Sunday, September 30, 2018


Kasper Grønlund Evers, Worlds Apart Trading Together: The Organisation of Long-Distance Trade between Rome and India in Antiquity. Archaeopress Roman archaeology, 32. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017. Pp. viii, 213. ISBN 9781784917425. £30.00.

Reviewed by Jeremy Simmons, Columbia University (

Version at BMCR home site

The cover of Kasper Evers' new book displays the image of a well-known Indian ivory discovered at Pompeii superimposed on a map of the Indian subcontinent. The ivory has long been hailed as evidence of an interconnected ancient world, albeit as an outlier of a largely luxury trade of gold, spices, and gems, but the female represented (as Evers discusses at length, pp. 22–36) has long been misunderstood: it is often called Lakshmi, despite the fact that her iconography is not at all comparable to that of the Indian goddess. The map (one of 16 Google Earth images appended to this book) has labels identifying significant emporia and the commercial routes connecting them by land and sea. Image and map together represent neatly two approaches to the study of what has been termed "Indo-Roman" trade, one entangled in the semantics of luxury and the tyranny of distance, the other with an eye to the global, the quantitative, and the promises of the digital. It is a field ripe for innovation.

Evers' work, a published version of his 2016 Copenhagen dissertation, seeks to move the discussion of Indian Ocean commerce in a new direction. His "bottom-up" approach, explained in the Introduction and first two chapters, challenges the narrative of "Indo-Roman" trade gleaned from textual sources of Roman (and to a lesser extent Indian) elites by focusing on the Roman demand for Indian Ocean products and tracing the specific organizations of individuals involved in the long-distance commerce that supplied it. Evers builds on the recent surge of interest in corporate associations and trader networks in Roman economic history, extending this treatment through space and time, covering six centuries of the ancient world. He treats in depth the business associations and partnerships involved in the trade, processing, and sale of Indian Ocean commodities, ranging from the Roman collegium to the Egyptian koinon to the Indian śreṇi and nigama. In so doing, the author displays an impressive command not only of epigraphic sources pertinent to the organization of long-distance trade, but also of recent archaeological evidence, such as the finds from the Egyptian port of Berenike and the recently published Hoq cave graffiti from the Yemeni island of Socotra.1 Along the way, the reader is treated to epigraphic boons, including an English translation of a collegium inscription from Trastevere (CIL 6.33885; pp. 19–20) and a very welcome critical reassessment of the epigraphy at Buddhist sites in western India (pp. 158–162).2

The author makes some very provocative claims: he suggests that much of the initial use of New Institutional Economics in the study of the ancient economy merely dressed Moses Finley in the guise of Douglass North (p. 8),3 and that despite much of the focus in studies of trading groups on their ability to self-regulate and punish malpractice, the carrots offered by these associations often worked more effectively than their sticks (pp. 66–67). He offers a more conservative reading of the Muziris Papyrus at a moment when scholarly attention has turned to reconstructing its lacunae (pp. 99–109), and while some of his readings are probably too restrictive, his caution is welcome. Perhaps most important is Evers' repeated claim that the label "Indo-Roman" not only incorporates the colonial framework of British scholarship under the Raj, but drastically oversimplifies the image of ancient trade: "India" was not one entity, and it incorporated (as did other areas of Asia) sufficiently complex economies and corporate structures to finance and operate transoceanic trading ventures on their own initiative. This effort to bring Indian associations in particular into a more balanced dialogue with their Roman and Near Eastern counterparts stands as one of the most significant aspects of this book.

Evers achieves a great deal in this volume; he also opens important avenues for future research. The author's narrative reveals not one "Rome" trading with one "India," but rather a patchwork of different trading ventures and organized communities, each with its own priorities and meticulously cultivated networks.4 Evers aims to create a balanced discussion of trader organization, but the overall "west to east narrative" (p. 2) of the work still seems to place too much emphasis on Rome: it suggests that Roman demand emanated from the urban sensibilities at Rome and its skilled craftsmen and vendors (Chapter 3–4), and spread widely to provincial centers of consumption (Chapter 5); that in turn prompted a steady supply guaranteed by corporate bodies throughout the eastern Mediterranean and Near East (Chapter 6–7), and most importantly, in India (Chapter 8). One wonders whether this ventures too close to a form of "Indo-Roman" trade under another label—one of Roman dominance through market forces, rather than direct control over Indian resources at trading stations in India (as assumed by the likes of Warmington and Wheeler).5 This implicit emphasis on the Roman side appears also in Evers' less thorough treatment of Indian evidence (and scholarship),6 and while the Indian agents of commerce have their day in this work—no small feat—perhaps an even more balanced view of the trade requires treating Western and Indian evidence side-by-side, with careful consideration of just why such comparison is necessary.

The bottom-up approach of the work is designed to serve as a corrective to the top-down narratives supplied by textual sources; Evers therefore confidently dismisses the politics of trade. However, much still needs to be done to articulate the role of the state in international commerce, and it is unwise to throw aside the infrastructure and security frameworks provided by states, much of which lowered transaction costs for long-distance trading ventures. The author quickly passes over ways in which the state may have been quite visible even from a bottom-up perspective: the role of the familia Caesaris in the shipment of supplies in Egypt, including wine for export (pp. 123–124); the collection of the Tetarte tariff in-kind by contracted publicani in Egypt and the increasing role of procuratorial agencies in this collection at the expense of tax-farmers (pp. 110–111); the political title kṣatrapa (not to be conflated with the ethnonym śaka, as on p. 154) present in graffiti on the island of Socotra (p. 137); and the way in which traders served their "Tamil masters" in long-distance ventures, in what we might assume to be a form of Polanyian administered trade (pp. 164–171, 175).7

That is not to say that the state burdened itself with actually transporting Indian Ocean goods—especially in the context of their distribution in the Roman provinces, Evers' case for private commerce is quite convincing. Nevertheless, we should further investigate the relationship between trade under imperial contract (e.g., the annona, military provisions to the frontiers, etc.) and that of low-weight, but high-value commodities available from the Indian Ocean network, which seem to have occurred side-by-side or even in the same shipments. Further consideration on the interplay between the state and commerce on the Indian side of things, beyond the brief consideration of the normative precepts of the Arthaśāstra (pp. 148–150) and the potential role of tax-farming (p. 145), would also be welcome.8 It is here among other places that top-down and bottom-up approaches messily collide.

Corporations operating at the edges of the western Indian Ocean, involved in the movement of raw materials and their manufacture into final products, can now be linked to the transmission of visual motifs across vast geographic distances, as Evers convincingly shows for ivory furniture adornments in Chapter 3. Especially tantalizing is the spread of intaglio techniques for working Indian gemstones, whether it be technologies (such as the spread of diamond-tipped drills, p. 53) or certain motifs transmitted by Mediterranean or northern Indian artists across the Indian Ocean (pp. 168–170). Following this lead, we may even be able to link similar artistic industries associated with this commerce otherwise viewed in isolation—namely, the carvers of gems and the cutters of coin-dies—or even cross-media translations through such artistic engagement in these contact-zones (as recently explored by Elizabeth Rosen Stone at the Buddhist stupa at Amaravati).9

At the same time, even in a bottom-up approach there is a risk of ignoring the individual in favor of the collective, with traders merely becoming automata of corporate bodies, the machines that followed the monsoon winds before an age of true mechanization. But traders had stomachs; they held tenets of faith and cultural prerogatives; they possessed social relationships outside their collegium or śreṇi or less-formalized commercial affiliations. They also found innovative ways to disseminate information over vast distances, often thanks to multilingualism.10 Trader graffiti serve as a source of positive evidence for trading activities throughout the work, but we should look to these forms of writing as part of explicit communicative strategies. Thus, while Evers has certainly populated the world of transoceanic trade with human agents, and alludes to many of these considerations in passing, much can still be done to tease out the "micro-strategies" of organization, which were employed together with the corporate structures at the heart of this work.11

Evers states his case with an engaging prose, and the few editorial lapses do little to hamper his argument. In a relatively short space (176 pages of text) the author has provided a concise and firm basis for future inquiry. He has commendably outlined the organization of commerce throughout the ancient world and whittled away the old ways of viewing transoceanic long-distance trade in antiquity from the Mediterranean perspective alone. With the death of a label, "Indo-Roman," we can now address the bigger picture: the history of Indian Ocean commodities trafficked by these groups, and the lives of the human beings they transformed.


1.   Sidebotham, S. 2011. Berenike and the ancient maritime spice route. Berkeley; Strauch, I. (ed.). 2012. Foreign sailors on Socotra: the inscriptions and drawings from the cave Hoq. Bremen.
2.   Since the author provides a photograph taken from a visit to the caitya hall at Karle, which contains the inscriptions made by yavanas (or "westerners") so central to his case, one wonders why he did not provide photographs of the inscriptions themselves—especially in that he (rightly) challenges the corrective readings of the great Indian epigraphers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
3.   Finley, M. 1999 [1973]. The Ancient Economy. Updated with a new Forward by Ian Morris. Berkeley; North, D. C. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge.
4.   The subtitle of the author's dissertation (the organization of long-distance trade between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean), in fact, gets closer to the view outlined in the book—namely an interregional trade between the Mediterranean Basin and the Indian subcontinent.
5.   Warmington, E. H. 1928. The Commerce between the Roman Empire and India. Cambridge; Wheeler, R. E. M. 1954. Rome beyond the Imperial Frontiers. London.
6.   E.g., a passing reference to Kālidāsa's Raghuvaṃśa without immediate context (p. 35). H. P. Ray, whose many works on ancient Indian business associations and maritime trade underpin much of the Indian material in this book, receives little explicit treatment outside of footnotes.
7.   Polanyi, K. 1971 [1957]. "The Economy as Instituted Process." In K. Polanyi et al. (eds.), Trade and Market in the Early Empires. Chicago.
8.   The political scene in western India is only mentioned briefly on pp. 28–29 and 44; elsewhere, the political history is explicitly left unexamined (e.g., p. 151).
9.   Rosen Stone, E. 2016. "Reflections of Roman Art in Southern India." In A. Shimada and M. Willis (eds.), Amaravati: The Art of an Early Buddhist Monument in Context. London.
10.   For such an approach, one might look at Talbert, R. and F. Naiden (eds.). 2017. Mercury's Wings: Exploring Modes of Communication in the Ancient World. Oxford.
11.   For instance, food importation and acquisition of provisions by traders to Egypt and India are mentioned in passing (e.g., pp. 127 and 165), but mainly as positive evidence for the presence trading communities abroad. The movement of other family members of traders receive similar passing treatment (p. 125).

