Monday, April 30, 2018


Alan H. Cadwallader (ed.), Stones, Bones and the Sacred: Essays on Material Culture and Religion in Honor of Dennis E. Smith. Early Christianity and its literature. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. Pp. xvii, 365. ISBN 9781628371666. $44.68.

Reviewed by Bilal Bas, Marmara University (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Material products of any religious tradition such as buildings, monuments, graveyards, dress, food, musical instruments, ritual objects are considered by scholars to be revealing of a tradition's world view. Material culture thus tells us as much about a religion as texts, beliefs, and dogmas. Moreover, it has the capacity to open up new areas of investigation where literary evidence remains silent. Literary culture of a religion such as Christianity is often considered to reflect the concerns and preferences of a cultural elite that generally represented what scholars call the "official religion". The ordinary members of religion often experience religious life in ways that differ from elites, hence the term "popular religion". In addition to furnishing us insights about the world of the elite, material culture also provides us with many insights about that of ordinary people. In the attempt to reconstruct these varying worlds, material culture has been employed in the study of religion for quite some time and archaeology has become a major provider of evidence for historical constructions of religions. Yet one should always keep in mind that archaeological evidence does not give us as direct information as literary evidence because, since it cannot speak for itself, it is always open to various interpretations.

Reconstruction of early Christianity is often difficult on account of the scarcity of literary evidence. As a result, material evidence provided by archaeological research is increasingly employed in the study of early Christianity and the New Testament in order to shed light on various areas of investigation where literary sources are largely silent. The late Helmut Koester of Harvard Divinity School was a prominent scholar who actively engaged in archaeological investigation as an aid to New Testament scholarship. The combination is challenging and difficult for it requires expertise in two rather difficult and demanding disciplines. This brings us to his student and heir Dennis E. Smith who successfully engaged in both disciplines with his pioneering work on meals in Greco-Roman Antiquity and to the Colloquium on Material Culture and Ancient Religion (COMCAR) in which most of the authors of this volume participated.

Stones, Bones, and the Sacred is a collection of 16 essays on material culture and ancient religion in honor of Dennis E. Smith edited by Alan H. Cadwallader. In the first essay, Hal E. Taussig presents a general evaluation of Dennis E. Smith's scholarship and the final essay is written by Smith himself as a response to the essays. In general, the essays focus on the intersection of material culture, ancient religion, and the texts and practices of early Christianity. Many of the authors attempt to employ the interpretation of material culture in the New Testament exegesis and Christian origins (Ibita, Økland, Huber, Cadwallader, Kurek-Chomycz and Bieringer, Weima, Thompson, and Wilson). A group of scholars employ literary and material evidence in order to explore meals in Greco-Roman world and early Christianity (Ibita, Alikin, Friesen, Schowalter, Dyer, Økland).

All the essays are well-written, learned contributions to their respective fields and thus worth mentioning. However, due to the limited space allowed for a book review, there is room to review only some of them.

In "Embodied Inequalities: Diet Reconstruction and Christian Origins", Steven J. Friesen analyzes the findings of the literature on diet reconstruction in the Roman Empire and the reasons of inequality in food distribution in order to show the ways in which the earliest churches distributed their sources differently. The data is obtained mainly through a new method, stable isotope analysis of skeletal remains. Friesen suggests that though the data is not yet sufficient enough to reach general conclusions, it still allows us to explore questions of inequality related to an individual's regional origins, gender, age, occupation, status, and urbanity, and in relation to this, it may also enable us to study ways the earliest Christians positioned themselves in terms of inequality of food distributions. It may furnish a promising avenue, suggests Friesen, for examining redistributions of food in early church rituals, food charity and nonritual distribution of food, as well as the discursive deployment of hunger and the symbolic potential of nourishment in the texts and the narrative significance of food and hunger in Christian literature. Though this new tool does indeed look promising for opening up new doors to various questions, the data provided by the method is to date meagre and therefore insufficient to create reliable reconstructions.

In "Eating Words in the New Testament", Keith Dyer compares the statistics of eating and banqueting vocabulary of the New Testament with those of Josephus's writings in order to evaluate the Smith-Klingardt paradigm that the Greco-Roman banquet across the Mediterranean world was the primary model for all main meal dining (including Jewish and early Christian meals) in the first century of the Common Era and beyond. The statistics are remarkable in that in comparison with the numerous uses in Josephus, the New Testament authors rarely used the vocabulary related to banqueting. Dyer explains this situation by referring to the sensibilities of NT writers, in particular of Paul, to their addressees who mostly came from lower strata of society, namely poor people and slaves who had little opportunity to participate in such banquets. Even Dyer's findings promise new insights into the social structure of the earliest Christian communities, they represent a challenge to the Smith-Klingardt paradigm.

In "Making Men in Rev 2-3: Reading the Seven Messages in the Bath-Gymnasiums of Asia Minor", Lyn R. Huber employs the bath-gymnasium culture the Roman Anatolia to reconstruct the meaning of the messages of Rev 2-3 to seven churches in conversation with the masculine gender in the Roman world. She suggests that it is possible to see how the messages participate in a cultural imagination of a masculine ideal, by envisioning a victor whose endurance leads to reward in a New Jerusalem. The essay shows that the bath-gymnasium complex was a cite designed for the production of virtuous and disciplined young men. Endurance in face of trials and hardships, discipline, physical harmony, moderation and courage were considered qualities necessary to become an ideal man. Since certain features of Rev 2-3 evoke the ways masculinity was constructed in the bath-gymnasium, Huber concludes that it is possible that Rev imagines audience members whose identities are shaped in relation to this culture. It is a well-structured argument, and the parallels are striking; yet this canon of virtues cannot be easily specified for the bath-gymnasium context as they are common in Greco-Roman culture in general.

In "At the Origins of Christian Apologetic Literature: The Politics of Patronage in Hadrianic Athens", William Rutherford mainly focuses on Hadrian's religious performances and public acts of munificence toward Athens, in search for possible reasons for the emperor's special favors to the city. He suggests that as the seat of the Panhellenion, Athens assumed a central role in the emperor's program of uniting Roman West with Greek East. He also mentions that his patronage of Athens served as an intertext for Aristides's Apology which he shows was a work of political theology, thereby suggesting a similarity between the political ideology of the emperor's benefactions and that of the argument of Aristides's work. As all political theologians of early church history from the Apostle Paul down to Eusebius of Caesarea present similar Stoic outlooks derived from their Greco-Roman pagan counterparts, Rutherford's construction is persuasive.

In "One Grave, Two Women, One Men: Complicating Family Life at Colossae", the editor of the volume Alan H. Cadwallader attempts to identify the possible audience of Paul's instructions for maintaining the Roman nuclear family relations in his letter to Colosseans (3:18-25) by exploring the indications of family and household at Colossae derived from the epigraphy and reliefs of funerary stones and monuments. He suggests that an analysis of several epitaphs and funerary monuments reveals a rather "variegated scene of households and differentiated family structures and that none of the epitaphs fits the form implied in the code in the letter." Cadwallader argues that if these epitaphs are a representative sample of Colossian society, then perhaps the code had little to do with the membership of the Colossian congregation and suggests that possibly the letter had another audience, fictive or otherwise, in view. The essay is well-written with an impressive interpretation of the material evidence even if the evidence unearthed to date is insufficient to reach a reliable construction of the Colossian society.

In "The Baptists of Corinth: Paul, the Partisans of Apollos, and the History of Baptism in Nascent Christianity," Stephen J. Patterson focuses on the story of how baptism came to be a rite practiced within nascent Christian communities. The author examines the context of 1 Cor 1:11-13 as the earliest mention of baptism and concludes that figures like Apollos have to be the missing link in the history of baptism. If we take him as a baptist who baptized like John, Patterson convingly argues, then baptism came not from Christians like Paul, but from baptists like Apollos. The rite was later appropriated by Christian communities as the initiation ritual by which everyone joined the church.

The final essay of the volume is a response by Dennis E. Smith to all contributions, grouped under the titles of "Material Culture", "Meals in the Greco-Roman World", and the "New Testament and Christian Origins". Taken together the essays make a substantial contribution, with Smith's words, "in exhibiting the interrelationship between the interpretation of material culture and New Testament exegesis."

Table of Contents

Preface, p. xvii
The Scholarship of Dennis E. Smith, Hal E. Taussig, p. xix
Embodied Inequalities: Diet Reconstruction and Christian Origins, Steven J. Friesen, p. 9
Food Crises in Corinth? Revisiting the Evidence and Its Possible Implications in Reading 1 Cor 11:17-34, Ma. Marilou S. Ibita, p. 33
Don't Take It Lying Down: Nondining Features of the Omrit Temple Excavations, Daniel N. Schowalter, p. 55
Eating Words in the New Testament, Keith Dyer, p. 69
Ancient Drinking in Modern Bible Translation, Jorunn Økland, p. 85
Making Men in Rev 2-3: Reading the Seven Messages in the Bath-Gymnasiums of Asia Minor, Lynn R. Huber, p. 101
At the Origins of Christian Apologetic Literature: The Politics of Patronage in Hadrianic Athens, William Rutherford, p. 129
One Grave, Two Women, One Man: Complicating Family Life at Colossae, Alan H. Cadwallader, p. 157.
The Corinthian χαιναí χτíσεις? Second Corinthians 5:17 and the Roman Refoundation of Corinth, Dominika Kurek-Chomycz and Reimund Bieringer, p. 195
Women as Leaders in the Gatherings of Early Christian Communities: A Sociocultural Analysis, Valeriy A. Alikin, p. 221
The Political Charges against Paul and Silas in Acts 17:6-7: Roman Benefaction in Thessalonica, Jeffrey A. D. Weima, p. 241.
Paul's Walk to Assos: A Hodological Inquiry into Its Geography, Archaeology, and Purpose, Glen L. Thompson and Mark Wilson, p. 269.
The Baptists of Corinth: Paul, the Partisans of Apollos, and the History of Baptism in Nascent Christianity, Stephen J. Patterson, p. 315
A Response, Dennis E. Smith, p. 329
List of Contributors, p. 335
Index of Ancient Sources, p. 339
Index of Place Names, p. 352
Index of Modern Authors, p. 355
Index of Subjects, p. 361
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Catherine Balmelle, Jean-Pierre Darmon, La mosaïque dans les Gaules romaines. Archéologie de la France. Paris: Éditions Picard, 2017. Pp. 359; 443 color illustrations. ISBN 9782708410312. €59.00.

Reviewed by Hagith Sivan, The University of Kansas (

Version at BMCR home site

Extremely attractive, beautifully printed and lavishly illustrated, this survey of Gallo-Roman mosaics provides an introductory overview of a major decorative element in parts of the empire that rarely feature on the mosaic map of the Roman Mediterranean. The book is also the sum total of the formidable erudition of two notable mosaic experts, Balmelle and Darmon, who already have made countless contributions to the study of Gallo-Roman mosaics. In view of ongoing excavations and the likelihood of unearthing more mosaics in the large area covered in this study, the outcome constitutes a timely and welcome presentation that effectively summarizes the state of our knowledge up to this point. Perhaps no less significantly, this book is a product of national pride claiming, forcefully and rightfully, a place of honor for the decorated pavements of the Gallic provinces, side by side with the celebrated mosaics of Italy, North Africa, Greece and the Near East (particularly Syria). As such, it is an excellent example of the close rapport between scholarly circles and the French public, a relationship altogether sadly absent in the USA.

