressed a specifically Roman world view, not least to themselves. In this version, confidence and ambition are key factors at all levels of society. Harris works consistently to transcend a triumphalist narrative of continual Roman victory to capture at least some of the principal experiences of hardship and expressions of resilience that characterized Rome's rapid expansion, both as a capital city and a vast, multicultural empire. At the same time, he does not take either the Romans or their friends and rivals for granted. He asks complex questions about parallel patterns of persistence and rupture across hundreds of years. Nor does he allow his focus on the big picture and the most telling questions about what shaped and constituted power to obscure the degree of violence and suffering on a more basic, human level. His repeated stress on the vital effect of local officials in individual interactions on the whole imperial system is illuminating.

Inevitably, some issues are treated in a summary fashion within such a broad discussion. A clear focus on the Romans themselves as actors and agents of change results in a less full consideration of external pressures, such as population migrations caused by severe weather (e.g. the Cimbri and Teutoni of the late second century BC) or other factors located distinctly outside the Roman sphere of influence (e.g. the migration of the Helvetii that was probably a reaction to threats from German tribes to the north). Similarly, continual, sometimes extreme native resistance to Rome is cheerfully summarized throughout rather than being studied in its own right. The role of foreign soldiers across the ages is another theme suggestive of other possible focalizations of what was Roman about some of these moments of conquest.

Harris' narrative has little to say of the role of women, especially in republican political culture during the key time of expansion. Arguably, it was precisely the rapidly expanding imperial project after the Second Punic War that allowed Roman women, at least amongst the more affluent sectors of society, to wield much greater legal, economic, and social influence than women in many other societies, notably those with which the Romans were in the habit of comparing themselves. The stunning scale of chattel slavery, one of the most important byproducts of Roman wars, is noted rather than being explored in detail (p. 151 "slavery is the water in which everything else floats"). But such narrative and editorial choices are inevitable in a book of this scale on a truly vast topic; nothing discussed here seems inconsequential.

The issue of religion is perhaps the exception that deserves to be mentioned. Harris takes seriously the effects, both psychological and practical, of new religious movements, notably Christianity and Islam. In his view, Christianity served to distract and to undermine traditional Roman imperial ambitions, educational standards, qualities of resilience and self-reliance, and combative lifestyles, especially amongst the elites, possibly contributing to the weakening of Roman power. By contrast, the rise of Islam was clearly accompanied by aggressive expansion, starting in the 630s and 640s in the decades immediately after the death of the prophet and with the formation of the Umayyad Caliphate, which at its height would (at least briefly) rival the Roman empire. Yet the discussion, in the second and third parts of the book, of these later historical phenomena is not matched with a similarly detailed evaluation of Roman traditional religion as an influential factor in the rise of Roman imperialism in the BC period, the key timeframe for the creation of Rome's position in the Mediterranean. Harris certainly acknowledges that Romans thought the gods were on their side and helped them to win in battle. Yet this is not explored in more detail, despite his consistent interest in morale and in the ability of Romans to deal with defeats and other setbacks of various kinds during this period of expansion.

In sum, William Harris' new discussion of Roman power provides a complex and colorful tapestry of multi-faceted change across a millennium, a period that arguably saw a succession of Roman empires, with very different objectives. He highlights the long and slow decline across several phases. Ultimately, Harris walks a fine line in comparing completely different times and places and peoples that had relatively little in common, either in their aims or their achievements. Few have attempted such a broad comparative project, perhaps for good reason. But Harris demonstrates how exhilarating and informative a broad view can be. The later Roman empires would have seemed completely alien worlds to a Scipio, Cicero, or Augustus. Bringing out these differences in lively prose in a succinct, fast-paced, and readable format is a signal achievement. This reader found many stimulating, new questions to think about.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Norbert Kunisch, Die Attische Importkeramik. Milet: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen und Untersuchungen seit dem Jahr 1899, Bd. 5: Funde aus Milet, Teil 3. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. x, 220; 130 p. of plates. ISBN 9783110454895. $182.00.

Reviewed by Rebecca Diana Klug, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (

Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview

Norbert Kunisch hat in dem vorliegenden Band Die Attische Importkeramik eine wichtige Materialarbeit mit mehr als 1600 Fragmenten attischer Keramik aus verschiedenen Bereichen Milets vorgelegt. Es handelt sich bei den Fragmenten ausschließlich um Funde aus den Grabungen nach dem 2. Weltkrieg –1955 wurden die Ausgrabungen wiederaufgenommen. Die Mehrzahl der Funde stammt jedoch aus den Grabungen der Jahre 1992 bis 2009.

Der Band ist in drei Bereiche unterschiedlichen Umfanges gegliedert. Im ersten Teil (1-76) beschäftigt Kunisch sich mit der Befundsituation, der Grabungsdokumentation und insbesondere mit den verschiedenen Gefäßformen. Zusätzlich werden chronologische Fragen und Probleme angesprochen. Ergänzt wird dieser Abschnitt durch einen Beitrag von Norbert Erhardt zu den Graffiti (V. Namenskundlicher Kommentar zu den Graffiti, 37-40). Der zweite Teil wird durch den Katalog gebildet und ist der umfangreichste Abschnitt des Bandes (77-214). Der dritte Teil umfasst die 15 Beilagen—vorwiegend Profilzeichnungen—und 130 Tafeln, auf denen nahezu alle im Katalog aufgenommenen Stücke abgebildet sind.

Einleitend erklärt Kunisch seine Einschränkung auf die figürlich bemalte attische Keramik (1). Allein aufgrund der Materialmenge wird die unbemalte, schwarzgefirnisste Keramik ausgelassen, bzw. nur die Fragmente mit Graffiti wurden aufgenommen. Die Publikation dieser Fragmente soll folgen. Die Beschränkung auf die figürlich bemalten Fragmente scheint zumindest problematisch, da es sich bei den nicht bemalten Fragmenten sowohl um einfache Schwarzfirniskeramik handeln kann, aber auch um Fragmente figürlich bemalter Gefäße. Insbesondere bei den Skyphosrändern kann das kaum unterschieden werden. Es muss generell in der Interpretation berücksichtigt werden, dass eine größere Gruppe attischer Importkeramik noch nicht in die Analyse eingeflossen ist. Da es sich jedoch bei den vorgelegten Fragmenten schon um mehr als 1600 Stücke handelt, ist die Einschränkung auf die figürlich bemalte Keramik durchaus nachvollziehbar.

Weiterhin begründet er den Aufbau seines Katalogs: Als oberstes Ordnungskriterium wählt er die Vasenform und erst danach die chronologische Reihenfolge der Fragmente. Dieser Aufbau erleichtert die Nutzung des Katalogs und ermöglicht einen schnellen Überblick über die Mengenverhältnisse.

Anschließend beschäftigt Kunisch sich mit der Grabungsdokumentation und der Befundsituation. Beide sind für die Analyse der attischen Importkeramik problematisch. Er bemängelt, dass nicht nur ein einheitliches Inventarsystem fehle (3-10), sondern überdies auch die von 1955 bis 1982 gefundenen Fragmente nur ungenau den Grabungsarealen zugeordnet werden können. Zusätzlich wird die Auswertung durch die Befundsituation erschwert. Schon Volkmar von Graeve verweist in seinem Vorwort zu diesem Band darauf, dass „es eine in situ liegende Zerstörungsschicht in Milet nicht gibt" (VII). Er verweist damit auf die antike Umschichtung des Zerstörungsschutts. Stratigraphisch können die Fragmente daher nicht datiert werden.

Das erste Kapitel widmet Kunisch den in Milet vorkommenden Gefäßformen attischer Keramik. Er untergliedert dieses Kapitel in Attisch-schwarzfigurige Keramik (11-18), Attisch-rotfigurige Keramik (18) und Attisch-schwarzgefirnisste Keramik (19). Für die attisch-schwarzfigurige Keramik gibt er für jede vorhandene Form die Gesamtzahl der in Milet gefundenen Exemplare an und zählt die wichtigeren Fragmente auf. Alle angesprochenen Stücke werden mit Verweisen auf den Katalog versehen, nicht aber mit solchen auf die entsprechenden Tafeln. Gerade bei den herausgehobenen Stücken wäre dies ein schöner Zusatz. Deutlich zusammengefasster sind dagegen die Auflistungen der Attisch-rotfigurigen Keramik und der Attisch-schwarzgefirnissten Keramik.

Im zweiten Kapitel wird zusammengefasst, welche Rückschlüsse die attische Importkeramik auf den Heiligtumsbetrieb im Aphrodite-Heiligtum auf dem Zeytintepe erlaubt (21-22). Neben einer Eingrenzung der Nutzungsphase und der Blütezeit verweist Kunisch auf die Tatsache, dass in dem Heiligtum vorwiegend Trinkgefäße, nicht aber anderes Symposionsgeschirr gefunden worden ist. Er sieht damit in den Gefäßen einzelne Stiftungen, was auch die Graffiti zu unterstützen scheinen und nicht Reste von im Heiligtum abgehaltenen Banketten.

Das dritte Kapitel umfasst dagegen Fragen zur Fundmengenstatistik (23-27). Kunisch betrachtet eine solche aufgrund der spezifischen Befundsituation und der zum Teil nur geringen Fundmengen als problematisch. Einzig für die Funde aus dem Aphrodite-Heiligtum sieht er eine solche als möglich und nützlich an (23).

