Monday, December 17, 2018


Peter Schertz, Nicole Stribling (ed.), The Horse in Ancient Greek Art. Middleburg: National Sporting and Library Museum, 2017. Pp. v, 145. ISBN 9780996890533. $30.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Carl Shaw, New College of Florida (

Version at BMCR home site

The Horse in Ancient Greek Art is the outcome of a somewhat unlikely union between the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the National Sporting Library and Museum, "a modern temple to the equine." This beautifully presented collection contains five chapters on various horse-related topics from antiquity, 55figures within these chapters, and an appendix with 75images of items from the exhibition. Although this is not the type of book to present a particular argument, its contributors engage meaningfully with current scholarship in their substantive discussions of visual and historical evidence. The essays mostly cover content for a general audience, but are consistently interesting (even though there is a fair bit of repetition by the end), and all photos of vases, coins, friezes, and other objects are of exceptional quality.

Schertz and Stribling note in the Preface that visitors to the National Sporting Library and Museum "may not normally think of themselves as 'ancient art people,'" and the exhibition on which this book is based was the first time ancient art had been displayed in the museum. This fact clearly informed the book as a whole, but especially the first chapter, "Hippomania," by N. Stribling, which functions as an introduction of sorts for the non-expert. The author discusses in broad terms the importance of ancient art, the appearance of ancient horses, myths that include horses, ancient vessels and their uses, athletic games, and chariots. Although general, the material makes helpful references to other chapters in the book and presents fascinating historical facts and a range of images, both familiar and unfamiliar.

In "Noble Steeds: The Origins of the Horse in Greek Art," S. Hemingway similarly examines well-known and less-known images, as he follows the early artistic development of the horse. He looks at examples from the Mycenaean Bronze Age through the Iron Age into the Geometric and Archaic periods. He tracks representations of the horse and horse narratives in Greek visual art, including the first instances of the (surprisingly scarce) representations of the Trojan Horse.

Myth and narrative are the primary focus of "Mythological Horses in Ancient Greek Art," where J. Oakley discusses many of the predictable examples (Pegasus, Diomedes' man-eating horses, the Trojan Horse), but he also treats less common examples and even expands very briefly into hybrid creatures (the centaur, the satyr/silen, the hippalectryon, and the hippocamp). It becomes apparent as one reads this chapter that famous mythological horses are rarely regular horses, but are much more frequently supernatural in some way.

S. Pevnick's and P. Schertz's studies move between the mythological and the historical world. In "From Myth to History: The Chariot in Ancient Greek Art," Schertz provides a valuable consideration of various technical aspects of the chariot, including a surprisingly interesting discussion of construction methods. He also uses ancient art to present the various uses and styles of chariots, from the military to racing, and even basic mule carts. Pevnick's look at "Riders and Victors: Competing on Horseback in Archaic and Classical Greek Art" examines horseracing in a similar vein, with a thorough discussion of races, festivals, and prizes in relation to ancient art.

Much like the previous authors, Mattusch uses a number of interesting images for her discussion of "Ancient Greek Horsemanship," but she focusses above all on literary evidence. She discusses a range of authors (Xenophanes, Aristophanes, Simon of Athens), but the bulk of the chapter presents a synopsis of Xenophon's On Horsemanship. This non-canonical text is fascinating. It is remarkable how much of Xenophon's discussion still holds true, and the descriptions of muzzles, bits, and snaffles (among other things) engage throughout.

The Horse in Ancient Greek Art is a wonderful reminder of the interdisciplinary nature of Classics. There has been plenty of scholarship on horses in antiquity, but most of it is written by classicists for classicists. This collection of essays and images represents the possibilities of a more popular approach to Classical intersections. Not only is it a beautiful and interesting study, but it also exposes readers who may not think of themselves as "Classics people" to the joys of classical art, history, and literature.

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Kathleen Riley, Alastair Blanshard, Iarla Manny (ed.), Oscar Wilde and Classical Antiquity. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xviii, 382. ISBN 9780198789260. $100.00.

Reviewed by Julianna K. Will, York University (

Version at BMCR home site

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

In an 1885 Pall Mall Gazette review of James McNeil Whistler's "Ten O'Clock" lecture, Oscar Wilde suggests that "an artist is not an isolated fact; he is part of a certain milieu and a certain entourage." Unlike many of Wilde's witty maxims, this particular statement should not be startling or revolutionary — it is merely true. Wilde, no matter how much we admire him as "modern," was still an Oxford-educated Irish man living at the end of the nineteenth century. To discuss and examine properly his body of work, it is vital that we understand not only how Wilde stands apart from his peers, but also how he fits into the broader frame of the late-Victorian canvas.

In the "Introduction" to Oscar Wilde and Classical Antiquity, Kathleen Riley positions the book as an answer to the question Simon Goldhill poses about Iain Ross's Oscar Wilde and Ancient Greece: "why [does] Wilde's classicism meri[t] dedicated examination" when his "knowledge of Greek and his treatment of classical subjects by and large seem remarkably ordinary and usual for the time?"1 To argue that the ubiquity of classical education in the late Victorian period should preclude examination into its influence on an amateur classicist such as Wilde is to suggest that we, in fact, treat him in isolation. The eighteen essays collected in Oscar Wilde and Classical Antiquity do no such thing; the book adeptly fulfills its mission statement "to demonstrate in what ways Wilde's classicism is typical, in what ways heterodox or distinctive, and where it is situated in relation to Victorian social and intellectual frameworks" (Riley 9). Divided into five sections, the book moves from Wilde's early classical education at Trinity College Dublin and at Oxford, to sections on Wilde as dramatist, Wilde as philosopher, Wilde as novelist, and finally Wilde and his Roman influences. The book is undoubtedly Greek heavy. Riley rightly calls the Roman section "unique" (Riley 14) in that studies in Wilde's classicism typically focus solely on his Hellenism, but, as Iarla Manny points out in his excellent essay, most of what we, and the Victorians, understand of ancient Greece has been filtered through Roman interpretations. One hopes that this collection can serve as a starting point for a more thorough investigation into Wilde and Rome.

The first four essays highlight the usual suspects among the classicists who most profoundly influenced Wilde's own brand of classicism — J. P. Mahaffy, Benjamin Jowett, Walter Pater, and J. A. Symonds — but introduce fresh insights and new avenues for future inquiry. Alastair J. L. Blanshard, for example, discusses the shaping of Wilde's Hellenism primarily through its opposition to that of J. P. Mahaffy (his Trinity professor/tutor), and how these views translate into contemporary issues of nationalism, faith, sexuality, and social class. Of particular interest is Blanshard's argument that Wilde's lifelong preoccupation with reconciling his Catholic and pagan impulses begins with his trip to Greece with Mahaffy in 1877, and that, due to this trip, Greece becomes the mental landscape for Wilde to imagine "issues of faith and the divine" (Blanshard 31). Applications of this landscape to Wilde's writing would no doubt prove a fruitful avenue for further study. Blanshard's essay nicely complements one of the high points of the collection, Iain Ross's "'Very Fine and Semitic': Wilde's Herodotus," where Ross explores the ways in which Wilde "Hebraizes" the Halicarnassian. Specifically, Ross highlights the biblical cadences of Wilde's Herodotus translations and the Semitic annotations he makes to the text. The latter constitutes "a striking concession to Hebraism by this most committed of Hellenists" (Ross 67). Close analysis of Wilde's work shows him already complicating Matthew Arnold's distinction between the Hebrew and Hellene.

The second section deals with Wilde as a dramatist. John Stokes and Clare L. E. Foster foreground the various conditions in which Wilde was exposed to ancient Greek drama, and in the process, Stokes chronicles a shift in Wilde's sympathy for Hegel's ideal of the plasticity of Greek art and culture, which shift allowed for a theory of Greek art which accepts an inward turn towards the psychological. This movement towards the psychological elements of Attic drama transitions into several essays centred on the plays of Euripides, from Isobel Hurst's discussion of Euripidean-inspired tragicomedy in Wilde, to Kostas Boyiopoulos's reading of Salome as an inversion of tragedy inspired by Euripides's Hippolytus. Boyiopoulos deftly centres his comparison through the theme of transgressive desire and egocentric himeros (unrequited eros), which he argues is a tragic plot unique to Euripides, and applies it to the often-neglected subplot of Narraboth's himeros-inspired suicide. Boyiopoulos argues that the suicide is driven to completion by excess and exaggeration, and, like Phaedra's suicide in Hippolytus, is rendered tragic by its uselessness. Wilde is and was well-known as a figure of excess and exaggeration, and Boyiopoulos's association of Wilde's combinations of "seriousness and flippancy" (Boyiopoulos 158) with an intellectual engagement in the conventions of Greek tragedy supplies not only a richer analysis of Salome, but a new lens through which to read Hippolytus. Kathleen Riley's "'All the Terrible Beauty of a Greek Tragedy: Wilde's 'Epistola' and the Euripidean Christ," continues to illuminate the narrative of Wilde's special interest in Euripides, offering De Profundis as its "culmination" (Riley 13).

Two essays concerning Plato's Republic and Wilde are particularly fascinating. Leanne Grech returns to Wilde's Oxford education and highlights the new curriculum's pragmatic relationship with the British Empire. Grech connects the "professionalization" (Grech 168) of the Greats curriculum with Wilde's aesthetics and his adaption of Plato's imagined republic into a disturbing dystopia where, ironically, Greek (and Victorian) culture can exist only with "slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work". 2 Grech offers Wilde's recognition of Greek slavery as a "dark counterpoint" (Grech 169) to the "sweetness and light" of Matthew Arnold's Hellenism, which could also invite comparison to Walter Pater's "darker stain" across which strikes the "sharp, bright edge of high Hellenic culture." Indeed, Grech's synthesis of Wilde's own imagined, and ultimately socialist, Utopia invites further scholarship on Wilde in relation to other Utopian writers at the turn of the century. Marylu Hill also investigates how Wilde's understanding of Plato's ideal state translates into his writing, this time in relationship to The Picture of Dorian Gray. Hill draws parallels between the Republic and Dorian Gray's emphasis on the soul, and most strikingly between Lord Henry Wotton and Plato's "anti-philosopher," a man of the "best human character" who in consequence becomes all the more corrupt when he falls. The similarities between the anti-philosopher and the language Wilde uses to describe Wotton are striking, and suggest a "rebuke" (Hill 235) to Wotton's "New Hedonism" as anti-philosophical. Hill suggests that this new reading of Dorian Gray extolls "Basil's and Sybil's embrace of the Socratic eros," which Hill reminds us is, according to Plato's Symposium, the only true way to attain real wisdom.

The last five essays of the collection offer a Latin perspective on Wilde and Wilde's diverse canon. Iarla Manny's analysis of Dorian Gray through the lens of Ovid's rendition of the myth of Orpheus in the Metamorphoses stands out as one of the most compelling essays in the collection. Manny connects Ovid's Orpheus to a mythological paradigm he identifies in the essay, in which the central male figure blames his female lover for dying and so swears off women. Manny deftly identifies the misogyny connected to both Greek and Victorian justifications for homosexual love (both Plato and Symonds throw women under the bus when they argue that to love men is to love what is superior) and uses it to critique Dorian's complicated relationships with both men and women in the novel. Although his analysis of Dorian Gray is fascinating, Manny also makes an important observation about Ovid in the late Victorian period in general, pointing out that although Ovid is "conspicuously absent" (Manny 268) from the Greats curriculum, the bulk of his work (Metamorphoses, Fasti) remains "the most important, and indeed, handiest, ancient source of information on Graeco-Roman myth and legend" (Manny 269). Although Walter Pater may have been happily reading his Homeric Hymns, and so knew that, to the archaic and classical Greeks, Narcissus was only a flower grown to snare Persephone, the common parlance of ancient myth in the nineteenth (and even twenty-first) century is shaped by the later Hellenic and Roman versions.

