Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Theodore S. De Bruyn, Stephen A. Cooper, David G. Hunter, Ambrosiaster's Commentary on the Pauline Epistles: Romans. Writings from the Greco-Roman World. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2017. Pp. cxxx, 319. ISBN 9781628371956. $60.00.

Reviewed by Dries De Crom, Tilburg School of Catholic Theology (D.J.L.A.DeCrom@uvt.nl)

Version at BMCR home site


This volume is the first half of a two-volume translation of an anonymous fourth-century commentary on the Pauline epistles, once ascribed to Ambrose, whose author has been known since the 16th century under the epithet 'Ambrosiaster'. This first volume contains a number of introductory essays and the commentary on Romans; the second volume is set to appear shortly and will contain the commentaries on the remaining Pauline epistles (excluding Hebrews, which 'Ambrosiaster' apparently did not comment upon). Unlike other volumes in the Society of Biblical Literature's Writings from the Greco-Roman World series, this volume does not include a parallel Latin text, for reasons of space and, counter-intuitive though it seems, practicality. The source-text underlying this translation is the standard edition in the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (CSEL) series by Heinrich Vogels.1

The first section of the introduction brings together the results of earlier inquiries into the identity, date and provenance of Ambrosiaster. It is argued that both the Quaestiones and the later versions of the Pauline commentaries date to the mid-380s, with the earliest version of the commentaries having appeared perhaps a decade earlier. The person behind the eponym 'Ambrosiaster' is identified as a Roman presbyter, who – following a suggestion by Lunn-Rockliffe2 – probably presided over one of the decentral churches outside the city walls, which would have made him "simultaneously an insider and an outsider to clerical culture at Rome" (p. xxix).

The following section discusses the textual tradition of Ambrosiaster's commentary, which is notoriously complex. In his edition in the CSEL series, Vogels distinguishes between three different recensions for Romans, and two for all other epistles, all of which apparently go back to a single author. In the introduction to the volume here reviewed, Theodore S. de Bruyn has done important work in corroborating Vogels' thesis that "Ambrosiaster first composed a commentary on Romans alone (recensio α). He then wrote commentaries on the remaining epistles (recensio α) and at that time revised the commentary on Romans (recensio β) in light of his greater knowledge of the Pauline epistles and of relevant biblical passages. Finally, he revised the entire set of commentaries (recensio γ)" (p. xli). Through a detailed analysis of the variants in the commentary on Romans 1–5, de Bruyne demonstrates that the nature of the three recensions largely fits Vogels' hypothesis, although the nature of the so-called 'mixed manuscripts' remains problematic (p. lii-lv). For its methodological clarity and compelling arguments, this section truly is one of the highlights of an excellent publication.

The important issue of Ambrosiaster's biblical text clearly was not a focus of this project, and the discussion in the third section of the introduction is correspondingly brief. Due reference is made to publications on the corpus Paulinum by researchers of the Vetus Latina Institute (Beuron), and to the Pauline Commentaries Project at the University of Birmingham.

Ambrosiaster's exegetical methods are often cited as an example of literal, historical and rhetorical interpretation, quite unlike the allegorical methods of some of his predecessors. The author of the fourth introductory section, Stephen A. Cooper, is right not to put too much emphasis on the distinction between 'literal' and 'allegorical' exegesis. The difference between both approaches was less clear-cut than is sometimes imagined3, and at times Ambrosiaster's interpretation would certainly be deemed allegorical by modern readers.

The remaining sections engage with Ambrosiaster's theology; with polemical aspects of the commentary; and with Christian life at Rome, as far as it can be reconstructed from Ambrosiaster's works. Each of these sections summarizes the findings of recent scholarship and singles out some topics of special importance. The discussion of Ambrosiaster's views on grace, free will and justification (p. xci-xcvi) is particularly enlightening in view of the prominence of these topics in late 4th-century theology, notably Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings.

The introduction is, according to this reviewer, the most useful starting point currently available for anyone studying Ambrosiaster's commentaries. The arguments are presented carefully and intelligibly, with ample reference to the secondary literature. Although the individual authors attempt more than a mere status quaestionis, they do diligently point out out-dated theories or conclusions that differ from their own. The extensive bibliography lists a wealth of 20th- and 21st-century scholarship on Ambrosiaster.

As for the translation itself, the authors have elected to translate recensio γ, as identified in the CSEL edition. This is unsurprising, given how recensio γ is elsewhere presented as the author's 'final' version of the commentary. This decision alone represents a distinct improvement over earlier translations of Ambrosiaster, where the distinction between the various recensional layers was insufficiently made.4 Variant readings associated with recensions α and β, or with so-called 'mixed-text' manuscripts, are translated in footnotes, unless the differences are of a stylistic nature only. This does make for rather slow reading (of the first 100 footnotes, 76 give alternative readings found in recensions α or β, or in single manuscripts), and the differences between variant readings are not always apparent from the English translation. Indeed, after only a few pages I could not suppress the urge to read the translation with one eye on the CSEL edition. Anyone who is more than superficially interested in the textual history of the commentaries will no doubt be inclined to do the same.

As far as it is licit for a non-native speaker to judge, the translation itself is fluent and idiomatic. To give only the faintest of impressions of how this volume differs from earlier translations of Ambrosiaster's commentary, I quote the (italicized) lemma and the first lines of commentary on Romans 5:1, as translated by de Bruyn, Cooper and Hunter (p. 89):

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith, not the law, makes it possible to have peace with God. For it reconciles us to God, once the sins that had made us enemies of God have been taken away. Because the Lord Jesus is the agent of this grace, we are reconciled to God through him. Indeed, faith is greater than the law.

An earlier translation of the same passage by G.L. Bray5 reads:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith gives us peace with God, not the law, for it reconciles us to God by taking away those sins which had made us God's enemies. And because the Lord Jesus is the minister of this grace, it is through him that we have peace with God. Faith is greater than the law.

Note that Bray's translation harmonizes the lemma text to the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which has an indicative "we have peace with God" (reflecting the preferred reading ἔχομεν in NA27 and NA28) whereas in fact Ambrosiaster has the subjunctive habeamus "let us have peace with God". As a result, the translations of the commentary section also differ: in de Bruyn, Cooper and Hunter, reconciliation with God seems to be rather more conditional than it is in Bray's translation. Whether this more accurately represents Ambrosiaster's two-phase approach to the process of grace, in which human cooperation is also required (cf. p. xcv-xcvi), I leave to the discretion of the reader.

In short, the authors have produced a volume of outstanding quality that is far more than 'merely' a translation. Once completed by the second volume of commentaries, this work will be an indispensable tool for those interested in the history of exegesis of the Pauline Epistles, as well as for specialists working on the intriguing figure of Ambrosiaster.


1.   H.J. Vogels (ed.), Ambrosiastri qui dicitur commentarius in epistulas Paulinas, vol. 1: Ad Romanos (CSEL 81/1; Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1966).
2.   S. Lunn-Rockliffe, Ambrosiaster's Political Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 80-86.
3.   On this topic, one should consult the chapter on medieval hermeneutics in F. van Liere, An Introduction to the Medieval Bible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), p. 110-140.
4.   One example is G.L. Bray, Ambrosiaster. Commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009). This translation is also based on the CSEL edition,but translates a mixture of recensio α and recensioβ, giving precedence to the shorter text in most cases.
5.   Bray, Ambrosiaster, p. 37.

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Frédéric Lambert, Rutger J. Allan, Theodore Markopoulos (ed.), The Greek Future and its History. Le futur grec et son histoire. Bibliothèque des cahiers de linguistique de Louvain, 139. Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters, 2017. Pp. viii, 327. ISBN 9789042935136. €84.00.

Reviewed by Staffan Wahlgren, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (staffan.wahlgren@ntnu.no)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The changing ways of denoting the future in Greek have been a favourite study of linguists. One reason for their interest lies in the fact that, because of its long-documented history, Greek lends itself so well to diachronic study. Also, for all their similarities, Ancient and Modern Greek are two remarkably different languages from a typological point of view. The neat but semantically vague morphological future of Ancient Greek (which is never very common and always has to compete with other expressions) is replaced by the construction with the particle θα, which, while also competing with other constructions, has the advantage of being integrated into the aspectual system. The intermediary stages of this development and its chronology have been keenly debated, as well as modality and to what extent wishes and expectations of the speaker are articulated in expressions denoting the future.

The present volume aims at an overview of the field of study. After a short editorial "Introduction" (pp. 1-5), a "Prélude" by F. Lambert (pp. 9-32) follows. This is not concerned with the Greek future as such, but with conceptions of the same among ancient and Byzantine grammarians until the 9th c., so as to provide "un panorama de l'histoire de l'idée de futur chez les grammairiens grecs". This is an excellent paper, raising such issues as the understanding of formal vs. semantic categories, and perceptions of the relationship between the future and the aorist. It demonstrates that the ancients had much more sophisticated views about the future than the grammatical literature suggests. Considering the time-span of the texts discussed (more than a millennium is covered), perhaps more could have been said about any signs of development in linguistic thought.

The first section ("Archaic and Classical Greek", pp. 35-234) is by far the largest of the book's three sections, and thus the volume contains a lot about Antiquity and little about anything else. Truly diachronic perspectives are only rarely taken into account. The contributions are written in either English or French, with abstracts provided in both languages. The volume is sometimes less than perfectly edited, with a considerable number of misprints and some problems with the English (and French) of the non-native speakers. Unfortunately, no general index is added. Notes on select contributions follow.

At the head of the first section stands E. Crespo's paper (pp. 35-41) on ἐσσεῖται/ἔσσειται, forms that are attested in the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Hesiod's Works and Days and serve as alternatives to ἔσσεται/ἔσεται/ἔσται. The question asked is from where these forms come into the epic language. As an answer to this question, Crespo suggests that we should look in the direction of some living Doric (or North-West Greek) dialect, concluding that there is no good reason to think of the existence of a Doric epic tradition; rather we should see a panhellenic quality in the epic language, in the sense that it was possible to borrow from anywhere, and that even a clearly Doric, or North-West Greek, trait would cause no offense to an original audience. I think the author is quite right to state his conclusion with caution. After all, the employment of analogy in the epic poems (clearly one of the issues at stake) is a complex matter, and a single group of forms, like ἐσσεῖται/ ἔσσειται, cannot tell all that much.

Second is R. J. Allan's paper (pp. 43-72) on the competition between the -σω-future and constructions with μέλλω. Borrowing the term subjectification from cognitive linguistics, and discussing semantic developments shared by the -σω-future and μέλλω, he answers in the negative the question "whether semantic developments occur in a random manner". Moving on, interesting, and with many fine observations, is J. de la Villa's paper (pp. 73-86) on the future optative, which puts the construction in the wider perspective of the grammaticalisation of relative tense. Further, D. Kölligan discusses (pp. 87-109) the construction with ἔρχομαι and the future participle (i.e. ἔρχομαι φράσων and the like, to which we may compare similar expressions in modern languages, such as going to or (Swedish) kommer att). He describes the restrictions on the usage in a convincing way, and he is perfectly right to stress that this is a literary device and that, whenever the construction occurs in later Greek, there is reason to suspect direct imitation of Herodotus.