Anschließend folgt im vierten Kapitel eine Auflistung der Inschriften (29-35), wobei zwischen Inschriften und Graffiti unterschieden wird. Ergänzt wird dieses Kapitel durch den schon erwähnten Beitrag von Norbert Erhardt zu den darauf vorkommenden Namen (37-40), der als fünftes Kapitel aufgenommen worden ist. Darauf folgen als Kapitel sechs und sieben kurze Einschübe zu antiken Reparaturen (41) und zum Scherben (43). Kunisch verzichtet auf die Angabe von Farbwerten, auch im Katalog, da es innerhalb der attischen Keramik Farbschwankungen geben würde. Für nachfolgende Forscher, die den Band auch als Referenz für eigene Keramikarbeiten nutzen möchten, wäre die Angabe des Farbspektrums jedoch ein großer Mehrwert. Auch auf eine generelle Beschreibung des Scherben wird verzichtet.

Die Kapitel acht, neun und zehn sind einzelnen Gefäßen oder Gruppen von Gefäßen gewidmet. Im achten Kapitel wird der Fokus auf den Amasis-Maler gelegt (45-48). Insgesamt drei Schalen können diesem zugeordnet werden. Das Kapitel neun beschäftigt sich mit der Entstehung und der Bemalung der Kelchpyxiden (49-55). Laut Kunisch sind in Milet ungewöhnlich viele attische Kelchpyxiden gefunden worden, fast alle im Bereich des Aphrodite-Heiligtums (51). Im zehnten Kapitel steht dann der Altamura-Maler im Mittelpunkt (57-58).

Das Kapitel elf (59-62) beschäftigt sich generell mit den attischen Vasen in Milet und versucht diese in den historischen Kontext einzuordnen. Kunisch kann den durch den Ionischen Aufstand hervorgerufenen Bruch und die Zerstörung der Stadt anhand der Importe nachvollziehen. Die attischen Importe enden um die Wende vom 6. zum 5. Jh. v. Chr. Um die Mitte des 5. Jhs. v. Chr. nehmen die Importe dann wieder zu.

Abschließend thematisiert Kunisch im zwölften Kapitel verschiedene Datierungsfragen (63-70). Zum einen beschäftigt er sich mit einem als „Große Scherbenschüttung" bezeichneten Komplex unter der Westterrasse des Zeytintepe (63-65). Dabei handelt es sich um einen Teil der Wiederauffüllung eines Steinbruchs, der für den Aphrodite-Tempel angelegt worden war. Diese „große Scherbenstreuung" kann als geschlossener Befund betrachtet werden, der nicht mehr antik oder nachantik gestört worden ist. Die Funde können alle in die 2. Hälfte des 6. Jhs. v. Chr. datiert werden. Die jüngsten Funde gehören in das Jahrzehnt 520–510 v. Chr. (65). Kunisch schließt dieses Kapitel mit Bemerkungen zur ‚absoluten Chronologie' (65-70). Dabei handelt es sich um eine Frage, die sowohl von Graeve in seinem Vorwort als auch Kunisch in seiner Einleitung angesprochen hatten. Von verschiedenen Seiten stand die Frage im Raum, ob die attischen Vasen aus Milet etwas zur Chronologie der attischen Vasen beitragen könnten. Kunisch stellt fest, dass die attischen Vasen in Milet die ältere Chronologie von Langlotz stützen und nichts gegen einen Beginn der attisch rotfigurigen Malerei um 530 v. Chr. sprechen würde (70). Kunischs Argumentation macht sich die Fundzusammensetzung und das Verhältnis von schwarzfiguriger und rotfiguriger Malerei in den Ausgrabungen am Aphrodite-Heiligtum zunutze. Zwar überwiegt die schwarzfigurige Malerei sehr deutlich, doch auf das letzte Viertel des 6. Jhs. v. Chr. eingeschränkt, ist das Verhältnis zwischen schwarzfigurigen und rotfigurigen Importen 4:1. Damit passt, laut Kunisch, das Verhältnis sehr gut zu der Menge einer etablierten Vasengruppe im Verhältnis zu einer innovativen Neuerung. Ein Verhältnis von 1:1 wäre kaum zu erwarten. Kunisch nutzt damit Kenzlers eigene Argumentation,1 der den Beginn der rotfigurigen Vasenmalerei später ansetzen möchte, um Kenzlers Theorie zu widerlegen.

In Kapitel dreizehn werden „Tabellen zur Fundverteilung" abgebildet (71-74). Die Tabellen bieten einen guten Überblick über die Fundkomplexe und Gefäßformen attischer Importkeramik in Milet. Die chronologische Aufschlüsselung in Tabelle 5 zeigt noch einmal deutlich den Einbruch, der bereits im letzten Viertel des 6. Jhs. v. Chr. einsetzt. Es wäre benutzerfreundlicher gewesen, wenn die Tabellen den entsprechenden und ohnehin sehr kurzen Kapiteln zugeordnet wären.

Der anschließende Katalog bildet den umfangreichsten Bereich der Publikation (77-214). Ziel des Katalogs ist es laut Kunisch nicht nur die herausragenden Stücke zu beschreiben, sondern die attische Importkeramik vollständig zu erfassen, mit einem Fokus auf die figürlich bemalte Keramik. Der Katalog ist übersichtlich gegliedert und enthält alle wesentlichen Informationen. Für Vergleiche mit anderen Fundkomplexen wären Farbangaben hilfreich gewesen.

Abschließend folgt ein großer Abbildungsteil mit Beilagen und Tafeln. Nahezu von allen aufgenommenen Fragmenten ist die Vorderseite in Schwarz-Weiß abgebildet. Profilzeichnungen sind dagegen nur wenige vorhanden, dennoch bieten diese einen guten Überblick über die vorhandenen Typen.

Zusammengefasst lässt sich sagen, dass es endlich eine umfangreiche Vorlage der attischen Importkeramik aus Milet gibt. Der Katalog enthält nahezu alle entsprechende Funde aus dem Stadtgebiet, während in den Auswertungskapiteln die besser dokumentierten und auch zahlreicher vorhandenen Fragmente aus den Grabungskampagnen von 1992 bis 2009 naturgemäß überwiegen. Das Auslassen der attischen schwarzgefirnissten Keramik und der Farbwerte ist zwar schade, dennoch in ihrer Begründung nachvollziehbar und schmälert in keiner Weise den Wert der vorliegenden Publikation. Es bleibt zu hoffen, dass auch die unbemalte attische Keramik mit gleicher Sorgfalt bearbeitet und publiziert werden wird, da auch diese für viele Fragen von entscheidender Bedeutung ist.


1.   U. Kenzler, „Hoplitenehre. Ein Beitrag zur absoluten Chronologie attischer Vasen der spätarchaischen Zeit", Hephaistos 25, 2007, 179–207.

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Patrice Brun, Démosthène: rhétorique, pouvoir et corruption à Athènes. Nouvelles biographies historiques. Paris: Armand Colin, 2015. Pp. 336. ISBN 9782200602666. €24.90 (pb).

Reviewed by Susan Lape, University of Southern California (

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Given the spate of recent studies, one might wonder whether there is need for yet another Demosthenic biography. However, Patrice Brun's new Démosthène: rhétorique, pouvoir et corruption à Athènes is not exactly a conventional biography.1 Rather, it is part biography and part historiography of biographical writing on Demosthenes and Athenian history as read through a Demosthenic lens. Biographical writing, as is now well known, is fraught with a particular kind of peril, since it imposes a false coherence on a life, i.e. one that the life only acquires in retrospect. 2 Brun explicitly aims to steer clear of at least some of the biographical illusions wrought by Demosthenes' previous biographers and by Demosthenes himself. Throughout, he seeks to detach Demosthenes' story and his speeches from modern tellings of Athenian (and Macedonian) history, particularly for the period between 346-338 BCE. According to Brun, recent studies that challenge or overturn historical narratives associated with Demosthenes, (i.e., that Philip II was a barbarian or that the fourth-century democracy or city was decadent or in decline), make the time ripe for his project.

The book is composed of a short general introduction, nine chapters, and a brief conclusion. The first chapter treats the sources. Brun energizes what might have been a fairly conventional catalogue by spotlighting key historiographical questions. How is it, he wonders, that in historical studies Demosthenes' voice came to drown out those of his opponents? And, how and why, he asks, did a man who was heavily fined for misappropriating public funds become a shining exemplar of democratic citizenship, both in Athens and among the Greco-Roman intelligentsia? As a preliminary to discussing these questions, Brun emphasizes that there is no extant historian for late fourth-century Athens and that the sources are mainly rhetorical: the deliberative and dicanic speeches of Demosthenes and his colleagues. According to Brun, scholarship on Demosthenes has often reproduced the partisan nature of the sources themselves, with scholars weighing in either for or against Demosthenes.

While it might initially seem an odd choice to focus on Demosthenes' Nachleben in the second chapter, the topic offers a fairly seamless transition from the first chapter's review of Demosthenes' imperial reception. Brun is particularly interested in the way historians have tended to see Demosthenes as a champion (or opponent) of values they themselves espouse. The highlight here is his discussion of the way Philip II and Demosthenes were interpreted through the lens of nationalist and ideological struggles taking place in Germany and France between 1870 and 1939.

