Sunday, October 14, 2018


Denis Michael Searby (ed.), Never the Twain Shall Meet? Latins and Greeks Learning from Each Other in Byzantium. Byzantinisches Archiv. Series Philosophica, 2. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. xi, 358. ISBN 9783110559583. €99,95.

Reviewed by Tia M. Kolbaba, Rutgers University (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Although the fifteen well-crafted chapters of Never the Twain Shall Meet? are diverse in both form and content, they share a foundation in the difficult, painstaking work of those who study translations from Latin to Greek in the late Byzantine period. Some of the authors participate in the Thomas de Aquino Byzantinus project, which is producing editions of the Byzantine Greek translations of Aquinas' works as well as editions of Byzantine authors who responded and reacted to Aquinas' thought. The chapters also contribute to the demolition of two ideas that have dominated discussion of Latins and Greeks for far too long. First, the authors demonstrate convincingly that there is no fundamental incompatibility between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic thought, in spite of common claims to the contrary that western, "Augustinian" theology cannot be reconciled with the thought of the Cappadocian Fathers and their successors in Byzantium. Second, the authors reveal a real dialogue between Greek and Latin theologians in the late Byzantine period that belies the widely assumed and often stated idea that some sort of methodological difference between Orthodox theology and Roman Catholic theology, especially after the development of Latin Scholasticism, rendered attempts at communication between the two sides an exercise in futility. There was, as Denis Searby puts it in his Foreword, "a dialogue, . . . that is, a genuine exchange of ideas and scholarship" (1).

Franz Tinnefeld's chapter, "Translations from Latin to Greek: A contribution to late Byzantine intellectual history" (9-19), is a concise and clear sketch of the history of the kind of translation that, implicitly or explicitly, provides the foundation for the later chapters. In the late Byzantine period (1261-1453), a relatively small number of translators sought out and translated important Latin Scholastic texts into Greek. As Tinnefeld notes, "The importance of their reception may to some extent be measured by the number of extant manuscript copies but to a much greater extent by the documented reaction of the readers" (17). Especially relevant to this volume, and important in general, are the fifteen treatises of Thomas Aquinas translated by Demetrios and Prochoros Kydones between 1354 and 1370, as noted in Marie-Hélène Blanchet's "The Two Byzantine Translations of Thomas Aquinas' De Rationibus Fidei: Remarks in view of their on-going editio princeps" (115-128). Blanchet's article, part of her continuing work on the Thomas de Aquino Byzantinus project, further demonstrates the intense interest in Aquinas' thought among Byzantine intellectuals. Other chapters also directly address issues of translation. Antoine Levy's chapter, "Translatable and Untranslatable Aquinas: The soft cosmological revolution of scholasticism's golden age and the rejection of Aquinas by the first Palamite circles" (63- 75), is a sophisticated discussion of how late Greek authors who read the works of Aquinas experienced "the Greek Fathers through lenses borrowed from the Latin World." For Aquinas himself had, of course, read the Greek Fathers in a Latin thought-world, a "transposition into the theological language of the West of the Greek sources" used by Byzantine theologians (64). The chapter by Michail Konstantinos-Rizos, "Prochoros Cydones' Translation of Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones disputatae de potentia and Quaestio disputata de spiritualibus creaturis" (259-274) is another notable contribution to our understanding of late Byzantine translations of Aquinas. Irini Balcoyiannopoulou unpacks George Scholarius' In 'De interpretatione' and demonstrates that most of it is a translation of Latin texts by Thomas Aquinas, Radulphus Brito, and others ("New Evidence on the Manuscript Tradition and on the Latin and Greek Background to George Scholarius' In 'De Interpretatione'," 93-113). John Demetracopoulos tells us how the same Scholarius could pass off a translation of a quaestio of Thomas Aquinas as his own sermon ("Scholarios' On Almsgiving, or How to Convert a Scholastic 'Quaestio' into a Sermon," 129-177).

In sum, late Byzantine intellectuals could not avoid—and indeed did not try to avoid—the developments in Latin theology and philosophy that became accessible to them through these translations. The rest of this volume of essays proves this conclusively, as scholars who work on Greek translations of Augustine, Aquinas, and others reveal a late medieval world in which everyone—from Greeks who eventually converted to the Roman Church to Greeks who resisted reunion of the churches—had to reckon with Latin Scholastic authors from Aquinas to Scotus.

The openness of Greeks to Scholastic thought may come as a surprise because it has long been a central tenet of theology courses that there are essential differences in substance between Greco-Slavic Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Generations of students have learned that there was an essential difference between Augustine's explanation of the persons and essence of the Trinity and the explanation of the Cappadocian Fathers; that Augustine's pessimistic anthropology, including his idea of Original Sin, was foreign to the eastern churches; and so on. As for Scholasticism and its most eminent representative, Thomas Aquinas, it was alleged that the Orthodox world reacted to Scholastic theology, especially to the use of Aristotelian philosophy, with horror and rejection. Marcus Plested's chapter, "Reconfiguring East and West in Byzantine and Modern Orthodox Theology" (21-45), elegantly sketches the history of these ideas, which are a product not of the Middle Ages but of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Orthodox theologians. Developed in the traumatic aftermath of the Russian Revolution and during the bipartite world order of the Cold War, the idea of a fundamental difference between eastern and western Christians resonated; the idea "made sense" of a contemporary solution, even if its historical roots were not deep. However, as Plested puts it, "The assumption of theological dichotomy between Christian East and West has long passed its sell-by date" (40). In the late 1990s Reinhard Flogaus and John Demetracopoulos demonstrated conclusively that the work of Gregorios Palamas, who was often held up as the quintessential theologian of the mystical and apophatic East, was deeply influenced by the writings of Augustine of Hippo, the allegedly quintessential representative of the overly rational West.

One of the longer articles in this volume, Christian W. Kappes, "Gregorios Palamas' Reception of Augustine's Doctrine of the Original Sin and Nicholas Kabasilas' Rejection of Aquinas' Maculism as the Background to Scholarios' Immaculism" (207-257), explicitly addresses the Augustinian influence on Palamas, suggesting that "Palamas cautiously (if unwittingly) adopted Augustine's legalistic language and his North African and (perhaps) Manichean associations surrounding human reproduction with infectious sin" (224). Many of the other articles, including some of those already mentioned, also analyze the reception of and reaction to philosophical ideas from the West: Pantelis Golitsis, "ἐσέντζια, ὀντότης, οὐσία. George Scholarios' philosophical understanding of Thomas Aquinas' De ente et essentia and his use of Armandus de Bellovisu's commentary" (179-196); Sergei Mariev, "Nature as instrumentum Dei: Some aspects of Bessarion's reception of Thomas Aquinas" (275-289); and Tikhon Alexander Pino, "Hylomorphism East and West: Thomas Aquinas and Mark of Ephesos on the Body-Soul Relationship" (291-307). These chapters show again and again that even some of the Orthodox churchmen who vehemently opposed reunion of the churches of Constantinople and Rome nevertheless expressed admiration for the ideas of Aquinas or some other Latin author, seeing them as expressions of a universal Christian tradition.

Panagiotis C. Athanasopoulos demonstrates that Mark Eugenicus, the most famous opponent of the church union of the Council of Florence, used arguments of Scotus to oppose arguments of Aquinas, revealing a deep knowledge of Greek translations of each. He also "developed his reasoning in the mode of a Scholastic quaestio" ("Bessarion of Nicaea vs. Mark Eugenicus," 77-91). Two chapters that may seem anomalous for reasons of chronology or geography still reinforce the general message, that there was no unbridgeable gap between Greek and Latin ways of thinking. Brian M. Jensen's "Hugo Eterianus and his Two Treatises in the Demetrius of Lampe Affair" (197-205) concerns a twelfth-century theological dispute, but reaches similar conclusions about the ability of Latins and Greeks to understand one another. John Monfasani's "George of Trebizond, Thomas Aquinas, and Latin Scholasticism" (47-61) concisely and convincingly destroys the artificial boundaries scholars have built not only between Greeks and Latins but also between Scholastics and humanists. Finally, on a perhaps less surprising but nonetheless interesting note, Georgios Steiris finds that even some of the late Byzantine authors who were most open to the West had no interest in or substantial knowledge of Arabic philosophy, in his chapter, "Pletho, Scholarios and Arabic Philosophy" (309-334).

This volume contains an abundance of information for specialists on late Byzantine thought or on theological dialogue between Latin and Greek churches. It also contains chapters—most notably those by Tinnefeld and Plested—that should be read by anyone who is interested in the history of interaction among the various branches of the Christian tradition.

Table of Contents

Denis M. Searby, "Foreword" – 1
Franz Tinnefeld, "Translations from Latin to Greek" – 9
Marcus Plested, "Reconfiguring East and West in Byzantine and Modern Orthodox Theology" – 21
John Monfasani, "George of Trebizond, Thomas Aquinas, and Latin Scholasticism" – 47
Antoine Levy, "Translatable and Untranslatable Aquinas" – 63
Panagiotis C. Athanasopoulos, "Bessarion of Nicaea vs. Mark Eugenicus" – 77
Irini Balcoyiannopoulou, "New Evidence on the Manuscript Tradition and on the Latin and Greek Background to George Scholarius' In 'De Interpretatione'" – 93
Marie-Hélène Blanchet, "The Two Byzantine Translations of Thomas Aquinas' De Rationibus Fidei" – 115
John A. Demetracopoulos, "Scholarios' On Almsgiving, or How to Convert a Scholastic 'Quaestio' into a Sermon" – 129
Pantelis Golitsis, "ἐσέντζια, ὀντότης, οὐσία. George Scholarios' philosophical understanding of Thomas Aquinas' De ente et essentia and His use of Armandus de Bellovisu's commentary" – 179 Brian M. Jensen, "Hugo Eterianus and His Two Treatises on the Demetrius of Lampe Affair" – 197
Christian W. Kappes, "Gregorios Palamas' Reception of Augustine's Doctrine of the Original Sin and Nicholas Kabasilas' Rejection of Aquinas' Maculism as the Background to Scholarios' Immaculism" – 207
Michail Konstantinos-Rizos, "Prochoros Cydones' Translation of Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones disputatae de potentia and Quaestio disputata de spiritualibus creaturis" – 259
Sergei Mariev, "Nature as instrumentum Dei. Some aspects of Bessarion's reception of Thomas Aquinas" – 275
Tikhon Alexander Pino, "Hylomorphism East and West" – 291
Georgios Steiris, "Pletho, Scholarios, and Arabic Philosophy" – 309
Selected Bibliography – 335
Index – 355
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Agnieszka Wojciechowska, From Amyrtaeus to Ptolemy. Egypt in the Fourth century B.C. Philippika 97. Wiesbaden: Harrossowitz Verlag, 2016. Pp. 172. ISBN 9783447106559. €48.00.

