Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Gian Franco Chiai, Troia, la Troade ed il Nord Egeo nelle tradizioni mitiche greche: contributo alla ricostruzione della geografia mitica di una regione nella memoria culturale greca. Mittelmeerstudien, 16. Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2017. Pp. 315. ISBN 9783506786548. €98.00.

Reviewed by J.Z. van Rookhuijzen, Radboud University (

Version at BMCR home site

This agreeable monograph started its life as the first part of the author's dissertation from 2002 (the second part on the archaeology and history of the North Aegean in the Archaic period is currently being prepared for publication). It has been reworked and updated to include recent literature. The book sets out to analyse the traditions about Troy, the Troad and the North Aegean to find out who the Trojans were and how their origins and their history were represented in literature. In doing so it manages to discuss and combine most relevant historical sources, surprising strands of Greek mythology and some archaeology of the regions in question. Interest in Troy and its wider region has remained strong in recent decades, not only concerning the archaeology of the city itself and (Greek and Roman) engagement with it, but also concerning its representations in mythology. The work under discussion is an addition to this interest in that it sheds light on the complex Greek perspectives on the origins of the region which featured so heavily in their own culture, and thereby draws in the cults of the Kabeiroi as well as the 'stratum' of Greek thinking on the Phoenicians.

Throughout, the book has retained the shape of a dissertation, starting out with a status quaestionis and some paragraphs on key concepts (including 'myth' and 'place of memory'). Here we find some useful presentation of ideas, including deserved discussion of Jan Assmann's concept mnemotope (p. 22; this term could have been used to describe various phenomena described later in the book, for example the places visited by Aeneas at pp. 127-128). The author also rightfully distances himself from Pierre Nora's concept lieu de mémoire (p. 27), which has been used in (too) divergent ways.

In the main part of the book, the ample use of headings is of great help in guiding the reader through a (rather bewildering) setup of six chapters and interspersed appendices. In its individual parts, the discussion of the material is usually fine and helped by an enormous and up to date bibliography. Chapter 1 discusses the literary traditions regarding the origin of Troy and the population of the Troad, taking into account traditions about the Teucri and the figure of Dardanos. The author also pays much attention to the unexpected association of Cretan mythology with Troy. He connects, possibly too unproblematically, the myths about the Teucri and Dardanos as an aetiology for the presence of archaeological cultures of Balkan provenance in the Troad. Chapter 2 traces the history and myth of various people present in the Troad along the lines of various testimonies, including Strabo, the Catalogue of Ships, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The approach here is comprehensive, but the argument runs the risk of being spread too thin as so many different and divergent sources are included. Chapter 3 concerns the presence of the Phoenicians in the North Aegean and contains the observation that there existed two chronologically separate Greek perspectives on the Phoenicians, i.e. first as bringers of culture and subsequently as merchants and pirates (but one wonders what the relation of this observation, valid not only for the studied regions, is for the book as a whole). The reason for discussing the Phoenicians in this book seems to be their connection to the cult of the Kabeiroi in the North Aegean (which is the topic of chapter 5) and the idea that Dardanos, a relative of the Phoenician prince Kadmos, arrived in Troy to found a city there. Chapter 4 analyses the traditions about 'posthomeric' Troy to shed light on the perspectives of the Greeks on their Anatolian neighbours. The author here offers the interesting observation that the inhabitants of the Trojans were usually included in the Greek world, or even regarded as Greeks, and only started to be 'othered' in the Athenian domain in response to the Persian Wars. Chapter 5 concerns the traditions about the Kabeiroi in the North Aegean. The reason for the inclusion of this chapter seems to be the fact that Demetrius of Scepsis placed the origin of the Kabeiroi in the Troad because he connected these figures with the oronym Kabeiros (a part of Mount Ida in the Troad). But how revealing is this ancient theory for Greek thinking at other times and in other places? The final, more archaeologically focused chapter 6 discusses Troy and the monuments of the surrounding landscape, concentrating on graves and cult places, and how these were formative for the Troad's cultural identity. This is a topic of great recent research interest. Additional attention could have been paid to the Thracian Chersonese, too, which arguably was part of that same landscape in which monuments of Greek mythological figures such as Helle and Protesilaos were present.

In what follows I would like to present three general points of criticism, which, I underline, should not be taken as dismissive of this good work of scholarship as a whole. My main point of criticism of this book is precisely its structure, which I take to be the result of the book's origin as a dissertation. In spite of the author's explanatory notes on it (p. 28ff), the combination of topics and the subsequent division into chapters is difficult to understand. This particularly concerns the book's geographical demarcation: it not sufficiently clear why the North Aegean (in practice the cult of the Kabeiroi in Samothrace and other islands, chapter 5) deserves special scrutiny when other traditions about Troy, for example those located on the Greek mainland, or even those of the Thracian Chersonese on the other side of the Hellespont, are not discussed. In addition, the different chapters are not equivalent, as we encounter the Phoenicians (3), Kabeiroi (5) or monuments of the Troad (6) in a strange juxtaposition, and the appendices about Cretan mythology seem to be only of tangential relevance to the aims of the book as a whole.

Another problem is that while the book successfully lists many traditions about Troy, the Troad and the North Aegean, their discussion sometimes remains rather superficial and could have benefitted from more contextualisation. It is in many cases unclear to whom those traditions would have been relevant, both in geographical and chronological terms. Such a discussion would have been expected, because the mere accumulation of geographically and chronologically widely divergent sources does not always allow for good claims regarding their importance in Antiquity itself. This is particularly notable in the author's association of the mythology of Crete to that of the Troad (in particular pp. 53-76). The cited references may be learned ones, or limited in space and time. For example, the mythical origin of the Teucri in Crete (p. 43-44) may merely be an ad hoc aetiology for the double occurrence of the oronym Ida in both Crete and the Troad. One wonders how widespread, and how locally sourced, such 'sense-making' on the part of later Greeks was.

My final point of criticism concerns the author's presentation of myth and history as two largely different categories (p. 15-17). This does not always match the perceptions of the Greeks themselves, who may have seen the mythical past as very real (if chronologically distant). This is especially the case for the legends surrounding the Trojan War. At the same time, it is clear that 'historical' events appearing in sources such as Herodotus cannot be taken at face value, but can also be mythologized or wholly invented. For example, Xerxes' visit to Troy and the offering to Athena (Hdt. 7.43), which the author treats as historical (pp 242-243), may also be regarded as another legendary story connected to the city of myth in, for example, the Athenian imagination, the importance of which the author does recognise on page 97.

Despite these critical remarks, I would commend this fine book to scholars working on the areas the book describes, as well as more generally to scholars interested in the relation of mythology to physical landscapes.

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Konstantinos Chr. Stefou, Vindicating the Philosophical Life: An Analysis of Plato's 'Laches'. Ioannina: Carpe Diem, 2016. Pp. 140. ISBN 9789609875939. (pb).

Reviewed by Georgia Sermamoglou-Soulmaidi, Greek Studies on Site (

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Stefou's book is divided into sixteen short chapters, which are not numbered, but each of them discusses a particular section of Plato's Laches, following the order of the Platonic text. A general index and a table of contents are included at the end of the book. As I confirmed with the publisher, this is not a peer-reviewed publication.

The book is hard to summarize because it is essentially a close reading of the Laches. There is no systematic defense of an overarching thesis (or set of theses), although the idea that an aristocratic and a Socratic worldview are contrasted in the dialogue is repeatedly emphasized. Specifically, Lysimachus' aristocratic notion of excellence involves the performance of glorious deeds, honoring one's father and fatherland, and benefiting friends. Socratic ethics, on the other hand, conceives of the good as related to knowledge, and stresses the need for self-examination through dialectic. Stefou's main conclusion is that the Laches is intended as a Platonic defense of the philosophical life—a view that seems fairly obvious.

On the whole, one gets the impression that the more challenging aspects of the dialogue and the most interesting philosophical questions are bypassed. For example, Stefou assumes that, for Socrates, wisdom and virtue are not identical, whereas they are for Nicias (p. 104). But Nicias has been presented as the mouthpiece of Socrates (194d), and so it is puzzling that he should defend a non-Socratic view; one would need an explanation for the assumption that he does.

The discussion of the secondary literature is generally very thin, with some nice exceptions, such as Stefou's useful review of the literature on the question of the unity of virtue (pp. 110-11). But even then he does not position himself in the discussion. Further, the English is often awkward, and the various errors tend to distract from the content. Greek terms are constantly cited, often without reference to the specific part of the text they come from, and for no apparent reason.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Michael Herren, The Anatomy of Myth: The Art of Interpretation from the Presocratics to the Church Fathers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xiiii, 231. ISBN 9780190606695. $74.00.

Reviewed by Matthew Kraus, University of Cincinnati (

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Michael Herren contends that the greatest contribution of Greek thought to Christianity was not philosophical principles but the critical reading of Scripture "as a pagan Greek might read Homer" (p. viii). Central to his thesis is the claim that the transmission of myths included strategies of how to interpret them. Approaching his subject as a history of ideas, he divides myths and their interpretations into periods corresponding to three "shifting paradigms in ancient thought and culture" (p. vii): (1) the Poets (ca. 800-600 BCE), (2) Physis (600-350 BCE) and (3) Theos (350 BCE onward). Jews and Christians adopted Greek methods of criticizing myth which ultimately benefitted the reading of religious texts. "Classical exegesis" prevented fundamentalist reading of Scriptures and protected pagan Classics from overzealous Christians. Hoping to appeal to students, Herren includes a glossary of names and terms in the back and draws connections to contemporary culture wars, maintaining that the open-minded and skeptical interpretive methods of the ancient Greeks might restrain the irrational fundamentalism that tragically colors twenty-first century discourse and ideologically driven violence. The bulk of the book, wherein lies its primary value, is dedicated to tracing the treatment of myth in antiquity. These sections, in which Herren displays his learned expertise, are especially convincing. When he casts his net beyond the traditional Classical world to Jewish and Christian literature with occasional nods to our own context, the results are less satisfying. Nonetheless, this barely detracts from the work's core elements.

The heart of the book divides along the lines of the three paradigms. In Chapter One, "The Paradigm of the Poets", and Chapter Two, "What Makes a Work Authoritative", Herren explains how Homer and Hesiod gave the Greeks "their paradigms of history and theology . . . and geography and cosmography" (p. 18) and the bases of their authority. Using the Bible for comparanda, Herren argues that, while the Bible, Homer, and Hesiod address similar topics, such as cosmogony, human origins, miracles, the afterlife, theology, and nationhood, they depend upon and produce different paradigms. The assessment of the early Greek poets is sound, but the distinction between the Bible and Homer / Hesiod is overdrawn. While the paradigm of the lawgiver applies to a Hellenistic-Jewish understanding of the Bible, the Bible itself refers to Moses as a prophet not lawgiver and includes many ancient and authoritative poetic passages (e.g. the Song of the Sea, Moses' poem, Deborah's song). He contrasts biblical religion with Greek religions that simply required proper service with no required belief or system of ethics other than a general rejection of hubris. Again, one can find counter- examples, such as the book of Leviticus, with little attention to belief and ethics. Moreover, religion is a much later category that cannot easily be disembedded from ancient political / social / cultural systems.