In a way reading Balmelle/Darmon is tantamount to embarking on an armchair travel through sites and museums, each with its collection of ancient mosaics, as well as through France's Roman past and the erratic lot of archaeological discoveries. It is perhaps a bit of a paradox, yet also a window into the commerce and migrations of ancient mosaics, that in order to look at Gallia itself, in admittedly a rather schematic depiction of a woman with a walled crown atop her head, one needs to travel to Berlin (Pergamon museum) (Balmelle/Darmon p. 13). Gaul, namely the personification of the province, once had graced not a building in Gaul itself but a floor in remote Zeugma on the Euphrates (now in Turkey), where it kept company to the emblems of other provinces, now dismembered and dispersed in no less than eleven public and private collections. 1

The material is arranged chronologically, in three chapters, each with many examples selected to highlight the geographical range, architectural context and locations of the mosaics, prefaced by a short chapter on the architectural contexts of mosaics and ending with a chapter on mosaics as a testimony of social history. Due to the haphazard survival of mosaics, the vast majority of those presented are floor rather than wall mosaics.

"Sur le chantier", the first chapter, deals with the archaeological/architectural contexts in which mosaics were laid, their techniques, choice of themes, colors, and locations, all of which highlight the connectivity and internal hierarchy of décor in both private and public spaces. Beginning with urban homes, selected examples, such as the large house unearthed in Narbonne (Clos de la Lombarde) (1st-2nd century), articulate the configurations of domestic's "public" spaces. These included a large banquet room with mosaics aspiring to reflect the degree of the owner's "Romanization" effected through the adoption of a medium directly imported from Italy, as well as a desire to impress by investing in costly décor. Another example, an imposing home in the city of Vienne (dubbed "Maison d'Amour et de Pan", p. 23) highlights the house's internal circulation around a large open peristyle, flanked by a large triclinium and two reception rooms, each decorated with mosaics. The figures that lent their name to the entire structure survived, barely, on a mosaic in one of the two cubicula, a curious aberration in the context of mosaic designs largely dominated by geometrical and floral patterns. In the Gallic countryside, stunningly large estates (villae), bastions of rich Gauls (well documented by Balmelle for late ancient Aquitania in countless previous publications), dominated the landscape as well as the local peasantry. Here denizens and lucky guests expected to feast their eyes on an array of dazzling mosaics, extending even to the bathing annex. Similarly, public spaces (sanctuaries, funerary edifices) likewise reflected the importance of mosaics, as well as other decorative media (such as sculpture), in the overall concept of their architecture. Lastly, the chapter contains a brief section on mosaic craftsmen in their working spaces, their tools, and on collaborative efforts of muralists, mosaicists and sculptors whose combined talents transformed ordinary spaces into breathtaking visuals. Crews of decorators were invariably at work although rare are specific depictions of mosaicists at work.2 We also learn of the dominance of local materials, the result of availability, cost, and possibly of local pride. Balmelle/Darmon return to the subject of the mosaicists in the last chaper.

Chapter 2 covers mosaics from "the origins", namely fourth century BCE to the first century CE, the former date somewhat misleading since the Massiliote fragmentary pavements prior to the late first century BCE can hardly be classified as mosaics but rather as faint traces of a possible mosaic.3 Beginning with Narbonesis, the first Gallic territory to be incorporated in the administrative structure of the Roman Republic (120 BCE), and its role as a bridge between Italian and Gallic artistic sensibilities in the first centuries BCE and CE, the survey illuminates the mosaics' intricate geometrical designs, often executed with earth colors, as well as similarities between the emerging art of Gallic mosaics and mosaics elsewhere in the Roman Mediterranean (example: the lush geometrical "carpet" at Brignon (Gard), figs. 68-69 and Delos). Most of the mosaics unearthed in the various oppida that dotted Narbonensis largely date to the reign of Augustus and point, according to Balmelle/Darmon, to "a high degree of Romanization of the local elite of the region achieved within three generations following the establishment of the province" (p. 66-7). Still in Narbonensis, a second section covers mosaics dating to the Julio-Claudian and Flavian periods. This is perhaps the place to note that the dating of mosaics is hardly an exact science and that it often depends on the stratigraphy of the site, or lack of it, as well as on stylistic criteria. The dominance of geometrical patterns (Saint Paul Trois Chateaux providing a handsome sample, fig. 81) remained largely unchallenged. Noteworthy is the emphasis, in some cases, on a central panel with its own distinct colorful pattern (tessellatum), which the mosaicists further embedded in a larger, predominantly white carpet of a different design (example of Nimes, the 'governor' mosaic, fig. 89). An intriguing fragment of figural mosaic, an exception in early imperial Narbonensis, depicts a black gladiator holding a trident (clearly a Retiarius)(Aix en Provence), made all the more conspicuous in a field of white tesserae. No less remarkable is the naming of the gladiator, Beryllus, likely a slave whose name recalls a precious stone (fig. 91, precise provenance not specified; cf. fig. 120). The mosaic is best "read" in the context of the rich information derived from gladiatorial tombstones in nearby Nîmes, where inscriptions and funerary stelae attest the complexity of identities in this Gallic province where triumphs in the arena by the socially marginalized were translated into mosaics and commemorative monuments.4 Shorter sections of this chapter deal with mosaics unearthed in Aquitania and Gallia Belgica where a taste for black and white mosaics continued to dominate. A curious exception extends to individual fondness for violent sports as seen on a black and white mosaic from a bathing establishment in a remote Alpine locality, now in Switzerland (fig. 120, inexplicably in the section devoted to Gallia Belgica). It depicts two boxers and likely reflects the popularity of a gymnasium culture apparently solely in Narbonensis.5

The third chapter covers the second till the middle of the third century, representing the apex of what may be termed the Gallic-mosaic palate and art. Here one witnesses both continuity in the shape of the perennial popularity of geometrical patterns, side by side with the efflorescence of figural mosaics of the highest artistic quality in primarily urban context. A brief introduction covers developments in the various Gallic provinces, referring to recent excavations and discoveries. Subsections cover geometrical patterns, traditional and new, noting the intricate designs of borders, and the multiple variations of geometrical themes within one mosaic field, primarily in Narbonensis and above all in the city of Vienne, the provincial capital. A section on figural decoration presents the arrangements of these motives in the overall mosaic fields (often a central medallion of varying shapes), and the iconographic repertory which closely related to pan-Mediterranean preferences, both literary and artistic. Among popular themes Balmelle/Darmon dwell on the Dionysiac sphere, on heroic themes, gods and the cosmos, and on culture and paiedeia, the last particularly interesting within the context of domestic decoration. Here Balmelle/Darmon note the association of visuals with school texts forming the foundations of aristocratic education. Examples include an inevitable Orpheus in a familiar garb yet also a flying Orpheus with transparent drapery spread in the wind and the animals posed as though ready to pounce to the music of the lyre (fig. 220, Aix en Provence). It is unique (p. 174), a tribute to the ingenuity and originality of local (?) artists. Equally unusual is the Gallic (or rather Provençal) preoccupation with minor characters and events from the Aeneid, such as the combat between Dares and Entellus (Aeneid 5.362-484; figs. 196-200). To view one of these mosaics, however, originally unearthed in Villelaure near Aix en Provence, one has to travel to California, the last (?) stop of other mosaics from the same house.6 Still in the second century, figures 221-223 (Trier) display an enchanting image of Muses in conversation on a mosaic entitled the mosaic of the "orators and the muses", not to be confused with either the Treveran mosaic of the nine muses or with the (later) Monnus mosaic (figs. 248-252) that depict a similar array of muses.7 The earlier mosaic also contains human figures (figs. 222 and 223), a semi-naked man interpreted as a teacher-"philosopher" and his various charges who populate framed spaces of the same mosaic. The last section of chapter III, "la vie sociale" gathers several of the most dazzling Gallic mosaics, including the Lyonnaise circus mosaic (fig. 228), a hunting mosaic from Lillebonne (fig. 237) and a stunning calendar mosaic from Vienne-St Romain en Gal (figs 239-242). There is no doubt, as Balmelle/Darmon maintain, that even the relatively cursory overview of the rich repertory of Gallic mosaics of the Antonine and the Severan periods provides clear cut indications of the creativity and intense activity characterizing the Gallo-Roman mosaic ateliers of the period. The mosaics surveyed reflect the valorization of a culture that embraced with apparent equanimity classical literary paideia as well as brutal physical and sportive feats. These were the decorated floors (and walls) that accompanies the rise of an urban Gallic elite anxious to imitate prevailing imperial modes of ornamentation yet also aspiring to leave its own stamp on locally grown artistic and literary productions.

Late antiquity, the subject of the fourth chapter (specifically from the middle of the third century to the sixth) is launched, logically, with the exceptional place that the city of Trier, capital of the Gallic provinces, and indeed briefly also the imperial capital, occupied. The Trevean late ancient mosaics embellished rooms in private and public structures including the imperial palace and baths. The latter includes the famed charioteer mosaic showing the victorious Polydus (fig. 255). Equally creative is the geometrical carpet enclosing mythic figures such as Heracles (fig. 256) and the wonderful mosaic of the mysteries (figs. 258-260) with its "odd iconography" (p. 207), which represents, it seems, a banquet honoring not only good food but also foundational mythic narratives. Since the mosaic is generally dated to the end of the fourth century one wonders whose dining room it had graced and who were the guests invited to feast their eyes on visual delicacies and deities when Gratian, that most pious young Christian emperor, presided over the court in Trier. One notes the absence of Christian mosaics from the chapter, likely the result of scarcity of the documentation. A good chunk of the chapter is occupied with the south-west of Gaul, a region that Balmelle knows intimately, home to many imposing villae and to a mosaic culture noted for the richness of its vegetal and floral motives. Turning to Gaul of south-east and its mosaics, the authors dwell on the astonishing mosaics of the villa at Vinon sur Verdon (figs. 347-349, not far from Villelaure, above) consisting of three panels (c. 5x2 m.) which display the three graces scantily clad next to a life size naked Dionysus offering vine to Icarios. Along the entire picture runs an inscription borrowed from Martial (Ep. 1.40: "You who grimace and grudgingly read these verses, may you envy everyone and may no one envy you"), perhaps hardly the words to inspire guests with a genuine welcome. Whether the mosaics were intended to serve the owners in an apotropaic capacity is difficult to tell.8 The images certainly act as a veritable visual reference book to classical mythology. The chapter concludes with a nod to central and north-western Gaul. Late antiquity, to surmise from mosaic activities, witnessed a continued and in some areas even accelerated activity, reflecting the continuing resources and tastes of the Gallic aristocracy, the availability of mosaic experts and shared values.

The last chapter, mosaics as a source of social history, picks up an earlier strand (ch. 1) with a discussion of the mosaicists, particularly artists who signed their work, the mobility and atelier-teams of mosaicists. Noting the ever- improving modern technology which enables greater precision of dating as well as more minute analysis of the components and the manner of execution of mosaics than ever before, Balmelle/Darmon draw attention to intriguing similarities between Gallic mosaics and mosaics from other parts of the Roman Mediterranean. One such, between a mosaic from Loupian (Narbonensis) and another at Ryan (Syria), leads to the suggestion that several teams were at work at Loupian, an Aquitanian team bringing its own distinct vegetal-floral style (figs. 336-344) and an "oriental" one bring an "arabesque" iconography, a team likely trained in the east or originating in Syria (pp. 298-300). The migration of themes, then, supports the assumption of the migration of teams across the Mediterranean in late antiquity. The chapter ends with a section on the sponsors of mosaics in the public sphere, civic and religious, namely on mosaics as a form of evergetism of which a handful of inscriptions attest. In the private sphere Balmelle/Darmon discuss how local nabobs would have employed the same mosaicists to decorate their urban and rural habitations. The last section of the chapter deals with lessons of semantics, specifically with what mosaics tell us about the lifestyle of a provincial elite solicitous to be or to become "Roman". The adoption of mosaics as means of beautification of space constituted a critical aspect of the process. By way of a conclusion Balmelle/Darmon emphasize mosaic commonalities, such as the appeal to the imaginary in figural representations which appeared to withstand the test of time. In spite of the significant transformations that advocated different visual repertory of communal identity, the Gallic "iconographic discourse" (p. 325) continued to hark back to favorite images which could have been transferred with astonishing facility from one context to another.