Reviewed by Roberto B. Gozzoli, Mahidol University International College (

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Table of Contents

This slim volume was initially a PhD dissertation submitted at the University of Wroclaw in 2008.1 The introduction explains that the monograph focuses on political history, coinage and architecture, as well as the importance of the fourth century BC, in order to update Kienitz' and Gyles' monographs.2 In fact, until recently, handbooks on ancient Egypt considered the first millennium BC in general as a decadent period and a poor relative to the New Kingdom, since foreign rulers governed over Egypt.3 The author hopes that the book will act as a bridge between Egyptologists, who conclude their histories with the last indigenous dynasties, and Classical scholars, who deal with Alexander and later periods. It should be noted that the monograph deals with the social and economic history of the country, while for political history it only gives chronological co-ordinates, and so some readers may be disappointed.

Four chapters make up the main text. The first chapter deals with chronology, focusing on dating methods for the period as well as synchronisations between Egyptian and Babylonian calendars (pp. 7-20). The dating of the conquest of Egypt by Artaxerxes III is the starting point for the backdating of the previous Egyptian rulers. Using the Letter to Philip II in Speusippus and Manetho's Aegyptiaca, which suggests that the Second Persian invasion happened in Artaxerxes III's Year 20, the author argues that the Egyptian conquest should date sometime between April 339 and March 338 BC (Artaxerxes III ruled from 359 BC) contrary to the usual dating of 343-342.4

The author notes that Manetho's Aegyptiaca and Demotic Chronicle remain the backbone of any historical reconstruction of the period between Amyrtaeus and Nectanebo. What the author fails to remark is that employing Manetho and Demotic Chronicle for any historical reconstruction is not without risks. In fact, Manetho's chronology is nothing more than a royal list with some added information. The Demotic Chronicle, by contrast,is a partisan view of Egyptian history. Therefore, while the former may be used for the chronology, with the due cautions due to its transmission history, the events narrated in the latter would need to be double-checked with an independent source if it existed.

The second chapter offers an historical summary of Egypt between the Twenty-Eighth and the Thirtieth Dynasty (pp. 21-72) and consists of chronologically arranged discussions of each Pharaoh following the same pattern: royal names and Pharaoh's kinship, then a list of documents of his reign, monuments and coinage. To distinguish Amyrtaeus from his namesake who rebelled with Inaros in 460 BC, Pharaoh Amyrtaeus is labelled as Amyrtaeus II in the book, though there is no Amyrtaeus I in Manetho's royal list or in any chronological table in modern books about ancient Egyptian history.5

The chapter continues with the last three reigns of the dynasty. Classical sources offer information about Nepherites I's reign. The author, however, notes that those sources are much later than the reign itself and so should be considered irrelevant.6 In what follows, Nectanebo I has the lion's share, which gives in detail family origins, internal and external policies, as well as his building activities. Apart from Tachos and his foreign campaign in the Levant, which led to the loss of his throne, Nectanebo II is the other Pharaoh receiving a detailed description. This part covers Nectanebo II's origins, the resistance against Artaxerxes III's invasion as well as the numerous documents and building activities of his reign. The Legend of Nectanebo, as well as the information from Greek sources, receive detailed treatment.7

Chapter three deals with the Second Persian Period and Khabbash (pp. 73-82). The conquest of Artaxerxes III is dated to 340 BC, and he is identified with the king mentioned in the Satrap stela.8 Discussion of the indigenous king Khabbash and his chronology follows. As for the identification of Khabbash with the king Kambasweden mentioned in the stela of the Nubian king Nastasen, the author justly rejects the identification, noting phonetic differences between the two names and the implausibility of an Egyptian ruler fighting for his life at home and trying to do a campaign into Nubia.

Chapter four (pp. 83-107) deals with Alexander the Great and his immediate successors, up to the early years of Ptolemy I. Alexander's voyage to Siwa, his interest in Egyptian religion and culture and his coronation comprise most of the narrative, concluding with his coronation at Memphis as presented in the Alexander Romance. While the Romance has a very low reputation for its historical exactitude, the author rightly notes that many Egyptian elements are present in it. The discussion of Ptolemy I focuses on the initial stages of his dominion over Egypt, the struggle with the other Diadochoi, and his internal policy, especially his diplomatic marriages.

A catalogue of buildings from the Twenty-Ninth and Thirtieth Dynasties until the early Ptolemy I's time (pp. 111-137) closes the study.

Some linguistic and bibliographic infelicities appear in the book. As the monograph is a translation from an original Polish dissertation, some Polish words are present (see for instance "oraz" (p. 5), instead of English "and", or "lat" (p. 11 chronological table), instead of "years"). Sometimes, citations in the main text follow the original French or English editions, but the final bibliography gives the Polish edition.9

The book is mostly a summary of the period and so not an update to Kienitz as stated in the introduction.10 In place of scholarly discussion, the book merely sketches hypotheses and ideas about chronology and political history, without giving reasons for accepting one hypothesis instead of another. As for sources, papyri could have been translated, at least for the part relevant to each reign. As the book has substantial parts devoted to lists of buildings and coinage dated to each reign, the addition of plans of buildings and drawings of coins would be helpful to give the reader a better idea of dimensions of buildings and coin designs, along with a proper discussion of building strategies and economic developments. In the last few decades, there has been the tendency in Egyptology to reject event-based history in favor of its cultural, economic or social variants.

The book under review tries to describe the major events of each reign, and at the same time giving some details about temple building, and changes within ancient Egyptian society of the period. Since it does not go deeply into details, I consider the book a good source only for preliminary information of the Twenty-eighth to Thirtieth Dynasties.


1.   The author has already published an edited book on the subject. See Grieb, Volker, Agnieszka Wojciechowska and Krzysztof Nawotka (eds.). Alexander the Great and Egypt: history, art, tradition, Philippika, 74. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014.
2.   See Kienitz, Friedrich Karl. Die politische Geschichte Ägyptens vom 7. bis zum 4. Jahrhundert vor der Zeitwende. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1953; and Gyles, Mary Francis, Pharaonic policies and administration, 663 to 323 B.C. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959.
3.   As also noted by the author, the major exception in the last forty years is Traunecker, Claude, "Essai sur l'histoire de la XXIXe dynastie". Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale, 79 (1979): 395–436. In the past decade, Wilkinson, Toby, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, London: Bloomsbury, 2010 , continues to repeat such negative views of the first millennium BC, despite researches by Leahy, Anthony, "The Libyan Period in Egypt. An Essay in Interpretation", Libyan Studies , 16 (1985), 51-65; Vittmann, Günther, Ägypten und die Fremden im ersten vorchristlichen Jahrtausend Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2003; Jansen-Winkeln, Karl, "Die Fremdherrschaft in Ägypten im 1. Jahrtausend v.Chr." Or 69 (2000), 1-20; and Perdu, Oliver and Meffre, Raphaële, Le crépuscule des pharaons. Chefs-d'œuvre des dernières dynasties égyptiennes, Bruxelles: Fonds Mercator, 2012, among others.
4.   Depuydt, Leo, "New Date for the Second Persian Conquest, End of Pharaonic and Manethonian Egypt: 340/39 B.C.E." Journal of Egyptian History, (3/2) 2010, 191 – 230, for the lower chronology. Moreno Garcia, Juan Carlo and Damien Agut, L'Egypte des pharaons: de Narmer, 3150 av. J.-C.-284 apr J.-C. Morangis: Editions Belin, 672-673, for instance, follow the "classical" dating.
5.   As the last documents of the Jewish colony of the Elephantine date to Amyrtaeus' times (p. 25), their full mention and bibliographic references only happen three pages later (p. 28), after a full discussion about the origins of the community as described in the Letter of Aristeas.
6.   Assmann, however, sees those later testimonies from the same cultural memory perspective as significant evidence for the perception of the reign in later periods. See Assmann, Jan, Cultural memory and early civilisation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
7.   Some more words about such elements, as well as how they show similarities to the Apocalyptic literature of the late Egyptian period would have been welcome. For the moment, I refer to Gozzoli, Roberto, The Writing of History in Ancient Egypt during the First Millennium BC (ca. 1080 BC-180 AD). Trends and Perspectives. London: Golden House Publications, 2009, 290-301.
8.   Such identification would have been worth a more extended discussion, as given for instance in Schäfer, Donata, Makedonische Pharaonen und hieroglyphische Stelen. Historische Untersuchungen zur Satrapenstele und verwandten Denkmälern. Leuven: Peeters, 2011.
9.   For instance, the author refers to Grimal 1988 in the introduction (p. 2), and the original edition is Grimal, Nicolas, Histoire de l'Egypte ancienne. Paris, Fayard, 1988. The bibliography (p. 144) instead gives its Polish version (Warsaw 2004).
10.   At the moment, a detailed and up to date study of the post-First Persian Period in ancient Egypt considering the period between the Twenty-eight and Thirtieth Dynastu is missing. For Alexander and the Ptolemies, I would still refer to Hölbl, Günther. A History of the Ptolemaic Empire. London: Routledge, 2001, and Huss, Werner. Ägypten in hellenistischer Zeit 332-30 v. Chr.. München: Beck, 2001.

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Carl A. Shaw, Euripides: Cyclops. A satyr play. Companions to Greek and Roman tragedy. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. Pp. xiv, 158. ISBN 9781474245791. $114.00.