The next five chapters discuss the replacement of the paradigm of the poets by privileging a natural, scientific worldview over a theological heuristic model. In a particularly fine Chapter 3, "Physis—Redefining the Gods", Herren masterfully traces the profound impact of medical writers and pre-Socratic philosophers who took issue with the supernatural actions and unethical behavior of the gods and imagined non-anthropomorphic divinities subject to nature. After an excellent survey of how the pre-Socratics marginalized and redefined the gods, Herren highlights the significance of Xenophanes whose rational rejection of divine anthropomorphism separated gods from myth, replaced mythological language with philosophical language, and thereby generated a new view of gods that avoided the charges of immorality and philosophical inconsistency. A possible extension of this new paradigm approaches atheism (Chapter Four: "Flirting With Atheism"), a skeptical irreverence toward the gods, as in the case of the sophists, to be distinguished from modern atheism. Another corollary of this paradigm-shift is an attack on poetry itself in addition to criticism of the poets (Chapter 5, "Attacking Poetry"). Here the combatants are Aristotle and Plato. Both agree that the untruths of poetry may be harmful, and prose might be the preferred medium of facts. Aristotle's concept of mimesis, however, addresses Plato's critique of the inferiority of copied reality. It is no surprise, therefore, that the continued presence of poets in the curriculum, despite a recognition of their potentially harmful myths, stimulated allegory. The poets needed to be defended (Chapter 6, "The Beginning of Allegory"). There is nothing particularly new in this chapter, and Herren covers the major points such as distinguishing between composing allegorically (allegory) and interpreting allegorically (allegorēsis). Not only can the critic extract philosophical truths through allegory, it is also possible to glean history from myth (Chapter 7, "Finding History in Myth"). The examples here are well-chosen: Plutarch and Hecataeus using rational probability to explain the improbable joined with a discussion of Euhemerus and Pausanias' and Strabo's standard of plausibility. What is unique is Herren's claim that this approach to myth had the socially beneficial effect of liberating "humanity from the tyranny of the letter" (p. 96).

That the divine remained subsumed in physis stimulated another "seismic shift" from the notion that nature governs all to the theism of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics. Chapters 8-11 explain the development of this new paradigm and the subsequent implications for the interpretations of myths. In Chapter 8, "Theos—Rediscovering God", Herren describes the dissolution of the physis paradigm in the 4th century BCE. He makes an interesting point at the chapter's end by attributing the continuity of Greek polytheism to the natural human tendency to imagine beings in social units. This is by way of explaining why the monotheistic possibilities of the Timaeus' demiurge and Aristotle's Prime Mover remain unexplored in favor of the division between Platonic / Aristotelian dualism (the universe contains nonmaterial and material things) and Stoic monism (only matter exists). In subsequent allegorical readings of myths, the Platonists focus on the noetic world (God, Soul, and objects of knowledge) while Stoics focus on allegorical representations of the physical world looking "for god in nature, or nature in god" (p. 107). This explains why Stoics applied physical allegory to Hesiod unlike the Platonist psychological allegory of Homer (Chapter 9, "The Growth of Allegory"). Although we return to the idea that the poets encode ancient wisdom, the key to unlocking the "corrupted" myths or authentic philosophical ideas, at least according to Cornutus, is etymology. Allegory can recover ancient wisdom, but in Chapter 10, "Saving Poets Without Allegory", Herren wisely observes that writers like Plutarch treat myth as a pedagogical issue. Poetry may contain edifying truths about human character which could potentially be distorted by allegory. Combining the emergence of allegorical interpretation with the renewed valorization of myth logically leads to the subject of Chapter 11, "From Allegory to Symbolism", primarily dedicated to the analysis of Apuleius' "Cupid and Psyche" and Martianus Capella's Marriage of Philology and Mercury. The discussion is interspersed with readings of Porphyry's interpretation of the "Cave of the Nymphs," the Tableau of Cebes, and Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Republic. Here Herren astutely connects the Platonic, Middle-Platonic, and Neoplatonic history of interpretation of myth to the production of myth. In this chapter, the author distinguishes between allegory in the strict sense, that requires substitution of the signifier with the signified, and symbolism where the signifier can simultaneously or interchangeably point to the sensible and noetic worlds.

In the penultimate chapter, "Greek Exegesis and Judaeo-Christian Books," Herren extends the story of myth-interpretation to the Christian world. According to Herren, "by favoring the symbolic mode over substitutionist allegory, the Christian exegete could maintain the authority of the letter of the text" (p. 161). Augustine shines here, for whom the task of the Christian teacher is to show that "pagans had myths, but Christians had truths"(p. 162). But Christians faced the same problems as the early Greeks because the divine myths of the Old and New Testament did not correlate with the ethical, impassive, and incorporeal god of the philosophers.

Alas, however, the Christian appropriation of Greek interpretive strategies does not have a happy ending (Chapter 13, "Reflection: How Lasting Was the Greek Achievement?"). Herren attributes the end of free expression to the transformation of the Roman Empire into a Christian theocracy in the fourth century. The only checks on rampant fundamentalist exegesis lay in the residuals of the pagan Greek heritage—the continuation of "imperial secular educational system" (p. 166) and restricting the authority of the Bible. The Christians ended open debate on religious issues and asserted the "right of the state to control religion and enforce the laws"(p. 165).

Herren is at his best when describing the nexus of exegesis and philosophical trends. The division into poetry, nature, and the divine is convincing, at least as a heuristic model for assessing philosophical readers of poetic texts. The argument becomes shakier when he departs from the Classical world in the Introduction and early chapters as well as the final two chapters. He incorrectly claims that scholars date the Pentateuch to the reign of King David (ca. 1000-962),1 refers to the pre-exilic community associated with the Pentateuch as Jews, not Israelites, and states the Pentateuch establishes "Yahweh as the one and only God of the Jews"(p. 13).2 The assertion that "vast bulk of the Torah is devoted to codifying legal and ethical matters" (p. 24) does not reflect the content of the Pentateuch as well as the remaining biblical books. Even the very title of Chapter 12 uses the problematic term "Judaeo-Christian", which effaces such a variety of positions that scholars today refer to "Judaisms" and "Christianities." One senses this issue even vexed the author since the usage varies from "Judaeo-Christian" to "(Judaeo-)Christian" (p. 148), to dropping the term altogether and using "Jewish" and "Christian" independently. This is unfortunate since the author does such a fine job with his nuanced presentation of the Greek world.

This lumping of Judaisms and Christianities together may have contributed to a number of disputable statements as well as the absence of key moments in the history of biblical interpretation. For example, the claim that the source of a Christian critical reading of Scriptures is pagan Greek thought does not acknowledge the catena traditions nor the polyvalent exegesis embraced in rabbinic traditions. Moreover, what Herren describes as "pagan" methods—a critical reading of ancient myths that prevented a fundamentalist reading of Scriptures—also have biblical, Hellenistic-Jewish, and rabbinic provenances, points established by Michael Fishbane and James Kugel, among others.3 Likewise, the effort to contrast Greek and Jewish contributes to a misreading of Plutarch and Philo. Plutarch is not completely dismissive of allegory because it distorts myth (p. 128), as he endorses the technique in On Isis and Osiris.4 Nor does Philo contradict himself by rejecting the literal meaning and then accepting both the literal and figurative meaning of the Garden of Eden story. Rather, in On the Creation of the World 54, Philo rejects the literal existences of the trees of life and knowledge, not the entire garden defining paradise as "a dense place full of all kinds of trees" (p. 152) that symbolize knowledge. As space prevents addressing all such problematic observations, let it suffice to note that they are limited to the book's biblical, Jewish and Christian threads and do not represent the heart of the work, the intimate relationship between poetry and criticism within the Greek philosophical tradition.

The significance of these issues must be measured against the intended purpose of the book. In the Preface, Herren states that "[t]his book is for students" but "it is not a textbook . . . it is a fresh attempt to look at the methods of interpreting myths . . . in the context of the history of ideas . . . and shifting paradigms in ancient thought and culture" (p. viii), and that it is relevant to challenges facing the pluralistic society of our day. These two overarching goals reflect the strength and weakness of this book. As a work tracing the impact of philosophical paradigms on the interpretation of myths, I found Herren's approach original and his analysis convincing. His second goal requires tracing the ancient Greek story to Jewish and Christian biblical exegesis so that the contemporary relevance becomes more pronounced. The effort to connect antiquity to modern issues is to be applauded, especially in a climate where humanism is being marginalized by accusations of socio-economic irrelevance coupled with narrow esotericism. Herren is right that tolerance for multiple interpretations and the questioning of sacred myths protects a pluralistic society threatened by dogmatic fundamentalism. Nevertheless, the overdrawn distinction between Greek / pagan and Jewish / Christian understates the dogmatic elements within the Greek world and the traditions of polyvalent exegesis among Jews and Christians. Perhaps it is not so much that the Greek interpretive models saved the Bible from itself, but that the encounter between Greek and biblical literature together offer salvation to each other precisely because their similarities and differences stimulate a healthy and critical open-mindedness.


1.   The Oxford History of the Biblical World, edited by Michael Coogan (Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 61-2, 276.
2.   The exclusive monotheism is post-exilic (e.g. Isaiah 45:5), while the Pentateuch reflects a henotheistic worldview. See, for example, the still excellent discussion in Robert Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought: The Jewish Experience in History (New York: MacMillan, 1980), pp. 34-9. Even if the author has henotheism in mind, the Pentateuch refers to God by other names such as Elohim and the predominance of Yahwism is post-exilic.
3.   Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford University Press, 1985); James Kugel and Rowan Greer, Early Biblical Interpretation (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986).
4.   He rejects the Stoic application of allegory. See Daniel S. Richter, "Plutarch on Isis and Osiris: Text Cult, and Cultural Appropriation, TAPA, 131 (2001), 191-216.

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Remy Debes (ed.), Dignity: A History. Oxford philosophical concepts. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xix, 408. ISBN 9780199386000. $35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Nicholas R. Baima, Florida Atlantic University Honors College (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Dignity is a new book in the Oxford Philosophical Concepts series. The series seeks to contextualize philosophical concepts by explaining the ways in which they are shaped, altered, and defined by culture, history, and theory. To do this, the series draws from sources beyond the canon with the aim of re-examining standard narratives. Dignity makes good on the goals of the series. It draws from a diversity of sources, some of which are often overlooked in Western philosophy, such as Confucian, Buddhist, Islamic, and African thought. In addition, the book explores how art, music, literature, and religion shaped the concept of dignity. This results in a fascinating book that will enrich one's understanding of this important philosophical concept. Anyone interested in the history of dignity, or ethics in general, could benefit from this book.

The introduction provides the framework for the book. Remy Debes explains that the meaning of "dignity" has changed. Today, the term means something like "inherent or unearned worth." This is found most explicitly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let us call this the "moralistic conception of dignity." However, Debes points out that the moralistic conception of dignity was not always the dominant way of understanding the concept. In the past, dignity (and related words in other languages) primarily denoted merit or rank in society. This book seeks to uncover the cultural, historical, and theoretical influences that led to this change in meaning. In the process of exploring this issue, Dignity challenges four platitudes about dignity. Each chapter in the book can be seen as addressing a specific platitude.