The book closes with a brief epilogue, a glossary, a bibliography naturally referring mostly to publications in French, and a topographical index which includes references to page numbers but not to figure numbers. I have no idea how many of the French readers of this lovely book are likely to be familiar with all the localities that are presented in a dizzying sequence in this book but the large map that comes with it is both welcome and essential, all the more since not a few locations are in present day Switzerland, Germany and Belgium. There is no index of subjects and rarely are measurements of the mosaic panels provided but the nearly 450 colored illustrations convey, as Balmelle/Darmon no doubt intended, the exceptional range, number and quality of the mosaics that had once graced Roman Gaul.

This is a work of great erudition and remarkable patriotism. It combines decades of hard work, of discoveries, and of the Herculean efforts invested in modern France in preserving the heritage of the past. It is certainly a must for the French public eager to share in the work of its dedicated archaeologists. For students and scholars who need not resort to the detailed Recueil this handsome book opens a wide and alluring window to the artistic panorama of the Gallic provinces of the Roman Empire.


1.   There are apparently at least 41 pieces belonging to the mosaic, dubbed "the mosaic of the provinces", now dispersed in 11 public and private collections in 7 countries: D. Kennedy et al. (1998), The Twin Towns of Zeugma on the Euphrates: Rescue Work and Historical Studies (JRA Suppl. Series, 27) (Portsmouth, RI 1998), 129. Darmon himself was involved in a large rescue operation at Zeugma.
2.   Cf. W.T. Wootton, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Mosaicist," in Beyond Boundaries: Connecting Visual Cultures in the Provinces of Ancient Rome, eds. S. E. Alcock, M. Egri‏, and J.F.D. Frakes (Los Angeles, 2016), 62-83.
3.   Pp. 54-5 list figures 53-58 but there are only four illustrations, an unusual error for this otherwise well edited book.
4.   Beryllus, CIL XII 3323; 3327 with V. M. Hope, 'Negotiating Identity and Status: The Gladiators of Roman Nîmes', in Cultural Identity in the Roman Empire, eds. R. Laurence and J. Berry (London 1998), 179-94; p. 186 for two Berylli.
5.   S. Remijsen, The End of Greek Athletics in Late Antiquity (Cambridge 2015), 152
6.   For a lively description, see the Getty blog.
7.   I could not verify since Hoffmann's catalogue is not easily available. For good reproductions of the Monnus and the Muse mosaics, J. Hunter, "Identity in Mosaics of the North Western Roman Provinces' (here).
8.   M. T. Olszewski, 'Two Late Antique synonymous mosaics from Sheikh Zuweid (Egypt) and Vinon (France), Eng. translation of Idem, Dwie późnoantycznemozaiki synonimiczne z Szeikh Zued (Egipt) i Vinon (Francja), Światowit 4 (2002), 99-105 (abstract in French).

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Sunday, April 29, 2018


Tracey Long, Annette Højen Sørensen (ed.), Positions and Professions in Palmyra. Scientia Danica. Series H, Humanistica, 4 vol. 9; Palmyrene studies, 2. Copenhagen: Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, 2017. Pp. 136. ISBN 9788773044049. 200.00 DKK (pb).

Reviewed by Michael Sommer, Universität Oldenburg (

Version at BMCR home site

The papers collected in the present volume were presented at a workshop held at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, in 2017. They all deal with aspects of status and profession, seen from different angles and through a variety of evidence. The editors have both been involved in the Palmyra Portrait Project, an Aarhus-based project concerned with the collection, cataloguing and documentation of the surviving corpus of Palmyrene funerary sculpture scattered across collections in the world. Hence not surprisingly, one of the approaches this volume takes to "position and profession in the Syrian oasis city is through funerary portraits. The second one is more conventional and focuses on the epigraphic corpus, which has been the subject of several studies in the past.1

In their introduction (chapter 1), the editors aim at revealing how "social and cultural position could be constructed and expressed both visually and epigraphically" in Palmyra (p. 19). They identify Palmyra's distinct geographic and strategic position between Rome and Parthia as the oasis' unique selling point, making it interesting for scholars as a case-study in social organisation. In addition, they emphasise the peculiar setup of Palmyrene society, the elites in particular, who were global players at the fringes of a Mediterranean world that reached out to India and, indirectly, China. The editors take the visual and epigraphic evidence for "conscious decisions of representation"; each of the following eight chapters assembled in this volume explores a fascinating aspect of how the Palmyrenes defined themselves in their own society.

In her paper, Glenys Davies (chapter 2) explores the "body language of Palmyra and Rome". Comparing gestures from Palmyrene funerary sculpture with their counterparts in Greece and Rome, Davies concludes that the Palmyrenes appear to have borrowed a certain vocabulary of body language from Hellenistic and Roman funerary sculpture. The "arm-sling pose" common on Palmyrene reliefs representing men is also well-known from Roman republican sculpture. It had disappeared from the Roman West by the imperial period, when the Palmyrene reliefs were carved, but it remained popular in the East. Davies concludes that Palmyrene men were probably "aligning themselves with elite residents of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire" (p. 25)—people who took pride in their Greek- rather than in their Roman-ness. In the case of the so-called pudicitia-type reserved for women, Davies concludes that the occurrence of this type both in late- republican Rome and in Palmyra was due to the original Hellenistic model having been adopted by Romans and Palmyrenes alike, but in different manners.

Signe Krag in her chapter (3) focuses on jewellery as a reflection of "changing female roles" (pp. 39–42). While originally, few women wore large amounts of jewellery, the custom became more widespread from the 2nd century onwards. To Krag, jewellery is a marker of wealth and hence social status, but at the same time of cultural affiliation—both within the oasis society and the wider world of the Roman empire. While most papers investigate Palmyra's cultural bonds with the Mediterranean, Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis (chapter 4) explores the links between Palmyrene and Parthian dress. She takes the omnipresence of the Parthian trouser-suit as proof that "Iranian costume was highly popular in the […] art of this caravan city" (p. 65). Such a conclusion is not entirely convincing: the assumption that a certain dress-style can be associated with a particular political entity (in this case the Parthian Empire) is circular, as long as we lack clear evidence on the origin of the dress-code (which may be hybrid anyway). The term "Parthian costume" is also employed by Tracey Long in her chapter (5), but according to her, it became popular due to its practical use to the "professional traveller and rider". Wherever "Parthian costume" originally came from, it probably bears witness to a cultural koinē forming across Syria and Mesopotamia and ignoring political frontiers.

Eleonora Cussini's piece (chapter 6) is a highly instructive survey of professional onomastics in the epigraphic record. While professions are largely absent from the honorific inscriptions, they appear in the corpus of religious dedications: teachers, butchers, physicians and craftsmen are mentioned, among others, in these inscriptions. Tommaso Gnoli, using the epigraphic record from Palmyra, evidence from the Roman West and a set of anthropological parallels, investigates professional associations and the importance of "ethnic" or "tribal" affiliation for professional identities (chapter 7), while Eivind Heldaas Seland analyses the "iconography of caravan trade" in visual representations from Palmyra and the Nabataean kingdom (chapter 8). Most of these images, however, do not represent caravan trade, but other activities associated with camels. In the final chapter (9) of the volume, Rubina Raja explores the portraits of priests, demonstrating how standardised images were used in order to display status, rather than profession: "The grave in Palmyra was not a place where the emphasis was put on the offices held in public life. It was rather a space in which the family status was underlined" (p. 129).

With this volume, the editors have made an important contribution towards the study of Palmyra. They have highlighted the importance of Palmyrene funerary art for understanding Palmyrene society and its intrinsic complexity. They also have further corroborated the assumption that, within the continuum of the wider Mediterranean world, but also within the frame of the Partho-Roman Near East, Palmyra was a unique city, a place sui generis, thriving on its frontier position and the stunning multiculturalism of its society. Scholars studying Palmyra and the Roman Near East, but also those interested in Roman history or art in more general terms, will greatly benefit from this collection of exquisite papers, whose main strength lies in bridging the gap between art and social history. This reviewer truly regrets that this comprehensive volume was not yet in print when he wrote his own history of Palmyra.


1.   Most recently, J.-B. Yon, Les notables de Palmyre, Beyrouth 2002.

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Beatrix Freibert, Die aristotelische Logik – erklärt von ihren antiken Interpreten. Studien zu Literatur und Erkenntnis, 10. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag WINTER, 2017. Pp. 393. ISBN 9783825367275. €48.00.

Reviewed by Luca Gili, Université du Québec à Montréal (

Version at BMCR home site

This book is the revised version of a PhD dissertation defended at the University of Marburg in 2015. Unlike most dissertations, this book makes bold claims and adopts a rather uncommon method. Freibert deserves credit for that. I am not entirely persuaded of the validity of her method, but if one accepts her historical and philosophical approach, her results are compelling.

Freibert intends to offer a systematic reconstruction of the concept of logic shared by the Platonic and Aristotelian commentators on Aristotle's Organon (p. 14). More specifically, Freibert asks why the works collected in the Organon are an "instrument" (organon, in Greek) for the sciences and for mathematics. She surveys a vast timeframe: from Alexander of Aphrodisias (third century A.D.) to Eustratius of Nicaea (died 1120 A.D.), she considers all the main Greek commentators, as well as Boethius, who is included because his translations were highly influential (cf. p. 15). 1 Freibert anticipates an obvious objection at this point: why consider so many different authors almost as if they were agreeing on anything substantial? Here Freibert's reply is bold. In her estimation, all these authors shared common ground, despite their many differences, insofar as they were all part of the same tradition (cf. p. 15). To support the validity of her approach, Freibert implicitly presents John Philoponus' oeuvre as paradigmatic for her own work (p. 15 n. 8): like Philoponus, Freibert admits that Platonic and Aristotelian commentators disagree on a number of issues, but there is among them a fundamental agreement ("eine grundlegende Übereinstimmung", p. 15) concerning the didactic value of Aristotle's logic and its role in the scientific context.