The assembly of Victorianists and Classicists from multiple disciplines in this volume has created a multifaceted successor to Iain Ross's Oscar Wilde and Ancient Greece (2013), and offers new contributions not only to studies in Oscar Wilde and the late Victorian period, but also reciprocally to Classics. This reciprocity in itself may be the answer to Goldhill's question, why study the classicism of an amateur Victorian classicist. Wilde's academic study of the classical world may have ended when he left Oxford, but his imaginative engagement with the literature and history of ancient Greece and Rome imbues everything he wrote. It is this creative element of one of the nineteenth century's most flamboyant figures that is perhaps the most "Greek" characteristic of Wilde, for as this volume demonstrates, he did not just study the ancient world in order to contribute to a canon of knowledge, but instead, like the Greeks and Romans before him, continued to rewrite and adapt the myths and philosophies to his own purposes. Any good student of the Classics knows that there is no "canon" when it comes to the Greeks, no one true story, no one original myth. There are only endless, contradictory versions.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations, xiii
List of Contributors, xv
Introduction: Taking Parnassus to Piccadilly (Kathleen Riley), 1–15

I. Wilde's Classical Education
1. Mahaffy and Wilde: A Study in Provocation (Alastair J. L. Blanshard), 19–35
2. How Wilde Read John Addington Symonds's Studies of the Greek Poets (Gideon Nisbet), 37–55
3. 'Very Fine and Semitic': Wilde's Herodotus (Iain Ross), 57–67
4. Wilde's Abstractions: Notes on Literae Humaniores, 1876–1878 (Joseph Bristow), 69–88

II. Wilde as Dramatist
5. Beyond Sculpture: Wilde's Responses to Greek Theatre in the 1880s (John Stokes), 91–106
6. Wilde and the Emergence of Literary Drama, 1880–1895 (Clare L. E. Foster), 107–126
7. 'Tragedy in the disguise of mirth': Robert Browning, George Eliot, and Wilde (Isobel Hurst), 127–140
8. Death by Unrequited Eros: Salome, Hippolytus, and Wilde's Inversion of Tragedy (Kostas Boyiopoulos), 141–158

III. Wilde as Philosopher and Cultural Critic
9. Imagining Utopia: Oxford Hellenism and the Aesthetic Alternative (Leanne Grech), 161–174
10. 'All the terrible beauty of a Greek tragedy': Wilde's 'Epistola' and the Euripidean Christ (Kathleen Riley), 175–194
11. Burning with a 'hard, gem-like flame': Heraclitus and Hedonism in Wilde's Writing (Kate Hext), 195–208
12. Cosmopolitan Classicism: Wilde Between Greece and France (Stefano Evangelista), 209–227

IV. Wilde as Novelist: The Picture of Dorian Gray
13. Wilde's New Republic: Platonic Questions in Dorian Gray (Marylu Hill), 231–250
14. From Eros to Romosexuality: Love and Sex in Dorian Gray (Nikolai Endres), 251–266
15. Oscar as (Ovid as) Orpheus: Misogyny and Pederasty in Dorian Gray and the Metamorphoses (Iarla Manny), 267–285

V. Wilde and Rome
16. Wilde and Roman History (Philip E. Smith II), 289–304
17. The Criminal Emperors of Ancient Rome and Wilde's 'true historic sense' (Shushma Malik), 305–320
18. 'I knew I had a brother!': Fraternity and Identity in Plautus' Menaechmi and Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (Serena S. Witzke), 321–335
Bibliography, 337–358
Index, 359–382


1.   Quoted by Riley, pg. 9: Goldhill, S. (2014), Review of Oscar Wilde and Ancient Greece by I. Ross, Classical Philology 109.2: 185.
2.   Quoted by Grech, pg. 169: Wilde, O. (2001), The Soul of Man under Socialism and Selected Prose, ed. L. Dowling (London), pp. 247.

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Nestor Kavvadas, Jerusalem zwischen Aachen und Bagdad: Zur Existenzkrise des byzantinischen Christentums im Abbasidenreich. Jenaer mediävistische Vorträge, 6​. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017. Pp. 116. ISBN 9783515118798. €29,00.

Reviewed by Mary Alberi, Pace University (

Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview

Nestor Kavvadas' book highlights the paradoxical fortunes of the Greek orthodox community in late eighth- and early ninth-century Palestine. On the one hand, three of Jerusalem's patriarchs, Elias II, George, and Thomas, acted as intermediaries, making possible a series diplomatic exchanges between Charlemagne's court at Aachen and Harun-al-Rashid's court in Baghdad. As a result of their activities, the prestige of Jerusalem's patriarchs rose to such an extent that they were able to send their own envoys to Aachen. On the other hand, despite the patriarch's enhanced prestige, increased use of Arabic and widespread conversion to Islam threatened the cohesion of the caliphate's orthodox Christian community. Kavvadas argues that Christians in Syria and Palestine began converting in such large numbers that Islam rapidly became the region's majority religion in these same years. Rather than offering a systematic account of diplomatic exchanges between Charlemagne, Harun al-Rashid, and Jerusalem's patriarchs, Kavvadas explores this paradox, with occasional forays into its larger implications for long-term relations between Franks and Muslims.

Amid the endemic violence and destructive raids which damaged a number of orthodox communities, Kavvadas singles out as most representative of the difficulties confronting the orthodox community a destructive Muslim raid on the monastery of Mar Saba, the caliphate's largest Greek orthodox monastery, located about ten kilometers from Jerusalem, in March 797. Mar Saba's aristocratic monks left their monastery for high ecclesiastical office in Jerusalem and abbacies in neighboring monasteries and, as in the case of John of Damascus in the dispute over icons, influenced the outcome of theological controversies in Constantinople. The damage inflicted on Mar Saba in this raid precipitated a major crisis throughout the caliphate's Greek orthodox community by weakening the monasteries upon which Jerusalem's patriarchal church relied for stability and for maintaining Greek orthodox identity in a rapidly changing environment. In Kavvadas' view, the Muslim raiders who attacked the monastery in March 797 understood the monastery's importance to the patriarchal church and acted out of political motives. According to the account written by the monk Stephanos, the Muslim raiders ordered the monks to hand over one of their number, Thomas, later abbot of St. Chariton and patriarch of Jerusalem (807-820). Kavvadas interprets this singular demand as evidence of the raiders' determination to capture a monk who had played a leading role in negotiations leading up to Charlemagne's dispatch of ambassadors to Harun's court that same year. When the monks refused to surrender Thomas, the raiders killed twenty of Mar Saba's monks.

For Kavvadas, this raid exemplifies the untenable position of Jerusalem's patriarchal church in the chronic intertribal wars between the Yamani and Quais, the "southern" and "northern" Arabs, in Palestine and Syria. He identifies the raiders of March, 797 as Yamani, members of an Arab military elite still resentful of the Abbasid overthrow of the Umayyads and the loss of power which followed, as Palestine and Syria became remote provinces in a caliphate centered on Baghdad. The raiders wanted to take Thomas prisoner because of his contacts with their enemies at the Abbasid court, the Barmakids, with whom he had cooperated in arranging diplomatic exchanges between Harun and Charlemagne. Yet by 797 the factional disputes of Harun's court had weakened the Barmakids, and they could no longer protect their clients, including the monks of Mar Saba, in Palestine. Kavvadas also considers the attack on Mar Saba as an expression of ethnic and cultural conflict between Arabs and the eastern Iranians, led by the Barmakids, who had risen to prominence under the new Abbasid regime centered on Baghdad. Wary of secular learning, the Arabs rejected the Greek and Persian philosophy and science introduced into Islamic culture through Barmakid patronage. Kavvadas considers Barmakid support of diplomatic contacts with the Franks, for which they sought the cooperation of Jerusalem's patriarch, to be another sign of their openness to the world outside the caliphate. Such emphasis on the Barmakids, however, tends to push Harun's motives into the background. Kavvadas attributes the mutual hostility of Franks and Abbasids to the Byzantines and to the Umayyad regime in Spain, perhaps too briefly. By omitting consideration of Constantinople's political weakness, however, Kavvadas misses an opportunity to broaden his examination of Jerusalem's wider significance for what he suggests was a major shift in the relationship of the great powers of the early medieval Mediterranean and the transformation of Late Antiquity into the Middle Ages.

Kavvadas argues that the conversion of Christians to Islam in large numbers occurred rapidly as a direct response to Muslim attacks on Mar Saba, Jerusalem, and many other Christian communities in the closing years of the 790s. Yet given the history of decades-long unrest in Syria and Palestine, the conversion of Christians to Islam in large numbers, if it occurred at this time, seems less a sudden change than a response to chronic insecurity and a desire to avoid increasingly burdensome restrictions on the Christian community's religious autonomy.

More problematic is Kavvadas' assertion that Charlemagne's patronage of the Jerusalem church and the presence of Frankish monks and nuns in Jerusalem signaled the arrival of a third major power in the region. Kavvadas revives the old, and now discredited, notion of Charlemagne's protectorate over Jerusalem and suggests that the intrusion of Frankish power into the region destabilized Palestine, provoking Muslim attacks on Christian communities like Mar Saba. It is hard to see how this might be so, for Charlemagne lacked the military resources necessary to intervene decisively in Palestine. Moreover, much of the evidence Kavvadas brings forward to support his views about the effects of Frankish power in the eastern Mediterranean comes from eleventh-century France, where legends about Charlemagne were incorporated into contemporary crusade ideology.

Kavvadas' discussion of Charlemagne's interest in Jerusalem centers on the importance of the Holy City in his court's imperial ideology and for his imperial coronation in Rome in 800. Kavvadas highlights Alcuin's leading role in affirming Jerusalem's significance for this imperial ideology in a discussion of Alcuin's Letter, Epistola 214, written shortly after Charlemagne's imperial coronation by Pope Leo III in Rome.1 A brief reference in this letter to his joy at the imperial coronation, which monks from Jerusalem attended, supports Kavvadas' argument that Alcuin considered their presence essential for the coronation's legitimacy. Yet Alcuin's letters mention Charlemagne's diplomatic contacts with Jerusalem twice only, without much elaboration, and his reticence about the presence of envoys from Jerusalem at Charlemagne's imperial coronation may not support Kavvadas' sweeping claims. Perhaps Kavvadas is correct in suggesting that Alcuin's reserve arose from his unwillingness to associate Charlemagne too openly with Jerusalem's patriarchate on account of its extensive ties to a rival imperial capital, Constantinople. In placing so much emphasis on Alcuin, however, Kavvadas seems to disregard Michael McCormick's recent findings in Charlemagne's Survey of the Holy Land, which point, instead, to the influence of Adalhard of Corbie, Charlemagne's cousin and one of his foremost advisors, in promoting diplomatic contacts with Jerusalem and, by implication, with Charlemagne's imperial coronation.2

Kavvadas' book appears at a time of increased scholarly interest in ties between the Frankish kingdom and Abbasid caliphate. A short study, it offers an interesting assessment of the role played by Jerusalem's patriarchs in diplomatic contacts between Aachen and Baghdad in the late eighth- and early ninth centuries. In effect, Kavvadas redirects the focus of studies on this topic, offering new insights into the patriarchal church's insecurity as well as its vital role in high-level diplomacy. His book raises important questions about the significance of Jerusalem for Charlemagne, beyond his obvious intention to provide material assistance and support Frankish foundations in the Holy City. Moreover, Kavvadas offers insights into the lines of patronage which linked Jerusalem, on the frontiers of the Abbasid caliphate, to its political center in Baghdad. He demonstrates that court politics and factionalism in Baghdad had a direct influence upon the welfare of Jerusalem's patriarchal church. Kavvadas' study is also significant in affirming the importance of Jerusalem and its network of monasteries in the Judaean desert in sustaining orthodox Greek identity, as the Arabic language and Islam were spreading more widely through Palestine.