Reviewed by Ian C. Storey, Trent University (

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Of the thirty-three surviving dramas by the Greek tragic poets, two, Euripides' Alcestis (438) and Cyclops, were produced in the fourth position, after the three tragedies performed in the competition at the City Dionysia. Normally this fourth play would be a satyr-drama, a light burlesque of stories from myth with a recurring chorus of satyrs and their 'father' Silenus as an actor in his own right. But Euripides' Alcestis, the fourth play in his entry in 438, has no satyrs for its chorus, nor is the comic figure of Silenus present. It is a curious play, set more in the world of traditional folk-tale than in that of the Olympians. It does have its comic moments, a scene with a drunken Heracles, and an ending of unexpected eucatastrophe, when Heracles wrestles Thanatos (Death) to win back the dead Alcestis. That leaves Cyclops as the only surviving satyr-drama, although we do have some papyrus remains of Aeschylus' Spectators (Theoroi) and Net-Haulers (Diktyolkoi) and around 400 lines of Sophokles' Trackers (Ichneutai).

Shaw distils his earlier study of the satyr-drama to suit the requirements of a Companion,1 and has provided an informative and commendable introduction to what for some may be an unfamiliar and peculiar form of drama. His analysis argues that Euripides, in what some may regard as 'a bit of dessert' to follow the meal of tragedy, lives up to the clever standard that we associate with his more serious tragedies. The monograph falls into four roughly equal sections: an overview of satyr-drama and Cyclops'place therein, a close-text reading of the play, a discussion of larger themes, and finally the play in its literary context.

In the first chapter (1–28) Shaw accepts, perhaps too uncritically, the familiar theory that the mysterious phrase 'nothing to do with Dionysus', cited by the Suda (o 806) and Zenobius (5.40), explains that satyr-drama was introduced to restore the presence of Dionysus in an art-form that had originated out of his rituals, but had turned to other subjects ('so that they would not appear to have forgotten the god' – Zenobius). This is a popular and pervasive reconstruction of the early history of Greek drama, but this explanation of 'nothing to do with Dionysus' has always seemed to me like a later scholiastic attempt to explain something that the commentators didn't really understand. Scott Farrington has pointed out that the Suda, Zenobius, and Olympiodorus do offer another explanation of the expression that came from a painting competition in Corinth.2 Shaw does list Scullion's article in his bibliography, 3 but does not take issue with three questions that Scullion poses: (1) with what god(s) elsewhere was drama associated, (2) if we did not know that drama at Athens was performed at the festival of Dionysus, would the extant plays allow us to draw that conclusion, and (3) was the location of the theatre beside the temple of Dionysus just a geographical convenience? I would add a fourth: do the extant dramas have any more to do with Dionysus than the Christmas pantomime with the birth of Christ? In other words, was Athenian drama primarily a religious event or a popular entertainment?

Shaw's second chapter (29–63) will be very much appreciated by instructors and students new to satyr-drama. He keeps the reader's attention focused firmly on the visual staging, especially scenery and costume, and on Euripides' subtle use of language. He accepts (30) a raised stage—but see Rehm's strong counter-argument here,4 and there is a minor error (30–1) in that the Odeion was located to the east of the seating, not to the west. For Shaw key terms to watch for are 'friendship', 'slavery', 'dancing', and 'hospitality' (xenia). Linguistic observations include Silenus' 'I know the andra' (line 104) as referring to opening word of the Odyssey, so that his comment means in essence. 'I've read the Odyssey'. Certainly Silenus knows the variant version of Odysseus' parentage (104), the satyrs know all about Helen and the fall of Troy, and even the Cyclops comments on the 'disgraceful expedition for one woman's sake' (280–4). The triple negative in line 120, 'no-one pays no attention to no-one' is a set-up for the 'Noman' joke, which is played out at length at 672–5. The encounter between human and Cyclops is no longer human-meets-monster, for both antagonists are well versed proponents of contemporary ethics and theology. At line 450 the chorus tell Odysseus that 'we have heard for a long time how clever (sophos) you are'. Sophos is not a word used in Homer, but it was very common in the social discourse of the late fifth century. Finally, the absence of wine on the island allows Euripides to portray the inebriation of the uninitiated Cyclops as his entry into the Dionysiac thiasos (57).

In his third chapter (65–85) Shaw identifies and explores the recurring themes of the play. These include the prominence of Dionysus, a development of his interpretation of 'nothing to do with Dionysus', a metatheatrical awareness of the religious and dramatic nature of satyr-drama, and the guest-host relationship in which the Cyclops ceases to be a horrific monster, becoming 'a gourmand and a philosopher', while Odysseus reveals himself as a 'cynical agnostic' (83). While Shaw quite rightly points out the frequent references to Dionysus and his rites in this play, I am not happy with his larger conclusion that this was a feature of satyr-drama generally. Dionysus is a character in Aeschylus' Spectators, but I can find nothing Dionysiac in the hundred lines from Net-Haulers and in Sophocles' Searchers there is only 'you cry aloud around the god' (F 314.227) and the god whom the chorus call 'our friend' is in fact Apollo (F 314.76). Granted that 'Dionysus as anti-hero' is a familiar figure in Old Comedy, the scholiast to Peace 740 records also that Eupolis 'created the starving Heracles, the cowardly Dionysus, the adulterous Zeus', to which we should add Hermes in his many roles. Dionysus is not the only god of importance in satyr-drama and comedy.

The final chapter (87–118) in a Companion usually addresses the intertextual connections of the play in question. As with Old Comedy, satyr-drama did not leave a legacy like that of tragedies about Medea or Oedipus or Iphigeneia, and any subsequent Cyclopes in modern monster-stories are more likely to have been inspired by the Homeric original. The relationship between Odyssey 9 and Cyclops becomes a metatextual one when at 375–6 Odysseus claims that what he has witnessed 'unbelievable things inside the cave, like mythoi and not the works of mortals'. Here he could have usefully cited Odyssey 11.362–9 where Alcinous declares that Odysseus' tale, which includes the encounter with the Cyclops, is not the work of a deceiver but 'you have told your mythos with the skill of a bard'. Shaw makes the attractive assumption that the deeds listed by Silenus in the prologue (lines 1–9) allude to previous satyr-dramas, rather than to the tales of the oral and visual traditions. He also finds reminiscences of the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, and the comic treatments by Epicharmus, Cratinus (Odysses) and Callias (Cyclopes).

With Shaw's discussion (109–16) of possible links to later tragedies such as Andromeda and Philoctetes, we encounter the thorny problem of the date of Cyclops. Shaw entertains two scenarios: 408 (Seaford, Marshall) and 412 (Wright).5 Much has depended on the similarity of the 'double-doored' cave between (Cyclops 707 and Philoctetes 19: with the later date the satyr-play responds to the tragedy, with the earlier one the reverse. But these attempts appear to start from one or two similarities, and a whole edifice is then based on a less than secure foundation. Arrowsmith used the similar blinding of Polyphemus (Cyclops) and Polymestor (Hecuba) to date the satyr-play to the mid-420s.6 My own preference is to look to the 430s, where Cratinus' Odysses (likely 439–7), Callias' Cyclopes (434) and Euripides' Philoctetes (431) belong. Cyclopswould fit well with the interaction between comedy and satyr-drama that Shaw sees as arising in the 430s (88–97). A strong argument against a later date is that 412 and even 408 are too close in time to the traumatic defeat of the Athenians at Syracuse. Shaw (83–5) argues that Cyclopsintentionally represents the events of 415–413 in miniature, but given the reaction of the proboulos 'be quiet, do not remind me', at Lysistrata 590 to her claim that 'women give birth and send their sons out as hoplites', I cannot see that setting an ostensibly humorous drama on the slopes of Mount Etna would be well received in the aftermath of the disaster in Sicily.

This final chapter could also have considered afterlife through production. This works well for comedies such as Peace and Lysistrata, where stagings can be closely connected to contemporary events and attitudes. The Archive of the Production of Greek & Roman Drama in Oxford ( lists fifty-eight productions of Cyclopssince 1868. Most of these were either performed in theatres in Greece or South Italy or in schools and colleges, but it would have been interesting to investigate how these were staged, for what audiences, and how the possible indecencies were avoided in school productions. In 2003 I did see an unusual production of Cyclopsat a conference on satyr-drama at Xavier University in Cincinnati (APGRD 10426), where the choristers were all women dressed like males to avoid unwanted attention, the Cyclops a multi-bodied monster, and the whole performance set at such a slow pace that an intermission was required for a play slightly over 700 lines long.7

To conclude, Shaw has done a first-rate job of making this unusual and unfamiliar drama accessible to students, instructors, actors and producers. He has managed to tease a great deal out of the language of the text and the possible impact of the staging, and he persuasively demonstrates how Euripides 'updates one of the most Homeric stories for the Athenian stage, rewriting an archaic myth to fit contemporary society' (118).


1.   Shaw, C.A. 2014. Satyric Play: The Evolution of Greek Comedy and Satyr Drama. Oxford.
2.   Farrington, S. 2017. Paper presented at CAMWS, April 2017.
3.   Scullion, S. 2002. '"Nothing to do with Dionysus": Tragedy Misconceived as Ritual'. CQ 52: 102–37.
4.   Rehm, R. 1988. 'The Staging of Suppliant Scenes'. GRBS 19: 263-307.
5.   Seaford, R. 1982. 'The Date of Euripides' Cyclops'. JHS 102: 161–72; Marshall, C. W. 2001. 'The Consequences of Dating the Cyclops,' in M. Joyal (ed.), In Altum: Seventy-Five Years of Classical Studies in Newfoundland. St John's NL: 225–41; Wright, M. 2006. 'Cyclops and the Euripidean Tetralogy'. PCPhS 51: 23–48.
6.   Arrowsmith, W. 1952. Euripides II. Chicago: 2–3.
7.   Harrison, G.W.M. (ed.) 2006. Satyr Drama: Tragedy at Play. Swansea: xi–xii.

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Friday, October 12, 2018


Ryan K. Balot, Sara Forsdyke, Edith Foster (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Thucydides. Oxford handbooks. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xvi, 773. ISBN 9780199340385. $150.00.