Freibert is certainly right in stating that all commentators share some ideas. Presumably, they all thought that Aristotle was a decent logician and that the study of the Organon was not a waste of time. It is doubtful, however, that these common features have any philosophical value. It is not that it is never philosophically fruitful to look into common features of the late antique commentary tradition. S. Aerts and J. Opsomer, for example, have proposed an intriguing model for epistemic authority in the context of the commentary tradition as a whole. 2 And Freibert's enterprise could in principle have been fruitful too, and it turns out that her inquiry into the common features of the logic of the commentators also yields potentially intriguing conclusions. But her philosophical analysis is often too shallow. For example, after detailed analysis of several texts concerning language (ch. 2), Freibert concludes that language is not the mere connection of words and reality, but rather "what is known of the thing" ("jeweils das, was von einer Sache erkannt ist", p. 44, Freibert's emphasis). Hence language is primarily aimed at the transmission of knowledge ("Erkenntnisübermittlung") and only secondarily at communication among people. Even though this point potentially has philosophical value, Freibert does not analyse it. Furthermore, the textual evidence from which it is inferred seems to be limited to a remark by Ammonius (In de Int. 5, 17-19, quoted on p. 43) and a line of Dexippus (In Cat. 6, 33- 4, quoted on p. 24) which simply state that the spoken word refers to the mental concept and this latter to the extra- mental thing. In other words, the texts analysed by Freibert do not seem to allude to a form of "mentalese", as her marks imply (and see further below); they simply restate the traditional doctrine of the semiotic triangle outlined by Aristotle in De Int. 1. 3

After ch. 2, Freibert's book deals with propositions (ch. 3: "Der Aussagesatz als Träger von Wahreit und Falschheit", pp. 69-100), the nature of syllogistic (ch. 4, "Was is Syllogistik?", pp. 101-56), some special features of the syllogism, such as the so-called dici de omni (ch. 5, "Die Unterschiede innerhalb der Syllogistik", pp. 157-90), the goal and the usage of syllogistic (ch. 6, "Ziel und Nutzen der Logik und Syllogistik", pp. 191-208), previous knowledge in the context of a demonstrative syllogism (ch. 7, "Vorwissen in einem apodeiktischen Syllogismus", pp. 209-352) and the scientific and didactic role of syllogistic (ch. 8, "Die aristotelische Logik in ihrer wissenschaftstheoretischen und didaktischen Stellung", pp. 353-66). The book includes a rich bibliography and a useful index locorum.

As is clear from the content itself, Freibert conceives of the commentators' corpora as parts of a unified system known as "Aristotelian logic". Historical narrative is replaced by a unified system that looks like a puzzle with as many pieces as there are commentaries on the Organon. I would not be against such an approach a priori, but Freibert's criterion for the inclusion of a text in this patchwork is not its intrinsic philosophical value, but the mere fact that it is part of the commentary tradition. Hence, Freibert's research seems to be presupposing that (1) philosophy is done in the context of a (living?) tradition and that (2) all of those who identified themselves with this tradition are worthy of consideration, regardless of the actual philosophical value of their contribution.

Despite these worries, Freibert's prose is engaging, and one could wish that her conclusions were grounded on a more historically reliable reconstruction. When she discusses propositions, she attributes to the commentators what I called "mentalese" above. In her opinion, all (apophantic) assertions are essentially either true or false, because they reproduce the very process of knowing. Assertion and reason have a similar structure insofar as they connect a predicate and a subject (cf. p. 98: "Aussagesatz und Vernunft (διάνοια) entsprechen dabei einander in ihrer diskursiven Struktur, die, in einem zeitlichen Nacheinander, jeweils ein Zugrundeliegendes (ὑποκείμενον) und ein darauf Bezogenes (sprachlich: κατηγορούμενον) zueinander in Beziehung setzen. Der apophantische Satz beschreibt die formale Struktur der Vernunft (διάνοια)"). Did the commentators really endorse the view that there is such a "mentalese"? Freibert's argument seems to lead to this conclusion, but she avoids considering all the implications of her analysis.

Freibert correctly distinguishes syllogistic from logic. Syllogistic is a part of logic, one that deals with assertoric propositions, as expounded in the Analytics. According to Freibert, a syllogism represents the very process of learning a connection that was previously unknown ("Lernprozess"). She documents this claim very well with references to several texts (see e.g. pp. 109, 138). Syllogizing is thus learning and learning is an activity. Hence, only a faculty that can perform an activity is able to syllogize. This conclusion clearly follows from the presentation of syllogistic offered by the commentators considered by Freibert – although Aristotle did not address this issue, so that Freibert's reconstruction helps us understand how the commentators reinterpreted Aristotle's logic in an original way. While she focuses on the role of διάνοια (translated as "Vernunft", p. 162) in the context of syllogistic, Freibert explains why Philoponus maintained that only διάνοια had a role in the activity of syllogizing (as Freibert puts it, διάνοια is "das eigentliche aktive Erkenntnisvermögen", p. 188). According to Philoponus, the imagination is static in its operations, hence it cannot perform that "motion" that is the activity of syllogizing (pp. 162-3).

Freibert adds that a false opinion is the result of the association of a predicate and a subject that describe features of the world that are not connected to each other. She shows that most commentators (including Boethius, Ammonius and Philoponus, cf. pp. 178-81) maintain that the erroneous association is made at the level of the imagination. Philoponus adds, however, that not every image created by the imagination is false (In A.Pr. 3, 4-20, quoted at p. 181 n. 72). Interestingly, Ammonius observes that, among the objects that are formed by imagination, there are "empty concepts" ("leere Begriffe"), i.e. concepts without a reference in ipsa rerum natura. These concepts are terms of propositions that can figure as premises only in sophistical syllogisms (see Ammonius, In A.Pr. 3, 19-25, quoted at p. 178 n. 66). Freibert does not ask herself whether there is a history behind this doctrine, which seems to be endorsed by at least some earlier commentators (so who introduced it first?), nor does she analyse the logical implications of the doctrine. The lack of historical insight also emerges from the following chapter, dedicated to the goal of syllogistic (pp. 191-208). Freibert convincingly shows that many commentators (Philoponus, Ammonius, Boethius, Themistius) maintain that the goal of syllogistic is demonstration. Freibert does not state, however, that this doctrine was first expounded by Alexander, nor does she suggest that the commentators named are likely to draw – directly or indirectly – from Alexander. In fact Alexander only makes an appearance to add that demonstration, in being oriented towards the acquisition of wisdom, helps to make the wise man god-like, so that the ultimate goal of syllogistic is in fact to become god-like (cf. p. 207). This shows how Freibert looks at her texts from a systematic, rather than a historical, standpoint: Alexander is referred to only in order to "complete" a doctrine that she finds in Ammonius and in Philoponus.

In conclusion, this book appears to be a missed opportunity. The author is talented and the finely-produced monograph is well written and scattered with enlightening observations on a wide number of texts. But these texts are not presented in a coherent way and the analyses that accompany them do not make any substantial contribution to our knowledge of the history of ancient logic. It is reasonable to hope that the author will build on her insightful intuitions in future publications.


1.   Freibert's approach may seem weak from the standpoint of a reader interested in the historical reconstruction of the development of logic in late antiquity, and I will not hide the fact that my criticism of her book is the consequence of my preference for this latter type of enquiry. But I should add that Freibert also does an excellent job when she does deal with history: her succinct presentation of the main commentaries on the Organon (ch. 2.6, pp. 44-68) is to be commended for its clarity and its accuracy.
2.   S. Aerts and J. Opsomer, "Teksten bekleed met autoriteit. Een model voor de analyse van epistemische autoriteit in commentaartradities", Tijdschrift voor Filosofie, 2017, 79/2, pp. 277-94.
3.   I am aware of heterodox interpretations of De int. 1 that do not attribute any "semiotic triangle" to Aristotle (see e.g. Franco Lo Piparo, Aristotele e il linguaggio. Cosa fa di una lingua una lingua, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2003). According to Lo Piparo, spoken words refer to things as much as thoughts do in De int., on the basis of a new interpretation of the Greek symbola; Lo Piparo's claim has been regrettably ignored by Aristotle scholars (and Freibert does not include this book in her bibliography). It goes without saying that, were Lo Piparo to be right, Ammonius, Dexippus and all those who attributed the "semiotic triangle" to Aristotle would have said something original. But if Lo Piparo is wrong and Aristotle really did introduce the semiotic triangle, as almost everybody is ready to maintain, it is hard to see why the texts quoted by Freibert would have any philosophical value.

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Jeffrey M. Hunt, R. Alden Smith, Fabio Stok, Classics from Papyrus to the Internet: An Introduction to Transmission and Reception. Ashley and Peter Larkin series in Greek and Roman culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017. Pp. xi, 344. ISBN 9781477313022. $29.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Katherine A. East, Newcastle University (

Version at BMCR home site


Few would deny that an awareness of the history of the text is useful to anyone working within classics, yet the prevalence of neatly packaged and accessible editions can make the history of their material form diminish in importance. However, as the field of classical reception has evolved across recent decades, it has been increasingly acknowledged that understanding the transmission of the classical text is vital if its meaning and importance to later audiences is to be fully comprehended. This volume offers itself as a tool for those scholars seeking to engage with this renewed emphasis on the history of classical scholarship. As the title signifies, this project is an adaptation of Fabio Stok's I classici dal papiro a Internet, (Rome: Carocci Editore, 2012), a work that argued for the need to reintegrate the material evidence and scholarly tradition into the study of classical reception. The authors promise a work "based on but distinct from [Stok's] original," (ix) so not simply a translation, but a collaborative effort to produce a text suitable for their stated aims. These aims are identified as two-fold: first, to "convey the history of classical scholarship," and second, "to speak broadly to the training and development of a new generation of classicists." (ix) To this end, the book—maintaining the structure of the original—is divided into six chapters, with the first five chapters directed towards the first aim through the provision of an overview of the transmission of classical texts from original composition to modernity. The final chapter addresses the most modern aspect of this transmission, namely the various digital tools now available to the classicist. This last chapter speaks most directly to the desire to contribute to the training of classicists, while the preceding chapters grant the budding philologist the means to understand the "grand contributions of those who came before." (ix)

Before this journey through textual history begins, a foreword is provided by Craig Kallendorf, whose work on the Renaissance history of Virgil has contributed so much to the field of classical reception. This foreword is a powerful and important statement both on how studies into the reception of classical texts should be pursued, and on how these issues relate to the broader classical discipline. Emphasising the apposite timing of the work, Kallendorf declares that "it is a brave new world out there, one which demands a new treatment of how classical texts have been passed from generation to generation and is compatible with the developments that are transforming classical studies as a field. This volume provides that treatment." (2) The papyri, manuscripts, commentaries and printed editions which make up a work's textual history are not solely tools for the reconstruction of a 'correct' text, but significant moments in determining how the meaning and value of a text was judged and presented to its audience. As Kallendorf concludes, "any vision of classical studies that takes reception seriously should have a material foundation to it, such that to clarify our own understanding of a classical text, we must also study the manuscripts and printed books that have brought it to us." (4) The arguments made here by Kallendorf summarise neatly both the undertaking facing scholars of classical reception, and the changes in method and mentality necessary to achieve the most comprehensive and effective scholarship. Of course, the resultant challenge—unconfronted in this volume—is how best to integrate not only the history of scholarship, but all the other disciplines necessary for a full appreciation of this material history, including book history, bibliography, and intellectual history. 1 Still, its goal is to highlight the need for blending textual transmission with classical reception, and in this it succeeds.

The inevitable question must be, is such an account necessary given the continued prominence of Reynolds and Wilson's Scribes and Scholars2, now on to its fourth edition, which was reprinted as recently as 2013? The authors anticipate this question, acknowledging their debt to the work in the preface, while Kallendorf uses the foreword to suggest its value as a "complement" to the newer work, claiming that this volume offers a "different perspective" and "comparatively little repetition." (4) Indeed, while structurally these books are similar, and while they necessarily consider much of the same subject matter, this volume distinguishes itself in two essential ways: first, presentation and readability, and second, the attention given to introducing the various skills and disciplines needed to actually study the history of the text. Where previous histories of classical scholarship have tended to allow their narrative to be driven by the activities of the individuals pursuing that scholarship, Classics from Papyrus to the Internet tells the story of the discipline through its evolving methodologies. 3 Turning to the content itself, attempting to reflect on the choices made concerning what to include in a volume such as this is inevitably problematic. The sheer amount of material and history covered forces the author to be selective in what is used; as reviewer, I might inquire as to why certain examples or individuals were omitted, but that would lean towards pedantry given the necessary omissions for the work to fit within one volume. It would be impossible for everything to be included. Nevertheless, the authors manage a comprehensive treatment of the history of classical scholarship.