1.   Acuin, Ep. 214, ed. Ernst Dümmler, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolae IV: Karolini Aevi II (Berlin, 1895), p. 358.
2.   Michael McCormick, Charlemagne's Survey of the Holy Land: Wealth, Personnel, and Buildings of a Mediterranean Church between Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Washington, D.C., 20ll). ​

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Sunday, December 16, 2018


Elena Giusti, Carthage in Virgil's 'Aeneid': Staging the Enemy under Augustus. Cambridge classical studies. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xiv, 334. ISBN 9781108416801. £75.00.

Reviewed by Claire Stocks, University of Newcastle (

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Elena Giusti's brilliant book on one of the most studied works in Latin Literature, Virgil's Aeneid, offers a fresh perspective by shifting the focus from Aeneas and his proto-romanitas to Carthage, Rome's legendary antithesis. Giusti weaves a tale of two halves, with the first two chapters of this book focusing on Virgil's employment of barbarian tropes to present the mythical—and fictionalized—Carthage as Rome's 'other', evoking memories of the Greeks' treatment of the Persians on the tragic stage as well as looking forward to Augustus' war with Cleopatra and Egypt as well as the Parthians. At the same time, she argues, Virgil's Carthaginians also play the role of Trojans and so establish themselves as Rome's mirror, a position that ties in well with the images of civil-war that also lie latent within Books One to Four of the Aeneid. In chapters three and four, Giusti shifts focus to consider the interaction between Virgil and Livy, and their shared fictionalizing of Rome's past. Virgil's willingness to forgo temporal consistency in the Carthage episode allows him to present it as a mythical, 'fake' aition for the three Punic wars, and Giusti argues convincingly for multiple allusions to all three of these wars in this episode.

Giusti begins by focusing on mid-republican literature and Rome's portrayal of Carthage within it. Despite working with material that is at times (extremely) fragmentary, Giusti constructs a convincing reading of Carthage as Rome's 'other', in a manner reminiscent of the Greeks' portrayal of the (Persian) barbarian. In stating her case, Giusti makes clear the importance of Greece within this discourse as Rome's republican authors explore not only the dynamic between Rome and Carthage at this time, but also how this relationship reflects upon Rome's status as a city and cultural hub in relation to Greece. The Greeks, Giusti argues, offer Rome a model for how to approach the process of self-definition and how to use the barbarian other as a means of exploring issues of polarity and analogy between peoples. The irony, as Giusti touches upon it here (and explores in greater detail later) is that Carthage rarely, if ever, is portrayed as a 'barbarian' foe by Rome's authors. Of particular note is the discussion on Plautus' Poenulus. Here, Giusti argues for a deliberate similarity in the playwright's portrayal of Carthage and Rome, which she suggests may result from the fact that both find themselves in the position of 'other' in relation to the trend-setting Greeks: from a Greek perspective, both Carthage and Rome could be considered the barbarians.

After arguing convincingly that the portrayal of Carthage in mid-republican literature underscores its portrayal in Roman texts thereafter, Giusti progresses in chapter two to a more direct discussion of Virgil's Aeneid, as she explores the parallels between the Carthaginian Dido and literary models that include Medea, Helen, Atossa, and, of course, Cleopatra. In the multiple roles assumed by Dido, we can see a reflection of Carthage itself, and its vacillation between playing the role of Rome's 'other' as well as its 'self'. On the one hand, Virgil continues the mid-republican trend of presenting Carthage as Rome's equivalent to the Persians: "Thus the Persian-Carthaginian parallel bolsters a sense of Roman national identity in continuity with the Greeks" (127). Yet, since Virgil is writing under Augustus, his Carthaginians are also parallel to the Parthians. Casting Carthage as the enemy that poses a contemporary threat serves an important function—namely evoking the metus hostilis, 'fear of the enemy,' which Rome has arguably not experienced since the third Punic war. That Rome, so its authors would have us believe, has not had an enemy since the Carthaginian wars, has played a decisive role in setting the city on a path to civil war, most recently in the war between Octavian and Antony. In associating Carthage with Parthia, therefore, Virgil suggests that the threat of another civil war will be avoided, as Augustus reignites Rome's fear of the enemy through a war with the Parthians. Yet, Giusti argues, the constant analogies between Virgil's Carthage and Rome demonstrate that the threat of civil war cannot be forgotten and that Virgil's text repeatedly evokes the painful memories of such a conflict, not least because it was through such conflict that Augustus established his principate.

In chapter three Giusti turns her attention to Livy and to the association that Virgil appears to build between Carthage and Troy. The importance of reading Livy and Virgil together is stressed, as is the fact that the relationship between the two authors has not received the attention that it merits. It is at this point that Giusti introduces one of her strongest arguments and an ingenious solution to the temporal inconsistency of Virgil's Carthage episode. The problem, as Giusti reminds us, is that it is impossible to calculate exactly how long Aeneas stays in Carthage. The episode itself implies a stay of some length, but once Aeneas returns to Sicily in subsequent books, Virgil suggests that very little time has passed since Aeneas was last on the island. The crux of the matter, Giusti argues, is that Virgil's audience would have known that any meeting between Dido and Aeneas, even a legendary one, could not have taken place since there is a discrepancy of several centuries between the dates recorded by Rome's authors for the fall of Troy and the foundation of Carthage. The fictionality of this episode, Giusti concludes, was deliberate and the temporal inconsistency within the text draws attention to this fact: "The encounter is a fable that everyone knows to be false" (174). Our understanding of the role of fictionality in Virgil's epic, Giusti argues, can be improved by considering how this epic stands in relation to Livy and the use of Fama by both authors as a means of blurring the boundaries between myth and history. By means of several case studies, including a comparison between Livy's account of Hannibal's attack on Saguntum at the start of the Second Punic war and Virgil's Carthage episode, Giusti demonstrates the dialogue between Virgil's and Livy's works. The chronological inconsistencies that both appear to embrace highlights their "authorial power" (196) and illustrates their desire to build ideological discourse into their portrayal of history, irrespective of whether they are writing epic or historiography.

Chapter 4 focuses predominantly on Books One to Four of the Aeneid, which we are to view as a unit within the epic (if we assume a tripartite structure for the work). Throughout this chapter, Giusti offers examples of Virgil's allusions to all three Punic wars, arguing that when read as a whole, Virgil's Carthage episode serves an historical allegory for that conflict and thus looks beyond the obvious association between the pairing of Carthage and Dido with Egypt and Cleopatra. Book one of the epic employs multiple allusions to Naevius, among other sources, to draw parallels with the first Punic War. In Book Four, Giusti argues, Virgil then builds a link between Dido and Hannibal and the second Punic war, which again draws him into debate with Livy, especially Book 30 of his history. Finally, she argues that the death of Dido is reminiscent of the destruction of Carthage after the third Punic War. Once Aeneas has left Carthage and hosts the Sicilian ludi in Book Five, Virgil concludes his depiction of this historical allegory by presenting scenes that allude to Rome's ultimate triumph. Woven into this narrative of the rise and fall of this city, Carthage, is a reminder of the rise and fall of another city, Troy. In paralleling Carthage with Troy, Virgil reminds his readers of Carthage's function as a mirror for Rome and its Trojan origins. Yet at the same time, Virgil makes a distinction: whereas Carthage, like Troy, will succumb to destruction and the tragic, cyclic, effect of history (such as we see in Livy), Rome is apparently capable of rising above this, despite its recent civil war. For once the civil wars are over and Augustus has come to power, Hannibal's curse in Aeneid Book Four no longer seems so threatening: "Augustus has demonstrated that the arrow of time can be turned back as far as the Golden Age, so that the end is now projected in a far-removed future for those who still accept a cyclical view of history. This is the real power of the Augustan Re-evolution" (267).

Throughout the whole of this book, there is one concept to which Giusti repeatedly returns: namely the importance and power of tragedy to underscore Rome's response to, and evaluation of, its wars with Carthage, and itself. From the beginning of chapter One, where Giusti notes the emergence of the barbarian other on the Greek tragic stage, through to the trauma of Rome's recent civil wars, this book observes the tragic modes present in (e.g.) historiography and notes Virgil's employment of tragic models and tropes in his portrayal of Carthage in the first four books of his epic. This "common thread" (20), as Giusti refers to it, helps to unite an argument that at times verges on becoming fragmentary due to the many ideas that circulate throughout her book. Overall, the vision and scope of Giusti's work is impressive, although it still bears some of the hallmarks of a PhD dissertation in its structure and argumentation: the chapters are very long and contain multiple sub-sections, some of which, potentially, could have been developed into their own chapters. There are, however, frequent summaries of the argument throughout, which serve as useful points for the reader to stop and evaluate what he/she has read. In addition, whilst the argument is dense and at times fragmentary, the research behind it is impeccable. The ideas are impressive and Giusti frequently summarizes the history of Virgilian scholarship on key issues relating to the Aeneid in a manner that will make this material both accessible to undergraduates and incredibly useful. The typos are few, and the book as a whole is well produced. This is a worthy addition, therefore, to the body of scholarship on Virgil's epic.

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Paul McKechnie, Jennifer Cromwell (ed.), Ptolemy I and the Transformation of Egypt, 404-282 BCE. Mnemosyne supplements. History and archaeology of classical antiquity, 415. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018. Pp. x, 247. ISBN 9789004366961. €110,00.

Reviewed by Tara Sewell-Lasater, University of Houston (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This book is a collection of essays presented at a 2011 conference at Macquarie University, where the overall theme was the transformation of Egypt during the fourth century. As Paul McKechnie notes in his introduction, the common view that the reign of the Ptolemies was a new and unique event in the history of Egypt has prevented much-needed analysis, especially of the continuity with the immediately preceding Persian period: "Alexander and his successor Ptolemy maintained vital features of the Thirtieth Dynasty settlement while simultaneously building an innovative settler society on foundations derived from their Macedonian heritage" (5). The essays collected here look at the transformation from several different angles.

In chapter 1, Dorothy Thompson argues that much of the success of the Ptolemaic Dynasty was due to the rule of Ptolemy I, who was able to continue the useful practices of previous dynasties, such as utilizing indigenous administrators, while also adding new policies as a foreign, but resident, pharaoh. She provides an overview of the Ptolemaic takeover of Egypt, which sets the stage for the rest of the works in the volume. Thompson also purposefully draws attention to the variety of sources that can be used to study the Ptolemies, from monuments to coins and texts. In chapter 2, Paul McKechnie emphasizes the military aspect of the transition, surveying the primary sources that detail the Persian effort to regain the province under Artaxerxes II and III, and then highlighting examples of the conquest of Egypt under Alexander and Ptolemy I. In highlighting these sources, his goal is to prove that the fourth century was defined by "the fight for Egypt," and, that in winning the fight, Ptolemy initiated the "Greek millennium" (27).1

The middle three chapters examine transition as seen in the calendar, coinage, and temples, respectively. Chris Bennett begins chapter 3 by providing a brief but informative overview of the Egyptian, Greek, and Macedonian calendars. He then argues that Ptolemy I utilized the Macedonian calendar in Egypt but allowed the Egyptian bureaucracy to retain the separate use of the Egyptian. Soter's decision to base the Egyptian tax year on the Macedonian regnal year, Bennett reasons, was the impetus for calendar reform under Ptolemy II that would eventually see the Macedonian calendar absorbed into the Egyptian.