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Hyun Jin Kim, Frederik Juliaan Vervaet, Selim Ferruh Adali (ed.), Eurasian Empires in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Contact and Exchange between the Graeco-Roman World, Inner Asia and China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xvi, 333. ISBN 9781107190412. $99.99. ISBN 9781108115865. ebook.

Reviewed by Bryan K. Miller, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

Grand narratives of Eurasia, though numerous, often fall short of sufficiently incorporating all constituent peoples and polities that played significant parts in its historical developments. Even studies that attempt to categorize, and thus consider, all regions nevertheless tend to sideline many in the interior of the continent.1 Steppe societies in particular have remained sporadic participants or even phantom menaces of broader historical narratives. The present volume admirably seeks to rectify these deficiencies by building on the current wave of cross-cultural comparative studies, including not only the so-called East and West but also the Center—"to remedy this problem it is necessary to look at what lies between the Mediterranean and the [Chinese Central Plains]: the steppes of Inner Asia" (p.3).2

Chapters of the first section (I) present a considerable push for equal attention to Central Eurasian steppe nomads in comparative historical discussions of political traditions (1) and large-scale geopolitics (3), with the lead editor of the volume, Kim, cautioning against "equating nomadism with decentralization and absence of political order" (p.17).3 The primary goal of this volume, similar to Kim's previous book,4 is to demonstrate how the institutions of steppe societies are of equal importance to global historical developments as those of the classic civilizations of the Mediterranean West and Central Plains East. Frontiers of culture contact between steppe nomads and the regimes of China (2) and the Near East (3) are given robust narratives that account for mediations and large-scale consequences of those interactions.

But despite the overall goal of the volume for such equal attention, the tripartite comparison of Greco-Roman/Chinese/Inner Asian falls short in the subsequent sections. Section II presents one chapter with well-constructed cross-comparisons (6) as well as two chapters that together present a successful cross-comparative dialogue for a very focused topic—"honour and shame" (4-5); however these three chapters address only Rome and China and leave the reader of the collective volume wondering about institutions of social conduct (cf. 4-5) and of labor (cf. 6) in Inner Asian empires. Section III similarly proceeds with emphases on the imperial regimes of Rome and China (7, 8), with some mention of Persia and cursory mentions of the Central Eurasian regimes of the Hepthalites and Uighurs (8). Section IV (9-11) brings Inner Asia back to the discussion table, yet strangely without equal considerations of Greco-Roman and Chinese regimes. Although the chapters of the volume present intriguing case studies, by- and-large well-argued in their own right, collectively they do not result in a balanced cross-comparative discussion that incorporates all three proposed regions. Instead, an unintentional categorical division appears through the course of the book between regimes of Inner Asia and the agrarian cradles of civilization, even amidst individual chapters that very clearly demonstrate the dichotomy between the Steppe and the Sown is unreal (2). This imbalanced structure to the overall volume unfortunately undermines the necessary consideration of Inner Asian political and cultural institutions as comparable to those of Rome and China.

The volume traverses an impressive span of scholarly traditions, including history, art history, and archaeology. But much like the imbalance of interregional comparisons, the papers of multiple disciplines and sources are presented in a partitioned fashion that does not foster a productive interdisciplinary dialogue based on a common research inquiry.5 Archaeological studies, rather than integrated with historical studies, are relegated to a section on their own (IV). The two papers that present recent field work are each remarkably detailed and valuable studies for the data and analyses they entail. Yet they concern categorically different kinds of sites and materials—burials (9) and settlements (11)—and address profoundly different research questions—cultural practices and identity formation (9) and habitation patterns and urban networks (11)—making comparative discussions, in which the respective papers are informed by one another, impractical.

The volume, by its title and introductory words, implies comparisons and discussions primarily of empires, asserting them as the driving forces of exchanges and transmissions across the Eurasian continent. However, a few of the chapters interestingly divulge agents and dynamics that belie the control of large empires. Lieu's (8) narrative on the spreads of Manichaeism throughout Eurasia demonstrates not "the extraordinary reach of pan-Eurasian imperial networks which made such diffusion possible" (p.316). Rather, it evidences movements between and into empires, not of empires. Propagators and prosthelytizers of Manichaeism were agents not of imperial networks but of a fluid transregional organization and that exploited existing political networks (and their patrons) in different realms to infiltrate and, in the case of Uighurs, even convert the ruling factions of imperial societies. In many cases it was not the empires but rather the individual peoples and communities that actively spread objects and ideas into empires and across Eurasia. Lieu's study thus brings to the fore notions of entities and dynamics that operated outside of and beneath the framework of empires and their agendas, and of how the leaders of those empires reacted to such groups and developments. It was not always the empires or their supposed "pan-Eurasian geopolitical networks which facilitated the exchange of political and cultural ideas" (p.313). The central Eurasian "Silk Roads" were not coordinated creations masterminded and controlled by empires but organic networks shaped by a plethora of agents within and outside of the core regions. If we take the lead of Lieu, then we may reverse the tide of peripheral empires intruding upon and governing over a passive Eurasian core. These early empires were clearly concerned with safeguarding against as well as exploiting the long- distance flows of ideas and goods.

Although the peripheral regimes of Eurasia were clearly affected by many of the same movements that flowed through the heart of the continent, far-distant regimes such as China and Rome were not in direct "culture contact" with one another. Culture contact no doubt occurred between neighbouring entities in Eurasia (2, 3, 9, 11), but the long-distance transmissions touted by models like the "Silk Roads"6 were not ones of culture contact. They transpired through a wide spectrum of avenues between societies and polities that were often not directly linked, and thus should not be explained through models of diffusion (e.g. p.316), which inherently assume power disparities of "inventors" and "laggers."7 Diffusion and other intrinsically dichotomous models run the risk of perpetuating the division between inventive agrarian civilizations and lagging barbarian societies, a trend contrary to the goals of the book.

The editors of the volume astutely note that the many disparate regions and peoples of Eurasia repeatedly show intense degrees of "entanglement."8 But connectivity does not necessarily create a cohesive "cultural synthesis" (p.316). For example, Bopearachchi's (10) study of overlapping Scythian, Hellenistic, Indian, and Kushan traditions illustrates the complex cultural mediations and hybridities that often formed in areas of Central Eurasia like Ghandara.9 Although this volume proposes that "Eurasia was in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages an interconnected totality" (p.29), such a totality should not be seen as a synthesized singularity. In this case, we should heed the warning of modern sociologists that even amidst current globalization trends of technologies and interactions that make our world smaller, we are not hurdling toward a singular global culture.10

The stated goals of this compiled volume are indeed admirable ones, presenting a much-needed scholarly call to arms—for truly interdisciplinary investigations and for balanced comparative considerations of the multiple regions and societies of pre-modern Eurasia, especially the often neglected steppe nomads. Although these goals are unfortunately not always collectively reached, many of the individual papers open other avenues of inquiry necessary to a more robust understanding of cultural exchanges in early Eurasia both in the face of overlapping regimes and regarding the means and effects of long-distance transmissions.

Authors and Titles

Introduction, Hyun Jin Kim, Frederik Juliaan Vervaet
I Political Organization and Interactions of Eurasian Empires
1 The Political Organization of Steppe Empires and their Contribution to Eurasian Interconnectivity: the Case of the Huns and Their Impact on the Frankish West, Hyun Jin Kim
2 Tang China's Horse Power: the Borderland Breeding Ranch System, Jonathan Karam Skaff
3 Cimmerians and the Scythians: the Impact of Nomadic Powers on the Assyrian Empire and the Ancient Near East, Selim Ferruh Adali
II Socio-Institutional Aspects of Eurasian Empires
4 Honour and Shame in the Roman Republic, Frederik Juliaan Vervaet
5 Honour and Shame in Han China, Mark Lewis
6 Slavery and Forced Labour in Early China and the Roman World, Walter Scheidel
III Cultural Legacies of Eurasian Empires
7 Homer and the Shi Jing as Imperial Texts, Alexander Beercroft
8 The Serpent from Persia: Manichaeism in Rome and China, Samuel N.C. Lieu
IV Archaeology of Eurasian Empires
9 Alans in the Southern Caucusus?, Antonio Sagona, Claudia Sagona, Aleksandra Michalewicz
10 Greeks, Scythians, Parthians and Kushans in Central Asia and India, Osmund Bopearachchi
11 Enclosure Sites, Non-Nucleated Settlement Strategies and Political Capitals in Ancient Eurasia, Michelle Negus Cleary
Conclusion, Hyun Jin Kim, Frederik Juliaan Vervaet, Selim Ferruh Adali


1.   Victor Lieberman, Strange parallels: Southeast Asia in global context, c. 800-1830. Volume 2: mainland mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the islands, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2010; see also review by Alan Strathern in Journal of Global History 7(1), 2012, 129-142.
2.   cf. Walter Scheidel (ed.), Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, Oxford: Oxford University Press. This push to broaden narratives includes a necessary expansion beyond the classic Silk Roads of Central Asia to include North-South exchanges that reached into the steppe worlds; see David Christian, "Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History", Journal of World History 11(1), pp. 1-26.
3.   see also David Sneath, The Headless State: Aristocratic Orders, Kinship Society, and Misprepresentations of Nomadic Inner Asia, New York: Columbia University Press 2007; William Honeychurch, Inner Asia and the Spatial Politics of Empire: Archaeology, Mobility, and Culture Contact, New York: Springer 2015.
4.   See R. Payne's review of Kim's book BMCR 2014.03.40.
5.   cf. Ray Laurence, "The Uneasy Dialogue between Ancient History and Archaeology", in E.W. Sauer (ed.) Archaeology and Ancient History. Breaking Down the Boundaries, New York: Routledge, 2004, pp. 99-113; Elena Isayev, "Archaeology ≠ object as history ≠ text: nudging the special relationship into the post-ironic", World Archaeology 38(4), pp. 599-610.
6.   Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A New History, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012; Victor Mair and Jane Hickman (eds.), Reconfiguring the Silk Road: New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2014.
7.   Barbara Wejnert, "Integrating Models of Diffusion of Innovations: A Conceptual Framework", Annual Review of Sociology 28, 2002, pp. 297-326; for alternatives to diffusion models see James G. Cusick (ed.), Studies in Culture Contact: Interaction, Culture Change, and Archaeology, Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigation 1998.
8.   The editors cite Eliga H. Gould, "Entangled Histories, Entangled Worlds: The English-Speaking Atlantic as a Spanish Periphery", American Historical Review 112(3), 2007, pp.764-786; see also notions of material culture entanglement by Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects. Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1991.
9.   For a discussion of the critical differences between synthesis and hybridity, see Matthew Liebmann, "Parsing Hybridity: Archaeologies of Amalgamation in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico", in J.J. Card (ed.) The Archaeology of Hybrid Material Culture, Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigation, pp. 25-49.
10.   Ulf Hannerz, "Notes on the Global Cultural Ecumene", Public Culture 1(2), 1989, pp.66-75; Anthony D. Smith, "Towards a Global Culture?" Theory, Culture and Society 7, 1990, pp.171-191.

