Thursday, February 22, 2018


Crescenzo Formicola, P. Ovidio Nasone: Epistulae ex Ponto, Libro III. Introduzione, testo, traduzione e commento. Vichiana, 1. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2017. Pp. 275. ISBN 9788862279451. €58.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Gareth Williams, Columbia University (

Version at BMCR home site

Another timely and valuable contribution marks the two-thousandth anniversary of Ovid's death. This densely written yet amply rewarding edition with translation and commentary of Epistulae ex Ponto 3 consists of a concise introduction in four parts, the first of which (entitled 'Destini di uccelli. Lamenti e canti primi e ultimi: tra prequel e sequel') contextualizes Ex Ponto 3 within the swan-song poetics of the exilic corpus more generally (pp. 15-19). The second focuses on Ovid's re-directing of elegiac form in exile (pp. 19-28), with incisive coverage along the way of (i) his exilic epistolography in relation to its precursor in the Heroides in particular; (ii) his descriptions of the Tomitan landscape as predicated on an implicit yet persistent contrast with the lost Roman-Italian landscape; and (iii) his complex deployment of myth in the exilic poetry not as a resource that gives form to the external world (as in the Metamorphoses), but as a now internalized means of identification and self-understanding (so p. 25: 'Il mito, che nelle Metamorfosi dava forma al mondo esterno ad Ovidio ed era da Ovidio indagato, ora è il mondo di Ovidio'). In turning in the introduction's third part to discussion of Ovid's addressees specifically in Ex Ponto 3 (pp. 28-34), Formicola usefully highlights how each letter is distinctively shaped by the character of its addressee, who thereby gives idiosyncratic meaning to each epistle even as the book remains largely consistent in strategic move, mood, and manner. Within the assemblage of Ex Ponto 1-3 as a whole, Formicola argues persuasively for a shift of aspiration in Book 3, where Ovid appears increasingly resigned to his fate in exile, and where his erstwhile appeals for practical help and advocacy towards securing his recall from Tomis now give way to disillusion, disappointment, and flashes of resentment at the realization that his friends, even his wife, could or did do little to effect his rescue from the Pontic shore: far from going home, all that is brought home to him is that his hopes of relief or reprieve have come to nothing.

In the introduction's fourth part (pp. 34-6), on the text and the criteria on which Formicola constructs his apparatus criticus, J. A. Richmond's Teubner edition (Leipzig 1990) predictably supplies the foundation for the present work. Formicola departs from Richmond's text in some fifteen places (conveniently listed on p. 34), in each case with even-handed but firm-minded discussion in the commentary; so, e.g., at 3.1.49 Formicola reads exposuit memet populo Fortuna videndum, rejecting Heinsius' mea me for memet (in the manuscript tradition and favored by most modern editors), and (p. 58) thereby exposing Ovid to the throes of Fortuna as an objectively drawn deity, not as his own subjectively personalized fortune. As for Ex Ponto 3's overall structure, Formicola rejects Harmut Froesch's proposal, endorsed by Richmond1, that Ex Ponto 2.11 was originally positioned between 3.4 and 3.5, and that the totality of Ex Ponto 1-3 was therefore symmetrical in its arrangement of three books of ten poems each. True, for all his dissimulating insistence that the assemblage of Ex Ponto 1-3 was put together 'without order' (sine ordine, 3.9.53), there are clear signs of structured ordering within the collection. But Formicola persuasively counters the case for transposing 2.11 to after 3.4: among other significant objections (pp. 31-2), Formicola makes the telling point2 that, since the Rufus addressed in 2.11 is the uncle of Ovid's wife (cf. 2.11.15-16), and since Rufus apparently exercised a mentor-like influence over her (cf. admonitu melior fit … illa tuo, 2.11.14), 2.11 is aptly placed before 3.1: after touching on Rufus' advisory role in 2.11, Ovid turns to admonitus of his own in 3.1 in advising his wife on how she can best approach the empress Livia on his behalf.

A particular strength of this edition lies in the co-ordination that Formicola achieves between macro- and micro-levels of analysis: while he monitors the flow and function of Ex Ponto 3 within the course of the exilic poetry as a whole, he also well captures the idiosyncratic force and flavor of each elegy. Given this balance of perspectives on part and whole, four tendencies of the commentary warrant special notice, the first of them Formicola's rejection of a line-by-line or couplet-by-couplet mode of treatment, and his coverage instead of larger blocks of text – a method that allows for a more discursive approach to the verse while still offering scope for close linguistic analysis in point of detail.3 Secondly, the commentary teems with sharp-witted insights, only a token sampling of which can be offered here. So, e.g., in his account to his wife of conditions on the Pontic shore at 3.1.7-10, Ovid laments the absence of peace in a land 'trampled by the neighboring enemy with swift horse (rapido … equo)': through allusive contact with Fast. 5.592-3, quid [tibi] rapidi profuit usus equi,/ Parthe?, Ovid delicately aligns the Pontic foe with the Parthian bogeyman (p. 50). When he describes Amor's dream-like visitation to him in 3.3, Ovid's recognition of him (hunc … agnovi, 21) is related by Formicola (p. 113) to Aeneas' struggle to recognize the disfigured Deiphobus at Aen. 6.498 (vix adeo agnovit pavitantem; Formicola further connects Virgil's notis … vocibus at 6.499 with Ovid's talibus … sonis in 22); Amor is suitably transformed in his now chastened and unkempt appearance in Tomis (13-20), and Ovid's dawning realization in 21 that it really is Amor is nicely tempered by the hint of lingering unrecognizability supplied by the Virgilian subtext. Many more touches of this sort could be registered, but – my third point – this sharp eye for verbal detail is matched by an alert ear both for sound effect within the verse (so, e.g., p. 55 on the concatenation of assonance, alliteration, etc., that underscores his downbeat appeal to his wife at 3.1.31-6) and for intimations of irony, impatience, and barely concealed recrimination. Take, e.g., 3.8: if the Maximus addressed in this poem is indeed taken to be Paullus Fabius Maximus (as Formicola has it, with sound reasoning on p. 206), Ovid's association with this influential confidant of Augustus nevertheless resulted in no effective intercession on the poet's behalf before Fabius' death in 14 CE, not long before Augustus' own death. Since Ovid's appeals to Fabius in Ex Ponto 1.2 and 3.3 had apparently brought no positive result, the gift that 3.8 claims to accompany – a quiver-full of Scythian arrows which, Ovid prays, 'may become stained with your enemy's blood' (20) – is suggestively double-edged in connotation: through the polyvalence of calamus (21) as both arrow and pen, the poem itself may deliver its own pointed shaft, blending surface deference with the lurking insinuation that Maximus could (and should) have done more on Ovid's behalf (p. 211). For Formicola, the poet's statement of mindful affection for Maximus (memorem … curam, 1) makes ironic allusion (p. 211) to Maximus' far from maximal effort to remember, and to take committed action for, his Naso.

Fourth, Formicola's sensitivity to Ovidian linguistic subtlety and ironic possibility extends to the allusions to historical context that he discerns in Ex Ponto 3. Already in his Premessa (pp. 11-13) Formicola makes capital of Ovid's claim in Ex Ponto 2.3, to M. Aurelius Cotta Maximus, that 'Aethalian Ilva [sc. Elba] last saw me with you' (83-4), and that Cotta had there inquired into the disastrous transgression that led to Ovid's exile (85-6). Not far from Elba was Planasia, to which Agrippa Postumus (adopted along with Tiberius by Augustus in 4 CE) was exiled in 7 CE; with Agrippa's demise and his eventual murder in 14 CE, the Julian line of succession was thwarted, Tiberius in the ascendant, with Livia's maneuvering suspected in the sources (so Tac. Ann. 1.6.1-2, Suet. Tib. 22, Dio 57.3.5-6). What, then, were Cotta and Ovid doing on Elba? For Formicola, these developments cast a dark shadow over Ex Ponto 3: could it be that for Ovid in Tomis, 'con tutta evidenza tanto filogermaniciano quanto antitiberiano' (p. 12), Agrippa's marginalization was related to the growing sense of resignation to his exilic fate that Formicola perceives in Ex Ponto 3? And what then of Fabius Maximus' role in Augustus' rumored efforts to contact Agrippa? As Tacitus notoriously has it (Ann. 1.5.1-2), Fabius told Marcia, his wife, of the visit that he had made with Augustus to Planasia in 14 CE, and she had divulged as much to Livia. As Formicola states (p. 212), it is far from clear if and how the news of that visit could have reached Tomis before Ovid penned Ex Ponto 3.8, but Formicola makes much of Ovid's assertion in Ex Ponto 4.6 that he counts himself the cause of Fabius' death (11-12): does Ovid refer to some compromising incident that pre-dated (and so precipitated, at least in part?) his exile – an incident that was somehow related to Agrippa's demise, implicated Fabius, and drew the lingering ire of the Tiberius-Livia circle? Hence, perhaps, the suspicion that the enemy against whom Fabius might use his gift of Scythian arrows came from that hostile inner circle (pp. 212-13).

Formicola offers much stimulation through sharply perceived speculations of this kind, but caution is in order, as hard fact is so elusive within the web of hint and suspicion that he discerns in Ex Ponto 3 and beyond. After all, the reading that places Ovid and Cotta on Elba at 2.3.84, Aethalis Ilva, is Janus Rutgers' enticing (after Plin. Nat. 3.81) but still contestable conjecture, now challenged by Martin Helzle's appealing Algida silva;4 such is the foundation on which Formicola bases his argument for looking to Agrippa on Planasia. So too Formicola accepts that Ovid's third wife, the addressee of Ex Ponto 3.1, was a relative of Paullus Fabius Maximus (see esp. p. 48 on 3.1.1-6), thereby eschewing the more cautious approach of other recent commentators.5 Her identity thus established, Formicola terms her Fabia in the commentary, a maneuver that then enables Formicola's speculation (e.g.) that any failure of effort to intercede energetically on her husband's behalf (or any such failure at least as suspected or perceived by Ovid) was motivated at least in part by her desire to protect her family and familial patrimony from exposure to judicial risk (p. 57): the presumption that she is Fabia here shapes the consequence of her belonging to the Fabia gens. Yet Formicola is careful to nuance his speculations by often posing them as open questions or as possibilities for consideration, and the value of the provocations he raises amply justifies the interpretive risks that are sometimes taken.

A thorough index of passages cited (pp. 261-9) is followed by an index of modern authors (pp. 271-5), but there is no general index – an unfortunate omission, given that such a navigational device would surely have enhanced the commentary's utility. The bibliography is impressively full, up-to-date, and multilingual, albeit Gordon Williams' Change and Decline: Roman Literature in the Early Empire (Berkeley 1978) is wrongly attributed to the present reviewer. In sum, this handsome and well-produced volume fills an important gap in scholarship on Ovid's exilic poetry, and its combination of philological acuity, interpretational finesse, and historical sensitivity greatly enhances our appreciation of Ex Ponto 3.


1.   H. H. Froesch, Ovids Epistulae ex Ponto 1-3 als Gedichtsammlung (Diss. Bonn 1968), esp. 139-42; J. A. Richmond, P. Ovidi Nasonis Ex Ponto libri quattuor (Leipzig 1990), xviii and 72 in app.
2.   Cf. already L. Galasso, ed., Ovidio: Epistulae ex Ponto (Milan 2008), xlix.
3.   See already on the benefits of such an approach E. J. Kenney, CR 22.1 (1972), 38, in review of F. Bömer, P. Ovidius Naso, Metamorphosen: Buch I-III (Heidelberg 1969).
4.   See Ovids Epistulae ex Ponto, Buch I-II: Kommentare (Heidelberg 2003), 308-9 on 2.3.83-4 with, in review, B. Boyd, JRS 94 (2004), 252.
5.   For his wife as Fabia see esp. M. Helzle, 'Mr. and Mrs. Ovid,' G & R 36.2 (1989), 183-93. For a more circumspect approach, J. F. Gaertner, ed. Ovid: Epistulae ex Ponto I, Book I (Oxford 2005), 216 on 1.2.136; G. Tissol, ed., Ovid: Epistulae ex Ponto, Book I (Cambridge 2014), 90 on 1.2.135-6.