In the third chapter, Brun reviews Demosthenes' family story and intellectual formation, and the biographical tradition on this period of Demosthenes' life. For Brun, it is obvious that Demosthenes' struggle to regain his patrimony was pivotal in shaping both his character and his career. The need to learn the laws and oratory paved the way for and encouraged his public life. At the same time, the enemies he garnered in the context of the guardian ordeal remained his enemies during his later political activities (79, 80). Brun does not put much stock in the biographical tradition about Demosthenes' speech impediments. His difficulties could not have been so severe, Brun reasons, because he ultimately overcame them to address thousands on the Pynx in an era before speech therapists (84-85).

Despite the title "Athens in 355", chapter four includes a review of Athenian history from the end of the Peloponnesian War to the end of the Social War. Although the city was virtually bankrupt when Demosthenes entered the political arena, Brun stresses that he and other speakers were "haunted by the ghost of empire." In consequence, they looked to the city's former grandeur as a guide to contemporary policy. In addition to being unrealistic in terms of the fiscal situation, Demosthenes' view of the past was highly revisionist and whitewashed, as Brun emphasizes (113). Demosthenes idealized the fifth-century Athenian empire, imagining that membership in it was based on consent to Athenian domination rather than coercion (111). Finally, Brun also examines the career of Eubulus and finds that scholarly claims of his pacificism have been greatly exaggerated and are largely a product of accepting Demosthenes' rhetoric as history.

In chapter five, "Finding his Way, 355-348", Brun charts the rise of Philip of Macedon's and Demosthenes' political careers. Brun stresses that Demosthenes' early career was unsuccessful, largely due to his dedication to an outdated imperialism. That said, Brun shows that Athens' quest for hegemony was far from dead, regardless of its limited sphere of operation. For example, in 353, the Athenian general Timotheus seized the city of Sestos on the Thracian Chersonese and killed all the adult males, a move which helps explain why so many Greek cities might have seen Philip II as a champion against Athens.

In chapter six, "The Necessary Peace: 348-346" Brun considers the process that led to the Peace of Philocrates, drawing on the embassy speeches (Dem. 19 & Aes. 2). Following Aeschines, Brun finds that Demosthenes was initially in favor of the peace, rather than an intractable opponent. Brun highlights, however, that when the epigraphic evidence is considered, Athens in 346 appears not as a polis paralyzed with fear, but rather as a polis determined to defend itself.

Chapter seven continues the work of disentangling Demosthenes' voice from the history of the Peace of Philocrates and its aftermath. Brun shows that, contrary to Demosthenes' claims, there was neither a pro-Macedonian party in Athens nor a group of pacificists. Similarly, he emphasizes that Demosthenes was not the sole architect of the war policy, but rather was late in jumping on the bandwagon. Brun also fills out the picture of Athens in the 340s by turning to inscriptions, a form of evidence often lacking in Demosthenic studies because of Demosthenes' curious absence from the extant remains. Finally, Brun stresses that the conflict between Athens and Macedon was not a struggle between Greeks and foreign oppressors, as Demosthenes would have it, but rather an inter-Greek contest for hegemony between imperial powers. To illustrate the point, he engages in a thought experiment, considering what would have happened had Athens and Thebes won at Chaeronea. Nothing, according to Brun, would have fundamentally changed. That is, Brun argues that the abiding significance of agonism as a cultural value would have undermined any lasting cooperation between the Greek cities; an Athenian and Theban victory would have simply opened a new chapter in the struggle for domination.

Chapter eight explores Demosthenes' political activity after Chaeronea and its historiography down to 326 BCE. Scholars of the period have often asked whether Demosthenes remained politically preeminent after the defeat. Given the nature of the evidence, those who conclude that Demosthenes continued to orchestrate Athenian policy are forced to assume, à la Plutarch, that he did so covertly, using straw men to propose his policy measures. For Brun, this hypothesis is misguided, informed by a kind of "leader worship." The fact that the two major pieces of legislation we know of were proposed by relative political unknowns is, for Brun, a sign of the likely absence of any single charismatic political leader in post-Chaeronea Athens. Like other recent scholarship, therefore, Brun's work challenges the label "Lycurgan Athens."

The highlight of the chapter, however, is the analysis of the Crown trial, which was not, according to Brun, the trial of the century that Demosthenes' biographers would later claim it to be, at least for the contemporary world outside Athens. Brun likens Demosthenes' rhetorical strategy to an economic policy that privatizes profits and nationalizes losses. In Brun's view, ,Demosthenes individualized the supposed advantages he won over Philip, diplomatic and moral, and collectivized the decisions that led to the defeat. Paradoxically, the losers turned out to be the real winners.

Athens enjoyed a welcome period of peace and ease during Alexander's campaigns that lasted, according to Brun, until his announced return. With Alexander's return came renewed expressions of royal authority, which created problems for Athens in the form of the exile decree and for others, notably Harpalos, Alexander's wayward treasurer in Babylon, who absconded with a fortune rather than waiting to face Alexander. In chapter nine "Harpalosgate," Brun discusses Harpalos' arrival in Athens, his imprisonment, and the seizure of his stolen treasure. As is well known, when Harpalos escaped from Athens, some of the treasure went missing, and one of those blamed for embezzling it was Demosthenes. After being convicted of embezzling twenty talents, Demosthenes went into exile. For Brun the issue is less to determine whether he was guilty or not than to understand the how accusations of corruption operated in Athenian politics. Accepting "gifts," he reminds us, only became illegal when it harmed Athenian interests. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether the Athenians convicted Demosthenes because they believed he had injured the city or whether they sacrificed "him on the altar of prudence", as Brun puts it; either way, the city was following traditional practice (284).

In conclusion, Brun charts the events that paved the way for Demosthenes' transformation into an enduring democratic symbol. To this end, he reviews the ill-fated Greek rebellion from Macedonian rule now known as the Lamian War, which was the occasion for Demosthenes' return from exile. When the war ended, Antipater imposed an oligarchic government on the city and called for the death of leading democratic politicians, including Demosthenes. According to tradition, rather than allowing the Macedonian authorities to seize him, Demosthenes orchestrated his own death at the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Caluria in October, 322. Posterity therefore came to worship Demosthenes as a martyr to the democractic cause, at Athens, however, Demosthenes' fellow citizens did not see him as the democratic champion he poses as in his own writings. Significantly, in 307 when the democracy was restored, it was Lycurgus, not Demosthenes, who was chosen as the democratic exemplar. Demosthenes' transformation into anti-Macedonian crusader and democratic symbol had to wait for his nephew to initiate the process forty-two years after his death.

In sum, one of Brun's aims was to produce a readable biography of Demosthenes, and he has succeeded in doing so. It may bother some specialist readers that the bibliography and citations are not exhaustive, and that some major historical works are not discussed at all. But Brun acknowledges this up front, explaining that the work is meant to reach a more general audience. What is particularly interesting and timely about Brun's project is the pervasive exploration and uncovering of what he labels as Manichean views, both in Athenian politics and historical interpretations of the fourth century (e.g., 142, 307). Scholars have been too willing to view the era through the partisan lens Demosthenes' texts create. By revealing the connections between self-promotion and competitive politics in Demosthenes' life and works, this book offers (inter alia) a well-timed case study of polarization, or the prehistory thereof.


1.   See R. Sealey, (1993). Demosthenes and His Time: A Study in Defeat, (Oxford University Press), D. M. MacDowell, (2009), Demosthenes the Orator, (Oxford University Press), I. Samotta, (2010). Demosthenes, (Francke), Ian Worthington, (2012). Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece, (Oxford University Press).
2.   P. Bourdieu, (2000 [1987]), "The biographical illusion," in Identity: A Reader, edited P. du Gay, J. Evans and P. Redman (Sage Publications), 297-303.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Rémy Poignault, Catherine Schneider (ed.), Fabrique de la déclamation antique (controverses et suasoires). Collection de la Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, 55; Série littéraire et philosophique, 21. Lyon: Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée - Jean Pouilloux, 2016. Pp. 443. ISBN 9782356680594. €43.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Gernot Krapinger, Zentrum Antike. Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Der vorliegende Band sammelt den Ertrag zweier internationalen Kolloquien zur lateinischen Deklamation, von denen das eine im September 2011 an der Universität Clermont-Ferrand, das andere im Juni 2012 an der Universität Strasbourg stattgefunden hat, und bringt allen Interessierten durchwegs neue Erkenntnisse über die Texte von ganz unterschiedlichen griechischen und lateinischen Autoren von Seneca dem Älteren, Pseudoquintilian, Calpurnius Flaccus über Polemon, Aelius Aristides, Lukian und Dion Chrysostomos bis zu Libanios, Sopatros, Himerios, Prokopios von Gaza, Chorikios und Fronto näher.