The first platitude is that the moralistic conception of dignity comes from eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century revolutionary thinkers. Documents like the American Declaration of Independence lend credence to this thought since it espouses that "all men are created equal" and that they have "certain unalienable Rights." Nevertheless, as Christine Dunn Henderson and Mike LaVaque-Manty show, the moralization of dignity developed from a number of complex economic and social changes—some of which came about in rather paradoxical ways. For example, in one of the more thought-provoking chapters of the book, LaVaque-Manty argues that the moralistic conception of human dignity developed from "making contingent and noninherent attributes of persons the grounds for why someone should be regarded as having dignity" (304). Bernard Boxill's chapter—though important and interesting in its own right—is lumped in with those challenging this platitude by Debes, but the article itself seems rather self-contained.

The second platitude is that the moralistic conception of dignity originates with Immanuel Kant. Perhaps the strongest evidence for thinking this is found in a well-known passage from the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals: "What has a price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; what on the other hand is raised above all price and therefore admits of no equivalent has a dignity" (4:434). However, Oliver Sensen argues that, for Kant, dignity does not mean inherent worth, but refers to a comparative value where x is raised above y. This is problematic for the platitude since elevated status does not give rise to duties or rights, but merely states something's relation to another thing. Furthermore, as Stephen Darwall and Remy Debes cogently argue in their respective chapters, the moralistic conception of dignity originates in the works of Samuel von Pufendorf and Denis Diderot. The chapters by Darwall and Sensen appear to summarize some of the extensive work each has done on the issues covered in their respective chapters.

The third platitude is that the moralistic conception of dignity developed from Giovanni Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man. It is thought that Pico drew from the medieval Christian doctrine of the imago Dei, which holds that humans have dignity in virtue of being made in the image of God. This book challenges this platitude in three ways. First, Brian Copenhaver convincingly argues that Pico is hardly the source of this moralized concept of dignity. Second, Bonnie Kent argues that the doctrine of the imago Dei does not support that moralized concept of dignity. Although dignity and this doctrine were widely discussed in the Latin West, most theologians and philosopher in this tradition held that after the Fall humankind became deformed and could further lose its dignity though sin. This is hardly the concept of dignity we find in something like the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Third, Mustafa Shah argues that something much closer to the moralized sense of dignity is found in Islamic scholarship from around the same period.

The fourth platitude is that the moralistic conception of dignity derives from Roman thinkers, perhaps most prominently Cicero. Miriam Griffin, nonetheless, argues that there is little support for interpreting dignitas to mean dignity in the moralized sense. Dignitas refers to something closer to merit or status. Griffin argues, moreover, that we cannot find the moralized concept of dignity in related terminology. The Romans focused more on what we are obligated to do and less on the entitlements of others. Interesting enough, Patrice Rankine argues that aspects of the moralized concept of dignity can be found in Homeric poetry—a very unlikely source. Since Plato and Aristotle are hardly known for espousing a moralized sense of dignity, a chapter focusing on aspects of their thought that highlight this conception would have been interesting and well within the scope of this book Furthermore, it would have provided greater balance to the book, since the other platitudes get more attention than this one.

The book as a whole is successful in its challenge to these platitudes. The chapters frequently touch on issues discussed in other chapters and because of this it makes sense to read the book in its presented order—though this certainly isn't required in order to comprehend any individual chapter. One thing that seems missing from the book, however, is a more detailed discussion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related documents. These documents are frequently referred to and are used as a standard against which one measures an account of dignity, but no detailed discussion of them is presented; a chapter, or at least a reflection, on these documents would have been helpful. Additionally, since the book seems motivated by the desire to undermine platitudes about human dignity, it would have been valuable to have a chapter that challenges the moralistic conception of dignity. Essentially, the chapters use the moralistic conception of dignity to assess various historical figures and movements; but why use this version of dignity as a yardstick? Do any of the other conceptions of dignity hold any merit? It would have been beneficial if more could be said on this issue.

I would like to focus on Patrice Rankine's treatment of the Iliad in the chapter, "Dignity in Homer and Classical Greece," since it will likely be of great interest to the readers of Bryn Mawr Classical Review. At first glance, Homeric epic is a surprising place to look to find a moralistic conception of dignity. After all, the opening of the Iliad treats human beings as objects that can be traded and used to display one's status. Moreover, the Achaeans seem to have no qualms about engaging in bloody battles and sacking cities. Rankine, however, argues that by looking at various normative practices we can find that the "Greeks expressed a belief in human dignity" (21). To be clear, Rankine does not think that the expression comes via explicit theorizing; but, rather, he argues it is embedded in the cultural practices.

Rankine draws from perhaps the strongest example of expressed human dignity in Homeric epic: the reconciliation between Achilles and Priam. Rankine's argument can be broken down into four points. First, Rankine argues that by dragging Hector's corpse around Achilles is implicitly violating "the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation" and this is a violation of human dignity (27). Second, Rankine suggests that, when Priam encounters Achilles, the poet hints at an inversion between the roles played by the two men: Achilles, the murderer, occupies the place of the man of wealth, while Priam, the great, comes into his presence like the murderer outcast in the simile of 24.477-84. Despite the difference is status, both men stare at each other in mutual amazement. Rankine argues that this mutual amazement displays a value that goes beyond status (29-30). Third, Rankine argues that despite the losses and humiliation each individual has experienced, their underlying value has not changed, thereby suggesting that the kind of value they have does not depend on these external factors (32). Fourth, both Priam and Achilles share—through the working of reason—a sense of shame (aidōs), which allows them to recognize their mutual suffering, and through this, they come to see each other as equal (33).

Overall, Rankine makes a strong case for his argument; nevertheless, there are three aspects to his argument that require further consideration. First, Rankine's interpretation of the exchange between Priam and Achilles requires more unpacking, especially since it is a little removed from what the text literally says and many of the readers of this book will lack a background in Classics or literary theory. Second, a general problem with the example is that one of the main reasons that the gods are so upset at Achilles' behavior is that he is mistreating a hero who was dear to them (see 24.30-8, 65-70, 425-8). Additionally, part of the reason Priam is so distraught is that Hector was his greatest son (see 24.240-62, 380-5, 485-505). In other words, the context for this encounter is brought about because of the special status of the individuals involved. This muddies the water for making the case that it is simply in virtue of being human that one has dignity. Third, while I agree that shame (aidōs) is one of the key features that leads Achilles to release Hector, shame—though an important moral emotion—is not like Kantian (or as this book convinced me, Puffendorfian) dignity. There is nothing impersonal or inherent about shame; shame is intricately tied to the values and standards that one sets for oneself and these are formed via one's environment. Indeed, according to Bernard Williams, it is the fact that shame is personal that makes it almost a more important ethical emotion than something like guilt, which is impersonal.1] If the moralistic conception of dignity is found in this example, shame is not the right place to go looking for it.

Authors and Titles

Patrice Rankine: "Dignity in Homer and Classical Greece"
Miriam Griffin: "Dignity in Roman and Stoic Thought"
David B. Wong: Reflection "Dignity in Confucian and Buddhist Thought"
Bonnie Kent: "In the Image of God: Human Dignity after the Fall"
Mustafa Shah: "Islamic Conceptions of Dignity: Historical Trajectories and Paradigms"
Brian Copenhaver: "Dignity, Vile Bodies, and Nakedness: Giovanni Pico and Giannozzo Manetti"
Edward Town: Reflection "Portraiture, Social Positioning, and Displays of Dignity in Early Modern London"
Stephen Darwall: "Equal Dignity and Rights"
Remy Debes: "Human Dignity Before Kant: Denis Diderot's Passionate Person"
Oliver Sensen: "Dignity: Kant's Revolutionary Conception"
Charles W. Mills: Reflection "A Time for Dignity"
Christine Dunn Henderson: "On Bourgeois Dignity: Making the Self-Made Man"
Somogy Varga: Reflection "Taking Refuge from History in Morality: Marx, Morality, and Dignity"
Mika LaVaque-Manty: "Universalizing Dignity in the Nineteenth Century"
Marcus Düwell: Reflection "Why Bioethics Isn't Ready for Human Dignity"
Bernard Boxill: "Sympathy and Dignity in Early Africana Philosophy"
Emma Kaufman: Reflection "Death and Dignity in American Law"


1.   Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkley: University of California Press, 1993); see esp. chap. 4.

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Giacomella Orofino, Amneris Roselli, Antonella Sannino (ed.), Elisir mercuriale e immortalità: capitoli per una storia dell'alchimia nell'antica Eurasia (2 vols.). AION: Annali dell'Università degli studi di Napoli "L'Orientale," 36-37 (2014-2015). Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2015-2016. Pp. 129 p.; 164. ISBN 9788862278744. €330.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Frédéric Le Blay, Université de Nantes (

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Ces deux livraisons de la revue AION réalisent le projet intellectuel porté par l'Université « L'Orientale » de Naples et son Département d'études asiatiques, africaines et méditerranéennes institué en 2012. Plusieurs travaux issus de cette institution avaient déjà ouvert la voie à une approche comparative entre les civilisations de la Méditerranée antique et les anciennes civilisations de l'Orient. C'est ici l'alchimie qui sert de terrain d'application à cette approche historique et interculturelle. Le plan suivi par les deux volumes publiés successivement illustre de manière explicite la perspective adoptée par les éditeurs, consistant à mettre en regard Méditerranée et Orient.

Il convient bien sûr de s'interroger sur la possibilité d'étendre la tradition de la science alchimique à des aires culturelles aussi diverses. Il y a d'une part l'alchimie proprement dite, qui renvoie à un corpus théorique et à des pratiques expérimentales que l'on peut dater et situer; il y a d'autre part l'ensemble des connaissances et des recherches sur les éléments et la matière telles qu'elles ont pu être développées dans de nombreuses civilisations, qui peuvent relever d'une tout autre approche que celle de l'alchimie. Le risque d'une telle réunion d'études portant sur des époques et des cultures aussi diverses est de vouloir réunir sous un même regard des pratiques et des traditions qui n'ont historiquement ni culturellement aucun lien entre elles. Mais tel est le risque de toute démarche comparatiste et interculturelle, qui doit cependant être tentée pourvu de pouvoir en saisir les limites.

L'autre difficulté à laquelle un tel recueil se heurte immanquablement est de parvenir à une définition de ce qu'est l'alchimie. Stricto sensu le terme désigne une discipline issue d'un corpus de sources grecques apparues en Égypte à partir de l'époque hellénistique,1 qui furent ensuite adaptées et prolongées aussi bien par le Moyen-Age occidental que par les érudits de l'Islam classique avant d'être remises au goût du jour en Europe à partir de la Renaissance. Cette tradition est censée prendre fin avec le 18e siècle et l'invention de la chimie moderne, même si elle compte des nostalgiques qui tentent aujourd'hui encore de la perpétuer dans des écrits plus ou moins rigoureux.2 Mais l'étude de cette tradition qui fut pour le moins vivace montre que ceux qui s'illustrèrent dans le domaine se sont toujours placés aux marges de différentes disciplines, «science», philosophie naturelle, médecine, divination, technologie, art, etc. Trois contributions portant sur la composition musicale au sein de cet ensemble (Sannino, De Feo et Wuidar) témoignent de la dimension protéiforme de la tradition alchimique. En somme, l'objet lui-même est particulièrement difficile à délimiter et les deux volumes que nous avons parcourus ne contribueront pas à préciser ces limites mouvantes.