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Kai Brodersen, Polyainos: Strategika. Griechisch-deutsch. Sammlung Tusculum. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. 720. ISBN 9783110536645. $80.99.

Reviewed by Lee Fratantuono, Ohio Wesleyan University (

Version at BMCR home site

The second-century C.E. Macedonian writer Polyainos is barely a name even to many advanced students and scholars of classics and ancient history. His obscurity is regrettable given the intrinsic interest and historical value of his one surviving work, the Strategika dedicated to Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus on the occasion of the Roman-Parthian War of 161-166 C.E. Polyainos' eight book compendium is a treasure trove of anecdotes mostly concerning famous and memorable episodes in military history, with heavy coverage of the Greek masters of strategy and tactics, some valuable ethnographic treatment of Carthaginians and "barbarians," and (lamentably) comparatively brief attention to both Roman and female noteworthy figures in the history of the art and practice of war. Treatment of Roman affairs does not extend beyond a short consideration of Augustus (the rich material of the next two centuries of Roman history is ignored); Julius Caesar fares significantly better.

"Stratagems" is a broadly conceived concept; Polyainos includes many seemingly random comments on the military practices of his subjects (Augustus, for example, is noted for his use of decimation with slacker soldiers). The "stratagem compilation" was a popular diversionary and educational work in antiquity; Frontinus' similar volume, as well as the miscellany of Valerius Maximus on memorable deeds and sayings, offer parallels in Latin literature. Polyainos' aim is didactic; one who reads his work is meant to obtain an education in the art of war. Writing centuries after Alexander the Great, Polyainos presents himself as a Macedonian with a certain expertise in how to deal with the renewed threats to the stability of the Roman East that had erupted in the wake of yet another clash between Rome and Parthia over the kingdom of Armenia. Stray references here and there in the prefaces to the individual books preserve information about the progress of the war.

The relative lack of interest in Polyainos through much of history (the Byzantine epitomists are a notable exception) has been ascribed to alleged stylistic flaws in his Greek (perceived Second Sophistic peculiarities aside, he would in fact serve as a potentially interesting intermediate author for contemporary classroom use), as well as to his aforementioned apparent lack of interest in Roman warfare. But a dearth of scholarly resources has surely been a contributing factor. There is no Loeb edition, no Oxford text, no Budé, and no Teubner since 1887.1 Enter Brodersen's Tusculum edition of the Greek text (sine apparatu, as is customary with volumes in the series) with German translation, which appears some years after his edited volume of papers on the author.2 Anyone interested in either the author or the genre of his work will want access to this magisterial volume.

If Brodersen has a rival, it is the admirable (and difficult to obtain) two-volume edition of Peter Krentz and Everett Wheeler, released in 1994 by Ares Publishers, Inc.3 Krentz and Wheeler reprint Melber's Teubner text, with an English translation and an extensive introduction and bibliography. (They also include the anonymous Excerpts and the tenth century Stratagems of the Emperor Leo).4 Certainly the Krentz and Wheeler edition is on a vaster scale than Brodersen's Tusculum. But Brodersen's work is now the most convenient available edition of this fascinating author, and his volume reflects the new work done on Polyainos in the two decades since Krentz-Wheeler.

While annotations are few (in keeping with the nature of the Tusculum series), Brodersen provides an invaluable collection of parallel passages. The introduction considers these parallels at greater length in a succinct and lucid treatment of source criticism, the historical background of Rome's war with Parthia, and the later reception of Polyainos' work. Divergences from Melber's text are noted. There is also a useful bibliography of scholarship on the parallel texts and their ancient sources. The introduction and treatment of parallel passages will be of great use to scholars for the facilitation of references to classic anecdotes.

The Sammlung Tusculum has produced several recent volumes of great merit under the editorship of Niklas Holzberg and Bernhard Zimmermann. The new Polyainos fills an important gap in classical studies by providing a reliable and affordable edition of an author whose 833 anecdotes offer many hours of enjoyable reading in episodes both celebrated and more obscure. The aged Polyainos is said to have been too old to travel to distant Ctesiphon with victorious Roman armies; it is to be hoped that the work he instead bequeathed to posterity will enjoy greater fame and dissemination through the much appreciated labors of Professor Brodersen.


1.   Johann Melber, ed. Polyaeni Strategematon libri octo. Leipzig: Teubner, 1887. Melber's text (which is based on the work of Eduard von Woefflin, editor of the first Teubner edition of 1860) has been reprinted in the Cambridge Library Collection.
2.   Kai Brodersen, ed. Polyainos: Neue Studien. Berlin: Verlag Antike, 2010. The papers in the volume originated from a conference at the University of Erfurt in 2009.
3.   Polyaenus: Stratagems of War. Chicago, Illinois: Ares Publishers Inc., 1994. Ares had previously reprinted Shepherd's 1793 English translation of Polyainos that had been dedicated to the British general Cornwallis; late eighteenth-century Britain witnessed one of the periodic revivals of interest in the Strategika.
4.   These works appear in Melber's Teubner; they are not included in the Tusculum edition.

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Richard Hodges, The Archaeology of Mediterranean Placemaking: Butrint and the Global Heritage Industry. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. Pp. xvi, 161. ISBN 9781350006621. $114.00.

Reviewed by Arna Elezovic, University of Washington (

Version at BMCR home site


Located three kilometers inland from the Straits of Corfu and perched above the Vivari Channel which leads to a large inland lagoon, ancient Buthrotum was a Greco-Roman port for many centuries. Butrint experienced a decline in population in late Antiquity, a revival in the Byzantine period, then occupation by the Venetians before coming under Ottoman control. In short, although never a major Mediterranean port, Butrint has had many identities. In this brief yet thought-provoking book, archaeologist Richard Hodges examines how the modern Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992, has evolved over time and how narratives about the place have been constructed. Now defined by its "very rare combination of archaeology and nature," the world heritage site is protected by its position within the Butrint National Park.1 The principal question Hodges considers is whether the unique aspects of Butrint or its "spirit of place" can be maintained in a future that looks to be increasingly dominated by globalization and the homogenizing forces of mass tourism. Archaeologists, Hodges argues, must move beyond the often self-referential world of academia and engage with multiple communities so that archaeological sites can survive with their authentic identities intact.

Hodges' reflections are based on his two decades of involvement with Butrint, where he served as scientific director from 1993-2012 under the auspices of the Butrint Foundation.2 From 1994-1999, the project involved surveys of topography of the ancient city, its standing monuments, the environmental context, and the traditional field survey of immediate surroundings with small excavations at selected points (p. 42-44). Major support from the Packard Humanities Institute enabled researchers to expand excavations from 2000-2009, opening up the ancient civic center and conducting work in surrounding areas such as at a lakeside villa four kilometers northeast of Butrint (p. 45). The project's ample funding has made Butrint the exception rather than the rule in archaeological research and site management.

Butrint is a forested site where tourists are advised to spend about three hours. It has two levels or parts. The first is an acropolis on a long narrow hill two hundred meters long and sixty meters wide, buttressed by walls and terraces. The Venetians constructed a fortress there, which now serves as a museum. The second part is a lower town or city, composed of a mix of ruins, walls, and fortifications, situated in the vegetation and going to the edge of the Vivari channel. Some major monuments in the lower level include a Hellenistic theater, a Roman forum and baths, a church with sixth century CE mosaics and a baptistery, and another early Christian construction, the Great Basilica. Outside of the city walls is Ali Pasha's Castle (circa 1800) opposite the channel. What is visible at Butrint today represents at least two thousand years of non-continuous human activity, or what Hodges calls in the third chapter "the episodic history of the place."

The Archaeology of Mediterranean Placemaking has five chapters, each with a distinct goal and focus. Sections of this book have appeared in print elsewhere (p. xiv).3 The book presents a coherent whole in its structure and argument. The first chapter introduces the concept of placemaking as a practice of creating an identity that can attract visitors who in turn help sustain a place (p. 5). Hodges uses Marc Augé's distinction between place and non-place, where "supermodernity" transforms airports, shopping malls, and hotel resorts into non-places of bland conformity. Hodges sees Butrint, by contrast, as a distinct place of enduring authenticity constructed over time with overlapping narratives forged by multiple parties. This layered process of "placemaking" is somewhat akin to Laurent Olivier's conception of archaeological sites as "archives of memory," where the meaning of the place changes according to the narratives created about it.4

The second chapter surveys major literary and historical narratives about Butrint. The most enduring narrative comes from Vergil's brief reference to Butrint, which has been interpreted both as "lofty Buthrotum"5 or simply a "hilltop town, Buthrotum."6 Vergil put Butrint on the literary map of Western Civilization because the town, supposedly founded by Trojan exiles Helenus and Andromache whom Aeneas met in his travels, was a "Troy in miniature" (p. 11-12). The site's modern history begins with the work by Luigi Maria Ugolini, Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission, whose excavations at Butrint from 1928 until his death in 1936 focused on recovering the city's Roman past. After the Albanian communists came to power in 1944, Butrint became a "non-place" rarely accessible to western Europeans. For a while, these limitations protected the ancient site from aggressive development. But by the 1950s, Butrint came to play a significant role in new nationalist narratives. In 1959, Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha brought Nikita Khrushchev to Butrint, building a road to the archaeological site, which facilitated the establishment of collective farms in the surrounding area and allowed Albanians to bring in small groups of tourists and their western currencies (p. 27, 105). Since the 1960s, Albanian archaeologists worked to construct a narrative for the site that documented an Albanian past with direct ethnic and cultural links to their Illyrian ancestors (p. 28). Permission was required to visit the site until 1991.

The third chapter explicates the Butrint Foundation's goal to create a new identity for Butrint based upon its "Mediterranean connectivity" (p. 40). This effort begins with the assertion that previous definitions of the site's identity have distorted its history in their selectivity. In this assessment, the emphasis on the site's Greek and Byzantine heritage in UNESCO literature is as problematic as the literary portraits shaped by the exegesis of Vergil or the Communist accounts focused on the site's Illyrian connections. The most recent excavations have created a "fourth identity" for Butrint. Occupied since at least the eighth century BCE, the site has experienced phases of intensive settlement and periodic abandonment or reduced habitation.

The fourth chapter, more limited in scope, provides a short history of the Butrint Foundation and its various encounters with Albanian partners and government officials during the tumultuous decade after the collapse of Hoxha's regime. Hodges delineates the Foundation's work at Butrint into four rather tidy phases. He describes the first phase, from 1994- 96, as "confrontation of scientific cultures" (p. 81), acknowledging that "in retrospect, our neo-liberalism was verging on what Herzfeld has criticized as crypto-colonialism" (p. 87). Hodges' willingness to engage in such self-criticism lends more credence to his account of both the successes and failures of the project in subsequent years. The creation of the Butrint National Park and the park's infrastructure encompassed two phases, in 1998-2000 and 2000-2007 respectively. The fourth phase, from 2008-12 (or beyond), reconsiders the central question of the book, examining what Butrint has become. Successes include the Foundation's work in protecting Butrint from the "renewed gaze of Tirana's increasingly wealthy oligarchs" (p. 96). The Foundation also helped negotiate the return of some Roman imperial sculptures that had been looted from the site in 1991; Greek police confiscated three while a fourth was recovered from a Manhattan collector (p. 100). In Hodges's assessment, the Foundation's successes are mitigated by its inability to build comprehensive and enduring working relationships with all the local communities. The Foundation's work had a distinct end-point; Butrint is now jointly managed by the Albanian-American Enterprise Foundation (AAEF), an Albanian NGO, and the Butrint National Park under the Albanian Ministry of Culture.