In the fourth chapter, Henry Colburn focuses on numismatics, contending that the monetization of the Egyptian economy by Ptolemy I was politically motivated, in that Soter wanted to institute a royal coinage that moved economic dependence from the temples to the pharaoh and court at Alexandria. He explores some of the developments the early Ptolemies made to Egyptian monetary structures that, for instance, undermined temple coinage production and allowed the Ptolemies to institute a regulated trimetallic system in place of the irregular use of imitation Athenian coins, silver bullion, and Hacksilber of the previous century. He provides a thorough overview of fourth-century Egyptian hoard data to show that Athenian tetradrachms, including the Greek-made coins that entered into Egypt and subsequent Egyptian imitations, were used as both coins and bullion in the payment-in-kind economy of Late Period Egypt. He also wades into the debate surrounding the production of imitation Athenian Owl coins to offer an argument that, prior to the Ptolemaic reforms, coins in Egypt were used primarily for storing wealth.2 He presents both of these arguments to support his concluding point that the Ptolemaic economic reforms were targeted at "institutions that promoted alternatives to the normal Greek practice of using coins exclusively as money" (109). Most importantly, this chapter offers a succinct and easy to follow description of the Egyptian economic system, including staple finance, wealth finance, and the development of Egyptian monetary structures, from the New Kingdom and Late Period into the early fourth century. While several monographs on the development of Egyptian coinage have been produced,3 this chapter is unique in that it attempts to situate those coinage advancements within the macro-view of Egyptian economic developments.

Chapter 5, by Martina Minas-Nerpel, surveys stylistic changes to Egyptian temples during the fourth century. She begins with a clarifying synopsis of the place of the temple within Egyptian society. The main body of the chapter is organized into short summaries, similar to encyclopedia entries, of important temple sites from the Thirtieth Dynasty, followed by a brief overview of temple building from Alexander to Ptolemy I. The listing of Thirtieth Dynasty temple sites is well-organized by region and thoroughly researched, as shown by her extensive bibliography. Minas-Nerpel concludes by summarizing some of the main stylistic changes from the Pharaonic period into the Greco-Roman in order to explicate her main argument: that the Ptolemaic temple style developed based on the structures of the Thirtieth Dynasty. While this section would have benefitted from stating that main argument at the beginning of the chapter, rather than at the end, it should be considered a principal source for those looking for a clear listing of Late Egyptian temple sites.

The final two chapters of the volume attempt reevaluations of two well-researched topics, the Satrap Stele and the perceived separation between Egyptian and Greek ethnic communities. In chapter 6, Boyo Ockinga analyzes the language used on the Satrap Stele in order to reassess Ptolemy I's position at the time of its creation, and he convincingly argues that, although the stele was erected before Soter officially assumed the role of pharaoh, the language used reflects a royal phraseology that would have been recognized as such by his Egyptian subjects. This chapter provides a thorough examination of an invaluable early Ptolemaic document. As McKechnie notes in the introduction, this reassessment offers a "more detailed linguistic and historical examination than [the stele] has received before" (4).

The last chapter, by Thomas Landvatter, addresses the persistent debate surrounding the social and cultural separation between native Egyptians and Greek immigrants.4 He argues that a high degree of intermingling between ethnic groups was unavoidable, and he supports this by investigating mortuary practices, claiming that burial evidence, as an intentional deposit, is a more accurate reflection of cultural interaction, than evidence based on the chance survival of everyday material culture, such as the remains of a public or domestic space. He makes the important point that arguments against ethnic interactions are often based on misinterpretations of material culture and ideas of acculturation. Landvatter focuses on the cemetery of Shatby in Alexandria and analyzes cremations, inhumations, burial assemblages, and funerary architecture. He concludes that, since cremations can be seen as a rejection of Egyptian cultural practices, their decreased use over time demonstrates a steady acclimatization to Egyptian culture, especially when those decreasing numbers are viewed against the wider social system of funerary behavior. He also posits that, while this specific study of the small Shatby cemetery cannot be conclusive for Egypt as a whole, it can provide a useful model for expanded future studies.

Because of the thorough use of varied types of evidence and up-to-date bibliographies, these essays undoubtedly have an important place in current scholarship. Each of the chapters, taken individually, could be beneficial to scholars studying specific aspects of early Ptolemaic Egypt. Since most of the articles are on specialized topics, however, they are most valuable to those studying the same specified areas, rather than those looking for a clear argument of comprehensive Hellenistic transition and transformation. Accordingly, as a unified, thematic treatment of transformation, the book falls short. Although there are minor comparisons made in some of the essays to either the Persian period in Egypt, the Macedonian Greek tradition, or other areas of the Hellenistic world, few overarching comparisons are accentuated to anything other than the Thirtieth Dynasty, contrary to what one would expect after reading the introduction, which stressed that "nearly all writers [have made] 323 into Year One in a way which has closed down analytical possibilities rather than opening them up" (1). It is clear from his preface, introduction, and chapter in the volume, that McKechnie wanted to emphasize the transition from the Persian period, but the other essays do not focus on that transition as much as his portions of the work would indicate they should. These two issues are minor oversights, since a lack of strict thematic continuity is a common issue with books based on conference proceedings, but they are worth mentioning since the work was presented in the introduction as having an overarching focus on both much-needed comparative analysis and the transition from Persian to Ptolemaic Egypt.

Although this book would certainly have benefitted from a conclusion that drew together the themes and comparisons promised in the introduction, it is a useful and important piece of scholarship. While readers should be aware that they will not find a cohesive narrative of transformation focusing on Ptolemy I, as the title would indicate, nor a focus on the transition from Persian Egypt, as the introduction would imply, this book should be considered a useful resource for scholars studying the early Hellenistic period, especially those seeking more specified information on early Ptolemaic calendars, coinage, temples, burial practices, and the Satrap Stele. In fact, the availability of a work that brings together such varied research and different viewpoints on transition is a boon to any Ptolemaic scholar.

Authors and Titles

Dorothy J. Thompson: Ptolemy I in Egypt: Continuity and Change (6-26)
Paul McKechnie: The Greek Wars: The Fight for Egypt (27-45)
Chris Bennett: Soter and the Calendars (46-69)
Henry Colburn: The Role of Coinage in the Political Economy of Fourth Century Egypt (70-119)
Martina Minas-Nerpel: Pharaoh and Temple Building in the Fourth Century BCE (121-165)
Boyo Ockinga: The Satrap Stele of Ptolemy: A Reassessment (166-198)
Thomas Landvatter: Identity and Cross-cultural Interactions in Early Ptolemaic Alexandria: Cremation in Context (200-230)


1.   Here McKechnie is drawing from the works of both Naphtali Lewis, Greeks in Ptolemaic Egypt (2001), and J. G. Manning, The Last Pharaohs (2010).
2.   While he argues that the imitation Owls were used primarily as wealth objects, Colburn also notes that other arguments put forth for their use, such as paying mercenaries, cannot be discounted (92-3). See also, Peter van Alfen, "Mechanisms for the Imitation of Athenian Coinage" Revue belge de numismatique et de sigillographie 157 (2011): 55-93.
3.   For examples of monographs on Hellenistic and Egyptian coinage, see Peter Thonemann, The Hellenistic World: Using Coins as Sources (2015), Otto Mørkholm, Early Hellenistic Coinage: from the Accession of Alexander to the Peace of Apamaea (1991), and R. A. Hazzard, Ptolemaic Coins: An Introduction for Collectors (2015). Catherine Lorber's chapter, "The Coinage of the Ptolemies," in The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage (2012), is also a useful introduction to the coinage of the Ptolemies.
4.   Landvatter notes that Ian Moyer, in the introduction to his work Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism (2011), provides a good historiographical overview of the debate. Landvatter also provides several examples of sources arguing for ethnic separation, including one of the originating arguments in Peter Fraser's Ptolemaic Alexandria (1977), and for cultural intermingling, such as R. K. Ritner's "Implicit Models of Cross-Cultural Interactions" in Life in a Multi-Cultural Society: Egypt from Cambyses to Constantine and Beyond (1992).

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Elena Franchi, Giorgia Proietti (ed.), Conflict in Communities: Forward-Looking Memories in Classical Athens. Trento: Università di Trento, 2017. Pp. 302. ISBN 9788884437716. €12,00.

Reviewed by Nicolas Genis, École française d'Athènes (

Version at BMCR home site

[Les auteurs et les titres sont listées à la fin du compte rendu.]

Ce volume est le troisième d'une série sur la mémoire publiée par des chercheurs du laboratoire d'histoire antique de l'Université de Trento (Laboratorio di Storia Antica) : le premier portait sur les formes de la mémoire et la dynamique identitaire dans l'Antiquité gréco-romaine (Forme della memoria e dinamiche identitarie nell'antichità greco-romana, 2012), le deuxième sur la guerre et la mémoire (Guerra e memoria, 2014). Brièvement introduites par les éditrices du volume, les six contributions se répartissent en deux volets : la mémoire des guerres et en particulier des citoyens morts au combat, puis l'utilisation du passé dans les discours délibératifs et judiciaires. Elles concernent toutes l'Athènes des Ve et IVe siècles et utilisent en premier lieu les sources littéraires. Dans leur introduction, E. Franchi et G. Proietti soulignent que, dans les études consacrées à la temporalité grecque, le passé est omniprésent ; elles proposent donc d'observer le rapport à l'avenir qu'entretiennent les rappels du passé, qu'ils soient faits par des monuments de guerre ou par les orateurs attiques.

Dans la première contribution, J. Z. van Rookhuijzen montre comment quelques lieux deviennent emblématiques du siège de l'Acropole par les Perses en 480, même s'ils n'ont pas été eux-mêmes assiégés : l'Aréopage, le sanctuaire d'Aglauros, le mégaron et le temple d'Érechthée sont autant de mnémotopes, d'après la terminologie de Jan Assmann, c'est-à-dire des lieux qui symbolisent et rappellent en eux-mêmes certains événements passés. G. Proietti étudie le traumatisme créé par la guerre, en comparant l'époque contemporaine et l'Antiquité à partir de l'apport de la psychanalyse contemporaine. De fait, si la guerre est souvent présentée comme une chose normale pour l'Athènes du Ve siècle, G. Proietti insiste sur le fait que la guerre est toujours traumatisante et dramatique pour les individus. Dans ce contexte, les mémoriaux guerriers et l'oraison funèbre qui est prononcée lors d'une cérémonie annuelle permettent de réparer la mort et d'inciter les futurs citoyens-soldats à se battre avec la même détermination que leurs ancêtres.

B. Steinbock reprend la question de la mémoire du général athénien Nicias, tombé lors de l'expédition de Sicile : dans sa description du monument funéraire de l'année 412, Pausanias précise que Nicias n'y figure pas, alors que Thucydide n'en dit rien et que le général a plutôt bonne réputation au IVe siècle. Selon B. Steinbock, l'omission de Nicias de ce monument collectif est tout à fait crédible et montre que la mémoire athénienne n'était pas figée. Juste après les événements de Sicile, les Athéniens ne pouvaient pas encore intégrer cette défaite dans le récit de la grandeur permanente d'Athènes, qui apprend même de ses erreurs. L'oubli de Nicias a permis, en revanche, sa réhabilitation quelque 65 ans plus tard par Démosthène, lorsque le souvenir des détails de la défaite s'estompait dans la mémoire collective athénienne.