Die einleitenden Bemerkungen aus der Feder des Herausgeberduos, Rémy Poignault und Catherine Schneider, welche die verschiedenen Aufsätze im wesentlichen zusammenfassen, versprechen anregende Lektüre linguistischer, rhetorischer, literarischer, historischer, politischer, anthropologischer und soziologischer Ansätze in der Deklamationsforschung; diese Vielfalt möge folgende kurze Auswahl dokumentieren:

Den Reigen eröffnet Antonio Stramaglia, der ausgehend von früheren Beobachtungen Michael Winterbottoms eine rhetorisch-technische Besonderheit vor allem der Declamationes maiores Pseudoquintilians, mannigfaltige Formen der Autoreferenzialität, erörtert. Freilich gibt es diese, wie Stramaglia eingangs ausführt, vereinzelt auch in anderen rhetorischen Texten, wie etwa in denen des Sophisten Gorgias, Lukians, des Sopatros und des Chorikios. Durch die Häufung und Fülle dieser metarhetorischen Signale ragen aber einige dieser 19 vielfach als Prunkreden bezeichneten Declamationes maiores aus dem 2.-3. Jahrhundert doch heraus: An vielen Stellen lässt der Redner für einige Augenblicke seine Maske fallen und nimmt die Rolle des Lehrers ein, indem er an den unterschiedlichsten, meist aber neuralgischen Stellen der Rede mehr oder weniger verdeckt Hinweise auf Schwierigkeiten, beachtenswerte Vorschriften und technische Spitzfindigkeiten in der Bewältigung der jeweiligen Redeteile gibt. Daher ist es nur allzu verständlich, wenn Stramaglia die vielfach in der Forschung gezogene klare Abgrenzung von Schau- und Schuldeklamation zurückweist, denn auch diese ausgefeilten hochliterarischen Texte Pseudoquintilians können den Ruch der Schulstube nicht ganz ablegen. Dieses Charakteristikum metarhetorischer Signale ist den meisten Reden der Sammlung in unterschiedlichem Ausmaß und in mannigfaltiger Ausprägung eigen, der achten und siebzehnten Rede hinwiederum fehlt der maestro nascosto ganz; aus all diesen Beobachtungen, so führt Stramaglia abschließend aus, könnten sich durchaus neue Erkenntnisse in der offenen Verfasser- und Datierungsfrage ergeben.

Thorsten Burkard geht in seiner Untersuchung von den drei für die Deklamationen konstitutiven Kategorien sententiae, divisiones und colores aus und nimmt besonders die schwierigen beiden letztgenannten1 in den Blickpunkt und untersucht deren Verwendung im Florilegium des älteren Seneca. In dieser luziden Studie zeigt Burkard, dass den deklamatorischen Systemen Konzepte zugrunde liegen, die in den lateinischen Lehr- und Handbüchern der Rhetorik weitgehend fehlen. Für den senecanischen Entwurf der divisiones spielen quaestiones eine bedeutende Rolle, also Fragen, die sich aus dem Thema und dem Gesetz der Kontroversie ergeben. Diese werden zumeist in ein hierarchisches System gebracht und lassen sich in Rechts- und Billigkeitsfragen unterteilen; Ps.-Quint. decl. min. 270, 2 nennt sie zutreffend ossa et nervi controversiae, Seneca selbst fundamentum (contr. praef. § 21). Ferner wird nachvollziehbar nachgewiesen, dass das in der lateinischen Deklamation Senecas anzutreffende System der divisio von der jüngeren hermagoreischen Statuslehre nicht beeinflusst wird und Überschneidungen begrifflicher Natur mehr oder weniger zufällig sind. Ein weit größeres definitorisches Problem stellt in der Forschung der Terminus color dar. Erst durch den Ansatz von Thomas Zinsmeier2 ist hier ein Durchbruch gelungen: Die colores füllen Leerstellen, die das skizzenhafte argumentum der Kontroversie offenlässt (Zinsmaier 2009, S. 262). Nach Burkard entspringen die colores den Vermutungen des parteilichen Deklamators über die Hintergründe und Zusammenhänge des Geschehens; die colores deuten („färben") nicht die Fakten des Kontroversienthemas, sondern fügen neue Fakten oder Motive hinzu. Zu guter Letzt zeigt Burkard schlüssig, dass auch die colores unabhängig von der auf Hermagoras zurückgehenden Statuslehre entstanden sind, widmet sich dem color in den Suasorien und zeichnet schließlich trefflich nach, wie der Begriff nach Seneca dem Älteren die metaphorische Bedeutung eines „Beschönigungsmittels" annimmt.

Christopher van den Berg zeigt eine neue Facette der nicht nur von Rhetorikern, sondern auch Rechtshistorikern in der Forschung in letzter Zeit vielbeachteten 13. Deklamation aus der Sammlung der Declamationes maiores, der Apes pauperis, auf und liest die Schilderung der mühevollen Arbeiten der emsigen Bienen als Sinnbild für die Mühen des Deklamators selbst. Tatsächlich gelingt es van den Berg, ausgehend von dem recht eindeutigen Vergleich von Honigwaben mit Buchrollen in § 18 (gemina frons ceris imponitur), der an Tibull 3, 1, 13f. und Ovid, trist. 1, 1, 11 erinnert, zu zeigen, dass sich der literarisch offensichtlich hochgebildete Redner in der Wortwahl seiner Schilderung des Wabenbaus eines rhetorischen Fachbuchs zu bedienen scheint; die These van den Bergs, der Verfasser dieser Deklamation verknüpfe das Elogium der emsigen Insekten als Wabenbauer mit der Verherrlichung seiner selbst als Redenfabrikant, ist plausibel.

In den Deklamationen von Seneca dem Älteren, Pseudoquintilian und Calpurnius Flaccus begegnen uns viele Fälle sexueller Gewalt gegen unverheiratete Frauen. Inwiefern uns diese Texte Aufschluss über den Umgang der römischen Gesellschaft mit virginitas geben, indem sie eine Vorstellung davon vermitteln, wie auf deren gewaltsame Verletzung reagiert wird, ist schon öfter untersucht worden. Graziana Brescia ortet in diesen rhetorischen Plots einen bisher unbeachteten Gesichtspunkt und zeigt überzeugend, wie in der Deklamatorik die traditionelle Moral verspottet wird und etwa Grundkonstituenten der römischen familiären Ordnung wie die patria potestas aufgeweicht werden; die Schulrhetorik bildet, so zeigt die italienische Gelehrte eindrucksvoll, einen Gegenentwurf zur rigiden normativen sozialen Wirklichkeit und erlaubt, ähnlich wie es während der Saturnalien geschieht, gesetzliche oder gesellschaftliche Schranken zu überschreiten.

Mit zwei Deklamationen des Sophisten und Rhetors Chorikios aus der Schule von Gaza aus der ersten Hälfte des 6. Jahrhunderts macht uns Fotini Hadjittofi mit einem wichtigen Zeugnis für das noch wenig erforschte Phänomen des Cross-Dressings in der Antike bekannt. Die dritte Deklamation greift einen Bericht Herodots (1, 155, vgl. Justinus, epit. 1, 7, 11-13; Polyainos, strat. 7, 6, 4) auf, wonach König Kyros nach der Gefangennahme des Kroisos den Lydern befahl, die Waffen ab- und Frauenkleidung anzulegen, zu singen und Kithara zu spielen, um sie durch den Zwang zu kriegsfernen weibischen Tätigkeiten an dem Versuch, ihr Königreich zurückzuerobern, zu hindern. Chorikios geht nun über Herodot hinaus und fügt hinzu: Als Kyros einen Feldzug gegen die Massageten unternimmt, will er, dass die Lyder ihn als Kämpfer unterstützen. Diese jedoch weigern sich und wollen ihre Waffen nicht zurückbekommen. In der Deklamation des Chorikios, einer oratio figurata, wird nun die Position der Lyder vertreten, die, um ihre Pläne, sich aufzulehnen, nicht zu verraten, vorgeben, mit durchschlagendem Erfolg effeminiert worden zu sein und gleichsam Kochtöpfe und Strickzeug nicht mehr verlassen zu wollen.

Travestie nicht als Mittel der Repression und Umerziehung, sondern als Mittel einer Kriegslist (vgl. Plutarch, Solon, 8, 4-5; Polyainos, strat. 1, 20, 2) ist der Ausgangspunkt der elften Deklamation: Eine Stadt ist durch eine feindliche Macht angegriffen worden und hat einen General bei der erfolglosen Abwehr des Feindes verloren. Ein zweiter General rettet die Stadt dadurch, dass er den Feind in Frauenkleidern übertölpelt. Ein fiktives Gesetz verlangt, dass ein Kriegsheld ein an seine Tat erinnerndes Gemälde erhält, das den Retter in den Kleidern, die er bei der Ausführung seiner Rettungstat getragen hat, darstellt. Dem Generalissimus ist nicht ganz wohl bei dem Gedanken, auf dem monumentalen Gemälde anstatt in der ordenbehangenen Galauniform sozusagen im Minikleid und High Heels dargestellt zu werden. Der unterlegene General pocht jedoch als der Sprecher der Deklamation auf die Einhaltung dieser lex ficta. Von diesen zwei Tatbeständen ausgehend gelingt Hadjittofi ein bravouröses Beispiel geistvoller Anwendung moderner Gendertheorien an einem rhetorischen Text der ausgehenden Spätantike, und sie zeigt, wie in der Gegenüberstellung von essentialistischen und konstruktivistischen Ansätzen die zwei unterschiedlichen erkenntnistheoretischen Positionen hinsichtlich der Bewertung der Kategorie Geschlecht bzw. Geschlechterdifferenz in diesen deklamatorischen Gustostücken diskutiert werden. Denn in beiden Deklamationen wird die These vertreten, dass die Kleidung als significant marker of gender identity (S. 353) fungiere, wobei aber die gegenteilige Position mehr oder weniger latent immer gegenwärtig ist.