In the fifth and final chapter, Hodges explores the Butrint Foundation's work in its fuller international context, assessing its accomplishments relative to the ideals established at the Valletta Convention of 1992 on the protection of European archaeological heritage. Hodges also advances an interesting but too brief discussion of how the Butrint Foundation's work measures up to the Norwich Accord (2009), which details specific steps for the protection and sustainability of sites and their "spirit of place" (p. 123). While less coherent than the previous chapters because of its numerous subsections, this chapter presents itself as a kind of road map for future archaeological work. For example, Hodges considers whether all the stakeholders at Butrint truly benefited (answer: only select families in local communities; p. 112). Thus his "retrospections" on the Foundation as a terminal NGO include a checklist for archaeologists committed to sustainability, the involvement of multiple communities, and heritage management which includes conservation of sites.

Hodges concludes that Butrint in many ways is "a symbol for Albania," a reasonable assertion given that the site's ancient theater appears on Albania's largest bank note, although it is labeled incorrectly as an amphitheater (p. 134). Butrint was a long term pilot project in archaeological management that remains unique. Hodges' retrospective on his own work at Butrint offers an oblique apology and critique about his own profession. He sees himself as part of a pivotal generation of archaeologists who have published extensively but often failed in "capacity building" because of institutional "neo-liberal western values in archaeology" (p. 137). Hodges's meditations on his experience at Butrint underscore the difficulty of responsible archaeology and cultural heritage management, not only in Albania but everywhere. Like so many archaeological sites in the Mediterranean world, Butrint, eternal or timeless it may seem, has a future that is not guaranteed.


1.   Butrint UNESCO.
2.   Butrint Foundation.
3.   Hodges has coauthored several monographs about Butrint; for the most recent publication, see BMCR 2014.02.18.
4.   Laurent Olivier, The Dark Abyss of Time: Archaeology and Memory Archaeology in Society Series. (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2011), xv.
5.   Virgil, Aeneid III 293, transl. David West (1990).
6.   Virgil, Aeneid III 350, transl. Robert Fagles (2006).

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Kerstin Brix, Sueton in Straßburg. Die Übersetzung der Kaiserviten durch Jakob Vielfeld (1536). Spolia Berolinensia, 36. Hildesheim; Zürich; New York: Olms-Weidmann, 2017. Pp. 568. ISBN 9783615004274. €88,00. ISBN 9783615401066. ebook.

Reviewed by Karl Gerhard Hempel, Università del Salento, Lecce (

Version at BMCR home site


Die Forschung zu frühneuhochdeutschen Übersetzungen antiker Werke – so genannter Übersetzungs- oder Rezeptionsliteratur – hat in den letzten fünfzehn Jahren einen überraschenden Aufschwung erlebt, der weiterhin anhält. Obschon sich langsam ein klareres Bild von der Übersetzungstätigkeit zwischen der Mitte des 15. und der Mitte des 16. Jh. ergibt, bietet dieses interessante Forschungsfeld jedoch immer noch Raum für eine Präzisierung des wissenschaftlichen Instrumentariums, vor allem aber auch für die Bearbeitung bislang nicht berücksichtigten Textmaterials. Ein Beispiel dafür ist die hier zu besprechende, umfangreiche Arbeit, die nur wenig überarbeitete Druckversion der in Würzburg entstandenen Dissertation von Kerstin Brix, denn zum Gegenstand hat sie die 1536 in Straßburg gedruckte erste vollständige deutsche Übersetzung der Kaiserviten Suetons durch Jakob Vielfeld, welche „die Forschung bislang völlig vernachlässigt hat" (S. 13).1

Tatsächlich gibt es – wie dies bei frühneuhochdeutscher Rezeptionsliteratur des Öfteren der Fall ist – lediglich zwei fast bzw. mehr als hundert Jahre alte Beiträge, in denen Vielfelds Sueton eine mehr als nur beiläufige Erwähnung findet und die seine Übersetzung zudem mit eher kritischem Auge betrachten, ohne dies allerdings eingehend zu begründen. Der Verfasserin ist es daher, wie sie in der Einleitung ausführt (Kap. 1, S. 11-21), um eine korrekte Bewertung der Leistung des Übersetzers in ihrer kulturellen Funktion zu tun, wobei sich allgemein sagen lässt, dass dieser weder wörtlich übersetzt, noch den Stoff frei anpasst, sondern „sein Vorgehen gewissermaßen für jede Textstelle neu bestimmen" musste (S. 20). Als übersetzungstheoretischen Bezugsrahmen wählt sie unter den zahlreichen modernen Ansätzen denn auch einen solchen aus, der das Vorgehen des Übersetzers in einem größeren Zusammenhang interpretiert und das Augenmerk dabei vornehmlich auf dessen Entscheidungsfreiheit richtet, nämlich die postkolonialen und z.T dekonstruktivistischen Vorstellungen verpflichtete Kulturtheorie des indischen Philosophen Homi K. Bhabha.

Vor der Untersuchung der Übersetzung als solcher werden zunächst kurz die literarischen und stilistischen Eigenheiten der Kaiserviten Suetons zwischen Biografie und Geschichtsschreibung behandelt (Kap. 2, S. 22-33), wobei Brix bereits an dieser Stelle darauf hinweist, dass sich bei der Übersetzung gegenüber dem Ausgangstext eine Verschiebung hin zu einer eher für die Historiografie typischen Textgestaltung feststellen lassen wird (S. 33). Danach erfolgt eine ausführliche Diskussion der Quellen sowie der direkten und indirekten Hinweise zum Leben des Übersetzers, wobei die Verfasserin u.a. zu dem bemerkenswerten Ergebnis kommt, dass dieser in Wirklichkeit mit dem Drucker Cammerlander identisch und der auch in zahlreichen latinisierten und gräzisierten Formen auftretende Autorenname „Vielfeld" in Wirklichkeit ein aus dem Druckernamen übertragenes Synonym sei (Kap. 3, S. 34-91). Für die Einordnung der Sueton-Übersetzung von Interesse ist in diesem Zusammenhang insbesondere die Untersuchung des Verlagsprogramms (S. 66-91), das überwiegend deutschsprachige Schriften enthält und sich durch eine protestantische Tendenz auszeichnet; dies passt wiederum gut zu dem, was anderweitig über die Person des Druckers bzw. Übersetzers in Erfahrung gebracht werden konnte.

Was die Übersetzung der Kaiserviten selbst betrifft (Kap. 4, S. 92-116), so beobachtet die Verfasserin zunächst, dass der Text sich, dem damals üblichen entsprechend, durch die Beigabe von Paratexten wie Vorwörtern, Einleitungen und historischen Erläuterungen sowie durch einige Illustrationen mit Münzbildern der Kaiser auszeichnet (S. 92-95). Das von Brix als Grundlage für ihre Untersuchungen angefertigte Transskript der Übersetzung wird sinnvollerweise nicht gedruckt veröffentlicht, sondern der Forschung im Internet zugänglich gemacht.2 Im Sinne einer korrekten philologischen Arbeitsweise bemüht sich Brix anschließend auch um eine exakte Bestimmung der Textgrundlage, die Vielfeld für seine Übertragung benutzt hat (S. 96-116). Diese scheitert allerdings – wie dies auch bei anderen, ähnlich gelagerten Recherchen oft der Fall ist – an der großen Zahl der vorhandenen Ausgaben und dem z.T. schwer interpretierbaren Textbefund; sicher feststellen lässt sich nur, dass dieser – wie sich aus einigen Lesarten ergibt, die auf italienische Humanisten zurückgehen – nicht vor 1490 entstanden sein kann.

Das Herzstück des Buches bildet eine eingehende Untersuchung der von Vielfeld bei der Übersetzung am Text vorgenommenen Transformationen (Kap. 5, S. 117-344), wobei der Fokus vornehmlich auf solche gelegt wird, die nicht einfach durch sprachliche Erfordernisse erklärbar sind, lässt sich doch ohnehin grundsätzlich feststellen, dass es sich bei diesem deutschen Sueton um eine „sinngemäße, zielsprachenorientierte Translation" handelt (S. 116). Bei den von ihr diskutierten Phänomenen spricht Brix denn auch konsequenterweise nicht von Übersetzungs-, sondern von „Aneignungsstrategien". Zu diesen zählen einerseits Verkürzungs- und Verdichtungs- und Umstrukturierungstechniken, durch die der Text zwar weniger detailreich und poetisch wirkt, dafür aber klarer und prägnanter erscheint, andererseits aber auch solche, die den Text „narrativer" machen oder etwa den Autor ausblenden, so z.B. der verstärkte Einsatz von Kohäsionsmarkern oder von direkter anstelle von indirekter Rede. Des Weiteren zu beobachten ist die auch bei anderen Übersetzern derselben Zeit zu beobachtende Tendenz zur Aktualisierung bzw. Kommentierung historischer Bezeichnungen und Realia bei gleichzeitiger Unterdrückung anstößiger Textstellen und gelegentlicher Anpassung von Bezugnahmen auf die heidnische Religion an die christliche Vorstellungswelt, auch bei den Jahresangaben, welche die geschilderten Ereignisse für den Leser historisch fassbar machen. Für die Intentionen des Übersetzung von Bedeutung ist auch die Beobachtung, dass gezielt Partien ausgelassen werden, in denen auf die literarischen Interessen der Kaiser Bezug genommenen wird, ein Umstand, welcher auf eine gewollte Anpassung des Inhalts hindeutet.

Im wohl interessantesten Teil ihrer Ausführungen (Kap. 6, S. 345-426) unternimmt Brix daher den Versuch, die Übersetzung Vielfelds vor ihrem kulturellen Hintergrund systematisch auf Rezeptionsmöglichkeiten hin zu untersuchen, welche der Übersetzer dem vorgestellten Leser anbietet, wobei insbesondere diejenigen im Ausgangstext angelegten Tendenzen eine Rolle spielen, die in der Übersetzung durch verschiedene Mittel verstärkt erscheinen. Dabei zeigt sich einerseits, dass der Text – wie dies auch bei anderen Werken häufig der Fall war – nicht nur der Unterhaltung diente, sondern an vielen Stellen gewissermaßen als Sittenspiegel verstanden werden kann, der zu moralisch korrektem Verhalten auffordert. Von Bedeutung sind aber insbesondere die Beobachtungen zu den politischen Aspekten des keinem Herrscher gewidmeten Textes, die sich überzeugend mit dem historischen Umfeld in der freien Reichsstadt Straßburg zur Zeit der Übersetzung in Verbindung bringen lassen. So erlauben etwa Paratexte und die häufig auftretenden lateinischen und deutschen Doppelbezeichnungen von Ämtern eine Konstruktion von Parallelen zwischen antiken und zeitgenössischen politischen Strukturen, bei denen eine städtische Verfassung auf der einen Seite der Figur des Kaisers auf der anderen gegenübersteht. Eine ähnliche für den Leser identitätsstiftende Funktion lässt sich auch beim vom Übersetzer favorisierten Germanenbild nachvollziehen.

Von Interesse ist außerdem der zum Abschluss des Buches angestellte Vergleich von Vielfelds Übersetzung der Cäsarvita mit der von Johann Adelphus Muling, welche der zweiten Ausgabe der bekannten Übersetzung des De Bello Gallico durch Mattias Ringmanns von 1508 vorangestellt war (Kap. 7, S. 427-472). Neben mancher Gemeinsamkeit bei den Übersetzungsstrategien lässt sich hier beobachten, dass in Mulings Version stärker die Figur Cäsars als ersten Kaisers im Mittelpunkt steht, wodurch die auf den städtischen Kontext ausgerichteten Tendenzen bei Vielfeld noch stärker hervortreten.