Dans les discours délibératifs et judiciaires, les références au passé ont souvent été présentées comme les marques d'une manipulation de l'auditoire par l'orateur, qui adapterait son discours à ceux qui l'écoutent, pour ne pas apparaître comme un représentant d'une élite séparée du peuple. M. Canevaro montre au contraire que les orateurs ne prennent pas de telles précautions, puisque les auditeurs attendaient justement qu'ils se montrent fins connaisseurs de la mémoire culturelle athénienne.

M. Barbato traite pour sa part de la référence problématique qu'Eschine fait aux ancêtres dans un discours (2. Sur l'ambassade infidèle, 74-78) pour se défendre de l'accusation de Démosthène. Si, dans les oraisons funèbres, au tribunal ou à l'Assemblée, la référence aux ancêtres, en particulier compris comme les ancêtres de tous les Athéniens, renforce l'image idéalisée du passé, insiste sur la continuité entre les générations et apporte une forme d'argument d'autorité, les propos d'Eschine introduisent une distinction : il faut imiter l'εὐβουλία (le bon jugement) des anciens, mais éviter leur φιλονικία (l'amour de la victoire). Cette discussion des erreurs passées, inhabituelles dans le contexte judiciaire, ne l'est pas à l'Assemblée : c'est l'ambiguïté de ce discours d'Eschine, judiciaire mais dont la portée est celle d'un débat à l'Assemblée. L'orateur rappelle donc le passé pour influencer la politique future d'Athènes, et non pas pour construire une image idéalisée de la cité.

Elena Franchi reprend, enfin, les termes de la paix de Philocrate et tente de résoudre l'« énigme de la clause phocidienne », en étudiant le contexte historique, juridique, performatif et mémoriel du texte de Démosthène (19. Sur les forfaitures de l'ambassade, 159), qui cite le traité de paix pour orienter les décisions futures des Athéniens.

Aucune conclusion ne clôture le volume, ce qui est dommage et reflète sa principale limite : son manque d'unité. Que ce soit dans la forme ou sur le fond, les contributions semblent simplement juxtaposées, sans que le travail éditorial nécessaire ait été réalisé pour en faire un véritable ouvrage collectif sur un thème commun. L'introduction traite rapidement des notions et concepts utilisés par la suite, comme la commémoration ou la mémoire sociale, mais ne donne pas de définitions précises ni les fondements nécessaires à leur utilisation en l'histoire ancienne. En outre, les analogies entre l'histoire contemporaine et l'Antiquité manquent souvent de justification pour être vraiment convaincantes.

Par ailleurs, on peut regretter l'absence d'unité éditoriale pour les citations des textes grecs (aucune édition de référence commune, aucune homogénéité pour la citation du grec et d'une traduction ou d'une traduction seule) ainsi que pour la bibliographie : compte tenu du nombre important de publications mentionnées par plusieurs contributeurs, une bibliographie générale aurait été plus pertinente et plus lisible, à la manière des index qui, eux, concernent l'ensemble.

Enfin, quelques renvois internes manquent : une référence à la contribution de J. Z. van Rookhuijzen, par exemple, aurait pu être ajoutée dans la note (p. 83) de G. Proietti qui discute de l'identification du mégaron. La qualité des illustrations, qui sont toutes uniquement dans le premier chapitre, est insuffisante.

Sur le fond, la séparation en deux sections, de trois chapitres chacune, aurait pu être clairement indiquée dans le volume : les deux textes rédigés par chacune des éditrices, juxtaposés en introduction, auraient ainsi trouvé leur place à la tête des sections correspondantes. Une véritable introduction générale et une conclusion auraient alors permis de donner à ce volume l'unité qui lui manque. Auraient pu y trouver place des bilans sur des ouvrages cités par plusieurs contributeurs (J. Ober, Mass and Elite in democratic Athens, 1989 et N. Loraux, L'invention d'Athènes. Histoire de l'oraison funèbre dans la « cité classique », 1981, entre autres), ainsi que des synthèses sur des événements utilisés à plusieurs reprises, en particulier la lutte qui oppose Démosthène et Eschine au IVe siècle, bien connue grâce aux discours de l'un et de l'autre, ou encore une discussion épistémologique et théorique de certains concepts, comme ceux de milieu (p. 7), de mémoire sociale (p. 11), d'identité nationale (p. 75) – toutes choses que seule la contribution de B. Steinbock comporte.

Le lien entre chaque chapitre et le thème général du livre est soit tellement évident qu'il n'est pas mentionné, soit il arrive à la toute fin du chapitre et semble ténu. En effet, les préoccupations actuelles et futures qui président aux rappels du passé n'ont jamais été totalement absentes des études précédentes sur l'utilisation du passé par les Grecs, y compris dans des ouvrages cités par les contributeurs, en particulier ceux de K. Clarke (Making Time for the Past. Local history and the Polis, 2008, cf. BMCR 2008.12.02), de J. Grethlein (The Greeks and their Past. Poetry, Oratory and History in the Fifth Century BCE, 2010, cf. BMCR 2011.03.67) ou de B. Steinbock (Social Memory in Athenian Public Discourse. Uses and Meanings of the Past, 2013, cf. BMCR 2013.11.57) : ces derniers ont en effet veillé à montrer le lien qui existe entre les références au passé et le contexte dans lequel sont faites ces références, que ce soit pour construire l'identité de la cité ou pour préparer des décisions à prendre dans un avenir plus ou moins proche. En outre, certaines analyses semblent davantage reposer sur les caractéristiques propres à un genre littéraire que sur le renouvellement d'une approche historique : de fait, l'exagération, la contradiction et la répétition que l'on trouve dans les discours de Démosthène (p. 278) relèvent plutôt de l'analyse littéraire, de la même manière que la manipulation (p. 239 par exemple) fait partie intégrante de l'art oratoire, ou que le dépassement (p. 89-93) est le propre du théâtre, d'après la théorie aristotélicienne de la catharsis, largement reprise depuis par les autres théories du théâtre.

Malgré ses défauts, ce volume apporte sa contribution aux études récentes sur l'utilisation du passé dans l'Antiquité et fait connaître les travaux de chercheurs italiens sur le sujet. Il soulève de nombreuses questions, dont certaines seulement ont pu être évoquées ici, et il montre clairement que l'histoire ancienne a beaucoup à apprendre de l'histoire contemporaine ou des autres sciences sociales, notamment sur la thématique de la mémoire, tout en adaptant leurs concepts aux caractéristiques des sources de l'histoire ancienne.

Table des matières

Acknowledgements 7
Introduction by Elena Franchi, Giorgia Proietti 9
Jan Zacharias van Rookhuijzen, Where Aglauros Once Fell Down. The Memory Landscape of the Persian Siege of the Acropolis 27
Giorgia Proietti, Fare i conti con la guerra. Forme del discorso civico ad Atene nel V secolo (con uno sguardo all'età contemporanea) 69
Bernd Steinbock, The Contested Memory of Nicias after the Sicilian Expedition 109
Mirko Canevaro, La memoria, gli oratori e il pubblico nell'Atene del IV secolo a.C. 171
Matteo Barbato, Using the Past to Shape the Future: Ancestors, Institutions and Ideology in Aeschin. 2.74-78 213
Elena Franchi, La pace di Filocrate e l'enigma della clausola focidese 255
Contributors 289
Index of Ancient Sources 293
General Index 299
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Stefan Schorn, Studien zur hellenistischen Biographie und Historiographie. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde, Band 345. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. xiv, 509. ISBN 9783110447552. €119,95.

Reviewed by Tiziano Dorandi, Centre J. Pépin, UMR 8230 CNRS/ENS (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of contents is listed below.]

S. Schorn è uno studioso che ha consacrato la maggior parte delle sue ricerche alla biografia di epoca ellenistica a cominciare dalla sua eccellente dissertazione su Satiro di Callatis che contiene tra l'altro una rinnovata edizione del P.Oxy. 1176 con i resti della Vita di Euripide.1

Le Studien zur hellenistischen Biographie und Historiographie ripropongono dodici articoli redatti tra il 2003 e il 2015 più due nuovi.2 I quattordici studi costituiscono altrettanti capitoli tematici su aspetti importanti della biografia ellenistica, che non hanno ricevuto tutta l'attenzione che meritano. Schorn si propone di riabilitare un gruppo di opere troppo spesso considerate come poco serie oppure come raccolte di materiali eruditi messe insieme da autori ai quali non veniva riconosciuto lo statuto di veri e propri storici. L'accostamento di biografia e storiografia già nel titolo è significativa e corrisponde all'idea che lo studioso ha sempre difeso di uno stretto legame in età ellenistica fra i due generi letterari.

I primi sei capitoli sono dedicati a singoli autori le cui opere sono conservate solo in uno stato molto frammentario (Neante di Cizico, Aristosseno di Taranto, Fania di Ereso, Cameleonte di Eraclea sul Ponto e il cosiddetto Anonymus Diodori), nel tentativo di delinearne e ricostruirne le caratteristiche principali. Nei restanti otto, sono invece indagate alcune questioni di fondamentale importanza per chi voglia avere una idea adeguata del genere letterario della biografia antica e degli stretti rapporti che intercorrono fra questa e la storiografia. L'ultimo capitolo serve da sintesi con una discussione generale di tutti i problemi affrontati nel volume che, pur composto da contributi distinti su autori e temi diversi, mantiene una sua unità di contenuti e di pensiero.

La tesi centrale del volume è che la biografia ellenistica deve essere considerare in buona parte una forma di storiografia, anche se non di storia. Se l'apporto di quei biografi alla ricostruzione della 'grande' storia greca, quando trattano dei suoi principali attori, è infatti talora consistente, le loro opere restano in più larga misura fonti importanti per la storia della cultura, del pensiero e delle idee così come della storia locale e delle identità delle singole città greche.3

Il primo autore (cap. 1) è Neante di Cizico, poligrafo attivo già nel IV sec. al quale è attribuita un'opera intitolata Sugli uomini famosi, Περὶ ἐνδόξων ἀνδρῶν. Interessi 'periegetici' avevano portato Neante a riunire note biografiche di origine spesso orale su personaggi illustri non solo suoi contemporanei, ma anche di un passato più o meno remoto. Per questa ragione, egli è spesso fonte unica e preziosa su aspetti che trovano fondamento in rare tradizioni locali. Neante lavora come uno storico per il quale il principio dell'autopsia ha un ruolo primario. Nel contempo, egli si distanzia in maniera considerevole dalla storiografia del IV sec. a.C. nel momento in cui rinuncia a una idealizzazione dei protagonisti delle sue biografie e cerca di ricostruire in maniera realistica e umana gli aspetti e i momenti principali della loro vita.

Il secondo autore è Cameleonte (c. 350 – c. 275 a.C.), allievo diretto di Aristotele. A lui sono dedicati due importanti contributi (cap. 2-3). Cameleonte compose diversi libri su poeti greci (Anacreonte, Saffo, Simonide, Laso, Pindaro, Stesicoro, Tespi e Eschilo) il cui titolo ha la forma Περὶ + il nome di persona al genitivo e i cui frammenti principali sono rivisitati da Schorn. Dai pochi frammenti si deduce che, sebbene gli interessi dell'autore siano orientati piuttosto verso la critica letteraria, in essi si ritrovano specifici motivi del genere biografico.

