Thursday, January 18, 2018


Guy Hedreen, The Image of the Artist in Archaic and Classical Greece: Art, Poetry, and Subjectivity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xv, 362. ISBN 9781107118256. $120.00.

Reviewed by Nadia J. Koch, Universität Salzburg (

Version at BMCR home site


In the later 20th century, scholars seemed to have lost interest in the life and work of ancient artists, although Apelles, Phidias and others had been among the main concerns of classical studies since the Renaissance. Some recent publications, for example the revised version of Overbeck's well-known collection of testimonia1 or Marcello Barbanera's investigation of the Daidalos topos, 2 indicate a change. Their antithetical approaches define a framework for future studies on the artist, since scholars will have to establish themselves between the methods of Altertumswissenschaft and modern iconology.

Guy Hedreen's book clearly follows the second alternative, since it deals with the interrelations between two complex concepts of the artist, as a historical and sociological subject on the one hand, and as the performed image of the artist's self on the other. Although readers expecting a handbook on the Greek artist in general will be disappointed, the book offers all patient friends of representation theory surprising and worthwhile insights and an innovative approach to a famous master of τέχνη: Euphronios, perhaps the most innovative vase painter and workshop owner in Athens around 500 BC. Hedreen's aim is to demonstrate how socio-historical and self-representational concepts merge in the oeuvre of this artisan.

Since the 19th century, Euphronios has been recognized as a master of drawing rather than as a painter of pots. Wilhelm Klein's early monograph treats Euphronios' oeuvre, carefully redrawn as rolled-out images for publication, as if it had originated from a Renaissance sketchbook.3 The catalogue of Euphronios's oeuvre has been considerably enlarged and corrected in the second half of the 20th century by the followers of Beazley.4 But instead of bringing old debates to a satisfactory conclusion, scholars started to raise new questions. What about the vase paintings signed by Smikros that show affinity to the work of Euphronios in technique and subject? Was Smikros an envious imitator, as some assumed, or a faithful pupil? Were other Euphronian details, though badly executed, perhaps painted by the master's followers? The limits of the ability of archaeological method to detect an individual hand is one of the main concerns of this new wave of scholarship.

Hedreen's hermeneutic alternative to distinguishing the hands of vase painters owes much to the modern understanding of the archaic poet and his role in society. He transfers the literary concept of the persona, successfully established for distinguishing the historical individual poet from the self-image performed in his poetry, to the late archaic vase painter. This structural parallel is plausible, given the important role both poetry and vases played in the social ritual of the symposium as we envision it in the aristocratic society of late archaic Athens. As Lissarague put it, a krater manufactured in a superior late archaic workshop serves "as a focus for space and embodies all the values of the mean, meson."5 Therefore any krater by Euphronios defines the centre of a multimodal reference system of images and songs, while the other types of vases play significant roles as secondary elements of this network.

Hedreen discusses this complex subject in seven chapters, alternating between an archaeological and a philological approach enriched by modern aesthetic theory. In the first chapter he presents a case study of vase research: the much debated painter Smikros, whose red-figure style has troubled archaeological scholars by reason of its affinity to the style of Euphronios. After a close observation of the epigraphical evidence, Hedreen ultimately suggests unmasking Smikros as an alter ego of Euphronios himself: "Perhaps Smikros was, historically speaking, neither a symposiast nor an artist at all? Perhaps he is nothing more than a fiction?" (p. 33, see also chapter 7). This hypothesis provides a foundation for the book's interpretative structure, and it raises many serious questions concerning the archaeological method of creating individual artisans solely on the basis of style. What follows are three extensive chapters on early Greek elegy and epos with rich philological references, especially to the Odyssey and to the poetry of Archilochos and Hipponax. The aim is to show how these archaic poets introduced a narrating persona, an invented self, and how this model would serve for leading artisans like Euphronios. Hedreen introduces what he calls the "cultural concept of the 'Odysseus'-like artist or poet" (p. 9), a marginalized personality using self-fictionalization as a weapon against social segregation.

For those curious to solve the riddles of Smikros's identity set forth in chapter 1, the discussions concerning the persona of the early Greek poet are a bit lengthy, because these issues can easily be pursued elsewhere (see the references p. 300 f.). As it is, the reader has to follow the author's close reading of the philological debate since Hermann Fränkel, until a solution is finally offered in chapter 7 (p. 243). The exhaustive treatment of early Greek poetry (chapters 2-4) is due to Hedreen's effort to detect the motif of the "Odysseus-like artist" in Homer and beyond before he searches for its impact on Attic vase paintings of the second half of the 6th century.

Offering an important link between the realms of literature and art, chapter 3 deals with the iambic poet Hipponax from Ephesos, known in the sources for his invective against the artists of his age (541/540 B. C., Marmor Parium 42). This is an interesting case study providing deeper insight into the rivalry between the poets, sculptors, and painters in archaic society. According to Pliny, Boupalos and Athenis, sons of the Chian sculptor Archermos, made a malicious portrait of Hipponax (Plinius, Naturalis historia 36. 11-12; Suda s. v. Hipponax), but were driven to suicide by his blasphemous response. Hedreen convincingly argues, as do most scholars, that the episode is a legend and the portrait fictitious (p. 108-109). I wouldn't go as far as Hedreen though in denying the historicity of Boupalos and Athenis as well, calling the sons of the epigraphically testified Achermos "poetic inventions" (p. 115). This assumption would contradict the philological evidence:6 Pausanias mentions a Tyche and Charites by Boupalos in Smyrna and a second Charites group displayed in the private rooms of Attalos in Pergamon (Pausanias, Periegesis Hellados 4. 30. 6 and 9. 35. 6). Pliny notes that the sons of Achermos made marble statues for Delos, Iasos and Chios, and he even transmits their Delos artists' signature (Naturalis historia 36. 12-13). Hedreen however regards all attributions as either false or as referring to archaistic artists (p. 110-115). But would such a general distrust of six attributions made by Pliny, Pausanias and their sources not erode the method of ancient art history, i.e. to balance archaeological, epigraphical and philological evidence deliberately?

Hedreen's investigations of Hipponax show how a poet introduces sculptors into his iambic poems as rivals of a modelled persona, intending to express the reality of poetical contests as a fatal paragone between the arts (p. 115). This new view of the late archaic poet's self-image becomes important in chapters 6 and 7, when Hedreen draws parallels to the self-image of the vase painter.

In Chapter 4, Hedreen introduces Hephaistos, the lame but inventive god, and his epic counterpart Odysseus as role models for socially marginalized poets and artists like Hipponax and Euphronios. How vase painters express this concept is demonstrated in chapter 5 by a close viewing of the François vase. Hedreen interprets the compositions of the krater that separate Dionysos and Hephaistos from the realm of the Olympian gods as a narrative of the social segregation of τεχνῖται. The frontally depicted figure of Dionysos carrying an amphora (fig. 26) directs the viewer to take notice of the object displaying the representation, encouraging him to identify himself with the manufacturers of the krater (p. 184).

The last third of the book (chapters 6 and 7) concentrates on reuniting the study's interdisciplinary levels of argumentation and reconsidering their value for the hermeneutics of vase paintings and their inscriptions. Adapting the representation theories of Nelson Goodman and Ernst H. Gombrich to his iconographical analysis, Hedreen shows convincingly how many problems arise when we try to interpret visual representations on the basis of their resemblance to real objects alone, especially when it comes to mythological figures.7 He finally concludes that the image of a Pegasus should be investigated as a creative contribution to the set of established designing conventions (p. 229, 237).

Hedreen's historical review of frontal representations attracting the viewer's gaze shows that subjects like frontally composed figures or faces as well as the eyes of eye cups are effective means for the artist's self-performance (p. 204-232). The detailed foundry scene on the exterior of the Foundry Painter's name-vase (fig. 43-44) is found to express a complex sociological message. It confirms the artisan's relationship with the realm of Hephaistos, who is shown presenting the armour he made for Achilles to Thetis the interior of the cup. By representing one of the foundry workers frontally, the vase painter represents his own social class as inferior to the elegantly rendered clients; nevertheless the frontally designed artisan invites the viewer to link the heroic statues he produces to his patron Hephaistos and to appreciate him as a medium of the smith-god's τέχνη (p. 223-232).

The final chapter dealing with Euphronios's inventive capacity leads back to the questions raised at the beginning of the book. Hedreen adds new arguments confirming the proposed fictionality of the vase painters Smikros and Epilykos. Relying on signatures and kalos-inscriptions, Hedreen unravels a "complex web of ceramic invention" (p. 274) of artisans and painted protagonists. The accurate reconstruction of a competitive network of pictorial and epigraphical cross-references is one of the most illuminating results of the book. Thus Hedreen shows for the first time how the ancient concept of invention or εὕρεσις, known as the process of selecting from a pool of traditionally used forms, was implemented in a leading potter's workshop around 500 B. C.

According to this process of εὕρεσις I would like to suggest an alternative interpretation of one of Hedreen's most interesting observations. Investigating Euphronios' style of invention, he discusses a symposiast holding a cup with the strange detail of two left hands. He argues that this peculiarity is a direct invitation to the viewer to see himself mirrored in the representation (p. 209- 212, pl. V). But the solution may be simpler. As classical sophists and philosophers report, the occupation of a panel painter was to represent figures by relying on σχήματα, or the artisan's figural repertoire, for the body and its details (Aristotle, Poetics 1340a32-34).8 In the potter's workshop, the decoration was first sketched on the vases, before they were decorated with σχήματα.9 The economic efficiency of the process gave rise to conventional combinations of macro- and micro-elements, such as standing figures with certain left and right hand types, that could easily be confused.

Since the inventive task of the painter is therefore to design for the intended customer's interest and aesthetic background, Hedreen's argument consequently culminates in the multilevel concept of persuasion (280-293). Investigating the courtship scenes on a cup signed by Peithinos (pl. XXV, fig. 61-62) he once more argues that this name is fictitious: Using the identity of 'the Persuader' the vase painter joins the debate stimulated by images of Peitho, the personification of erotic persuasion. Hedreen draws parallels to Gorgias' rhetorical doctrine of the persuasive power of the logos and the image as well. This concept is also a key to the interpretation of frontal figures which are, as Hedreen has shown in chapter 6, definitely an effective means of pictorial persuasion.10

The new evidence of Hedreen's investigation is primarily to be found in the field of reception analysis. Thus he is asking what pictorial concept of the artist's self was actually conceived by the ancient viewer. Some general remarks on the sociological aspects of the vase painter's self-awareness in the Late Archaic period would have been helpful, since there is some archaeological and epigraphical evidence for a growing appreciation of successful workshop-owners in society.11 The still-debated question of how the artisan's social position changed around and after 500 BC and how it differed from the status of panel- and wall-painters could have been taken into account in the analysis of the vase painter's artistic self.12

What happens when Hedreen uses a hermeneutic model drawn from literary persona theory to interpret archaeological and epigraphical remains? In this case, I would submit, the exercise is worth the risk, since he broadens his focus towards a search for a general solution to the problem of representation in ancient figurative arts. Applying modern theories of pictorial representation to archaic vases Hedreen advises ancient art historians to turn from interpreting the relation between representation and object to "the beholder's share" (Ernst H. Gombrich) in creating an image.

The book provides 65 figures and 25 colour plates illustrating the argument effectively. Unfortunately, the black and white figures lack contrast, and the colour plates show blurring reflections and appear far too reddish, a real pity in an innovative, interdisciplinary approach that relies on close viewing of the images. Nevertheless, Guy Hedreen's study will open an overdue debate on the methods of ascribing vases and assign their producers a remarkable role as self-conscious inventors of a visual language of their own.