Insgesamt bietet die Arbeit von Brix eine umfassende und überzeugende historisch-philologische Interpretation eines bisher praktisch unbekannten, umfangreichen frühneuhochdeutschen Übersetzungswerks und leistet damit einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Erforschung der frühneuzeitlichen Übersetzungsgeschichte, wobei die zahlreichen interessanten Beobachtungen eine Fundgrube für die Forschung darstellen und dieser gleichzeitig Anregung zur weiteren Beschäftigung mit frühneuhochdeutschen Übersetzungen bieten dürften. Der methodische Ansatz, bei dem übersetzerische Transformationen zunächst im jeweiligen Kontext und dann auch auf höherer Ebene erklärt werden, ist in der ganzen Arbeit konsequent durchgehalten. Dies stellt insofern eine Verschiebung des Erkenntnisinteresses gegenüber der bisherigen Forschung dar, als dass bei anderen, ähnlichen Untersuchungen sonst oft eher sprachhistorische Fragen wie die nach dem Einfluss des Übersetzens auf den frühneuhochdeutschen Wortschatz und die Syntax bzw. überhaupt deren übersetzerische Behandlung im Vordergrund standen, welche Brix nur äußerst kursorisch behandelt (S. 120-124). Was die Darstellung der Forschungsergebnisse betrifft, so ist die ausführliche Besprechung der einzelnen Textstellen m.E. bisweilen etwas langatmig, und angesichts des großen Umfangs des behandelten Übersetzungstextes hätten quantitative Untersuchungen oder auch tabellarische Darstellungen der Ergebnisse das Profil der Übersetzung Vielfelds für den Leser vielleicht besser nachvollziehbar machen können – auch im Hinblick auf einen leichteren Vergleich mit anderen Übersetzungswerken. In diesem Zusammenhang wäre auch eine Anwendung von im Rahmen der so genannten Descriptive Translation Studies für literaturhistorische Übersetzungsvergleiche entwickelten Kategorien, die neben dem kulturellen auch den zeitlichen Abstand zwischen Ausgangstext und Übersetzetzung thematisieren, oder von Methoden aus der Korpuslinguistik möglich gewesen. Dies ändert aber nichts an der positiven Bewertung des Werkes von Brix, dessen Lektüre jedem empfohlen sei, der sich mit Übersetzungen ins Frühneuhochdeutsche befasst.


1.   Für einen Vorabbericht mit den wichtigsten Ergebnissen, s. Kerstin Brix, "Ein deutscher 'Sueton'", in Regina Toepfer, Johannes Klaus Kipf und Jörg Robert (Hrsg.), Humanistische Antikenübersetzung und frühneuzeitliche Poetik in Deutschland (1450–1620), Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter (2017), S.461-490.
2. (29.12.2017).

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Richard Jones, Sara T. Levi, Marco Bettelli, Lucia Vagnetti, Italo-Mycenaean Pottery: The Archaeological and Archaeometric Dimensions. Incunabula graeca, 103. Roma: CNR - Istituto di studi sul Mediterraneo antico, 2014. Pp. 588; 12 p. of plates. ISBN 9788887345209. £80.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Christine Johnston, Western Washington University (

Version at BMCR home site

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

In this volume, the authors compile and synthesize the results produced from over three decades of archaeological and archaeometric research on Aegean and Aegean-type pottery recovered from Italy. This includes both a consolidation and reexamination of older data previously dispersed through various publications—many of which were produced by the authors of the current volume—as well as new data from more recent excavations. The term Italo-Mycenaean is here used to specify the Aegean-type pottery that was produced throughout Italy during the Mycenaean period, and which reflects the typology and style of Mycenaean Greece and LM III Crete. The corpus assessed in this volume represents a comprehensive study of the known Aegean-type ceramic finds from Italy.

The material analyzed comes from 103 sites on the Italian mainland, and in quantity constitutes approximately twenty percent of the Mycenaean and Italo-Mycenaean ceramics circulated throughout the central Mediterranean.1 Chapter 1 situates the analysis of the following sections within the context of ongoing debates current to the field of Mediterranean Bronze Age archaeology, particularly the nature of Mycenaean presence in Italy and the role of indigenous potters and local styles in the development of Italo-Mycenaean wares. These overarching themes and project goals are reiterated throughout the volume, and effectively integrate the data and analytical results of the remaining five chapters.

Following the introduction is an overview of the chronology and material covered by the current research. Chapter 2 is comprised of a 'Gazetteer' of the sites from which the ceramic material was recovered. Organized according to geographic region, this catalogue provides a succinct description of each site represented in the study, including location, extant chronological periods (in accordance with both local and Aegean systems), an overview of the material recovered and analyzed, a description of the local lithology, and a select bibliography. As noted by the authors (22), the site entries in the gazetteer are produced exclusively from direct consultation of primary excavation reports and publications, which was undoubtedly a laborious—though fruitful—exercise. In addition to the volume's contributions to the study of Bronze Age Italian ceramics, this catalogue provides a valuable reference guide for all scholars of prehistoric Italy.

The catalogue of sites is followed by a synthesis of new evidence for the synchronization of Italian and Aegean chronology in Chapter 3. Building upon their earlier work, the authors generate a continuous Mycenaean ceramic sequence across sites boasting strong stratigraphic continuity.2 The publication of comprehensive stratigraphic material from sites such as Rocavecchia provides valuable contextual information for correlating chronologies from MBI/LHI to RB2/LH IIIC early/advanced. This discussion outlines many of the important chronologically significant finds, and situates them within each site's stratigraphy. The inclusion of metal finds also strengthens the chronological links drawn; however, as noted by the authors, the substantial inter-site variability of craft industries across the Italian peninsula complicates these correlations (66). This chapter also includes a discussion of handmade burnished ware (or impasto ware) and wheel-made grey wares found at Cretan and mainland Greek sites (Kommos, Chania, Tiryns, and Dimini). Though not exhaustive, the finds discussed in this chapter center on the data that are particularly relevant for the construction of a unified Italo-Aegean chronology.

The bulk of the volume is contained within Chapter 4 (101–362), which presents the results of the archaeometric ceramic analyses. The three primary methods used are atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS), instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA), and inductively coupled plasma emission spectroscopy (ICP-ES), with complementary sourcing of coarser wares using petrography. These shifts in technique correspond to successive project phases, and the resulting limitations in data interpretation and resampling are readily addressed by the authors (107–8). The overview of methods found in this section is supplemented by a more technical discussion provided in the appendix, with the raw data presented in a series of databases. The appendix also outlines the important results of the collaborative program aimed at establishing comparability in INAA and ICP-ES results across three prominent laboratories (the Analytical Chemistry Department at Turin, the Helmholtz Institut für Strahlen u. Kernphysik at the Universität Bonn, and the Fitch Laboratory of the British School at Athens) conducted between 2003–2005. This study builds upon previous work on inter-laboratory comparability to facilitate the attribution of regional or even site-level provenance of ceramic materials according to different archaeometric methods.3 The results of the chemical analysis are followed by an examination of the technological aspects of ceramic manufacture, decoration, and firing in both the Aegean and Italy. Chapter 5 begins with a survey of the firing practices of Italy from the Middle to Final Bronze Age, and concludes with the results of experimental firing tests of Aegean-type pottery (393–401, pl. 11–2). The technical data of the preceding chapter is built upon to address particular topics around communities of production in Italy and the role and influence of Aegean potters. The authors expound on the findings summarized at the end of the chapter in the subsequent conclusion.

The final section of the book (Chapter 6) provides a discussion and interpretation of the results. The distribution maps presented in the conclusion provide illustrative representations of the distribution of Mycenaean imports and Italo-Mycenaean vessels across different chronological periods, indicating the regional distribution of samples selected for analysis, as well as additional dimensions such as the quantity of vessels studied and the likely sources for imported wares. The authors also note the impact of the limited number of sites sampled on the results, particularly the exaggeration of the Peloponnese as a source of LHI-II imports due to the large number of samples taken from Vivara and Lipari (414). The discussion outlines the authors' interpretations of the trading ventures that resulted in the deposition of Aegean imports in Italy, and which led to the development of Italo-Mycenaean pottery production. Reconstructed trade relationships are explored chronologically, as well as in reference to the diachronic importance of different local resources in Italy, including sulphur, alum, and metal ores.

As outlined in the introduction, the goal of the volume is to understand the development of Italo-Mycenaean wares. In the final discussion the authors draw together the evidence of the preceding chapters to successfully demonstrate the role of local potters in the production of Italo-Mycenaean wares. In observance of techniques employed through the preparation, forming, and firing stages, convincing connections are drawn between local styles and the extant Italo-Mycenaean forms, including distinct differences between the latter and Aegean styles, as well as the co-occurrence of both Italo-Mycenaean wares and Aegean imports with local traditional wares. Similarly, grey ware and dolia show foreign techniques employed for the production of vessels catering to local tastes. This regional variation in production style and consumption tastes is one of the most striking finds of this research, extending across both imports and locally produced wares.

A particularly valuable contribution is the taxonomic system for locally produced Aegean-type vessels in Italy (426–34). Loosely arranged according to Furumark's system of Late Helladic ceramic morphology, the system outlined in this volume includes subcategorization according to both formal and decorative variation, with the expectation of the system's extension in accordance with the publication of new finds. The typology is supplemented by illustrations of each shape's profile. Additional tables outline the presence of Mycenaean and Minoan decorative motifs across Italian sites. This taxonomy will allow for greater standardization —and comparability—in the classification of Italo-Mycenaean finds in future publications, which is particularly necessary given the significant regional variation in local pottery making in Italy demonstrated by the authors (453–60).

While each of the authors have independently made indispensable contributions to the study of Italo-Mycenaean wares, the current volume represents the profitability of knowledge synergy. The breadth of data assembled here will provide many benefits to scholars of the ancient Mediterranean. Individuals studying Mycenaean and Italo-Mycenaean pottery will appreciate the substantial corpus discussed in this text, while Italian prehistorians will find the gazetteer of sites and the associated bibliography enormously beneficial. The results of the chemical analyses, published in full in the appendix, encourage continued and related research, and expands the extant data set for future sourcing studies. Furthermore, the concluding 'wish-list' for continued research presents a clear path for future work, particularly with respect to the opportunities afforded by expanding chemical databases and more refined analytical methods. The strong correspondence between local popular shapes and Italo-Mycenaean forms, as well as the regional clustering of technique and decorative motifs, effectively shows the varying nature of indigenous and Aegean interaction, and confirms the important role native potters played in technology transfer. This important contribution furthers not only our understanding of the complexity of Italo-Mycenaean relations through the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, but helps to elucidate the backdrop of central Mediterranean interaction through the transition from the second to the first millennium.