Der Beitrag Ganliucca Ventrellas verlässt das Terrain der Deklamationen als Produkt der Rhetorenschulen und schlägt den Bogen zum bithynischen Schriftsteller, Redner und Philosophen Dion Chrysostomos (40-115 n. Chr.): Unter seinen etwa 80 erhaltenen Reden sind vier kynische Reden erhalten, in denen er Diogenes das Wort erteilt und seine Lehre darbringen lässt (or. 6-10); die sechste Rede trägt den Titel In tyrannos. Darin stilisiert sich der Urkyniker Diogenes als Gegenbild des Perserkönigs, preist einerseits sein eigenes nach dem Vorbild der Tiere geführtes Leben als Vollendung der Eudaimonie (§§ 1-34) und bedauert andererseits die Figur des Großkönigs wegen seines von Schwelgerei und Angst vor Gift und Meuchelmördern geprägten Lebens ohne wahre Freuden und Freunde. Dass sich in dieser Sittenpredigt, welche die kynische Trias der mitunter provokanten und alle Konventionen in Frage stellenden Ideale Selbstgenügsamkeit, Schamlosigkeit und Freimütigkeit zelebriert, sowohl Assoziationen zum von Domitian relegierten Dion selbst als auch zum Kaiser aufdrängen, ist nun keine ganz neue Erkenntnis. Ventrella untermauert aber hier, nach einer einer kurzen Inhaltsskizze und einem etwas zu üppig geratenen Referat der eigentlich nicht lösbaren Quellenfrage, durch kluge Beobachtungen und treffende Querverweise die These der berühmten Monographie aus der Feder von Hans von Arnim von der lebendigen Aktualität.3 Die häufig gestellte Frage, ob denn nun Dions antityrannischen Ausfälle Ausdruck einer durch die Relegatio ausgelösten inneren Wandlung zum Philosophen oder lediglich kynische Pose waren, bleibt offen.

Man kann abschließend der Herausgeberin und dem Herausgeber zur Umsicht bei der Auswahl der Autoren und Autorinnen und der Themen nur gratulieren.


Rémy Poignault, Catherine Schneider: Avant-propos
Antonio Stramaglia: Il maestro nascosto. Elementi "metaretorici" nelle Declamazioni maggiori pseudo-quintilianee)
Andrea Balbo, Ri-leggere un rhetore: riflessioni lessicali su Calpurnio Flacco
Fabrice Robert: De la déclamation exercise à la déclamation virtuose : le cas d'Aelius Aristide
Thorsten Burkard : Zu den Begriffen divisio und color bei Seneca Maior
Lucia Pasetti: Lingua e stile dell' „Io" nella declamazione latina. Appunti per una grammatica delle passioni
Christopher van den Berg: Program and composition in Pseudo-Quintilian's 13th Major Declamation
Erik Gunderson: Declamatory play
Michael Trapp: Philostratus, Aristides and the geography of declamation
Marion Faure-Ribreau : Présence et fonctions de la sententia dans la déclamation latine
Gualtero Calboli : Les status et les Petites déclamations du Pseudo-Quintilien
Pablo Schwartz Frydman: Céstio Pío, lector de Cicerón y de Virgilio
Nicholas A. E. Kalospyros: Towards the formation of an Attic genre of declamation: how to focus on Sopatros the Rhetor
Bé Breij: Rich and poor, father and son in Major Declamation 7
Ida Mastrorosa: Istituzioni religiosi e pratica declamatoria in età augustea e tiberiana: il culto di Vesta in Seneca il Vecchio
Giovanna Longo: Quaedam satius est causae detrimento tacere quam verecundiae dicere. Eros "torbido" nella declamazione antica
Graziana Brescia: Rapta raptoris aut mortem optet aut nuptias. Rischi ed equivoci della seduzione nella declamazione latina
Fotini Hadjittofi: Cross-dressing in the declamations of Choricius of Gaza
Mario Lentano: Parlare di Cicerone sotto il governo del suo assassino. Una lettura della controversia VII, 2 di Seneca e la politica Augustea della memoria
Gianluca Ventrella: Da esercizio retorico a realtà vivente: la declamazione contro i tiranni nella polemica anti-domizianea di Dione di Prusa (Or. 6)
Pascale Feury: Évenescence de la déclamation dans le corpus frontonien
Estelle Oudot: La déclamation chez Aelius Aristide : un lieu possible pour une nouvelle histoire d'Athènes?


1.   Den sententiae widmet sich eigens der Aufsatz von Marion Faure-Ribreau.
2.   Th. Zinsmaier, „Zwischen Erzählung und Argumentation : coloresin den pseudoquintilianischen Declamationes maiores", Rhetorica 27 (2009), S. 256-273.
3.   Leben und Werke des Dion von Prusa, Berlin 1898, S. 261.

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Ghislaine Widmer, Résurrection d'Osiris - naissance d'Horus: les papyrus Berlin P. 6750 et Berlin P. 8765, témoignages de la persistance de la tradition sacerdotale dans le Fayoum à l'époque romaine. Ägyptische und Orientalische Papyri und Handschriften des Ägyptischen Museums und Papyrussammlung Berlin, 3. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. Pp. xii, 462. ISBN 9783110425093. $210.00.

Reviewed by Martin Andreas Stadler, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

If Publilius Syrus' saying bis dat, qui cito dat were correct, then the book under review would be worth just a quarter because it is the eagerly awaited revised version of a PhD thesis submitted to the University of Geneva in 2002. However, scholarship does not work along those lines, and in particular an edition of an Egyptian text in the demotic cursive script, a cumbersome and arduous enterprise, is subject to other conditions. The kind of graphematisation of this text adds to the difficulties in deciphering that 'most evil of all evil Egyptian scripts'1 by using non-etymological or phonetic writings almost throughout. I will come back to these unusual writings below, but mention them here to stress the enormous difficulty they pose to reading and understanding the text. Therefore, we must congratulate Ghislaine Widmer for this achievement.

The text is preserved on two papyri, pBerlin P 6750 and pBerlin P 8765, and I would date both to c. 100 CE.2 The manuscripts come from the village of Soknopaiou Nesos (modern Dimê) in the Fayum in Egypt. One of the two papyri, P 6750, has been known to scholars since W. Spiegelberg's Demotische Papyrus in den Königlichen Museen zu Berlin (Berlin 1902), which contains collotype plates of a selection of demotic papyri in the Berlin collection accompanied by short descriptions but without transliteration, translation, or commentary. All this is now provided by the book under review for pBerlin P 6750, of which 10 columns survive more or less complete, and for pBerlin P 8765, which is in a more fragmentary state—not more than a third of one column and the major part of a second column have been preserved. In presenting her edition Widmer follows the model of one of her academic teachers, Mark Smith, in meticulously copying his system of editing and organizing the pertinent commentaries. This is not to the detriment of the book's quality, rather to the contrary—except for the lack of indexes, which would have benefitted readers who want to find the wealth of information that Widmer offers in her commentary. There is a glossary of demotic words, which allows the reader to find a lot of important information in the commentary, but it does not indicate much of what she has to say about Egyptian religion. The reviewer fears that only a minority of readers, be it of this journal or Egyptologists in general, will indulge in reading an extensive commentary that combines discussion of demotic palaeography and lexicography with explaining issues of Egyptian religion.

The text comprises two parts, both liturgical in nature. The first one deals with the veneration of Osiris or Sokar(-Osiris) and covers the first seven preserved columns, whereas the second part, entitled 'The writings of pampering(?; hlʿly) Horus, the son of Isis' is addressed to Osiris' son and successor, Horus (cols. x+VIII–X), and focuses on him. The two parts are not coherent texts, but consist of sections that are separated by rubricized headings labelled 'other hymn', 'ritual of the night of seeking' (a composition related to the well-known hourly vigil in the cult of Osiris), and 'offering litany', which is meant to accompany an offering cult for Horus, son of Isis, while also being part of the Osiris cult. On the basis of this composition, Widmer rightly suggests a use for this text in temple ritual. Although for us today the two parts seem to follow a coherent sequence of events—death of Osiris and succession of his son Horus—each part was used at two very different dates in the liturgical year, as the text itself details. The Osirian part accompanied rites during the month of Hathyr (according to ancient Egyptian tradition Osiris was murdered on Hathyr, 17th), the Horus part five months later during Pharmouthi.

The principal deity of Dimê, Soknopaios (the local form of Sobek), does not appear in the text at all. In earlier articles analysing the religious world of the text, Widmer tried to address that surprising fact by interpreting Soknopiais, a god attested in Dimê chiefly in Greek sources, as being the Osirian form, and Soknopaios as Sobek's Horus form. However, neither Soknopaios nor Soknopiais appears in the text, just Sobek a few times. Therefore, it seemed to be an unnecessarily complicated theoretical construct.3 Now, though she does not seem to have completely given up that position, she downgrades it to one optional hypothesis. She does so in view of the increasingly richer corpus of attestations for an Osirian cult in Dimê which make it more likely that Dimê had a cult for Osiris in its own right, along with the well-known worship of Horus in his various forms. Thus pBerlin P 6750 and its parallels testify to the participation of the priesthood at Dimê in the religious discourse and practices of Egypt during Roman rule as do many other texts.

As the text is a composite, it follows that each section might have a different age and different linguistic forms. Therefore the texts of pBerlin P 6750 cannot easily be classified as 'Demotic', 'archaic' or 'archaizing Demotic' or 'traditional Egyptian'. Rather they follow various idioms, i.e. Demotic with archaizing features or more purely traditional Middle Egyptian.