Le volume 2, qui s'intéresse à l'Inde, au Tibet et à la Chine, nous rappelle que d'autres cultures ont développé des savoirs qui ont pu être assimilés à la tradition alchimique occidentale. Ainsi waidan et neidan en Chine ont souvent été traduits par «alchimie» bien que les deux traditions ne présentent entre elles aucun lien ni culturel ni intellectuel. Pregadio, qui livre une contribution sur le sujet, est avant tout l'auteur de plusieurs monographies de référence sur le sujet dont l'une n'apparaît pas dans la biographie qu'il cite à la fin de son article.3 Ici encore, il devient difficile de s'y retrouver dans les méandres culturels de ce qui est susceptible de recevoir l'appellation d'alchimie. On pourra de fait s'interroger sur la pertinence de la dénomination d'Eurasie antique (ou ancienne), qui fait l'objet du sous-titre de ces chapitres à vocation historique. Du point de vue de l'histoire, un tel périmètre n'a pas d'existence. Enfin, les deux dernières contributions, qui traitent explicitement de l'Europe dite «moderne» s'inscrivent avec une moindre évidence dans cette idée d'«antiquité».

En somme, on trouvera beaucoup de plaisir, celui de la curiosité, dans la lecture de cette série d'études érudites à la présentation soignée mais il n'est pas certain que l'ensemble puisse véritablement être considéré comme une synthèse sur l'histoire de la science alchimique. On ajoutera un regret : à l'exception de la contribution de Martelli, le corpus originel, celui des alchimistes grecs, semble avoir été négligé dans ce recueil. Peut-être était-ce une volonté des éditeurs mais il aurait fallu s'en expliquer.

Table des matières

Vol. I
Presentazione p. 9
Mediterraneo antico e medievale greco, latino, arabo
Matteo Martelli, "Properties and Classification of Mercury between Natural Philosophy, Medicine and Alchemy." p. 17
Antonella Straface, "Meanings and Connotations of Esoteric Alchemy in the Ismā'īli Tradition : an example." p. 49
Paola Carusi, "Tra filosofia, medicina e alchimia. Averroè e la questione delle 'umidità radicali'." p. 59
Chiara Crisciani, "Elixir di lunga vita (secoli XIV e XV)." p. 81
Giancarlo Lacerenza, "Ya ͑aqov Anațoli alchimista: verifica di una tradizione." p. 99
Antonella Sannino, "Alchemy and Music in the Middle Ages: En pulcher lapis". p. 109
Lucio De Feo, "Trascrizione in notazione moderna del conductus «En pulcher lapis»". p. 123

Vol. II
Premessa p. 9
India e Tibet
Fabrizia Baldissera, "Traces of Early Alchemy in India. Rasāyana in Some Kāvya and Kathā Texts with a Note on Chinese Alchemy". p. 13
Carmen Simioli, "The King of Essences. Mercury in the Tibetan Medico-Alchemical Traditions". p. 35
Dagmar Wujastyk, "On Perfecting the Body. Rasāyana in Sanskrit Medical Literature." p. 55
Fabrizio Pregadio, "Discrimations in Cultivating the Tao. Liu Yiming (1734-1821) and his Xiuzhn houbian". p. 81
Europa moderna
Laurence Wuidar, "Trasmutazione alchemica e trasformazione musicale nel Cinquecento e nel Seicento". p. 111
Mariassunta Picardi, "John Dee e l'alchimia delle luce tra sapienza arcana e scienza moderna". p. 145


1.   Corpus alchemicum Graecum, éd. R. Halleux, Les alchimistes grecs, Collection des Universités de France, Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 1981.
2.   Pour une synthèse et un état des lieux récent, je renvoie à T. Nummedal, 'The Alchemist', in B. Lightman (ed.), A Companion to the History of Science, Wiley Blackwell Companions to World History, Wiley Blackwell, Chichester, 2016, p. 58-70.
3.   Fabrizio Pregadio, Great Clarity : Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2006.

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Monday, January 29, 2018


Brian P. Dunkle SJ., Enchantment and Creed in the Hymns of Ambrose of Milan. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. 288. ISBN 9780198788225. $95.00.

Reviewed by Dennis E. Trout, University of Missouri (

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By anchoring the hymns of Ambrose in the Milanese bishop's pastoral initiatives of the 380s, Brian P. Dunkle's Enchantment and Creed nudges these poems away from the margins of the combative prelate's sprawling oeuvre and closer to the core of his theology. Although the "battle of the basilicas" then waged between Ambrose and the Homoian court generated the context for the development and deployment of communal hymnody, Dunkle prefers to situate the hymns against the background of such contemporary catechetical sermons and mystagogical treatises as Ambrose's Explanatio symboli, De mysteriis, and De sacramentis. He argues that these finely-grained works, presented to competentes on the eve of their baptism or to neophytes soon afterwards, convincingly testify to Ambrose's inclination to refine the "spiritual senses" of his congregation by modeling and encouraging a synthetic, "mystical" understanding of "ritual experience, Scripture, and doctrinal identity" (83). In Dunkle's estimation, Ambrose's hymns reveal the same interests and motivations, and taken all together, therefore, the bishop's catechesis, mystagogy, and hymns "constitute strains of a common effort at enchantment" (83). For that reason, the hymns can only be fully appreciated when considered as one facet of the bishop's catechetical program broadly conceived. Consequently, that program, with its dual focus on enchantment—engendering a sensibility attuned to see the truth beyond the surface of rites and Scripture—and creedal orthodoxy, in adherence to the Nicene formula, provides the lens through which we, too, must read (or hear) the hymns. From this it follows as well that the hymns, publicly performed, would have spoken differently to the individuals who sang or listened to them. Only those already initiated into the mysteries and Ambrose's mystagogy would have been prepared to grasp their deeper meanings, meanings that, in fact, would escape most of his imitators as well. The heart of Enchantment and Creed is an explication, broad, deep, and engaging, of these claims.

Any synthetic study of Ambrose's hymns must take a stand on the age-old problem of separating the authentic from the imitative in the transmitted corpus. Dunkle acknowledges the problem at the outset (3-4) and faces it squarely throughout. His might be considered a generous assessment, accepting as genuine thirteen of the fourteen hymns (excluding only number 14, Aeterna Christi munera) that constitute the standard edition of which Jacques Fontaine was the general editor and whose individual editors were skeptical of the Ambrosian authorship of many of the hymns 1. The fundamental grounds for Dunkle's more positive judgements are established in the introduction (10-12: near contemporary citation, early manuscript witnesses, and style) and made specific, often with the support of recent Italian scholarship, for each hymn at the time of its introduction into the argument. Indeed, Dunkle hopes that his arguments for thematic unity will further validate the Ambrosian credentials of the thirteen hymns he studies (12). All fourteen hymns of the Fontaine edition are printed in an appendix and accompanied by English translations.

Chapters one and two of Enchantment and Creed provide background and context for assessing Ambrose's hymns. They survey and summarize the history of early Christian and late antique hymnody and analyze Ambrose's place within the tradition. Ambrose inherited models of congregationally chanted hymns as well as literary hymns, both of which he drew upon. Moreover, in the context of the ongoing debate over the beneficial or deleterious effects of song, Dunkle argues from Ambrose's own words (42-4) that Ambrose recognized and, as others have long noted, capitalized upon the power of communal hymns to forge group identity and solidarity. Yet, despite the bishop's debts to predecessors and interlocutors, Dunkle's Ambrose enhances his status as an innovator who influenced centuries of Latin hymnody because he also appreciated the power of song to inspire spiritual transformation. Moreover, as the second chapter shows, Ambrose's hymns were both literary and catechetical monuments. Their ability to appeal over the long run to a wide social spectrum was matched by a rhetorical prowess that insistently highlighted the complexities of rites, Scripture, and nature.

Chapter three, "Ambrose's Daytime Hymns and the Mystagogy of Nature," begins with a review of the metrical scheme of the Ambrosian hymn: eight stanzas of four lines in iambic dimeter, a meter once most closely associated with drama. Ambrose, however, also seems concerned to match word and metrical accent in a way that foretells the future of Latin prosody. Ambrose's verse, Dunkle suggests, was intended to appeal to "popular taste" as well as to classically trained ears (89). To the same end, perhaps, Ambrose blended scriptural language with Vergilian and Horatian phrases. The primary focus of the chapter, however, falls upon the four hymns that scholarly consensus links to performance at specific times of the day: Aeterne rerum conditur, Splendor paternae gloriae, Iam surgit hora tertia, and Deus creator omnium (Fontaine 1-4). Dunkle highlights the poetic devices, especially repetition through anaphora and polyptoton, and lexical choices that, as in Ambrose's preaching, worked to reform the senses and support a Nicene confession of faith. In the former case, Ambrose's mystagogical aim was, once again, to reveal the invisible and Christological realities behind such mundane phenomena as cockcrow and sunrise. In the latter, through "the single, evocative word or phrase" (99), Ambrose hinted at the Nicene contours of the Creation.

Chapters four and five pursue similar ends by similar means (assaying further instances of multivalent lexical repetition, for example). Chapter four explores Ambrose's three hymns dedicated to dominical feasts: Intende qui regis Israel for the Nativity; Illuminans altissimus for Epiphany; and Hic est dies verus dei for the Resurrection (Fontaine 5, 7, and 9). In these Dunkle shows how Ambrose applied overt paraphrase and reworking of biblical passages to emphasize "the equality and coeternity of the Father and the Son" (120). The hymns interweave Psalm paraphrase and gospel texts to make Christological (and Marian) statements, though without necessarily overriding the original Old Testament associations. In this way, the dominical hymns served as a "quasi-creedal" Nicene catechesis (142) emphatically centered upon the very feasts being celebrated. Eliding the gap between historical events and the performative present, these three hymns also show a marked tendency to stress the role of wonder and enchantment in deepening understanding of the mysteries being celebrated. The fifth chapter turns to seven hymns dedicated to the martyrs. Three hymns (Fontaine 8, 12, and 13) targeted Roman martyrs (Agnes, Peter and Paul, and Lawrence); two (Fontaine 9 and 10) concern the Milanese martyr groups Victor, Nabor, and Felix and Gervasius and Protasius; and another two (Fontaine 6 and 14) celebrated John the Evangelist and "all martyrs." Although these hymns have less often been studied as a group because of lingering questions of authenticity, Dunkle shows how taken together they both participate in general Ambrosian initiatives and share traits among themselves. Above all, in the context of the conflicts of the later 380s, Dunkle argues, they work to promote an equivalency between true Roman (and Milanese) civic identity and the profession of Nicene faith, a connection made especially clear (171-2) by the paraphrase of the prologue of John's Gospel at the center of Amore Christi nobilis. This has the double effect of further marginalizing the Homoian community and "baptizing" the traditional Roman values of pietas and pudor that are given emphasis in these hymns. At the same time, the martyr hymns indulge Ambrose's mystagogical agenda of highlighting the gap between surface appearance and hidden realities (e.g., Agnes's physical youth and spiritual maturity; Lawrence's assembled "wealth"). In the end, Dunkle's close reading in these three core chapters goes far towards situating Ambrose's hymns comfortably within the broader theological, ecclesial, and political ends of his episcopacy in ways that should encourage further reconsideration of the centrality of these performance texts.