Authors and titles

Chapter 1. The Project and its Development, R.E. Jones, S.T. Levi, M. Bettelli, L. Vagnetti
Chapter 2. Gazetteer of Sites, L. Vagnetti, M. Bettelli, S.T. Levi, L. Alberti
Chapter 3. Building a Comparative Chronology between Italy and the Aegean in the Late Bronze Age, M. Bettelli, L. Alberti
Chapter 4. Characterisation and Provenance, R.E. Jones, S.T. Levi (with contributions by M. Bettelli, P.M. Day, D. Pantano, J.A. Riley, Y. Goren, M. Sonnino, J.Ll. Williams)
Chapter 5. Technological Investigations, S.T. Levi, R.E. Jones (with contributions by V. Cannavò, C. Moffa, E. Photos-Jones, A. Vanzetti et al.)
Chapter 6. Discussion and Perspectives, R.E. Jones, M. Bettelli, S.T. Levi, L. Vagnetti
Databases (AAS; INAA; ICP-ES; Petrographic-mineralogical data; XRF, SEM-EDAX)
Appendix, R.E. Jones
Abbreviations and Bibliography


1.   This data was compiled as part of the Dedalo Project developed at the Istituto di Studi sulle Civiltà dell'Egeo e del Vicino Oriente (CNR-ICEVO) in Rome (now part of the new Istituto di Studi sul Mediterraneo Antico).
2.   Alberti, L., and M. Bettelli. 2005. "Contextual Problems of Mycenaean Pottery in Italy" in Emporia: Aegeans in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, edited by R. Laffineur and E. Greco, 547–57. Aegaeum 25. Liége: University of Liége.
3.   Hein, A., A. Tsolakidou, I. Iliopoulos, H. Mommsen, J. Buxeda i Garrigós, G. Montana, and V. Kilikoglou. "Standardisation of Elemental Analytical Techniques Applied to Provenance Studies of Archaeological Ceramics: An Inter-laboratory Calibration Study" Analyst 127(4):542–53; and Tsolakidiou, A., and V. Kilikoglou. 2002. "Comparative Analysis of Ancient Ceramics by Neutron Activation Analysis, Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical-Emission Spectrometry, Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry, and X-Ray Fluorescence." Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 374:566–72.

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Valeriya Kozlovskaya (ed.), The Northern Black Sea in Antiquity: Networks, Connectivity, and Cultural Interactions. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xxvii; 366. ISBN 9781107019515. $140.00.

Reviewed by Madalina Dana, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne​ (

Version at BMCR home site

[Les auteurs et la table des matières sont indiqués à la fin du compte-rendu.]

Les notions de réseaux et connectivité, ajoutées aux concepts bien établis d'échanges et de contacts, ont bénéficié ces dernières années de l'attention croissante des spécialistes de toutes les périodes historiques. Il s'agit certes d'un phénomène de mode, mais qui rend compte d'une prise de conscience de la valeur heuristique de ces notions. Elles permettent à la fois de mieux appréhender un monde qui ne cesse de se transformer au gré des changements historiques, et de contourner certaines difficultés méthodologiques. Par exemple, le concept de « réseau », repris avec succès aux sciences sociales, présente pour l'histoire ancienne l'avantage majeur d'être un outil nous permettant d'étudier des processus et des formes d'interaction qui n'ont pas de limites précises ni de centre dominant contrôlant les périphéries. Par ce biais, la place des régions situées en marge du monde méditerranéen est renégociée avec succès, dans les études récentes, afin de mettre en évidence leur appartenance à un monde affecté en égale mesure par des phénomènes « centraux » et « périphériques ». Le but du volume que nous présentons est précisément celui de désenclaver l'une de ces régions, reprenant ainsi, dix ans après, les questions soulevées par un autre ouvrage collectif consacré au nord du Pont-Euxin.1 Au cœur des nouvelles interrogations sur cet espace particulier, à cheval entre le monde grec et le monde barbare, se situe notamment l'identité d'une région dont le milieu naturel, les relations avec les indigènes, le développement économique et l'évolution historique ne furent pourtant pas homogènes. La démarche adoptée met en évidence la pluralité des situations à l'intérieur d'un espace précis, et ouvre une nouvelle perspective vers une approche globale de la mer Noire.

Le volume est constitué de neuf chapitres, basés, à deux exceptions près, sur le matériel archéologique (amphores, monuments et complexes funéraires, structures architecturales). Chaque chapitre traite d'un aspect en particulier——colonisation, commerce, culture politique, art et architecture, populations non grecques—allant, du point de vue chronologique, de l'époque archaïque à la période romaine. La première contribution est consacrée à la question épineuse du retard que les fondations de cités dans le Pont-Euxin ont connu par rapport aux entreprises similaires en Occident. Askold Ivantchik explique ce retard non pas par les difficultés de navigation dans la région, mais par la conception géographique et cosmologique des Grecs aux VIIIe-VIIe s. Selon l'auteur, la vénération d'Achille Pontique sur Leukè, l'île des Bienheureux, le cycle des Argonautes, qui voulaient atteindre le pays d'Aïétès, et la localisation dans le Pont nord de l'entrée dans le monde d'au-delà, tous des endroits considérés comme étant au bord de l'Océan, expliqueraient pourquoi les Grecs, terrifiés par l'Océan qu'ils associaient avec la mort et le chaos, ne se sont pas établis plus tôt dans ces contrées. Néanmoins, s'il est vrai que les légendes véhiculées par les cycles héroïques ont pu trouver un écho dans l'esprit des Grecs, la méconnaissance des populations barbares et l'absence de renseignements pratiques sur la possibilité d'implanter des relais commerciaux semblent avoir été des obstacles plus importants à l'installation précoce des Grecs dans la région.

Les deux articles suivants mettent en avant le contexte maritime, en rapport étroit avec les changements subis par la côte nord-pontique depuis l'Antiquité jusqu'à nos jours. Valeriya Kozlovskaya se propose ainsi d'analyser les ports, compte tenu des voies d'eau essentielles pour la communication entre la grande cité commerçante d'Olbia et sa chôra. Pour Olbia, l'auteur renvoie à une étude antérieure, dont le résumé aurait été utile pour apprendre où était localisé le port, mais propose en revanche une discussion plus large sur le réseau maritime local au centre duquel se trouvait la cité. On aurait ainsi affaire à une structure de type hiérarchique d'un réseau de ports, identifiés dans le territoire : Staraya Bogdnanovka et Kozyrka, au nord d'Olbia, Koshary, au sud-ouest, la zone du Golfe d'Odessa, les ports attachés aux lieux de culte, notamment d'Achille (Beikuš, Tendra, île de Leukè). Pour la plupart de ces sites, c'est davantage la concentration de fragments céramiques que l'identification des structures portuaires qui indique leur nature. Une remarque s'impose concernant le long graffite (douze lignes de texte) connu sous le nom de « lettre du prêtre » sur un fragment d'amphore de style Fikellura. 2 Ce document, certes fragmentaire, n'atteste pas le transport de bois vers l'Hylaiè, mais mentionne des arbres endommagés dans ses alentours. Il aurait été de toute manière inutile d'alimenter en bois une région appelée précisément la « boisée » (Hérodote 4.19). Pour la communication par voie d'eau dans la région, un autre document pourrait être invoqué, la lettre sur plomb d'Achillodôros de Berezan', où il est question d'une cargaison qui avait été saisie et d'un capitaine de navire. 3 Cette étude est complétée par celle d'Ilya Buynevich, qui montre que, si le niveau bas de la mer à l'époque classique a favorisé le développement et la prospérité des établissements grecs de la côte nord, la hausse subséquente du niveau de la mer a causé la submersion de plusieurs sites et a influencé la navigabilité des voies d'eau, diminuant la défense contre les tempêtes.

La section suivante propose un groupe de deux contributions sur le commerce d'amphores, avec une approche assez classique, basée sur des classifications chronologiques et typologiques, mais détaillée et faisant état des découvertes les plus récentes. Sergey Monakhov et Elena Kuznetsova traitent de la première période de l'existence des cités nord-pontiques (de l'époque archaïque à l'époque hellénistique), alors que Sergey Vnukov reprend l'étude pour l'époque romaine, allant jusqu'au IIIe s. ap. J.-C. L'examen des complexes céramiques offre des tableaux synthétiques des relations économiques de la région avec le bassin égéen (Thasos, Rhodes, Cos), mettant en avant l'émergence des centres régionaux sud-pontiques (Sinope et Héraclée), auxquels s'ajoute, à l'époque impériale, la Colchide. Pour cette dernière période, l'analyse des réseaux amphoriques est doublée d'une vue d'ensemble sur le commerce pontique, avec l'accent sur les produits exportés de la région nord-pontique (blé, à la hauteur de 20 000 à 30 000 tonnes par an, poisson salé, matières premières dont fourrures). L'auteur identifie quatre stages dans le développement du commerce pontique durant la période romaine, après la domination de Mithridate VI Eupator. C'est notamment lors du deuxième stage, allant du second quart du Ier s. au milieu du IIe s. ap. J.-C., que la région joua un rôle important dans l'approvisionnement de l'armée romaine. Ainsi, l'auteur s'intéresse à la formation d'un marché pan-pontique et à son évolution à l'intérieur du marché pan-romain, attirant opportunément l'attention sur le fait que si les changements économiques suivent les changements politiques, ils ne sont pas reflétés tout de suite dans la culture matérielle.

Dans la troisième partie on trouve l'article consacré par Angelos Chaniotis à la culture politique des cités du Pont nord durant l'époque hellénistique. Après des remarques concernant la spécificité des cités de la mer Noire—leur position périphérique par rapport au centre égéen, le contrôle exercé par différents dynastes locaux, leur exposition aux menaces barbares –, l'auteur passe en revue les traits des institutions politiques, qui ne se distinguent en rien de celles des autres cités grecques. Ainsi, les inscriptions attestent la présence du conseil, de l'assemblée, des magistratures annuelles, souvent héritées des cités-mères en même temps que les autres nomima, tout comme les décrets de la région, à l'instar de ceux des autres parties du monde grec, octroient la citoyenneté, l'exemption des taxes et d'autres privilèges, des honneurs pour les bienfaiteurs. Les institutions culturelles sont elles aussi bien attestées, montrant que les cités grecques les plus septentrionales sont entièrement intégrées dans la culture politique du monde grec. L'effet de cette homogénéisation, résultat des échanges entre communautés grecques, est également perceptible dans les difficultés que doivent affronter les cités pontiques (dettes, dépendance des rois, expansion du pouvoir romain). Le célèbre décret en l'honneur de Protogénès d'Olbia (IOSPE I2 32, c. 200 av. J.-C.), montre entre autres que les cités nord-pontiques ont été confrontées au même décalage, observable à travers l'échange évergétique, entre les institutions démocratiques et les réalités oligarchiques, qui caractérise la basse époque hellénistique. Cette institutionnalisation de la direction héréditaire par une élite prospère, les « premiers citoyens », est officielle à l'époque impériale. À ce tableau vivant de la vie politique des cités du Pont nord s'ajoute une réflexion sur les identités imbriquées : civique, locale, hellénique. Pour l'auteur, l'identité grecque semble plus importante que celle pontique, la proximité avec les tribus barbares les poussant à exprimer plus fortement la solidarité grecque. On pourrait nuancer en parlant d'un double miroir, d'une part le monde méditerranéen et égéen, auquel les Pontiques se rapportent pour raviver leurs racines helléniques, d'autre part les mondes « barbares » qui les entourent et leur renvoient une image d'eux-mêmes qui, par contraste, devient encore plus grecque.

Les questions d'identité culturelle et les interactions entre Grecs et non-Grecs font l'objet des deux sections suivantes, l'une traitant d'art et d'architecture, l'autre de la présence sarmate au nord de la mer Noire. Dans le chapitre consacré au langage des images dans l'art bosporan, Maya Muratov livre une analyse détaillée des stèles funéraires avec des représentations de figures protectrices identifiées aux ancêtres, des chevaliers, des figures « à moitié », coupées au niveau des genoux, avec des éléments de vêtements sindes. Elle examine également les monogrammes associés traditionnellement aux tribus sarmates, les « tamgas ». L'étude, riche et documentée, montre que la culture visuelle bosporane, résultat des interactions complexes, était basée sur des traditions gréco-romaines ayant incorporé les réalités ethnographiques. Ce message visuel est significatif non pas en raison de considérations de nature esthétique, mais bien pour son potentiel de communication, directe, et de compréhension, immédiate. C'est avec la même connaissance approfondie du matériel qu'Alla Buyskikh aborde les styles architecturaux locaux de la région, et en particulier l'ordre ionique. Le style nord-pontique, dont la formation remonte à la fin de l'époque archaïque, est ainsi illustré par deux écoles régionales, nord-est et nord-ouest pontiques, qui évoluent vers trois styles associés aux trois centres majeurs : Olbia (fin de l'époque archaïque et début de l'époque classique), le Royaume du Bosphore (époque classique) et Chersonèse Taurique (époque hellénistique). Le dernier chapitre est notable par le débat que Valentina Mordvintseva propose autour du peuple historique des Sarmates mais aussi de l'entité historiographique créée par les Modernes. L'étude, basée sur l'examen des établissements, des complexes funéraires et des « dépôts rituels », montre que, si par « Sarmates » on entend la population nomade qui a laissé des tombes de type kourgane caractérisant la région de la basse Volga, il n'existe pas de traces archéologiques attestant qu'une population du même type a habité la région nord du Pont-Euxin avant le Ier s. av. J.-C. La vision mélangée des auteurs grecs et latins, qui percevaient la région comme peuplée par des « nomades », ainsi que les interprétations modernes, ont fait que le terme « Sarmates » soit utilisé pour des populations distinctes.