Beginning with its earliest roots in antiquity, the first chapter proceeds from the origins of writing in Greece to the development of the early codex and the resultant expansion of libraries and a book trade. This is grounded in material history, providing useful surveys of early receptacles for writing, including stone, papyri and parchment, allowing these changing physical tools to direct the narrative of the chapter. At the same time, the disciplines evolving from these materials are usefully introduced, particularly epigraphy and papyrology. The second and third chapters advance the story into late antiquity and the middle ages, discussing both the earliest examples of textual scholarship, and the fate of the text in this difficult period. The preservation, codification, and organisation of the words themselves are the focus here, as systems of writing, correcting, and transcribing are detailed. Some problems of repetition arise here, perhaps a consequence of multiple authors, as the development of the codex is returned to, despite its detailed treatment in the first chapter. Chapter two is an extremely useful starting point for those interested in philology, detailing in a clear and logical manner the developments in antiquity that contributed to the state of the text as it is now, and hence the need for textual criticism. It is all too easy to lose sight of precisely why the classical text requires such intense editing. The third chapter, 'Classical Reception from Antiquity to the Middle Ages,' has a vast range of material to cover, as reflected in the length of the chapter; for the purposes of accessibility, this might have been broken down into two or more smaller chapters. Again, the emphasis here is on the means by which texts were preserved and organised, explaining how, in spite of the apparent decline in interest in the classics, large portions of text were able to survive the tumultuous events of the period. Particularly useful in this chapter is the continuation of chapter one's discussion of script, offering an accessible survey of how letter forms developed, with excellent illustrations, up to the Carolingian minuscule.

Moving on to the Renaissance and the early modern period with chapters four and five, we learn about the rediscovery of the manuscripts that defined this period, their preservation and subsequent transmission into print, with all the associated challenges that process produced. Cultural and contextual issues impacting on this process feature, with the tension between classical Latin and the rising use of the vernacular, the development of civic humanism (although this term is not used), the Reformation, and the changing geographical centres of scholarship all considered. Somewhat disappointing was the continued neglect of the scholarship of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, beyond acknowledgement of development in antiquarian disciplines and the contribution of Richard Bentley. As the brief outline of editorial practices in this period suggests, there was extensive opportunity for editors—who also tended to be politicians and religious men—to intervene in the text, a consequence of scholarship that would cohere neatly with the ideas promoted by Kallendorf in the foreword. Here Scribes and Scholars has the advantage, as textual criticism is granted a whole chapter across which its changing practices are outlined. Instead, the eighteenth century is all but ignored, as the narrative leaps forward to Karl Lachmann's 'method' and the scholarship of nineteenth century Germany.

Where this volume can, of course, move beyond the shadow of Scribes and Scholars is in the final chapter, which considers the tools for practising classical scholarship in the modern age. The resources that have developed over the last century codifying inscriptions, papyri, and texts, together with the dictionaries and encyclopaedias created to aid the researcher, are all present, together with some of the prominent digital manifestations of these tools. This is useful, as far as it goes, yet with Digital Humanities on the rise some discussion of the most modern tools for classical scholarship would have been a valuable addition. Digital editing tools are increasingly reliable, with the xml TEI (Textual Encoding Initiative) a very flexible tool for converting text, enriched with specific elements and attributes for classical texts and manuscripts. Such editorial resources extend beyond texts into inscriptions and papyri with the platforms EpiDoc and EFES, and even into mapping software based on the Barrington Atlas with the Pelagios Commons. In the preface, the authors promise that this book will contribute to the digital world of classics, creating a webpage to function alongside the book. This website remains a 'work-in-progress' Papyrus to Internet, but should develop into a useful resource.

The volume itself is well put together, with beautiful illustrations supplementing the text. A crucial tool for a book that covers such a vast stretch of history, and so many significant individuals, is a rich and detailed index, which is provided here. A more structured bibliography would have been useful, equipped with all the relevant details for the digital resources outlined in the final chapter.

This volume is a timely reminder to scholars of the burgeoning discipline of classical reception that a full understanding of that reception is difficult to attain without engaging with the transmission of the classical text. It provides a clear and comprehensive overview of the issues surrounding that transmission, and the skills necessary to further pursue such studies. The theory and the tools are present; what remains now is to apply them to the actual studies of classical reception and classical influence on intellectual history, in order to advance the subject.


1.   On this difficulty see the essay by Christopher Ligota and Jean-Louis Quantin introducing their edited volume History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 1-38, esp. 10-13.
2.   Leighton D. Reynolds and N. G. Wilson, Scribes and Scholars: a guide to the transmission of Greek and Latin literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968).
3.   For example, Rudolf Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship: from 1300 to 1850 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976).

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Friday, April 27, 2018


Erika Fischer-Lichte, Tragedy's Endurance: Performances of Greek Tragedies and Cultural Identity in Germany since 1800. Classical Presences. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xix, 398. ISBN 9780199651634. $115.00.

Reviewed by Joshua Billings, Princeton University (

Version at BMCR home site


Theater, and especially Greek tragedy, holds an outsize importance in the history of modern German culture. From the eighteenth century, theatrical performances have borne the weight of expectations that they contribute to the formation of German cultural identity. Greek tragedy (along with Shakespeare and German "classical" authors) has been at the center of this project, its importance ensured by the place of classical languages in the German education system, and by a concept of Bildung that understands cultivation (intellectual, aesthetic, moral) as an ongoing process throughout the life of the individual. In Tragedy's Endurance: Performances of Greek Tragedies and Cultural Identity in Germany since 1800, Erika Fischer-Lichte treats this intersection of aesthetic and cultural realms by tracing the importance of Greek tragedy to the Bildungsbürgertum, the educated middle or upper-middle classes of Germany, who compose the major part of the German theater audience. Tragedy's Endurance offers a historical overview of this relationship organized around significant stagings from the early nineteenth century, when performances of Greek tragedy were first explored as a means of constituting social identity, to the late twentieth century, when this possibility was for all intents and purposes foreclosed by the waning of German philhellenism and by shifts in the cultural expectations surrounding theater.

Tragedy's Endurance represents an important contribution to classical reception studies and to theater history, fulfilling a major desideratum for a history of German performances of Greek tragedy that could serve as a counterpart to Edith Hall and Fiona Macintosh's seminal 2005 Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre, 1660–1914. In comparison, Tragedy's Endurance is somewhat narrower in scope, less a survey than a series of significant glimpses, which are chosen more for their aesthetic than for their cultural significance. Fischer-Lichte synthesizes a wide range of material related to both the production and reception of these stagings in order to grasp their creators' intention (in a strong sense) to reflect on cultural identity, and then to evaluate their success in doing so. Throughout, her discussions are authoritative: thoroughly researched, thoughtfully analyzed, and clearly laid out. If there is a criticism to be made, it would be that Fischer-Lichte is either too much or too little the cultural historian here: as she explains, her selection of material is guided by aesthetic significance, those performances that "introduced a new theatre aesthetics or a new image of ancient Greece, or did both" (5). In practice, this means that the productions treated are not necessarily the ones that were the most important culturally, but the ones that were, in Fischer-Lichte's judgement, the most innovative. This is a conscious, self-reflective methodology, but it results in a kind of cultural history that largely excludes realms of culture outside the avant-garde. Within the scope of this methodology, though, the book is full of information and insight, and students and scholars of theater history, classical reception, and German culture will turn and return to the book regularly.

Following an introduction tracing the emergence of a strong nexus of philhellenism and theatrical performance in the late eighteenth century, Fischer-Lichte proceeds chronologically, which entails a much greater weight on the twentieth century, when performances of Greek theater reached critical mass. I found Fischer-Lichte's approach somewhat more congenial in treating later performances, for which extensive production material is available, than in reconstructing earlier ones, which is necessarily a more speculative endeavor. Chapter 1 traces the aesthetics surrounding Goethe's 1802 Weimar staging of A. W. Schlegel's adaptation of the Ion, a moment important as much for its failures as its successes. Fischer-Lichte describes Goethe's aims in staging a "Greek" work as grounded in his own and Friedrich Schiller's aesthetics of artistic autonomy. Fischer-Lichte then traces, through a wide engagement with contemporary sources, how this aesthetic famously fell flat in performance. The chapter's greatest strength lies in the way it shows Goethe seeking—by "authoritarian" (39) means—to impose his own aesthetic on an unwilling audience, and Fischer-Lichte's deft analysis of this clash. Despite the best efforts of the Weimar intellectuals, Greek tragedy could not yet find a place on the German stage.

Chapter 2 discusses the groundbreaking Potsdam Antigone of 1841 as an attempt to create national cohesion through philhellenism. Fischer- Lichte gives a clear and concise summary of the important developments in philhellenism in the early part of the 19th century, pointing to the way that idealization of the Greeks and the Greek language was woven into the education of the Bildungsbürgertum, and explaining the role of historicism in creating an interest in "authentic" stage practices. These impulses led to the creation of a novel theatrical and musical language for the performances, and resulted in a sensation that extended well beyond the German context in which the production originated. Chapter 3, by contrast, steps away from particular stagings of Greek tragedy to discuss the importance of Greek theater to Wagner and Nietzsche, who, Fischer-Lichte argues, create important conditions for understanding twentieth-century productions. The chapter discusses the ways in which Wagner's concept of music drama invoked the Greeks, and points especially to the importance of the idea of the festival gained from Greece to the founding of Bayreuth as a utopian social project. This is undeniably an immensely important framework for understanding later productions, but a more explicit effort at tracing Wagnerianism in the later stagings would have been valuable in integrating the argument of the chapter.

The twentieth century brings a proliferation of productions and new approaches. Chapter 4 discusses Max Reinhardt's stagings of adaptations and translations of Greek tragedies in the young German nation. Fischer-Lichte points particularly to a new corporeality entering into Reinhardt's productions, which could prove repulsive or compelling to different audiences. In discussing the staging of Hofmannsthal's Elektra, she surveys a range of critical reactions, and deftly brings out the ways that different conceptions of antiquity and theatrical decorum could lie behind their differing evaluations. When it comes to Reinhardt's mass (both in terms of audience and performance forces) performances of the Oedipus Tyrannus and Oresteia, her discussion shifts more to the social, demonstrating how Reinhardt sought to create an immersive atmosphere in which the spectators would feel themselves a part of the production, and create a new sense of community that united different classes. For his integration of an experimental sensibility with a wider cultural project, Reinhardt emerges as perhaps the most significant figure of Fischer-Lichte's history.

Though Nazi philhellenism did not substantially increase the number of performances of Greek tragedy, Fischer-Lichte shows that it did render productions particularly culturally meaningful. Examining Lothar Müthel's 1936 Berlin Oresteia, produced in the context of the Olympics, Chapter 5 describes the way that sport and theatrical spectacle became interlinked in the hosting of the games. Fischer-Lichte shows how the Oresteia was received as a work of triumphant historical transition that could legitimize the Nazi regime and provide the model for a contemporary national drama. As the culture turned increasingly militaristic, Greek tragedy became notionally allied to forms of heroic drama that flourished in the pre-war and war years. In this context, the importance of the Antigone is a bit of a puzzle, which Fischer-Lichte seeks to resolve by examining Karl Heinz Stroux's 1940 production, in which Creon was presented as an oriental despot, in contrast to the statuesquely "Greek" Antigone. This allowed for the play's anti-authoritarian potential to be directed, not against the rulers, but against a foreign other.