Reviewed by Antonios Rengakos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Man wird kaum fehlgehen, wenn man behauptet, daß Thukydides einer der aktuellsten antiken Autoren nach dem 2. Weltkrieg ist und daß seine Popularität und Autorität gerade in den drei letzten Dezennien nochmals stark gestiegen sind. Kaum eine internationale Krise wird nunmehr ohne Hinweis auf das Werk des Historikers und die z.T. sehr unterschiedlichen Lehren, die man daraus zu ziehen berechtigt zu sein glaubt, in ihren Gründen oder ihren zu erwartenden Folgen analysiert und „verstanden".1 Thukydides ist bekanntlich besonders in Amerikas öffentlichem Diskurs heutzutage omnipräsent, gilt er doch seit langem als der „Erfinder der Politikwissenschaft" und wird seine „Lehre" von den verschiedensten Vertretern der Theorie der Internationalen Beziehungen (den Realisten, den Neorealisten, den Konstruktivisten, den Neokonservativen etc.) ständig in Anspruch genommen.

Die skizzierte Thukydides-Rezeption liefert zu einem erheblichen Teil den Hintergrund, vor dem der Aufbau und die anvisierte Leserschaft des anzuzeigenden stattlichen Bandes verstanden wissen wollen. Er enthält insgesamt 40 Beiträge und ist in vier Abschnitte geteilt: der 1. ist Thukydides' Methode und seinen Ansichten über wichtige Themen oder Perioden des Peloponnesischen Krieges (z.B. die Frühgeschichte Griechenlands, die sog. Pentekontaetie, die athenische Arche und die zwischenstaatlichen Beziehungen, die Kriegsursachen, der Archidamische Krieg, der Nikias-Friede etc.) gewidmet, der 2. befaßt sich mit verschiedenen literarischen und rhetorischen Mitteln des Werkes (u.a. Aufbau, Stil, auktoriale Bemerkungen, direkte Reden, Personencharakterisierung), im 3. wird hauptsächlich nach Thukydides' Ansichten in einer großen Zahl von mehr oder weniger mit der Politikwissenschaft zusammenhängenden Themen gefragt, und im 4. geht es um Thukydides' geistiges Milieu und das Nachleben seines Werkes von Xenophon bis Prokopios. Die Themen und deren Behandlung in den Abschnitten 1, 2 und 4 sind eher traditionell und alle Beiträge wurden von Klassischen Philologen oder Althistorikern verfaßt; fast alle 13 Beiträge von Abschnitt 3 stammen von amerikanischen political-science- Spezialisten und stellen zweifellos die wichtigste Innovation des Handbuchs dar, besonders im Vergeich zum 2006 erschienenen Brill's Companion to Thucydides (vom Rezensenten und Antonis Tsakmakis herausgegeben). Die folgende Besprechung ist aus Raumgründen notwendigerweise selektiv. Ein Inhaltsverzeichnis folgt am Ende der Rezension.

Im 1. Abschnitt ragt zunächst der Beitrag von Hans van Wees hervor, in dem auf brillante Weise die Selektivität in der Behandlung der griechischen Frühgeschichte durch Thukydides in der sog. Archäologie demonstriert und das daraus entstandene verzerrte Bild mehrfach korrigiert wird; sein Fazit: „However impressive as an intellectual feat, as an account of events and developments before the Persian War, the Archaeology is highly selective and often misleading". Mit der Glaubwürdigkeit der thukydideischen Darstellung des Archidamischen Krieges befaßt sich Peter Hunt, und zwar aus doppelter Perspektive: anhand einer Reihe von in der Forschung besprochenen Fällen weist er auf, daß das vom Historiker Erzählte sich meistens als zutreffend erwiesen hat oder zumindest nicht widerlegt wurde, sooft es mit den wenigen außerthukydideischen Zeugnissen konfrontiert wurde, und daß auch seine Gewichtung verschiedener Faktoren (z.B. die Finanzen Athens, Seemacht vs. Landmacht, Heloten, Perikles' Kriegsplan) nachvollziehbar ist, was freilich vereinzelt Ungenauigkeiten oder sogar „Fehler" (z.B. in der Topographie von Pylos) nicht ausschließt. Emily Greenwood arbeitet (und zugleich beklagt) die athenozentrische Darstellung (die uns sehr selten einen Einblick in die Stimmungslage der etwa 52 an der Sizilischen Expedition beteiligten Volksstämme [nach 7.57ff.] erlaubt) heraus und betont zurecht die große spannungssteigernde Wirksamkeit des „war within the war" im Rahmen der Gesamthistorie. Einige der übrigen Beiträge dieses Abschnitts beschränken sich entweder auf die Darlegung von Bekanntem oder Selbstverständlichem (Ellen Millender, Eric Robinson) oder auf die kommentierte Nacherzählung des jeweiligen Historie-Teils (so Cinzia Bearzot für den Zeitraum von 421 bis 413 v.Chr. oder Andrew Wolpert für Buch VIII mit einem Ausblick auf Athens Niederlage von 404).

Abschnitt 2 vereinigt einige der besten Beiträge des Bandes. Hunter R. Rawlings III betont2 die Bedeutung und Mannigfaltigkeit der sinnstiftenden Strukturierung der Erzählung für Thukydides' historiographisches Urteil („The levels of structuring seem almost limitless in Thucydides' text, so artful is his rhetorical sophistication ... Thucydides eschews didactism, always preferring the implicit method, always making the reader do the work of choosing. Structure rules."); W. Robert Connor zeigt eindrucksvoll, wie Thukydides durch die verschiedenen Mittel des Ausbaus oder der Verdichtung der Erzählung (Reden, Dialoge, militärische Paränesen, emphatische Wiederaufnahme einer bereits fast vollendeten Darstellung, enargeia etc.) interpretatorische Zeichen setzt. Jeffrey Rusten analysiert sehr aufschlußreich die drei geläufigsten patterns im thukydideischen labyrinthartigen Periodenbau: die langen Sätze, in denen das Verb vorangestellt wird („the tree"), die charakteristisch thukydideischen langen Sätze, in denen das Verb an letzter Stelle steht („the funnel"), und schließlich diejenigen („diptych structures"), welche die ersten Satztypen kombinieren, indem sie ein Verb sowohl am Anfang als auch an deren Ende aufweisen (nach Rusten eine Erfindung des Thukydides). Rosaria Vignolo Munson zeigt durch eine ausgezeichnete Analyse von 2.14.2-15 (Theseus' synoikismos von Athen), daß die Ablehnung des Mythos bei Thukydides nicht absolut ist. Antonis Tsakmakis behandelt souverän eines der schwierigsten Probleme der Thukydides-Interpretation, die direkten Reden, ihre Funktion im Rahmen des Geschichtswerks und ihre Beziehung zur Wirklichkeit; zu Recht betont er, daß „Thucydides' speeches invite the reader to take a rather philosophical glance at the world" und daß die Frage nach ihrer Historizität wahrscheinlich zu verneinen ist: „what is, then, left from what was really said? Indeed very little is guaranteed...". Philip A. Stadter befaßt sich in einem sehr ausgewogenen Beitrag umfassend mit den verschiedenen Mitteln (z.B. direkte und indirekte Reden, Thukydides' persönliches Urteil, Partizipialsätze über die Motive und Gefühle der handelnden Personen etc.), die der individuellen Charakteristik der Protagonisten (Perikles, Kleon, Nikias, Alkibiades, Brasidas) dienen, und zieht die richtige Schlußfolgerung, daß die Charakteristik der Personen einen wesentlichen Bestandteil der thukydideischen Historiographie darstellt, die ja als Hilfe zum Verständnis der menschlichen Natur und der menschlichen Handlungen gedacht ist (1.22.4).

Gegen viele der im Abschnitt 3 zusammengestellten Beiträge, die, wie gesagt, zum großen Teil von amerikanischen Politikwissenschaftlern stammen, lassen sich aus der Sicht eines Klassischen Philologen zwei grundsätzliche Einwände erheben. Zum einen ist es wahrlich verblüffend, wie leicht (um nicht zu sagen leicht-fertig) Thukydides' eigene Meinung zu den verschiedensten Themen erschlossen wird und wie selbstverständlich diese besonders mit Aussagen verschiedener Redner identifiziert wird: besonders die Athenerrede in Sparta (1.73-78), die drei Periklesreden (bes. der Epitaphios), die Rede des Diodotos (3.42-48), der Melierdialog, die Reden des Alkibiades (6.16-18) und des Euphemos (6.82-87) dienen als Schatzhaus „thukydideischer" „Lehren", „Gnomen", Ansichten etc. Daß die Forschung der letzten Jahrzehnte aber gezeigt hat, wie vielschichtig Thukydides'Historie und wie problematisch die univoke Lesung dieses vielfältig interpretierbaren Textes sind, scheint die political scientists grundsätzlich nicht zu bekümmern. Zum anderen ist es evident, daß etliche Autoren dieses Abschnitts ihre Thukydideskenntnisse hauptsächlich aus diversen Übersetzungen (Crawley, Warner, Lattimore, Smith, Mynott) schöpfen; ob etwas derartiges bei einem der schwierigsten griechischen Texten ratsam ist, ist sehr stark zu bezweifeln. Hervorgehoben seien trotzdem aus diesem Abschnitt S. N. Jaffes durch akribische Textinterpretationen gewonnenes Bild der verschiedenen Regierungsformen („the regimes of the one, of the few, and the many") und ihre Beurteilung durch Thukydides, sowie Victoria Wohls klare Behandlung der zentralen Rolle, welche die politischen Leidenschaften und die Gefühle in der Darstellung des Krieges spielen.