Viene poi Aristosseno di Taranto, IV sec. a.C. (cap. 4). Costui studiò la musica con il padre Spintaro e poi divenne allievo di Aristotele. Scrisse numerose biografie di personaggi illustri, soprattutto filosofi e fra questi Pitagora, Socrate e Platone. I frammenti sono per lo più tramandati da autori tardi senza apparentemente deformarne il contenuto. Il che consente di rivalutare l'affidabilità della testimonianza di Aristosseno come biografo, in passato a torto messa in dubbio.

Infine Fania di Ereso (IV-IIII sec. a.C.) interessato oltre che alla biografia anche alla storia locale della sua città, Ereso di Lesbo (cap. 5). Schorn riesamina con consistenti progressi i frammenti principali della sua opera Sui poeti (Περὶ ποιητῶν).

Con l'ultimo capitolo su un singolo autore (6), Schorn si propone di dimostrare (contro la tesi di A. Cohen-Skalli) che la fonte del cosiddetto Anonymus Diodori, attraverso il quale giungono allo storico Diodoro Siculo informazioni su Pitagora e i Pitagorici nel libro X della Biblioteca, non può essere Timeo di Tauromenio. L'anonimo ebbe a disposizione più fonti, una delle quali (diretta o indiretta) è Aristosseno di Taranto. Su alcuni punti, Schorn riviene anche nel cap. 13 (426-429).4

Il cap. 7 fa, per così dire, da cerniera fra le due sezioni. Attraverso una analisi dello sviluppo della gamma di significati del termine Περιπατητικός nelle fonti antiche, Schorn indaga se e fino a quando Περιπατητικός indicò esclusivamente persone (in particolare biografi e storici) che avevano compiuto la loro formazione a Atene e se e quando il termine divenne sinonimo di Aristotelico indipendentemente dalla formazione delle persone alle quali è applicato.

La seconda parte del volume (capitoli 8-14) è riservata a studi di più vasto respiro relativi a aspetti specifici della letteratura biografica ellenistica.

Il cap. 8 ha come oggetto i rapporti fra le epitomi con la biografia ellenistica. Schorn richiama l'attenzione sulla Vita di Euripide di Satiro, sulla Epitome del 'Sui legislatori' di Ermippo di Eraclide Lembo e analizza infine brevemente il ruolo di altri tipi di letteratura manualistica (Handbücher), tra i quali alcune opere di Neante, le Diadochai e un'opera come la Φιλοσόφων ἀναγραφή di Ippoboto (I sec. a.C.).

Sulle Diadochai, lo studioso ritorna più a fondo nel capitolo seguente (9) il cui fine è quello di provare da un lato la molteplicità di forme attraverso le quali si declina la biografia ellenistica e dall'altro che il genere bio-dossografico, di cui le Vite dei filosofi di Diogene Laerzio sono un esempio più tardo, affonda anch'esso le sue radici già nell'Ellenismo.

Il cap. 10 è inedito. Schorn vi riprende, tra l'altro, la vexata questio delle fonti di Diogene Laerzio a partire dai risultati, non sempre convincenti, del libro di Mejer. Alla fine, viene proposta ("Ausblick: Was noch zu tun ist", 363-364) una lista di sei desiderata degli studi laerziani.

Nello studio successivo, viene ripresa la discussione sul tema dei rapporti innegabili fra storiografia, biografia e letteratura dell'encomio. La biografia ellenistica è una forma di storiografia che mostra molti e interessanti punti in comune con gli encomi.

Il P.Oxy. LXXI 4808 tramanda un testo adespoto del I-II sec. d.C. con informazioni su tre storici di età ellenistica (Onesicrito, Carete e Clitarco), Ieronimo di Cardia e Polibio. Schorn si sofferma sulla datazione di Clitarco, che potrebbe essere spostata tra il 237 e il 222 a.C., se la sua proposta di integrare in col. I 14-15 Ἕρμιππος (cioè Ermippo di Smirna) invece di Φίλιππος coglie nel segno. Egli esamina poi l'opinione che l'anonimo autore dello scritto doveva avere di Ieronimo e Clitarco e propone, infine, di individuare nel testo uno hypomnema utile alla stesura di un'opera storiografica.5

Il capitolo sulla figura di Pitagora (13) nella tradizione storica ripropone, tra l'altro, alcuni dei temi già affrontati in maniera più approfondita nel corso del volume ripercorrendo le trattazioni che su Pitagora e i Pitagorici leggiamo in storici di professione (Erodoto, Timeo, Diodoro Siculo) e in biografi ellenistici (Neante e Aristosseno).

Il volume si conclude con pagine scritte ex novo. Schorn vi sintetizza i principali contenuti e risultati delle sue ricerche sulla biografia di età ellenistica insistendo a lungo sui legami di questa con la contemporanea storiografia.

I dodici articoli già pubblicati non sono stati ristampati tali e quali, ma sono stati in più punti rimeditati, rielaborati e aggiornati dall'autore. I capitoli 4-5 e 13 sono opportunamente lasciati in inglese.

Un esempio significativo di interventi sostanziali di Schorn è evidente nel cap. 1 (su Neante di Cizico), dove è da segnalare non solo il nuovo paragrafo sul filosofo cinico Antistene (31-32), ma anche l'appendice ("Anhang 2017", 45-49) con la convincente confutazione della tesi di J.P. Stronk secondo la quale le opere che vanno sotto il nome di Neante (di Cizico) sarebbero in realtà da assegnare a Neante il Giovane (FGrHist 171).

Accanto agli articoli riuniti in questo volume, vorrei infine richiamare l'attenzione anche sugli altri due studi (uno di prossima pubblicazione), intitolati entrambi "Biographie und Autobiographie".6

La bibliografia del volume (451-480) è ricca e aggiornata. Aggiungo solo, per completezza, due contributi usciti troppo tardi perché Schorn potesse tenerne conto nella redazione delle pagine su Aristosseno (cap. 4): l'articolo di A. Stavru "Aristoxenus on Socrates", in A. Stavru & Chr. Moore (ed.) Socrates and the Socratic Dialogue, Leiden: Brill, 2017, 623-664 e la pubblicazione della nuova edizione dei resti del Contra Iulianum di Cirillo di Alessandria curata in due volumi da Chr. Riedweg, W. Kinzing e Th. Brüggemann, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016-2017.

In conclusione, dobbiamo essere riconoscenti a Schorn per avere riunito in un solo e maneggevole volume, i suoi contributi su biografia ellenistica e storiografia, per averli aggiornati e rimeditati nonché integrati con due nuove ricerche. Su alcuni punti e in particolare sul cap. 10 (problema delle fonti e metodo di lavoro di Diogene Laerzio) avrò forse un giorno occasione di ritornare, affrontando infine qualche tema della letteratura laerziana che mi ha sempre molto interessato, ma che non ho finora osato trattare.

Table of Contents

Vorwort (V)
1. 'Periegetische Biographie' – 'Historische Biographie': Neanthes von Kyzikos (FGrHist 84) als Biograph (1)
2. Chamaileonstudien (51)
3. Chamaileon: Biographie und Schriften Περὶ τοῦ δεῖνα (79)
4. Aristoxenus' Biographical Method (107)
5. Biography and History in Phaenias of Eresus (149)
6. Die Pythagoreer in zehnten Buch der Bibliothek Diodors: Quellen, Traditionen – und Manipulationen (193)
7. Wer wurde ind er Antike als Peripatetiker bezeichnet? (245)
8. Epitomai und hellenistische Biographie (279)
9. Bio-Doxographie in hellenistischer Zeit (301)
10. Jørgen Mejers Diogens Laertius and His Hellenistic Background nach 30 Jahren – einige Überlegungen (339)
11. Historiographie, Biographie und Enkomion. Theorie der Biographie und Historiographie bei Diodor und Polybios (365)
12. Überlegungen zu P.Oxy. LXXI 4808 (393)
13. Pythagoras in the Historical Tradition: from Herodotus to Diodorus Siculus (409)
14. Die hellenistische Biographie in neuem Licht (431)
Literaturverzeichnis (451)
Verzeichnis der Erstpublikationen (481)
Eigennamen (483)
Stellen (491).


1.   S. Schorn, Satyros aus Kallatis. Sammlung der Fragmente mit Kommentar, Basel: Schwabe, 2004.
2.   Le concordanze nel "Verzeichnis der Erstpublikationen", 481-482.
3.   "Vorwort", VI.
4.   Anche se si deve essere molto prudenti nel trattare questo materiale come aristossenico, ritengo che di esso dovrà necessariamente tenere debito chi si occuperà della futura e auspicabile raccolta dei testi del biografo di Taranto, che rimpiazzi quelle finora esistenti, tutte insoddisfacenti.
5.   La presenza del testo del papiro, sia pure nella editio princeps e in riproduzione anastatica, avrebbe reso un ottimo servizio al lettore per seguire la discussione.
6.   In B. Zimmermann – A. Rengkakos (Hgg.), Handbuch der griechischen Literatur, II. Die Literatur der klassischen und hellenistischen Zeit, München: Beck, 2014; III. Die Literatur der Kaiserzeir (in stampa).

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Friday, December 14, 2018


Jessica Schrader, Gespräche mit Göttern: Die poetologische Funktion kommunikativer Kultbilder bei Horaz, Tibull und Properz. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge, 58. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017. Pp. 314. ISBN 9783515117005. €54.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Brittney Szempruch, United States Air Force Academy (

Version at BMCR home site

When Denis Feeney published Literature and Religion in Rome twenty years ago, he enjoined readers to examine more critically the assumption that mere mention of Roman cult inherently attributed to texts some greater meaning. "Ritual," as Feeney explained, "is not a self- explanatory system, and it remains a challenge to analyse how Roman writers make the meaning systems of ritual part of the meaning systems of their texts."1 The two decades since have seen many productive responses to that injunction, including now Jessica Schrader's Gespräche mit Göttern: Die poetologische Funktion kommunikativer Kultbilder bei Horaz, Tibull und Properz. The book, the author's revised dissertation, aims to bridge the gap between the insights on cult images gleaned from religious studies and the more obviously literary preoccupations of prior examinations of the poems and poets in question. Although the book's argument locates itself at the intersection of a number of lively scholarly debates—between text and image, for example, and approaches that range from the archaeological to the narratological—, it makes a focused promise that it can and does keep. The goal of the study as articulated in the first chapter (13) is to move past literary investigations that solely focus on the chosen god and his or her speech (ignoring the materiality of the god's statue as a cult image) and to demonstrate that speaking cult images in Latin poetry (like their "real" physical counterparts) serve a medial function, acting as an amplifying medium between human and divine and communicating poetological messages between poet and reader.

Gespräche mit Göttern develops over seven chapters and a conclusion, and the introductory first chapter ("Einleitung und Disposition der Arbeit") and survey-oriented Chapter 2 ("Kultbilder als Medium der Kommunikation im literarischen und religiösen/kultischen Kontext") offer a theoretical framework for the readings to follow. In adopting Irina Rajewsky's conception of intermedial reference,2 Schrader distinguishes her work from a purely literary reading by offering moments of orality, textuality, and materiality; the confluence of these three features in each poem is what stages the cult image as a "Bild-Text-Medium" (58). By further embracing the criterion of a statue's inclusion in ritual activity, Schrader also responds to the immediate conceptual challenge presented by the lack of one unified term for "cult image" in Latin. In thus pursuing a functional rather than formal definition of a cult statue, Schrader determines that there are only three instances in Latin poetry—further limited to only two "lesser" deities, Priapus and Vertumnus—where a cult statue speaks for a sustained period of time.