1.   Sascha Kansteiner, et al. (edd.), Der Neue Overbeck. Die antiken Schriftquellen zu den bildenden Künsten der Griechen, Berlin, 2014.
2.   Marcello Barbanera, The Envy of Daedalus. Essay on the Artist as Murderer, Morphomata Lectures Cologne 4, Munich, 2013.
3.   Wilhelm Klein, Euphronios. Eine Studie zur Geschichte der griechischen Malerei, 2nd ed. Vienna, 1886.
4.   Irma Wehgartner (ed.), Euphronios und seine Zeit. Kolloquium in Berlin 19./20. April 1991 anlässlich der Ausstellung Euphronios, der Maler, Berlin, 1992.
5.   Francois Lissarague, The Aesthetics of the Greek Banquet. Images of Wine and Ritual, Princeton, 1990, 44.
6.   Kansteiner et al., supra n.1, vol. 1, 114-119 No. 196-200 (Archermos); 120-128 No. 201-209 (Boupalos and Athenis).
7.   Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art. An Approach to a Theory of Symbols, 2nd ed. Indianapolis, 1976. Goodman's first chapter relies on Ernst H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion. A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, New York, 1960. Hedreen particularly refers to Ernst H. Gombrich, "Aims and Limits of Iconology." In Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, London, 1972, 1-25 (p. 229).
8.   Nadia J. Koch, Techne und Erfindung in der klassischen Malerei, Munich, 2000, 59 f.
9.   Martin Boss, "Preliminary Sketches on Attic Red-Figured Vases of the Early Fifth Century B. C." In William D. E. Coulson, et al. (edd.), Athenian Potters and Painters, Oxford, 1997, 345-351.
10.   For a general account of pictorial persuasion in antiquity and beyond see Wolfgang Brassat (ed.), Handbuch Rhetorik der Bildenden Künste, Handbücher Rhetorik 2, Berlin, 2016.
11.   Ingeborg Scheibler, "Griechische Künstlervotive der archaischen Zeit." In Münchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst 30 (1979) 7-29.
12.   Filippo Coarelli (ed.), Artisti e artigiani in Grecia, Rome, 1980; Jeremy Tanner, "Culture, Social Structure and the Status of Visual Artists in Classical Greece." In Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 45 (1999) 136-175.

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Pantelis M. Nigdelis (ed.), Inscriptiones Macedoniae, Fasiculus 1: Inscriptiones Thessalonicae et viciniae, Supplementum 1: Tituli inter a. MCMLX et MMXV reperti. Inscriptiones Graecae Epirit, Macedoniae, Thraciae, Scythiae, X 2,1s. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xi, 237. ISBN 9783110523362. $343.99.

Reviewed by Dan Dana, CNRS/ANHIMA, Paris (

Version at BMCR home site

Ce nouveau fascicule des IG, abrégé X 2,1s, qui concerne une cité majeure du monde gréco-romain, constitue d'emblée un corpus remarquable de tous les points de vue. Les inscriptions de Thessalonique avaient été publiées en 1972 par Charles Edson (IG X 2,1), avec un choix limité d'illustrations (16 planches) pour une masse considérable, de plus d'un millier de numéros.1 Les résultats des enquêtes érudites de P. M. Nigdelis et de son autopsie des inscriptions de Thessalonique sont désormais consultables dans un corpus. Il renferme les inscriptions découvertes depuis les années 1960 jusqu'en 2015, conservées à Salonique au Musée Archéologique et au Musée de la Culture Byzantine, ainsi que dans d'autres collections. Des publications préliminaires signées par le même épigraphiste grec avaient considérablement enrichi les connaissances sur la cité macédonienne à l'époque impériale.2 Un détail non négligeable de ce supplément est la proportion de textes réellement nouveaux. Il est des auteurs qui ne font que rassembler – avec plus ou moins d'esprit critique, avec ou sans illustrations – la bibliographie ou leurs propres publications dans un corpus dont la seule utilité est de rassembler ce qu'on connaissait déjà. Or, dans ce corpus, la proportion des inscriptions inédites est tout à fait considérable : sur plus de 630 inscriptions (nos1042-1673), Nigdelis donne le texte et les photos de 200 inédits.3 Autant dire que les amateurs de nouveautés trouveront leur bonheur.

Les documents, classés par catégories et soigneusement présentés d'après les normes des IG, bénéficient de brefs commentaires portant sur les restitutions, le lexique, la prosopographie et l'onomastique. S'agissant d'un supplément, les premières catégories de documents ne sont pas particulièrement nombreuses : décrets et lois, dédicaces votives, dédicaces honorifiques, invitations au jeux (les fameuses « invitationes ad munera gladiatorum et venatorum » du milieu du IIIe s. ap. J.-C., nos 1072-1076), un catalogue. En revanche, comme dans la plupart des recueils, l'écrasante majorité des textes est constituée d'épitaphes, classées d'après leur lieu de découverte (par nécropoles), s'il est connu, ou leur époque (les épitaphes tardives et chrétiennes). À la fin du recueil sont ajoutées quelques inscriptions des alentours de Thessalonique. Sur le modèle du corpus d'Edson, les inscriptions d'origine inconnue mais dont la provenance de Thessalonique est vraisemblable sont pourvues d'un astérisque.4 Comme ailleurs en Macédoine, la plupart des inscriptions datent de l'époque impériale, avec toutefois quelques textes antérieurs5 et un nombre important d'épitaphes plus tardives. Quelques inscriptions latines et bilingues (latin-grec) sont également incluses ; elles confirment l'installation massive d'Italiens à Thessalonique vers la fin de l'époque hellénistique,6 qui se traduit par la richesse et la variété des gentilices, dont certains sont très rares (e.g. Agelleius, Aliceius, Tetrinius/Τετρήνιος), voire hapax (Μεστρώνιος, Νεμετρώνιος, Σεπτιμήνιος, Φολκίλλιος) ou comportent des graphies notables (Caechilius, Θουσκεία).7 Nigdelis a fait le choix judicieux d'inclure toutes les inscriptions tardives et chrétiennes, puisque la cité conserva son importance durant l'Antiquité Tardive.8

Les épitaphes, en particulier familiales, offrent des renseignements onomastiques significatifs à plus d'un titre. Tout d'abord, des noms macédoniens (e.g. Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἀμύντας, Κλεοπάτρα, Κόρραγος, Περείτας), avec des survivances étonnantes, tel le cognomen d'Αἰλία Βείλα au milieu du IIe s. ap. J.-C. (1097), qui est la forme macédonienne de Φίλα. Parmi les noms fréquents en Macédoine, on remarque Κοπρία (4 fois) et Κόπρυλλος, dans la série des « noms copronymes » à très forte valeur apotropaïque analysés naguère par O. Masson (OGS, III, p. 260-263), qui notait déjà qu'une « série d'attestations se localise en Macédoine ». Parmi les nombreux diminutifs et dérivés surgit une foule d'hypocoristiques en -ᾶς : Ἀρτεμᾶς, Ἀχιλλᾶς, Ἐπαφρᾶς, Ἑρμᾶς, Εὐλᾶς (hypocoristique du beau nom macédonien Εὔλαιος), Εὐτυχᾶς, Εὐφρᾶς, Ζωϊλᾶς, Ζωσᾶς, Καβειρᾶς, Πουπλᾶς, Πριμιγᾶς (ces deux derniers, bâtis sur des noms latins, Publius et Primigenius), Σεραπᾶς. En plus des noms nouveaux ou hapax (Καθέκων, Κάμρυς) ou portés par des gladiateurs (Ἱππάρχος, Κερδείτης, Ληνοβάτις), il faut signaler des noms de villes macédoniennes employés comme anthroponymes féminins (Βερόη, Πέλλη).

Comme attendu, on constate la présence d'un groupe assez nombreux de noms indigènes, qui sont de facture thrace (e.g. Βιθυς, Διζαλας, Κοτυς, Ταρουλας). Parmi eux, les plus nombreux sont toutefois les noms thraces occidentaux, épichoriques en Macédoine Orientale (e.g. Γουρας, Δουλης, Μουκασης, Μωμω et Μωμα, Τορκος). Les anthroponymes de cette série sont parfois pourvus de suffixes grecs (Βένδιον, Μαντώ, Τορκίων),9 indice des acculturations en cours.

Les épitaphes d'époque hellénistique, impériale et tardo-antique livrent des ethniques d'étrangers présents ou décédés à Thessalonique. Ils sont parfois originaires de la même province : Philippes (une famille de pérégrins thraces), Edessa et deux ethniques notables10 ; plus souvent, ils viennent de Grèce continentale et l'espace égéen (Leucade ?, Méthymne), d'Asie Mineure (Tralles, Myndos, Cyzique ?, Nicée, Amastris, Néocésarée du Pont), de la région de Sirmium, d'Égypte (Naucratis), de l'espace syrien (Émèse, Nisibis, village de la région d'Apamée) et d'une des nombreuses villes du nom d'Héraclée. Le recrutement ou l'importance stratégique de la cité expliquent le petit dossier d'épitaphes de soldats de l'armée romaine impériale (cf. un centurion de la legio II Adiutrix, 1402) ou tardive [*1493 (numerus ), *1531] ; ils sont originaires de la même province [1175, 1178, 1377, 1438, *1464 (beneficiarius)] ou d'ailleurs, tel un auxiliaire gaulois dans l'ala Macedonica (1360, né à Segusiavum, auj. Feurs). Parmi les divinités, il faut signaler les collèges funéraires patronnés par Artémis Γουρασία (1363), dont l'épithète est nouvelle, ou par Ἥρων Αὐλωνίτης (1368), divinité de la région du Pangée.11

Pour chaque document, Nigdelis fait preuve d'acribie et de maîtrise épigraphique, corrigeant et améliorant les éditions antérieures (ainsi, la lecture du gentilice Μεινουκεία, 1110). Les éventuelles critiques sont à vrai dire insignifiantes. Quelques notules – 1165 : préférer à la séquence Εὐτυχία Πυ|ρουλσωνι l'une des propositions de J. Curbera (Εὐτυχία Πύ| ρου Λ<έ>ωνι). – 1167 : il est douteux que le nom Ἰάνης soit, au IIIe s. ap. J.-C., un hypocoristique de Ἰωάννης. – 1244 : il est difficile de restituer Γαΐῳ Μηθ[α|κ]ῷ, car ce nom de facture iranienne ne se rencontre qu'au nord de la mer Noire. – 1356 : [-]κα[.]άνδρῳ, nom du défunt au datif ; plutôt que le nom caractéristique Σκάμανδρος (et index p. 529), il faut envisager le nom macédonien Κάσ(σ)ανδρος (lire [ὁ δεῖνα] Κα[σ]άνδρῳ), même si aucune trace du sigma n'est visible sur la pierre.

Le corpus se clôt par des concordances, suivies d'indices très riches (K. Hallof), dont un indice grammatical de J. Curbera, 12 puis de 62 planches d'illustrations. C'est un autre mérite incontestable de cet ouvrage que de donner, pour quasiment toutes les inscriptions, des photos de qualité, qui permettent de constater la justesse des lectures et des restitutions de Nigdelis. D'une part, l'exploitation des traits paléographiques est facilitée, puisque nombre d'épitaphes ou d'autres inscriptions sont parfaitement datées (ère provinciale, ère actiaque ou les deux ; indiction plus tard). D'autre part, et en complément, on dispose de points de repère sur la typologie des monuments et leur iconographie, dans une région située à la confluence de motifs égéens, italiens et venus de l'espace thrace.13 Des reliefs et des plaques côtoient des autels funéraires et des sarcophages, d'exécution variable. Une bonne partie des épitaphes est pourvue d'une iconographie typique des contrées macédoniennes. Tout d'abord, on note plus d'une cinquantaine de reliefs à portraits, individuels, d'un couple ou d'une famille avec enfants (têtes, bustes, souvent figures entières) ; puis, moins d'une dizaine d'exemples du banquet funèbre, et au moins 8 fois la scène-type du soi-disant « Cavalier Thrace » (heros equitans),14 dont deux fois en combinaison avec un ou plusieurs portraits ; enfin, des symboles du métier (navires, ancre, charrues), des représentations de soldats, de gladiateurs ou d'un acteur comique.