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Sheila Murnaghan, Ralph Mark Rosen (ed.), Hip Sublime: Beat Writers and the Classical Tradition. Classical memories/modern identities. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2018. Pp. x, 292. ISBN 9780814213551. $79.95.

Reviewed by Benjamin Eldon Stevens, Trinity University (

Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview

Sheila Murnaghan and Ralph M. Rosen have assembled a fascinating volume. In this review I hope not to repeat the volume's own very useful introduction (by Murnaghan and Rosen alongside noted Shakespearean Stephen Dickey), nor its thought-provoking afterword (from leading Beat scholars Nancy M. Grace and Jennie Skerl), but to suggest something of how the volume succeeds in drawing attention to a previously unstudied and profoundly influential area in classical receptions. As those co-authorships may suggest, a central part of the volume's strength lies in its conscientious incorporation of diverse approaches, echoing what the chapters show is the Beats' own conscious—and widely varied—use of classical materials and ancient themes. Generally avoiding one of the potential pitfalls of classical-reception studies, overall the chapters do not limit themselves to formal or thematic comparisons, instead incorporating discussion of documentary and paratextual materials. The result is a terrific set of studies that I believe should be of interest to readers across disciplinary boundaries, including 'general readers' for whom the Beats are beloved figures.

In the context of an American public culture that pays little attention to poetry, the Beats stand out, simultaneously recognizable or even mythic and, as the editors point out and aim to help correct, at risk of misunderstanding due to mythologization, starting with prominent Beats' knowing fictionalizations of their lives. Taken as representatives of counterculture, they have been the subject of cultural mythologies indeed, in some cases the sources of alternatives to mainstream institutions (e.g., schools, publishing houses), more generally the centers of cults of personality, and even the objects of what could be called hero-worship.1 Thus, for example, films and television shows can deploy 'love of Beat poetry'—e.g., a character reading Charles Bukowski for the first time and declaring him "a god" (in the film Beautiful Creatures)—as a sort of shorthand to emphasize a character's own countercultural status, rebellious nature, or even simply adolescence.

Perhaps surprisingly, that appearance of Beat icons in popular culture may be paralleled by a similar appearance of classical materials as symbols in another field. When the volume's introduction refers to a certain Beat author as "start[ing] to treat the classical past as something more than a repository of fragmentary allusion" (4), I hear an echo of Brett M. Rogers' and my suggestion about how ancient classics may function in a contemporaneous area, science fiction—namely, as "reliably esoteric, public-domain material for popular cultural ironization".2 So there is a possible parallel in the mode of classical reception, and a similar need for correcting popular as well as scholarly misunderstanding of the subject-matter. Thus a principle aim of Murnaghan's and Rosen's volume is to help "counter prevailing misconceptions about the Beats through a fuller and more nuanced account of the movement" (2). This includes emphasizing the fact that the various authors considered 'Beats' "hardly constitute a group with a monolithic aesthetic or literary agenda" (1) but have been the subjects of a "literary-historical narrative constructed around the most widely recognized" authors that "has been … misleadingly one-dimensional, and often more concerned with the glamorously self-destructive features of their lives than with analysis of their work" (2).

In general, then, the volume adds to ongoing reappraisal of the Beats "as practitioners of a disciplined craft in dialogue with past traditions" (3). Their classical receptions cover a wide range, from overt dismissal (e.g., Abbie Hoffman's "sweeping denunciation of canonical figures" including "ancient tragedians", 3) through arguable thematic echoes (e.g., stories of journeys, like Jack Kerouac's On the Road, that may be "reminiscent of Greek and Roman epics", 42) to explicit invocation including sustained engagement over whole bodies of work (e.g., Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Sailing thru the straits of Demos" is a seemingly isolated reference, while Gregory Corso is described as "probably the most frequent and explicit of all the Beats in his references to classical lore", 4 [somewhat oddly, then, Corso is not the subject of a chapter]). As such examples show and as the volume's chapters emphasize, the Beats' classical receptions are frequently conscious. Thus most of the volume's readings go beyond formal or thematic comparison, incorporating historical evidence to "make clear how thoroughly the Beats absorbed the Classics" (7) with an awareness of how "a usable classical past" can "only be grasped through a series of precedent acts of allusion and response that chart a course back through other vernacular transformations" (9).

In other words, the volume overall stands as an excellent example of rigor and adventure in classical-reception studies, opening up a previously unexplored area of clear importance and suggesting some of the ways in which it might be studied further. One starting point, well emphasized in the volume, is the Beats' own awareness of 'mythic' precedent and model: "the ability of Western poets to recognize 'a precision of lineage'" (Grace and Skerl, 271, after Diane di Prima) including "the persistent relevance of the Greco- Roman legacies" (274). Particularly interesting is inspiration drawn from Dorothy Van Ghent's influential 1959 suggestion, contemporaneous with the first appearance and self-definition of the Beats, that the Beats "have a myth" that "follows authentic archaic lines," focused on a "hero" in the form of an "angelheaded hipster" who undergoes "heroic 'ordeals' of myth" (quoted by Dickey, 15-16; cf. 10). By seeking to understand such mythmaking in context of classical receptions, the essays do what Grace and Skerl suggest, collectively taking "a crucial first step toward situating Beat artists and aesthetics within a rich literary tradition" (276).

The result is a volume that should be of interest to readers across disciplinary boundaries, including not only Classicists interested in reception studies as well as scholars of the Beats, but also more general readers for whom the Beats are beloved figures. The essays cover many of the most prominent modern figures and works as well as some lesser-known authors and materials; likewise, the range of classical texts and themes involved is wide. In what follows, I note only some of the volume's interesting subjects and outstanding examples, in the hope that this helps invite readers to consider the essays for themselves.

Several chapters focus on versions of classical 'heroic journeys' as per Van Ghent's identification of the Beats' self-definition in ancient mythic terms. Thus, e.g., Dickey considers how works like Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" and "A Supermarket in California", and Kerouac's Orpheus Emerged and The Subterraneans, rewrite classical underworld journeys or katabaseis; that they do so consciously is evident, e.g., in the way "Howl" structures its image of America on Dantean lines, or "Supermarket" engages with Walt Whitman's own conscious rewriting of tradition. In a similar way, Christopher Gair argues that another of Kerouac's works, Doctor Sax, is able to evoke Xenophon's famous "Thalatta, Thalatta!", "the sea, the sea!", via a prior classical reception, Joyce's Ulysses. Gair is then able to trace a development in Kerouac's sea-imagery over time in a way that intriguingly parallels the much larger historical transition from classical to modernist and beyond.

Other chapters usefully emphasize how Western-classical themes like the 'hero's journey' are, for many Beats, only one strand in a complex tapestry of cultural traditions. One example is Diane di Prima's Loba, which like some other Beat works seeks to combine classical, Greco-Roman material with materials from a wide range of cultural traditions. As Nancy Grace and Tony Trigilio argue, in di Prima's case this results in an epic story rewritten so as to "restage female identity as subject rather than object through an emphasis on the female body thriving in its outsider relationship to masculinized religious cultures" (229). Although di Prima is the only modern female author the volume treats at length, a connection between female authorship and multicultural traditions is found elsewhere. Thus, e.g., Skerl argues that in Ed Sanders's Tales of Beatnik Glory, Sappho is "a supernatural being … constructed from several spiritual traditions": if this is "consistent with the eclectic spirituality of the Lower East Side" at the time, it has classical- traditional roots as well, with Sappho playing Virgil to a character's Dante and also serving as his Muse (149).

Of course other Beat authors, too—perhaps 'the Beats' in general—are interested in using classical figures, among others, to help frame their own performance of 'outsider' status in American culture. Thus, e.g., three chapters examine how Catullus, a self- consciously rebellious poet in his own time, figures in certain Beats' formulations of countercultural modes: Marguerite Johnson offers a vivid analysis of how Bukowski casts Catullus as "the object of ridicule and attack but also affection and admiration" (98), so as to perform a kind of "protest masculinity" in which "his machismo ironically demonstrates a lack of power" (111); Nick Selby suggests that Robert Creeley's use of Catullus helps connect Creeley's "poetics of adultery" to "a broader … negotiation with Beat aesthetics" (117), a negotiation whose status as 'poethical wager' (132, after Joan Retallack) recalls how some of Catullus's own most aggressively interpersonal poems also make metapoetic points; and Matthew Pfaff argues compellingly for Catullan aspects to what he calls Ginsberg's "philology of the margins," in which Ginsberg "detaches the idea of the classical from Greek and Latin material texts, and transposes it onto alternative texts and social identities" (77).

Similarly conscious engagement with canons—formation, transformation, and contestation—may be found throughout; e.g., in Jane Falk's chapter on Philip Whalen, paying attention to his involvement in Great Books curricula including the Humanities sequence at Reed College. As a final example, Gideon Nisbet's outstanding chapter on Kenneth Rexroth situates that poet's 1962 version of the Greek Anthology in "a long tradition of egregious and feckless garbling of the Anthology under the pretext of accommodating its authors to contemporary sensibility" (192). Noting that Rexroth himself disliked being identified with the Beats—"an entomologist is not a bug," he said (quoted 184)—Nisbet shows how Rexroth's version and indeed his practice of translation "as an act of imaginative recreation" (187) echo Beat poetics by hearkening back to Pound's description of H.D.'s version of material from the Anthology as 'imagism.' Nisbet's chapter could thus serve as a masterclass in the volume's overall very positive method of approaching classical-reception studies in ways that are adventurous in interpretation because they are philologically rigorous.