The remaining papers of this section are mostly concerned with a limited material (often taken from the classical period only, or even from a limited number of texts), and they contain discussions of matters that, in some cases, seem peripheral. Among these papers I think J.-Chr. Pitavy's contribution (pp. 149-169), on future reference by other devices than the morphological future (or by μέλλω), stands out. For these other devices the author employs the linguistic term futurate, and he focuses the discussion on syntactic patterns with semantic restrictions (such as ὅταν with the subjunctive) as well as the employment of future-oriented adverbials (such as αὔριον).

The second section of the volume, which is devoted to "Diachronical Aspects", is short and contains only two papers. For the reader coming to this volume because of an interest in diachrony, it is likely to be a disappointment. K. Sampanis (pp. 237-251) starts out with a discussion of future expressions in Indoeuropean, moves on to subjunctives in Homeric Greek and arrives, after some further stops along the way, at Modern Greek θα and να. Thus, plenty of ground is covered at great speed. In short, Sampanis argues a parallel development of the future and the subjunctive. Further, C. Denizot/S. Vassilaki contribute an extensive paper (pp. 253-281) on the adverb τυχόν in Ancient and Modern Greek.

In the final section, devoted to Greek of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period (the title of this section, "Early Modern Greek", does not seem well chosen), two papers are presented, both of which make use of hitherto unpublished, or little studied, non-fictional material (whether we are dealing with true reflections of a vernacular is hard to say). First of the papers is Th. Markopoulos' discussion (pp. 285-306) of The Rasûlid Hexaglot, a 14th c. dictionary from Yemen containing entries in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Armenian, Mongolian and Greek. The text has been ignored (by Greek scholars, at least) until now. Besides pointing to the use of Greek outside the Greek-Romance area, it demonstrates the potential of non-literary sources to complement the picture of the Late Medieval Greek we can recognise from literary texts. A specific finding is that the construction with θε να has to be dated earlier than usually thought. At the very end of the volume E. Karantzola (pp. 307-327) presents some texts from the 16th c. Touching upon problems of register and style, she illustrates the great variation and complexity of alternative expressions current at the time.

Obviously, this is not a book for the many. As is often the case with publications of papers read at a conference, the ambitions of the editors—in this case, to cover the history of future expressions in Greek—can hardly be said to have been realised, and there is considerable lack of consistency. Yet, for all its shortcomings the collection of papers may prove of value to those interested in current trends in the discussion of the future in Greek.

Table of Contents

R. Allan, F. Lambert, Th. Markopoulos: Introduction ... 1
F. Lambert: Prelude ... 9

1. Archaic and Classical Greek
E. Crespo: Le futur dorien dans l'épopée archaïque ... 35
R. J. Allan: The history of the future: grammaticalization and subjectification in Ancient Greek future expressions ... 43
J. de la Villa: The future optative and the expression of relative tense in Ancient Greek ... 73
D. Kölligan: From discourse to grammar? Ἔρχομαι + future participle in Greek ... 87
R. Faure: Εἰ + futur: un cas atypique de proposition complétive en grec classique ... 111
A. Orlandini/P. Poccetti (Le futur issu du thème du parfait en grec et en latin: une approche contrastive ... 129
J.-Chr. Pitavy: 'No future'?: exprimer le future sans le futur en grec ancien ... 149
A. Rademaker: If you will vote in my favour: anticipations of the verdict in speeches by Lysias, Antiphon and Andocides ... 171
L. Tronci: Le futur en grec ancien et son rapport au moyen ... 193
E. Weiss: Le futur dans la seconde partie de la première table grecque d'Heraclée ... 211

2. Diachronical Aspects
K. Sampanis: The interplay between the future and the subjunctive mood in the diachrony of the Greek language ... 237
C. Denizot/S. Vassilaki: La fabrique de l'éventuel en grec: les fortunes de τυχόν ... 253

3. Early Modern Greek
Th. Markopoulos: The Rasûlid Hexaglot and the development of the Greek future ... 285
E. Karantzola: Aspects de l'expression grammaticale du futur au XVIe siècle ... 307
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Elena, Isayev, Migration, Mobility and Place in Ancient Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. 502. ISBN 9781107130616. £105.00.

Reviewed by Gabriel Zuchtriegel, Archaeological Park of Paestum (pae@beniculturali.it)

Version at BMCR home site


Elena Isayev’s highly important and innovative book on “Migration, Mobility and Place in Ancient Italy” is in itself a work that crosses boundaries and is imbued with a sense of movement. It crosses disciplinary boundaries by combining literary sources, ethnographic research and archaeological evidence, and ventures into a realm beyond traditional frameworks by asking new questions.

Isayev’s central point is that “a high level of human mobility was not exceptional among ancient Mediterranean communities” (pp. 3-4). Although Isayev may not be the first to have made this point, [[1]] she definitely makes it in a strikingly original and convincing way. In her book of over 500 pages, she argues that “migration” - a modern term with its own implications (pp. 8-15)—was the norm rather than the exception in antiquity, and that there was a broad spectrum of private mobility beneath the “top of the iceberg” represented by state-led institutional migration through colonization. While the “everyday nature of mobility” has long been marginalized in the narratives of the Classical world, Isayev argues that migration and mobility were “built into the way that society functioned” and therefore have the potential to open up new insights into the history of the ancient Mediterranean.

As a case study, Isayev looks at central and southern Italy during the first millennium BC, with a clear focus on the Late Republican and Early Imperial period. Before going through the four main sections of the book, a few words on its general outline are called for. This is not a handbook or sourcebook where the reader can look up single historical sites or figures, although there is, of course, an index. Moreover, the book does not use a clearly defined body of evidence. The poems of Catullus are used alongside Etruscan inscriptions, the works of Polybius and pottery sherds from various sites in the Mediterranean, to name just a small selection of the evidence drawn upon by Isayev. While this may appear unorthodox in the field of Classics, I believe that this is actually one of the strengths of Isayev’s book. For it is the combination of a variety of evidence and close readings of local histories that enable her to go beyond traditional assumptions and ideas about ancient migration. If anyone still needed further demonstration that large catalogues and top-down perspectives are not always helpful in reconstructing the historical experience, then this is it.

Besides the Introduction, part I includes a discussion of demography in Italy from the second to the first century BC. Rather than arguing for certain numbers instead of others, Isayev emphasizes the limited value of numerical estimates. The accounts of ancient historians place great importance on colonization and mass deportations, while containing little or nothing on “everyday mobility”. However, as Isayev argues, other forms of mobility and migration emerge indirectly from the sources. The sources actually suggest that “keeping people in one place appears to have been a bigger concern for authorities than trying to keep foreigners out” (p. 65), and thus indirectly confirm the impact of everyday migration on many levels of society.

Part II (i.e. chapters 3-5, as the numbering of the chapters is continuous) deals with earlier forms of migration in the first millennium BC, for which there is little or no numerical data. Mythological narratives and archaeological evidence are used to reconstruct the experience of cultural contact and colonization in the ancient Mediterranean. The opening chapter (Ch. 3: “Routeways, Kinship and Storytelling”) presents some well-known sources in a fresh light, e.g. the stories of Demaratus and Tarquinius Priscus or the foundation legend of Locri Epizephyrii. Chapters 4 (“Mixed Communities: Mobility, Connectivity and Co-Presence”) and 5 (“Why Choose to Come Together and Move Apart? Convergence and Redistribution of People and Power”) analyze settlement patterns, colonial movements and land use in ancient Italy down to the third century BC. Isayev attempts here to develop a historically founded narrative that enables her to interpret a set of phenomena as part of a general trend, as “part of the same process”, as she puts it (p. 186). These include urbanization, centralization and the infilling of territory in Italy, colonization, and the mobility of elite members, artisans, and subaltern groups. She argues that these phenomena contributed to a general pattern of migration and mobility that only changed from the end of the third century BC, when migration was increasingly “orchestrated from a single power-base—Rome—through an interconnected territorial unit—Italy—which allowed for rapid and targeted channeling of human and other resources” (p. 186). It should be emphasized that part II is all but a lengthy “state-of-the-art”-chapter that summarizes the research of others and prepares the ground for the actual argument. It is true that the evidence presented here is not new as such. However, Isayev’s reading of it should be considered truly groundbreaking: She provides a history of urbanization, centralization and colonization in Italy that does not, as so often in classical scholarship, follow a top-down perspective, but brings in the experience of the people who were involved in these processes. Everyone (such as myself)[[2]] who has made similar attempts knows how difficult this is, especially for the early periods—and will therefore appreciate Isayev’s competent and sound handling of the sources.

Part III examines the accounts of two “early witnesses” of migration in Italy: Plautus and Polybius, with the aim of demonstrating that both authors, albeit from very different viewpoints, “depict a world that seems perpetually on the move” (p. 6). Chapter 6 looks at “Plautus on Mobility of the Everyday”, while chapters 7 (“Polybius on Mobility and a Comedy of The Hostage Prince”) and 8 (“Polybius on the Moving Masses and Those Who Moved Them”) deal with Polybius’s work and its wider context. All the chapters are rich in historical and archaeological data used to shed light on the world in which these texts were written. Isayev concludes that “it is perhaps surprising to us, who are daily bombarded with news headlines about keeping migrants out and calls for tougher border controls, that no such concerns are voiced by ancient communities in Polybius’s Histories” (p. 306), and that “‘the foreigner in our midst’ was simply part of everyday life” (p. 307). According to Isayev, for the periods in question we have no evidence of civilians “turned away on account of overpopulation, economic factors or xenophobia”, although “that does not mean that they had equal rights or access to the privileges of the local community” (p. 307). This is probably one of the points in the book that will stimulate further debate. Overpopulation, economic factors and xenophobia may actually have determined social practices and policies without being described with the sort of vocabulary that would make them familiar and recognizable to us.[[3]] However, Isayev’s book does have the merit of making this issue explicit and of moving beyond modernist and simplistic assumptions about ancient migration that have so often characterized modern scholarship and continue to do so.