While the demotic script is well suited for writing Egyptian in its penultimate (Demotic) form, it is less good for writing earlier Middle Egyptian. To solve this problem, demotic scribes (and to a lesser degree, their hieratic predecessors/colleagues) used unusual orthographies. One method employs phonetic writings (chiefly using uniliteral signs). However, some words appear in a spelling that is even more baffling because, while keeping the original determinatives, they combine words into new ones if the words combined are homophonous to the syllables of the word to be expressed. Superficially such words look like two or (rarely) more distinct words. This second sort of notation is called non-etymological, and it is Widmer who first proposed the distinction between phonetic and non-etymological.4 In this nomenclature, the purpose of writing phonetically is to display the correct sound of the word, whereas the non- etymological graphematisation may often add a second layer of meaning to religious compositions. Are the original meanings of those constituent words that the scribe selected to serve as syllables of another word still valid? And if so, do they imply a further dimension? Such cases as ḫnṱ sȝ-ḥw.t-nṯr that appears to be 'foremost of the phyle of the temple,' but stands for ḫnty sḥ-nṯr 'foremost of the god's booth', i.e. an epithet of Anubis, invite scholarly speculation that might come close to ancient Egyptian priestly speculation. The form ḫnṱ sȝ-ḥw.t-nṯr could be seen as stressing an intimate relationship of the priestly personnel to Anubis by incorporating itself into the epithet of that deity. Another example would be pȝ-wt tpy, which looks like 'the first flourishing', but is to be read pȝw.t tp.t 'the beginning of time'. The former would then be a more metaphorical, poetic expression of the latter. Demotists do not agree on this issue, but the reviewer is inclined to follow Widmer's assessment. Unfortunately, Widmer seems to have abandoned this distinction in her glossary, which is exemplary in giving each word in facsimile, transliteration, translation, and references to all occurrences in the papyri. There she uses the abbreviation 'ENE' ('écriture non étymologique') throughout but not 'EP' ('écriture phonétique') as opposed to her two lists on p. 45–6 where she still differentiates the two.

The two aforementioned examples give a sample of the enormous difficulty that the text poses to anybody who endeavours to decipher it. The uncertainty about whether an identically written word is always identical in meaning exacerbates the problem. Within one single line twȝ.t, 'netherworld' in a 'normal' Demotic text, could be 'image' (to display older tỉ.t), and also 'netherworld' in twȝ.t tsly.t 'holy underworld' while elsewhere in the text twȝ.t tsly.t stands for 'holy land' (in hieroglyphs and hieratic tȝ ḏsr),5 not to mention twȝ.t 'hand' (older ḏr.t), 'time' (older tr), and 'here' (older dy). Over other groups some demotists debated for quite a while, and these groups still remain difficult to explain but have now been solved. An example for this is snsn, which has been interpreted as ỉwỉw, kʿkʿ, and gsgs.6

It should be clear that reading the papyri is not an easy task. Consequently, the major part of the book (p. 127–328) is the commentary in which Widmer explains her readings. This requires diving into the palaeography of demotic, the lexicography of Egyptian, and also Egyptian religion, which often assists interpretation. The commentary is a great achievement, and the chapters discussing certain issues of Egyptian religion in a synthesis complement it. Those chapters will be welcome to readers of Bryn Mawr Classical Review who are interested in religion in Graeco-Roman Egypt.

It is daily use that proves the scholarly value of a book. Now the present reviewer is working himself on the Daily Ritual of the Temple of Soknopaios, a religious text from the same site, with manuscripts dating roughly to the same period, and its orthography being the same phonetic or non-etymological form of notation. The major difference is that the Daily Ritual has many more hieroglyphic and hieratic parallels than the texts of pBerlin P 6750 (cf. p. 8 where Widmer lists the few lines for which she could identify parallels). In many cases, the reviewer can confirm Widmer's readings by the parallels in the Daily Ritual, and in other cases her commentaries are useful for the reviewer's own research. Thus, the book has already proven to be useful in scholarly daily routine. Therefore, it may be safe to say that Widmer's book is important and good. Unfortunately, it is also quite expensive, and one might expect more attention to the colour plates on the part of the publisher. The museum's photographer, Sandra Steiss, always provides excellent images that rival the original, but here the photos appear too reddish and are reduced in scale, even if the page would have allowed for a larger reproduction.


Avant-propos xi
Avertissement xiii
1. Présentation des papyrus Berlin P. 6750 et Berlin P. 8765 1
2. Contenu et structure des papyrus Berlin P. 6750 et Berlin P. 8765 11
3. Écriture et paléographie des papyrus Berlin P. 6750 et Berlin P. 8765 23
4. La langue des papyrus Berlin P. 6750 et Berlin P. 8765 31
5. Les marques de remplissage et de ponctuation du papyrus Berlin P. 6750 49
6. L'univers géographique des papyrus Berlin P. 6750 et Berlin P. 8765 55
7. L'univers religieux des papyrus Berlin P. 6750 et Berlin P. 8765 63
8. Harpsenesis (Ḥr-pȝ-šr-n-Ỉs.t) 81
9. Translitération et traduction du papyrus Berlin P. 6750 87
10. Commentaire du papyrus Berlin P. 6750 127
11. Translitération et traduction du papyrus Berlin P. 8765 recto 303
12. Commentaire du papyrus Berlin P. 8765 recto 317
13. The Greek document on the verso of papyrus Berlin P. 8765 Preliminary description and translation (Nikos Litinas) 331
14. Conclusion 337
Traduction continue du papyrus Berlin P. 6750 345
Bibliographie 359
Index des papyrus Berlin P. 6750 et Berlin P. 8765 379
Planches 445


1.   'Und zwar von allen bösen ägyptischen Schriftarten die böseste.': H. Grapow, 'Review of Erichsen, Demotische Lesestücke', OLZ 40 (1937), 487.
2.   Widmer's argument for dating the papyri is a bit puzzling because, following Lippert and Schentuleit, she uses the flesh determinative as criterion (p. 24) and thus implies roughly 100 CE as date of writing. At the same time, she classifies my dating of a papyrus that she herself deems to be very similar to pBerlin P 6750, as 'less conclusive' although I apply the same method (albeit not exposed in the preliminary report that she cites p. 23 n. 90). In the end she leaves the question unanswered.
3.   Cf. M. A. Stadler, 'Archaeology of Discourse: The Scribal Tradition in the Roman Fayyûm and the House of Life at Dimê', in: M. Capasso and P. Davoli (eds), Soknopaios, the Temple and Worship: Proceedings of the First Round Table of the Centro di Studi Papirologici of Università del Salento Lecce - October 9th 2013 (Edaphos 1; Lecce, Rovato, 2015), 215–216.
4.   G. Widmer, 'Une invocation à la déesse (tablette démotique Louvre E 10382)', in: F. Hoffmann and H. J. Thissen (eds), Res severa verum gaudium: Festschrift für Karl-Theodor Zauzich zum 65. Geburtstag am 8. Juni 2004 (Studia Demotica 6; Leuven, Paris, Dudley, 2004), 651–686.
5.   The glossary inadvertently omits this translation, p. 425.
6.   P. 165–6: Widmer cites M. A. Stadler, 'Demotica aus Dime: Ein Überblick über die in Dime während der Kampagnen 2001–2009 gefundenen demotischen Texte', in: M. Capasso and P. Davoli (eds), Soknopaiou Nesos Project I (2003–2009) (Pisa, Roma, 2012), 258, is mentioned but the wording does not make clear who proposed the reading snsn earlier on the basis of a hieratic parallel.

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Monday, March 20, 2017


Philip Walsh (ed.), Brill's Companion to the Reception of Aristophanes. Brill's companions to classical reception, 8. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xvii, 533. ISBN 9789004270688. $168.00.

Reviewed by A. C. Duncan, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; The University of the Free State, Bloemfontein (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Consistently thoughtful and frequently quite useful, Philip Walsh's edited volume on the reception of Aristophanes, part of Brill's Companions to Classical Reception series, is a model of the form. A short preface, two thematically arranged sections each comprising eight chapters, and concluding remarks are followed by a thorough index nominum et rerum. Certain chapters are appropriate for a first-year seminar, others advance Aristophanic scholarship in crucial areas, but as a whole the volume's ideal readership is advanced undergraduate and graduate students, for whom this book should be assigned with confidence as a point of departure for further study. Though it offers no bold or explicit manifesto for the study of Aristophanic reception, through its methodologically diverse and exemplary studies of the Old Comedian's influence, this book should be a touchstone for future work on Aristophanes in the longue durée.

According to Walsh's preface, "The goal of this volume is to provide a substantive account of the reception of Aristophanes from antiquity to the present to point interested readers to the many monographs, edited collections, journal articles, dissertations, essays, and blogs that treat other aspects of his reception. Gaps inevitably remain," Walsh continues (ix). As well they should; restraint is a cardinal virtue in an editor. Half the length of Brill's Companion to the Reception of Euripides, this book has a levity and vim proper to its subject. Though lean, it offers more than a richly annotated bibliography. The quality of the studies is uniformly, impressively, high. Some contributions (such as the opening chapters by Niall Slater and Charles Platter) are most valuable as up-to-date roadmaps for research, others (such as Mark Payne's study of "Teknomajikality and the Humanimal…") press the limits of scholarship, but the majority offer novel case studies, perspectives, or arguments on crucial topics.