Particular subject-matter—and the culturally mythic status of the Beats—aside, then, a great value of the volume lies in how many of the chapters offer instructive demonstrations of method, paying detailed attention to the complex processes of transmission by which classical materials reached the Beats, and to the manifold ways individual Beat authors used them in turn. Not all of the chapters are as focused on processes of transmission; some indeed offer readings that are more purely comparative of form, mood, or theme, eschewing discussion of the given modern author's attested knowledge of ancient texts. I personally find such arguments less persuasive than those that adduce historical foundations including documentary evidence and other paratextual materials.

All told, however, Hip Sublime is a fascinating contribution to classical-reception studies. It has inspired me to think further about methods in the field, including the high value of crossover with other fields, and to reread well-known modern writing with new eyes; almost certainly I will assign chapters in future courses (e.g., Dickey's chapter in a course on underworlds, Johnson's and Pfaff's in a course on ancient lyric). For those reasons and as per discussion above, the volume is highly recommended.


1.   Readers may enjoy a small coincidence: I received the invitation to write this review while in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, a city that figures in Beat history (e.g., in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa, a university founded in a contemplative Buddhist tradition), in particular while at Innisfree, one of the country's very few bookstores dedicated to poetry.
2.   Rogers, Brett M. and Benjamin Eldon Stevens. 2015. "Introduction: The Past is an Undiscovered Country." in Classical Traditions in Science Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 10.

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Friday, September 28, 2018


Ioanna Karamanou, Euripides, Alexandros: Introduction, Text and Commentary. Texte und Kommentare, 57. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xv, 381; 11 p. of plates. ISBN 9783110534023. €109,95.

Reviewed by Martin Cropp, University of Calgary (

Version at BMCR home site


Alexandros is one of the best-known of Euripides' lost tragedies, thanks to a fair number of quotations and references in ancient authors, the extensive Strasbourg papyrus fragments published in 1922, and an almost complete papyrus hypothesis published in 1974. The relevant material was included by François Jouan and Herman Van Looy in Volume 8.1 of the Budé Euripides,1 in Richard Kannicht's magisterial edition of the Euripides fragments,2 and subsequently in my own brief edition (2004)3 and Lidia Di Giuseppe's monograph (2012).4 Ioanna Karamanou has published a number of preparatory studies over the last seven years and now provides a welcome full edition with commentary. Her extensive introduction discusses the legend and its dramatic treatments, Dramatis Personae, plot-structure, staging, the 'Trojan Trilogy' of 415 BCE (with suggestive comments on conections between Alexandros and Troades, first and third in the trilogy), the text (papyrus and book-fragments), and reflections of Euripides' play in ancient literature (Ennius, Lycophron, Ovid, Nero), modern performance (notably a recent reconstruction by David Stuttard for the London-based Actors of Dionysus), and the visual arts (chiefly Etruscan). This is followed by texts and English translations of the testimonia and fragments, a commentary running to 172 pages, the fragments of Ennius's Alexander (apparently adapted from Euripides' play), a thorough Bibliography, and two Indexes (General and Passages Discussed). Eleven colour plates show all of the papyrus fragments (at varying scales, mostly unspecified) and the earliest of twenty-two Etruscan mirror-backs depicting Paris menaced at an altar by a male and a female attacker. The book's traditional commentary format differs from that of Di Giuseppe's monograph, which wove the text-fragments into a sequential reconstruction of the play. Both formats have advantages and disadvantages, the traditional one allowing thorough philological discussions of the texts but sometimes obscuring the larger issues of reconstruction and interpretation in a profusion of tangential information and bibliographical references.

Karamanou has renumbered the fragments to accord with her reconstruction of the play, placing most of the text fragments in eight dramatic segments (frs. 1–21): a prologue probably spoken by a god and explaining the history of Paris's exposure, rescue and upbringing, and the commemorative games instituted by his royal parents; a parodos which included dialogue between the Chorus and the bereaved Hecuba and may have led to a dialogue between Hecuba and Cassandra (perhaps too confidently identified in the commentary on fr. 6, p. 166); an agon-episode in which Paris defended himself against his fellow-herdsmen's complaints about his hybristic behaviour and somehow persuaded Priam to allow him to compete in the games; a choral song about the nature of nobility (eugeneia); a report-scene in which Hecuba learned of Paris's victories at the games; a further episode in which Hector and Deiphobus debated their reactions to these victories and Deiphobus persuaded Hecuba to conspire with him in killing Paris; probably a brief choral interlude, then Paris arriving, lured into the palace, and fleeing out of it to take refuge at an altar visible to the audience; and a dénouement in which Paris was identified by his rustic foster-father and restored to the royal family despite Cassandra's mantic warnings that he would bring about the destruction of Troy. This reconstruction is generally orthodox and consistent with the hypothesis, but Karamanou reasonably questions the placing of some of the sententious fragments (F 49, 51, 55, 57, 59 Kannicht) in the trial scene and thinks they may rather come from the debate between Hector and Deiphobus, which she has identified as a formally structured agon;5 the fragments are printed here as incertae sedis (frs. 22–26: see below on fr. 26). Karamanou agrees with others in assigning Kannicht's F 61a and 54 (Nauck's 47 and 54) to the report of Paris's victories (frs. 16, 17 Karamanou) rather than his trial before Priam.

Four other fragments reasonably ascribed to Alexandros are printed here as probable, all involving Cassandra (fr. 29–32 = Eur. F 867 and Eur. Alex. F 62f–h Kannicht). Others conjecturally ascribed are discussed in the commentary as likely (Eur. F 937 Kn. μὴ κτεῖνε· τὸν ἱκέτην γὰρ οὐ θέμιϲ κτανεῖν) or merely possible (Eur. F 1082 Kn. Ζεὺϲ γὰρ κακὸν μὲν Τρωϲί…ταῦτ' ἐβούλευϲεν πατήρ, and the sententious Eur. F 958, 960, 976, 1068 Kn.) or unlikely (Eur. F 938 Kn. νῦν οὗν ἕκατι ῥημάτων κτενεῖτέ με;, TrGF adesp. F 71 μαρτύρομαι δὲ Ζηνὸϲ ἑρκείου, and adesp. F 721b–c, the Judgement of Paris mentioned in a papyrus commentary on an unidentified play). TrGF adesp. F 286 and F 289, probably from either Sophocles' or Euripides' Alexandros are discussed inconclusively but with a preference for Sophocles in the case of F 289. These discussions can be traced through the Index of Passages Discussed.

Karamanou has re-examined the papyri in Strasbourg and London and makes some minor adjustments to previously accepted readings, along with some plausible conjectural supplements (some published in her recent articles). I note fr. 7.i.2 (F 46a.2 Kn.) ]τάϲ[δε κηλητη]ρίουϲ, fr. 7.i.21 (46a.21 Kn.) προϲηυ]ξ̣άμην (accepting Janko's ]ξ̣ rather than ]κ̣), fr. 15.13 (61d.13 Kn.) Πρία̣μοϲ τίθηϲιν [ἆθλα, fr. 18b.ii.8 (62d.29 Kn.) ἴτω νυν αὖ δ]εῦρ' (ἴτω Kn.), fr. 18b.ii.9 (62d.30 Kn.) ὡϲ μήποτ' ε]ἰ̣δηιϲ (ε]ἰ̣δηιϲ Page, ϲὺ μήποτ' ε]ἰ̣δηιϲ Di Giuseppe, alii alia). In fr. 18a.i.8 (62a.8 Kn.) Karamanou argues persuasively in favour of replacing φόβω[ι with Collard–Cropp's φθόνω[ι. For the play's half-preserved opening line (fr. 1 = F 41a Kn.) she adds three conjectures to an already long list, of which the first is plausible (ἥκω Φρυγῶν γῆν], spoken by a god) but the third (Πριάμου δόμοϲ ὅδε]) is metrically inadmissible.6 Likewise Karamanou's ψυχῆϲ [ἐ]μαυτοῦ μὴ κατ̣α[φρόνει in fr. 18a.ii.11 (62b.32 Kn.).7

Some further details: p. 77, fr. 3 (43 Kn.) τὸ δὲ κοινὸν ἄχοϲ μετρίωϲ ἀλγεῖν ϲοφία μελετᾶι is not 'wisdom explores how to bear the pain etc.' but 'wisdom practises bearing etc.', i.e. wise people train themselves to bear grief patiently. p. 80, fr. 7.i.4 (46a.4 Kn.) with commentary p. 175: Karamanou reiterates her conjecture ϲυ̣[μβ]α̣λοιϲ ἔριν, relating this to her interpretation of the fragment as referring to the purificatory purpose of the funeral games;8 the phrase might then be part of a plea to the gods of the Underworld, or to the dead child, not to impose destructive strife on the land of Troy because of its pollution. This seems to me unlikely; the speech as whole seems to be addressed to Priam (in any case, the singular verb cannot be addressed to plural gods), and it is difficult to make anything of ]μ̣ν[. .]ο̣ immediately followed by ϲυ̣[μβ]α̣λοιϲ. p. 97, fr. 18a.i.15 (62a.15 Kn.) νέον φῦϲαι cannot mean 'to be young by nature' since the first aorist φῦϲαι is transitive. p. 99, fr. 18a.ii.3 (62b.24 Kn.) δο]ῦ̣λοι δ' ἂν ἤϲκουν̣ means 'while slaves would be practising' (imperfect tense), not 'while slaves would have practised'. p. 101, fr. 18a.ii.20 (62b.41 Kn.) ἔ̣ρ̣ξ̣ειϲ δ' ἃ λυπούμεϲθα: the relative clause means 'what is causing us distress', not 'what is to cause our distress'; so Karamanou's suggestion (p. 245) that Hecuba is here resisting Deiphobus's proposal to kill Paris is questionable. p. 113, fr. 26 (57 Kn.): Karamanou accepts τὸ δοῦλον οὐ λόγωι ἔχοντεϲ, ἀλλὰ τῆι τύχηι κεκτημένοι as meaning 'being slaves not in name but through circumstance', and argues that this is more likely to be Paris accusing Hecuba and Deiphobus as they attack him than from the trial scene as has often been supposed. But can 'having acquired slavery through circumstance (τύχηι)' imply 'adopting the ignoble attitude of a slave' (p. 277), and are Hecuba and Deiphobus really doing that? p. 117, fr. 29 (fr. inc. 867 K): 'But this woman is approaching being inspired by Phoebus' should be 'But here close by is this Phoebus-inspired woman'. pp. 136–7: the incompletely inscribed list of Euripides' plays in IG XIV 1152 = IGUR 1508 (the so-called Marmor Albanum, Karamanou's T 6) is slightly misrepresented. According to Pechstein's reconstruction,9 the complete list would have included 68 titles (i.e. 74 plays including duplicates such as Alkmeon) and would not have included the four plays (Pirithous, Rhadamanthys, Tennes and one satyr-play) which were included in the Alexandrian corpus of 78 plays but whose authenticity was disputed.