The fourth and last part deals with the period following the Social War. Isayev stresses that the way in which diversity was “accommodated in a single structure” (i.e. Roman Italy) in the aftermath of the war was “not a foregone conclusion” (p. 311), but rather the outcome of a series of choices. On these grounds, in Chapter 9 (“Social War: Reconciling Differences of Place and Citizenship”), Isayev proposes a historical revision of the Social War “not as an opposition between Rome and Corfinium, or Rome and Italy, but as a contest between two different models of place; how place relates to politics, identity and representation.” This is yet another example of how Isayev’s fresh perspective on the evidence provides stimulating new insights into a period of history that many consider to have been over-analyzed, but which still has much to offer for modern scholarship, as Isayev demonstrates. The same holds true for the remainder of the book, where Isayev engages with “Mapping the Moving of Rome of Livy’s Camillus Speech” (Ch. 10) and “Materialising Rome and Patria” (Ch. 11). Here, Isayev reads the cultural and political transformation of Rome and Italy in the first century BC as a shift from a “relational paradigm” to “a more absolute approach to place” emphasizing “the increasing importance of a site’s spatiality” and making “the land itself meaningful in construction of an identity” (p. 424). Isayev’s approach to place and “place-making” is rather innovative and may also open up new perspectives on the study of other regions and periods of history.

In conclusion, Isayev’s book is undoubtedly a major contribution to the entire field of Classics. Apart from making its case quite brilliantly, it breaks with a number of self-imposed limitations and restrictions (of disciplines, methods, periods, regions …) that have shaped and continue to shape much of Classical scholarship. This book is groundbreaking in the way it engages with the past by taking up current research from other fields and by formulating new models that will stimulate further debate—hopefully also beyond the scope of ancient Italy. It is worth adding that the book, although very scholarly, might also prove useful for undergraduate teaching, as it is written in a very understandable language and deals (especially in the first part) with fundamental issues for the study of Iron Age to Late Republican Italy. In short, it is a must-have for all scholars in this field, and a book which, to my eyes, ranks among the works that have offered a sweeping (and controversial) vision of Mediterranean mobility and connectivity, from Braudel to Horden & Purcell and D. Abulafia.[[4]]


1.   See for example Garland, R. 2014. The Ancient Greek Diaspora from the Age of Homer to the Death of Alexander the Great. Oxford/Princeton: Princeton University Press (BMCR 2015.01.39). Irad Malkin (A Small Greek World. Networks in the Ancient Greek Mediterranean. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. BMCR 2012.12.60) has explored similar issues, despite restricting himself to phenomena linked to “Greek Colonization”.
2.   Zuchtriegel, G. 2018. Colonization and Subalternity in Classical Greece. Experience of the Nonelite Population. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.
3.   For example, Isayev cites the works of C. Moatti (cf. Moatti, C. (ed.) 2004. La Mobilité des personnes en Méditerranée de l’antiquité à l’époque moderne: Procédures de contrôle et documents d’identification. Rome: Ecole française de Rome), who has attempted to demonstrate how Roman authorities controlled and restricted migration and access to local communities, but evidently disagrees with some of his interpretations, although she does not always clearly explain on what grounds she does so.
4.   While Isayev cites Braudel and Horden & Purcell, she has not included the edited volume by D. Abulafia: The Mediterranean in History. London: Thames & Hudson. 2003 (BMCR 2004.07.51) in her bibliography. The emphasis on human agency in this volume somehow veers in the same direction as Isayev’s approach.

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Monday, July 30, 2018


Valeria Piano, Il papiro di Derveni tra religione e filosofia. Studi e testi per il Corpus dei papiri filosofici greci e latini (STCPF), 18. Firenze: Leo S. Olschki editore, 2016. Pp. xxiv, 406; 8 p. of plates. ISBN 9788822264770. €50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Marco Antonio Santamaría, University of Salamanca (masanta@usal.es)

Version at BMCR home site

Since its spectacular discovery more than half a century ago, in 1962, the text of the Derveni Papyrus has not ceased to fascinate and disconcert scholars. In the intervening years, cols. VII-XXVI, devoted to the allegorical interpretation of an Orphic poem, have been studied in depth from different angles (reconstruction of the poem, exegetical technic, and physical cosmogony). The principal stumbling block remains the meaning of the first columns (0-VI), involving various rituals aimed at intermediate divinities, and their link to the rest of the papyrus, which concentrates on the commentary of the poem (cols. VII-XXVI). The monograph by Valeria Piano represents a decisive breakthrough in the reconstruction and interpretation of the first columns and in our understanding of the work's unity and purpose. For her, the anonymous author of this papyrus text, a religious professional with robust philosophical training, observes signs present in certain rites, in which he claims to discover how a divine force, the Νοῦς or ἀήρ, manages to ensure that human behaviour is correct. His method is analogous to that used in cols. VII-XXVI: by investigating the hidden meaning of Orpheus' sacred words, the Derveni author explains how this force enacted the formation of the world.

The book appeared as vol. 18 in the Studi e Testi series for the Corpus dei Papiri Filosofici Greci e Latini, where ten years ago the editio princeps of the Derveni Papyrus was published as vol. 13 (Kouremenos, Th.– Parássoglou, G. M.–Tsantsanoglou, K., The Derveni Papyrus. Edited with Introduction and Commentary, Firenze, 2006). As part of the same series, Piano plans to publish L'inizio del Papiro di Derveni. Il rotolo e il testo (vol. 17), an exhaustive papyrological, palaeographic and textual study of cols. 0-VI, which forms the basis of her present reconstruction and analysis. The volume opens with a laudatory "Preface" in which G. Betegh highlights its main contributions and novelties. In a "Premessa," Piano summarises the history of research on the first columns and outlines the main theories and debates it has stirred up, many of them still unresolved.

The book is divided into eight chapters grouped into three large blocks: the context of the papyrus' discovery, the first columns, and the production of the text (intellectual milieu and tradition). Since it is impossible to cover the wealth of themes present in the book, I focus on what I consider to be the most interesting aspects.

The first chapter is dedicated to the archaeological context in which the papyrus was found, the tomb of a Macedonian warrior dated to the final decades of the 4th century B.C. An analysis of similar tombs from the same region and period shows a fusion between religious concerns and philosophical interests. Examples include the tomb of Lefkadia/Mieza with a painting of the judges of the underworld, inspired by the eschatological myth of Plato's Gorgias, several tombs with images of Hades and Persephone in Vergina or the so-called "philosophers' tomb" in Pella. Piano concludes that the papyrus' presence among funerary objects did not occur by chance: its use was motivated by the eschatological expectations of the deceased or of his family, and by his interest in cosmology, a typical combination of Macedonian culture in the late 4th century.

Chapter 2 contains the edition of columns 0 to VI, providing in some cases several alternatives, with an exhaustive apparatus of readings and a translation. The reconstruction is based on a meticulous papyrological study of the fragments and autopsy examination. The proposed text, although uncertain and debatable in certain points, is highly convincing, since it generates a full meaning and is coherent with the thought and style of the Derveni author. There are novelties in all the columns, but the most notable are in col. III (especially in the sequence 4-5 ἡ̣ | γὰρ Δί]κ̣η ἐξώλεας̣ [οὐ μ]έ̣τ̣ε̣ι̣σ̣ι̣ ἑκ[ὰς] Ἐρινύω̣[ν and 7 ἀ[νδρὸς] ἀδίκου̣)1 and in the Heraclitus quotation in col. IV, which corresponds to fragments 3 and 94 DK: Piano was able here to decipher a mu that allows for a fairly certain reconstruction of the term κόσμου (already proposed by A. Lebedev in ZPE 112, 1989, 39): ἥλιο̣[ς κόσ]μ̣ου κατὰ φύσιν… "The sun, according to the nature of the world…"; furthermore, the Derveni author has omitted the words referring to the Erinyes, the "servants of Dike," although this function is implicit. In col. V 5-6 Piano reads εἰ θέμι[ς προσ]δ̣ο̣κ̣ᾶ̣ν̣ | ἐν Ἅιδου δεινά, which has some close parallels.

In chapter 3, Piano tries to recover the thematic elements present in columns 0 to 2. Since the text is so scanty, speculation is inevitable in some points. Piano's main proposal consists in connecting the author's interest in interpreting signs (σημεῖα) observed in ritual (cols. 0-VI) and his efforts to decipher the hidden meaning present in the Orphic poem in cols. VII-XXVI, where he frequently uses the term σημαίνω (91, 99). These elements, like fire and water, seem to form part of a system of signs that the initiates have to interpret in order to verify the ritual's outcome (101) and to establish a genuine relationship with the divine (102).

Chapter 4, on demonology and justice in cols. III and IV, contains some of the book's most important contributions. Piano identifies a mechanism of retribution that involves three kinds of entities: (1) a superior goddess (Dike, l. 5); (2) subordinate divinities (Erinyes, subterranean daimons, ll. 5-6), who are servants of the gods (θεῶν ὑπηρέται, l. 6), and (3) guilty human beings (αἰτίην [τ᾽ ἔ]χουσι̣, l. 9), who are punished, apparently for having falsely sworn (ἐξώλεις, 'utterly destroyed', l. 5) and been unfair (ἀδίκου, l. 8) (148-149). The quotation from Heraclitus is of enormous importance in understanding both parts of the papyrus, because it shows the confluence between eschatology and cosmogony in the function of the Erinyes, who have shifted from being deities that punish those guilty of blood crimes, as they are in the literary tradition, to appearing as guardians of the cosmic order who monitor the sun's dimensions (173-175).

Chapter 5 is dedicated to columns V and VI, although V is studied in more depth in chapter 3 (102-106). The author examines the rites described in column VI in great detail, which consist in libations with water and wine and sacrifices of cakes. Piano convincingly demonstrates that they are Greek rites documented in various contexts, above all in preliminary sacrifices, and she reveals the weak points of the theory that considers that both the priests (μάγοι) and the rites are Iranian (216-228).

In chapter 6, Piano tries to offer a complete picture of the Derveni author's demonology and to situate it within his cosmological system. In the Derveni Papyrus, three types of entities can be distinguished: gods, intermediate divinities or daimons, and souls. The conception of the divine is made clear in the commentary of the Orphic poem, where Zeus is nothing more than the mythical name for an intelligent physical force that the Derveni author calls Νοῦς and ἀήρ, which formed the universe with a teleological design. Piano considers the daimons (including Erinyes and Eumenides) to be the auxiliaries and agents of divinity, particularly to control the moral conduct of men. The Derveni author probably conceives of them as manifestations or propagations of the divine and formed from air; souls, too, are derived from this element, an idea upheld by various pre-Socratic authors. Some of these souls, those belonging to the wisest and fairest men, have the privilege of uniting with the Νοῦς that governs the cosmos and turning into its agents to maintain the universal order.

This explanation may be a somewhat speculative interpretation, but it is coherent with the Derveni author's physical postulations and very attractive as a global explanation of the papyrus. Two objections can be made:

• The obstructing daimons (col. VI 2-5) cannot be considered as mediators between men and gods, rather quite the contrary, since they stop human beings from acting and as such must be placated and moved out of the way through a ritual. They do not transmit the mortals' actions to the gods; rather, they are the addressees of the ritual, like the Eumenides. Nonetheless, they can be considered guardians of the cosmic moral order, as they demand the expiation (πoινή) of guilt in order to stop bothering the culpable party.
• Given that the Derveni author interprets the Eumenides as souls (col. VI 9-10) and almost certainly also considers the hindering daimons as souls (col. VI 3-4), it appears that he conceives of a bipartite and not tripartite division between intelligent beings: on the one hand, the Νοῦς-ἀήρ and, on the other, souls, some of which, perhaps by virtue of their moral excellence, would be elevated to a higher category as auxiliaries of the divine, above all in the case of the Erinyes.