Enchantment and Creed concludes with two chapters concerning the value of reception for further appreciating the particular qualities of Ambrose's hymnody. As Dunkle observes, "Ambrose's hymns were an immediate success" (174) One gauge of that success is the proliferation of imitations, an industry of ambrosiana. In the sixth chapter, Dunkle evaluates the eight-stanza Aeterna Christi munera and three shorter hymns for the "little hours." All have sometimes been assigned to Ambrose himself, though Dunkle argues, largely on the basis of stylistic discrepancies and theological divergence, for their status as early imitations. He draws attention to the many lexical debts they owe to the "authentic" hymns, a feature he dubs "centonization," but he notes their relatively unsophisticated use of repetition, their generic deployment of martyrial and ethical concepts, and their lack of interest in advancing the kind of pro-Nicene agenda characteristic of the truly Ambrosian material. Thus the relative shallowness of these imitations, most evident in borrowed vocabulary, casts into high relief the thick agenda of the Ambrosian hymns. Chapter seven turns to the iambic dimeter "literary showpieces" (186) of Sedulius and Prudentius, readers and emulators of Ambrose's hymns. Sedulius's twenty-three quatrain A solis ortus cardine redeploys Ambrosian vocabulary and through amplicatio, or expansion of detail and narrative, explicitly elaborates mysteries that Ambrose's poetics communicated more allusively. For Dunkle, however, Prudentius, poet of the Cathemerinon and Peristephanon, is Ambrose's most sophisticated early reader. Highly self-conscious in his rivalry, in poems from both collections (e.g., Ad galli cantum and the hymn for Lawrence) Prudentius spotlights "the mystagogy of nature and Scripture" (194) so central to Dunkle's reading of Ambrose; amplifies symbolic connections only latent, but still crucial, in the latter's hymns; and didactically unpacks symbolism. In these instances, Dunkle suggests, Prudentius's hyper-Ambrosianism (194, 197) functions as commentary on the Ambrosian corpus, exposing once more the sophistication and influence of his hymnody. Although "pagans" not Arians may be the focus of much of Prudentius's polemic, the Spanish poet finds Ambrose's diction and style no less appealing for that fact. At the same time, for Dunkle, Prudentius is the last literary poet truly to appreciate Ambrose's "spiritual reading" of nature and Scripture and his insistence upon "mystagogical enchantment" as the poet's as well as the reader's responsibility.

Enchantment and Creed is a closely argued and richly documented study. It is not without slips here and there. Kate Cooper becomes Catherine Cooper, for example; Caesarius of Arles, who appears in the text on several occasions but is absent from the index, seems once to bifurcate into "Caesarius and Aurelian" (183); and works cited in the notes do not always find their way into the bibliography (e.g., several essays by Jacques Fontaine). In addition, translations occasionally stumble over subjunctives (e.g., 6.22, 6.24, and 9.32). Those are small tradeoffs for a study that offers a comprehensive view of a corpus that has most often been approached piecemeal or through smaller groupings. Coincidentally, Dunkle raises the stakes for assessing the influence of Ambrose on Prudentius and later poets (e.g., 210). Most significantly, he adds fundamental new textures to Ambrose's reputation as the father of Christian Latin hymnody. If we ask how that literary and liturgical form grew out of the context of Milanese ecclesial rivalries and was shaped by the pastoral and theological concerns of Ambrose himself, Enchantment and Creed supplies a range of persuasive answers.


1.   Fontaine, Jacques, ed. Ambroise de Milan: Hymnes. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1992.

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Katharina Bolle, Carlos Machado, Christian Witschel (ed.), The Epigraphic Cultures of Late Antiquity. Heidelberger Althistorische Beiträge und Epigraphische Studien, 60​. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017. Pp. 615. ISBN 9783515115582. €84.00.

Reviewed by Christoph Begass, Universität Mannheim​ (

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Table of Contents

Lange mußte die interessierte Öffentlichkeit auf die jetzt vorliegenden Akten einer Tagung warten, die bereits im Juni 2009 in Heidelberg stattfand. Um es vorweg zu nehmen: Das Warten hat sich gelohnt, denn mit diesem Band liegt nun ein aktueller Überblick der spätantiken Epigraphik vor, der die zahlreichen und oft sehr unterschiedlichen Ausprägungen von inschriftlichen Monumenten zwischen ca. 300 und 600 n. Chr. gut abbildet.

Insgesamt stand die spätantike Epigraphik – ebenso wie die Geschichte der Spätantike selbst – lange Zeit im Schatten anderer Epochen. Doch es gab auch immer wieder Ausnahmen: Ein ganz neues Feld etwa bereitete bereits 1948 Louis Robert mit seinen Épigrammes du Bas-Empire. 1 Daß sich die Epigraphik der Spätantike heute neben der anderer Epochen etabliert hat, zeigt sich nicht nur daran, daß mittlerweile im Rahmen der Inscriptiones Graecae eigene Bände zu den spätantiken Inschriften Athens und Korinths vorliegen 2, sondern auch an gleich zwei Panels zu „spätantiker und byzantinischer Epigraphik" auf dem Wiener Epigraphik-Kongreß im Sommer 2017. Einiges bleibt jedoch zu tun: Eine Sammlung der Inschriften Konstantinopels fehlt bis heute. Daher wird für die Entwicklung der spätantiken und byzantinischen Epigraphik das Projekt Inscriptiones Graecae Aevi Byzantini große Bedeutung haben.3

In der Einleitung (15–30) versuchen die Herausgeber, „epigraphic cultures" der Spätantike näher zu fassen, wobei selbstverständlich Ramsay MacMullens „epigraphic habit" den wichtigsten Bezugspunkt bietet. Die Spätantike wird hier grundsätzlich als die Zeitspanne von ca. 300 bis 600 n. Chr. gefaßt, obschon es teilweise erhebliche regionale Unterschiede zu verzeichnen gibt. Auch wenn der Terminus „epigraphic cultures" ein wenig unscharf bleibt, so wird doch klar, daß es vor allem darum geht, Inschriften nicht isoliert als Texte zu betrachten, sondern herauszuarbeiten, „in which [sc. ways] these particular types of textual monuments might illuminate the society that produced them." (18) So erklärt sich auch der Plural „cultures" im Titel des Bandes: „This requires taking into account the major cultural and religious developments during Late Antiquity, as well as the many quantitative, qualitative and regional variations that are to be detected in the epigraphical record of this period."4

Auf die Einleitung folgen sieben regional ausgerichtete Studien, die zusammen beinahe den gesamten Mittelmeerraum abdecken und damit das in der Einleitung vorgestellte Programm einlösen. Die Ausrichtung der einzelnen Studien variiert dabei zwischen knappen, präzisen Überblicken – wie jenen von Christian Witschel über „spätantike Inschriftenkulturen im Westen" (33–53) oder von Stephen Mitchell über Kleinasien (271–286) – und ausführlicheren Studien zu Hispanien (Judit Végh, 55–110), zum südlichen Gallien (Lennart Hildebrand, 111–146), zu Italien (mit einem Fokus auf Tuscia et Umbria, Katharina Bolle, 147–212) zu Leptis Magna (Ignazio Tantillo, 213–270) sowie zu Palaestina und Arabia (Leah Di Segni, 287–320).

Der zweite große Komplex widmet sich „Genres and Practices". Die Beiträge von Carlos Machado (323–361) und Ulrich Gehn (363–405) konzentrieren sich auf Gebrauch und Wiederverwendung von Statuenbasen und deren tituli in Rom und dem griechischen Osten. Hier bieten die Funde in Aphrodisias einmaliges Material (384–402). Nicht nur zusammen geben die beiden Studien ein umfassendes Bild der Statuenträgern, gerade Gehns Aufsatz, der sich auf die Oxforder Datenbank „Last Statues of Antiquity" stützt, bietet durch eine Kontrastierung der Darstellungen von westlichen (364–384) und östlichen togati (384–401) ein differenziertes Bild sich wandelnder Repräsentationsformen der regionalen Eliten.

Spätestens seit Louis Roberts bereits zitierter Studie Épigrammes du Bas-Empire von 1948 ist bekannt, wie stark sich die Form von ,Ehreninschriften' ab dem 4. Jahrhundert wandelte: So wurden Inschriften, die den cursus honorum des Geehrten referierten, beinahe vollständig von Epigrammen verdrängt. Diesem Phänomen widmen sich Silvia Orlandi (407–425), Lucy Grig (427–447) und Erkki Sironen (449– 471). Während sich die ersten beiden mit lateinischen Epigrammen beschäftigen, konzentriert sich letzterer auf die griechischen Epigramme von Hellas und Achaia. Allen drei Studien ist gemein, daß sie materialreich die Eigenheiten spätantiker Epigrammatik herausarbeiten und so wichtige Bausteine zu einer Erklärung dieses, nicht nur für die spätantike Epigraphik, sondern für die spätantike Geschichte so aufschlußreichen Wandels geben. Insgesamt klafft hier jedoch die einzige große Lücke des Sammelbandes: Auch wenn Sironen sich in einem kurzen Exkurs Beispielen aus dem westlichen Kleinasien zuwendet (466–469), fehlt ein eigener Beitrag zu Kleinasien und dem Nahen Osten – zu zwei großen Regionen also, die, wie Sironen eindrücklich vor Augen führt, in der Spätantike eine außerordentlich reiche epigrammatische Produktion hervorgebracht haben (466), die zudem über die Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten bequem zugänglich ist.5 Abgerundet wird die Sektion durch Denis Feissel, der anhand dreier Ämter (curator, defensor und pater civitatis) zeigt, wie weit unsere Kenntnisse spätantiker Verwaltung auf epigraphischer Grundlage ruhen (473–500).

Der dritte Teil widmet sich der für die Spätantike zentralen Frage nach der Rolle des Christentums. Hier bieten Charlotte Roueché und Claire Sotinel nicht nur eine Einleitung zu dieser Sektion, sondern gleichsam eine zweite, forschungsgeschichtliche Einführung in die Thematik des gesamten Bandes (503–514). Vor einem weiten historischen Panorama zeigen sie auf, wie sich verschiedene Zugänge zur Epigraphik des hier behandelten Zeitraumes als nützlich oder hinderlich erwiesen haben. Dabei ist jedoch zu bedenken, daß tatsächlich die kritisierte Bezeichnung „christliche Epigraphik" gerade für Corpora oftmals wenig passend erscheint, die Corpora selbst aber bis heute wichtige Sammlungen bieten – zuvorderst Henri Grégoires Recueil des inscriptions grecques-chrétiennes d'Asie Mineure (1922), selbst wenn hier auch nicht explizit christliche Inschriften Eingang gefunden haben (vgl. 507).