These are small points, of course, and do not detract from the value of Karamanou's work as a whole. It should become a prime resource for future studies of Alexandros.

The book is finely produced by De Gruyter and virtually error-free. I noticed only that the comparative numberings of Karamanou's frs. 21 and 27 are confused on pp. 109 and 112–3 (fr. 21 is 62 Kannicht, 39 Jouan–Van Looy as on the opposite page, and fr. 27 is 63 Kannicht, 42 Jouan–Van Looy).


1.   Euripide, Tome VIII, Fragments 1: Aigeus–Autolykos (Paris, 1998).
2.   Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, 5: Euripides (Göttingen, 2004). See BMCR 2006.05.23.
3.   In Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays, II: Philoctetes, Alexandros etc. (Oxford, 2004).
4.   Euripide: Alessandro (Lecce, 2012). See BMCR 2014.01.08.
5.   I. Karamanou, 'The Hektor–Deiphobus Agon in Euripides' Alexandros', ZPE 178 (2011), 35–47.
6.   δόμοϲ ὅδε gives a split 4th-element resolution of which the four Euripidean examples are all late and all involve prepositives. See M. Cropp and G. Fick, Resolutions and Chronology in Euripides (London, 1985), p. 42, type 4.4 (not 4.2c as Karamanou supposes).
7.   μὴ καταφρόνει gives a resolution which is both very rare (cf. Cropp–Fick above, p. 54, type 8.3b) and in this instance leads to a violation of Porson's bridge. Karamanou's translation of ψυχῆϲ [ἐ]μαυτοῦ as 'my own courage' (p. 101) is accordingly questionable.
8.   I. Karamanou, 'Allocating fr. 46a within the plot of Euripides' Alexandros', in P. Schubert (ed.), Actes du 26e Congrès International de Papyrologie, Genève, 16–21 août 2010 (Geneva, 2012), 399–405.
9.   N. Pechstein, Euripides Satyrographos: ein Kommentar zu den Euripideischen Satyrspielfragmenten (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1998), 29–34.

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Anastassios Ch. Antonaras, Glassware and Glassworking in Thessaloniki: 1st century BC - 6th century AD. Archaeopress Roman archaeology. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017. Pp. viii, 384; 70 p. of plates. ISBN 9781784916794. £65.00.

Reviewed by Janet Duncan Jones, Bucknell University (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This volume is far more than its title implies. Yes, it is a comprehensive study of the evidence for Roman and early Byzantine glass production from excavations in and around Thessaloniki and, yes, its focus on a rich body of material from northern Greece fills a major gap in the study of glass production in Greece in this period. But Antonaras, an archaeologist and curator at the Museum of Byzantine Culture at Thessaloniki, has produced more than the conventional regional study. Using a wealth of detail and a deep knowledge of his field, he both sets the industry at Thessaloniki into larger historical, economic, technological, social, and archaeological contexts, and sheds light on the nature of glass production across the Roman Empire.

I consulted this volume in my research on Roman glass when it appeared last year and I have found it invaluable. Normally, with a study like this, I would expect a relatively narrow regional discussion of finds and perhaps a useful comparison for my material here and there. I did not expect to discover the wealth of information and the level of detail about such topics as the uses of various types of glass vessels (Ch. 6), theories on their method of manufacture (Ch. 1), what their decoration says about them (Ch. 5), and how they found their way to the retail customer, how they were priced, and the social status of the workers who made them (Ch. 3). In this study, I keep finding doors that open onto a deeper sense of what glass production in the Roman and early Byzantine periods meant in terms of labor, manufacture, distribution, and the lived context of individual vessel types.

The work is divided into ten sections supplemented by a wealth of illustrations (both line drawings and color photographs) and a rich bibliography. The organization is clear and accessible with a detailed table of contents. In his introduction, Antonaras provides a helpful user's manual to the study together with a history of glass production before the Roman era. In Ch. 1, he discusses the processes of glass production for types considered in the study, both primary, i.e., producing glass out of raw materials (for which there is no evidence in Thessaloniki) and secondary, i.e., fashioning glass vessels. Here Antonaras includes a useful overview of workshop design, types of equipment, and furnace construction for both processes. In Ch. 2, he outlines the distribution of secondary glass workshops around the Roman Empire, details the evidence for at least four glassworking sites in and around Thessaloniki, and characterizes the products of each site.

Ch. 3 is a particularly illuminating discussion of what is known about the social position of the glassworker at this time, the place of glassworking in the context of craft production, and the development and economic context of the industry at Thessaloniki and in the Roman Empire broadly.

Ch. 4 provides detailed typological information about specific vessel types found at Thessaloniki, both locally manufactured and imported, including descriptions, likely methods, places and dates of manufacture, and comprehensive lists of comparanda. Ch. 5 offers similarly detailed information about the evolution and dating of the Thessaloniki material as well as the distribution of the decorative techniques found on it. Ch. 6 discusses the uses of various vessel types including valuable information about the practical aspects of different shapes and decorations. Ch. 7 provides an extremely helpful illustrated chronological overview of types, together with their relative frequencies at Thessaloniki over time.

Ch. 8 is the catalogue of finds (in type so small it is difficult to read), and Ch. 9 provides details of their archaeological contexts. The volume concludes with a glossary, concordance of registration and catalogue numbers, a comprehensive typological and chronological table, and line drawings and/or photographs of all catalogued finds. Last but not least is a detailed bibliography.

Portions of this volume will be relevant to general readers interested in ancient technology and the sociology of craft. Chapters on the uses of glass vessel types and the social status of craftsmen are enlightening and accessible. It would be difficult to overstate the usefulness of this study to the student of Roman and early Byzantine glass. Drawing on an extensive regional body of material, Antonaras has provided scholars with a trove of detail about glass production and trade in the late Roman and early Byzantine periods with an account that is not limited to northern Greece or to the eastern Mediterranean. Drawing on the local, he has painted an admirably broad picture of one of the most innovative industries of the Roman world.

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Monika Hinterhöller-Klein, Varietates topiorum: Perspektive und Raumerfassung in Landschafts- und Panoramabildern der römischen Wandmalerei vom 1. Jh. v. Chr. bis zum Ende der pompejanischen Stile. Wien: Phoibos Verlag, 2015. Pp. 583; 88 p. of plates. ISBN 9783851611168. €129.00.

Reviewed by Mantha Zarmakoupi, University of Pennsylvania (

Version at BMCR home site

[As the publication of the book was funded by the Austrian Science Fund, it is also available for download at: AOpen.]

Monika Hinterhöller-Klein's book is an important contribution to the field of landscape studies in antiquity. Based on the author's 2011-12 PhD thesis at the University of Salzburg, the book provides a very much needed overview, analysis and reconsideration of the perspectival representation of space in Roman wall-paintings featuring landscape and panoramas. By carefully assessing the ancient and modern terminology on the representation of space as well as the extant representations in the first century BCE and first century CE, the author provides a succinct overview of the conceptualization of space and its representation in the Roman period and the problems arising from the application of post-Renaissance theories of space in modern analyses.

The book is organized in three parts and is prefaced by a section that introduces the questions, purpose and methodology of the analysis. In the introduction, Hinterhöller-Klein tackles the terminological, theoretical and methodological premises of the study of space in the Roman period and explicates the ways in which modern theories of space and perspectival representation have affected our approach to the subject. Hinterhöller-Klein analyses Panofsky's interpretation of perspective as a symbolic form, on the basis of which much of the critique of Roman representation of space has been construed, to clarify that perspective is not a symbolic form and it does not meet the requirements of Cassirer's symbolic form.1 Perspective—understood as central perspective—is rather the product of a geometrical construction of space.

The first part lays the theoretical foundations of the study of landscape representation in the Roman period vis-à-vis the use of perspectival representation of space. Hinterhöller-Klein analyses the concepts of landscape (Landschaft) and landscape painting (Landschaftsbild) as expressed in Latin literature—and in particular in Vitruvius (7.5.10-22) and Pliny the Elder (NH 35.116-118)—to challenge the modern idea that a concept of landscape was lacking in antiquity. As Agnès Rouveret has shown, the use of the term topia by Vitruvius in combination with the term varietates points to the abstract nature of these landscape representations; and the two descriptions of Vitruvius and Pliny the Elder denote the miniaturized landscape paintings appearing in the late first century BCE and first century CE.2 Hinterhöller-Klein points out that the Latin terminology of landscape develops together with the representation of landscape in this period—as was the case in early modern Europe—and proceeds to analyse the terms of topographia and chorographia in relation to what may be termed as the cartographic representation of space as seen in the Nile mosaic of Palestrina as well as in the representations of space evidenced in triumphal processions. Hinterhöller-Klein systematically analyses the use of the term perspective in modern literature as well as the forms of perspectival representation, including the use of light and shadow, to define perspective as the forms of representation that generate for the viewer the impression of a three-dimensional object on a flat surface, whereby the spatiality and spatial relationship of the represented subjects is achieved in the representation of three-dimensional objects.