In the part of the book dedicated to the production of the text, chapter 7 offers a panoramic overview of various Greek thinkers datable between the 6th and 4th century who have shown an attitude to poetry similar to that of the Derveni author. These include the first allegorists (Theagenes, Stesimbrotos, Metrodorus), the pre-Socratics (Pherecydes of Syros, Empedocles, Diogenes of Apollonia), priests with rational tendencies outlined in certain Euripidean passages (Tiresias in Eur. Bacch. 274-284; Theonoe in Hel. 865-867, 1013-1016) and μετεωρoλóγοι, intellectuals interested in atmospheric phenomena (Aristoph. Nub.; Pl. Crat. 396bc, 401b, 404c; 396de on Euthyphro).

Lastly, chapter 8 compares the Derveni author's hermeneutic method and his physical conceptions with those of the first Stoics, and correctly sees irreconcilable differences between the two. The ideas about the air are more in keeping with the pre-Socratic tradition, as is indicated by the close parallels with Anaximenes, Diogenes of Apollonia and Philolaus.

The book closes with a small epilogue with a panoramic overview (349-356), an ample and very up-to-date bibliography, an index of passages and eight great quality images of the tombs studied in chapter 1.

In summary, this book represents a significant advance in our knowledge of the Derveni Papyrus, thanks to the new edition of the first columns, the detailed analysis of the beliefs (col. III-V) and rites (col. VI) they mention, and the links that connect them with the commentary. The two parts are more coherent than they might appear and can be explained as manifestations of the same exegetic attitude and cosmological system, in which the Derveni author tries to interpret rationally – often using a linguistic method – the signs present in certain rites and in the word of Orpheus, in order to reveal what they can teach us about the human soul, divine beings and the cosmos.

However, it would be wrong to conclude that this book is only useful to better understand the first columns. Piano offers perspicacious analyses of various passages of the papyrus (pp. 107-110: col. XX; pp. 118-119: col. XXII; chapter 8: the nature of Νοῦς-ἀήρ in cols. XVIII and ΧΙΧ) and brilliant formulations regarding the Derveni author's personality and the nature of the work (f. ex. 111, 127-129). For evidence of this, I recommend reading the inspired pages 125-126, dictated by an authentic ἐνθουσιασμός, in which she describes the Derveni author's project as an effort to decipher the signs of the ritual and the Orphic poem, recognising divine intervention in the human and physical realm and thus articulating a combined theory that aspires to integrate the microcosmic within the macrocosmic.

Table of Contents

Preface (Gábor Betegh)
1. Derveni e i ritrovamenti funerari in Macedonia
Parte II. Le prime colonne. Testo e interpretazione
2. Il nuovo testo delle prime colonne
3. Tra sacrifici e divinazione: l'inizio del testo
4. Demonologia e giustizia retributiva: coll. III e IV
5. Esegesi del rituale e prospettive soteriologiche: coll. V e VI
6. Umano, demonico e divino
7. Esegesi poetica e allegoria filosofica
8. Allegorie etimologizzanti in P.Derveni e nella prima Stoa
Alla fine del discorso


1.   A parallel for this verb is offered by Alc. fr. 129, 13-15: πα[ῖδ]α πεδελθέ̣τ̣ω̣ κήνων Ἐ[ρίννυ]ς, quoted in p. 146 n. 42. ἑκ[ὰς] is a proposal by G. W. Most.

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Anthony Verity (trans.), Homer. The Odyssey. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xxx, 354. ISBN 9780198736479. £7.99.

Reviewed by Victoria Pedrick, Georgetown (Victoria.Pedrick@georgetown.edu)

Version at BMCR home site


[Editorial note: An earlier edition of this translation was reviewed in BMCR 2017.09.11.]

What does it mean for Verity to announce, as his first principle for translating one of the world's most famous epic poems, that he does not aim for poetry—that his translation, in his own word, is not 'poetic' (xxvi)? When the translator's preface first appeared in the 2016 hardback edition, Verity may have intended the disclaimer made by any classicist who accepts that writing poetry is not among his or her professional talents. Or he may have wished to suggest that literal is the best one can and perhaps should do for a great but ancient poem that is more remote than the casual reader might assume. But between then and the 2018 appearance of Verity's translation in paperback, Emily Wilson's version of the Odyssey appeared to wide acclaim, in part because it is composed in taut iambic pentameter, music to the English-speaker's ear.1 Her assertion that aiming for poetry is the first duty of a translator throws Verity's choices into high relief (81f). We have to take seriously the significance of his claim " . . . to use a straightforward English register and to keep closely to the Greek, allowing Homeric directness and power to speak for itself" (xxiv).

Overall, Verity's is a translation with many virtues; another of his disclaimers, that his shifts midtext from "current to archaic idiom" may strike some as "awkward" but " . . . this is the way in which Homer has led me" (xxiv), suggests why. Homer's diction was a complex blend of contemporary and archaic language for his listeners, with virtually none of it part of the daily vernacular, as familiar as the oral poetic tradition might have sounded to its first listeners, and Verity does indeed have a good ear for shifts in tone. Here are some examples that, to my ear, illustrate the resulting range. First, two that by contrast show what can be achieved in one case with archaic phrasing and, in the other, with more straightforward register, compared with Wilson's translation or Robert Fagle's translation of 1990.2

Bk 2.96: κοῦροι ἐμοὶ μνηστῆρες; this address, as Penelope cons her suitors about weaving Laertes' shroud, is tricky, since 'youths' sits oddly beside 'suitors,' as a subtle reminder of the suitors' callowness in contrast to this wily queen. Verity has "Young princes, my suitors!" but "princes" is an inference from an archaic context or better, from a prehistoric social reality that survives in Homer's contemporary performative context, and that privileges a particular, high-status group of young men as kouroi. Fagles, by contrast, settles for the simply literal, "Young men, my suitors," while Wilson creates a declaration: "Young men / you are my suitors." Verity's instinct for the resonance within kouroi seems the most apt.

Bk 2.321f: ἦ ῥα, καὶ ἐκ χειρὸς χεῖρα σπάσατ᾽ Ἀντινόοιο / ῥεῖα; for Verity, this becomes "So he spoke, and coolly pulled his hand away from Antinous'." "Coolly" is a nicely idiomatic, modern interpretation of ῥεῖα, while Fagles' "nonchalantly" ("he nonchalantly drew his hand from Antinous' hand") seems too much. Wilson's "He snatched his hand away" ignores the adverb for an effect that is quite abrupt.

The translation of Book 6.238–243 offers a good example of Verity's choices when it comes to Homer's traditional register. There, Nausikaa instructs her servants about the nature of the gods' will:

Then Nausicaa addressed her lovely-haired maidservants:
'Listen to me, white-armed servants, to what I shall say:
it is not without the will of all the gods who dwell on Olympus
that this man has come among the godlike Phaeacians;
before this he looked to me like a man of mean appearance,
but now he resembles the gods who live in the broad high sky.'

Verity has not shied away from the stateliness that Homer's oral poetic diction lays upon the young girl's chat, from the formality of ornamental epithets to the vaguely repetitive poetic form. Contrast Wilson:

  She told her slaves with tidy hair,
'Now listen to me, girls! The gods who live
on Mount Olympus must have wished this man
to come into contact with my godlike people.
Before, he looked so poor and unrefined;
now he is like a god that lives in heaven.'

Wilson's note on the translation lays down a marker for using blunt terminology—slaves are slaves for her, not servants who bustle around the people who matter. But Wilson has also explicitly constrained herself by the pentameter and by her commitment to the same number of verses as Homer overall (Wilson p. 82); the math is not in her favor in terms of preserving those intricacies of oral poetic diction that Verity maintains, and it shows.

By contrast, this passage in Book Six illustrates the strength of Verity's translation if the reader wishes to engage the epic as a poetic artifact of its time and culture. His lines represent the intricacies and occasional ungainliness of Homer's poetic style, and they do so consistently. Put another way, this translation can safely be used, for instance, in a course on Archaic Greek epic if a goal is to engage the oral traditional style that undergirds and informs Homer's poetry. The same cannot be said of Wilson's translation, however beautifully it reads aloud in English (and it does).3

That every translation is a betrayal is well known, and this is especially so for poetry. The question lies in how the betrayal goes about its thievery and its imposture. A final example, from Book 23 (202–7), gives us a sense of the peril:

'οὕτω τοι τόδε σῆμα πιφαύσκομαι· οὐδέ τι οἶδα,
ἤ μοι ἔτ᾽ ἔμπεδόν ἐστι, γύναι, λέχος, ἦέ τις ἤδη
ἀνδρῶν ἄλλοσε θῆκε, ταμὼν ὕπο πυθμέν᾽ ἐλαίης.'
ὣς φάτο, τῆς δ᾽ αὐτοῦ λύτο γούνατα καὶ φίλον ἦτορ,
σήματ᾽ ἀναγνούσῃ τά οἱ ἔμπεδα πέφραδ᾽ Ὀδυσσεύς·

Verity translates these five lines that are the climax of this homecoming poem thus:

'There now; I have revealed the token to you. I do not know,
lady, if this bed of mine is still firmly planted or if some man
has now cut through the tree's base and moved it elsewhere.'
So he spoke, and her heart and knees at once went slack,
as she recognized the sure token Odysseus had revealed to her;

There is a simplicity here that is hard to criticize, and the Greek diction in verse 204 does permit the flip of actions, to first the cut of the tree and then its move, for easier flow in English. But it's not Homer, who has it the other way around, so that the desecration of the olive tree closes Odysseus' outrage with a thud. And how long has it been since anyone's knees went slack? Must such a cliché mark that instant when Penelope yields, in fact be the visible sign of her finally giving up her long-held suspicion of guests? Well, maybe, since the cliché of loosening limbs in Greek is Homer's regular way of describing a warrior's death, especially in the Iliad: Odysseus has overcome something here in Penelope as thoroughly as an enemy dispatches his adversary in a duel. That the cliché is also used to describe Erôs (as in lusimeles, the limb-loosener) adds a fine erotic touch as well. So Verity has gone for a cliché whose resonance is ancient and wide, but without explanation even in his endnotes. Either the reader knows all this or is left to wonder at the melodramatic, old-fashioned tone.

Wilson's version offers a different betrayal of the reader:

"Now I have told the secret trick, the token.
But woman, wife, I do not know if someone—
a man—has cut the olive trunk and moved
my bed, or if it is still safe."
             At that,
her heart and body suddenly relaxed.
She recognized the tokens he had shown her.