Chapters 3 through 5 comprise the heart of Schrader's volume. Each contains an in-depth close reading of one of the speaking cult statues. Chapter 3 deals with Horace, Sat. 1.8 in which Priapus narrates his transformation from a fig branch into a cult image perched alongside the horti Maecenatis, bearing witness to the magic of the witches Canidia and Sagana. Chapter 4 draws similarities between Chapter 3 and Tibullus' own speaking Priapus (Tib. 1.4), but demonstrates how—in contrast to Sat. 1.8's spontaneous first-person narration—the Tibullan god is drawn by the elegiac speaker into a conversation on how to win the affections of youths. In the last reading of the trio, Chapter 5, Schrader analyzes the utterances of a speaking Vertumnus cult statue (Prop. 4.2) that offers three possible etymologies for its name.

At stake in each of these readings is the relationship between the cult image and the satiric or elegiac ego, both locally and in the broader sequence of its respective collection. In Sat. 1.8, for example, Schrader demonstrates how Priapus is constructed as an unreliable narrator through a series of ambiguities and contradictions. Not only does Priapus open the poem with the uncertain outcome of his creation, but his traditional sexual function is also ignored throughout the poem—an omission that highlights the deity's ambivalent gendered nature in a way that material images could not. These ambiguities and oppositions are brought to a climax at the poem's end with Priapus' Furz that simultaneously unmasks the witches and the poet behind the cult statue, revealing the poetic program of Sat. 1: ridentem dicere verum.3

After a brief intermediary conclusion in Chapter 6, the final exploratory chapter of the work (Chapter 7, "Kommunikation mit Göttern auf anderen Wegen") addresses a challenge raised back in the introduction, namely the preponderance of deities in Augustan poetry and how they function as communicative media in relation to the speaking cult images that dominate the study. Here the reader is introduced to a number of comparanda (Mars inermis, Mars Ultor, and Venus in Ovid's Fasti; Apollo Palatinus and the dedication of his temple in Propertius 2.31 and 4.6) that would seem to be popular-deity counterparts of the earlier chapters' Priapi and Vertumnus. While the readings of these more overtly politicized Augustan deities often recapitulate now-familiar arguments for the poetic manipulation of gods central to Augustan ideology, Schrader's work here deftly explains the surprising choice of 'minor' gods for the three speaking cult images: gods like Mars, Venus, and Apollo (and their respective imagery) had more clearly defined boundaries between god and poet that precluded the same kind of poetic freedom and explicit communicative potential of minor gods like Priapus and Vertumnus.

These defined imperial associations, however, did not completely eliminate the poet's ability to use these gods for their own literary projects, and in order to appropriate Apollo, Venus, and Mars poetically, Augustan poets needed to communicate in non-verbal ways. Whereas the three speaking cult images are all located in open spaces that give the poets license to experiment with the statue's literary functionalization, Schrader argues that in Fast. 5.545-98 and Prop. 2.31 in particular, each poet instead uses the construct of architectural ecphrasis—the visual, in addition to the verbal—to convey an imperial message.

One of Schrader's most compelling claims in the volume as a whole is for the centrality of Hellenistic epigram and Callimachean innovation to the speaking cult image as Bild-Text-Medium. Chapter 2 introduced the idea that during the Hellenistic period epigrams began to separate from their physical contexts, 4 a model made even more attractive for Augustan poets through Callimachus' expansion of a statue's self-awareness beyond the boundaries of epigram in the Aetia and Iambi. The epigrammatic trope of the speaking statue thus paved the way for the intermediality of the later Roman speaking cult statues. Schrader takes up this thread in Chapters 3 and 5 when she argues that the first 16 lines of Sat. 1.8 and the final 6 lines of Prop. 4.2 are epigrammatic and suggest to the reader the visual image of a statue with an inscribed base. The Horatian poem, for example, is an allusion to Callimachus' sixth, seventh, and ninth Iamboi, and the intertextuality both belies Priapus' rustic simplicity and contradicts the statue's initial assertion of identity as an inutile lignum (86-7).

For all its strengths, however, this sporadic treatment of epigram also points to a larger challenge throughout the volume. Although it both gestures toward a broader historical perspective (Augustus' archaizing tendencies) and engages with a robust bibliography, in choosing individual poems as its organizing principle, Gespräche mit Göttern never fully articulates the extra-poetic ramifications of its argument. To its credit, the book's many subdivisions and frequent conclusions allow one to move freely through the monograph as suits one's needs. But for the reader interested in the development of Schrader's claim, the extreme subdivision of chapters can at times hinder rather than aid logical connections between arguments, highlighting "die Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede in der poetologischen Verwendung der drei Kultbilder als Kommunikationsmedium" (16-17) instead of the bigger picture of how these similarities and differences advance our understanding of the genres so carefully examined.

Like the cult statues it studies, Schrader's volume itself "shimmers" at times between two different projects. It roundly succeeds when held to the introduction's argument for the poetic instrumentalization of cult statues in Horace, Tibullus, and Propertius, but given the proliferation of studies on Augustan poetics, Gespräche mit Göttern truly shines in the moments it ventures beyond its own argument toward the outliers of traditional Augustan ideology: 'minor' gods and the non-intertextual means by which Augustan poets established themselves as part of a Greco-Roman literary tradition via generic concerns. While this book will be of primary interest to scholars interested in the authors it addresses, it is also an excellent example of the nuance to be found in the collaboration of scholarly approaches. As Feeney suggested, every tangential association with 'cult' does not directly translate into import, but Gespräche mit Göttern makes a convincing case for considering more carefully the way "religion" translates and transmutes literary aims.


1.   Feeney, D. (1998) Literature and Religion at Rome: Cultures, Contexts, and Beliefs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 10.
2.   Rajewsky, I. O. (2002) Intermedialität. Tübingen/Basel: Francke Verlag. See also Rajewsky's 2005 piece in Intermédialités ("Intermediality, Intertextuality, and Remediation: A Literary Perspective on Intermediality"), which further clarifies that intermedial reference is "a communicative-semiotic concept" that "is by definition just one medium—the referencing medium (as opposed to the medium referred to)—that is materially present. Rather than combining different medial forms of articulation, the given media-product thematizes, evokes, or imitates elements or structures of another, conventionally distinct medium through the use of its own media-specific means" (53).
3.   Priapus similarly reveals in Tibullus 1.4 the program of vana magisteria, while Propertius' Vertumnus wavers between aetiology and elegy in the manner of the poet's entire fourth book.
4.   Schrader oversimplifies this development in claiming that "Das Epigramm löst sich somit im Laufe der Zeit von seinem konkreten, haptischen Kontext und wird zum Buchepigramm" (21); cf. Bettenworth, A. (2007) "The Mutual Influence of Inscribed and Literary Epigram," in: Brill's Companion to Hellenistic Epigram, ed. P. Bing and J. Steffen Bruss, Leiden/Boston: Brill, 69-93.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018


Jeremiah W. Cataldo, A Social-Political History of Monotheism: From Judah to the Byzantines. London; New York: Routledge, 2018. Pp. 242. ISBN 9781138222809. $140.00.

Reviewed by Geert Lernout, University of Antwerp (

Version at BMCR home site


Jeremiah W. Cataldo is a history professor with a history of publishing books on reading the Hebrew bible from the perspective of cultural studies. His particular interest is the development of biblical monotheism in Yehud, as a result of the status of the province within the Persian empire. In one book he addresses the historical situation described in the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah and the way it reflects a theocratic political system and in a second study he showed the way the failed theocracy in Yehud contributed to the exclusionary nature of the form of monotheism that developed out of the Hebrew scriptures. In his own words on the first page of the introduction to the present book, the thesis of these studies boils down to this: "fear and conflict are driving forces behind the historical development of monotheism" (vi).1 In this new book, Cataldo extends the argument to include Christian monotheism, with its own troubled relationship with the Roman empire.

As explained in the first chapter, this book is written from a historical perspective (or, more precisely "social-scientific") and not from a theological one: religion for Cataldo is "entirely a human activity" (1). This chapter also claims that monotheism in this restricted sense is based on fear 2 and that it must be understood as a reaction to a very specific set of social and political conditions. Cataldo explains the origin of the word monotheism, the predominantly sociological role of religion (with help from Peter Berger) and then he moves to the issue of evil (which he feels is a major philosophical problem in monotheism). When he then discusses the concept of morality, things get a bit murkier (and certainly not less eclectic) since Cataldo accepts help from the not so clear thinkers Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou, but he ends the chapter with a fundamental existential question: "why should I give a shit about dusty old reliquaries and coffins?" (22). I quote this question because it is an indication of the author's radical use of anachronistic diction: there had been a reference to Agent Mulder just a few pages earlier. And, before we forget, the answer to the blunt question is "because history".

The structure of the rest of the book is historical and chronological. Cataldo starts in chapter 2 with what he calls the prophetic paradigm in the earlier parts of the Hebrew bible, and he describes prophets as "sociopolitical activists" (47). He shows Isaiah's role in the development of monotheism in the context of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, which, in turn, leads to a discussion of the use in this period of "Judah" and "Israel" as identifiers and to the terrain explored in his earlier books, the role of the "Babylonian-returnee contingent" in Yehud and their attempt to "restore" something that they called "Israel":

Rather than reading the biblical texts as confirmation that the returnee community has attained (or was attaining) economic and political power exclusively, one should read them as an attempt to justify why the community should be in a position of authority and, consequently, why it alone should represent the seed of a restored Israel (44).

This is what the next few chapters try to illustrate, first, in chapter 3 going back to Moses and the early views of Yahweh as a symbol of political centralization. Here, Cataldo makes ample use of recent independent (non-theological) historical work, and he does the same in chapter 4 when he discusses the emergence of monotheism. These chapters are the strongest, maybe because the author is operating in the territory explored in his dissertation.

In chapter 5, he leaves that terrain, with a discussion of the Maccabean revolt and the sectarian milieu in which Christianity first appears in chapter 6. These later chapters sometimes read more like a straightforward history of the period than as chapters in a book on monotheism. As he did in the first part, both in the case of the Maccabeans and in that of the different Jewish sects, Cataldo stresses the importance of the relationship of these groups with contemporary empires (first Hasmonaean and then Roman).

For somebody who claims to approach religion from a social-historical perspective, there is not enough reflection on the selection of evidence in the very different time periods under discussion: in the early parts we have mostly the bible's own word, whereas in the later period we have Philo, Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and a variety of Roman authors. Especially for the early Christian period, we have much more evidence about the heterogeneous nature of the population of these parts of the world, so a more sophisticated discussion of the social and political reality of Israel/Palestine would not have been impossible. For example, we know from all of these sources that there were different kinds of Judaism in the intertestamental period, whereas in the centuries before, we only have the bible itself as witness of the religious reality on the ground.

As the writing of history, this book is not as successful as it could be, not so much because of the playful anachronisms the author loves so much (not just X-files, but also bible thumpers, Reform Judaism, Bush's reaction to 9/11, Jerry Falwell), but because he sometimes fails to distinguish clearly between what is happening to Judaism in the first two centuries of Christianity and what Maimonides has to say about the subject a millennium later. There is also no indication in this book that for the most part there was not yet a fixed canon of the Hebrew scriptures, so a term like "literalism" (as in the discussion of the Sadducees) is not useful at this stage, when we do not even know which books were part of the scriptures.

The treatment of early Christianity is marred by a similar kind of teleology (with rabbinic Judaism as the telos of the sections on monotheism in the Hebrew bible): despite the discussion of the growing orthodoxy under the direction of the emperors after Constantine, there is not enough acknowledgment of the divergences of what constituted Christianity in the first four centuries. Cataldo also does not reflect on the fact that the earliest Christian authors wrote in Greek, that the four gospels represent more than one Christianity (and even four different formulations of the titulus crucis, which he discusses at some point as part of his argument).