Pour toutes ces raisons, on ne peut que féliciter l'auteur pour la qualité exceptionnelle de son corpus. Ce nouveau recueil confirme la place de la Macédoine parmi les régions du monde antique les mieux couvertes par des éditions épigraphiques critiques.


1.   Comptes rendus : L. Robert, « Les inscriptions de Thessalonique », dans RPh, 48, 1974, p. 245 (= OMS, V, p. 332) ; G. Mihailov, « Aspects de l'onomastique dans les inscriptions anciennes de Thessalonique », dans Ἡ Θεσσαλονίκη μεταξὺ Ἀνατολῆς καὶ Δύσεως. Πρακτικὰ Συμποσίου Τεσσαρακονταετηρίδος τῆς Ἑταιρείας Μακεδονικῶν Σπουδῶν 1980, Salonique, 1982, p. 69-84 (= Scripta Minora. Épigraphie, onomastique et culture thraces, Sofia, 2007, p. 153-168).
2.   P. M. Nigdelis, Επιγραφικά Θεσσαλονικεία. Συμβολή στην πολιτική και κοινωνική ιστορία της αρχαίας Θεσσαλονίκης, Salonique, 2006 ; un deuxième tome, paru en 2015 (Μακεδονικά Επιγραφικά 3) ; P. O. Juhel, P. M. Nigdelis, Un Danois en Macédoine à la fin du 19e siècle. Karl Frederik Kinch et ses notes épigraphiques. Ενας Δανός στη Μακεδονία του τέλους του 19ου αι.: ο Karl Frederik Kinch και οι επιγραφικές του σημειώσεις, Salonique, 2015 (Μακεδονικά Επιγραφικά 1). Sur l'état de l'épigraphie en Macédoine, voir (coord. P. M. Nigdelis, I. Sverkos, S. Zoumbaki).
3.   Seule une minorité des inédits sont très fragmentaires et sans possibilité d'indexation. On aurait certainement aimé retrouver dans ce supplément une révision des inscriptions publiées par Edson, mais cela aurait exigé un projet en soi.
4.   Un groupe d'inscriptions conservées à Salonique provient de la région de Rhaidestos (Turquie européenne), étant apportées par les réfugiés grecs après la première guerre mondiale ; cf. P. Adam-Veleni, E. Tsangaraki, K. Chatzinikolaou (éds.), Ραιδεστός – Θεσσαλονίκη. Αρχαιότητες σ᾿ ένα ταξίδι προσφυγίας. Rhaidestos – Thessaloniki. Antiquities in a Refugee Journey, Salonique, 2016.
5.   Ainsi, un décret fragmentaire pour un médecin anonyme de Thessalonique (ca. 200-175 av. J.-C.), fils de [---]phanès, qui avait donné des akroaseis dans une cité inconnue qui l'honore (1042).
6.   Cf. A. D. Rizakis, « L'émigration romaine en Macédoine et la communauté marchande de Thessalonique : perspectives économiques et sociales », dans C. Müller, C. Hasenohr (éds.), Les Italiens dans le monde grec. IIe siècle av. J.-C.-Ier siècle ap. J.-C. Circulation, activités, intégration. Actes de la table ronde École Normale Supérieure Paris 14-16 mai 1998, Athènes-Paris, 2002 (BCH Suppl. 41), p. 109-132.
7.   Il est utile de noter, dans la même inscription, les formes Οὐείβιος et Βίβιος pour le même gentilice Vibius.
8.   Pour l'ensemble de la province, voir D. Feissel, Recueil des inscriptions chrétiennes de Macédoine du IIIe au VIe siècle, Paris, 1983 (BCH Suppl. 8).
9.   Voir mon étude « Hellénisation par suffixation : noms non-grecs et suffixes grecs », dans A. Alonso Déniz, L. Dubois, C. Le Feuvre, S. Minon, É. Chiricat (éds.), La suffixation des anthroponymes grecs antiques (SAGA). Actes du colloque international de Lyon, 17-19 septembre 2015, Université Jean-Moulin-Lyon 3, Genève, 2017, sous presse.
10.  ] L'épitaphe *1043 fournit la première mention épigraphique de Tirsai (Τιρσαιο-), cité de Mygdonie en Macédoine (cf. Étienne de Byzance, s.v.) ; une autre épitaphe livre un ethnique inconnu par ailleurs, Ζαῖος (1099), sans doute de Macédoine.
11.   Sur son sanctuaire à Kipia, dans le territoire de Philippes, voir C. Brélaz, Corpus des inscriptions grecques et latines de Philippes. Tome II. La colonie romaine. Partie 1. La vie publique de la colonie, Athènes, 2014 (Études épigraphiques 6), p. 52-55.
12.   De sa liste de noms thraces (p. 553) il convient d'exclure Ἀμμαδείκα, qui entre dans une série de noms macédoniens [cf. M. B. Hatzopoulos, L. D. Loukopoulou, Recherches sur les marches orientales des Téménides (Anthémonte-Kalindoia), II, Athènes, 1996 (Μελετήματα 11, p. 215-216] ; dans les deux index, le nominatif d'un nom thrace fréquent n'est pas Μουκασος (p. 533 et 553) mais bien Μουκασης (OnomThrac 234-235).
13.   Entre autres : M. Lagogianni-Georgakarakos, Corpus signorum Imperii Romani. Griechenland III 1: Die Grabdenkmäler mit Porträts aus Makedonien, Athènes, 1998 ; P. Adam-Veleni, Μακεδονικοί βωμοί: τιμητικοί και ταφικοί βωμοί αυτοκρατορικών χρόνων στη Θεσσαλονίκη, πρωτεύουσα της επαρχίας Μακεδονίας και στη Βέροια, πρωτεύουσα του Κοινού των Μακεδόνων, Athènes, 2002.
14.   Le relief 1231 présente le motif du « Cavalier Thrace » à la chasse et comporte une épigramme funéraire du IIe s. ap. J.-C. qui désigne le défunt comme ἱππευτὴς ἥρως (« heros equester »).

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Kerstin Droß-Krüpe, Sabine Föllinger, Kai Ruffing (ed.), Antike Wirtschaft und ihre kulturelle Prägung = The cultural shaping of the ancient economy. Philippika, 98. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016. Pp. xvi, 320. ISBN 9783447106740. €69,00.

Reviewed by Taco Terpstra, Northwestern University (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This collection of essays on ancient economic history results from a two-day conference that took place in February 2014 at the Marburg Center for the Ancient World. It consists of a general introduction by the editors followed by sixteen main chapters, nine in German, seven in English, all with brief English syntheses. The volume covers some two and a half millennia (c.2000 BCE - c.CE 500), drawing inspiration predominantly from "New Institutional Economics" (NIE), the body of theory that is increasingly guiding the field. The "kulturelle Prägung," or "cultural shaping," in the book's title here largely means the "humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction," to borrow a phrase from Douglass North.1 As the editorial introduction informs us (p. xii), the conference was divided into three sections: "(A) Methodische Einführung," "(B) Normen" and "(C) Wirtschaft und Kulturkontakt." Section (A) is maintained in the book, which contains two introductory essays on methodology. The other contributions are said to be chronologically organized, but a quick glance at the Table of Contents suggests otherwise. The logic behind their sequence remained unclear to me, but I will treat them here as they were apparently intended to be read: in chronological order.

Two opening chapters emphasize the value of NIE for ancient economic history, clarifying the theoretical direction of the volume and justifying its choice of topic. The first by Evelyn Korn discusses the importance of institutions for the study of economics. The second by Kai Ruffing places the use of Neo-Institutionalism by ancient historians in a historiographical context, explaining how it offered scholars a way out of the constraining formalist/substantivist debate. The widespread application of modern economics, including NIE, in ancient economic history de facto means that the discipline has taken a collective modernist turn, leading Ruffing to proclaim: "Der altehrwürdige Gegensatz zwischen Primitivisten und Modernisten … darf somit als überwunden gelten" (p. 15). It would seem so, yes. However, I could not help but think of the caution that Friedrich Nietzsche displayed, having declared God dead: "(es) wird … vielleicht noch Jahrtausende lang Höhlen geben, in denen man seinen Schatten zeigt."2

The Hittite economy of the second millennium BCE provides the subject matter for the next two contributions. The one by Giulia Torri discusses the influence on the agricultural economy of the Hittite king and his family, together with a ruling elite of noblemen and priests. Collectively their power was such that "free farmers … did not have the right to dispose of the land that they were cultivating and where they were living" (p. 38). The theme of Hittite private landownership is also explored by Korn and Jürgen Lorenz. They attribute the phenomenon of its decline and eventual disappearance to two exogenous shocks: political upheaval, which shrank the Hittite realm, and the demographic effects of a devastating disease. After pressure on the Hittite kingdom eased a freer property-rights regime did not return, a puzzle Korn and Lorenz aim to solve by drawing a comparison with medieval Eastern Europe after the Black Death. In both cases, they argue, the existing social structures prevented the bargaining position of agricultural workers from improving, despite an increased scarcity of labor. In so doing they place Hittite socioeconomic developments in the framework of what has become known as the "Brenner debate," although they do not invoke it.3 Neither the contribution by Torri nor the one by Korn and Lorenz cites the work of North, but in my view his concept of the "natural state" might have provided a useful theoretical foundation for both.4

The narrative makes a chronological leap with a chapter by Laetitia Graslin-Thomé, who analyzes sixth-century BCE Babylonian long-distance trade, visible in contracts written on clay tablets. She turns to NIE to explain market constraints, focusing on high transaction costs and the bounded rationality of agents. More rigorous editing of this English-language contribution would have enhanced the clarity of its argument. Chronologically next come two chapters on classical Athens. It is a testament to how profoundly NIE has influenced ancient scholarship that one of those, written by Sabine Föllinger, attempts to apply it to the abstract philosophical concepts of Plato. I am frankly a bit mystified by this endeavor, and wonder what North would have made of it. I have always taken his view that it is "the task of economic history to explain the structure and performance of economies through time" to refer solely to the real world.5 Plato makes an encore in Sven Günther's contribution. Based on the writings of Plato, Aristotle and Xenophon, and following the ideas of Erving Goffman, Günther argues that the Piraeus can be seen as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). That is not an unreasonable suggestion, but I doubt that many scholars today still think of the Piraeus as a pre-market "Port of Trade" in the sense of Karl Polanyi, the model that Günther seeks to refute with his SEZ alternative.

We move into the Hellenistic era with the contribution by Stefan Schorn. He gives a long, detailed analysis of the "ideal" Ptolemaic official, comparing the "bottom-up" commendations found in honorary inscriptions and petitions to the "top-down" instructions on proper behavior given administrators by their higher-ups. The first, he argues, contain moral elements from Greek "ideal ruler" philosophy, while the latter are more practical, concerned with officials performing their tasks adequately. As far as I can judge it is a competent analysis, but personally I would like to have heard more about what all this meant for the historical reality of Ptolemaic rule. Vincent Gabrielsen offers a second chapter on the Hellenistic world. He argues that in the fourth century BCE and beyond, "private organizations, standing as luminous beacons of trustworthiness," (p. 103) offered economic security to traders, largely independent of state institutions. In particular, he points to religion as a social activity fostering strong in-group bonds, which helped create the preconditions not only for private-order enforcement but also a climate of generalized trust. I agree with Gabrielsen's analysis, although I am less ambivalent than he is about the value of comparisons between the ancient and the medieval world.