Wilson's spare pentameters do not prevent her here from overtelling what she insists her readers understand: the token was a trick, in case we missed that; Penelope may be either just another woman or his wife, and Odysseus is pretty exasperated with the ambiguity; the point of his outrage is neither the cutting of the bed nor the moving of it but whether she's kept it "safe" or not. It's as if for Wilson, we must see one particular Odysseus here, one who has no trust in a woman deeply faithful to him all along. Such an Odysseus can certainly be found elsewhere in the epic and even here, but perhaps the choice should be ours? And Wilson's Penelope neither wilts like a dying warrior nor feels the first longing of long-delayed passion; instead her physical relaxation seems to follow her mental relief.

In keeping with the practice of Oxford World's Classics series, Verity's translation appears with a brief introduction by William Allan, which situates the epic in its historical and generic contexts and covers major themes such as hospitality and recognition, Odysseus as hero, marriage and family life, as well as a section on mortals and immortals. This last discussion admirably describes divine behavior without making the usual fuss over potential contradictions in an overarching theodicy. Otherwise, the introduction feels underwhelming, too little for the first-time reader of Homer and without much nuance in the interpretation of those major themes. Oddly enough, the volume's single map is also not particularly useful; of Greece and Asia Minor, it shows neither Crete nor Phoenicia, both of which figure so prominently in Odysseus' tales of wandering. Allan's explanatory endnotes are spare but usually helpful.

Shortcomings in the volume's apparatus, over which Verity and Allan may have had little control, notwithstanding, Verity manages a consistent, readable translation. As promised, he has pursued a rendering of the Odyssey that tries to follow the Homer he hears, and he succeeds very well.


1.   Wilson, Emily, trans. Homer, The Odyssey. (New York; London: W. W. Norton, 2018.)
2.   Fagles, Robert, trans. The Odyssey. (New York; London: Penguin, 1996).
3.   Wilson, however, explicitly aims to "reject" the redundancy and repetitiousness that she argues are the unacknowledged hallmark of Homer's style (82f.).

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Friday, July 27, 2018


C. D. C. Reeve, Aristotle. 'De anima': Translated with Introduction and Notes. The New Hackett Aristotle. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2017. Pp. xliv, 227. ISBN 9781624666193. $22.00 (pb). ISBN 9781624666209. (hb).

Reviewed by David J. Murphy, New York (david.murphy20@verizon.net)

Version at BMCR home site


Although some Aristotelian treatises boast more English translations—the Nicomachean Ethics comes to mind—the De Anima (= DA), or On the Soul, is well represented. Hicks' 1907 Greek text with translation and commentary is still useful, and Ross's 1961 text/paraphrase/commentary remains indispensible. Smith's 1908 version persists in revised form in The Revised Oxford Translation. The clarity of Creed in R. Bambrough's The Philosophy of Aristotle (London/New York 1963) makes his a good version for students. Two years ago we got the excellent translation and commentary of Christopher Shields (Oxford 2016), and Fred Miller's translation with other treatises is just out (Oxford 2018). Why Reeve's, then?

Some practical reasons: cost, size, clarity and readability. Add to this a trove of resources for studying DA. As in previous volumes in his series of Aristotelian translations, Reeve leads off with his views of Aristotle's goals in the treatise. He takes pains to situate within Aristotle's system the science that DA maps out—a "science of soul" with "its feet in botany and its head in theology" (p. xxviii). Notes explain editorial decisions about the Greek text, clarify Aristotle's phrasing, and provide parallels that connect a passage to other areas of Aristotle's thought. The index of English terms, identified by transliterated Greek terms, is comprehensive. The volume will benefit undergraduate and graduate students and the professional.

First, to Reeve's translation. It is clear and substantially accurate (caveats below). For his Greek text Reeve follows Ross's OCT (1956) without Fragmenta I‒IV. As in his previous translations, Reeve tends to render a Greek term consistently by a given English term: e.g. "substance" for οὐσία. Some choices diverge from familiar Latinate equivalents but are explained in the notes, e.g. "coincidence" rather than "accident" for συμβεβηκός, or "understanding" rather than "intellect" for νοῦς, although "think" works better than "understand" at 417b24, νοῆσαι ὁπόταν βούληται. "Account" is Reeve's preference for λόγος, but although he distinguishes its senses in Aristotle (p. 78), more flexibility in translating would have averted "soul . . . will be an account" (414a13-14; better: "a sort of organization," Shields), while "ratio" better fits 416a17 than "account."

Reeve helps one navigate some intricate arguments by numbering their steps in the text. He brings clarity to many passages by supplementing the Greek's elliptical phrasing. In many cases, English words inserted for clarity are enclosed in square brackets, though not always. For example, at 412a6-8, I capitalize words that do not render Greek words of the OCT but which elucidate the passage: "We say, then, that one kind (genos) among the beings is substance, and of this, one SORT IS SUBSTANCE as matter, which is intrinsically not a this something, and another is shape and form, on the basis of which SOMETHING is already said TO BE a this something . . ."

Where Reeve deviates from Ross's OCT to follow Ross 1961 or some other reading, he usually prints his preferred Greek in a note. My caveats arise from places where Reeve does not identify his deviations from the OCT. I pass over alterations of syntax, for more problematic are cases where, with no explanation, (1) English words presuppose different Greek words from those in the OCT, or (2) Greek words are not translated.

(1) includes two passages where Reeve, without saying so, translates material that was secluded in the OCT, viz. καὶ τὸ πάθος, 426a2, and καὶ ἔστιν ὡς οὐχ ἓν τὸ αὐτό, 426a28 (also secluded in Ross 1961). More troublesome are passages where the English presumes Greek words different from those printed in either edition of Ross, for the result can amount to positive error. εἴδη δ' οἱ ἀριθμοὶ οὗτοι τῶν πραγμάτων at 404b27 means "And these numbers are the forms of things," not "and the numbers are the Forms of these." "Pleasant" for ἤδη at 433b8 looks like a misreading of the Greek as ἡδύ. Other cases are: "elements" for ἀρχῶν at 404b18, "are" for ἐλέγοντο at 404b25, "in accord with the body" for κατὰ τόπον at 406b2, "cannot" for οὐ δεῖ at 406b7, "there are" for ἔχειν (i.e. "they have") at 408a16, "soul" for ζωῆς at 416b9, "sound" for πληγή at 419b13, "a distinct" for ἑτέρα at 425b13, "seeing that" for εἰ at 430b29, "an animal has a desiring part" for ὀρεκτικὸν τὸ ζῷον bis at 433b27-8. At 422b21, the reference of τοῦτο is not merely "the flesh" (p. 41) but "the flesh or that which in the other animals is analogous."

Under (2), Greek words not translated, I have found: τοῦ τριγώνου 402b20, καὶ θερμόν 404a1, τοῦτον 404b3, τὴν ψυχὴν 404b10, διὰ τί 405a9, ἐν ("among") 405b23, τις 414a13, 420b28 ὑπὸ τῆς ἐν τούτοις τοῖς μορίοις ψυχῆς, 431a23 <ἑκάτερον> (Ross's addition passed over in silence), 431b7 ὥσπερ ὁρῶν, 432b11‒12 καὶ ἐγρηγορήσεως, 435a17 αὐτῶν ("themselves"), 435b2 τοῦτο.

(1) and (2) are not frequent enough to militate against purchasing the book. Still, if one is relying on Reeve for one's own writing, one should check his translations of DA and of portions of other treatises translated in the notes.

Now to Reeve's interpretation. As in earlier publications, he does not deny that Aristotle's corpus contains discrepancies and signs of development, but he takes what one might call a holistic approach. Reeve seeks to interpret Aristotle by Aristotle, drawing on his own deep knowledge of the texts to find passages to help explain obscurities. In the Introduction, after a biographical sketch, Reeve expounds two major topics in Aristotle's system: (I) the mechanisms by which soul performs its operations in living things, from plants to intellect, the human's "true self" (pp. xvii-xxxii); (II) the way Aristotelian science is structured by deduction, induction, and scientific starting points (pp. xxxii-xliv). The connection? Soul's nature and activity is the subject matter of the science delineated in DA. In his notes, Reeve expounds his views on many issues in DA, such as the active intellect (pp. 177-9) or the steps involved in reasoning to an action (pp. 192-5).

Deserving of a closer look is Reeve's attempt to identify a psychic vehicle that carries "codes" and thus directs living bodies to perform their functions. He concludes that "small motions . . . in the relevant part of the soul . . . transmit [an object's] perceptual or intelligible form . . . to other parts of the soul . . . where they trigger movements of sinews and joints" (p. 188). In biological treatises, connate pneuma, which carries vital heat (GA 762a20), powers these motions (MA 703a9-28), and in semen pneuma transmits soul to offspring (GA 736b34-7). Replicating his own earlier treatment, Reeve assigns these functions to pneuma in DA as well (pp. xx-xxiv).1 He makes a strong case, though he does not acknowledge that many doubt that pneuma plays this rôle in DA.2 Of the mechanism by which intellect as divine enters the human from outside, θύραθεν (GA 736b27-8), Aristotle nowhere gives an explicit account. Reeve's solution is that motions of the celestial element, aether, enter "male seed in embryogenesis" to pass on the potency of intellect (pp. xxiv-xxvii).3 I am not convinced that Aristotle formalized this solution—if any. Aether is a constituent only of heavenly bodies, whose circular locomotion is unvarying (e.g. Cael. I.2-3, Mete. I.3-4). In passages that mention it alongside sublunary bodies, aether is but analogous to some constituent of them (DA 418b7-9, GA 736b29-737a1). Genesis involves only the four sublunary elements (GC 298a24-b5). Since the subject of locomotion is body, and aetherial bodies do not naturally move up or down, it is not clear how aether's motions could penetrate the sublunary world to imprint semen or embryo.

The notes are replete with parallels from Aristotle and earlier thinkers, translated by Reeve and put to work to illuminate DA. Reeve disentangles difficult passages and lets us know what resists disentangling. Readers will profit from distinctions among Aristotelian terms, concepts, and linguistic features. Many discussions could almost stand as encyclopedia entries, such as an eight-point explication of ἐπιστήμη, "scientific knowledge" (pp. 107-10).

Some parallels seem longer than necessary, however, and I wonder whether some of this effort could have been diverted to citing secondary literature. Reeve elects not to express "scholarly consensus on issues" but instead, his "own take on them" (ix). Still, on controversial issues, readers benefit from knowing when the commentator's are not the only cogent views—as, for example, about connate pneuma. We are told as though it is fact that the celestial spheres of De Caelo 292a14-22 "are eternally living divine beings, with souls somewhat like our own" (p. 117, cf. 91, 196-7). This is a matter of controversy, as is Reeve's assumption that "the primary god" is the being described throughout all of Cael. 279a11-28 (p. 178).4 Reeve's discussion of the difference between ἐνέργεια and ἐντελέχεια in Aristotle's usage is penetrating (pp. 72-3), but he leaves Aristotle sounding muddled: "where energeia seems yet more unfortunate in its connotations, Aristotle uses it anyway." Citation of specialized studies would have helped.5 I am not wishing for a different book, only for acknowledgment of strong divergent views.