In the second part, which constitutes the largest part of the book, Hinterhöller-Klein provides a historical overview of the representation of landscape in the Roman period in which specific emphasis is given to the perspectival representation of space. This part is divided in two sections: the first one deals with the sacral-idyllic and Nilotic landscapes (II.1) and the second with the villa landscapes (II.2). Hinterhöller-Klein follows Rostovtzeff's categorization of the sacral-idyllic and villa landscapes as two distinct categories, on the basis of the types of setting featuring in them: one of inland scenes and the other of littoral scenes.3 Although Rostovtzeff fittingly classified the two main themes in the landscapes, his terms "sacral-idyllic" and "villa" are misleading because they suggest that the two kinds of representations portray sacred and profane natural settings, respectively.4 Rostovtzeff's categorization, however, has permeated scholarship on studies of landscape paintings.

The sacral-idyllic and Nilotic landscapes (part II.1) constitute the largest corpus of the surviving evidence for the representation of landscape in the Roman period, and Hinterhöller-Klein tackles the ways in which the representation of landscape developed from the middle of the 1st century BCE to the 2nd CE in this corpus. The Hellenistic/Alexandrian precedents are often discussed in modern assessments of this corpus,5 but there is no evidence to support this connection. Hinterhöller-Klein's analysis shows that the sacral-idyllic and Nilotic landscapes from the Second to the Fourth Style cannot be copies of Hellenistic/Alexandrian prototypes because there is no repetition of a specific composition, which would have supported the transfer of such prototypes through "Bilderbücher". The interest of Hellenistic culture in landscape themes and representations of nature, in both textual and visual media, during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE makes it plausible, however, that they provided a source of inspiration for the Roman wall-paintings that started appearing in the 1st century BCE, as part of an assimilation process of Hellenistic artistic expression. The sacral-idyllic and Nilotic landscapes are among the most popular subjects in Roman wall-paintings and the study of their function and context in the wall painting schemes of the Second through the Fourth Style makes clear that they mark a shift of taste in interior decoration. Hinterhöller-Klein discusses this shift of taste in relation to the concurrent emergence of landscape themes in Augustan poetry, with its stylized, bucolic themes. Life in the countryside is idealized and permeated with references to a Golden Age as well as to religion and rural cults. As in poetry, in sacral-idyllic landscape paintings as well, landscape becomes a metaphor. In these paintings, nature is idealized and does not appear as it is, but as it should be. The analysis of the perspectival representation of space in the sacral-idyllic landscapes shows that there is a variety of perspectival systems in use, including the suggestion of the reduction of space through an approximate central perspective construction. The development of the representation of space from the Second to the Fourth Style demonstrates a gradual but consistent acquisition of a painterly unity.

Hinterhöller-Klein examines the representative examples of sacral-idyllic landscape paintings from the Second Style (from the Villa of the Mysteries, Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale, Villa Oplontis A, the villa near Portici, Villa of the Papyri, House of Livia, Villa under the Farnesina, columbaria in the grounds of the Villa Doria Pamphili), Third Style (from Villa of the Quintilii, Villa at Boscotrecase) and Fourth Style (MN 9493, MN 9472, MN 9486, MN 9418, MN 9488, from Villa San Marco in Sabiae, Temple of Isis, House of the Pygmies, House of the Ephebe or of P. Cornelius Tages, House of the Ceii, House of Apollo and House of the Small Fountain in Pompeii) to clarify the ways by which this painterly unity is achieved. There is a reduction of panoramic representations in the sacral-idyllic and Nilotic landscapes of the Third Style, which can be explained by the linear and ornamental emphasis of the delicate wall painting schemes of this period. It should be also noted that the number of available representative examples is much smaller. In the Fourth Style, the number of sacral-idyllic representations increases significantly, the new subjects of villas and harbors are introduced, and there appears a broader spectrum of stylistic choices and color palette. Hinterhöller-Klein methodically and concisely analyses the images to demonstrate the ways in which, through a combination of perspectival constructions, the impression of spatial unity is suggested in them.

The villa landscapes (part II.2) appear in the late Third Style—the best examples are found on the north and south walls of tablinum h in the House of M. Lucretius Fronto in Pompeii—and are fully developed in the Fourth Style. Hinterhöller-Klein addresses the context in which these representations emerge—the life of otium in luxury villas in the countryside—and emphasizes that their appearance should be seen together with the development of the villa architecture and landscape. Hinterhöller-Klein explains the insertion of villa architecture in the representations of landscape in this period as a process of de-sacralization of the earlier sacral-idyllic landscape representations, and proceeds to analyze the architectural forms of the porticus that feature prominently in them (e.g. Π-form, Λ-form, Γ-form and circular). She considers both the architecture of the surviving villas and the contemporary descriptions of Pliny the Younger in his villa letters to underscore the relation between villa architecture and villa representation, as well as the importance of the life of otium in the conceptualization of the villa landscapes. Hinterhöller-Klein rightly stresses that the schematic depiction of villas in these representations suggests that they present idealized generic versions of villa architecture that one would have seen in Latium and Campania and are not realistic depictions of specific villas. The representations of prominent villa façades set in the landscape signify a new paradigm of refined, luxurious living in the countryside.6 Again, Hinterhöller-Klein systematically and succinctly examines the representative examples from the Third Style (MN 9482, MN 9406, from House of Marcus Lucretius Fronto) and Fourth Style (MN 9479, MN 111478, MN 9513, MN 9426 and MN 9411 [probably from the House of the Sailor in Pompeii], from the House of Venus in the shell, Temple of Isis, House of Menander, House of the Cithara Player, House of the Small Fountain in Pompeii and Villa San Marco in Stabiae) to explicate the use of perspective in them.

In the final part of the book (part III), Hinterhöller-Klein summarizes the results of her analysis of the modes of spatial representation in Roman landscapes. What becomes clear from her analysis of the representation of space from the Second through the Fourth Style is that, on the one hand, there is a greater painterly unity of space achieved in the Fourth Style and, on the other, there is no strict central perspective used but a variety of mixed perspective constructions. This variety of perspectival constructions succeeds in effectively representing the diversity of landscape painting—the varietates topiarum.

To conclude, this book is an invaluable contribution to the study of Roman landscape painting. Hinterhöller-Klein's thorough and insightful analysis does not only provide a careful methodology for the study of perspective in Roman landscape paintings but also tackles the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of modern misinterpretations of the representation of space in Greek and Roman antiquity.7


1.   See also: E. Alloa, "Could perspective ever be a symbolic form? Revisiting Panofsky with Cassirer". Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology 2:1, pp. 51-71, DOI: 10.1080/20539320.2015.11428459.
2.   A. Rouveret, "Pictos ediscere mundos. Perception et imaginaire du paysage dans la peinture hellénistique et romaine". Ktema: civilisations de l'Orient, de la Grèce et de Rome antiques 29 (2004) pp. 325-344.
3.   M. Rostowzew [Rostovtzeff], "Pompeianische Landschaften und römische Villen". Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 19, 1904, pp. 103–126; "Die hellenistisch-römische Architekturlandschaft". Römische Mitteilungen 26, 1911, pp. 1–186.
4.   P.W. Lehmann, Roman wall paintings from Boscoreale in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Monographs on archaeology and the fine arts 5. Cambridge MA: Archaeological Institute of America, 1953, pp. 163-164, n. 109. B. Bergmann, Varia topia architectural landscapes in Roman painting of the late Republic and early empire. PhD diss., Columbia University, pp. 57-69, 164-179.
5.   For example: J.-M. Croisille, Paysages dans la peinture romaine: aux origines d'un genre pictural. (Paris: Picard, 2010), pp. 26-28.
6.   See also: M. Zarmakoupi, Designing for luxury on the bay of Naples: Villas and landscapes (c. 100 BCE - 79 CE). Oxford Studies in ancient culture and representation. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) pp. 79-80.
7.   The numbering of the figures after fig. 309 is mistakenly referred to as "number -1", i.e. 308 for 309.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Peter Hunt, Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery. Malden: Wiley Blackwell, 2018. Pp. xv, 248. ISBN 9781405188067. $34.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Katharine P.D. Huemoeller, University of British Columbia (

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In Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery Peter Hunt delivers an introduction to classical slavery that will appeal to a wide range of readers. As Hunt intends, the book will function equally well as a textbook in courses on ancient slavery, social history, or comparative slavery, and as a reference work for historians working on slavery in other periods. It is difficult to produce a text that serves the needs of these distinct audiences, but Hunt does so successfully by using case studies that guide the reader through the methodology of studying ancient slavery.

Hunt begins with two introductory chapters. The first provides the necessary historical background, while the second, addressing the nature of our evidence for ancient slavery, lays the groundwork for the interpretative challenges that Hunt will return to throughout. The remainder of the book is organized thematically with chapters on enslavement, economics, politics, culture, sex and family life, manumission and ex-slaves, everyday conflict, revolts, representations, philosophy and law, and a concluding chapter on the decline and legacy of ancient slavery. In each thematic chapter Hunt provides an overview of the subject and discussion of methodological issues before moving onto detailed case studies from both the Classical Greek and Roman worlds. Sometimes these case studies allow for direct comparison between the two periods, as in Chapter 10 "Revolts" where Hunt explains why large-scale slave revolts occurred in Republican Rome, but not in Classical and Hellenistic Greece. At other times, the case studies cover different topics that fall under the same thematic umbrella. The Greek half of Chapter 5 "Politics" traces the concomitant growth of ancient slavery and democracy, while the Roman section examines the role of slaves and freedmen in the imperial government.

As is obvious from these examples, Hunt has selected his case studies to hit on major debates in the field rather than to provide even coverage of all topics. There are pluses and minuses to this choice. If the volume is used as a textbook, the instructor will need to fill in gaps. Chapter 4 on economics, for example, focuses on the demand for slaves, progressing from the definition of a slave society to the viability of slave labor to the slave trade. While it covers a great deal of ground, it nevertheless does not address the basic and important question of what types of labor slaves were performing. This information is readily available in the work, but it must be gleaned from scattered references throughout—there are 28 entries under "work, slaves" in the index—rather than from a comprehensive discussion. Fortunately, it is easy to find readings to fill any holes in Hunt's picture. Each chapter includes an up-to-date "Suggested Reading" section at the end, and many chapters are paralleled by more detailed accounts (one Greek, one Roman) in The Cambridge World History of Slavery: Volume 1, the Ancient Mediterranean World (Cambridge, 2011).