Mit Abschnitt 4 kehren wir auf festeren (und zugleich traditionelleren) Boden zurück. Rosalind Thomas zeigt souverän anhand von Einzelbeispielen auf, daß Thukydides in einem aktiven Dialog mit den Autoren der frühen hippokratischen Schriften und den Sophisten stand; Tobias Joho analysiert die vielfältigen Erzähltechniken, die Thukydides und der homerischen Dichtung gemeinsam sind; Jeffrey Henderson bietet einen klaren Überblick über Gemeinsamkeiten und Differenzen in der Darstellung des Krieges (Einheit, Ursachen, Sizilische Expedition etc.) und seiner Protagonisten (Perikles, Kleon, Demos etc.) zwischen Thukydides und der Alten Komödie; Nicolas Wiater informiert umfassend über das vielbehandelte Thema des thukydideischen Einflusses auf Polybios und Sallust. Die Darstellung der antiken Thukydides- Rezeption endet leider mit einem eher enttäuschenden, weil zu oberflächlichen, Beitrag von Conor Whately zu Prokop und (sehr beiläufig) anderen frühbyzantinischen Historikern.3

Die größtenteils hohe Qualität seiner Beiträge wird das Handbuch zweifellos zur Pflichtlektüre der Thukydidesforschung machen; zugleich wird es auch die (besonders jenseits des Atlantiks herrschende) Thukydidomanie befriedigen, auch wenn dies auf eine für die Philologen nicht immer nachvollziehbare Weise erreicht wird. Daß aber dadurch Thukydides geholfen wird, in aller Munde zu bleiben, ist gewiß ein großer Gewinn.


Introduction, p. 1
Section I : Thucydides as Historian
Sarah Forsdyke, "Thucydides Historical Method", p. 19
Hans van Wees, "Thucydides on Early Greek History", p. 39
Lisa Kallet, "The Pentecontaetia", p. 63
Ellen G. Millander, "Sparta and the Crisis of the Peloponnesian League in Thucydides' History", p. 81
Polly Low, "Thucydides on the Athenian Empire and Interstate Relations (431-404)", p. 99
Eric W. Robinson, "Thucydides on the Causes and Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War", p. 115
Peter Hunt, "Thucydides on the First Ten Years of War (Archidamian War)", p. 125
Cinzia Bearzot, "Mantinea, Decelea, and the Interwar Years (421-413 BCE)", p. 145
Emily Greenwood, "Thucydides on the Sicilian Expedition", p. 161
Andrew Wolpert, "Thucydides on the Four Hundred and the Fall of Athens", p. 179
Section II : Thucydidean Historiography
Hunter R. Rawlings III, "Writing History Implicitly through Refined Structuring", p. 195
W. Robert Connnor, "Scale Matters: Compression, Expansion, and Vividness in Thucydides", p. 211
Jeffrey Rusten, "The Tree, the Funnel, and the Diptych: Some Patterns in Thucydides' Longest Sentences", p. 225
Mathieu de Bakker, "Authorial Comments in Thucydides", p. 239
Rosaria Vignolo Munson, "Thucydides and Myth: A Complex Relation to Past and Present", p. 257
Antonis Tsakmakis, "Speeches", p. 267
Philip A. Stadter, "Characterization of Individuals in Thucydides' History", p. 283
Edith Foster, "Campaign and Battle Narratives in Thucydides", p. 301
Section III : Thucydides and Political Theory
Ryan K. Balot, "Was Thucydides a Political Philosopher?", p. 319
Arlene W. Saxonhouse, "Kinesis, Navies, and the Power Trap in Thucydides", p. 339
Clifford Orwin, "Thucydides on Nature and Human Conduct", p. 355
Mark Fisher – Kinch Hoekstra, "Thucydides and the Politics of Necessity", p. 373
S. N. Jaffe, "The Regime (Politeia) in Thucydides", p. 391
Michael Palmer, "Stasis in the War Narrative", p. 409
Paul A. Rahe, "Religion, Politics, and Piety", p. 427
Victoria Wohl, "Thucydides on the Political Passions", p. 443
Mary P. Nichols, "Leaders and Leadership in Thucydides' History", p. 459
John Zumbrunnen, "Thucydides and Crowds", p. 475
Arthur M. Eckstein, "Thucydides, International Law, and International Anarchy", p. 491
Paul Ludwig, "Xenophon as a Socratic Reader of Thucydides", p. 515
Gerald Mara, "Political Philosophy in an Unstable World: Comparing Thucydides and Plato on the Possibilities of Politics", p. 531
Section IV : Contexts and Ancient Reception of Thucydidean Historiography
Leone Porciani, "Thucydides' Predecessors and Contemporaries in Historical Poetry and Prose", p. 551
Rosalind Thomas, "Thucydides and His Intellectual Milieu", p. 567
Tobias Joho, "Thucydides, Epic, and Tragedy", p. 587
Jeffrey Henderson, "Thucydides and Attic Comedy", p. 605
Vivienne J. Gray, "Thucydides and His Continuators", p. 621
Casper C. de Jonge, "Dionysius of Halicarnassus on Thucydides", p. 641
Nicolas Wiater, "Polybius and Sallust", p. 659
Cynthia Damon, "Writing with Posterity in Mind: Thucydides and Tacitus on Secession", p. 677
Conor Whately, "Thucydides, Procopius, and the Historians of the Later Roman Empire", p. 691


1.   Einige Beispiele in rückblickender Folge: der Begriff der „Thukydides-Falle" (Thukydides' Anayse der „im tiefsten Sinn wahren Ursache" des Peloponnesischen Krieges) bringt nach Graham Allison (Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?, Boston; New York 2017) die Gefahren der amerikanisch-chinesischen Spannungen (Sparta vs. Athen) zum Ausdruck, der Melierdialog dient dem ehemaligen griechischen Finanzminister Yanis Varoufakis zum Sinnbild für den Umgang des übermächtigen Internationalen Währungsfonds (und des ebenfalls selbstherrlichen Eurogroup der Finanzminister der Euro-Staaten) mit dem schwachen Griechenland (Athen vs. Melos), (And the Weak Suffer What They Must?, New York 2016), die athenischen Demagogen (allen voran Kleon) liefern den Prototyp für Donald Trump, der Umgang Athens mit seinen Verbündeten im thukydideischen Werk (Melierdialog, Mytilene-Debatte, Naxos, Thasos) wird in den Brexit-Debatten heraufbeschworen usw.
2.   Im Anschluß an sein bahnbrechendes Buch The Structure of Thucydides' History (Princeton 1981).
3.   Es sei ausdrücklich auf den ausgezeichneten Beitrag von D. Reinsch, „Byzantine Adaptations of Thucydides" in Brill's Companion hingewiesen (den Whately nicht einmal erwähnt). Für die spätere Thukydides-Rezeption vgl. K. Meister, Thukydides als Vorbild der Historiker. Von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (Paderborn 2013) und Chr. Lee & N. Morley, A Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides (Malden, MA 2015).

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Fran O'Rourke, Aristotelian Interpretations. Sallins: Irish Academic Press, 2016. Pp. vii, 366. ISBN 9781911024231. $32.69.

Reviewed by Angela Curran, Kansas State University (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Fran O'Rourke, a professor at University College, Dublin, writes on a wide range of topics in Aristotle. This collection brings together ten of O'Rourke's essays, previously published between 2003 and 20015. The volume begins with a personal introduction written for this volume in which O'Rourke reflects on his life growing up in on the Western coast of Ireland and how this upbringing instilled in him a love of philosophy and Aristotle, in particular. The collection ends with a fascinating discussion of the James Joyce-Aristotle connection. The chapters in between engage in a lucid and insightful manner on a host of themes in Aristotle ranging from metaphysics, poetics, ethics, politics, and science.

With a volume of previously published work, there is always the danger that an author will bring together essays with no common thread solely for the sake of making his or her work available to a broader audience. Fortunately, with this volume, O'Rourke has chosen essays with, broadly speaking, a common theme. "Each essay is in one way or another motivated by the attitude of marvel that Aristotle recognized as the wellspring of philosophy, which he himself conveys frequently in his writings" (p. 21). As O'Rourke reads Aristotle, wonder or marvel (O'Rourke uses "wonder" and "marvel" interchangeably as translations of "thauma") is "especially revealing of human knowledge and inquiry" (p. 31). By this, O'Rourke seems to mean that the attitude of wonder, which is "the reflective admiration of that which we know but do not fully comprehend," is the impetus for knowledge (epistēmē) and is even an 'incipient knowledge' (gnosis)." For when we marvel at things in nature we become aware that what we are immediately acquainted with surpasses our understanding (p. 31). O'Rourke says that Aristotle's phrase from the Parts of Animals, "all things are marvelous," could serve as the motto for the volume. For, as O'Rourke reads Aristotle, the wondrous or marvelous is for Aristotle the motivating factor behind all areas of inquiry, whether they are philosophical or artistic, ethical or scientific (p. 39).

The view that Aristotle thinks that poetry is a source of knowledge is a strong focus of much contemporary analysis of the Poetics. O'Rourke contributes to this debate in three chapters in the first part of the book (Chapters 1, "Wonder and Universality, Philosophy and Poetry in Aristotle," 2, "Philosophy and Poetry in Aristotle: Interpreting and Imitating Nature" and 5, "Aristotle and the Metaphysics of Metaphor"), by discussing the role that wonder plays not only in the origins of philosophy but also in poetry. The first two chapters examine the role that wonder and a desire to understand play in explaining the shared work of philosophy and poetry. Both activities share a common origin in the lived experiences of human beings. The desire to understand more fully the items in one's experiences is the impetus for human beings to do philosophy and to make and appreciate poetry. The best poetic plots "jar and jolt" the viewer's categories of experience by presenting a series of incidents that are unforeseen, yet shown upon reflection to follow one another, by necessity or probability (p. 35).

In Chapter 5, O'Rourke offers an insightful discussion of metaphor's power to evoke marvel and astonishment. Indeed this chapter is the best illustration of what O'Rourke calls Aristotle's "metaphysical" approach to knowledge and inquiry, which is a consistent theme throughout the book. Metaphors make use of analogical reasoning. A good metaphor (for instance, an old man is a "withered stalk") encourages the listener or reader to search out the common notion that unites two terms (Rhetoric 3.10, 1410b18). O'Rourke sees Aristotle as a forerunner of cognitive accounts of metaphor, which stresses the role of metaphor as a tool to discover "likeness in unlikeness" (p. 116) by jolting the mind with the surprise of recognition (p. 115). Thus, O'Rourke sees metaphor as a prime illustration of the metaphysical nature of a human being's knowledge, even in an everyday context. For in grasping the similarity introduced by the metaphor, the listener goes beyond the confines of immediate experience and moves closer to the metaphysician's understanding of the similarity between all beings as beings (p. 118).