Georgios Deligiannakis untersucht am Beispiel der Insulae, inwieweit inschriftliche Zeugnisse Aufschlüsse über die Spannungen zwischen unterschiedlichen christlichen Gruppen geben können (515–533). Er kommt zu dem Ergebnis, daß „dissident Christian groups are usually almost invisible in the material evidence" (530). Im folgenden Beitrag von Rudolf Haensch rückt mit dem Heiligen Land wieder die Region in den Fokus, die für die Spätantike mit besonders reichem inschriftlichen Material aufwartet (535–554). Im Vergleich mit italischen Inschriften kann er eindrucksvoll zeigen, inwieweit Stiftungen von Kirchen (und deren inschriftliche Repräsentation) in West und Ost ähnlichen Mustern folgten und wo sich neue Formen etablierten. So bildete sich nur im Osten ein Formular heraus, daß Stifter lediglich summarisch und damit anonym nannte, und damit „eigentlich einem Grundprinzip des antiken Euergetismus widersprach" (548). Abgerundet wird dieser Teil durch Mark A. Handley, der sich den inschriftlichen Überlieferungen des Pilgerwesens – vor allem Graffiti – widmet (555–593).

Der vorliegende Band bietet mit seinen insgesamt 17 Beiträgen ein Kompendium der spätantiken Epigraphik. Jede einzelne Studie stellt einen zentralen Beitrag zur Forschung dar und eignet sich daher sowohl als Einstieg in das jeweilige Thema wie auch als Ausgangspunkt für zukünftige Arbeiten. Daher war es eine gute Entscheidung, jeder Studie eine eigene Bibliographie beizugeben, die die zentrale Literatur zum jeweiligen Thema versammelt.

Die lange Zeitspanne zwischen Tagung und Publikation erweist sich insofern nachträglich als gewinnbringend, da auf diese Weise auch mehrere Untersuchungen berücksichtigt werden konnten, die nicht auf der Tagung vorgestellt wurden und nun dazu beitragen, daß vor allem die regional angelegten Studien (Teil I) deutlich umfassender abgedeckt werden, als dies auf der Tagung der Fall war. Als besonders wertvoll für die weitere Forschung werden sich auch Inventare erweisen, die den Beiträgen von Tantillo, Di Segni, Machado, Feissel und Handley beigegeben sind und alle verfügbaren Inschriften zu den entsprechenden Themen verzeichnen (darunter sogar Inedita, etwa 495, P31). Positiv fällt auch die Mischung aus ausgewiesenen Experten und wissenschaftlichem Nachwuchs auf. Der Band, der mit Aufsätzen in englisch, deutsch, französisch und italienisch wirklich international daherkommt, ist zudem sehr gut redigiert. Ebenso sind die Karten, Abbildungen und Farbtafeln von hoher Qualität.

Ein großes Problem muß jedoch auch erwähnt werden: Es ist völlig unverständlich, warum der Band keine Register beinhaltet. Gerade Sammelbände werden üblicherweise nicht in Gänze gelesen, vielmehr werden einzelne Aufsätze gezielt konsultiert. Hinsichtlich des Umfanges von etwa 600 Seiten wird folglich jeder Leser Indices schmerzlich vermissen, die das reiche Material erschlossen sowie Querverbindungen zwischen den einzelnen Aufsätzen aufgezeigt hätten.

Aufs Ganze gesehen legen die Herausgeber einen gewichtigen Band vor, der die dynamischen Forschungen zur spätantiken Epigraphik auf breiter Basis bündelt und auf diese Weise zugleich Summa der bisherigen wie Ausgangspunkt für weitere Forschungen ist. ​


1.   Louis Robert, Hellenica IV: Épigrammes du Bas-Empire, Paris, 1948.
2.   Athen: IG II/III2 5 (2008); Korinth: IG IV2 3 (2016), beide ediert von Erkki Sironen.
3.   Vgl. die Zwischenbilanz bei Andreas Rhoby (Hg.), Inscriptions in Byzantium and Beyond. Methods – Projects – Case Studies, Wien, 2015.
4.   Vgl. jetzt auch Ignazio Tantillo, "Defining Late Antiquity through Epigraphy?", in: Rita Lizzi Testa (Hg.), Late Antiquity in Contemporary Debate, (Newcastle upon Tyne Cambridge Scholars Pub., 2017), 56–77.
5.   Reinhold Merkelbach & Josef Stauber, Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, 5 Bde. (Leipzig; Stuttgart: De Gruyter, 1998–2004). ​

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Jane Draycott, Emma-Jayne Graham (ed.), Bodies of Evidence: Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future. Medicine and the body in antiquity. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. xiv, 271. ISBN 9781472450807. $149.95.

Reviewed by Debby Sneed, University of California, Los Angeles (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume, which stems from a 2012 conference in Rome, addresses the basic definition of the anatomical votive and expand its study in several dimensions. Emma-Jayne Graham and Jane Draycott begin by outlining previous and current approaches to the study of anatomical votives in their introduction. They address some of the big questions surrounding the votives, including when in the ritual process they were dedicated, and outline the kinds of objects that are included under the "anatomical votive" umbrella. Finally, the editors set the stage for what follows. The essays, they state, are meant not to provide a comprehensive treatment of the phenomenon but to encourage scholars to try to understand "how these objects were used and manipulated in a range of cultic, cultural, and curative contexts, both past and present, as well as the meanings and knowledge associated with and produced by their use." (p. 6) Graham and Draycott emphasize the chronological and geographical variability of ancient ritual practice and argue for the multivalent nature of anatomical votives and their ability to resist singular interpretations, especially those that assume an easy relationship between the dedication of an anatomical votive and the dedicant's body, motivations and expectations. In the first chapter. Justine Potts defies the traditionally limited definition of the anatomical votive and introduces 2nd and 3rd century CE Phrygian and Lydian confession stelai by demonstrating not just the formal similarities between the two classes, but also their nearly identical contexts of production and dedication. The corpus of confession stelai contains around 150 inscriptions dedicated by people punished with illness and pain (among other things) for various types of wrongdoing and crime. Images incised or carved in relief—many anatomical in nature—accompany about half of the inscriptions, but these images have largely been ignored in the logocentric scholarship on the stelai. Text aside, however, these objects are identical in form, production, and dedicatory context to contemporary anatomical votives. Because of their overlaps, Potts argues (p. 20) that in inland Anatolia there was a hierarchy of propitiatory epigraphy that firmly encompassed the stelai and contemporary anatomical votives within the same intellectual world. The distinction between the two is a product of modern scholarship, she suggests, and by discussing the confession stelai and anatomical votives together, we not only understand both corpora more fully, but also appreciate the fluidity and complexity of religious mentalities in the ancient world.

Three essays assess the place that the votives occupy in modern academic, religious, and cultural imaginations (Haumesser, Ch. 9; Adams, Ch. 10; Grove, Ch. 11). Jen Grove, in particular, demonstrates the multivalent nature of anatomical dedications. She uses a single collection of male and female genitalia compiled and displayed in the late 19th and 20th centuries CE by Sir Henry Wellcome, an American-born pharmaceutical millionaire, to confront the oft-held claim that early treatment of these and other sexually explicit objects was always characterized by suppression and censorship (e.g., the 'secret cabinets' in late 18th and 19th century Naples). Grove uses archival records to show that Wellcome deliberately sought and purchased votive genitalia, and that he used them alongside other, similarly themed objects from cultures across the world in order to understand ancient medical and anatomical knowledge, on the one hand, and cultural practices, including the link between religion and sex, on the other. She argues that many such early collections of sexually explicit material were not regarded as pornographic but were meant for serious academic study. Grove's contribution, then, expands our understanding of the votives themselves by examining a range of artifacts not often discussed in depth; the place of anatomical votives in modern scholarship; the motivations of early collectors of ancient artifacts; and the history of modern sexual knowledge.

Not all contributions in this volume are equally successful in fitting within the anatomical-votive paradigm. In his chapter on swaddled infants, for example, Olivier de Cazanove brings the discussion of such ex-votos outside its traditional geographical boundaries by arguing for a link in votive practice, especially in the dedication of swaddled infants, between central Italy and Roman Gaul. He demonstrates that images of swaddled infants in Roman Gaul during the Imperial period formally resemble those excavated from mid-Republican sanctuaries in Italy and suggests that they are part of a widely diffused religious practice that traces its history back to the Greek Classical period. Excavations in earlier cult sites in Gaul have yielded assemblages different from those that characterize ritual sites in the Roman period; de Cazanove posits therefore that the swaddled-infant votives are directly attributable to the process of "Romanization" in Gaul, with its attendant cultural changes. De Cazanove's essay encourages thinking about the timing and appearance of the spread of Roman religious practices and shows how singular objects and their assemblages can help us understand larger processes. He does not, however, discuss anatomical votives in ways that go beyond the typological, nor does he engage with the nuances of the Middle Ground that may have contributed to religious changes evident in Gaul during the Imperial period (as a point of comparison, see Ch. 7, Fay Glinister's contribution, which also discusses swaddled infants in Italy).

I was delighted to see Ellen Adams's discussion of anatomical votives in the context of disability. The author argues that these fragmented body parts functioned like ritual aids in the healing process, thus playing an important part in a dedicant's quest to achieve the contemporary ideal of "normality." By introducing attitudes toward disability in antiquity and in the modern period, Adams suggests that the disabled in both time periods exist(ed) at two ends of a spectrum—subhuman or superhuman—and that either extreme rendered them neither normal nor ideal. She then presents anatomical votives as ritual prostheses intended to help the dedicant overcome their otherness in the ritual world, not in their lived lives. Finally, Adams considers the 'real' fragments of antiquity, contrasting diachronic responses to broken Classical sculpture, where authenticity is valued over completeness, to modern attitudes toward the disabled, which privilege somatic integrity. Adams' arguments about the prosthetic function of anatomical votives and the relationship between "body part" and "body whole" add layers to our understanding not just of the votives, but also of ancient conceptions of 'normality' and how we might reconstruct it, and she links ancient art with the development of the science of anatomy. Her contribution is, however, somewhat undermined by an attempt to achieve too much in a short space, with multiple and varied arguments (about ancient and modern disability, normality, anatomical votives, ritual practice, classical art, anatomy, modern art, broken sculpture and Renaissance reactions to it, and the importance of naming for identity) crammed into 21 pages. This essay has many arguments, but not enough space to develop any one fully. Perhaps we will read more about them in a future book?

As a whole, this volume accomplishes its goals well and paves the way for future studies on anatomical votives beyond the typological. The authors show that such dedications were not limited to the healing sanctuaries of Classical Greece and that their meanings went beyond simple equations between object and body. Anatomical votives were "used, understood, and experienced, and were part of a broader material process of negotiation" (p. 15) and their importance for the ancient world extends from Anatolia to Gaul, from the 5th century BCE to the modern world.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Debating the anatomical votive / Emma-Jayne Graham and Jane Draycott
1. Corpora in connection: anatomical votives and the confession stelai of Lydia and Phrygia / Justine Potts
2. Partible humans and permeable gods: anatomical votives and personhood in the sanctuaries of central Italy / Emma-Jayne Graham
3. Anatomical votives (and swaddled babies): from Republican Italy to Roman Gaul / Olivier de Cazanove
4. Hair today, gone tomorrow: the use of real, false and artificial hair as votive offerings / Jane Draycott
5. Demeter as an ophthalmologist? Eye votives and the cult of Demeter and Kore / Georgia Petridou
6. Wombs for the gods / Rebecca Flemming
7. Ritual and meaning: contextualizing votive terracotta infants in Hellenistic Italy / Fay Glinister
8. The foot as gnṓrisma / Sara Chiarini
9. The open man: anatomical votive busts between the history of medicine and archaeology / Laurent Haumesser
10. Fragmentation and the body's boundaries: reassessing the body in parts / Ellen Adams
11. Votive genitalia in the Wellcome collection: modern receptions of ancient sexual anatomy / Jen Grove
12. Votive futures: an afterword / Jessica Hughes
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Sunday, January 28, 2018


Cynthia Damon, C. Iuli Caesaris Commentariorum Libri III De Bello Ciuili. Recognovit brevique adnotatione critica instruxit C. D.. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. cx, 227. ISBN 9780199659746. $75.00.