The OT's staging of questions of guilt and responsibility made it particularly powerful in the immediate postwar period, as Fischer-Lichte shows through a compelling, if brief, look at critical responses at the beginning of Chapter 6. She then turns to Brecht's The Antigone of Sophocles, which, despite having only a very small initial audience when it was performed in Switzerland in 1948, proved one of the most important productions for the development of Brecht's—and Germany's postwar—aesthetic. Framing the drama with a new prologue that showed unmissable parallels to the war, and placing substantial weight on the chorus, the Antigone opened questions of collective guilt in a way that was evidently unpalatable to early audiences and readers. In contrast, the stagings of Gustav Rudolf Sellner proved tremendously popular for their abstract, universalizing approach. Staging the tragedies as works of timeless poetry, Sellner avoided the thorny political questions they could raise, and sought to circumvent the Nazi legacy of philhellenism. Fischer-Lichte's contrast of Brecht and Sellner brings out unmistakably her preference for the avant-garde.

Chapter 7 turns to the 1960s and 70s and focuses on productions that sought to mobilize the Greeks for the purposes of a political reckoning with the legacy of Nazism. Though in this period the Greek texts still retained an aura of inviolability, Fischer-Lichte argues that the public showed itself to be open to experimental stagings. This dual response is exhibited with the example of Hans Neuenfels' scandalous 1976 Medea, which offered a stark feminist take on the story, speaking directly to contemporary questions of women's role in society. The controversy surrounding the production demonstrated the limits of the audience's willingness to be provoked, while the staging's popularity contributed directly to the emergence of a new, more immediately political and culture-critical theatrical aesthetic.

Chapter 8 looks in depth at the Antiquity Projects of 1974 and 1980 at the Berlin Schaubühne, which, Fischer-Lichte argues, marked an even more significant turning point. The first Project, consisting of Peter Stein's Exercises for Actors and Klaus Maria Gruber's staging of Bacchae, performed on successive evenings, mobilized Greek tragedy as part of the Schaubühne's left-wing social program. Stein's work drew heavily on Walter Burkert's theories to depict hunting and sacrifice as pre-linguistic social rites connected somehow to the origins of theater, but privileged fragmentariness and suggestion rather than direct lines of influence or descent. Gruber's Bacchae was even more enigmatic, and Fischer-Lichte describes its highly suggestive but ultimately evasive approach to the work, arguing that the strands of the performance coalesce around the idea of sparagmos. Peter Stein's monumental Oresteia followed in 1980, which, Fischer-Lichte argues, offered a highly ambiguous presentation of Greek tragedy. On the one hand, Stein emphasized the strangeness and inaccessibility of antiquity (in line with the earlier installment of the Project), but on the other, the production's scrupulous textual fidelity and concentration on Aeschylus' language highlighted the fundamental mystery of speech and communication across the ages. Stein's Oresteia thus presented Aeschylus as profoundly contemporary even while profoundly strange, provoking reflections on historicity itself.

The Schaubühne's landmark projects marked, for Fischer-Lichte, the end of Greek tragedy's contribution to the Bildungsbürgertum's cultural identity. The shift in the cultural place of tragedy disburdened stagings from the heavy weight they had previously carried and led to a substantial increase of productions from the 1980s to the present, charted in Chapter 9. The works of Einar Schleef are described as catalytic in drawing new attention to the tragic chorus. Through an innovative deployment of space and use of spoken and physical rhythm, Schleef involved the audience in the almost overpowering energy created by the actors. Fischer-Lichte argues that Schleef, though controversial in his time, contributed to the growth of choric theatre in Germany in the following decades, in which the chorus "has taken on the role of the protagonist acting as a self- organizing and self-organized collective" (345).

As is evident from this summary (which has had to be highly selective), Tragedy's Endurance synthesizes a wealth of material and interpretation that will serve as a foundation for future study. Even where one meets the limits of Fischer-Lichte's approach or differs in assessing the evidence, her analyses are fully realized and the history presented compelling. The book constitutes a major contribution to its overlapping fields of research and will prove an essential resource for understanding the powerful, productive, and troubled place of Greek theatre in the creation of German identity.

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Julia-Maria Schenck zu Schweinsberg, Der pseudohomerische Hermes-Hymnus: ein interpretierender Kommentar. Wissenschaftliche Kommentare zu griechischen und lateinischen Schriftstellern. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag WINTER, 2017. Pp. 314. ISBN 9783825365998. €72.00.

Reviewed by Thomas Gärtner, Institut für Altertumskunde, Universität Köln (

Version at BMCR home site

In einer Mainzer Dissertation aus dem Jahr 2014 wird ein ausführlich eingeleiteter wissenschaftlicher Kommentar zum 580 Hexameter umfassenden pseudo-homerischen Hermes-Hymnos vorgelegt, der sich naturgemäß vor allem mit dem 2013 erschienenen, auf Englisch verfassten, noch ausführlicheren Kommentar von A. Vergados (The Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Introduction, Text and Commentary, Berlin; Boston 2013) wird messen lassen müssen. Vergados´ Arbeit konnte von der Verf. zum Glück noch berücksichtigt werden.

Die Einleitung gibt in sehr luzider Form eine Einführung in alle Aspekte der homerischen Hymnen. Thukydides betrachtet diese als „Prooemien" zu größeren rhapsodischen Darbietungen (18–22). Das Korpus dieser Hymnen entstand im Hellenismus (24–25), der Ares-Hymnos, welchen West Proklos zuschrieb, ist später (29). Die Anordnung im vorliegenden Korpus ist vor allem durch die Länge der Stücke bestimmt (die längeren zuerst, 29–30). Die Überlieferung bleibt trotz der pseudistischen Zuschreibung an Homer überschaubar (31); sie teilt sich in eine Leidener Handschrift M und einen verlorenen mittelalterlichen Archetypos Ψ.

Zur Datierung des Hermes-Hymnos: Dieser ist das jüngste unter den Epyllien (33). Allen und andere Forscher setzten die längeren Hymnen in die letzte Phase der epischen Zeit, die kürzeren dagegen eher in die Klassik (35); ein wichtiges Diagnoseinstrument ist immer wieder die zunehmende prosodische Unwirksamkeit des Digamma (35). Janko datierte den Hermes-Hymnos ins 6. Jh. a., wohingegen die Verf. eher hellenistische Züge in der Sprache betont (36). Rein historisch angelegte Datierungsversuche werfen wenig belastbare Ergebnisse ab (37–39). Die Verf. erhärtet ihre These einer hellenistischen Provenienz des Hymnos mit folgenden, recht allgemeinen Argumenten: der Nähe der Darstellung des kindlichen Hermes zur Eros-Schilderung im dritten Buch der Argonautika des Apollonios von Rhodos und zum Herakliskos des Theokrit, dem stark aitiologischen Charakter des ganzen Hymnos und dem literarischen Charakter von Zitaten aus archaischer Dichtung als „Allusionen" (39–50).

Die Hymnen werden eingeteilt in solche mit und solche ohne Narration (51–54) – was wenig über die Aufbauanalyse des Korpus (29–30) hinausgeht; als Epyllien gelten Hymnen mit aufwändig ausgeführtem narrativen Mittelteil (53). Besonderheiten des Hermes-Hymnos sind die humoristische Ausführung des Epyllions (54) sowie der „metapoetische Binnengesang" des Hermes zu der von ihm selbst erfundenen Lyra (54–55).

Die Zuschreibung der Hymnen an Homer lässt sich bis auf Thukydides zurückverfolgen (57); seit Athenaeus existiert eine alternative Attribuierung an „einen Homeriden" (58). Grundsätzlich lässt sich eine Zuschreibung an Homer auch als „Qualitätssigel" für homerisierende Texte verstehen (60–61); schließlich werden die Übernahmen aus Homer und Hesiod untersucht (61–63).

Ein stoffgeschichtliches Kapitel untersucht die Motivik der Rinderrauberzählung (65–71), besonders im Vergleich mit Hermes´ frecher Tat in den Ichneutai des Sophokles (69–70) und bei Apollodor (70–71).

Das letzte Kapitel der Einleitung befasst sich mit den verschiedenen Facetten der Hermesfigur, nämlich als Erfinder (73–75), als Dieb und Magier (75–76), als Redner (77–78) und als komische Figur (78–80). Deutlicher herausgestellt werden sollte, dass die Erfindung der Lyra in der Struktur des Hymnos dem Rinderraub eindeutig untergeordnet ist: Hermes verlässt seine Wiege (V. 22 f.) ausdrücklich mit dem Ziel, die Rinder Apolls zu rauben, und begegnet danach rein zufällig einer Schildkröte, deren Panzer er zur Lyra verarbeitet. Der kleine Hermes wird also mit voller Absicht Rinderdieb, seine Erfindungsgabe entwickelt sich dagegen eher beiläufig und zufällig.

Einige Bemerkungen zum Kommentar und zu den in diesem berührten Fragen der Textgestaltung:

Die zu V. 11 f. angedeutete Möglichkeit einer Binneninterpolation erschließt sich dem Rez. nicht ganz, da nicht deutlich gesagt wird, welches Textsegment entfernt werden soll. Grundsätzlich sinnvoll erscheint es, mit der Verf. V. 11 als Teil des ὅτε-Satzes (10) aufzufassen. Auch ihre Erklärung, εἴς τε φόως ἄγαγεν (12) auf das planende Walten des Vaters Zeus (und nicht auf die Niederkunft der Mutter Maia) zu beziehen, ist nachvollziehbar begründet und ermöglicht es, die Ausdrücke εἴς τε φόως ἄγαγεν (12) und καὶ τότ' ἐγείνατο παῖδα ohne Pleonasmus oder gar Interpolationsverdacht nebeneinander zu verstehen.

V. 14: ἡγήτορ' ὀνείρων als Attribut des Hermes wird materialreich gegen Gemolls ἡγήτορα φωρῶν verteidigt.

Wenn in V. 33 ἕσσο (Matthiae) zugunsten des überlieferten ἐσσὶ verworfen wird, so erscheint mir doch τόδε zu dem gemäß dem Kommentar auf die Schildkröte zu beziehenden Prädikatsnomen καλὸν ἄθυρμα recht schlecht zu passen. Vergados interpungiert ganz anders: πόθεν τόδε, καλὸν ἄθυρμα;/ αἰόλον ὄστρακόν ἐσσι, χέλυς ὄρεσι ζώουσα. Auch dies ist wohl kein Fortschritt gegenüber dem leichten Eingriff von Matthiae. Richtig West: „Where did you get this fine plaything, this blotchy shell that you wear (ἕσσο) … ?".

In Vv. 57–61 singt Hermes zur neuerfundenen Leier von der heimlichen Verbindung seiner Eltern Zeus und Maia und der kyllenischen Grotte, in welcher sich diese vollzog. Dieses sehr spezielle Gesangsthema eines musizierenden Knaben dürfte nach der Meinung des Rezensenten in der statianischen Achilleis nachwirken, wo Achill, ebenfalls zur Leier (chelyn I 186) singend, seinen Vortrag mit der Hochzeit zwischen Peleus und Thetis im thessalischen Pelion–übrigens ebenfalls in einer Grotte (I 106–108) – abschließt (I 193–194). Hermes besingt in diesem „Miniaturhymnus" seine eigene Göttlichkeit, Achill dagegen berührt gerade das seine Mutter umtreibende Motiv der – durch ihre Hochzeit mit dem sterblichen Peleus – verpassten Göttlichkeit des Nachfahren. Statius offenbart geradezu den Hermes-Hymnos als sein Vorbild, indem er Chiron berichten lässt, dass sich Achill von den Kentauren durch ähnliche Viehdiebstähle ebenfalls Drohungen zugezogen hat (I 152–155) wie Hermes von Apoll.