We enter the Roman imperial period with the chapter by Kerstin Droß-Krüpe, who in part treats the same theme of trust as Gabrielsen. Based on the epigraphic and papyrological evidence she presents a number of case-studies on principal-agent relations, showing how they grew in complexity with increasing levels of professionalism. The examples range from nuclear-family agency in Roman Egypt to dependent-labor agency in trade between Campania and the Red Sea to ethnicity-based agency in professional Mediterranean trade networks. The topic of agency is picked up also by Wim Broekaert, who builds on work by Arthur Denzau and North on Shared Mental Models (SMMs). He argues that the concept of the Roman family, which included not only blood relatives but also slaves and freedmen, as an SMM formed "the single most important economic unit in the ancient economy" (p. 167). Slaves and freedmen were undoubtedly used as agents, as Droß-Krüpe also shows, and Broekaert has some valid points to make about the language of family ties as a metaphor in Roman business. However, I am skeptical that kinship, symbolic or real, as an SMM provided a solution to the principal-agent problem, as Broekaert claims. It would seem to me that in larger operations a non-kinship-based collective- action mechanism was still required to keep slave and freedman agents honest vis-à-vis their principals. The multifaceted analysis by Droß-Krüpe, who shows awareness of the fact that different scales of economic activity required different forms of agency, seems to me to provide a preferable framework.

The terrain of commercial networks and agency is also covered by Eivind Seland. He gives a brief but reliably expert overview of how Palmyrene merchants conducted business between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, operating in a trade diaspora centered on ethnic identity. The chapter has a helpful table listing the known inscriptions related to Palmyrene long-distance commerce, enhancing its usefulness. It seems a missed opportunity that the editors did not put the chapters by Gabrielsen, Droß-Krüpe, Broekaert and Seland in dialogue. Trade networks, agency relations and personal trust are discussed by all, and it would seem to me that their partial overlap might have produced a fruitful, cross-chapter discussion.

A contribution by Jesper Carlsen, purportedly based on the work of the obscure philosopher Musonius Rufus but in reality on that of Columella and Pliny the Younger, aims to investigate Roman rural labor from an NIE angle. It is followed by a contribution by Nicolas Monteix on a painted frieze in the Pompeian Casa dei Vettii depicting Cupids and Psyches involved in industrial pursuits, including metalworking and perfume-making. This art-historical contribution is a welcome complement, but I confess that its conclusion about a "shared technical culture amongst elites" (p. 218) remained nebulous to me.

Oliver Stoll discusses the influence of the Roman military on the cultural and economic development of the empire's boundary zones. Turning to evidence on local exchange, overseas imports and agricultural advancements, he shows the ways in which those zones were "transkulturelle Wirtschaftsräume." He concludes that the process of transcultural interaction was Neo-Institutional in nature: "Das Militär hat in vielfältiger Weise in den Limeszonen … die Existenz der 'Institutionen' … befördert und es setzt sie auch voraus" (p. 250). Unfortunately he spends only a few words on the NIE part of his argument. The gate closer in the volume is a long but informative discussion on the use of spolia in late-antique buildings, written by Ute Verstegen. The question she addresses is "inwieweit auch bei einem zunächst pragmatisch-rationell wirkenden Vorgang wie 'Recycling' eine kulturelle Prägung der Akteure angenommen werden kann" (p. 271). Of course that question is not easy to answer, as Verstegen roundly admits, but she does give several persuasive examples where the reuse of older Roman building material in both churches and mosques was done for symbolic and religious-ideological reasons.

In conclusion, the editors present an interesting if not entirely coherent collection of essays. A number of contributions in particular provide valuable theoretical discussions, offering ideas with a broader applicability. Along with the two opening chapters, the ones by Broekaert and Gabrielsen are standouts in this respect. Overall, the production of the volume is of high quality, although there are some minor slips in the typesetting, e.g. p. 39: institutio-ns; p. 88-9: mechanis-ms. There are also a number of notable linguistic mistakes and infelicities in the English syntheses that should have been caught by the editors, e.g. p. 57-8: tenants (meant is: those who subscribe to certain theoretical tenets); p. 127: literal sources (i.e. literary sources); p. 294: motifs (i.e. motives).

Authors and Titles

Kerstin Droß-Krüpe, Sabine Föllinger and Kai Ruffing: Introduction
Evelyn Korn: (Neue) Institutionenökonomik und ihre Anwendung auf die Alte Welt
Kai Ruffing: Neue Institutionenökonomik (NIÖ) und Antike Wirtschaft
Evelyn Korn and Jürgen Lorenz: Eigentumsrechte als ordnendes Element der hethitischen Wirtschaft
Giulia Torri: Landowners and Renters at Ḫattuša
Laetitia Graslin-Thomé: New Institutional Economics and Ancient Camel Drivers: in which way modern economical concepts can help to understand the changes in long distance trade in the first millennium BC in Mesopotamia
Kerstin Droß-Krüpe: Prinzipale und Agenten im römischen Handel. Fallstudien zum antiken Handel im Spiegel der Neuen Institutionenökonomik
Sabine Föllinger: Vorstellungen wirtschaftlicher Normierung bei Platon
Vincent Gabrielsen: Be Faithful and Prosper: Associations, trust and the economy of security
Sven Günther: Sonderwirtschaftszonen. Antike Konzeptionen und Konstruktionen am Beispiel des athenischen Piräus
Stefan Schorn: Das Idealbild des Beamten in den Papyri der ptolemäischen Zeit
Wim Broekaert: The Economics of Culture. Shared mental models and exchange in the Roman business world
Jesper Carlsen: Musonius Rufus and the Cultural Impact of Land and Rural Labour in Roman Italy
Nicolas Monteix: Perceptions of Technical Culture among Pompeian Élites, considering the Cupids Frieze of the Casa dei Vettii
Eivind Seland: Ancient Trading Networks and New Institutional Economics: The case of Palmyra
Oliver Stoll: Melonen, Mähmaschinen und Manager. Limeszonen als transkulturelle (Wirtschafts-)Räume
Ute Verstegen: Recycling, Triumph oder Aneignung? Zum Phänomen der 'Spolierung' und dessen kultureller Prägung in Spätantike und Frühislam


1.   D.C. North, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. (Cambridge 1990), p. 3.
2.   F. Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (Chemnitz 1882), p. 137.
3.   See T.H. Aston‎ and C.H.E. Philpin (eds.), The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe (Cambridge 1985).
4.   See D.C. North, J.J. Wallis and B.R. Weingast, Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History (Cambridge 2009).
5.   D.C. North, Structure and Change in Economic History (New York 1981), p. 3.

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Jette Christiansen, Etruria II. Collection of Antiquities. Copenhagen: NY Carlsberg Glyptotek, 2017. Pp. 569. ISBN 9788774523529. (pb). Contributors: Marshall Joseph Becker, Nora Marguerita Petersen

Reviewed by L. Bouke van der Meer, Leiden University (

Version at BMCR home site

This splendid, scientific catalogue contains precise and readable descriptions and mostly new colour photos of about 240 Etruscan artefacts, including several standout pieces from ca 900-450 BC, mainly from Etruria. In the Preface, museum curator Jette Christiansen describes the history of the collection. The majority, consisting of more than 160 pieces, was formed by the brewer Carl Jacobsen, founder of the Glyptotek. Inspired by Jules Martha's L'Art Étrusque (1889), he asked Wolfgang Helbig to acquire Etruscan objects. The collection, called The Helbig Museum, was given a place in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in 1906. Jacobsen himself even wrote the first catalogue before his death in 1914. Ten years later, Frederik Poulsen bought many Greek and Etruscan artefacts from the brothers Riccardo and Amadeo Riccardi, notorious forgers at Orvieto. He published his catalogue, Das Helbig Museum der Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, in 1927. Most of the authentic objects seem to come from the Orvieto region, with nos. 26, 40, and 44 maybe from Campo della Fiera, which is presumed to be the federal sanctuary known as the Fanum Voltumnae. After the Second World War, many other pieces were donated or acquired. Due to the 1970 UNESCO convention, artefacts that were acquired in the 1970s will be returned to Italy (Appendix II). The present exhibition, shown in a global context, took shape in 2006, thanks to Christiansen (see her exhibition catalogue The Ancient Mediterranean, Vojens 200).

This new catalogue presents sculpture (including sculptural terracottas, noted here as 'fired clay artefacts'), bronzes, ceramics, bucchero, figured ceramics and complete tomb assemblages, from Tarquinia (a warrior tomb (tomba a pozzo, 900-850 BC), the Bologna region (cremation tomb 8 from the necropolis of San Giovanni in Persiceto, 24 km north of the city, 800-600 BC), and Cerveteri (an unknown chamber tomb, 700-625 BC), all preceded by short introductions. Many find-spots are unknown or described as 'said to come from.' The author nevertheless painstakingly suggests production centres and approximate dates. She also pays attention to Assyrian, Northern Syrian, Phoenician, Cypriot, Egyptian and Greek influences on form and/or iconography, function, models, and ritual and gender aspects. The sequence of the artefacts is not chronological but typological. Particularly interesting are several objects with holes or cavities like the hourglass-shaped altars with tops from Orvieto (nos. 12-15), grave markers (cippus bases) of pietra fetida from Chiusi (16-19), and possibly the bottomless enthroned woman with inserted head (formerly incorrectly called Mater Matuta), both of pietra fetida, from Città della Pieve. All these objects may have been used for libation rituals in honour of ancestors or chthonic (better: catachthonic) deities.

Of course, it is difficult to comment on all items, but some imperfections should be noted. The Tarquinian nenfro relief slabs in the form of metopes bordered by three steps (nos. 5-6) are not doors but stepped stone slabs (Treppensteine; lastroni a scala) which originally had their place in the drum of a tumulus which gave access to the sacred area on its top, as W. Prayon has shown.1 The sixth century BC inscription on a tombstone from the Cannicella (not "Canicella", the spelling used throughout the catalogue) necropolis at Orvieto (no. 11) has to be read as larece tequnas, not tekunas2. The form of this stone, which shows a typically Latial-Etruscan architectural moulding, is not influenced by Phoenician or Punic betyls (not beityls, as the word is spelled in the catalogue). Unexplained is frieze b on an archaic grave marker from Chiusi (no. 17). S. Haynes, following J.-R. Jannot, has convincingly interpreted it as a mimic performance representing Zetes and Kalais, the sons of Boreas, pursuing the Harpies who had snatched away food from king Phineus.3 Christiansen suggests that the hole of the canopic head (no. 72) was used for the attachment of a head-covering. However, possibly it was used for libation. The seventh-century BC ring-shaped jug, from Vulci? (no. 92), has a bisexual handle figure that the author relates to the statue in Rome of the Etruscan deity Vertumnus, who could change sex. Propertius, however, who describes this statue, plays with the word vertere (to change). His poem does not inform us about the god's original character, let alone seven centuries earlier. A bronze mirror from Tuscania dated around 330 BC shows Veltune (inscribed), probably identical to Voltumna (mentioned above), as a nude, bearded, protective god holding a lance.4 It is a pity that indices, for example of mythological figures, are missing. There are some typos like Thuran for Turan and Pithekousai for Pithekoussai.

All in all, Etruria II is a modern catalogue (for Etruria I, see BMCR 2011.12.28). A nice touch is that the cylinder seal impressions on bucchero are also illustrated with drawings. The bibliography, appendices, and concordance are carefully edited. Marshall Joseph Becker carried out the osteological research. Unfortunately, Jette Christiansen passed away in 2015. Therefore, some contributions and revisions were made by Nora Marguerita Petersen.


1.   (Die Etrusker. Jenseitsvorstellungen und Ahnenkult. Mainz 2006; BABESCH Supplement 16 (2010), 78).
2.   See G. Meiser (ed.), Etruskische Texte (ET). Editio minor 2. Hamburg 2014, Vs 1.154
3.   S. Haynes (Etruscan Civilization. Los Angeles, p. 246, fig. 202.
4.   (ET AS S. 11).