Walsh's preface, though elegant, might have benefited from further theoretical discussion and precision. Despite routinely naming the playwright, Walsh's real subject is often not the reception of Aristophanes, but reception itself. For example, he calls attention to the "topsy-turvy" (vii) popularity of Aristophanes' comedies, as past eras' fondness for Clouds and Wealth has given way to our modern obsession with Lysistrata. Might not the same be said about Euripides' Orestes and Medea? Nor was this an isolated conceptual metonymy: programmatically addressing the riddling question, "When does Aristophanes become modern?", Walsh hazards the following: "Aristophanes becomes modern when he matters again—when his plays become more than inert records of the past… when translations, adaptations, and performance become joyous experiments in the vernacular… when poets, critics, playwrights, historians, artists, and teachers actively reinterpret the comic plays for the here and now" (viii, original emphasis). Again, much the same could be printed replacing "comic" with "tragic" and "Aristophanes" with "Euripides"—even "Aeschylus". As the chapters demonstrate concretely, much is peculiar about the reception of Aristophanes. A more robust account of Aristophanic exceptionalism would have further justified this volume in the crowded field of reception studies, distinguishing it more sharply from similar works focused on performance.

Imposed superstructures rarely add heuristic value to edited volumes, but Walsh's division was, for me, an exception. Equally divided into two parts, "Aristophanes, Ancient and Modern: Debates, Education, and Juxtapositions," and "Outreach: Adaptations, Translations, Scholarship, and Performances," the volume begins by grappling with the nature of the reception of Aristophanic drama before turning to a series of intelligent readings anchored in context. One might cavil over Walsh's post-colon keywords: separating "education" and "scholarship", particularly when discussing the Cambridge Greek Play or the influence of Gilbert Murray, seems a distinction without a difference. Nevertheless, there is intellectual benefit in reading, as I did, the book in linear order. If this is a compilation of hits, it has the feel of an album.

This review makes no attempt to address every worthy study, as Walsh himself provides two-sentence summaries of each contribution near the end of his preface. Instead, in the space available I call attention to six chapters, three of which work closely together, as a representative sample of what is innovative, traditional, and useful about this book.

First is Donna Zuckerberg's innovative contribution, "Branding Irony: Comedy and Crafting the Public Persona" which explores how Aristophanes shaped his own reception. Zuckerberg stays true to her own brand as managing editor of Eidolon, citing modern comedians to talk fruitfully about the dynamics of an ancient genre. Noting that comedy, wherever it is found, is "part of a discursive process of cultural negotiation," Zuckerberg nevertheless detects "surprising similarities" between Attic Old Comedy and its 21st century equivalents (150). Casting the poetics of comic competition in terms of modern marketing, she examines Aristophanes' "brand strategy," detectable across several of his (and others') plays. If shaped by and for our present perspective, such ancient-modern comparison is both valid and productive, exemplifying the unique power of reception studies to further illuminate even (or especially) the most canonical of authors.

More traditional is a set of case studies on Aristophanes' twentieth-century reception in the British Isles. C.W. Marshall, Mike Lippman, and Gregory Baker's contributions survey, respectively, J.T. Sheppard's influential tenure with the Cambridge Greek Play, Gilbert Murray's prim and popularizing studies of Aristophanes, and Douglas Young's attempts at a Scots vernacular translation. Individually and collectively, these chapters show how education, performance, and scholarship entwined as the Classics curriculum descended from the towers of Oxbridge. More generally, they also highlight the biographical interest attending reception, sketching compelling portraits of the scholars and translators involved. Baker's chapter is almost cinematic, presenting ten pages of taut exposition before turning to Young's work on Aristophanes. Baker's narrative tributaries rapidly convene into a flood, forcefully illustrating that context is always crucial for reception. It is salutary for full-time Classicists, too, to conceive of reception not as texts in search of an audience, but as societies groping for the right artistic-historical work for their moment.

Turning last to the useful, I highlight Alexandre Mitchell's visual survey of recent posters of Lysistrata and David Konstan's afterword. Mitchell's study, based upon of a personal collation of publicity images from anglophone and French productions, draws much-needed attention to a highly visible moment of reception, where Aristophanic comedy is distilled, symbolized, and packaged for mass appeal. It is difficult to find a more salient or constant moment of theatrical reception; one wishes that such visual databases could be made public, prominent, and (as far as practicable) exhaustive. Last, Konstan's afterword functions as a second introduction, tying together the volume's many strands with his typical theoretical and humane acumen. Observing that "Aristophanes has the virtue of having called attention to his own part in redefining the sense of his comedies, and reception criticism is simply following in his footsteps" (373), he brings the volume to a convivial close. Despite much praise, some aspects of this volume deserve critique. Classical reception has had greatest traction in English-speaking circles, but it is regrettable that only four or five chapters (depending on how one counts Lallans) focused on receptions outside of anglophone contexts, and not one outside of Europe or North America. Receptions in Spanish, German, Italian, and other tongues would have been welcome; more welcome, still, receptions and perspectives from (post-)colonial contexts. Though some might (myopically) argue such studies have niche audiences, a volume aiming at "substantive account" of an author's reception cannot unapologetically ignore the Global South. Lastly, the book's publication schedule presumably precluded serious engagement with the late-2015 Spike Lee joint Chi-Raq, an adaptation of Lysistrata that garnered significant media attention. An early and authoritative study of this film might have substantially expanded the audience and circulation of this book.

What is above all at the editor's discretion is the choice of contributors. In evaluating a volume, then, it is legitimate to consider demographics. This is not done to police arbitrary identity quotas but to promote a representative diversity of perspectives on issues of significant cultural complexity. As Aristophanes' plays themselves show, those who are devalued or discriminated against by a dominant culture often have trenchant observations in, and about, comedy. Of the companion's sixteen chapters, eleven were authored (in one instance, co-authored) by men, five by women. Though this disparity reflects the gender imbalance of the subfield, it also suggests that substantial intellectual progress might be made were Aristophanic scholarship to feature more female voices. The companion's complete omission of non-white scholars is glaring, though I hasten to add that this fault lies chiefly with the discipline, not the editor. Walsh should be congratulated, however, for effectively scouting a number of talented younger scholars. Though the companion is predictably top-heavy with eight full professors and one senior lecturer, it has a greater balance in terms of contributors' career progress than similar volumes, including (at the time of publication) four assistant professors, one lecturer, one graduate student, and one non-tenure-track (if highly visible) younger scholar. Dialogue is central to the dramatic, and John Given and Ralph Rosen's co-authored piece should also be celebrated. Aristophanes' many-splendored works extend far beyond the faculties of any single spectator, critic, society or era.

This is a handsomely produced volume, enhanced by the colorful inclusion of nearly forty recent Lysistrata posters compiled by Mitchell, one of which also graces the cover. Typological errors are few, if noticeable. I detected only two of factual consequence: on p. 55, the colonial name for Harare, Zimbabwe (mentioned in passing) should read "Salisbury" not "Sailsbury," and on p. 299, "Bdelycleon" should read "Philocleon," as it is the father, not son, who shares fellow-feeling with the chorus of Wasps.

Debate may continue about their role and status within the discipline, but there should be few doubts today that reception studies have come of age in Classics. Walsh's useful and engaging volume on the reception of Aristophanes is a testament to the maturity of the approach. Walsh's self-effacing editorial hand is hard to detect, but the effort to present a unified volume that cuts across disciplinary lines is evident. Such harmony in diversity is a large part of why this companion succeeds, despite its anglophone and "Western" biases. As author-centered panels are on the decline at major conferences, author-centered reception studies are having their day, exploiting productive, under-explored tensions between individual and plural, archetype and variation. If indeed, as Walsh suggests, Aristophanes becomes "modern [when] critics… historians… and teachers actively reinterpret the comic plays for the here and now," then the Old Comedian owes the editor and contributors a debt of gratitude for his continued relevance and rejuvenation.

Authors and Titles

Preface and Acknowledgements (Philip Walsh)
Part 1. Aristophanes, Ancient and Modern: Debates, Education, and Juxtapositions
1. Aristophanes in Antiquity: Reputation and Reception (Niall W. Slater)
2. Modern Theory and Aristophanes (Charles Platter)
3. Aristophanes, Gender, and Sexuality (James Robson)
4. Aristophanes, Education, and Performance in Modern Greece (Stavroula Kiritsi)
5. Teaching Aristophanes in the American College Classroom (John Given and Ralph M. Rosen)
6. The "English Aristophanes": Fielding, Foote, and Debates over Literary Satire (Matthew J. Kinservik)
7. Teknomajikality and the Humanimal in Aristophanes' Wasps (Mark Payne)
8. Branding Irony: Comedy and Crafting the Public Persona (Donna Zuckerberg)

Part 2. Outreach: Adaptations, Translations, Scholarship, and Performances
9. Aristophanes in Early-Modern Fragments: Le Lover's La Néphélococugie (1579) and Racine's Les Plaideurs (1668) (Cécile Dudouyt)
10. Aristophanes and the French Translations of Anne Dacier (Rosie Wyles)
11. The Verbal and the Visual: Aristophanes' Nineteenth-Century English Translators (Philip Walsh)
12. Comedy and Tragedy in Agon(y): The 1902 Comedy Panathenaia of Andreas Nikolaras (Gonda Van Steen)
13. J.T. Sheppard and the Cambridge Birds of 1903 and 1924 (C.W. Marshall) (p. 263)
14. Murray's Aristophanes (Mike Lippman)
15. "Attic Salt into an Undiluted Scots": Aristophanes and the Modernism of Douglas Young (Gregory Baker)
16. Classical Reception in Posters of Lysistrata: The Visual Debate Between Traditional and Feminist Imagery (Alexandre G. Mitchell)
17. Afterword (David Konstan)
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Markus Witte (ed.), Otto Kaiser, Studien zu Philo von Alexandrien. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 501. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. vi, 174. ISBN 9783110494570. €99,95. Sami Yli-Karjanmaa (ed.), Reincarnation in Philo of Alexandria. Studia Philonica Monographs 7. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2015. Pp. 316. ISBN 9780884141211. $42.95.