Cynthia Damon, Studies on the Text of Caesar's 'Bellum civile'. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. 329. ISBN 9780198724063. $115.00.

Reviewed by Antonio Moreno Hernández, UNED (Spanish National Distance Learning University) (

Version at BMCR home site

Preview Libri III de Bello Civili
Preview Studies on the Text

The publication by Cynthia Damon1 of a new critical edition (henceforth: OCT) of Caesar's Bellum Civile (BC), accompanied by a volume of Studies (St.),2 is in itself important news, given that the last Oxford edition appeared in 19003 and the two reference editions are still those of Alfred Klotz (1926)4 and Pierre Fabre (1936),5 the deficiencies of which have been pointed out on numerous occasions.6

After these editions, Wolfgang Hering (1963)7 and Virginia Brown (1973)8—Damon's edition is dedicated to her memory—made pertinent suggestions to clarify the manuscript tradition of the BC, but there was yet no new edition that was based on an exhaustive critical study of the work and that assessed their claims.

Damon's edition and study, which appear amid renewed interest in the works of Caesar, are based on in-depth research that has focused on four aspects of the BC: 1) a new collation of the manuscripts that Damon considers most relevant for the establishment of the text; 2) an analysis of their filiation and her proposal of a stemma codicum; 3) the constitutio textus, accompanied by the corresponding critical tools (a critical apparatus, an Appendix critica, and an Appendix orthographica); and 4) a commentary on the passages Damon regards as the most problematic, which enhances our understanding of the text and of Damon's editorial decisions.

In all these matters Damon does a rigorous job, not easy in view of the challenges facing a new edition of the BC, especially given the sneaking suspicion that the composition was originally unfinished and the noticeably deteriorated manuscript tradition, which often makes it a very complex task to determine the reading of the archetype. These difficulties are even more significant because the importance of Caesar's works as one of the paradigms of classical language meant they were subject to normalization for literary or educational reasons, as is mentioned by Damon (St. 100).

The volume of Studies (St.) consists of three parts. In the Prolegomena (3-95), Damon justifies a new edition of the BC, addresses the history of the text (10-15) and its transmission (16-54, the history of the stemma, the analysis of the evidence of BHisp regarding β and ν, the investigation into ν, and Damon's proposed stemma), analyzes the witnesses (55-95), offering a precise description of the characteristics of the archetype, of the hyparchetypes μ and ν, and of π and of the five mss. used for constituting the text (MUSTV), with close attention to the corrections and innovations documented in them. The second part (97-126) focuses on the passages where the transmitted text presents a range of problems (omissions, innovations, signs of incompleteness, the inaudita atque insolentia readings and their attribution to Caesar or to the vicissitudes of transmission). The third offers a detailed commentary on 74 critically problematic passages (19 from Book 1, 12 from Book 2, and 43 from Book 3).

The OCT edition starts with a Praefatio in English (XI-CVIII) summarising the aspects covered in more detail in St.: the history of the text, the stemma, the archetype, hyparchetypes, and manuscripts used. There follow the guidelines for using the edition, a bibliography, a conspectus editionum setting out Damon's differences from previous editions,9 and a list of sigla. The critical edition (1-163) is capped by an Appendix orthographica (165-178), an Appendix critica (179-220), and an Index nominum (221-227).

When addressing the history of the text, Damon discusses the subscriptiones of the eight books of BG and upholds the usual interpretation of legi tantum of the subscriptio to BG 8, which suggests that "the 'reading ceased' at the end of the BG" and that "Constantinus was aware that there was more to the corpus" (OCT XIII, St. 13).10

For the readings of the main manuscripts Damon relies on the collation of nine mss. (SLNMURTV) by Virginia Brown, whose codicological studies are mostly taken for granted by Damon, and on Damon's first-hand reading of the five she considers relevant to determine the text (MUSTV), as well as of m and Vall. for the lost beginning of M.11

In general, the readings of these manuscripts are reported faithfully and exhaustively, especially compared to the incorrect readings in previous editions, particularly in those of Klotz and Fabre: e.g., Damon registers the correct reading of ms. M in 3.103.4 (despiceret μπ), and of V in 1.27.1 (eodem portauerant [-erunt] mV). Great care is taken in distinguishing different levels of correction in some mss.: e.g., at 3.22.4 inspection confirms Damon's sensible decision in attributing habebant to V and not to V2 (Klotz); at 2.20.7 Damon distinguishes cui erit Vac from the correction cui praeerat Vc, not recorded in Klotz or Fabre.

To decide which mss. have source value, Damon uses the eliminatio that was proposed convincingly by Hering and Brown for three manuscripts to which earlier editions had attributed some value: two derivatives of S (N, Neapolitanus IVc.11 and L, Lovaniensis, London, BL, Add. 10084), and a descendant of U (R, Riccardianus 541).12 The elimination of these mss., which have no stemmatic value, means that the origin of some conjectures is not identified accurately: for example, some plausible corrections are attributed to the editio princeps, although they already appear in these mss., such as dissimulari (2.31.5), present in R., or segniores (1.3.1), documented in Nr.

Damon also accepts the eliminatio of about 162 recentiores that had been proposed by Brown. This decision is based on plausible evidence drawn from a partial collation of these witnesses, and it seems to me that, save for some valuable corrections, they are practically useless for editing the text. It is likely that the complete collation of these mss. is of interest primarily for better determining the origin of many conjectures, like 1.15.5 fugientem, attributed by Damon to Aldo, but already located by Fabre in the (now severely damaged) ms. Dresdensis 122 (Dc 167, 14th century).

As for the relationship among the principal mss. (St. 16-54), Damon undertakes a detailed stemmatic analysis in which she studies the possible relevant innovations and the correctable errors in order to clarify the connections among families and mss., attempting to determine the readings of the archetype. After a meticulous and well-founded analysis, Damon argues for a bipartite stemma (μ ν), close to that of Hering, in contrast to Brown's tripartite one, and draws three main conclusions:

a) The ms. S does not represent an independent branch of the tradition, as Brown had believed. It derives from the hyparchetype ν independently of π (T and V). The conclusive argument that Damon puts forward is the absence of evidence of agreement between μ and π in significant innovation where S presents an archetypical reading, so she rightly rules out the existence of a "β branch" (μ ν) against S.

b) The ms. V is an independent copy of T based on a hyparchetype π (St. 66-69; 92-95), pace Hering, who considered V a descendant of T, but not a direct copy. V could be valuable to reconstruct the archetype when the other two ms. witnesses of ν (T and S) are independently in error and only V displays evidence of agreement with the μ family. In addition, V offers numerous successful innovations (St. 94-95). Damon convincingly demonstrates V's contribution to the reconstruction of ν, identifying some cases in which V is in agreement with S against MUT (cf. 3.19.3 and St. 69, n. 134).

c) Damon identifies signs of horizontal transmission through an "asystematic comparison" between μ and ν (specifically in a generation between ν and π) that would explain the lack of significant omissions between μ and ν and the major discrepancy between π and S, which would not have been affected by the contamination. This hypothesis is supported by a small group of readings where π and μ share an attractive but spurious innovation against S, which preserved a difficult or corrupt reading of the archetype (cf. St. 51-54). The argument is well founded, but we might ask if some of these readings of S really go back to the archetype or if they are innovations of this ms.: e.g. 1.76.5 terror ablatus S; 3.93.1 cursum S om. (this omission is not in the critical apparatus and is relegated to the Appendix critica, at OCT 215).

As regards the archetype (ω), Damon characterizes it as written in a pre-Carolingian or a Carolingian minuscule around the 8th century (St. 55; OCT XXII-XXVI), and reconstructs some of its features such as abbreviations, word division, inversions, variants and corrections, glosses, and book division. Damon forcefully defends the division into three books documented by MUTV, unlike S,13 whose text "is badly out of order" (OCT XXVI; St. 86).

The critical apparatus, following the criteria in OCT (LXIV-LXXII), comprises only the critically relevant readings of the mss. used for the constitutio textus, as well as later corrections Damon deemed important for that end, disregarding the inflated number of conjectures from the later tradition (cf. Meusel's Tabula coniecturarum). After a reading recorded in the apparatus, Damon also often quotes parallel passages of Caesar or other Latin authors in order to offer more information to support the choice of variants, which is useful especially in the case of passages that receive no comment in St.

In addition to the critical apparatus, Damon records a large number of singular but not relevant readings of the main mss. in the Appendix critica (OCT 179-220, cf. LXXII), although the merely graphic variants are relegated to the Appendix orthographica (OCT LXXIII, 165-178), where she describes the normalization criteria that have been followed in the edition.14

As regards the constitutio textus, Damon's suggestions are consistent with her stemmatic proposal and reflect an intelligent interpretation of the text in the choice of variants and the proposal of conjectures, offering a focused review of punctuation, with a reduced use of commas. Evidence of the contribution of Damon's edition can be found by comparing it with most important editions of the 20th century, via the conspectus editionum (OCT LXXXVI-CVII), where Damon gathers the 683 passages in which her text differs from that of the editions of Kraner, Hofmann, and Meusel (here: KHM), Klotz, and Fabre (I will use "edd." in shorthand for the three editions). Her text differs most often from the oldest edition, KHM (577 divergent readings), although Damon agrees with KHM on 106 occasions against Klotz and Fabre. Damon disagrees with Klotz's Teubner edition around 368 times, and with that of Fabre she lists 327 discrepancies.15

These divergences show that the text edited by Damon is noticeably different from these previous editions. Let us see what trends dominate in this new edition:

1. Damon recovers a large number of readings of the archetype compared to her three reference editions (edd.), which prefer to accept innovations of the recentiores or corrections from editions or critics.16 The preference for the readings of ω is motivated by the stemmatic analysis and by their plausibility (OCT LXVIII n. 85). Damon's proposal is consistent for the main part.

One instance that might be debatable is 1.51.1, where Damon accepts comitatus (ω), instead of the conjecture commeatus (Nipperdey edd.), in reference to a convoy of troops described in detail in the passage; in 1.48.4 Damon correctly assumes, with edd., Beroaldus's correction, commeatus, ("extensive supplies," LCL 73) instead of comitatus (ω), and keeps the reading of the archetype in 1.54.5 (commeatus ω: comitatus Manutius, "the supplies," LCL 81). In the case of 1.51.1, one might object that comitatus is not documented in BG and only twice in BC, but with the specific sense of "company" or "entourage" (BC 3.61.1 magno comitatu, "company", LCL 279, cf. H. Merguet, Lexicon zu den Schriften Cäsars, Jena 1886, Hildesheim 1963, 184, "Gefolge"); 3.96.4 comitatu equitum XXX, in reference to Pompey's entourage ("escort" LCL 331). commeatus, in addition to its usual sense of "provisions" or "supplies," can also refer to an expedition or convoy of soldiers (cf. BG 5.23.2).