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Francine Blondé (ed.), L'artisanat en Grèce ancienne: filières de production: bilans, méthodes et perspectives. Archaiologia. Villeneuve-d'Ascq; Athènes: Presses universitaires du Septentrion; École française d'Athènes, 2016. Pp. 420. ISBN 9782757414767. €48.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Mills McArthur, University of Chicago (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This collection of twenty papers (two in English, the rest in French) emerges from an October 2007 round table gathering organized by l'École française d'Athènes. The theme is craft production in ancient Greece, and the majority of papers focus on one of three subjects: textile production, metalwork, or ancient glass. But this statement somewhat understates the diverse scope of the book. We also encounter papers on basket making, alum production, and the spatial organization of craft activity. Geographically, we travel as far afield as Roman Gaul. Chronologically, the papers delve as early as the Mycenaean period and extend as late as the 19th century CE.

Above all, this volume will be of value for its contributions to the study of ancient textiles, a subject that has attracted much scholarly interest in recent years.1 One is happy to find Marie-Louise Nosch, a leading authority, among the contributors. Her paper (pp. 157-170) promotes the use of experimental archaeology, defending this form of knowledge from the occasional charges of amateurism. The process of reconstructing ancient garments, she maintains, has the potential to address a broad range of fundamental questions, such as the duration of time required in textile manufacturing, the different techniques employed, and the difficulties encountered during production. She underscores this point with an experiment of her own, in which two experienced spinners spun thread using replica Bronze Age spindle whorls of differing weights. The findings: a skilled worker could spin an average of 50 meters of thread per hour with an 18 g spindle whorl, compared to 40 m per hour with an 8 g whorl. The lighter whorl, however, producing a finer thread, required greater concentration on the part of the spinners, implying a greater degree of skill. For Nosch, these results are an argument for putting tools front and center in the analysis of textile production. The weight of spindle whorls provides a window into the nature of ancient textile production, shedding light on the skills of workers and the type of thread produced at a given site. But exploiting such evidence, she adds, requires adopting rigorous criteria for classifying the tools consistently.

Valérie Marion (pp. 145-156) echoes Nosch's insistence on the need for greater methodological rigor in describing artifacts of textile production. Much like Nosch's spindle whorls, Marion sees in loom weights objects of technical precision whose value as evidence is hampered by the lack of a standardized descriptive vocabulary to classify them. The most important point about these weights is their weight — and yet, Marion states, precisely this information is all too often lacking in published inventories. For her, loom weights present an opportunity to pose questions about regional variation, and to that end she offers a case study of two Greek colonies in Thrace: Argilos and Thasos. Despite their geographical and cultural proximity, the evidence of loom weights paints a markedly different picture of textile production in these two communities, as Marion illustrates by graphing the weights' size distribution and morphology (p. 151). Loom weights, she hopes, will become a means for identifying different technical traditions of textile production across the Greek world.

Quite apart from the tools of the trade, textiles themselves are a source of information for their own production. Some may be surprised to learn just how many ancient Greek textile fragments have been discovered (though they come almost exclusively from funerary contexts). Christophe Moulherat and Youlie Spantidaki (pp. 119-144) present several such artifacts dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman period, the result of a collaboration between the Hellenic Center for Research and Conservation of Archaeological Textiles (ARTEX) and the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France (C2RMF). The authors describe the fragments, add a few words about archaeological context, and provide details in tabular form about the fragments' composition, as well as supplying a number of photographs. Especially striking is a fabric from Koropi in Attica that preserves the form of several embroidered lions.2

Across these papers, one gets the impression that a relentless attentiveness to seemingly mundane artifacts of textile production — spindle whorls, loom weights, textile fragments — has great potential to move beyond an understanding of the textile industry resting predominantly on textual and iconographic evidence. Of course, an appreciation of these underexploited data sets need not imply a rejection of text and image, and the remaining papers that treat textile production are a good reminder of their potential. To give one example, Giorgos Sanidas (pp. 15-30) draws on ancient Greek profession titles as evidence for the textile industry.

The volume's significance is hardly limited to textiles, however. In one of the strongest installments in the book, Virginie Mathé (pp. 239-252) compares the temple-building accounts of Delphi and Epidaurus in terms of their treatment of metal objects — a valuable glimpse of artifacts with a limited archaeological presence. Mathé begins by exploring how the accounts were generated in the first place, allowing for a clear-headed assessment of the strengths and limitations of the epigraphic evidence (for example, things like workers' metal tools, though obviously fundamental to the temple-building process, are generally irrelevant to these administrative accounts of receipts and expenses). Despite the shortcomings of the evidence, Mathé makes it clear that the construction accounts have potential implications not only for our understanding of Greek architecture, but also for the place of metals in the ancient economy. For instance, apart from lead and gold, the accounts reveal that metal was purchased in the form of pre-made objects rather than as raw material to be worked on site. Mathé attributes this feature to economic motives — a means of avoiding the costs of maintaining metalworkers and their facilities on site. She also makes a valuable comparison between purchases of worked iron objects at Epidaurus and Delphi. At Epidaurus, over the course of ten years, the price per talent of iron objects consistently hovers around 14 dr. 4 ob., before jumping to 15 dr. in the latter years of that period. This uniformity, Mathé suggests, indicates some form of price control imposed on suppliers. In contrast, the price per talent at Delphi ranges from 12.5 dr. to 60 dr. in a span of about five years. These variations in price are not a matter of change over time, but rather correlate to the different suppliers. Thus, Mathé infers, prices at Delphi owed much to the objects' quality of craftsmanship, as well as to other factors like transportation costs.

A pair of articles on minting furthers the volume's contribution to matters of economic history. Olivier Picard (pp. 205-224) considers the nature of ancient Greek mints in terms of their physical characteristics and their human capital. Picard largely avoids the Athenian evidence; his discussion of the "personnel technique" (those workers engaged in engraving dies, creating blanks, and finally striking the coins) does not mention the use of public slaves in the Athenian argurokopeion, even though he is interested in the legal status of mint workers. But this is all by design; Athens, with its silver mines and relatively large population, is a special case. Picard instead seeks to capture the reality of the majority of Greek states, whose coin production, he maintains, happened on an ad hoc basis without the luxury of permanent mint facilities. Thomas Faucher (pp. 225-238), in turn, writes on the value of experimental archaeology in uncovering techniques of coin production, a nice complement to Nosch's advocacy of experimental approaches to textile production. Key questions here include the means by which ancient mints created blanks of a consistent weight, and the total number of coins a worker could strike in a day.

At a price of 48 euros, this volume is no minor investment. Certainly, it is a valuable product: over 400 pages long, with a number of images and data graphics throughout the book, including several in color. On the other hand, I noticed a recurring typographical error of missing spaces between words.3 In a particularly jarring example, an entire line of a section heading lacks spaces (p. 301). This would seem to be a mere technical glitch, and in no case do these errors pose a serious threat to readability. But this may not be an isolated incident: a similar edited volume from the same publisher has recently attracted criticism for its abundance of typos.4 Hopefully such issues will not become a trend in the publisher's future releases.

Despite these minor flaws of production, the book serves its purpose. Several of the papers promise to advance scholarship in meaningful ways (and the summaries above only scratch the surface of what the book has to offer). Others will at the very least provide a means to get one's feet wet in unfamiliar branches of craft production. Given the subject matter, this work should appeal to a broad spectrum of scholarly interests, ranging from strictly archaeological questions of the materiality of craft production, to matters of epigraphy, numismatics, and the ancient economy.

Table of Contents

"Introduction," Francine Blondé

1. Approches topographiques
"Artisanat en Grèce et espace économique : le textile et la métallurgie" by Giorgos M. Sanidas
"L'artisanat en Gaule romaine : organisation et place" by Alain Ferdière

2. Corderie, vannerie et textile
"Corderie et vannerie grecque archaïque : les trouvailles de Cala Sant Vicenç (Pollensa, Mallorca)" by Carmen Alfaro
"Le tissage, un art oublié" by Marion Muller-Dufeu
"Textiles de l'Âge du Bronze à l'époque romaine conservés en Grèce" by Christophe Moulherat, † Youlie Spantidaki
"Pesons et tissage dans les colonies grecques de la côte thrace" by Valérie Marion
"L'archéologie textile expérimentale : une approche systématique des outils textiles" by Marie-Louise Nosch
"Les soieries occidentales « pour le Levant » (XVIIIe-XIXe siècles) : un cas d'archéologie des textiles modernes" by Marie- Laure Portal

3. Métallurgie
"Métallurgie thasienne : approches archéologique et archéométrique" by Valérie Pichot
"L'« atelier monétaire » dans les cités grecques" by Olivier Picard
"Les techniques de fabrication des monnaies antiques. L'apport de l'expérimentation" by Thomas Faucher
"Les métaux dans les comptes de construction de Delphes et d'Épidaure aux IVe et IIIe s. av. J.-C." by Virginie Mathé
"Productions en métal de Petres (Macédoine occidentale)" by Polyxeni Adam-Veleni
"Les croyances des artisans : le cas des metallurgists" by Anne-Catherine Gillis
"La sidérurgie dans l'Est des Gaules de la Tène au haut Moyen Âge : bilan et perspectives" by Michel Mangin

4. Verre et alun
"Neither Phoenician nor Persian: Glassworking in Archaic and Classical Greece" by Despina Ignatiadou
"Déblais d'un atelier de verrier à Délos : fouilles dans l'Aphrodision de Stèsiléôs" by Mathilde Douthe, Cécile Durvye
"Le verre au Haut-Empire dans le monde égéen" by Marie-Dominique Nenna
"Production and Distribution of Glass Objects in Late Antique Thessaloniki (3rd-7th c. A.D.)" by Anastassios C. Antonaras
"À propos des alunières de Sapès (Macédoine orientale) : techniques et artisanats sur la longue durée" by † Maurice Picon, Chrysa Karadima–Matsa, Francine Blondé


1.   Cf. the remarks of S. Spantidaki, Textile Production in Classical Athens (Oxbow Books 2016), p. xxii.
2.   A black and white image shows one of the lions, p. 136. Additional images can be accessed at
3.   E.g., p. 153, "dimensionssemblent"; p. 204, "Thasos.Outre"; p. 349, an entire line of text lacks spaces.
4.   C. Holleran, Classical Review 66.1 (2016): 235-237.

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Janet Huskinson, Roman Strigillated Sarcophagi: Art and Social History. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xvi, 349. ISBN 9780199203246. $125.00.

Reviewed by Sarah Madole, City University of New York—Borough of Manhattan Community College (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Janet Huskinson's Roman Strigillated Sarcophagi is a sign of the times. After the English translation of Ewald and Zanker, and Birk's Depicting the Dead,1 it is the only English-language monograph on Roman sarcophagi from this millennium. For this fact alone, we are grateful, even more so that Huskinson has chosen a typology that many of us have avoided, despite the fact that strigillated sarcophagi are among the most numerous and appear throughout the Roman world, especially in Rome itself (ca. 1000 survive, p. 4, n. 12). Huskinson presents a succinct, linear overview of a remarkably malleable and diverse corpus. That said, the inclusion of even a select catalogue for key examples, or an appendix for quick reference of general statistics (place, time, dimensions), would have increased the value of this study.

The book begins with a general discussion of the Roman sarcophagus industry that once was available only to specialists and polyglots. Indeed, at the outset Huskinson addresses her intention to reach a "wide readership" (p. v). Her clear introduction (Chs. 1-3) now accompanies those of Elsner and Koortbojian.2 Ch. 1 introduces the "questions," of approach, style, form, and general chronology. Huskinson presents past interpretations of the symbolic origins of the strigil pattern: spirally-fluted columns and architecture, flowers and the female body, and flowing water (pp. 8-9). Ch. 2 introduces formal aspects of the sarcophagi. Next, the monograph's three major sections ("Production, Use, and Viewing," "Representations," "Reception") primarily explore various aspects of how strigillated sarcophagi functioned as meaningful objects, rather than examine their relief imagery as pictures in isolation.