Reviewed by Maren R. Niehoff, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (

Version at BMCR home site

Witte Table of Contents
Yli-Karjanmaa Preview

These two volumes on Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher and exegete active in the first century CE, are in many respects opposites of each other. Kaiser offers a collection of articles, partly republished and partly newly written, which complements his recent monograph Philo of Alexandria. Denkender Glaube – Eine Einführung (Göttingen 2015) and marks the end of an exceptionally long and productive career. Yli-Karjanmaa, by contrast, has published his doctoral thesis, which is based on his MA thesis. While Kaiser introduces the reader to Philo by discussing a broad spectrum of topics, Yli-Karjanmaa makes one consistent argument for experts, taking one passage of Philo's work (Somn. 1.138-9) as his starting point and the hermeneutic lens through which he interprets his whole oeuvre. Moreover, Kaiser celebrates Philo as a Jewish theologian and observant Jew, who was familiar with a wide range of philosophies and texts but always defined his distinct way of addressing the God of Israel. Yli- Karjanmaa, on the other hand, focuses on one kind of philosophy and argues that Philo adopted Plato's theory of the soul's reincarnation, with all the implications this has in Plato's philosophy, even though he does not make all these aspects explicit. Finally, Kaiser easily draws from his vast knowledge of numerous texts and cultures, while Yli-Karjanmaa bases himself on advanced computer searches, which provide him with parallel expressions in other texts. Both authors invite us to explore Philo further and understand his intellectual context.

Kaiser's collection of articles makes for much smoother reading than his recent monograph, where he often got lost in too many and too mundane details. The present volume is organized around central topics of Philo's work and provides interesting insights into his notions of exegesis, cosmology, the priesthood, prayer, and ethics, including man's wellbeing in his body. The editor Markus Witte expresses the hope that this volume will arouse interest in Philo among broader circles beyond Old Testament students (p. 3). This hope is well founded, as Kaiser offers in each chapter preliminary explanations which introduce the uninitiated reader to Philo. The first chapter opens with an especially valuable summary of his life and works, contextualizing his ideas in the trajectory of historical events and the development of his work. Such a historical contextualization of Philo's thought is still rare today. Kaiser's main concern is to render Philo natural and familiar in the eyes of readers, whom he expects to be initially puzzled by his creative allegories and particular Sitz-im-Leben. Anticipating negative attitudes, he stresses the skillfulness of Philo's "mastery" and the high standards of his art (e.g. p. 27, 31).

The reader thus learns about Philo's cosmology, his sources of inspiration in Platonic and Stoic philosophy, especially the Timaeus and the Alexandrian Platonist Eudorus, while at the same time being encouraged to appreciate his own contribution to the discussion of the creation. Kaiser summarizes the vast scholarship on this much examined topic and even goes slightly beyond it, showing how Philo used philosophical themes for his own purposes in shaping a Jewish theology with emphasis on God's uniqueness. In another chapter Kaiser investigates the cosmological significance of the high-priest, a topic often treated in early Christian literature. Inviting the reader to enter Philo's particular world, which is distinct from Christian experiences, Kaiser starts with a detailed review of traditional Jewish life, including Temple rituals, and places his discussion of the priestly garments in this context of lived Judaism. While some of Philo's allegorisations may be familiar to the reader from later Christian authors, the distinctiveness and richness of his overall approach become clear. In order to strengthen his appeal for empathy Kaiser invokes Goethe to highlight the fact that Philo both offered an allegorical reading and also held on to Jewish observance (pp. 58-61). The essay concludes with a highly personal reflection on the destruction of the Temple, which Philo had not witnessed, and more generally on the suffering of the Jews up until recently in the Holocaust.

The chapter on prayer is of special interest (pp. 63-82). Kaiser reconstructs Philo's daily prayer-routine on the basis of Dan. 6.11 and, more importantly, on the basis of the Book of Psalms. In Philonic studies it is unusual to pay attention to the Psalms and even rarer to identify them as a form of prayer. Kaiser unfortunately refrains from explaining his methods and assumptions at this point, but rather assumes as self-evident that the Psalms quoted by Philo reflect Jewish liturgy in Alexandria. My own research has shown that Philo is indeed the first interpreter of the Bible who gives special attention to the Psalms, frequently using them in his commentary on the Book of Genesis.1 Anticipating Origen and Eusebius, who later wrote extensively on the Psalms as expressions of Christian spirituality, Philo was the first to discover them as a form of intensely personal, at times even mystical religiosity. Kaiser intuitively senses this dimension of Philo's exegesis and brings the Psalms to the readers' attention, thus enabling them to see for themselves whether they accept his assumption regarding their liturgical use.

Yli-Karjanmaa challenges the reader from a very different perspective, namely from the point of view of Philo's philosophical assumptions, which may have been so self-evident to him that he did not need to spell them out explicitly. Yli-Karjanmaa opens his book with a quotation of the passage, which has since the Italian Renaissance been recognized as a testimony to Philo's belief in the reincarnation of the soul. He says that some souls "that are closest to the earth and lovers of the body, are descending to be fast bound in mortal bodies, while others are ascending, having again been separated (from the body) according to the numbers and periods determined by nature" (Somn. 1.138). Yli-Karjanmaa surveys the scholarly literature on this issue, highlighting David Winston, an eminent Philo expert, who rightly argued for Philo's belief in reincarnation but who did not, in his view, explore all the available evidence. While Winston spoke of the "likeliness" that Philo assumed several transmigrations according to the souls' merits (p. 19), Yli-Karjanmaa seeks to achieve certainty and prove beyond doubt that Philo was a loyal Platonist, departing in nothing from his teacher.

For this purpose he adopts a method which yields the anticipated result and suggests that Philo indeed embraced Plato's theory without any reservations or adaptations. All the relevant passages are reviewed in increasing order of explicitness. Yli-Karjanmaa starts with passages that possibly allude to the doctrine and ends with the most explicit passage, quoted above, suggesting that, if all the ambiguous passages are read in light of the latter, they amount together to a complete doctrine. He formulates his task thus: "it is necessary to examine Philo's view of the origin, composition, incarnation, afterlife and salvation of the human being to see whether they are reconcilable with what reincarnation presupposes" (p. 6). Yli-Karjanmaa thus aims at "reconciliation" with a presupposed doctrine rather than at an examination of Philo's thought in its own right. The reception history of Plato's ideas is at the heart of his investigation. To be sure, Philo certainly knew Plato's doctrine of the soul's reincarnation. Occasionally, as in the above-quoted passages, he even mentions the idea in passing as a fact. The main issue, however, that requires explanation is his lack of systematic exploration and, more importantly, his lack of reference to it in central passages of his anthropology. Throughout the Allegorical Commentary, where Philo interprets the Book of Genesis in a Platonic mode as a story about the soul's ascent to higher realms, he stresses God as the provider of knowledge and the soul's "impregnator." Philo is so well versed in Plato's work that he explicitly quotes from the famous digression in the Theaetetus (Fuga 63, 82) and regularly uses Platonic images of the divided soul, such as the "reasonable", "appetitive" and "high-spirited" part. Philo also speaks in the language of the Phaedrus about the charioteer, namely reason, who drives a pair of winged horses, which represent the spirited and the covetous parts of the soul (e.g. All. 3.127, Plant. 22, All. 2.99-104, 3.132-7, 3.223).

Readers of Yli-Karjanmaa's monograph should be aware, however, that certain elements of Plato's theory of the soul are conspicuous by their absence or lack of exploration in Philo's work. All of them are connected to questions of boundaries vis-à-vis the eternal or divine realm, touching upon the status of humanity in the universe. Philo does not mention in these central contexts the notion of the soul's immortality, which places it on the same level as the gods and prompts it to enter ever new bodies. This idea is avoided by Philo, apparently because it challenges the exclusive status of the Jewish God, the only eternal Being, as he insists. Philo moreover ignores the Platonic idea of learning as a process of recollection, where the soul recovers Ideas grasped before entering a particular body. Philo is highly ambivalent about the prospect of an independent human mind and rejects the idea of man as a standard of epistemology and ethics. In his view, human beings are not endowed with direct access to absolute truth. The soul is instead dependent on God for insight, not seeing by itself the Ideal Forms and recollecting their contours in the lives of individual persons. God provides man with "secure knowledge" and draws him up to Him, "as far as possible", stamping the mind "with the impress of the powers that are within the scope of its understanding."2 Thus the notion of reincarnation, while mentioned in some places throughout Philo's vast oeuvre, does not play a Platonic role in his anthropology or ethics.


1.   M. R. Niehoff, Philo of Alexandria. An Intellectual Biography, forthcoming at New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.
2.   All. 2.1-3, 1.89, 1.38, note also All. 3.93, where Philo uses the verb "to recollect" in the everyday sense of remembering, i.e. not forgetting.

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