Some nitpicking about the notes. <ἀλλὰ> τὸ, Torstrik's emendation at 420a6, was not adopted in the OCT (contra n. 253). Meta. 1008b30-1 does not say that δόξα "must be based on rational calculation" (contra n. 326), although other passages cited by Reeve do establish this. In the text at 428b20, Reeve follows Bywater's transposition, but in n. 339 he says that he does not. Although Reeve says that ἐνέργεια appears 671 times in the corpus and ἐντελέχεια 138 times, TLG lemma searches turn up 590 vs. 144 hits; if Reeve's figures are based on different editions from those used in the TLG, he does not tell us (p. 73). The imagery at 434a13 is of two balls, or perhaps two celestial spheres, not of a ball-and-socket joint with a stationary and a moving piece (p. 190); the moving piece is not denoted by σφαῖρα in Aristotle, and a desire that overrides another desire is itself also moved.

The volume is well produced with few mechanical errors. The sentence fragment at the very beginning of DA (p. 2) arose when "Supposing" in an earlier draft was not corrected to "We suppose".6 "For while . . . but the question involves" at Meta. 1074b15 (n. 364) also seems residue of an uncorrected draft. The words "not only" should precede, not follow, "the knowledge of the what-it-is" (402b17); "first" should precede "namely" not "impossibilities" (408b34). 408a20 should read "the cause of any random mixture, or of the one" (my emphasis). The few typos I noticed are "Aristotle" for "Aristote" in the title of the Budé (p. xiii; the initial date of publication, 1966, should be given), "a . . . movements" (sic, p. xx), "orgizatai" for "orgizêtai" (p. 4), brackets on "eternal" (pp. xxii and 33), τινι for τίνι (p. 145), "an" for "and" (p. 166, l. 2), "energeia" for "energeiai" (p. 179).

The reader will best appreciate this book who rises to Reeve's challenge to enter "the vast dialectical enterprise of coming to understand Aristotle for oneself" (p. ix). Anyone working on the De Anima will want to consult it.


1.   Cf. Action, Contemplation, and Happiness. An Essay on Aristotle (Cambridge MA, 2012), 5-8.
2.   See citations assembled by A. Bos, Aristotle on God's Life-Generating Power and on Pneuma as its Vehicle (Albany, 2018), 132 n. 1.
3.   These pages largely reproduce Reeve 2012, 16-19; cf. also Reeve's Substantial Knowledge: Aristotle's Metaphysics (Indianapolis, 2000), 55-99.
4.   Cf. D. Blyth, "Heavenly Soul in Aristotle," Apeiron 48 (2015) 427-65, esp. 442-6; H. J. Easterling, Mnemosyne 22 (1969) 202.
5.   E.g. G. A. Blair, "The Meaning of 'Energeia' and 'Entelecheia' in Aristotle," IPQ 7 (1967), 101-17; J. J. Cleary, "'Powers that Be': The Concept of Potency in Plato and Aristotle," Méthexis 11 (1998) 19-64.
6.   Caleb Cohoe, NDPR 2018.03.19.

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Attila Németh, Epicurus on the Self. Issues in ancient philosophy. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. Pp. xix, 205. ISBN 9781138633858. $140.00.

Reviewed by David Merry, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (david.merry@gmail.com)

Version at BMCR home site


Németh's Epicurus on the Self offers an original and engaging study of self-constitution, self-knowledge and agency in Epicurus. Németh finds in Epicurus a notion of a self that is holistic, physical, constituted by narratives constructed in a social context, and in possession of causal powers. Through their commemorative practices, Epicureans would come to relate to Epicurus as a second self.

The first chapter reconstructs Epicurus' theory of how we come to know the self, primarily drawing on fragments from On Nature XXV. Németh's discussion fills out a closing fragment of this work, in which Epicurus claims that self-knowledge is achieved through the pathologikos tropos and the aitiologikos tropos. Németh plausibly finds brief descriptions of these two tropoi in an earlier fragment. He suggests that the pathologikos tropos involves direct awareness of our self through the pathē, under which he includes experiences of sensory perception. The aitiologikos tropos involves recognition of ourselves through a prolēpsis developed by observing other responsible agents, which allows us to recognise ourselves as such. This reading depends on Németh's plausible construal of prolēpsis as a capacity for recognition of the different things there are, which he offers a strong case for in the limited space available. In this chapter, Németh puts his attention to detail and perceptiveness as a reader of fragmentary texts to excellent use, and he succeeds in grounding his attractively empiricist reading of self-knowledge in Epicurus firmly in the extant evidence.

The second chapter revisits the question of agency in Epicurus. Németh opts for a position that falls between Sedley's attribution of emergentism to Epicurus and O'Keefe's attribution of reductionism. (It would have been desirable to situate his position also relative to Julia Annas' view.1) According to Németh, Epicurus held a version of non-reductive physicalism: agents are entirely physical, being made up of atoms, but they have the power to act as a cause. Németh locates this causal power in the products (apogegennēmena), which he interprets as being occurrent mental states. This differs from O'Keefe's position, in that it offers a more radical notion of agent-causation, and from Sedley's, in that it denies that this agent- causation is non-physical. The self's ability to act as a cause just is a physical property that some arrangements of atoms happen to have. Németh's reading of the texts, so far as this goes, is defensible. Németh attempts, however, to elucidate this position in terms drawn from the contemporary philosophy of mind, putting particular weight on the claim that Epicurus was a type-dualist. Here, Németh is insufficiently careful: it is not clear to me from his argument that Epicurus was a type-dualist in any pertinent sense. A particular concern is Németh's reliance on the claim that the same mental states can be realized in (subtly) different atomic configurations. Epicurus probably did make that claim. But it is hard to see how this helps make room for independent agent causation. The same value of money in my wallet can be realised by different patterns of coins and notes, but this does not give the value the kind of causal independence from the notes and coins that Németh thinks Epicurus attributes to the self. Nevertheless, even if Németh's philosophical analysis of Epicurus' position is at times lacking, Németh's strongest arguments against rival positions are based on close readings of the texts. The core of Németh's position is that the texts give reason to believe Epicurus attributed a strong, independent, causal power to the self, but not that he saw this causal power as somehow non-physical. The causal power of the self must then somehow be a physical property. Showing how strongly the texts point in this direction brings us already some way forward.

The most central and interesting point of Chapter Three is Németh's claim that Epicurus adopted a narrative theory of selfhood, in which the self is actively created by weaving together different components of the self. As Németh himself recognises, the evidence for this thesis is scanty. He draws on De Tranq. Anim. 473B-474B, in which Plutarch does describe something that looks like a narrative theory of the self, according to which we weave ourselves out of memories, actively choosing to give positive memories a more prominent role in the tapestry. This passage will provide the frame through which Németh reads a fragment of On Nature in which Epicurus explains that we do not hold animals responsible, as we weave together the products with their original constitutions (understood as: their instinctive behavioural dispositions). Németh takes this as suggesting that responsibility depends on the narratives that we tell about the constitution of the self. I was not convinced: our theories about the agency of other animals are indeed what explains our practices towards them, but that does not show that the selves of other animals are constituted by our theory. The resonance of the metaphors of weaving in the two texts is unconvincing, mostly because of the difference in perspectives: Plutarch's is a case of first-person weaving, while Epicurus' is a case of third-person weaving. I am therefore skeptical about Németh's conclusions in this chapter. In fairness to Németh, he makes the shortcomings of his case clear.

The fourth chapter considers the theory of agency developed in the second chapter in light of Lucretius' discussion of the swerve. Németh's main goal in this chapter is to argue that, although in Lucretius the swerve is inferred from agency, the swerve nevertheless plays no causal role in agency. Where Sedley argued that we act by causing atomic swerves, Németh argues that the swerve is simply a precondition for our agency. Epicurus, according to Németh, held that our agency requires a causally indeterminate cosmos, and the swerve is what provides such indeterminism. Németh emphasises that the swerve is not mentioned in Lucretius' depictions of agent causation. On Németh's reading, however, it is difficult to see how Epicurus might respond to Carneades' objection, that the swerve seems to be an extra, gratuitous form of indeterminism, over and above that introduced already by the assumption of the undetermined causal power of the self. I was unable to extract a satisfying response from Németh's discussion of this objection.

The fifth chapter engages with Epicurus' theory of friendship. Németh's discussion starts from his reconstruction of an Epicurean argument that the virtues are inseparable from pleasure. He then argues, in a similar vein, that caring for one's friend is inseparable from caring for oneself, as both occur through participating in self-improving conversations in an Epicurean community. Németh argues, convincingly enough, that this involves seeing the Epicureans with whom one is in discussion as other selves, along similar lines to Aristotle's theory. This has the particularly intriguing upshot that, because friendship with Epicurus (and other luminaries of the school) is maintained through commemorative rituals in a similar way to maintaining friendship when a friend is absent, Epicurus will ultimately wind up being a second self to all his disciples.

Epicurus on the Self is a step forward in our understanding of Epicurus' moral psychology. It is unfortunately very densely written and the more philosophical side of the argument is sometimes disappointing. For scholars of Epicurus interested in his moral psychology, it is worth looking past these faults: Németh's book has a lot to offer and he is a relentlessly astute and honest reader of the texts. It is a virtue of the book that it leaves in place many of the uncomfortable tensions in Epicureanism.


1.   D. N. Sedley, "Epicurus' Refutation of Determinism" in ΣΥΖΗΤΗΣΙΣ: studi sull' epicureismo greco e romano offerti a Marcello Gigante (Naples, 1983), 11-51 and "Epicurean Anti-Reductionism" in J. Barnes, M. Mignucci (ed.) Matter and Metaphysics (Naples, 1988), 295-327; T. O'Keefe, Epicurus on Freedom (Cambridge University Press, 2005); J. Annas, "Epicurus on Agency" in J. Brunschwig and M. Nussbaum (eds.) Passions and Perceptions (Cambridge University Press 1993), 53-71.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018


Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Margaret Mullett (ed.), Knowing Bodies, Passionate Souls: Sense Perceptions in Byzantium. Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine symposia and colloquia. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2017. Pp. xi, 330. ISBN 9780884024217. $70.00.

Reviewed by Foteini Spingou, University of Oxford; University of Edinburgh (foteini.spingou@gmail.com)

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The study of the senses has much been developed in classical and medieval studies. This book is one of the first attempts to approach the Byzantine sensorium. A collaborative endeavour, it taps onto the different expertise of the scholars invited to contribute. The result is a melodic synthesis that makes modern readers question their senses and perceptions of the surrounding world.