V. 86: Die Herstellung des Infinitivs αὐτοτροπῆσαι (mit Zs. Adorjáni, Der Gott der Diebe?, Bemerkungen zum homerischen Hermes-Hymnos, Hermes 139, 2011, 131–146, hier 132–136) erscheint ansprechend (man versteht nicht, warum mehrfach die falsch akzentuierte Form αὐτοτροπήσαι begegnet – an die Herstellung eines solchen Optativs ist ja nicht zu denken); allerdings sollte man δολιχὴν ὁδόν nicht als Accusativus graecus mit αὐτοτροπῆσαι verbinden, sondern–mit Adorjáni l.c. 135 – als Objekt: „dem langen Weg eine originell-eigenartige Wendung … geben".

V. 93: ὅτε μή τι nach Radermacher im Sinne von elliptischem εἰ δὲ μή γε zu verstehen (die erste Alternative im Kommentar) geht schon wegen des Fehlens einer Anschlußpartikel δέ nicht an. Man wird in Richtung der zweiten im Kommentar erwogenen Alternative verstehen müssen „wenn Du nicht in Bezug auf Deinen eigenen Besitz geschädigt wirst (sc. sondern nur den Verlust Apolls mitansehen musst)."

In Vv. 156–158 (νῦν σε μάλ' οἴω/ ἦ τάχ' ἀμήχανα δεσμὰ περὶ πλευρῇσιν ἔχοντα/ Λητοΐδου ὑπὸ χερσὶ διὲκ προθύροιο περήσειν) wird richtig die Ψ-Variante ἦ τάχ' aufgenommen. Ob man dann aber in V. 159 (ἤ σε φέροντα μεταξὺ κατ' ἄγκεα φηλητεύσειν) ἤ als „eher denn" verstehen darf, scheint zweifelhaft, insofern ἤ i.q. potius quam gemäß LSJ s.v. B 1 (Vergados ad loc.) auf Verben des Begehrens, vor allem βούλομαι, beschränkt scheint (so auch an der im Kommentar angeführten Parallelstelle hymn. Apoll. 264–266). Der Gedanke, dass Hermes zukünftig (wenn er von Apoll verhaftet worden ist) nicht mehr plündernd in Bergschluchten umherziehen wird, scheint mir jedoch passend, passender als die nach M.L.West (Homeric Hymns. Homeric Apocrypha. Lives of Homer, Cambridge/ London 2003) disjunktiv angeschlossene Alternative, Hermes könne den ihn tragenden Apoll zu Fall bringen („or else you´ll give him the slip when he´s in the middle of carrying you through the glens"), die der besorgten Mutter kaum in den Sinn kommen wird. Da das Personalpronomen σε schon vor μάλ' οἴω steht, könnte man über eine Änderung von ἤ σε in μηδὲ nachdenken (in homerischer Sprache auch ohne vorausgehende Negation, vgl. LSJ s.v. οὐδέ A II 1). Zusätzlich muß man wohl mit Càssola (und Vergados) μέταζε statt μεταξύ herstellen, da μεταξύ den erforderlichen Sinn „danach (sc. nach erfolgter Verhaftung)" erst im Septuaginta-Griechisch haben kann (LSJ s.v. I 2 b).

V. 167: Das von der Verf. zugunsten von ὀλβιέων (van Herwerden) verworfene βουκολέων (Ludwich) statt überliefertem βουλεύων ist die paläographisch wie inhaltlich haushoch überlegene Textverbesserung, insofern Hermes witzigerweise den Gedanken „mich und meine Mutter umsorgen" (inhaltlich besteht seine „Versorgungsmethode" in dem hinterlistigen Rinderdiebstahl) gerade durch eine auf das Hüten von Rindern bezügliche Metaphorik ausgedrückt wird, vgl. LSJ s.v. βουκολέω I 2, dort Arist. Vesp. 10 βουκολεῖς Σαβάζιον „you tend, serve him (with allusion to his tauriform worship)".

In V. 315 wird zurecht mit den meisten modernen Herausgebern φωνῶν (Wolf) für das überlieferte φωνήν aufgenommen.

V. 379: ὣς ὄλβιος εἴην tatsächlich „so wäre ich ja reich"? Nicht doch eher optativ („so may I prosper" West, Richardson, Vergados), was doch viel besser zum beteuernden Charakter der Apologie passen würde?

In V. 385 das am Versanfang überlieferte καί beizubehalten und die sachlich erforderte Negation aus der eidlichen Beteuerung im vorigen Vers (οὐ μὰ τάδ' ἀθανάτων εὐκόσμητα προθύραια) zu entnehmen, scheint kaum möglich. Diese Beteuerung wird ja eingeleitet durch V. 383 μέγαν δ' †ἐπιδαίομαι† ὅρκον (am ehesten ἐπιδώσομαι Barnes) und bezieht sich noch auf die Schuldfrage (Vv. 382 f. οἶσθα καὶ αὐτὸς/ ὡς οὐκ αἴτιός εἰμι). Die Versicherung, dass Hermes auch trotz der Stärke Apolls nicht für einen (vorgeblich nicht begangenen) Diebstahl büßen wird, muß mit einer neuerlichen Verneinung (nach einer starken Interpunktion am Ende von V. 384) eingeführt werden; West schreibt μή am Versanfang, Ilgen οὐ, aber am passendsten erschiene ein „und auch nicht" (κοὐ cf. Hymn. Cereris 227), was dann unter dem Einfluß von καί am Anfang des nächsten Verses leicht verschrieben werden konnte. In dem so konstituierten Vers κοὔποτ' ἐγὼ τούτῳ τίσω ποτὶ νηλέα φωρήν sollte man ποτί (um nicht gemäß der Ψ-Variante ein erneutes ποτέ aufnehmen zu müssen) im Sinne eines adverbialen πρός („zudem") verstehen (die Verf. nimmt eine Tmesis an, aber προστίνω ist nirgends belegt): „Und ich (bin nicht nur unschuldig, sondern) werde zudem auch niemals Apoll, trotz seiner Stärke, einen rücksichtslosen Diebstahl abbüßen". πρός in diesem adverbialen Sinne ist in nachhomerischer Sprache auch ohne δέ möglich (vgl. LSJ s.v. D). Vergados´ Erklärung der Überlieferung „and some day I shall pay him back for …" geht schon deshalb nicht an, weil damit Hermes in Gegenwart der Götter einen Diebstahl zugeben würde.

460 f.: Wenn das überlieferte ἦ μὲν ἐγώ σε/ κυδρὸν ἐν ἀθανάτοισι καὶ ὄλβιον ἡγεμονεύσω richtig ist (Vergados schreibt mit Agar ἡγεμόν' ἕσσω), so hilft es kaum, den ungewöhnlichen Akkusativ als Accusativus Graecus zu erklären („Ich werde in Bezug auf Dich, den ruhmvollen unter den Unsterblichen und glücklichen, als Führer fungieren"). Auch „introduce" (West mit Fragezeichen und Richardson mit der Einschränkung „possibly corrupt") kann nicht gemeint sein, da sich Hermes ja schon zuvor gemeinsam mit Apoll in der Götterversammlung durch eine Rede vorgestellt hat. Allenfalls wird man vielleicht in Analogie zu ὁδὸν ἡγεμονεύειν verstehen können „ich werde Deinem Ruhm und Reichtum unter den Unsterblichen den Weg bereiten".

V. 568: Die im Kommentar erwogene Umschreibung von ἵππους τ' ἀμφιπόλευε καὶ ἡμιόνους ταλαεργοὺς zu ἀμφιπολεῖν ἵπποις τε καὶ ἡμιόνοις ταλαεργοῖς scheint mir etwas gewaltsam, zumal sich die Aufforderung „Umwalte Pferde und lasttragende Halbesel!" eng an die Schenkung der gestohlenen Rinder (567) anschließt und in Vv. 569–571 die Herrschaft über alle Tiere (nicht nur über die zahmen) als etwas wiederum Neues hinzutritt. Die Härte, die ungewöhnlich gesetzte Präposition ἐπί neben ἀνάσσειν (V. 571) mit Vergados auch auf die beiden vorausgehenden Verse beziehen zu müssen, wird man viel leichter mit Ludwichs schonender Abänderung von ἐπὶ in ἔτι glätten (erwogen im Kommentar).

Der Kommentar wird sich in der Forschung als Alternativinstrument zu Vergados' Arbeit etablieren, welche den kommentierten Hymus eher im Kontext archaischer Lyrik belässt und betrachtet (vgl. Vengados 40 ff.), während hier hellenistische Züge betont werden; das ganze Buch ist sprachlich mit großer Sorgfalt gearbeitet (Versehen sehr selten, etwa S. 17 τὼν statt τῶν in der dritten Zeile des Zitats aus Plat. resp. 606 e–607 a und S. 216, Zeile 1 ἐκ χειρὼν statt ἐκ χειρῶν). Allerdings ist es ein wenig ärgerlich, dass dem Kommentar nicht ein kritischer Text (oder zumindest ein Lesetext) mit deutscher Übersetzung beigegeben ist, der das Buch auch ohne eine zusätzliche Ausgabe benutzbar machen und dem Leser verdeutlichen würde, wie die Verf. den Text in jedem einzelnen Fall deutet – der zu leistende Aufwand wäre in Anbetracht der ergebnisreichen Kommentierung sicherlich vertretbar gewesen. Vielleicht hat sich die Verf. dagegen entschieden, weil ihr bereits Vergados mit einem eigenen kritischen Text (samt ausführlichen Similienapparaten aus vorgängiger wie nachfolgender griechischer Dichtung) zuvorgekommen ist. So wird man sich jetzt, wenn man eine moderne deutsche Übersetzung des Hermes-Hymnos sucht, mit der nicht fehlerfreien zweisprachigen Ausgabe von Ludwig Bernays (Homerische Hymnen, Darmstadt 2017) behelfen müssen.

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Jessica Priestley, Vasiliki Zali (ed.), Brill's Companion to the Reception of Herodotus in Antiquity and Beyond. Brill's companions to classical reception, 6. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xvi, 440. ISBN 9789004272293. $194.00.

Reviewed by Lorenzo Miletti, University of Naples Federico II (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

[The reviewer apologises for the delay in submitting the review. Authors and titles are listed below.]

This companion is a generous and extremely welcome work which both widens and enriches the debate on Herodotus' reception, a theme that has provoked wide interest in recent decades, after a long period in which scholarship consisted of a sparse list of contributions, the most famous being some essays by Arnaldo Momigliano.1

In the detailed introduction, Priestley and Zali, authors of two recent Herodotean monographs, 2 explain the purposes of their work and rightly underline the difficulties in dealing with such a mammoth matter. They prevent any criticism of incompleteness by enumerating how many fields of inquiry this volume has to leave aside, like Herodotus' reception in the Imperial age, or in late antiquity, and so on. Lacunae of this type are perfectly understandable, since no book could ever fully cover the reception of such an important author as Herodotus; however, as I will argue below, some of these 'voids' are problematic.

The volume is divided into three parts: Part 1: 'Father of History' is on Herodotus' influence on later (Western) historiography, from antiquity to early modern times; Part 2: Language, Translation, and Scholarship presents (perhaps too heterogeneously) essays exploring the fortune of various formal aspects of the Histories; Part 3: New Narratives and Genres focuses on the reception of Herodotus as a storyteller, passing (slightly ex abrupto) from Pausanias to Kapuściński and Gore Vidal with no one else in between.

Since it is impossible to discuss each of the valuable essays in these three parts, I will focus on what appears to be the two main 'cores' of this companion, namely Herodotus' reception in antiquity and in the Renaissance. In order to do so more effectively, I have given the essays a different order. I apologise for not discussing the essays dealing with more recent episodes of the historian's reception, due to a lack of space.