Chapter 3 looks at Aristotle's views on what we can know about human nature. Humans occupy a special role in the natural world as beings possessing logos, reason. The capacity for reason distinguishes humans from all other animals (p. 59). O'Rourke's examination of knowledge in Aristotle leads him to a wide-ranging and interesting discussion of Aristotle's hylomorphism to explain the relation between body and soul. The problem is that Aristotle also thinks that a human being's nature contains an element of divinity (p. 84). O'Rourke concludes that the divine and immortal aspect of a human being ultimately threatens Aristotle's views on the unity of individual human beings as hylomorphic composites of form and matter, and points to the idea that, "the destiny of Aristotle's man lies beyond his natural state, and is in some sense beyond his control" (p. 84).

Chapter 4, "Knowledge and Necessity in Aristotle," examines the metaphysical foundations of Aristotle's empiricism. While all knowledge begins with sense experience, understanding is ultimately anchored in a principle that governs truth, the principle of non-contradiction. O'Rourke explores a significant difference between Aristotle and modern empiricists: scientific knowledge is not only universal in scope, but necessary in character, and made possible through explanations of the ultimate causes of primary substances, fixed natural kinds that are ultimately understandable through their final causes (p. 96). Thus, Aristotle's essentialism is the foundation of his epistemology.

O'Rourke considers the often-raised objection to Aristotelian essentialism that not all human beings have the capacity for rationality, for instance, mentally impaired human beings. He maintains that Aristotle can respond by saying that the "necessity" of humans' being rational animals is "hypothetical": what is necessarily the case is not that all human beings are rational, but that necessarily, given the adequate and proper circumstances, all humans acquire rationality, as "an acorn will become an oak tree" (p. 96). "Attainment of an individual's final immanent purpose is dependent upon the natural conditions being present for its development; this occurs, not by necessity, but for the most part" (p. 96). By extension, a baby human being will become a rational animal, given the appropriate conditions.

O'Rourke continues with a discussion of Aristotle's essentialism in Chapter 6, "Aristotle's Political Anthropology," which is a fascinating discussion of what is involved in Aristotle's definition of a human being as a political animal. One central problem concerns how to reconcile the idea that the individual depends on political association to flourish with Aristotle's view that the best sort of life described in Nicomachean Ethics Book 10 consists life of contemplation (theōria). O'Rourke addresses this problem by understanding the claim that a human being is a rational animal as a claim about essence. The essence of a human being involves logos, the capacity to reason and communicate (1253a10). Logos, so understood, can only be fulfilled within a community (p. 142). We need to be part of a polis, then, to develop and exercise the natural and distinctive capacities for discriminating right from wrong and communicating through language. While humans are happiest when contemplating, they nevertheless achieve what is most distinctive about their nature when they participate in the shared life of political association (p. 143).

Chapter 7, "The Metaphysics of Evolution," is a carefully argued essay that is grounded in a close reading of Aristotle's work as well as a familiarity with contemporary criticisms of Aristotle. The chapter addresses the important question whether Aristotle's doctrine of substantial form necessarily excludes evolution. This question is of interest because contemporary critics who maintain that his ideas rest on an outmoded view of biology have dismissed Aristotle's metaphysics and his theory of scientific explanation. O'Rourke argues that Aristotle would not accept evolution because of his doctrine of the fixity of the species (p. 173). However, O'Rourke argues that Aristotle's notion of form, "construed as the power of constructing new individuals of that form" (p. 172) is compatible with evolution. Heredity is determined at the genetic level, and genes have form (eidos), even if this form is also open to mutation (p. 174). Aristotle's insight about form as the principle that explains the growth and development of an individual can then be seen in modern discussions of genetic form. O'Rourke concludes: "the principles of his metaphysics acquire new verification and relevance" (p. 174).

Chapter 8, "Evolutionary Ethics: A Metaphysical Evaluation" and Chapter Nine, "Aristotle and Evolutionary Altruism" present O'Rourke's view on how Aristotle would respond to contemporary sociobiological discussions of evolutionary ethics. These approaches, such as those found in E. O. Wilson, argue that we are ethical because being so is fitness-enhancing for the species. O'Rourke concludes that Aristotle would reject such an approach to ethics. Aristotle's ethics offers us reasons why we should want to be moral: being ethical is what makes possible human happiness and flourishing (p. 195). Aristotle's approach would be pointless if biology is destiny. Ultimately, according to O'Rourke, sociobiological approaches to ethics fail because they do not come to terms with the nature of a human being as a rational being that chooses to fulfill that nature through individual actions that express universal as well as personal values (p. 197).

One topic for further debate concerns O'Rourke's claim that wonder and understanding occupy similar roles in Aristotle's Metaphysics and Poetics. This claim is an essential aspect of O'Rourke's cognitive reading of the Poetics, according to which poetry is the source of knowledge about human affairs. Jonathan Lear, a skeptic about the cognitive view, thinks that the relationship between wonder and understanding in the Poetics is the opposite of that presented in the Metaphysics (Lear, "Katharsis," in A. O. Rorty, Essays on Aristotle's Poetics, Princeton 1992). Wonder at the natural world gives rise to philosophy and the inquiry into the ultimate nature of things (Metaphysics 1.1). However, in the Poetics Aristotle says that events are astonishing (thaumaston) when they occur "contrary to expectations but on account of one another" (Poetics 9, 1452a4-5). Lear interprets this to mean that it is the understanding that unexpected events occur on account of one another that gives rise to amazement while, in the Metaphysics, it is the other way around. O'Rourke seems to concede Lear's point, but then suggests that amazement can lead to mystery, which leads to inquiry, so there is no problem in thinking that wonder prompts understanding in the same way in these two texts (p. 35).

Here I think O'Rourke may be conceding too much ground to Lear, and a stronger response is available to him. When things happen contrary to expectations, this is astonishing, and it produces a desire to understand why the unexpected event occurred. When the plot links incidents via a necessary or probable connection, the audience can reflect on the structure of the plot and come to understand, in retrospect, why the events, while unexpected, were a result of what went before. So, astonishment gives rise to a desire to understand and the search for an explanation, just as Aristotle outlines in Metaphysics 1.1.

In O'Rourke's work, a clear picture emerges of the critical role that metaphysics plays in Aristotle's approach to philosophy, art, ethics, science, and politics. With its focus on the topic of wonder as the wellspring of philosophy, Aristotelian Interpretations succeeds in providing a fresh perspective on tried and true topics in Aristotle, as well as advancing a fruitful discussion of the relevance of Aristotle's essentialism for contemporary philosophy.

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Cecilia Ricci, Security in Roman Times: Rome, Italy and the Emperors. London; New York: Routledge, 2018. Pp. xiv, 300. ISBN 9781472460158. $144.95.

Reviewed by Gregory K. Golden, Rhode Island College (

Version at BMCR home site


Security is a topic constantly on the minds of many people these days, for many and good reasons. Considering the current climate, one might expect more works devoted to it, though that is not to say it has been ignored by scholars.1

Cecilia Ricci offers an investigation into how Roman emperors, starting with Augustus, set up arrangements for their own security and that of Rome and Italy until the Severan era, when a rethink occurred. She also traces the development of the concept of securitas from a philosophical term to a political slogan.

The work is divided into 10 chapters, which are grouped into four Parts. Ricci begins with a brief Preamble (viii-xiii) that sets out to summarize the basic content and argument of the work. Chapter 1, "Studies on military forces and public order in Rome and Italy from Republic to Principate: Points of view," offers a long, critical review of works over the last century related to security in Rome and the various forces that were used to provide it. Ricci indicates what she considers to be the various strengths and shortcomings of each work, justifying her own new work presented here.

In her second chapter, "Between Pax, Disciplina, and Securitas: Moving the focus," Ricci expresses her view that previous works have not really attempted to discern if there was any design to the introduction of all of these armed units in Rome by Augustus.

She devotes most of Chapter 3, "The security of Rome and the security of the Emperor: the slow development of a discourse and its transformation into a communicative instrument," to a long discussion of the concept of securitas in Latin. Primarily a philosophical term that meant more a freedom from worldly troubles or cares than the safety of persons, Ricci provides an extended philological examination of the development of the terms securus and securitas from those earlier meanings to that of "being free from concerns about one's personal safety and free from fear of harm." This is central to her attempt to discern if there was a "security policy" put in place by Augustus and his successors that encompassed not only practical means (the various armed and organized units of men) but also an ideological framework.

Part II begins with its own Introduction, which surveys Augustan criminal legislation and military reforms and the role they played in Augustus's security arrangements. The first chapter of part II, Chapter 4, "The security of the Princeps in Rome: Military escorts and bodyguards," examines who guarded the emperor. It starts with an extensive look at the Praetorians and their functions, with some discussion of the varying views of their role in affairs. After the Praetorians, Ricci considers the other organized units that provided personal security for the emperors, such as the speculatores and the corporis custodes.

Chapter 5, "The security of the urban area and its inhabitants: Civilian, paramilitary and military personnel," brings in administrative arrangements beyond armed soldiery instituted by Augustus, which contributed to the framework for public security. Ricci begins with the Augustan vicus system and the officials placed in charge of them, the vicomagistri and their slave (ministri) assistants. She notes how before the creation of the vigiles (in AD 6), the prevention and fighting of fires was put in the care of the vicomagistri. Their role changes slightly with the formation of the vigiles, as now there was close coordination between them.

Part III also has its own separate Introduction ("The security of the Princeps and of the urban spaces in Rome from Tiberius to the Severans") that runs through changes in the organization and remit of the various military and paramilitary forces deployed in Rome after Augustus up to the Severan era, which saw major departures.

Chapter 6, "A topography of security and dangerous places: With an episode," focuses on the measures for the security of public spaces, including the placement of military barracks (especially the Praetorian Camp) and outposts inside and outside of Rome. Again, the great point of divergence is the coming of the Severans, where the largely Italian forces deployed in and near Rome are replaced by legionary forces, whose membership is drawn from the provinces. Ricci also treats the ways in which various places we might call "danger zones" are handled, including places used for public entertainment such as the theater and the public baths.