Even if supplemental resources will occasionally be required, the case study approach has much to offer. By delving into more specific, tangible examples, Hunt gives himself the space to engage with the complexity of the sources, and in doing so produces a more sophisticated guide to ancient slavery than one would expect from an introduction. For each question —from whether slaves retained their birth culture to the frequency of manumission—he first presents the available evidence and its challenges, and then walks the reader through multiple interpretations of the material. His voice is strongly present throughout as he directs readers to the interpretation he finds most compelling. He is not dogmatic, but rather gives the reader the sense that everything remains open to individual interpretation.

Hunt's deep engagement with the evidence should be effective for both intended audiences of his book. Historians and other advanced readers from outside the field will appreciate the focus on how we know what we know since, as Hunt explains, many of the types of primary sources used to study slavery in other periods are simply not available for antiquity. For undergraduate students, on the other hand, Hunt's skeptical approach to the evidence will be of pedagogical value. Through both explicit discussions of interpretative dangers and his own model analyses, Hunt provides training in reading primary sources.

In the "Suggested Reading" section of Chapter 1, Hunt notes that "there are a number of good general treatments of Greek and Roman slavery" (15) and lists the current options.1 He does not make a case for a new introduction to ancient slavery but I can make one for him from the perspective of an instructor looking for a textbook. Instructors employing a chronological approach or focusing on a single period will not find the book useful; the chapters are too integrated to be split into Greek and Roman sections. For a course organized thematically, though, Hunt's work offers a better alternative to the existing option for English-speaking students, Andreau and Descat's introduction to classical slavery, published in English translation in 2011. Both books focus on connections and contrasts between the Greek and Roman worlds, but the latter was already missing important scholarship at the time of its original publication in 2006.2 More significantly, a course on ancient slavery is necessarily a course on interpretation.3 Hunt drives this home, while Andreau and Descat are frequently uncritical of the evidence. Hunt's book is certainly, then, more effective as a companion to what is, anecdotally speaking, the most frequently assigned text for ancient slavery courses, Wiedemann's classic sourcebook. It would also pair well with a more general social history sourcebook for a course on non-elites in antiquity. Like Knapp's Invisible Romans (Cambridge, MA, 2011), Hunt captures the excitement (and difficulty) of learning about the lives of those on the margins of our record.

The book's correspondence with Wiedemann's sourcebook is a weakness as well as a strength. While striving to include a wider range of evidence, Hunt still replicates Wiedemann's emphasis on texts. Iconographic and archaeological materials receive far less attention in the body of the work and bibliography. The imbalance is clearly represented by the fact that there are only twelve figures, five of which are text; in comparison, Joshel's textbook for a similar audience has over seventy images. The shortage of images is all the more frustrating because when Hunt does include one, he makes the most of it. A runaway slave notice preserved on papyrus is not reproduced simply to add interest to the page (148). Instead Hunt carefully walks the reader through identifying the letters to make out the name of the fugitive slave Philippos, so that even those without a background in ancient languages get to experience the thrill of reading straight from the source. The name is also of analytical significance; Philippos, along with most of the other fugitive slaves attested in these documents, is male. Hunt speculates on the role of gender and family relationships in determining a slave's willingness to escape while directing the reader back to another image in the book, that of unchained women and children following chained men on the stele of a slave trader.

The book is well priced for students and available at an even lower price point as an e-text. I tested out the e-text platform and found it generally user-friendly though it contained errors not present in the print volume: some chapters are mistitled, there are no page numbers in the index, and under "Illustrations" one finds a list of maps but not figures.

The choice of this book over the existing options will likely come down to whether the instructor or reader prefers a chronological or thematic approach. I personally had intended to use a chronological approach for a course on ancient slavery that I will be teaching this fall. The greatest compliment that I can pay Hunt is that it he has convinced me that a thematic one, using his text, will be much more interesting.


1.   For Greek slavery: Yvon Garlan, Slavery in Ancient Greece (Ithaca, NY, 1988); N. R. E. Fisher, Slavery in Classical Greece (London, 1993); and David Lewis, Greek Slave Systems and Their Eastern Neighbors: A Comparative Study (Oxford, forthcoming). For Roman slavery: Keith Bradley, Slavery and Society at Rome (Cambridge, 1994) and Sandra R. Joshel, Slavery in the Roman World (Cambridge, 2010). For both Greek and Roman slavery: Thomas Wiedemann, Greek and Roman Slavery (London, 1988) and Jean Andreau and Raymond Descat, The Slave in Greece and Rome, trans. Marion Leopold (Madison, 2011). In addition to the above, I would add Catherine Hezser, Jewish Slavery in Antiquity (Oxford, 2005) and Jennifer A. Glancy Slavery in Early Christianity (Oxford, 2002), working with different bodies of evidence.
2.   Keith Bradley, review of The Slave in Greece and Rome, by Jean Andreau and Raymond Descat, translated by Marion Leopold, The Classical Review 63 (2013): 154-156.
3.   As shown so clearly by Niall McKeown, The Invention of Ancient Slavery? (London, 2007).

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Naomi A. Weiss, The Music of Tragedy: Performance and Imagination in Euripidean Theater. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018. Pp. xiii, 284. ISBN 9780520295902. $95.00.

Reviewed by Timothy J. Moore, Washington University in St. Louis (

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Full disclosure: I participated in a workshop co-organized by the author and have submitted an essay for an anticipated volume from the workshop that she is co-editing.

Weiss makes a persuasive case that the choruses of Euripides' late tragedies, often considered to have lost their importance in most of the playwrights' last works, make significant contributions to the plots and themes of Electra, Trojan Women, Helen, and Iphigenia in Aulis. They do so primarily through their abundant references to musical practice in general and to choral performance (choreia) in particular. Such references contribute to what Weiss calls "imaginative suggestion": allusions to other musical performances and to real and metaphorical choruses encourage the audience to associate the chorus itself with those performances and choruses. That association in turn sends messages relevant to the mythos of the plays.

In her introduction, Weiss establishes basic background: the importance of music to tragedy, the tendency of scholars to evaluate Euripides' late choruses as examples of New Music rather than as integral parts of the plays in which they appear, and the theoretical foundations of her concept of imaginative suggestion: Bruce Smith on the synthesis of imagination and reality in the music of Elizabethan theater,1 Albert Henrichs on "choral self-referentiality",2 and Anton Bierl on choruses and ritual.3

Chapter 1 reviews imaginative suggestion in Greek choruses before Euripides' late plays. Weiss sees the origin of the practice in archaic lyric—especially Alcman's First Partheneion—where spectators are often encouraged to identify choruses with chorus-like groups they describe, such as Muses, Nereids, and dolphins. Choral images like these are rare in Aeschylus, but he does show self-awareness and innovation in his music, notably in the ability of his choruses to cause things to happen (Choephori, Persae), to enact off-stage events (Supplices, Agamemnon, Septem) and to express their own actions through their performance (Edonians). Sophocles also avoids the associations surrounding choruses found in archaic lyric, except at Antigone 1146–52. His choruses also call attention to their own performance, however, notably in their songs of joy, in which they enact the music and dance they describe, providing ironic contrast to the disasters that follow (Ajax, Trachiniae). Euripides himself makes explicit references to music in Medea, Heracleidae, and Alcestis. The imaginative suggestion of Euripides' later plays thus builds upon metamusical features of earlier plays but is also an innovation within tragedy, combining the practices of archaic lyric with features of the New Music.

Electra, Weiss notes in chapter 2, is the earliest Euripidean tragedy in which music and dance play a central role. One effect of the play's attention to choreia is to call attention to the isolation of Electra. Before the chorus enters, she sings her own version of a parodos, focusing on her solitary mourning. Unlike the chorus of Eumenides, Electra's chorus does not join in Electra's lament. Instead, they invite Electra to join them in choral worship of Hera, but she refuses. When the chorus celebrates the death of Aegisthus in song, Electra responds in speech. The joint song of mourning near the end of the play includes no strophic responsion between Electra and the chorus, and the chorus has no role in the final dialogue. Meanwhile, the first and second stasima, often considered irrelevant to the plot, in fact make important thematic contributions. With their allusions to music and choruses, they lead from apparent escapism through ominous irony to explicit condemnation of Clytemnestra and prepare effectively for the ensuing murders. Weiss thus makes a very strong case that the chorus of Electra is far more than an excuse for Euripides to show off his mastery of New Music. I would add that the opening subjects of the first and second stasima—the Greek fleet on its way to Troy and the story of Thyestes and the golden fleece, respectively—make the chorus even more relevant than Weiss acknowledges. Weiss proposes that these choruses begin with escapism and lead gradually to present troubles. In fact, given the strong association between the Greek fleet and the sacrifice of Iphigeneia and between the fleece and the cursed House of Atreus, the chorus's escapism is ironic and ominous from the very beginning of both songs. The chorus thus follows the practice standard since the Oresteia of drawing attention to the continuing effects of past sins. They begin this Aeschylean approach in their very first spoken words: immediately after the parodos, this chorus (or its leader), like the chorus of Agamemnon and numerous choruses thereafter, blames Helen for Argos' troubles (213–14).

Electra, then, offers conspicuous choral images in contrast to the protagonist's refusal to participate in choreia and thus in civic life. In Trojan Women, Weiss argues in chapter 3, choruses and choral imagery paradoxically send a message of choral absence: with the fall of Troy, choreia has vanished. Hecuba and the chorus sing in the parodos of past choruses, drawing a conspicuous contrast with their current state. Cassandra sings a hymenaios, but she is like a maenad rather than a bride, and no chorus participates. The chorus' reference to "new songs" (512), assumed by Kranz to refer to Euripides' use of the New Music 4, in fact refers to the only kind of song left to the chorus after they have lost all the rituals of their city: lament. Finally, as the chorus leaves, "even lament is...abandoned as the women depart, so that the play ends on a bizarre and devastatingly bleak note of silence" (139). This chapter is especially strong, a welcome explanation of why this play, with its unusually static plot, manages to be so dramatically effective.