2. In Damon's selection of readings of a branch of the tradition or of one manuscript or several in comparison to Klotz and Fabre:

a) Damon tends to adopt μ readings more often (3.51.7 tormentumue μ Damon : –to SV edd.), and to a lesser extent ν (3.75.1 haec ν Damon : ac μ edd. ), in line with the stemmatic analysis that shows that ν presents more erroneous readings than μ (St. 64-65).

b) In the selection of variants based on the consensus among mss. from different families, Damon shows preference for μS readings instead of π,17 or the consensus of a μ ms. with ν or some of its mss. (1.24.3 procul Uν Damon: quae procul m edd.). 18 c) As regards ms. V, Damon tends to reduce its weight to a certain extent in comparison with edd., as is shown by the fact that she does not adopt any of the singular readings of V that have been accepted by edd.,19 while she only follows V in some cases (3.84.5 Egum V Damon : unum S Klotz : Aecum Fabre).

d) As for the ms. S, which has confounded scholars to such an extent, Damon diminishes its weight for the constitutio textus, in line with its position in the stemma,20 as is shown by the large number of examples in which Damon follows μπ instead of S edd. This, in our view, is one of Damon's main achievements, to adopt more subtle and less expected readings than those of S, accepted by the three edd. 21

3. Damon maintains a balanced position in relation to the conjectures of editors and other scholars: she judiciously rejects a large number of these corrections in favor of the reading of the manuscript tradition, although she allows some of the conjectures accepted by a majority of the Caesarian tradition and in some cases adopts more than edd.:22

For example, 2.10.4 she follows Nipperdey's conjecture superstruantur (St.184-188), citing Sen. Con. 1, pr. 21. The proposal is an intriguing one although this verb is not documented in Caesar's time; the other plausible correction, super musculo struantur (Manutius, edd.), offers the expected singular against super musculos struantur ω, but it also raises the question of congruence with the language of the period, given that super is documented in Caesar with the accusative (2.10.6 super lateres), but the ablative starts being documented only in Augustan poetry.

It is of note how Damon handles the early printed tradition, including the editio princeps (1469) and the first Aldine edition (1513), which offer many corrections, to which Damon takes a measured approach: as regards the princeps, Damon accepts some of the corrections that have been accepted by the edd.,23 but disregards many others. 24 However, one should note the plausibility of her choice in the small group of innovations of ed. pr. that she follows versus ω, Klotz, and Fabre.25

Something similar can be said of the Aldine edition, whose intense conjectural practice is assessed sensibly by Damon, who rejects additions that have been accepted by edd.26 and accepts some others.27

Some of the relevant corrections that Damon attributes to Stephanus (Paris 1544) actually come from the corrections included at the beginning of Aldus' edition of 151328, reproduced in the second Aldine edition (1519): 1.61.5 miliaque; 1.82.1 educunt; 1.85.8 praesideat; 1.87.1 restituatur. The same occurs with a correction attributed to Manutius (Venice 1571, 1597): 3.28.4 hic, which is documented in Aldus' corrections 1513 and in 1519.

4. Another major aspect of the changes of this edition has to do with Damon's own conjectures, the result of intelligent reflection on the text, looking in general for parallel passages in Caesar's work and in other classical texts. Many of them are explained in St., others are simply proposed in the text.

An example is 3.73.5 se notum.29 This correction should be explained: Damon adduces 3.66.2, given the unsatisfactory reading of the mss. (secum μST: se eis V) and of the conjecture se aequum (Victorius Fabre).

Some of the proposed cruces are appropriate (1-35.4 †Gallias†, as against the conjecture of Glandorp, Sallyas, common in the previous editions), but in other cases it might be preferable to accept some corrections and, in fact, Damon has put many of these into the new text of LCL (E.g.: 1.3.3 †ius† : ipsum Hug; 3.11.1 †copiis† : oppidis Lipsius; 3.49.3 †ad specus† : ut specus Menge).

This excellent edition makes serious contributions to the reconstruction of the text, and its careful and deep reading of the text of BC and the close study of its textural tradition is accompanied by an insightful commentary on troublesome passages that brings to light the enormous complexity of a text that has been transmitted in such a deficient way, offering suggestive new proposals that will encourage reflection on the reading and interpretation of the work of Caesar.


1.   Thanks are due to the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitivity for their financial support through the project FFI2015-67335-P. I am grateful to Daniel Kiss for his thoughtful reading of this review.
2.   As well as a volume in the Loeb Classical Library, Caesar: Civil War. Edited and translated by Cynthia Damon. Cambridge Mass., London; Harvard University Press: 2016 (LCL).
3.   Renatus Du Pontet (ed.), Caesar: Commentarii. 2. Bellum Civile, cum libris incertorum auctorum de Bello Alexandrino, Africo, Hispaniensi. Oxford; OUP: 1900 (1922).
4.   Alfred Klotz (ed.), C.I. Caesaris commentarii, vol. II: Commentarii belli civilis. Leipzig; Teubner: 1926 (19502)
5.   Pierre Fabre (ed.), César, Guerre civile Paris ; Les Belles Lettres: 1936 (revised ed. A. Balland, 2006).
6.   Virginia Brown, The Textual Transmission of Caesar's Civil War. Leiden; Brill: 1972, 9; Michael Winterbottom, in Leighton D. Reynolds (ed.), Texts and Transmission. A Survey of the Latin Classics. Oxford; Clarendon Press: 1983, 35 n. 1.
7.   Wolfgang Hering, Die Recensio der Caesarhandschriften. Berlin; Akademie-Verlag: 1963, as well as the considerations on the mss. of the BC in his edition of the Bellum Gallicum (BG), C.I. Caesaris Commentarium rerum gestarum. Bellum Gallicum. Leipzig; Teubner: 1987.
8.   Brown, The Textual Transmission (see n. 6).
9.   Friedrich Kraner, Friedrich Hofmann, Heinrich Meusel, C. Iulii Caesaris Commentarii de bello civili. Berlin; Weidmann: 1906 (reprinted in 1959 with supplements by H. Oppermann).
10.   There is no mention of Cameron's interpretation of tantum in the sense that Constantinus read only his copy without comparing it to another, cf. Alan Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome. Oxford, New York; OUP: 2011, 460- 461 n. 18.
11.   Stephen Oakley has recently rightly demonstrated that Vall. is a direct copy of m in his review of D.'s work (CR 67, 2017, doi:10.1017/S0009840X17000452).
12.   Damon includes under the initial ϛ the readings of these mss., although it might have been advisable to have pointed out in the preface or in St. the plausible innovations attributed to them. E.g.: 1.58.4 comminus L; 1.67.1 sentiretur L; 2.29.4 nonnulla L; 3.2.2 equites L; 3.6.3 postridie S2 L; 3.27.1 recipiebat LNr; 3.51.6 magnam L.
13.   This question has recently aroused the interest of Luca Grillo, The Art of Caesar's Bellum Civile. Literature, Ideology, and Community. Cambridge; CUP: 2012, 181-184.
14.   It would have been advisable to indicate the origin of the reading when discussing spelling variants adopted which are not documented in the main mss., as in the case of Boeoti- / boeti- (OCT 169): Boeotia (3.4.2) Aldus 1513 (Boetia ω), not included in the critical apparatus or in the Appendix critica.
15.   However, the text edited later in LCL (XLIII-XLV) also differs from the OCT text in 65 places.
16.   Cf. OCT LXVIII, n. 85. E.g.: 2.18.1 Pompeioque ω Damon: Petrei- ed. pr. edd.; 3.8.3 diligentiae ω Damon : indiligentiae Stephanus edd.; 3.18.3 ubi primum rursus ω Damon : ubi primum e re uisum est Elberling edd.; 3.97.3 spe ω Damon : re ed. pr. edd.; 3.112.8 reliqua ω Damon : regia Morus Klotz Fabre.
17.   E.g.: 3.93.5 ex cohortium numero μS Damon : ex cohortibus π. However, I have not located any instances in which she follows π when not accepted by Klotz and Fabre. However, in all the cases in which Damon adopts a reading of the hyparchetype π against μ, Klotz and Fabre have already accepted the reading of π: e.g. 1.32.7 hortatur; 1.54.2 ex leui; 1.56.4 hae; 1.58.3 armamentorum (cf. OCT XXXI-XXXII).
18.   Some of these proposals have been reconsidered in Damon's own translation for Loeb (LCL XLII-XLV).
19.   E.g.: 3.55.4 amicitia Caesaris μST Damon; 3.67.5 e loco μST Damon; 3.87.4 ex colonis μST Damon.
20.   Damon adopts in OCT 30 readings that are transmitted only by S (cf. the list in St. 90-91), which have also been accepted by Klotz and Fabre. Other readings that could be added to Damon's list: 1.15.1 progressus S Damon; and 1.48.5 ac ciuitates S Damon ("one of its canny innovations," St. 157).
21.   E.g.: 1.34.5 [in] omnibus ϛ Damon : ex omnibus S edd.; 1.61.6 muniuntur μπ Damon : muniunt S edd.; 1.85.4 hominum μπ Damon : hominibus S edd.; 3.19.31 ut inter μπ Damon : inter S edd.; 3.62.2 aberant μπ Damon : aberat S edd. ; 3.68.3 coniuncta μπ Damon : coniunctam S edd.
22.   E.g.: 1.6.4 consul Madvig; 3.9.5 quare missis Brutus; 3.19.2 tuto Vossius; 3.53.5 uestiariis Nicasius; 3.58.5 frus Buecheler; 3.63.3 [munitiones] Ciacconius; 3.85.2 <ille> Meusel; 3.95.1 dari Vascosanus; 3.102.6 arcem captam esse Oudendorp.
23.   E.g.: 1.14.4 sese; 1.28.3 notisque; 1.35.3 <Romanum>; 1.41.3 <per> Afranium; 1.41.5 hos; 1.82.5 resistere; 2.19.4 Cordubam; 2.20.4 Hispalim; 3.45.4 receptus; 3.101.2 Pomponianam; 3.102.6 <civitates>.
24.   E.g.: 2.9.2 eaque ω Damon : easque ed. pr., edd.; 2.18.1 Pompeioque ω Damon : Petrei- ed. pr., edd.; 2.27.2 conspectu ω Damon : conspectum ed. pr., edd.; 3.46.5 obtecti ω Damon : obiecti ed. pr., edd.; 3.97.3 spe ω Damon : re ed. pr., edd.
25.   2.25.1 [a] theatro ed. pr. Damon : a theatro V Klotz Fabre : atheatro μST; 3.15.1 <cum> classe ed. pr. Damon : in classe ϛ (LN) Klotz Fabre; 3.84.3 electos milites ed. pr. Damon : electis milites ω Fabre: electis [milites] Nipperdey Klotz.
26.   3.42.5 prouidebat ω Damon : providerat Aldus edd.
27.   1.54.2 primum ac Aldus Damon; 1.65.4 intra montes se recipiebant Aldus Damon.
28.   Errata, quae uel inter impressionem contigerunt, uel impresso uolumine deprehendimus, Venice 1513. Cf. A. Moreno, Epos 26, 2010, 33-50.
29.   "I gave you a familiar position for the fight. . . " (LCL 297).

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