Chapter 7, "The urban soldiers and the city," provides an extensive look at the Urban Cohorts, not only those in Rome but the detachments, some temporary and others permanent, that are documented in Ostia, Puteoli, Lyon, and Carthage. Discussing their various duties, Ricci notes, "[a]lthough the term 'police' in the modern sense may seem incorrect, the urban cohorts surely performed tasks related to maintaining public order in the city and its environs." Their use as battlefield soldiers is also examined.

The introduction to the final part, Part IV, "Security in Italy and the role of the central government between Augustus and the Severans," examines security arrangements in Italy. Since Augustus, with additions by Tiberius, we see that detachments from the urban soldiers were often stationed in Italy at regular posts (stationes). It is not always possible to determine where the soldiers posted here, the stationarii, came from. But Italy was not an armed camp and most local disturbances were handled by the local elites with their own resources until the mid-3rd century, when municipalities started asking the emperor for more help, being incapable of maintaining public order on their own anymore.

Chapter 8, "Praesidia Urbis et Italiae: Grumentum and its territory – a case study," (of note: the final section's chapters were all previously published elsewhere, which is stated in the first note to each chapter), focuses on a single case study of one of these stationes. Chapter 9, "Praetoria and praetorians: The emperor's travels and security (Latium vetus)," looks at the security for emperors as they traveled in Italy. As there is not much in the surviving literary sources, most of the evidence is drawn from epigraphic remains (especially burial inscriptions) that Ricci ties to imperial residences outside of Rome.

The final chapter, Chapter 10, "Emperors on the move: Security in the Campanian cities and in the Albanum Domitiani (first century AD)," continues the focus on the security of the emperor while traveling in Italy. Ricci states that more attention has been paid to the emperor's travels to the provinces than to that around Italy outside Rome. She also notes that most accounts do not give much attention to the security concerns of travel. Ricci targets identifiable imperial residences and the evidence, both literary and epigraphic, to see who was providing security. One of her key examples is Domitian's Alban residence, which does not yield a great deal of epigraphic evidence but does fortunately have a good amount of literary evidence as well as the archaeological remains of the buildings at the estate, which give us signs of the presence of soldiers.

The book ends with an "Epilogue: Securitati Caesaris totiusque Urbis," which provides a grand summary of the whole book. Here Ricci tries to piece together the various sections of the book, which are at times somewhat disconnected and disjointed, to make that case that Augustus did have a conscious plan for providing security to Rome, even if it was not an organic one. The project itself developed gradually and was carried out in stages, which helps to explain both the lack of an organic account from any contemporary or near contemporary historian, as well as the arguments of some modern scholars, who think that Augustus's security arrangements were driven by "emergencies," that is, as reactions by Augustus, and not as proactive measures devised in advance (Ricci cites Werner Eck prominently here).

The foundation of this plan, claims Ricci, is the administrative reorganization Augustus carried out in Rome to provide for public security, including the security of his own person. By developing a means of public surveillance (the vicomagistri, the military and paramilitary units—Praetorians, Urban Cohorts, vigiles—and the prefects who controlled them) to create a constant pressure against disorder and unrest, on the one hand, and a legal framework (his legislation on re-establishing old norms and creating one new major feature—refashioning the law so that maiestas encompasses attacks against the emperor as well as attacks against the state) to severely punish those disturbing Augustus's "peace," on the other, he had a definite purpose in his piecemeal rollout of security measures.

All of this material concerning Augustus, his plans and his intentions, put together here, has a certain measure of cohesion and the argument has some merit. The parts of the book that examine the evolution of Augustus's system until a wholesale replacement comes in with the Severan period, are more descriptive than innovative but they have a definite place in the overall presentation. The problem for the book—if it was intended to work as a united whole and not as a collection of related, but separate, papers—is the final section, Part IV, devoted to the security of the emperor when outside of Rome. While connected by the general subject of security and the forces deployed to create and ensure it, the last group of chapters, which were originally published independently, feels tangential and disconnected from the rest. The separate pieces are interesting and informative, but they do not feel as closely tied to the points put forward in the previous sections. If they were meant to be illustrative case studies, then more framing was needed to set them in that role.

Some elements feel entirely disconnected from the earlier sections. For example, if the soldiers of the imperial fleets stationed at Misenum and Ravenna play important roles in the overall security policy of Augustus, as they appear to do in these final chapters, even if they are never deployed in Rome and their rise to prominence occurs after the start of the Flavians, why not mention them at least in passing earlier, when discussing the various units involved in the security measures devised by Augustus? Why do they not get a focused section of their own as the Praetorians, Urban Cohorts, and vigiles each do?

It is unsurprising that this final section, largely consisting of revised versions of previous publications, also happens to be the part that has had the best editorial effort devoted to it, as the earlier chapters have notable typographical errors, proofreading slips and some infelicities of language. From a reader's perspective, it is also somewhat cumbersome that the endnotes for each chapter are placed at the end of the parts to which they belong and not at the end of the volume.

Overall, Ricci has provided an interesting look at the topic of security in Roman times. The book is at its best when looking at the evidence for the various military and paramilitary units created by Augustus and his successors. The discussion of securitas in the Roman mind is very useful. The book could have used more revision, however, to greater tie its slightly disparate parts closer together.


1.   The past decade has seen Christopher J. Fuhrmann, Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration, and Public Order (Oxford, 2012), and not one but two books devoted solely to the Praetorian Guard: Sandra Bingham, The Praetorian Guard: A History of Rome's Elite Special Forces (Waco, TX, 2013); Guy de la Bédoyère, Praetorian: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Imperial Bodyguard (New Haven; London, 2017). This last work seems to have appeared too late for Ricci to have been aware of it.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Filippomaria Pontani (ed.), Certissima signa. A Venice Conference on Greek and Latin Astronomical Texts. Antichistica 13, Filologia e letterature 2. Venezia: Edizioni Cafoscarina, 2017. Pp. 347. ISBN 9788875434403. €25.00. ISBN 9788869691652. ebook.

Reviewed by Anne Tihon, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve (

Version at BMCR home site


Cet intéressant volume rassemble les articles provenant d'une rencontre à la Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana les 16-17 juin 2016, consacrée à l'histoire de l'astronomie ancienne et médiévale. Après l'avant-propos de Filippomaria Pontani, qui explique les buts de la rencontre et la composition du volume (pp. 7-9), on trouve deux articles consacrés à l'histoire des collections de la Biblioteca Marciana: Susy Marcon explique l'organisation de la collection des manuscrits astronomiques ("Astronomica. Le segnature dei manoscritti marciani", pp. 11-39), et Elisabetta Sciarra s'intéresse aux anciens imprimés grecs et latins ("Astronomica Marciana. Astronomia greca e latina nel fondo antica a stampa della Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana", pp. 41-49). L'importance des collections de la BNM justifie pleinement ces articles très érudits, particulièrement celui de Mme Marcon consacré aux manuscrits.

Les articles suivants concernent l'astronomie grecque ancienne: Jordi Pàmias ("Non-Eratosthenic Astral Myths in the Catasterisms", pp. 51-60) examine des mythes astraux parallèles à ceux d'Eratosthène et montre leur signification philosophique (pythagoricienne) ou religieuse; Klaus Geus et Irina Tupikova ("Astronomy and Geography : Some Unexplored Connections in Ptolemy", pp. 61-73) examinent la méthode utilisée par les géographes pour estimer une distance terrestre (observer deux étoiles distantes d'1° à leur zénith ou observer une étoile distante d'1° du point zénithal) et analysent une scolie ancienne sur ce sujet.

La période byzantine est représentée par un seul article d'Anne Weddigen ("L'astronomie dans les Harmonica de Manuel Bryenne", pp. 75-96), consacré à l'harmonie des sphères et aux diagrammes astronomiques dans le traité de Manuel Bryennios (ca. 1303). Etant donné l'importance des manuscrits qui contiennent des traités astronomiques byzantins à la Marciana, on peut regretter que le colloque ait laissé si peu de place à l'astronomie byzantine. L'article de Mme Weddigen expose les contradictions de Manuel Bryennios en ce qui concerne l'harmonie des sphères. Les auteurs anciens et byzantins hésitaient entre deux systèmes. Le principe de base étant que l'astre le plus rapide produit le son le plus aigu, les uns prenaient en compte le mouvement propre de chaque planète (en sens direct, soit en sens contraire des aiguilles d'une montre), les autres la rotation diurne de la sphère céleste de 360° en 24h (en sens rétrograde, soit dans le sens des aiguilles d'une montre). Dans le premier cas, Saturne est la planète la plus lente (360° en 30 ans à peu près) et correspond à la note la plus grave (hypate), la Lune la plus rapide (360° en 27,32 jours) et correspond à la note la plus aiguë (nète). Dans le second cas, la circonférence à parcourir en 24h est beaucoup plus longue pour Saturne que pour la Lune : l'échelle est alors inversée, Saturne est la plus rapide et correspond à la nète, la Lune est la plus lente et correspond à l'hypate. Les diagrammes reflètent cette dualité, que l'on retrouve aussi chez Georges Pachymère. Il faut corriger quelques erreurs dans l'exposé notamment, p. 82 : « la position du soleil sur l'écliptique qui se mesure en fonction des constellations du zodiaque » (ceci définit la longitude sidérale alors qu'il s'agit de la longitude tropique); « en l'espace d'un an, il [le Soleil] parcourt donc 360 degrés en 365 jours » (corriger en 365 jours ¼); la Lune et Saturne qui se trouvent « plus à l'ouest » par suite de leur mouvement propre journalier, et quelques lignes plus loin, « chaque jour un peu plus à l'orient du jour précédent » ... L'auteur s'embrouille un peu dans ses explications!