Part I offers an introduction to the sarcophagus industry—the focus is purely on the strigillated variety, but much of what is said applies to the field at large. Ch. 3 explores the dynamics of sarcophagus commission, production, decoration, and workshop composition. This is a fresh contribution, based in part on recent research, which reflects current methodological interests in the field of sarcophagus studies.

The next chapter (4) turns briefly to the matter of context within the tomb. Among other factors, Huskinson explores sightlines and visibility. The near-exclusive focus on strigillated examples perhaps overshadows (or may even misconstrue) the eclectic mix of sarcophagus types found in most tombs. For example, noting that a strigillated sarcophagus was found in a tomb with "a sarcophagus decorated with figured friezes and portraits" doesn't help the (general) reader to visualize the ensemble (p. 69). This missed opportunity to contextualize strigillated sarcophagi within the greater repertoire of Roman sarcophagi is one of the small issues that appears elsewhere in this book.

Next, an overview of decoration is followed by a concise discussion on viewing. Ch. 5 includes the rare presentation of non-sarcophagus comparanda (funerary urns, wall paintings). Here Huskinson argues that strigil motifs on sarcophagi derive from architectonic sources, not watery symbolism, hence the strategic demarcation of space ("framing") so central to the visual program of strigillated sarcophagi. The discussion of inscriptions, though brief, is important (p. 85), as is that of the translation of figural friezes to adapted narratives on sarcophagi with strigils (pp. 89-90), which is further expanded in Ch. 8. The next chapter (6) deals with the cognitive processes involved in viewing itself. Huskinson connects the "reading" of programmatic wall-paintings in villas with similarly iterative associations expected from strigillated sarcophagus viewers. Visual cues directed readings, for example, as individual or paired figures related to each other and the lid motifs: "Symmetry, pairing, and directed gazes were all devices used to convey significance and build a hierarchy of importance" (p. 109).

Part II ("Representations") explores aspects of imagery and identity, and engages with critical questions that underlie the importance of Huskinson's monograph. Ch. 7 considers portraits of the patrons/deceased. For Huskinson, the semantic variables of strigillated sarcophagi supersede other sarcophagus types in the potential for identity negotiation through placement (at the center and/or sides of the front panel), possible expressions of parity between couples, ambiguity, and synoptic linking between various motifs, in addition to standard factors, e.g., format, pose, and iconography (costume, attribute). Huskinson argues that this kind of emphatic, syncopated "image-sign" language grows throughout the third century, with the earlier preference for narrative imagery ultimately replaced by symbols of wealth, learning, gender, and social status, the "good life" qualities (p. 148).

The next chapter (8) looks at mythological imagery. Different mythological narratives and characters appear on frieze, garland, and columnar sarcophagi than on examples with strigil motifs (e.g., Orpheus but not Endymion appears on strigillated sarcophagi). Huskinson parses out classic questions of eschatology and potential religious significance of traditional sarcophagus imagery, siding with the more recent views that connect mythological depictions with, for example, funerary eulogies and consolationes. She presents a positive interpretation for the "demythologization" of sarcophagi in the third century CE, and argues that this trend reflects a new sense of self-expression, reflected in a shift from images evoking emotion to those evoking the pleasant vita felix. Huskinson emphasizes that the reduced iconographic format enhances, rather than diminishes, semantic impact.

Ch. 9, on symbolic figures, considers further the shift from narrative to more independent forms (e.g., lions, orantes) in the second half of the third century. Here Huskinson stresses the ambiguity of individual figures, and meaning derived from their combinations. The shift in self-expression, in addition to pared down narrative imagery, also rendered gender distinction via iconography less important than highlighting specific values of the deceased. An underlying focus here is the question of the nascent Christian (sarcophagus-owning) population's preferences in sarcophagus iconography, a topic that continues to defy conclusive analysis.

Chs. 10-11 turn to indisputably Judeo-Christian contexts. Christian soteriology and eschatology stood in direct opposition to the traditional Roman nonbelief in an afterlife (of the "non fui, fui, non sum, non curo" ilk), and distinguished the meaning of unequivocally Christian iconography from its predecessors. Huskinson claims that between 266-275 CE Jonah was the lone biblical character to appear (amongst otherwise symbolic images), with an increased repertoire of biblical scenes after this time (p. 211). The predilection for symbolic forms returns again to narratives that employ the same mechanisms and strategies previously used for visualizing mythological vignettes. Huskinson cites an exceptionally early date (ca. 250 CE) to mark the initial "Christianization" of "vita felix" sarcophagus imagery (p. 219), and places in the fourth century the "certainty of Christian triumph" (p. 237), both problematic. Ch. 11, brief and image-free, considers Jewish sarcophagi, which have been subject to considerable and increasing research in recent years.

Part III focuses on reuse and the post-Classical reception of strigillated sarcophagi. Ch. 12 introduces the question of reception studies and its application. Ch. 13 is the meatiest contribution to this section, looking at reuses in Christian churches and cemeteries, such as the Camposanto in Pisa. Ch. 14 will perhaps interest students of design, as it looks to post-Classical and modern appearances of the strigil motif.

A short conclusion abruptly ends the text, and tables appear before a brief glossary, hefty bibliography, and adequate index. The issues outlined below omit small errors or inconsistencies, focusing instead on broader concerns. The "Tables," translated directly from the Repertorium der christlich-antiken Sarkophage (RS), the "Christian" version of the Antiken Sarkophagreliefs (ASR), are presented to elucidate one particular issue: the development of Christian religious imagery (Chs. 9-10). These add a distinct emphasis to this one aspect of the book, which feels slightly unbalanced considering its otherwise commendably broad scope. Without references to examples discussed in the book (or in general a concordance or list of examples and the RS), it remains unclear how the reader is meant to use this data, other than for a general consideration of the development of Christian sarcophagi. Statements such as the "quantitative" decline of male portraiture after 250 CE (p. 143) might have been demonstrated through additional appendices.

Huskinson prefaces the book by stating that she will use abridged references (p. xvi), yet the lack of intertextual references means that a sarcophagus might be introduced several times, inconsistently and with varying references to other chapters or the ASR/RS. An example, the sarcophagus of Aurelius Andronicus (a marble dealer from Asia Minor), is discussed in three different chapters (p. 1; p. 27 n. 41 "RS II: no. 101 (for evidence for the rest of the sarcophagus)"; p. 54; p. 58 n. 138, yet never properly introduced (the index provides page numbers; the footnotes do not). The reader is left to piece together the details, but figuring these out requires additional work, including outside research from the RS entry. This will be a source of frustration to the reader whose interest is piqued (as was mine) by Huskinson's discussion(s) of Andronicus' sarcophagus. This is one of the cases for which even a very select catalogue would have been helpful. Huskinson asserts that the lack of such a reference tool directs the reader instead to the "real world" and "image world" (p. 15), although it is hard to see the downside in the clear articulation of facts. As noted earlier, more discussion of non-strigillated sarcophagi also would have strengthened certain points. An example is the section on "Colour" (pp. 51-52).

At times the narrative flow is interrupted, as the reader is often directed to images in later chapters, rather than figures appearing at the first reference to the piece. The reader constantly flips back and forth, as with fig. 5.7, which is referenced twice in Ch. 4, yet not at all in Ch. 5, except in a footnote (p. 76, n. 6) that asks the reader to "See Chapter 4"; moreover, the griffins on this sarcophagus' short sides (discussed p. 64, p. 76) are not visible in the image. This is a curious, but not unique, example of the narrative-dominant, rather than object-based, discussion, in which artworks are often secondary to the point being made.

Regarding intended audience, graduate students who might not read German and undergraduates will find parts of this book quite helpful. That said, the reliance on the Repertorium, and insistence that the reader turn to this series (or ASR) to learn basic facts about individual sarcophagi, privileges a German-reading audience. To be sure, any serious student of sarcophagus studies will need at least a reading knowledge of this language, but Huskinson's stated goal was to address a broader audience. For specialists, the book will act as a handy reference for certain issues such as production.

My small quibbles come from the "specialist" camp, not the readership for whom Huskinson wrote her book. She never claimed to provide an exhaustive compendium, merely an introduction, and this goal is most certainly achieved. Perhaps a "generalist" book on what has long been perceived as a marginal subdivision of Roman art might just lure more emerging scholars to the field of sarcophagus studies. The health of the discipline is encouraging, and Huskinson's book should become a standard addition to college libraries, not just those of advanced research institutions.


1.   Zanker, P. and B. Ewald. 2012. Living with Myths: The Imagery of Roman Sarcophagi translated by J. Slater, Oxford: Oxford University Press; Birk, S. 2013. Depicting the Dead: Self-Representation and Commemoration on Roman Sarcophagi with Portraits. Aarhus Studies in Mediterranean Antiquity 11. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press; Though not focused exclusively on sarcophagi, Huskinson's admirable predecessor in the series merits a place in this list: Borg, B. 2013. Crisis and Ambition: Tombs and Burial Culture in Third Century C.E. Rome, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2.   Elsner, J. 2010, "Introduction," in the excellent edited volume by J. Elsner and J. Huskinson, Life, Death and Representation: Some New Work on Roman Sarcophagi, 1-20. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter; Koortbojian, M. 2015. "Roman Sarcophagi," in B. Borg (ed.) Blackwell Companion to Roman Art, 286-300. Walden, MA: Wiley Blackwell. Also noteworthy: J. Elsner and H. Wu's 2012 edited volume, Res 61/62.

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Monday, January 15, 2018


Anca Vasiliu, Divines techniques: arts et langage homérique à la fin de l'Antiquité. Kaïnon, 4. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2016. Pp. 168. ISBN 9782812438066. €29.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Manon Brouillet, ANHIMA Paris (

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Dans la récente collection « Kaïnon – Anthropologie de la pensée ancienne », Anca Vasiliu propose une étude sur la description à la fin de l'Antiquité. Cet ouvrage relativement court analyse les présupposés philosophiques de descriptions présentes dans des œuvres épiques et rhétoriques. L'auteure le précise elle-même, il ne s'agit pas à proprement parler d'une étude sur l'ekphrasis, mais bien, comme l'annonce le titre, sur le langage dans tout ce qu'il a de divin, c'est-à-dire de démiurgique, dans son rapport à l'être, à la technique, et à l'imitation. Après une introduction présentée comme un abrégé (« epitomos »), et un premier chapitre théorique (« logos-dêmiourgos »), qui pose les jalons de son argumentation, l'auteure propose un parcours, à travers six textes, dont le premier a un statut particulier. Le bouclier d'Achille du chant XVIII de l'Iliade est en effet pensé comme la matrice de la description littéraire dans l'Antiquité. C'est à l'aune de celui-ci que sont ensuite analysées cinq autres descriptions, composées entre le IIIe et le VIe siècle de notre ère, issues des Éthiopiques d'Héliodore, des Dionysiaques de Nonnos de Panopolis, de deux lettres de Grégoire de Nysse, de l'Ekphrasis du Zeuxippos de Christodoros, et enfin de l'Ekphrasis de Sainte-Sophie de Paul le Silentiaire.