L'ouvrage, publié dans d'excellentes conditions graphiques, s'ajoute à la fois aux travaux qui font avancer la connaissance sur la mer Noire et aux études consacrées aux interactions culturelles, aux contacts et aux échanges qui caractérisaient les mondes anciens. Il aurait gagné en clarté si la connectivité, dont les avantages méthodologiques sont perceptibles dans chacun des articles, avait été mieux définie en rapport avec le matériel spécifique de la région. Il convient néanmoins de saluer avec conviction la parution de ce volume qui met à jour une documentation sans cesse renouvelée, illustrant ainsi le dynamisme des études pontiques.

Table des matières

Introduction: 'Pontic networks' / Valeriya Kozlovskaya.
1. The Greeks and the Black Sea: the earliest ideas about the region and the beginning of colonization / Askold Ivantchik.
Part I. Harbors:
2. Ancient harbors of the Northwestern Black Sea coast / Valeriya Kozlovskaya.
3. Geological context for coastal adaptation along the Northern Black Sea: 700 BCE–500 CE / Ilya Buynevich.
Part II. Overseas Trade:
4. Overseas trade in the Black Sea region from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period (based on amphora studies) / Sergey Monakhov and Elena Kuznetsova.
5. Overseas trade in the Black Sea region and the formation of the Pontic market from the first century BCE to the third century CE / Sergey Vnukov.
Part III. Political Culture:
6. Political culture in the cities of the Northern Black Sea region in the 'long Hellenistic Age' (the epigraphic evidence) / Angelos Chaniotis.
Part IV. Art and Architecture:
7. 'Language of images' in the arts of the Bosporan Kingdom / Maya Muratov.
8. Local architectural styles in the Northern Black Sea region (with a particular focus on the Ionic order) / Alla Buyskikh.
Part V. The Sarmatians:
9. The Sarmatians in the Northern Black Sea region (on the basis of archaeological material) / Valentina Mordvintseva.


1.   A. Bresson, A. Ivantchik, J.-L. Ferrary (éds.), Une koinè pontique. Cités grecques, sociétés indigènes et empires mondiaux sur le littoral nord de la mer Noire (VIIe s. a.C.- IIIe s. p.C.), Bordeaux, 2007.
2.   L. Dubois, Inscriptions grecques dialectales d'Olbia du Pont (IGDOP), Genève, 1996, n° 24.
3.   IGDOP, n° 23.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Géza Alföldy, Heike Niquet, Juan Manuel Abascal Palazón (ed.), Colonia Iulia urbs triumphalis Tarraco (CIL II2/14, 4). Corpus inscriptionum Latinarum, Editio altera: Inscriptiones Hispaniae Latinae, Pars XIV: Conventus Tarraconensis, Fasciculus 4 / consilio et auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Berolinensis et Brandenburgensis editum; volumen 2. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. xxxvi, 391. ISBN 9783110309423. $279.00.

Reviewed by Krešimir Matijević, Europa-Universität Flensburg (

Version at BMCR home site

Bei dem hier anzuzeigenden CIL-Band handelt es sich um den vierten und letzten, in Latein abgefassten Faszikel, der innerhalb des CIL II der Hauptstadt der Provinz Hispania Citerior, dem römischen Tarraco, gewidmet ist.1 Die Faszikel sind wie üblich durchpaginiert, so dass dieser letzte Teilband die Seiten 799-1189 umfasst. Dem eigentlichen Katalog vorangestellt und mit römischen Seitenzahlen versehen sind ein „Vorwort" von Werner Eck (CXCIII), ein Abkürzungsverzeichnis für die Namen der Museen, Autoren, Institutionen etc. (CXCIV), ein Literaturverzeichnis (CXCV-CCXIX), ein Abkürzungsverzeichnis für die zitierten Zeitschriften und Reihen (CCXIX-CCXX) und eine Explicatio notarum mit Erläuterungen zu den benutzten epigraphischen Sonderzeichen (CCXXI-CCXXII).

Der Band besitzt drei Autoren, die für verschiedene Teile verantwortlich sind: Der erste mit den Nummern 1891-2084a (S. 799- 846) ist noch von Géza Alföldy selbst abgefasst worden und enthält die Tituli varii generis, die Tituli incerti generis bzw. fragmenta minora, die Tituli musivi sowie einen Titulus pictus und das Instrumentum domesticum (selectum). Es folgen mit den Nummern 2085-2232 (S. 847-917) die Tituli Christiani und Tituli Iudaici, die Heike Niquet überwiegend allein, in nicht wenigen Fällen aber auch zusammen mit Alföldy verfasst hat. Den Abschluss bilden die wiederum fast ausschließlich von Alföldy verantworteten Nummern 2233-2384 (S. 918-977) mit den Tituli agri Tarraconensis, den Tituli lapidibus constructionis adscripti scil. signa lapidarum und den Addenda et corrigenda. Die wenigen christlichen und jüdischen Inschriften sind auch hier von oder zusammen mit Heike Niquet bearbeitet worden. Angehängt sind sodann umfangreiche Additamenta zum ersten Faszikel, welches 1995 erschienen ist. Diese Zusätze, die auch Korrekturen umfassen, sind den Nummern 1-814 (S. 979-1040) gewidmet, wobei zahlreiche Neufunde an passender Stelle mit den Zusätzen ‚a', ‚b', ‚c' usw. einsortiert wurden. Autor dieses umfangreichen Abschnitts ist Juan Manuel Abascal Palazón. Am Schluss des Bandes stehen verschiedene Konkordanzlisten (S. 1041-1073), die von Andreas Fassbender angefertigten Indizes für alle vier Faszikel (S. 1075-1171) und verschiedene Karten, in denen die genauen Fundorte eingetragen sind (S. 1173-1189).

Die einzelnen Katalognummern sind identisch aufgebaut. Nach der Angabe der Katalognummer folgen die Verweise auf Behandlung in anderen Standardcorpora (z.B. ILS, CLE etc.) und eine Charakterisierung des Titulus, beispielsweise als nota sculptoris. Im Anschluss finden sich eine Beschreibung des Inschriftträgers, die Angabe der Maße und die Erwähnung von Besonderheiten wie z.B. Rasuren, ferner Informationen zu den Fund- und Aufbewahrungsumständen sowie das Datum der Autopsie. Sodann wird, soweit vorhanden, eine Photographie oder Umzeichnung abgedruckt. Es folgen die eigentliche Lesung der Inschrift, Informationen zur Herkunft der Abbildung(en) und die Angabe der relevanten Literatur. Der anschließende kritische Apparat zur Inschrift enthält die Angabe abweichender bzw. weiterer möglicher Lesungen. Hernach werden in einem Kommentar die weiteren sprachlichen und historischen Details kurz diskutiert. Abgeschlossen wird jedes Lemma von der Angabe des Erstellungsdatums, soweit dieses der Inschrift zu entnehmen ist, oder Überlegungen zu einer ungefähren Datierung.

Es ist an dieser Stelle nicht notwendig, die einzelnen Lesungen zu diskutieren.2 Bei allen drei Bearbeitern handelt es sich um erfahrene Epigraphiker, was sich in der Lesung und Diskussion der einzelnen Tituli widerspiegelt. Trotz der äußerst nützlichen epigraphischen Datenbanken im Internet zeigt dieser neue CIL-Band einmal mehr, dass für Detailinformationen zu den lateinischen Inschriften des römischen Reiches die Publikation in Form eines gedruckten Buches nach wie vor ihren großen Wert besitzt.


1.   Viele der Inschriften sind bereits behandelt worden in: G. Alföldy, Die römischen Inschriften von Tarraco, Madrider Forschungen 10, Berlin 1975.
2.   Angemerkt seien aber folgende Beobachtungen. Nr. 2235: Zu Beginn von Zeile 10 liegt eine ME-Ligatur vor. Nr. 2259: Die Photographie des Steines zeigt weiter unten, jenseits der in Teilen erhalten drei Inschriftzeilen, deutlich den Buchstaben V. Nr. 2260: Für die in der Lesung von Alföldy unterpunkteten Buchstaben CONIVG scheint am Ende von Zeile 8 der Platz nicht auszureichen. Nr. 2261: Dem letzten Buchstaben in Zeile 3 folgt noch ein Worttrenner. Nr. 2286: Zu Beginn der zweiten erhaltenen Zeile ist deutlich noch der Rest eines E oder L erkennbar. Nr. 2347: Am Ende von Zeile 4 muss es f(ecit) statt f(ecit]) heißen. Ferner kann die unterschiedlich lange Ergänzung des Beginns der einzelnen Zeilen nicht restlos überzeugen. Nr. 188a: Hier dürfte auf Grund des Platzes noch eine weitere, neunte (eingerückte) Zeile anzunehmen sein.

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Thomas Arentzen, The Virgin in Song: Mary and the Poetry of Romanos the Melodist. Divinations: Rereading late ancient religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017. Pp. xiii, 265. ISBN 9780812249071. $59.95.

Reviewed by Evy Johanne Håland, Independent Researcher (

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The book under review is based on Arentzen's Ph.D. dissertation, and the excellent way in which the author's opening outlines the setting for the origin of the hymn clearly benefits from his studies of fiction-writing both in Bø and Tromsø, Norway. The legend teaches us that the Virgin Mary appeared to "a man of Syrian descent" (1) in a dream on a Christmas Eve in the Blachernae church dedicated to her in Constantinople, ordering him to swallow a scroll of papyrus. When following her command, his voice immediately "turned sweet and gentle" and he "began to sing the hymn The Virgin today gives birth" (2). This young man is known as Romanos the Melodist (ca. 485-560), and Arentzen's reading of his songs emphasises Romanos' depiction of the Virgin as an erotic and fertility-granting virgin and mother as well as a model for uniting to Christ.

The bulk of the volume is divided into 4 chapters: 1: The Song and the City; 2: On the Verge of Virginity; 3: The Mother and Nurse of Our Life; 4: A Voice of Rebirth; and a Conclusion: Virginity Recast, the latter reflecting the title of the author's dissertation. There follow two Appendixes (1: On the Annunciation; 2: Catalogue of Hymns Referred to in the Study), Notes, a rich Bibliography (however, generally repeating the works listed in the notes), a comprehensive Index, and Acknowledgements. The book opens with a Note on Editions and Translations, followed by a List of Abbreviations; it also contains 9 Figures. It would have been helpful if the author had included a note on transliteration, since there is no universally accepted and unified system for transliteration of Greek. It would also have worked better to put the note on editions and translations after the list of abbreviations. The subheadings of chapters are unclear, alternating between uppercase and italicising. Moreover, the main source explored in Chapter 2 might have been placed in the beginning instead of at the end as Appendix 1, but these are all minor details.