The introduction, penned by Susan Ashbrook Harvey and Margaret Mullett, does precisely what it is supposed to do: it introduces the reader to the challenges and appeals of the study of senses within the context of a premodern culture. The rest of the sixteen contributions to the book are divided into six sections: the first five correspond to the five senses, the last one allows synthesis by exploring different types of sensoria.

"Sight" is explored by Glenn Peers and Martina Bagnoli. Peers relates the question of sense to that of objects and persons of different ontologies, and looks at the possibilities of the icon as an independent object, able to react and feel. As he confesses, this attempt is "an informed guesswork" (p. 23)—nevertheless intriguing for the informed reader. The contribution by Martina Bagnoli is a treat for Byzantinists as it brings the discussion to the late Middle Ages. Bagnoli focuses on the impact on sense perception of the rediscovery of Aristotle in the West and the emphasis on the bodily nature of Christ.

"Hearing" includes three contributions. Amy Papalexandrou emphasizes the centrality of hearing in Byzantine culture, finding that its physiology of the ear is the same as ours. She explores that aspects in three texts from the eleventh and twelfth centuries: the famous account by Eustathios of Thessaloniki of the capture of the city by the Normans (1185); a little-known text by Theodore Balsamon on the semantron; and the treatise of Michael Psellos on the Echeion (Echo Chamber) at Nicomedia. A translation of the last two texts is offered at the end of the chapter. Spyridon Antonopoulos searches for the "Byzantine ear" and throws rare light on Byzantine Psalmody, allowing the non-expert to approach a highly technical area of study. Antonopoulos' article explores "a new species of highly personalized chant" called "kalophonia," and the phenomena related to it: the development of a new notational technology, the introduction of new compositional devices, and the role of self-consciously authorial composers (intriguingly called poiētai) after the thirteenth century. Kim Haines-Eitzen brings us back to late antiquity and the exploration of a different phenomenon, that of silence (or hesychia). She explores it by using recordings of the Negev and Judean desert silence and looking at texts (such as the life of Saint Antony) that react to sound. The audio files accompanying the contributions by Antonopoulos and Haines-Eitzen can be found in the volume's website.

The section of the book on "Smell" begins with an example from Al-Andalus. D. Fairchild Ruggles highlights the Islamic garden as a rich multisensory environment and brings forward the idea of a smell informed by the tensions of the era (like Baxandall's period eye). For Ruggles, memory activates smell, while for Felipe Rojas and Valeria Sergueenkova, who wrote the following contribution, smell triggers memory and result in historical reflection. The examples discussed by Rojas and Sergueenkova come mainly from ancient Greece, with some references to parallels from a vaguely defined pre-modern Greece (including Byzantine and Ottoman Athens). Susan Ashbrook Harvey explores the symbolism of the Holy Oil, that is, fragrant oil with qualities related to the divine (mainly therapeutic, ritual, and devotional). She offers an overview from an impressive variety of sources extending from the fourth to fourteenth centuries and notes continuities and changes in its symbolism.

"Taste" is about the Eucharist and the early monastic table. Thomas Arentzen explores the Eucharist as a "gustatory event," scrutinizing the songs of Romanos the Melode. Darlene L. Brooks Hedstrom searches for the archaeology of taste in early monastic communities by focusing on two particular dishes, bread and salted fish. She looks at examples from the Egyptian desert and brings together texts, archaeology, and observation of modern practices with a long tradition.

"Touch" is related to piety, pain, and erotic sensation. Béatrice Caseau distinguishes touch from other senses as "it is both felt and produced." The reader will find here an overview of forms of "tactile piety," and a supplement on subjects discussed in earlier contributions, such as a response based on Byzantine realities on the importance of the bodily nature of Christ for sense perception and the emergence of the phenomenon of the myroblete saints (saints associated with the emission of fragrant oil, considered holy). Galina Tiranić is concerned with public punishment and the importance of making the pain of the condemned openly visible. Tiranić's article finishes with a simile comparing the emperor to a doctor who inflicts pain in order to cure the body of the empire. Ingela Nilsson's chapter is an overview of the erotic touch as it appears mainly in twelfth-century texts, with particular emphasis on sensory imagery in romances. She discusses eye-catching references to male and female orgasm, the importance of sense mingling in erotic scenes, and the ambiguous interpretation of the erotic touch.

The last section of the volume is about two types of sensoria, the rhetorical one and the spiritual one. One would have expected that a contribution by Ruth Webb—an eminent scholar of Byzantine ekphrasis—would have found a place in the section about sight. Webb, in her discussion of texts from the fourth to the ninth century, proves that the ekphrasis is not simply about seeing, but also about sensing, and she explores how words create illusions of sensations and the nature and quality of the resulting experience. Laura Suzanne Lieber' contribution is about the rhetorical sensorium in late antique Jewish poetic texts and its activation through performances of seduction, fantasy, and magic. The two appendices of her article include the most useful translation of the central texts in her discussion: Yannai's hymn on Numbers 5, "The suspected adulteress," and Eleazar berabbi Qallir, "The power of Dew." Marcus Plested explores the spiritual sensorium by offering an overview of related accounts in ascetic and mystical texts from the fourth to the fourteenth century. The name of Symeon the New Theologian appears for the first time in Plested's contribution—this is unfortunate given that Symeon's work is rich in references to Byzantine senses. Little can be criticized in this elegant volume. The division in sections is undoubtedly stimulating and makes the rich material manageable; nonetheless, it remains artificial. For example, the first section, "Sight," has only little to do with sight. The section concerns the general topic of the senses. Most of the subsequent sections refer to the full palette of human senses. Furthermore, one may have expected some more traditional approaches to senses. The absence of any discussion relating to ekphrasis in most noticeable in the section on "sight." The section on "hearing" would have had benefited from a discussion of prose rhythm and the multisensory experience of performance. Byzantine recipes in the section on "Taste" would have given a rare glimpse to the world of those people, who are rarely represented in the rhetorical texts.

The book moves the discussion of the senses in the direction of the broader context of the "European and West-Asian" Middle Ages. Although I have been in the past (and remain) a strong advocate of studying Byzantine phenomena in the broader context of the pre-modern world, I wonder if this is possible for a domain that remains so heavily unexplored. This results in an evident weakness in the volume: the discussion of examples from other cultures rarely crosses cultural lines and thus remains unintegrated in a volume discussing senses in Byzantium in particular. Indeed, the expression of sensing existed in other cultures, but how did this relate to those from late antiquity and Byzantium? For example, the informed reader can start drawing parallels to the phenomena discussed by Bagnoli in ch. 1; however, these parallels (and differences) will not be evident to everyone. The chapter is loosely connected to Byzantium and so stands alone in a volume devoted to "sense perceptions in Byzantium."

The lack of dialogue between articles and contributors is also evident in the more Byzantine contributions. For example, it would have been interesting to note how the hesychia of the late antique desert is related to the hesychia of the Holy Mountain and Thessaloniki at the time of the emergence of calophonia. One might also expect a more extensive discussion of the senses' twin subject-matte, that of emotions. Only Caseau directly discusses the emotions created by senses, while implications to the topic also exist in other contributions.

As a philologist, I also cannot avoid noting the lack of a system in quoting texts in their original language. The omission of the original text is particularly problematic in the text-based contributions. Each translation involves a degree of interpretation and the absence of the original text does not allow the reader to react to the views of the modern scholar. This shortcoming is for example particularly evident in the contribution by Amy Papalexandrou, where the text is central for the discussion, but, to the reader's disappointment, it is quoted only in English translation.

The book results from a stimulating Spring Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, April 25–27, 2014.

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Christos Tsagalis, Poetry in Fragments: Studies on the Hesiodic Corpus and its Afterlife. Trends in Classics—Supplementary Volumes, 50. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xxv, 292. ISBN 9783110536218. €109,95.

Reviewed by Thomas J. Nelson, Trinity College, Cambridge (tjn28@cam.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

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

The past decade has seen a flurry of interest in the Hesiodic corpus and its reception. This edited volume builds on that interest by focusing on Hesiodic fragments—terrain which is itself far from untrodden.1 Like many edited volumes, the book is a mixed bag, with some excellent and intriguing contributions, but it displays an occasional lack of consistency and coherence, perhaps reflected in the very vagueness of the editor's mission statement: the volume 'aims at bringing together a number of studies treating different aspects of this variegated material,' exploring 'questions of the three more common facets of Hesiodic research on fragmentary poems:' genre and context, the Catalogue, and later receptions (p. xix). Within this wide remit, the volume's contributors have produced a similarly variegated range of readings.

One recurring focus of the volume is the relationship of the Hesiodic fragments to Hesiod's fully extant works and to Homer's two epics.

Aloni starts the volume by flipping the concept of 'fragment' on its head, turning our fully extant Hesiod into a fragmentary collection: he argues that the Works and Days is a sylloge akin to the Theognidea, likely performed in a sympotic setting. His case rests on the poem's various connections with lyric and elegiac poetry: ainoi and kennings, mythological narratives, and paraenesis embedded in a turbulent socio-political climate. He ends by branching out to explore the comparable 'open textuality' of other Hesiodic works: the Theogony, Catalogue and Aspis. This is an attractively fresh perspective on the Hesiodic corpus, but Aloni may invite at least one potential objection to his thesis: as he acknowledges, some of these elements also feature in the hexameters of Parmenides, Empedocles, and Xenophanes (p. 11n. 33), which might suggest that they are merely generic features of didactic hexameters, rather than anything distinctively sympotic or anthological.

Ercolani's subsequent chapter may also challenge Aloni's case, since it describes many of the same elements under the heading of 'traditional wisdom': kennings, riddles, proverbs, gnomai and prescriptions. In his own quasi-epic catalogue, he explores the presence of these features in the fragments of various Hesiodic poems (Wedding of Ceyx, Melampodia, Precepts of Cheiron, Megala Erga, Astronomia), highlighting their similarity to key traits of the Works and Days and emphasising the unity of the Hesiodic corpus as a 'storehouse of knowledge'. In total, between 33 and 67% of extant fragments from each analysed poem are identified as 'wisdom fragments'. But we should perhaps ask how representative these fragments really are, and whether these ratios may not reflect the priorities of later excerpters, who were often drawn to the self-contained nature of such 'wisdom elements' (cf. p. 264 n.87 on proverbial topoi in Eustathius' letters).