If Electra refuses to participate in choreia and Hecuba has no true choreia, Helen is, Weiss argues, the quintessential chorus leader, but she abandons her chorus in the course of Helen, as the play's choreia moves from lamentation to celebration. Numerous musical and choral images throughout the play's choruses (the nightingale, Sirens, a syrinx-playing crane, Nereids) help to ground its unusual plot in traditional choral genres like the the partheneion. Even the second stasimon, with its extensive excursus on the Great Mother's search for her daughter, has a direct bearing on the plot, as the chorus admonishes Helen to move away from lamentation. As a whole, this is Weiss's weakest chapter. Weiss never explains sufficiently just why Helen's position as a chorus leader is so important in a play so closely centered on a deception plot that scarcely involves the chorus, and some of the connections Weiss makes between the chorus's words and the plot seem strained. As in the other chapters, however, Weiss consistently offers insightful close readings of individual passages. Especially useful is her assessment of what she calls the "deserted chorus," not addressed in Helen's laments at 625ff., then silent for a remarkable 600 lines.

Iphigenia at Aulis, Weiss notes, moves from choreia to monody. The play includes a remarkable amount of choral song, but in the last scenes Iphigenia takes over the chorus's role as primary singer. The long discourse on the Greek army in the parodos is not just song for its own sake but provides a crucial backdrop for the play and establishes the chorus as spectators, leading to the powerful moment when they turn their gaze to Iphigenia at the end of the play. Later the chorus uses musical imagery to draw bucolic contrasts with the play's current brutality, as they sing of Paris playing the syrinx before his famous judgment (first stasimon) and of the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (third stasimon). Both apparent musical escapes, however, are ominous and ironic: Paris' judgment and his winning of Helen will lead ultimately to Iphigenia's death, and the elaborately musical hymenaios celebrating the wedding of Peleus and Thetis calls attention to the fact that Iphigenia will have no hymenaios. In this play from the end of his career, Weiss argues, Euripides combines most effectively the innovations of the New Music with traditional elements of Greek choral imagery. I would add that, yet again, a further aspect of Euripides' traditionalism here is his use of the chorus to introduce mythical background to current disasters.

Assessing Euripides' musical innovations in her conclusion, Weiss notes the unique ways in which the choruses of tragedy could engage Athenian spectators, many of whom had themselves participated in choreia. The "hypermimetic" nature of the choruses in these plays, shared by the choruses of Timotheus and other practitioners of the New Music, would trigger the audience's own experiences in choruses, through what Weiss, drawing on contemporary dance theory, calls "kinaesthetic empathy." Particularly powerful would be the moments of discomfort when the audience realizes that the pleasure it draws through its identification with the chorus jars with the horrors of the plot.

In a coda to her conclusion, Weiss considers Bacchae. Here the chorus is so closely aligned with Dionysus and the Dionysian that the "doubleness" of the other late plays, in which the audience is encouraged to ponder the chorus both as a character in the play and as a chorus of Athenians onstage, is absent. Nevertheless, as they recreate the kind of dithyrambic performance in which many members of the audience would have participated, they draw the audience in and implicate them in the downfall of Pentheus. This approach, Weiss argues, follows an older, Aeschylean model of tragedy. The juxtaposition of the posthumous plays Bacchae and Iphigenia at Aulis thus reveals the flexibility with which Euripides approached his late choruses.

Weiss's concept of imaginative suggestion serves her well, and it will be a useful tool for future analyses of both choral and individual song in Greece and Rome. Such future studies will want to refine some just how the concept works. Most of the examples of imaginative suggestion Weiss envisions—groups like Nereids as analogies for the chorus on stage, for example, and circular movements represented by the chorus' own movements—are thoroughly persuasive. Elsewhere, though, she stretches imaginative suggestion in more daring ways that could use some more theorizing. I wonder, for example, why choral descriptions of travel would, as Weiss suggests, "encourage an associational relationship between the choreuts' words and bodily movements" (56).

Also effective is Weiss's method of gleaning from musical allusions hints at actual musical practice. Weiss's thoughts about the choruses' numerous references to instrumental music are particularly intriguing. Often, she argues persuasively, such references allude to the auletes, playing and present in the orchestra. Weiss also has a number of very fine observations about the one aspect of musical performance that our texts reveal explicitly: the rhythmic patterns provided by meter. She notes, for example, the power of moves from anapests to lyrics (116), the reinforcement resolution provides to choral descriptions of running (87), and the potential thematic significance of metrical repetition between stasima (180). A wider and more systematic look at metrical patterns could enrich Weiss's analyses even further.

Weiss thus offers us a new way of seeing how choruses are central characters in Euripides' late plays, even when they seem at first glance far removed from what is going on around them. Her work is an excellent example of the current revolution in the study of ancient music, which is refuting definitively the facile assumption that tragedy's music in unknowable and therefore uninteresting.


1.   Smith, B. R., The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-Factor. (Chicago, 1999).
2.   Henrichs, A., "Why Should I Dance?: Choral Self-Referentiality in Greek Tragedy." Arion 3(1994–95):56–111.
3.   Bierl, Anton, Ritual and Performativity: The Chorus in Old Comedy. Trans. A. Hollmann. (Cambridge, MA, 2009).
4.   Kranz, W., Stasimon. Untersuchungen zu Form und Gehalt der griechischen Tragödie. (Berlin, 1933).

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H. A. G. Houghton (trans.), Fortunatianus of Aquileia. Commentary on the Gospels. Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum (CSEL). Extra seriem. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xxvi, 128. ISBN 9783110524208. €59,95. Contributors: Lukas J. Dorfbauer

Reviewed by D. H. Williams, Baylor University (

Version at BMCR home site


Students of fourth-century Latin writers have had to be content with three small excerpts from a larger commentary on Matthew (in CCSL 9.367-70) by Fortunatianus of Aquileia until now. In October 2012, Lukas J. Dorfbauer encountered an anonymous gospel commentary in Codex 17 of the Cologne Cathedral Library. Thought to have been copied in the Rhineland in the first third of the ninth century, this parchment codex consists of 103 pages written in a most Carolingian miniscule script. Dorfbauer recognized in the preface of the commentary the third extract, which was followed by a long list of chapter titles that corresponded to Jerome's description of Fortunatianus' work (Jerome, De viris illustribus 97).

This commentary not only covers Matthew but also includes portions of text from Luke (2-5) and copious comments on all of John 1 and as far as 2:11. There are gaps in the Matthew commentary, partly because of corruptions of the parchment and partly because patristic commentary did not yet regularly move consecutively, passage by passage. Nonetheless, it is striking that Fortunatianus saw fit to forgo comment on the Lord's Prayer, most of the Beatitudes and Jesus' transformation. As for Matthew 5-7, our author may have thought, along with Hilary of Poitiers in his commentary on Matthew, that there was no need to cover these, since Tertullian and Cyprian had done the job so thoroughly. Besides these gaps, most of chapter 16 is missing, as is all of 17. Matthew 22 is bypassed. The bulk of Matthew 27 is not treated, and the whole commentary ends at Matthew 27:51. Fortunatianus does not use the familiar chapters to divide the text; rather, the gospel is divided into 127 sections, and thus many of these are only a few sentences long.

Figural or allegorical exegesis predominates in the interpretation in a way that is similar to the extant passages of Victorinus of Poetovio. The over-arching concern in the author's understanding of Matthew is how the rest of the NT and the OT supply similar words or events or people. Scripture interprets Scripture. But of all the commentaries produced from the second to the fourth centuries, including the Pseudo-Cyprian texts, none are freer than or as colorful as Fortunatianus in the use of spiritual exegesis. Fortunatianus offers something like a principle at the beginning of his Matthew commentary: "the series of old scriptures pays attention to what is new, and whatever the Old Testament contains figuratively the new has fulfilled through the reason of truth" (p. 7). In actuality, the New Testament contains just as many figurative possibilities. Mountains, towns, boats, sheep and hens are figures of the church, as are some female figures such as Eve, the queen of Sheba, the girl raised from the dead in Matthew 9 and so on. The sea is the world; references to darkness, the desert, sterility, disease or misunderstanding are taken to represent Judaism. Figures of Christ are everywhere: the spring of water in Eden, a rock, the sun, a lion, a calf, both lambs and chickens offered as sacrifices, the flower on Aaron's staff and many others.

A delightful example of Fortunatianus' creativity is his treatment of the walnut—all in a single passage—which he says sprouted from Aaron's rod (not almonds) (Num. 17:6). The walnut has multiple levels of figurative meaning that the careful reader should seek out. Divided into its four sections, the walnut signifies the gospels, as well as being a figure of the cross; the taste of the walnut shows the passion of Christ while the "wood" of the walnut signifies the wood of the cross. Moreover, the walnut can be broken into two halves which reveal the two testaments, and the outside of the shell, which has bitter bark, represents the iniquity of the Jews (p. 35).

Lest the reader think that Fortunatianus makes only figurative comparisons, there are moments of stark literality. He remarks, for example, that Simeon's prophecy to Mary in the temple—"a sword will pass through your own soul" (Luke 2:35)—shows that Mary would perish by the sword (p. 13; 96). No other patristic commentator follows this track.

Fortunatianus is not an easy bishop to characterize, historically or theologically. He signed for Athanasius and Marcellus at Serdica (AD 343), but refused to do so at the council of Milan (AD 355). He must have signed the Homoian creed at Ariminum; however, Fortunatianus takes a clear pro-Nicene position in this commentary. One is justified is assuming that Fortunatianus was one of those bishops who subscribed at Ariminum but later took advantage of the repentance offered to western bishops which Eusebius of Vercelli brought back from the council of Alexandria (AD 363). That he finally adopted a pro-Nicene position is most clearly reflected in his statement about John 1: "the Son of God who is always God with God the Father." Fortunatianus does use "created" language to define the Son's generation, but this usage stems from his citation of Proverbs 8:22. In the end, the Son is our God while also true God from true God, true Son from the true Father, light from light, born of the unbegotten Father, not made (p. 103). Without his commentary, we would never have known that Jerome's indictment of Fortunatianus as an "Arian" tells only a part of this bishop's story.

Missing from what is an otherwise fine translation is any discussion of the dating of the work. Since two later pro-Nicene bishops used the commentary with no reservations, it can be assumed that Fortunatianus wrote it after his exoneration, which places it some time after the council of Alexandria in 362.

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