Chapter 1 gives the historical setting in the Byzantine world, including a discussion of the scant information available on Romanos; it also gives a general introduction to the approximately "sixty long liturgical hymns called kontakia" (5) that, according to tradition, he wrote after swallowing the aforementioned papyrus. This introduction includes topics encompassing the form of the kontakia, their use in church services, rhetorical strategies and compositional techniques, their positioning between church and theater and their audiences, and the prevalence of dialogue in the kontakia, which enables them to be perceived as dramas. The result of this intermingling of liturgy and drama in the Byzantine setting, "between rituals and mass media," made the Virgin "available and accessible for a wide audience, in texts merging popular imagination with ecclesiastical teaching," according to Arentzen (32). Next, we learn that the present study "is about ways to imagine the Virgin in sixth-century Constantinople" (32). To grasp the frame of reference that the inhabitants had for understanding a virgin's and mother's life, the author emphasises the life of ordinary women, giving an overview of what Byzantine society could expect of a girl as she passed from childhood to adulthood, including an outline of women's life in the city. This is followed up by a discussion of Marian doctrine and devotion, and then of construction work and Marian cult, the latter including the festivals devoted to her as well as her legacy from pre-Christian goddesses as a new protectress of the city on the Bosporus.

The next three chapters (ch. 2-4) follow the chronology of the Virgin's life by focusing, respectively, on three kinds of imagining of her corporeal and relational presence in Constantinople: her erotic appeal, nursing breasts, and speaking voice. Each starts with an excerpt from an ancient religious text, respectively Origen, Prologue to the Commentary on the Song of Songs, warning against erotic appeal; Pseudo-Ignatius of Antioch, First Epistle to St. John , telling about women wanting to see Mary and touch her breasts; Proverbs 1:20-23 (LXX), Wisdom singing hymns telling she will teach her word.

Thus, Chapter 2 involves Mary as a young maiden, focusing on the secret encounter between the young erotic maiden and the male messenger, Gabriel, entering her house, in the kontakion On the Annunciation. This is the oldest surviving hymn (composed around 530) for what has become known as the spring festival dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, celebrated on 25 March. The chapter discusses the relation between Eros and Christian bodies in texts and paintings at the time, and the way Romanos employs this strategy in order to win his audience. We also see the relation between Romanos' and pre-Christian (Aristotelian) ways of describing a virgin and a woman's contribution in the generation process, as well as pre-Christian (esp. in Sappho) parallels to the way Romanos considers Mary as a bride, regarding wedding and sexuality.1 Arentzen convincingly emphasises that Marian virginity is far from asceticism, and that her cult grew out of civic rather than monastic elites (82). However, he also stresses that his study presents a Virgin Mary incompatible with what a general person in Constantinople in Romanos' times "would expect from a virgin," especially illustrated in the refrain, "Hail unwedded bride!" (44-5, but see n. 1 below).

Chapter 3 investigates the depiction of the young mother and how she breastfeeds in Romanos' texts, centering on Mary's aspect as galaktotrophousa, breastfeeding, arguing that nursing involves an exaltation of her person. The chapter focuses on the kontakion On the Nativity I, written for the Christmas festival, and also involves On the Nativity of the Virgin. Arentzen continues his comparison with Aristotelian and other sources, such as Egyptian icons (which no doubt must be seen in relation to former depictions of Isis lactans), also discussing the idea of milk kinship, concluding that birth giving and breastfeeding are parallel phenomena (89).2 One may add that nurses and nursing in caves, moreover, is not only confined to "Mary's cave of delight" (94-9), but is a widespread theme in ancient culture (one may just mention the nurses caring for Dionysos after his premature birth). Arentzen emphasises that the breastfeeding Mary of Romaios gives nourishment to the entire congregation (119).3

Chapter 4 concentrates on Mary's voice and on how it interacts with other characters and features in Romanos' texts. Through Romanos, the Mother speaks to the audience, i.e., the congregation, and conversely the congregation speaks through her voice (121). Through Romanos, Mary's voice attaches to death and suffering, and it takes part in the generation of new life. The focus of the chapter is primarily on On the Nativity II, which is also a Christmas hymn with a pascal theme, and On Mary at the Cross. The latter text is the oldest surviving Marian hymn for Holy Friday. In it, she is "the ultimate witness to the gospel, since her presence overshadows the incomplete witness of written gospels" (120), as several scholars, first and foremost, M. Alexiou, also have emphasized. The importance of the lament of Mary at the cross (which does not feature in the gospels) is still encountered in the modern Greek Orthodox Church, when women take the leading role.4 The kontakia of the chapter are situated between birth and resurrection, and the first of them introduces Adam and Eve longing for salvation and renewal (123). We learn how the Virgin's voice of transgression awakens the dead, complementing the iconography (still prevalent in the Orthodox church) that depicts how the doctor Christ literally goes down to Hades and lifts up the two sinners, followed by others, thus acting upon his mother's mediating role. The Holy Woman, Mary's aspect as "Mediatrix," (mesitis) and "intercessor," between the human and divine world, plays a main role on the chapter (137-41). Mary at the Cross, as illustrated in the hymn, shows the Mother next to her dying son, and her voice as the witness to her son's, and God's (144), life and work. Drawing on Giulia Sissa's theories about the representation of the closed, "virginal," and silent female body in ancient Greek culture, Arentzen illustrates how Mary "as a closed virgin has been able to store up" the "stories," while "as an open mother she is able to [reveal] them" (149). Thus we learn how Mary's cry at the cross, through "virginity voiced," sums up the poem.

Finally, the conclusion sums up how Romanos recasts Marian virginity in his song, after an introductory excerpt from Gregory the Theologian's Oration 30. The conclusion correctly highlights the importance of rethinking "the Foucauldian fascination with late antique asceticism… which has led scholars to identify Marian virginity… with ascetic virginity, eclipsing the ways in which some ancient writers, such as Romanos, did not identify the two at all" (166). One may add that Romanos' presentation of the virgin actually suits much of what one can find in popular thinking in Greek culture, ancient and modern, and also read between the lines in the writings that actually condemn this, but that is another story.

All in all, the book is excellently written and takes up several interesting parallels between Romanos' way of describing the Virgin Mary in his songs and his pre-Christian predecessors, thus contextualising the work in the Byzantine and Greek world where it belongs. Although this is a topic on which one could have expanded, i.e., from an ethno-historian's point of view (cf. also n. 1 below), it might probably have produced another work than the aim of the present study.


1.   Several of the topics discussed in the book have been comprehensively discussed in a work not mentioned by the author although it was published in 2007: E. J. Håland, Greek Festivals, Modern and Ancient: A Comparison of Female and Male Values (Kristiansand: Norwegian Academic Press, in Norwegian; English version: Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017, Ch. 6-7). The author also seems to be unaware of the fact that in antiquity it was possible to give birth and still be considered a virgin (parthenos): G. Sissa. Le Corps Virginal (Paris: Libraire Philosophique J. Vrin, 1987: 127 ff.), and "Une virginité sans hymen: le corps féminin en Grèce ancienne," Annales (ESC) 39 (1984): 1125 ff. Greek (male) culture does not include the maidenhead, only virginity or else maidenhood. Therefore a woman may give birth to a child and still be a virgin as a consequence of her lifestyle.
2.   The conception that it is more important to lay in, or come from, the same womb, than to have the same blood is found among modern Greek women, see Håland 2017: Ch. 7. The idea of milk kinship is still prevalent within Islamic thinking: T. Cassidy and A. El Tom, eds., Ethnographies of Breastfeeding: Cultural Contexts and Confrontations (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015). Concerning the importance of feeding and the Virgin Mary, it might also have been relevant to consult J. Dubisch, In a Different Place: Pilgrimage, Gender, and Politics at a Greek Island Shrine (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
3.   Here it might also be relevant to mention her attribute of Zōodochos Pēgē, the Life-Giving Spring, depicted in Greek Orthodox churches and celebrated on the Friday after Easter: E. J. Håland, "Water Sources and the Sacred in Modern and Ancient Greece and Beyond," Water History 1, 2 (2009): 83-108.
4.   E. J. Håland, Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece: Writing History from a Female Perspective (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014: Ch. 3); see also 2017: Ch. 4. On the importance of women and laments from a female perspective, see also G. Holst-Warhaft, Dangerous Voices: Women's Laments and Greek Literature (London and New York: Routledge, 1992); Elenē Psychogiou, "Maurēgē" kai Elenē: Teletourgies Thanatou kai Anagennēsēs (Athens: Academy of Athens, 2008, Dēmosieumata tou Kentrou Ereunēs tēs Ellēnikēs Laographias 24).

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Alessandra Rolle, Dall'Oriente a Roma: Cibele, Iside e Serapide nell'opera di Varrone. Testi e studi di cultura classica, 65. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2017. Pp. 255. ISBN 9788846745910. €22.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Francesco Montone, Liceo Scientifico "G. Marconi" (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Il volume, che rientra nella collana Testi e studi di cultura classica, si propone di studiare la rappresentazione delle divinità orientali nel complesso della produzione varroniana. Un particolare rilievo è attribuito alla definizione dei contesti spaziali in cui sono rappresentate le divinità orientali; Varrone cita in particolare Cibele/Magna Mater, Iside e Serapide, ma non manca qualche riferimento a Attis, Apis, Arpocrate e Anubis. Come spiega l'autrice nell' Introduzione (pp. 11-23), l'importanza di Cibele, Iside e Serapide a Roma è attestata dai reperti archeologici e dalle testimonianze epigrafiche, non meno che dai riferimenti letterari. Cibele o Magna Mater ha uno statuto eccezionale, quello di essere divinità insieme straniera e nazionale; è straniera, ma anche romana, al punto che il suo tempio sorge sul Palatino. Iside e Serapide, a differenza della Mater Magna, non erano oggetto di un culto di carattere ufficiale a Roma, ma erano comunque venerati in una dimensione di tipo privato. Varrone è una fonte importante per conoscere l'origine di questi dèi, le letture allegoriche delle loro figure, i rituali ad essi connessi.

Cibele e gli dèi Egizi sono menzionati in cinque opere varroniane: le Saturae Menippeae, le Antiquitates rerum divinarum, il De lingua Latina, il De gente populi Romani e il De vita sua. Il volume comprende due sezioni, una dedicata a Cibele, la seconda a Iside e Serapide.