It is only reluctantly that I mention that there are so many editorial problems with this book, that one cannot call them infelicities. All too often these pages look as though something went wrong in the production of the final manuscript, and, on account of its many inconsistencies, that final manuscript seems not to have had the attentions of an editor. On one occasion emphasis is marked in bold type and not in italics, as in the rest of the book; verbs appear in two variants or are simply missing; adverbs and adjectives are needlessly repeated; principle instead of principal; we find newly invented words such as "veritability" or ideosyncratic use of existing expressions ("fair-weather" or "to draw question"; important works are mentioned in the text that do not make it into the bibliography; there is singular/plural or verb/object discordance; quotations are incomplete or contain spelling or syntax errors; fairly late, one quotation is given in Italian and not translated (without apparent reason, except that Cataldo seems to have written the preface to the book in Trastevere).

The author cannot be blamed for all this: often contemporary academic publishing presses no longer employ copy-editors. This is a great pity because there is certainly room for a social-political history of biblical monotheism, and Jeremiah W. Cataldo demonstrates here that he may well be the person to write it.


1.   Jeremiah W. Cataldo. A Theocratic Yehud? Issies of Government in a Persian Province. (London: T & T Clark, 2009) and Breaking Monotheism: Yehud and the Material Formation of Monotheistic Identity. (London: T & T Clark, 2013).
2.   See also the other book Cataldo has published this year: Biblical Terror: Why Law and Restoration in the Bible Depend Upon Fear. (London: T & T Clark, 2018).

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Andrew Wilson (ed.), Trade, Commerce, and the State in the Roman World. Oxford studies on the Roman economy. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xxi, 656. ISBN 9780198790662. $145.00.

Reviewed by Eli J. S. Weaverdyck, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This book is the fourth in a series of conference proceedings organized by the editors as part of the Oxford Roman Economy Project (OxREP). After an introduction, the book is divided into three sections, one on the state and institutions, one on trade within the empire, and one on trade across the frontiers.

Wilson and Bowman's introduction presents their view of the current state of scholarship on Roman trade and the importance of the state. They are confident in the new, optimistic perspective that has emerged recently. Unfortunately, in clearing away the old arguments of the twentieth century, they neglect one of the most important of the twenty-first: the extent of economic integration. While few now would endorse a minimalist view of long-distance trade, real questions remain about the integration of areas off the main trade routes and the relative importance of macro-regional versus empire-wide trade. Instead, they ask to what extent trade was market-driven and how the state impacted trade in various ways. In synthesizing the contributions to the volume, they offer some answers to their questions. The state had a major influence on commerce through the establishment of common institutions, the construction of infrastructure, and the efforts to supply privileged consumers. State influence precludes the description of the ancient economy as simply market-driven, but substantial private trade coexisted with imperially controlled exchange and performed quite well for a preindustrial economy. Wilson and Bowman rightly insist on the importance of extra-imperial trade and demonstrate its significant contribution to the state's revenues. They do not address its significance for the rest of the Roman economy and its integration with intra-imperial networks, which only demonstrates how little extra-imperial trade has influenced debates until now. Hopefully this volume will inspire others to address these questions.

The contributions in Part I highlight the extent of the state's involvement in commerce. Bowman argues that the total tax burden was higher, on the order of 15–20%, than the one propounded in the "low-tax regime" model. This higher burden has implications for the taxes-and-trade model, but, since some unquantifiable portion of the extra taxes in Bowman's model would remain in the region from which the taxes were raised, the precise effect is uncertain. Adams reveals how the state closely controlled the shipment of public grain down the Nile while making use of private ships. Although there is no certain evidence for a piggy-back trade, its existence seems likely, as do return cargos from Alexandria. It is unfortunate that Adams discusses no archaeological evidence here. Sirks advances a somewhat speculative argument that publicani might have made productive loans from the vast cash reserves they controlled.

The first section also produces the impression that state actors had a generally positive view of commerce. Most explicitly, Lo Cascio argues that interventions in the market were meant to ensure the normal workings of supply and demand against distortions caused both by speculators seeking to raise prices and by political forces pushing them down. Sirks shows that Roman law was quickly adapted to facilitate trade across long distances and with non-citizens following Roman expansion.

Finally, the state also facilitated complex credit arrangements, thereby multiplying the money supply. Sirks reviews the legal instruments for credit, and Kay's analysis of credit crises in the first centuries BCE and CE reveals the scope and importance of the credit system. Kay and Sirks also illustrate the limits of the state's positive influence. Sirks suggests that, if his argument about the lending power of the publicani is correct, the state's takeover of tax collection could have cut off an important source of credit and contributed to the economic crisis of the third century. Kay describes the state's response to credit crises as almost invariably detrimental. What these state actions have in common is a failure to understand economic systems. The laws and interventions that Sirks and Lo Cascio describe facilitate individual transactions. Credit crises, on the other hand, are systemic. They result from a web of interrelated transactions. The lack of economic theory in the ancient world made it very difficult for state actors to comprehend the system as a whole, so their responses to systemic crises were ineffectual.

The state is less consistently present in Part II on trade within the Empire. The picture that emerges is of the state as a player in a larger economy with a unique ability to mobilize resources, but always acting within the context of a larger set of economic exchanges. Harris describes how the state controlled certain forests for its own purposes, but most of the demand for wood was met through local- and regional-scale trade. Russell shows how the Empire's extravagant use of exotic stones coexisted with a more modest, private use of exotic, decorative stone. Foy's analysis of glass, while focused on private trade, reveals that the state was involved in the production of unguentaria. In his overview of African pottery, Bonifay argues that state-directed trade can explain only some of the distribution patterns observed. Similarly, Reynolds' impressive synthesis of large-scale pottery assemblages across the Mediterranean shows that regional divisions visible in the Byzantine period had their roots in earlier close-regional trade networks. Papi's rehabilitation of Mauretania Tingitana, which can no longer be seen as an underdeveloped appendage of Baetica, includes descriptions of large military granaries, but much more impressive is the evidence for massive exports of grain, oil, and fish products and the long history of pre-Roman Mediterranean integration. Fulford focuses most closely on the state's economic activity. He argues that procurators supplied the nodes of the cursus publicus in Britain with Gallic terra sigillata that then entered the private market, preventing the emergence of a British terra sigillata industry. In the process, however, he also points out that the output from some centers circulated only in private markets. Therefore, while it was uniquely powerful, the state was one economic actor among many.

The other impression to emerge is of the great complexity of trade. Foy describes local, medium, and long-distance exchanges at every stage of the glass production process, from trade in sand and natron to slabs of raw glass to finished products. Reynolds details how different products travelled along different trade networks at different scales and how these shifted over time. These networks could overlap geographically without necessarily mixing. So, for example, the Black Sea goods that flowed through the Aegean to the West bypassed Butrint, but the city did receive Aegean cookwares and ESB. Roman intra-imperial trade was complex, and the state was partially but significantly involved in many different sectors.

Part III, on trade across the frontiers, demonstrates the vitality of overland and maritime trade across Rome's eastern and southern frontiers, especially in the first two centuries CE. Trade across the northern frontiers is excluded because the editors see it as relatively insignificant (pp. 16–17).

Graf brings together the available evidence for overland trade between China and Rome, arguing for its significance alongside maritime trade. This chapter is an ambitious undertaking. On his own admission, a proper account would require the collaboration of multiple regional experts. Since I am currently employed by just such a project, I asked my colleagues for their opinions on this chapter.1 While Graf's handling of the Palmyrene evidence is strong, his lack of familiarity with other regions will be evident to specialists. He makes several geographical errors, but the larger issue is, perhaps, unavoidable in a chapter such as this. Despite acknowledging the need to situate long-distance exchange within a holistic understanding of the various societies across Asia (p. 448), the groups he discusses become, in the end, mere intermediaries between China and Rome (p. 507). Graf is surely correct that silk travelled across overland routes in significant quantities, but to fully grasp why and how it made the journey and how that changed over time is beyond the scope of this contribution.

The next three chapters treating maritime trade are narrower in scope and written by scholars with an intimate knowledge of the evidence they handle. Tomber and Nappo both argue for the continuing vitality of trade between Rome and India in the second century CE. Nappo's analysis of Roman coins as an object of trade draws attention to a less commonly considered way in which state actions had economic impacts. Tomber's analysis of archaeological remains in Egypt's eastern desert highlights a seeming paradox. Despite the immense revenue derived from maritime trade with India, the state invested little in the infrastructure of the Red Sea ports. Davidde's chapter might contain a solution. Her underwater survey of Qana', on the southern Arabian coast, revealed no port architecture, but it did identify mooring stones in the middle of the harbor to which ships could be tied.

The final chapter in the book is Andrew Wilson's description of Saharan trade. Field work in southern Libya conducted from the late 1990s to 2011 has completely upended the old consensus. The discovery of copious amounts of Roman material scattered across many sites in the Sahara now proves that trade with the inhabitants of the desert thrived especially from the late first through the third century CE. Political relations between Rome and the Garamantes seem to have been important influences on the volume of trade, and there is some indication that Flavian activity in the Sahara provided an initial stimulus to sustained, large-scale exchange; but the precise role of the state remains murky.

Like its predecessors from OxREP, this volume contains a wealth of valuable interventions in debates about the Roman economy. The synthesis of recently discovered or compiled archaeological material, often by scholars responsible for its initial production, makes this book invaluable to economic historians. The inclusion of materials that are usually marginalized and the insistence on the importance of extra-imperial trade are themselves important steps forward as well. Any collection of scholarship on the Roman economy should contain this book.

Table of Contents

Andrew Wilson and Alan Bowman. Introduction: Trade, Commerce, and the State (1)

Alan Bowman. The State and the Economy: Fiscality and Taxation (27)
Boudewijn Sirks. Law, Commerce, and Finance in the Roman Empire (54)
Elio Lo Cascio. Market Regulation and Transaction Costs in the Roman Empire (117)
Philip Kay. Financial Institutions and Structures in the Last Century of the Roman Republic (133)
Colin Adams. Nile River Transport under the Romans (175)

William V. Harris. The Indispensible Commodity: Notes on the Economy of Wood in the Roman Mediterranean (211)
Ben Russell. Stone Use and the Economy: Demand, Distribution, and the State (237)
Danièle Foy. An Overview of the Circulation of Glass in Antiquity (265)
Michael Fulford. Procurators' Business? Gallo-Roman Sigillata in Britain in the Second and Third Centuries AD (301)
Michel Bonifay. The Distribution of African Pottery under the Roman Empire: Evidence versus Interpretation (327)
Paul Reynolds. The Supply Networks of the Roman East and West: Interaction, Fragmentation, and the Origins of the Byzantine Economy (353)
Ivan Radman-Livaja. Prices and Costs in the Textile Industry in the Light of the Lead Tags from Siscia (397)
Emanuele Papi. Exports and Imports in Mauretania Tingitana: The Evidence from Thamusida (427)

David F. Graf. The Silk Road between Syria and China (443)
Roberta Tomber. Egypt and Eastern Commerce during the Second Century AD and Later (531)
Dario Nappo. Money and Flows of Coinage in the Red Sea Trade (557)
Barbara Davidde. The Port of Qana', a Junction between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea (579)
Andrew Wilson. Trade across Rome's Southern Frontier: The Sahara and the Garamantes (599)


1.   Beyond the Silk Road funded by the ERC and under the direction of Professor Sitta von Reden.

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