L'ouvrage est construit selon une alternance entre des chapitres, dont les titres correspondent d'abord à des concepts grecs (« on-zôion »), puis aux trois genres étudiés « epos », « rhêtorikê » et « sophia », et des cahiers, au nombre de quatre, où l'auteure donne de larges extraits des œuvres commentées. Cette structure originale, qui ne relègue pas les textes en annexe, ni ne les réduit à portion congrue pour les citer dans le texte permet non seulement de « rafraîchir la mémoire du lecteur », mais surtout laisse le loisir de se (re)plonger dans les descriptions étudiées et de les confronter aux analyses proposées. Après ce parcours au fil des textes, une conclusion intitulée « synopsis » récapitule les apports théoriques de l'étude. La structure de l'ouvrage rend sa lecture aisée. Trois index (des auteurs anciens et modernes et des œuvres) facilitent la consultation de l'ouvrage. En revanche on peut regretter le manque d'uniformité de la bibliographie, en particulier pour les ouvrages collectifs.

La description est présentée comme le lieu par excellence où se déploie la dimension créatrice du langage, ce logos-dêmiourgos, susceptible de collaborer, de manière divine, à tout l'engendrement des choses : « Décrire consiste à montrer la manière dont se fabrique le pouvoir du langage, un pouvoir "divin" » (p.12). Le verbe sundêmiourgein, utilisé par Paul le Silentiaire et mentionné à la fin de l'ouvrage, apparaît alors comme l'une des clés de lecture. Si la réflexion sur le lien entre le mot et la chose, sur la manière dont le langage se fait acte est loin d'être nouvelle, l'originalité de l'ouvrage est de la centrer sur ce qui, dans un texte ancien ou moderne, peut paraître superflu ou tout du moins secondaire, la description. Car la description, prenant pour objet non pas ce qui lui préexiste mais ce qu'elle crée de toutes pièces, tel le bouclier créé simultanément par le poète et par Héphaïstos, se confronte à l'être.

L'argument principal de l'ouvrage est que pour saisir la spécificité de la description il faut la distinguer clairement de l'imitation. Ekphrasis n'est pas mimêsis. Bien plus, la description se construit contre la mimêsis et souligne le fait que « le langage n'imite pas […] mais produit » (p.12). C'est pourquoi les textes descriptifs analysés sont précisément l'inverse de ce que l'on peut trouver chez Philostrate ou dans la Seconde Sophistique. Nul trompe-l'œil dans ces descriptions. L'auteure mentionne ces contre-modèles au début de l'ouvrage, mais ne les évoque plus par la suite, or l'un des gains de ce travail est justement de mener une réflexion sur la description qui ne soit pas sous-tendue par les Eikones. C'est sans doute également la raison pour laquelle on trouve dans ce livre si peu de références aux théories philosophiques, notamment platoniciennes, et rhétoriques de la description. L'auteure centre son propos sur les textes descriptifs eux-mêmes et mentionne en conclusion une des raisons qui éclaire ce choix : c'est que la théorie est du côté de l'imitation. Platon et Aristote qui restent des points quasi-aveugles de cette étude, se sont intéressés à la mimêsis et n'ont pas développé d'analyses sur le pouvoir propre à la description.

Ainsi Anca Vasiliu concentre-t-elle son analyse sur des textes particuliers, un ou deux à chaque chapitre qu'elle étudie avec minutie. Cela correspond précisément à sa thèse selon laquelle la description n'a affaire qu'au particulier, qu'à un objet spécifique. Le dernier chapitre, consacré à Paul le Silentiaire, est le plus long, avec des analyses très précises, littéraires, qui peuvent parfois faire figure de digression, tel le passage sur la couleur, qui n'est en fait qu'un détour pour parler de matérialité. Le texte étudié, fort différent des précédents par son style, par l'identité de son auteur et par sa date tardive, semble avoir servi de matrice à la réflexion de l'auteure. L'amplitude chronologique est en effet maximale, de l'époque archaïque au VIe siècle de notre ère, mais c'est que Vasiliu cherche à dégager une « définition commune du genre ekphrastique par-dessus les siècles » (p.9), allant jusqu'à rappeler dans les dernières lignes de l'ouvrage que la description prend toute son ampleur quand le roman devient le genre littéraire majeur. Partant d'un texte connu, de la description sans doute la plus étudiée de toute la littérature occidentale, l'auteure se sert du bouclier d'Achille pour avancer ses premières hypothèses aussi bien sur la nature divine de la description que sur la nature de l'objet décrit. Forgé par Héphaïstos, le bouclier est un objet engendré, qui ne préexiste pas à la description. La tekhnê comme principe de production d'origine divine est alors au centre des vers homériques. La parole se mesure à une technique divine.

Les textes choisis ensuite font toujours référence, de manière plus ou moins explicite, à leur modèle homérique, et représentent ainsi, à époque tardive, ce que Vasiliu nomme un « "contre-courant" classicisant ». L'image du langage démiurgique reste prépondérante même si le pouvoir créateur est pensé différemment selon les auteurs, et en particulier quand il s'agit d'auteurs chrétiens. Le modèle homérique reste néanmoins opérant, et qu'ils se réfèrent à Héphaïstos ou au dieu des chrétiens, les auteurs se présentent comme capables, par le langage, de créer un objet complètement nouveau, unique, qui n'est pas de l'ordre du naturel mais du thauma.

La description se présente alors comme le lieu d'une réflexion sur le rapport entre physis et tekhnê : le logos se veut créateur à l'image de la physis. Le rapport entre nature et art est sans cesse problématisé, l'imitation cherchant à reproduire un processus de production tandis que la description vise à créer une réalité perceptible. L'auteure montre que cette relation dialectique, déjà présente chez Homère, est reprise dans l'Antiquité tardive avec une inversion du rapport entre nature et art. D'autre part, le lien entre description et visibilité, entre parole et vision est central ; la description rend visible pour le lecteur l'objet décrit et fait ainsi voir ce que les yeux ne peuvent voir. Elle produit alors ce que l'auteure nomme un « visible concurrentiel », jouant ainsi sur plusieurs niveaux de réalité. De plus, les textes étudiés ont la particularité d'insister sur la perception, construisant la description autour d'un point de vue particulier, celui d'un personnage ou de l'auteur qui découvre l'objet décrit. En ce sens, la description prend la forme d'un témoignage et révèle une réception subjective de l'objet plutôt que de chercher à se faire le reflet des conditions matérielles objectives de l'objet décrit. Le langage se fait le lieu d'une expérience visuelle et plus généralement sensorielle. Le témoin au centre du dispositif de la description éprouve alors des sensations qui ne sont créées par aucun objet sensible mais seulement par des mots : « Le véritable "objet" de la description est bien le mécanisme même de la perception et sa "divine technique" d'appropriation d'une chose » (p.151).

Le récit, enfin, est présenté comme le contrepoint nécessaire de la description. Celle-ci en effet ne fait pas que s'insérer dans une récit ; le choix même de l'objet informe la stratégie narrative et argumentative de l'auteur, à l'image de la bague de Chariclée, portrait et double de sa propriétaire dans un récit construit sur la question de l'identité et de l'identification. Le développement conclusif souligne le passage du récit au mythe pour affirmer le lien de ce dernier avec la description.

Divines techniques apporte un éclairage nouveau sur les théories du langage à la fin de l'Antiquité et dépasse ainsi la question de la description ou de la réception du bouclier d'Achille afin de proposer une réflexion philosophique qui s'inscrit dans le questionnement plus vaste de la performativité du langage tout en commentant les textes proposés avec une grande précision, fournissant à chaque fois un commentaire riche et pertinent.

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André Walther, M. Fulvius Nobilior: Politik und Kultur in der Zeit der Mittleren Republik. Studien zur Alten Geschichte, 22. Heidelberg: Verlag Antike, 2017. Pp. 302. ISBN 9783938032886. €67.90.

Reviewed by Simon Lentzsch, Universität zu Köln (

Version at BMCR home site

Unter den politischen Protagonisten des frühen zweiten Jahrhunderts vor Christus mögen andere Akteure, wie M. Porcius Cato, P. Cornelius Scipio, T. Quinctius Flamininus oder L. Aemilius Paullus, einen höheren Bekanntheitsgrad besitzen—doch auch M. Fulvius Nobilior, dessen Karriere das hier zu besprechende Buch gewidmet ist, gehörte zu den erfolgreichsten römischen Politikern seiner Zeit. Die Eckdaten seiner Karriere muten geradezu mustergültig an: Im Jahr 198 war er Ädil, 193-191 Prätor in Spanien, in den Jahren 189-188 führte er als Konsul einen Feldzug in Griechenland und feierte anschließend einen Triumph, 179 erreichte er die Zensur.

Nobilior reüssierte allerdings nicht nur auf den Handlungsfeldern von Politik und Kriegsführung im engeren Sinne, sondern betätigte sich auch als Stifter von Tempelbauten, als Veranstalter von öffentlichen Spielen, als Förderer von Dichtern—und als Kunsträuber, der von seinem Griechenlandfeldzug reich beladen mit erbeuteten Kunstschätzen nach Rom zurückkehrte.

In der hier vorliegenden Studie, die zugleich die überarbeitete Fassung seiner in Dresden und Paris entstandenen Dissertationsschrift darstellt, widmet sich André Walther eben jenem M. Fulvius Nobilior und bemüht sich dabei beide Handlungsfelder—Politik und Kultur—, die die Biographie des Nobilior geprägt haben, gleichermaßen zu berücksichtigen.

In der Einleitung (S. 11-17) stellt Walther das Thema und seine Vorgehensweise vor. Im Mittelpunkt der Arbeit stehen „Kernfragen" (S. 12), die von der Beobachtung abgeleitet sind, dass in der Zeit, in der Nobilior lebte, eine intensivierte Übernahme griechischer Kultur nach Rom zu beobachten sei. Walther fragt nach den Motiven, die in diesem Kulturtransfer eine Rolle spielten, nach den Bedingungen, unter denen sich kultureller Wandel in Rom und Italien vollzog, und schließlich nach politischen und sozialen Rahmenbedingungen, die historische Protagonisten—wie Nobilior—berücksichtigen mussten. Der Untersuchungsteil ist im Wesentlichen zweigeteilt aufgebaut. Zunächst geht es (in den Kapiteln 2 bis 10) um eine kritische Rekonstruktion der Karriere des M. Fulvius Nobilior „als Politiker und Feldherr" und erst anschließend (Kapitel 11 bis 15) um seine „Kulturaktivitäten". In einem knappen „Epilog" (Kapitel 16) fasst Walther seine Ergebnisse zusammen.

Diese Aufteilung hat für die Untersuchung nicht unproblematische Folgen, insbesondere da eigentlich zusammengehörige Etappen der Karriere in weit auseinanderliegenden Kapiteln diskutiert werden. Die Analyse der Ädilität Nobiliors (S. 26-42) ist etwa durch rund hundert Seiten von der Untersuchung der ludi Romani getrennt, die Nobilior als Ädil veranstaltete (S. 144-163). Dabei wäre es doch gerade interessant, jene „Kulturaktivitäten" in engem Zusammenhang mit den politischen Entwicklungen und Veränderungen der Zeit und Nobiliors Rolle dabei zu untersuchen. Letztlich bleibt es somit dem Leser überlassen, jene Zusammenhänge herzustellen und zu einem größeren Bild zusammenzufügen.1

Da im Grunde kaum Informationen über die Persönlichkeit des M. Fulvius Nobilior bekannt sind, bemüht sich Walther nachvollziehbarerweise besonders um eine Rekonstruktion des historischen Kontextes. So beginnen die—teilweise sehr kleinschrittigen—Kapitel in der Regel mit einführenden Bemerkungen zur Forschungsdiskussion bezüglich des jeweiligen Untersuchungsgegenstandes und klärenden Ausführungen zu den jeweiligen Handlungsrahmen, in denen die historischen Akteure agierten. Auf dieser Basis unternimmt Walther dann den Versuch, das Wirken des Nobilior zu rekonstruieren und im Rahmen des soziokulturellen Kontextes der Zeit zu deuten. Da den Quellen hierzu kaum grundstürzende Neuigkeiten abzugewinnen sind, geht es mehr um ein Gewichten und Abwägen bisheriger Forschungsergebnisse, zu denen sich Walther in der Regel klar und begründet positioniert.