La figura di Cibele ricorre nei brani conservati di tre diverse opere di Varrone: le Saturae Menippeae, le Antiquitates rerum divinarum e il De lingua Latina. Emerge da questi testi un interesse per i rituali more Phrygio rifiutati dal potere romano e praticati a carattere privato, per lo più all'interno del santuario palatino della Grande Madre. Nell'episodio di Cibele della satira Eumenides e in un paio di frammenti in galliambi appartenenti ad altre menippee (i frr. 79 e 540 dell'edizione curata da Buecheler, d'ora in avanti B.) sembrerebbero esservi infatti riferimenti a cerimonie legate al ciclo dei riti di marzo in onore di Attis. Nelle Eumenides avrebbe occupato un particolare rilievo la descrizione del cruento rituale di auto-emasculazione dei Galli che aveva luogo il 24 marzo, il dies sanguinis, mentre i frr. 79 e 540 B. alluderebbero a cerimonie di compianto legate alla rievocazione prematura di Attis. Le Menippeae, secondo la studiosa, rappresenterebbero la prima testimonianza letteraria del culto more Phrygio di Cibele a Roma, nonché l'unica attestazione dell'esistenza del ciclo dei rituali di marzo in età repubblicana, circa un secolo prima rispetto al loro riconoscimento di carattere ufficiale. La studiosa ritiene, attraverso un confronto puntuale, che alcuni versi varroniani possano essersi ispirati all'Attis di Catullo (carme 63); se però in Catullo i riti legati ad Attis sono relegati in una realtà esotica, i verdi gioghi dell'Ida, nelle Menippeae l'invasamento cibelico trova il suo habitat nello spazio protetto dell'Urbe, nel cuore di Roma, sul Palatino; Varrone esprime il suo orrore e la sua condanna verso riti non integrabili nel contesto romano. Il fr. 79 B. può essere confrontato con il v. 12 e il v. 30 del carme catulliano; il fr. 131 B. e il v. 22 del carme 63 del Veronese trattano dello stesso strumento musicale, il flauto frigio; per quanto riguarda il fr. 275 B. si possono indicare quali punti di contatto con il v. 17 dell' Attis, l'uso del rarissimo verbo evirare ed il riferimento a Venere. L'uso del galliambo nel frammento varroniano, a parere della studiosa, è funzionale a evocare indirettamente, con il verbo evirare, il culto della Grande Madre con i suoi sanguinosi rituali. Infine il fr. 133 B. in settenari giambici (apage in dierectum a domo nostra istam insanitatem) sembra una riformulazione in metro e linguaggio da commedia del patetico appello finale del carme catulliano (63, 92, procul a mea tuos sit furor omnis, era, domo). L'oggetto di repulsione è lo stesso in entrambi i luoghi: la follia del culto cibelico, indicata con il termine furor in Catullo e insanitas in Varrone. Nelle Antiquitates rerum divinarum Varrone identifica la Magna Mater con la dea Tellus, laddove Lucrezio e Servio forniscono esegesi differenti; egli cerca di collegare la Magna Mater ad origini romane, anziché greche. Nel breve riferimento alla storia del culto cibelico a Roma presente nel De lingua Latina (6,15), l'esigenza di ricondurre l'etimologia delle feste in onore della Magna Mater, le Megalesie, al nome del tempio di Cibele a Pergamo, il Megalesion, potrebbe essere stata funzionale anche a sottolineare il legame delle feste romane in onore della Grande Madre con il mondo ellenistico, maggiormente familiare per i Romani, piuttosto che con la patria frigia della dea. Varrone tratta la materia cibelica con toni diversi, passando dall'irridente sarcasmo dei frammenti menippei sui Galli alla coloritura spiccatamente teologica e didascalica dell'esegesi allegorica offerta nelle Antiquitates, fino al precettismo della breve, ma dettagliata notazione relativa al culto della Magna Mater nel De lingua Latina. L'oscillazione tra rifiuto e integrazione nei confronti della Magna Mater, che emerge dal contrasto tra la dissacrante condanna dei rituali more Phrygio di Cibele presente nelle Menippeae e l'inclusione di fatto di questa dea nel novero degli dèi praecipui atque selecti proposta nelle Antiquitates, sembra rispecchiare la duplicità dell'approccio che le autorità romane, ancora alla fine dell'età repubblicana, avevano nei confronti della Mater Magna, celebrata ufficialmente more Romano dal popolo tutto e dall'aristocrazia durante le Megalesie, ma privatamente celebrata anche more Phrygio dai Galli durante il ciclo dei rituali di marzo, interdetti ai cittadini romani. Da notare che Varrone utilizza solo le denominazioni romane della Grande Madre, perché ne parla come dea romana, e non frigia; in lui emerge la volontà di romanizzazione di Cibele, e insieme il rifiuto della componente frigia del suo culto.

Per quanto riguarda i riferimenti a Iside e Serapide, nelle Saturae Menippeae la studiosa intravede un'allusione al culto di Iside nel frammento 191 B., suggerita già da Lucian Mueller alla fine dell'Ottocento. Il rilievo che la critica alle divinità egizie doveva rivestire nelle Menippeae trova conferma in un gruppo di frammenti appartenenti alla satira Eumenides nei quali l'ironia si appunta contro Serapide; si tratta dei frammenti 128, 129, 138, 139 e 152 B. I frr. 128 e 129 B. alludono al costo delle cure offerte dal dio egizio; i frr. 138 e 139 B. descrivono un'incubatio, mentre il fr. 152 B. informa circa un utilizzo di Serapide a fini medici. Nella trama delle Eumenides, una satira che ha come Leitmotiv quello della pazzia, secondo la ricostruzione della Rolle, il protagonista avrebbe potuto recarsi presso il tempio di Serapide nella speranza di guarire dalla propria insania. Viene forse avvicinato da un fedele, che avrebbe pubblicizzato le doti mediche del dio affermando di usarlo a mo' di medicina e di sottoporsi ogni giorno a degli incantamenti (fr. 152 B.). Il protagonista-narratore potrebbe poi aver descritto ai propri ospiti la sua personale esperienza di terapia serapica, narrando l'incubatio cui si sarebbe sottoposto per curare la propria insania. Gli sarebbe apparso in sogno Serapide, che gli prescrive una dieta a base di cipolla e crescione (fr. 138 B.). Il protagonista descrive quindi la sua uscita dal tempio col calore del sole avvertito in modo intenso a causa della debolezza del corpo, uscito dall'epifania divina tutt'altro che fortificato (fr. 139 B.). Vi sarebbe inoltre un diverbio tra il protagonista e un sacerdote del dio egizio in relazione al costo dell'incubatio. A parere della studiosa Serapide è oggetto di bersaglio polemico anche di un'intera menippea: lo Pseudolus Apollo, l' Apollo bugiardo. La studiosa condivide l'identificazione proposta da Buecheler dello Pseudolus Apollo del titolo con il dio Serapide. I frammenti traditi, infatti, sembrerebbero far riferimento a due specifiche pratiche rituali per dimostrare la differenza tra il culto di questi due dèi. Viene messo in rilievo il diverso carattere delle loro processioni, con la sottolineatura del procedere quasi randagio dei cori in onore di Serapide, composti da gruppi di fanciulli e fanciulle dei quali non è ritenuto necessario ricordarsi neanche l'esatto numero dei componenti (fr. 438 B.). Anche l'uso di togliersi i sandali sarebbe stato addotto come marca distintiva dei templi di Serapide in opposizione a quelli di Apollo, ai quali si accedeva invece calceati, come d'uso nei templi delle divinità greco-romane. Tertulliano nell'Ad Nationes fa una citazione varroniana tratta verosimilmente dal primo libro delle Antiquitates rerum divinarum, che riprende poi nell'Apologeticum (si tratta dei frammenti 46a e 46b secondo l'edizione di Cardauns). Gli dèi egizi vengono menzionati in relazione ad uno specifico episodio di repressione del loro culto, avvenuto il 1° gennaio del 58 a. C., ad opera del console A. Gabinio, che fece emanare dal senato un provvedimento volto alla distruzione degli altari degli dèi egizi eretti sulla rocca capitolina. L'episodio sarebbe stato scelto da Varrone come esempio destinato a illustrare l'unità e la saldezza del ceto aristocratico in materia di politica religiosa contro la violenta demagogia dei populares, che vorrebbero celebrare in Campidoglio riti per gli dei egizi. Il problema non è il culto privato di Iside e Serapide a Roma, che è permesso, ma la pretesa da parte dei populares che tali dèi vengano onorati a fianco di Giove Ottimo Massimo sul Campidoglio, pur essendo dèi stranieri privi di riconoscimento ufficiale. Nel V libro del De lingua Latina (5, 57), trattando le etimologie divine, Varrone accosta la coppia primordiale Cielo e Terra con due altre coppie, l'una egizia, Iside e Serapide, l'altra latina, Saturno e Ops. A parere della studiosa nel passo si riflette un'evoluzione in chiave cosmogonica dell'identificazione egizia di Iside con la terra (intesa come campagna) e di Osiride con il Nilo (in quanto suo elemento fecondatore). Il breve riferimento agli dèi egizi nel De lingua Latina si conclude con la menzione di una terza divinità, il loro figlio Arpocrate, rappresentato come un bambino che si porta l'indice della mano destra alla bocca (è la prima menzione esplicita della posa di questo dio-infante, considerata come un'esortazione a tacere). Nel passo la Rolle vede in definitiva le tracce di un'interpretatio greco-romana degli dèi egizi, identificati con la coppia cosmogonica Terra e Caelum, e di Arpocrate come figura del segreto mistico. Da un passo di Carisio (fr. 1 Peter) apprendiamo che Varrone anche nel De vita sua menzionava Iside e Serapide, declinandoli come due temi appunto in vocale, e non in consonante. In definitiva nei frammenti superstiti delle Menippeae e delle Antiquitates rerum divinarum Iside e Serapide appaiono oggetto di critica e sarcasmo. Dei loro riti viene sottolineata la diversità e la lontananza rispetto ai sacri rituali dei maiores. Nel De lingua Latina il riferimento è privo di toni polemici, sebbene le due divinità siano per così dire relegate alla sfera egizia. Nei passi del De gente populi Romani si presenta una versione evemeristica dell'origine delle due divinità. Anche Cicerone nei suoi due trattati religiosi (De natura deorum e De divinatione), pur riconoscendo che siano delle divinità, nega che la presenza del loro culto a Roma comporti ipso facto un riconoscimento ufficiale del loro statuto divino. Negli anni quaranta del I secolo a. C. era dunque vivo il dibattito sul ruolo da attribuire a Iside e Serapide; Cicerone e Varrone assumono toni polemici parlando di queste divinità solo quando questi dèi sono considerati in rapporto alla loro presenza nell'Urbe: essi, per i due scrittori, rimangono inconciliabili rispetto all'identità religiosa romana. Allo stesso modo Cicerone e Varrone integrano nel pantheon romano Cibele/Magna Mater, a patto di romanizzarla del tutto, cancellando, però, i suoi tratti frigi. In definitiva l'opera di Varrone rispondeva alla crisi identitaria della civiltà romana avvertita anche da Cicerone e forniva una risposta nel momento in cui andava a sistematizzare le varie componenti del patrimonio religioso, individuando e condannando quanto romano non era, né poteva essere, come il culto frigio di Cibele e il culto degli dèi egizi. In epoca imperiale, però, Cibele fu associata a Magna Mater e Iside e Serapide sarebbero stati gradualmente integrati all'interno di una religione romana, conscia di dover assumere sempre più un ruolo e un carattere ecumenico.

Il volume, che riesce a fornire, grazie all'attenta analisi dei passi varroniani e alle nuove convincenti interpretazioni fornite, una fedele ricostruzione del mondo in cui i Romani nell'ultima fase della repubblica guardano a queste divinità orientali, è corredato di un'esaustiva Bibliografia (pp. 223-236), dell'Indice dei passi citati (pp. 237-247), dell'Indice delle fonti epigrafiche e papiracee (p. 249), dell'Indice dei nomi e delle cose notevoli (pp. 251-255) e di un Indice finale (p. 257). Esso sarà un utile riferimento sia per gli studiosi varroniani, sia per gli storici delle religioni.

Tavola dei Contenuti

Prefazione 7
Introduzione 11
Parte prima. Cibele 25
Premessa 27
Cibele nelle Saturae Menippeae 31
Megalesie e riti di marzo nelle Eumenides 31
Il culto cibelico negli altri frammenti menippei 71
Le Menippeae e l'Attis di Catullo 87
Cibele nelle Antiquitates rerum divinarum 93
Cibele nel De lingua Latina 105
Cibele e Mater Magna: tra rifiuto e integrazione 117

Parte seconda. Iside e Serapide 123
Premessa 125
Iside e Serapide nelle Saturae Menippeae 129
Riti di iniziazione notturni 129
Una incubatio nelle Eumenides 139
Serapides o lo Pseudolus Apollo? 165
Iside e Serapide nelle Antiquitates rerum divinarum 177
Iside e Serapide nel De lingua Latina 187
Iside e Serapide nel De gente populi Romani 193
Iside e Serapide nel De vita sua 209
Iside e Serapide: un'ostilità politica? 213

Bibliografia 223
Indice dei passi citati 237
Indice delle fonti epigrafiche e papiracee 249
Indice dei nomi e delle cose notevoli 251
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