Though focusing on different aspects, most of the contributions deal with Herodotus' reception in antiquity, starting with the delicate (and indeed vexata) quaestio of the relationship between the historian and his 'successor' Thucydides.

Marek Wekowski's essay aims to demonstrate not only that Thucydides has Herodotus in his mind when dealing with the political situation of Athens and Sparta, but also that the very shape of (at least part of) Thucydides' work can be read as a response to the 'meaningful structure' of Herodotus' Histories, especially with reference to, on the one hand, the parallelism of Herodotus' digressions on Athens and Sparta and, on the other hand, Thucydides' Archaeologia (1.2-19) and Pentecontaetia (1.89-118). The two historians appear thus closer than is commonly acknowledged, especially as regards the "general vision of the ultimate goal of a large-scale historical narrative".

Vasiliki Zali analyses in particular the way Thucydides and Xenophon (above all in the Hellenica) deal with a 'typical' Herodotean subject such as the Persian Wars, concluding that both writers, independent of any influences from other sources on the same topics, clearly rely on Herodotus' account in handling the Greek victory as a delicate problem which can be used as an argument in the political debate between the main Greek cities, a problem involving both moral and political issues.

Xenophon is also at the core of the contribution by Vivienne Gray, who discusses passages from the Cyropaedia which are most probably indebted to Herodotus' work. If compared to Herodotus' Histories, the Cyropaedia offers a largely different portrait of Cyrus, who is represented as an example of an enlightened leader in Xenophon, and as a great king displaying both political virtues and tyrannical tendencies in Herodotus. Gray shows how Xenophon's refined strategy implies an attentive handling of Herodotean points, as well as a re-writing of the episodes already reported in the Histories which clearly shows Xenophon's 'Socratic' purposes.

Christopher Baron's essay is a lavishly written work on Herodotus' reception in the works of Duris of Samos. Baron's analysis encompasses several aspects from which it is possible to detect Herodotus' influence on Duris, namely "arrangement, subject matter, engagement with other authors, use of evidence, and pleasurable reading". Baron discusses several fragments, convincingly concluding that a thorough appreciation of Herodotus' deep influence clearly helps to dismiss the cliché-portrait of Duris as a 'tragic historian', and to understand better how Duris worked, especially as regards to his interest in mythical digressions and poetic sources, and to his criticism of Ephorus and Theopompus.

Eran Almagor analyses Flavius Josephus' use of Herodotus by illustrating Josephus' knowledge of the Histories through several, well-discussed, examples. Josephus manages a combined reading of the Bible and Herodotus, and he sometimes uses the latter in order to correct the former, as in the case of the sequence of the Achaemenid kings (AJ 11.21-30 and 120-183). While Josephus' criticism against the Greeks does not exclude Herodotus, this is nonetheless among his major models. Armagor goes beyond previous scholarship by extending the list of Josephus' passages which seem linguistically and stylistically influenced by Herodotus.

John Marincola's essay is a thorough analysis of how Herodotus' account of the battle of Plataea is received by Plutarch in his Life of Aristides, an analysis carried out by paralleling this biography with Plutarch's On the Malice of Herodotus (which is however not discussed in itself). Marincola points out how Plutarch re-elaborates Herodotean episodes by reducing emphasis in describing discrepancies among the Greek cities, by adding elements not present in Herodotus (see the religious omina before the battle), and also by stressing Panhellenic items more patriotically.

Greta Hawes' contribution focuses on Herodotus' influence on Pausanias' Periegesis, but the reader has to wait no less than fourteen pages in order to find the first mention of what the title promises. Hawes' convincing comparison, however, shows how Pausanias is indebted to Herodotus not only when discussing places already described by the ancient historian, or in general from a rhetorical point of view, but more deeply in his approach to sources and to the way of dealing with them, purposefully giving rise to an idea of the Greek land as a polycentric and somehow chaotic object, which the authorial storytelling is called to put in order.

Olga Tribulato's essay offers a noteworthy discussion of Herodotus' reception in Greek lexicography. She provides a detailed status quaestionis, but also opens new perspectives on how Herodotus' Ionian forms were perceived throughout the centuries from the Hellenistic to the late imperial ages, by analysing quotations from Herodotus in the main lexicographical sources we can read today, namely Phrynichus, Moeris, Dionysius, Pollux, and the so-called Antiatticist (the analysis of this last author is particularly comprehensive). From a methodological point of view, the way the author manages textual, linguistic and reception issues is worthy of praise.

A useful premise to the group of essays focusing on the Renaissance is Félix Racine's contribution, which analyses how Herodotus was read by Latin writers, from Cicero to the twelfth century, largely before Greek manuscripts of the Histories became available in the West and Latin translations were achieved. Racine shows how Herodotus was not widely read in Latin late antiquity, however, but he nevertheless continued to be seen as a major authority: in sum, an interesting case of how the reception of a writer is possible even without his work.

Adam Foley's essay focuses on Lorenzo Valla's Latin translation of Herodotus in its cultural context and on its fortunate early reception. Foley claims that before Valla humanists read Herodotus above all through the Latin ancient authors (he admits exceptions but does not discuss them). Valla's work changed the way to approach Herodotus; it was celebrated to such an extent that it overshadowed the fame of Herodotus himself, thanks to its linguistic and stylistic virtues.

Following the recent interest in Matteo Maria Boiardo's vulgarisation of Herodotus' Histories, Dennis Looney describes the cultural context of Ferrara in the Quattrocento, also stressing Guarino Veronese's role in Herodotus' diffusion. Looney accurately describes, by exploring some specific cases, the way Boiardo worked, and also analyses the narrative of Boiardo's main work, L'inamoramento de Orlando (1494) detecting in it the influence of Herodotus' narrative.

In his interesting essay on Herodotus in Renaissance France, Benjamin Earley shows, walking in Anthony Grafton's footsteps, how this country was in the 16th century the place where a major debate on historical temporality developed, which led scholars to realize how distant the ancient world was, and so to reconsider the way the ancient authors may be useful to the present. After claiming his aim "to explore how the ongoing debate over historical temporalities affected readings of Herodotus' truthfulness", Earley analyses Saliat's vulgarization, and then passages from Montaigne, Bodin, Estienne, Casaubon and Lancelot-Voisins de la Popelinière, showing how the debate involved problems about the definition of historical chronology and the reliability of Herodotus as a source.

Neville Morley focuses on the Herodotus/Thucydides opposition as it was developed from the early 17th century on, by identifying a number of prominent scholars who exalted Thucydides by contrast to Herodotus and created the myth of Thucydides as the "best historian ever". Then it concludes by pointing to the beginning of the 20th century as the period in which Herodotus slowly re-emerges as a positive model, while the myth of Thucydides is supplanted by a more moderate approach.

Benjamin Eldon Stevens' essay explores the modern and ancient reception of a famous passage of Herodotus' Histories, the "linguistic experiment" made by pharaoh Psammetichus in order to find out which language was the more ancient (Hdt. 2.2). Stevens parallels the episode with some modern linguistic research, and with medieval and early modern tales about analogous experiments. The discussion of later episodes is accurate and interesting; however, less convincing is how the Herodotean account of Psammetichus' experiment is set in its proper context in the light of the historian's own concept of language.3

If we look at this companion as a whole, it is possible to conclude that the editors and authors have been successful in showing how deep and striking the influence of Herodotus has been throughout the centuries, and also in stimulating further debates and research. Before concluding, I wish only to add two remarks. First: although – as mentioned above – incompleteness in this type of collective work is to be expected and excused, I believe that one or more essays covering the Byzantine world would have been welcome, as far as this stage of the historian's reception has made possible the surviving itself of the Histories. Second: since the choice to cover a range of about 2500 years necessarily encourages the adoption of a continuity/discontinuity pattern instead of a synchronical approach to specific epochs, I wonder whether a more precise range like, for instance, the one chosen in the recent volume edited by Susanna Gambino Longo might constitute a more productive solution, open to more interdisciplinary scenarios, at least sic stantibus rebus (where res are our knowledge of Herodotus' fortune).4

To sum up, this book is a well-edited product – with only a few typos5 –, which also provides indexes and a bibliography of great utility. It is highly recommended not only to Herodotean scholars, but also to experts in ancient historiography, classical reception, and Renaissance studies. All the essays are stimulating; several of them are excellent and offer new acquisitions in the wide field of Herodotean studies.

Authors and titles

Introduction (Jessica Priestley & Vasiliki Zali)
PART 1 - "Father of History"
1 Herodotus in Thucydides: A Hypothesis (Marek Wecowski)
2 Herodotus and His Successors: The Rhetoric of the Persian Wars in Thucydides and Xenophon (Vasiliki Zali)
3 Duris of Samos and a Herodotean Model for Writing History (Christopher A. Baron)
4 "This is What Herodotus Relates": The Presence of Herodotus' Histories in Josephus' Writings (Eran Almagor)
5 History without Malice: Plutarch Rewrites the Battle of Plataea (John Marincola)
6 Herodotus in Renaissance France (Benjamin Earley)
7 The Anti-Thucydides: Herodotus and the Development of Modern Historiography (Neville Morley)

PART 2 - Language, Translation and Scholarship
8 Herodotus' Reception in Ancient Greek Lexicography and Grammar: From the Hellenistic to the Imperial Age (Olga Tribulato)
9 Herodotus' Reputation in Latin Literature from Cicero to the 12th Century (Félix Racine)
10 Valla's Herodotean Labours: Towards a New View of Herodotus in the Italian Renaissance (Adam Foley)
11 Herodotus and Narrative Art in Renaissance Ferrara: The Translation of Matteo Maria Boiardo (Dennis Looney)
12 The 'Rediscovery' of Egypt: Herodotus and His Account of Egypt in the Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute-Égypte (1802) by Vivant Denon (Andreas Schwab)
13 Not beyond Herodotus? Psammetichus' Experiment and Modern Thought about Language (Benjamin Eldon Stevens)

PART 3 - New Narratives and Genres
14 Herodotus (and Ctesias) Re-enacted: Leadership in Xenophon's Cyropaedia (Vivienne Gray)
15 Pausanias and the Footsteps of Herodotus (Greta Hawes)
16 Ryszard Kapuściński's Travels with Herodotus: Reportage from the Self (Kinga Kosmala)
17 Herodotus in Fiction: Gore Vidal's Creation (Heather Neilson)


1.   Momigliano's contributions are quoted frequently throughout the whole book, where he is evoked as an authority, but sometimes also as a cumbersome 'father' to be metaphorically 'killed': see especially the essays by Earley and Foley.
2.   J. Priestley, Herodotus and Hellenistic Culture, Oxford 2014 (see BMCR 2014.10.42); V. Zali, The Shape of Herodotean Rhetoric, Leiden 2014 (see BMCR 2015.08.39).
3.   For language in antiquity Stevens mostly relies on D.L. Gera's monograph of 2003 (Oxford), while for a general overview of Herodotus' conception of language he cites T. Harrison's article of 1998 (in Histos, 2), leaving aside three monographs on this subject, namely J. Campos Daroca (Almería 1992), L. Miletti (Pisa-Roma 2008), and, more surprisingly, R. V. Munson (Cambridge MA 2005).
4.   S. Gambino Longo (ed.), Hérodote à la Renaissance, Paris 2012 (see BMCR 2012.12.09).
5.   See e.g. Herodotu (-o), p. 200; verecundia (-am), 210. An inversion at p. 171: 'Florentine' pro 'Roman' and vice versa.

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