So meint Walther, nach einer Übersicht zu den insgesamt eher dürren Informationen, die sich aus den Quellen zur Familie der Fulvii Nobiliores gewinnen lassen, ableiten zu können, dass Nobilior seine Karriere mit dem Volkstribunat im Jahr 198 begann (S. 18-25).

In der Betrachtung der Aedilität (S. 26-42) schenkt Walther der Getreidespende besondere Beachtung, die Nobilior und sein Kollege C. Flaminius zu einem günstigen Preis an das Volk verteilten. In diesem Zusammenhang wurden bislang besonders die Verbindungen der Familie des Flaminius nach Sizilien hervorgehoben. Walther führt indes Argumente dafür an, dass auch Nobilior über seinen Stiefvater M. Valerius Laevinus gute Kontakte nach Sizilien gehabt haben könnte, weshalb sich die Sizilier auch ihm gegenüber zuvorkommend verhalten haben mögen. Nobilior und Flaminius hätten mit der Bereitstellung von vergünstigtem Getreide wohl danach gestrebt ihr ‚politisches Kapital' bei unteren Bevölkerungsschichten zu erhöhen, um dieses—etwa im Falle einer knappen Wahlentscheidung, bei der die unteren Zenturien überhaupt entscheidend wirken konnten, —‚eintauschen' zu können.

Recht ausführlich rekonstruiert Walther die Operationen, die Nobilior als Prätor in Spanien durchführte (S. 43-57), und vermutet dabei eine durchaus weit entwickelte Kooperation zwischen ihm und seinem Kollegen. Die mittelfristigen Auswirkungen der militärischen Erfolge und auch der finanzielle Gewinn des Feldzuges dürften zwar relativ geringe Ausmaße angenommen haben, doch sei es Nobilior—so Walther—auch eher darum gegangen, seine Fähigkeiten als Feldherr unter Beweis zu stellen.

Walthers genaue Analyse von Nobiliors Aktivitäten als Konsul in Griechenland zeigt, wie schwer es dem römischen Feldherrn offenbar fiel, militärische Siege gegen den ätolischen Bund von nachhaltiger Wirkung zu erringen. Unter diesen Umständen—und da er diesen Triumph nicht einem etwaigen Nachfolger überlassen wollte—seien die Kapitulation Ambrakias und der Friedensschluss mit den Ätolern durchaus als diplomatische Erfolge Nobiliors zu werten.

Allerdings wurden gerade diese nach der Rückkehr nach Rom dann auch zum Ausgangspunkt für innenpolitische Attacken, mit denen etwaige Konkurrenten der Reputation Nobiliors schaden wollten, was Walther zum Anlass nimmt ein längeres Kapitel zu diesem Konflikt einzufügen, in der er die livianische Überlieferung vor dem Hintergrund von Forschungen zur verschärften Konkurrenz innerhalb der Nobilität seit dem Beginn des zweiten Jahrhunderts untersucht.

Als treibenden Akteur hinter den politischen Attacken auf Nobilior, die vergeblich darauf abzielten, seinen Triumph zu verhindern, stand wohl M. Aemilius Lepidus, dessen Wahl zum Konsul Nobilior als Wahlleiter hintertrieben haben soll. Warum nun ausgerechnet diese beiden Rivalen gemeinsam 179 zu Zensoren gewählt wurden, wäre eine durchaus interessante Frage, die Walther leider nicht weiterverfolgt, obwohl er dieses Problem durchaus sieht (S. 127). Stattdessen bietet das Kapitel eine detaillierte Zusammenfassung der Maßnahmen der beiden Zensoren, von denen die Errichtung öffentlicher Bauten am wichtigsten gewesen sei.

Ein knapper Ausblick auf die Karrieren der Nachkommen des M. Fulvius Nobilior (S. 138-139) und einer Zusammenfassung der bis zu diesem Punkt erzielten Ergebnisse (S. 140-143) schließen den ersten Teil des Buches ab.

Mit dem elften Kapitel eröffnet Walther die Untersuchung der „Kulturaktivitäten" Nobiliors und beginnt dabei mit dessen Ädilität und den ludi Romani (S. 144-164). Die politische Dimension der Spiele innerhalb der inneraristokratischen Konkurrenz möchte Walther nicht negieren, doch plädiert er durchaus überzeugend für eine stärkere Berücksichtigung der religiösen Dimension als dies in Teilen der Forschung geschehen sei.

Ähnliches sei denn auch in Hinsicht auf die Ausrichtung von ludi votivi zu bedenken, die Walther im folgenden Kapitel untersucht (S. 164-179). Indes betont er hier stärker den genuin politischen Aspekt der Spiele, der gerade im Fall des Nobilior besonders deutlich hervortrete. Dies zeige sich vor allem daran, dass der Senat hier zum ersten Mal eine Beschränkung hinsichtlich des Aufwandes für die Spiele festlegte.

Noch wichtiger und in Hinblick auf die Entwicklung eines griechisch-römischen Kulturtransfers auch weitaus folgenreicher seien indes die Einführung zahlreicher griechischer Elemente und die Teilnahme von Schauspielern aus Griechenland an den Spielen gewesen. Nobiliors Spiele hätten wesentlich dazu beigetragen, eine Entwicklung hin zu immer aufwendigeren ludi votivi in Gang zu bringen, deren wahltaktisches Potential nun von immer mehr römischen Politikern erkannt worden sei.

Den oft diskutierten Zusammenhang zwischen der Karriere Nobiliors und den Werken des Q. Ennius stellt Walther in den Mittelpunkt des 13. Kapitels (S. 180-207). Hinsichtlich der Diskussion um die Frage nach dem Verhältnis zwischen Nobilior und Ennius lehnt Walther, im Anschluss an frühere Studien, die Rekonstruktion eines engen und verpflichtenden Patron- Klienten-Verhältnisses ab und plädiert dafür Ennius als „working poet" zu deuten, der neben anderen Tätigkeiten eben auch Aufträge von adligen Römern entgegennahm, die sich hiervon offenbar Vorteile versprachen (bes. S. 185f.).2

Auch wenn die anschließende Durchsicht der betreffenden Fragmente der Werke des Ennius—angesichts der Quellenlage erwartungsgemäß—kaum sicher deutbare Belege zutage bringen kann, nimmt Walther an, dass der Ambrakia-Feldzug in den Annales und in dem Stück Ambracia ganz im Sinne Nobiliors als tapfere Tat geschildert worden sei, um ihn gegen Vorwürfe adliger Kontrahenten zur Wehr zu verteidigen, nach denen der Griechenlandfeldzug insgesamt wenig bemerkenswert gewesen sei.

Dies mag durchaus ein Teil der „Darstellungsabsichten" (S. 206) gewesen sein, doch wäre es dann wohl auch vorteilhaft gewesen, die Untersuchung der Fragmente des Ennius direkt in das Kapitel zu Nobiliors Konflikt mit M. Aemilius Lepidus (siehe oben) einzubinden, um auf diese Weise die enge Verbindung von Kultur und Politik zu betonen und auch das Wirken des Ennius noch plausibler in den zeithistorischen Kontext einzuordnen.

Schließlich unterzieht Walther den Komplex „Nobilior und die aedes Herculis Musarum" einem kritischen Blick (S. 208- 247). Dabei kommt er zu dem Schluss, dass diese entgegen einiger anderer Forschungsmeinungen—jedenfalls zur Zeit ihrer Erbauung—weder sicher als Versammlungsplatz für ein collegium poetarum, oder als Element einer ‚pythagoreischen' Kulturpolitik Nobiliors, noch als Element einer „Kulturpartnerschaft" zwischen Nobilior und Ennius, die die römische Kultur durch griechische Einflüsse überformen wollten, zu deuten seien.

Vielmehr sei vermutlich auch dieser Bau ein Element der Bemühungen Nobiliors gewesen, seinen Sieg über Ambrakia dauerhaft als kriegerische Heldentat zu interpretieren und sich selbst als religiös gewissenhafter Feldherr zu präsentieren. Ähnlich wie Nobiliors Gestaltung der ludi votivi sei auch dieser Aspekt seiner Kulturaktivitäten innovativ und insofern wirkmächtig gewesen, als dass des Gebiet um den Circus Flaminius in den folgenden Jahrzehnten von weiteren Feldherren zunehmend mit Tempeln und anderen repräsentativen Bauten besetzt wurde, die, wie Nobiliors Bau, in der Regel aus Kriegsbeute finanziert und mit erbeuteten Kunstwerken geschmückt wurden.

Eine Zusammenfassung der Ergebnisse des zweiten Untersuchungsteiles zusammen (S. 248-255), ein knappes Fazit (S. 256-258) ein gut sortiertes Literaturverzeichnis (S. 259-283) und ein Register (S. 284-302) runden den Band ab.

Der Text macht insgesamt einen sorgfältig lektorierten Eindruck. Positiv hervorzuheben ist die Integration von gut lesbaren und grundsätzlich aussagekräftigen Landkarten in die Kapitel, in denen Nobiliors Aktivitäten als Feldherr untersucht werden. Allerdings wäre es vorteilhaft gewesen, wenn hier tatsächlich sämtliche relevanten Ortschaften, die im jeweiligen Kapitel genannt werden, verzeichnet worden wären (auf der Karte auf S. 67 fehlt etwa das auf S. 79 erwähnte „amphilochische Argos", zu dem Nobilior sein Heer während der Verhandlungen mit den Ätolern führte). Der Ansatz Walthers eine strukturgeschichtlich akzentuierte Biographie zu einem wichtigen Akteur der römischen Politik vorzulegen, ist zwar nicht vollkommen neu, für den hier bearbeiteten Zeitraum zeigt die Studie allerdings durchaus bislang eher wenig gehobenes Erklärungspotential auf. So eignet sich dieses Vorgehen gut, um die Entwicklung von (kultur- )politischen Dynamiken detaillierter zu rekonstruieren als dies in Überblickswerken zum zweiten Jahrhundert geschehen kann. Dabei zeigt auch Walthers Studie einmal mehr, dass sich gerade der interessante Komplex von „Politik und Kultur in der Zeit der Mittleren Republik" (nicht nur) für diese Zeit kaum trennen lässt, was allerdings die bereits oben angesprochene Zweiteilung des Bandes noch weniger zwingend erscheinen lässt.

Auch wenn hierdurch wohl das Potential zu einer tiefergehenden Untersuchung vergeben wurde, lässt sich doch positiv anmerken, dass Walther die zahlreichen Detailfragen, zu denen die oftmals schwierige Quellenlage führen, in großer Umsicht bearbeitet, wobei er eine sehr fundierte Kenntnis jener Quellen und der modernen Forschungsliteratur offenbart, zu der er sich in der Regel auch klar positioniert.

Zwar wird sich wohl nicht jeder Leser jeder Interpretation anschließen wollen, doch bietet Walthers Buch nicht zuletzt durch die Diskussion jener Einzelprobleme eine willkommene Ergänzung zur Erforschung der politischen Kultur der römischen Republik im frühen zweiten Jahrhundert, die Forschenden, die sich mit dieser Thematik befassen, sowohl einen profunden Überblick zur Quellenlage und zu neueren Studien sowie zahlreiche interessante Anregungen bietet.


1.   Siehe hierzu auch die bereits erschienene Rezension von Walthers Buch aus der Feder Bernhard Linkes, der diese Aufteilung des Themas ebenfalls kritisch kommentiert.
2.   So bereits J.E.G. Zetzel, The Influence of Cicero on Ennius, in: W. Fitzgerald and E. Gowers (eds.), ENNIUS PERENNIS: The Annals and Beyond. Cambridge 2007, S. 1-16, hier besonders S. 12.

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