Koning emphasises the shared world view of the Theogony, Works and Days and Catalogue of Women, and argues for a strong teleological thrust to the Catalogue, centred on the destruction of the age of heroes and Zeus' imposition of order on the earth (paralleling his imposition of order on the divine realm in the Theogony). In particular, he focuses on two children of Zeus as complementary agents of this destruction: Helen (a second Pandora) and Heracles (a second Zeus). Especially illuminating are his comments on the oath of Helen's suitors as exhibiting the decline of the heroic age into deception and evil (p. 106), but I am less convinced by his attempts to whitewash Heracles' character by downplaying the ambiguities of various epithets. When Heracles' enemies are described in positive terms, we cannot simply dismiss these adjectives as 'generic' (pp. 110–111); we should acknowledge the resulting tensions and tackle them head-on.

Davies turns to Homer as a point of contrast. He highlights the recurrent interest of Hesiodic fragments in both etymology and aetiology (eponymous ancestors, city foundations, protoi heuretai)—an interest which he argues aligns them with Hesiod's 'authentic works' in opposition to Homeric epic. The result is another useful catalogue of material, but I fear that the contrast with Homer is overly schematic: I was struck, for example, by the similarities, rather than differences, between Il.6.402–3 and fr. 296.2–3 M–W (p. 87). Davies also displays an enviable knowledge of folklore and comparative traditions; he spends some time arguing that an episode from Norse myth is a legitimate parallel for fr. 148b M–W (pp. 89–90), but he does not go on to outline the interpretative benefit of adducing it as such.

Despite the book's broad title, it is the Catalogue of Women that dominates the majority of the volume. In addition to Koning's paper discussed above, five others have a catalogic focus.

Kyriakou takes the female emphasis of the Catalogue seriously, rightly arguing that the heroines are not mere structural props for successive lines of male heroes, but protagonists in their own right, with their own form of female aristeia. In particular, she highlights the poet's emphasis on female agency through the recurring relative clause ἣ τέκεν / γείνατο, which keeps the women in the driving seat. At times, her piece is unnecessarily jargonistic, which does no favour to her readers,2 but she nevertheless makes a strong case for the mother as the privileged link between generations.

Tsagalis follows Ercolani and Davies in providing another useful catalogue of material: different kinds of sound-play in the Ehoeae, from simple alliteration to complex cases of aural association. In each case, he analyses the thematic value of the sound-play, which variously accentuates, parallels and isolates the content of each passage. His study offers an impressive array of examples, but I was left wondering how these techniques compare to early Greek hexameter poetry more widely. Tsagalis implies at the start and end that this catalogic sound-play is a distinctive novelty, part of the generically hybrid Catalogue's search for 'its own style' (pp. 191–2, 213). Further comparison with Homer, fully extant Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns could have been a useful control for this claim. As it stands, it is unclear how the aural elements that Tsagalis identifies compare with those he has discussed before in his earlier work on sound and rhythm in the Iliad.3

Personally, I found the contributions of Steiner, Sammons and Ormand most rewarding and innovative.

Steiner combines literary and visual evidence to explore the close affinity of choruses and catalogues in the archaic and early classical period. Going beyond their shared emphasis on plurality, she highlights their similar themes (kinship, locality, age) and arrangement (both linear and circular). Amid numerous compelling remarks, she focuses on a specific case study: the Asopids, who are not only frequently presented in catalogic form but also serve as an archetypal chorus (cf. Pindar, Bacchylides, Corinna and Aeginetan art). Her piece is wide-ranging and informative, and it raises many larger questions about the relationship between epic hexameter, catalogue poetry and choral lyric, as well as the performance context of these works. Steiner gets the most out of both textual and artistic sources; we should look forward to her forthcoming book which will expand on this topic.

Sammons focuses on the generic multiplicity of the Catalogue, exploring how it manipulates and balances competing structures, each of which is a distinct sub-genre of epic poetry: exemplary catalogue, comprehensive genealogy, and narrative elaboration. In the process, he highlights many of the poem's key structural and thematic axes: a tendency to progress from simple list to more elaborate catalogue; the consistent introduction of female before male offspring (except in the case of Althaea's children, where Deianeira is postponed after Meleager to enhance the focus on Heracles); the use of the ἠ' οἵη formula to backtrack to an unfinished genealogical line; and the artful arrangement of competing themes (the dominant paradigm of a girl wooed by a god balanced by others of divine favour, divine displeasure and immortalisation). His piece effectively complements Kyriakou's study of the Catalogue's female focus, in particular by highlighting how the sons of Aeolus do not receive their own catalogue, but are rather incorporated into the running female genealogies: the poet catalogues men by cataloguing women.

Ormand argues for a direct two-way intertextual relationship between the Hesiodic Catalogue and Stesichorus. He suggests that Stesichorus' treatment of both the oath of Tyndareus and his adulterous daughters is indebted to the Catalogue (fr. 87 Finglass ~ fr. 204.78–85 M–W; fr. 85 Finglass ~ fr. 176 M–W), before going on to contend that the unusually enjambed εἴδω[λον] of the Catalogue (fr. 23a.21 M–W) is a passing allusion to the eidolon of Helen in Stesichorus' Palinode (frr. 90, 91b Finglass). The resulting picture of interactive and competitive allusion is attractive, but our limited evidence and uncertainties of chronology make the case a little precarious. The ultimate test is the interpretative payoff of these allusions, especially regarding the eidolon: what does the Stesichorean intertext add to our understanding of Hesiod's fragment? If we accept Ormand's preferred εἴδω[λου] in fr.23a.21 M–W (as a reference to Helen), we have little more than a knowing nod to Stesichorus' innovation. But if we retain the more popular εἴδω[λον] (as a reference to Iphimede), we might then have a more complex and meaningful allusion: 'Hesiod' follows Stesichorus' lead in rewriting a foundational moment of the epic tradition, allusively redeploying his eidolon motif. Just like Helen's presence at Troy, Iphimede's sacrifice becomes an imaginary fiction, further destabilising the 'truth' of the epic tradition. The final section on reception is the least coherent of the volume. There are only two papers, one Roman, the other Byzantine. But while the former focuses on the reception of a single Hesiodic text in a single Ovidian poem, the latter has a far broader purview. Nevertheless, both papers are of considerable interest.

After a survey of the general connections between the Hesiodic Catalogue and Heroides, Michalopoulos focuses on Heroides 9 and explores how Deianeira's words are closely engaged with the Catalogue. A recurring leitmotif of his argument is that whereas the women of the Catalogue are mute, Ovid's elegiac heroines are given voice and the ability to challenge the cardinal features of the epic, heroic world. Amid many perceptive remarks, I was especially attracted by the notion that Phaedra's turba numeremur in ista (Ov.Her.4.101) may reflect a metaliterary wish to be enumerated in the Hesiodic Catalogue (p. 229): we could reinforce this reading by noting the potential metapoetic valence of silva in the following line (for which, cf. Hinds, S. (1998) Allusion and Intertext, Cambridge, pp. 12–14). Nevertheless, in the case of Heroides 9, I feel that Michalopoulos does not fully tackle the presence of Sophocles' Trachiniae as a competing intertext (despite his acknowledgement on p. 232). The closest verbal echoes between the Catalogue and Ovid's poem can point equally, if not more, to the tragedy: Deianeira's words (infecit, 9.142; tunicae tabe, 9.144; inlita Nesseo misi tibi texta veneno, 9.163) may perhaps relate to the Catalogue (φάρμακον…[ἐπιχρί]σ̣ασα χιτῶνα, fr. 25.21 M–W), but we can find similar and closer such language in Sophocles' play (e.g. παρὰ Νέσσου φθίνοντος ἐκ φονῶν, Trach.557–8; ἔβαψεν ἰός, 574; χιτῶνα τόνδ' ἔβαψα, 580; τὸν ἐνδυτῆρα πέπλον...ἔχριον, 674–5; τὸ φάρμακον, 685). Why, then, should we prioritise or even think of the Catalogue here? The question is answerable, but it needs addressing directly.

To round off the volume, Cardin and Pontani offer a wide-ranging, erudite and enlightening survey of Hesiod's reception in Byzantium. After a general overview of Hesiod's Byzantine fate, they focus on the fragments' reception in Tzetzes and Eustathius, investigating how the poems were mined as an authoritative source of genealogical, lexical and syntactical information. They close by exploring the ideological appropriation of a single fragment (fr. 5 M–W) by Italian Humanists who sought to legitimise the unity of the Greek and Roman worlds through the kinship of Latinus and Graecus—a fascinating case study of Hesiod's lasting authority and cultural significance.

In sum, therefore, the volume contains a rich array of papers, despite its occasional lack of coherence. There are a number of helpful cross-references between some contributions, but a fuller index would have helped unlock further connections (as it stands, the current two-page 'General Index' lacks 'Homer' and 'Iphimede/Iphigenia', despite their frequent mention in the volume; in addition, an index of passages cited would have helped overcome the inconsistent citation of fragments by different editions: Merkelbach–West, Hirschberger, Most). The volume could have also benefited from further proof reading, since it is sadly marred by typographical errors, unidiomatic English, inconsistent spelling and many incomplete or missing references. Nevertheless, there is much to commend in this volume, which demonstrates just how much attention this 'variegated corpus' of Hesiodic poetry still demands.

Authors and Titles

Christos Tsagalis—Introduction (xiii–xxvi)
Part I: Genre and Context
† Antonio Aloni—Hesiod Between Performance and Written Record (3–28)
Andrea Ercolani—Fragments of Wisdom, Wisdom in Fragments (29–46)
Deborah Steiner—Choruses and Catalogues: the Performative and Generic Context of the Asopids in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (47–82)
Malcolm Davies—The Origin of Things: A Study in Contrasts (83–96)

Part II: The Catalogue of Women
Hugo Koning—Helen, Herakles, and the End of the Heroes (99–114)
Kirk Ormand—Helen's Phantom in Fragments (115–134)
Irini Kyriakou—Female Ancestors in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (135–162)
Benjamin Sammons—The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: A Competition of Forms (163–190)
Christos Tsagalis—Sound-Play in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (191–216)

Part III: Hesiod's Fragments in Rome and Byzantium
Andreas N. Michalopoulos—Hesiodic Traces in Ovid's Heroides (219–244)
Marta Cardin & Filippomaria Pontani—Hesiod's Fragments in Byzantium (245–288)


1.   In addition to the works cited in Tsagalis' Introduction, we could note Ioannis Ziogas' 2013 study of Ovid's reception of the Catalogue of Women (see BMCR 2013.11.14), Kirk Ormand's 2014 The Hesiodic 'Catalogue of Women' and Archaic Greece (see BMCR 2015.07.13), and Henry Mason's 2015 Oxford DPhil thesis on the Aspis.
2.   E.g. p. 147 n. 46: 'The patronymic is another discursive form of the genealogical references naming solely the father. Having a retrospective dimension the patronymics do not occur in the prospective references structuring the genealogical narrative but they do describe a male or female figure when he/she is mentioned as ancestor.'
3.   Tsagalis, C. (2001) 'Style and Construction, Sound and Rhythm: Thetis' Supplication to Zeus (Iliad 1.493–516)', Arethusa 34.1, 2001, 1–29.

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