Le volume entraîne ensuite le lecteur dans les textes latins de l'Occident médiéval. Fabio Guidetti ("Texts and Illustrations in Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, ms. Lat. VIII 22 (2760), pp. 97-125) étudie les représentations des constellations qui figurent dans un catalogue d'étoiles (De signis caeli du Pseudo-Bède), issues de la tradition des Phénomènes d'Aratos. Il est très intéressant de voir les variations introduites par le copiste du manuscrit de Venise comme par exemple la constellation Draco représentée habituellement par un serpent qui devient ici un véritable dragon crachant des flammes. A propos de l'illustration de la p. 99, montrant un moine mesurant les heures de la nuit, l'auteur parle d'un diagramme circulaire montrant les solstices et les équinoxes (p. 98): comment cette roue dentée pourrait-elle montrer les solstices et les équinoxes? Ne s'agit-il pas plutôt des douze mois de l'année? L'article d'Anna Santoni, De signis coeli and De ordine ac positione stellarum in signis: Two Star Catalogues from the Carolingian Age", pp. 127-144, étudie également des textes d'époque carolingienne, des catalogues d'étoiles accompagnés d'illustrations: le De signis caeli dont il a été question dans l'article précédent, et le De ordine ac positione stellarum in signis, tous deux appartenant à la tradition aratéenne. L'article retrace d'abord l'histoire des écrits de ce type et leur diffusion, les réticences de certains à adopter des appellations et de mythes païens. L'auteur souligne certaines caractéristiques des deux traités. Francesco Bertola ("Tubi astronomici", pp. 145-150) étudie brièvement les représentations qui montrent un personnage observant le ciel à travers un tube, notamment des représentations de l'horloge stellaire inventée, selon la tradition, par Pacificus de Véronne (776/8-845). L'auteur conclut qu'il n'existe aucune explication claire de l'usage de ce tube. On aurait aimé avoir quelques explications sur l'horloge de Pacificus (en compensation, le lecteur pourra trouver sur internet d'excellentes explications sur l'emploi du nocturlabe) et quelques conjectures concernant ce tube astronomique. Arnaud Zucker ("Exploring the Relevance of the Star-positions in the Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts of Hyginus' De Astronomia, pp. 153-212) présente un article très fouillé sur l'iconographie des manuscrits du De Astronomia d'Hygin. L'auteur donne une liste de vingt manuscrits et examine les rapports entre le texte et les illustrations. Il souligne que souvent texte et illustrations ne sont pas de la même main, et que plusieurs mains peuvent être intervenues dans les dessins. Les étoiles sont marquées sur les illustrations de différentes manières (points, cercles, astérisques ...) et l'auteur pose la question de savoir si ces marques ont été ajoutées d'après le texte et avec quel degré de précision. Suit un examen précis des 20 manuscrits et de leurs représentations des constellations, et des tableaux récapitulatifs. Un modèle de clarté et de précision!

Le même sujet est traité avec le même soin dans l'article de Kristen Lippincott, "Hyginus, Michael Scot (?) and the Tyranny of Technology in the Early Renaissance", pp. 213-264, mais cette fois pour les imprimés. La première édition du texte d'Hygin a été faite à Ferrare en 1475 par Agostino Carnerio, mais ne comporte pas d'illustrations, mais des espaces blancs laissés pour ajouter les images. La première édition illustrée est celle de Ratdolt en 1482 qui comporte les gravures sur bois de 42 constellations. L'article s'attache à rechercher les modèles de ces illustrations. L'auteur compare les illustrations de l'édition de Ratdolt avec les sources possibles, notamment les manuscrits du Liber Introductorius de Michael Scot, et examine les éditions postérieures reprenant les mêmes illustrations. L'article est suivi de deux appendices très utiles: le premier décrivant 15 éditions d'Hygin et quelques autres traités astronomiques, le second comparant les dessins des constellations entre Hygin, Michel Scot et l'édition Ratdolt.

Filippomaria Pontani et Elisabetta Lugato, "On Aldus' Scriptores astronomici (1499)", pp. 265-294, étudient l'édition par Alde Manuce en 1499 d'une collection de traités astronomiques connus sous le titre conventionnel de Scriptores astronomici. Ce volume mélange des textes grecs et latins, ce qui est une nouveauté : Firmicus Maternus, Manilius, les Aratea de Germanicus, Ciceron et Avienus; un traité grec sur la construction de la sphère aratéenne d'un certain Léonce le Mécanicien, les Phénomènes d'Aratus avec des scholies, la Sphère du Pseudo-Proclus avec traduction latine de Thomas Linacre. Avec beaucoup d'érudition, les auteurs étudient les sources de ces éditions et des illustrations. Avec un appendice sur Francesco Negri, l'éditeur de Firmicus dans les Scriptores astronomici.

Petr Hadrava et Alena Hadravová, "Cristannus de Prachaticz's Treatises on the Astrolabe", pp. 295-312, se concentrent sur les traités sur l'astrolabe de Cristannus de Prochaticz, écrits à Prague en 1407, dont les auteurs ont donné l'édition en 2001. Après une très brève introduction sur l'instrument et sur l'auteur, l'article est consacré à l'examen de la tradition manuscrite et à l'établissement du stemma codicum sur base des méthodes phylogéniques. Une petite remarque, Ptolémée n'a pas décrit l'astrolabe plan dans le Planispherium, comme il est dit p. 297, mais les principes de la projection stéréographique. Le volume se clôture par l'article de Davide Baldi, "Gli auctores nella Cosmographiae introductio (1507) di M. Waldseemüller e M. Ringmann", pp. 313-347. Cet ouvrage a été produit par un cercle d'érudits appelé Gymnasium Vosagense, sous le patronage du duc de Lorraine, René II (1473-1508), qui s'intéressait particulièrement à la géographie. La Cosmographiae introductio se voulait une introduction à la Géographie de Ptolémée. Elle contient de nombreuses citations d'auteurs anciens et contemporains que l'article s'attache à identifier.

Il s'agit d'un volume très riche pour lequel on peut émettre quelques regrets. Tout d'abord, l'absence d'index en rend la consultation peu aisée. D'autre part, le grand nombre d'illustrations aurait justifié une présentation plus luxueuse, car le dessins des manuscrits sont mal mis en valeur et beaucoup de tableaux sont réduits au point d'être illisibles.

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Yulia Ustinova, Divine Mania: Alteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece. London; New York: Routledge, 2018. Pp. xvi, 395. ISBN 9781138298118. £96.00​.

Reviewed by Sabine Neumann, Philipps-Universität Marburg​ (

Version at BMCR home site


In this excellent book, Yulia Ustinova deals with the complex concept of god-sent mania in classical Greece. As a historian of the ancient mind, she investigates certain forms of altered consciousness and states of possession, which are described in numerous ancient sources. As Ustinova points out, ancient Greek culture was once mostly studied through the prism of intellectual history. The Greeks are often praised for their rationalistic worldview and logical scrutiny, which led them from myth to logic. Accordingly, modern research excluded "the erroneous and the irrational […] from the pantheon" (p. x). In her book, however, Ustinova shows that non-rational thinking, madness, alteration of consciousness, and even near-death experiences were very common and partly institutionalized in ancient Greece. Her approach is a combination of traditional historical methods with the results of neurosciences, cognitive science, and psychology. This approach of ancient Greek religion from a cognitivist perspective opens up completely fresh and up-to-date avenues of understanding of the behavior and experiences of individuals within the context of certain cultural phenomena.1

Ustinova has organized the book in eight chapters plus introduction and epilogue. A conclusion, endnotes, and a bibliography follow each chapter. This contributes to clarity, even if occasional redundancies occur.

The book begins with Plato's Phaedrus and his comments on mania, which form the starting point of the investigation to which Ustinova comes back several times. Socrates states that mania is not always evil, but can be a blessing, when it is sent as a gift from the gods. This divine gift of mania is inspiration, of which Socrates distinguishes four different kinds: prophecy, telestic madness, poetic madness and madness of love. Ustinova follows these categories, which roughly form the subdivision of the chapters of her book (1. Prophetic mania, 2. Telestic mania and near-death experiences, 3. Bakcheia, 4. mania on the battlefield and on the march, 5. Nympholepsy, 6. Poetic mania, 7. Erotic mania, 8. The philosopher's mania and his path to truth). Although it has been stated that Plato's worldview differs profoundly from that of ordinary people, Ustinova suggests that Plato's statements reflect opinions and experiences of his contemporaries. Therefore, she tries to explore whether the concept of god-sent mania corresponds to phenomena noticed and described by other writers.

In the introduction, she sets out several methodological aspects of the book, including terminology, methodology, and the historical embedding of the phenomenon. The Greeks used several words for abnormal mental states. Due to the manifold meanings of the English word 'madness', Ustinova prefers to stick to the Greek terms instead. She provides an overview of the broad semantic field of words like mania, entheos, theolêptos, katochos, enthousiasmos, etc., which were used by Greek writers. The differentiation between mental disorder arising from human diseases and divine madness was a difficult task to tackle already in antiquity. Ustinova surveys the ancient sources on descriptions and definitions of madness in order to define its characteristics. In antiquity, god-sent mania was always ambivalent. Human insanity could involve behaviors similar to divine mania and was basically described with the same set of words. It was also believed that mental illness derived from a punishment of the gods. Therefore, a clear distinction cannot be made.

Ustinova is aware of the historical embedding of the phenomena, taking into account possible differences between Greek and Roman perceptions and variations from Archaic to Hellenistic times. The historical frame is an important factor when alterations of consciousness are regarded by the society as either illnesses or privileges sent by the gods. In order to explore Greek cultural phenomena involving alteration of consciousness, Ustinova first examines the historical evidence from literary, epigraphical and archaeological sources; she offers an interpretation, and only at later stages weighs her historical analysis with evidence from neurocognitive and anthropological research. She uses a cable-like method of argumentation, which means that, if there is a gap in the available records, an explanation can be sought in a different field: congruent data can be used together in an explanatory model (p. 18). The scope of the book is the late Archaic- Classical period (sixth to fourth centuries BCE). Philosophical texts, drama and myths as well as epigraphical and archaeological material are Ustinova's sources. Only occasionally, she takes into account evidence from earlier and later periods, when it sheds light on the Greek polis society of the time under scrutiny.

The first chapter deals with prophetic mania. During Antiquity, numerous oracular methods were available in order to know the will of the gods. These methods are usually divided into two categories; interpretation of signs, on the one hand, or inspired prophecy through a medium, who serves as a transmitter of the divine truth, on the second hand. Ustinova points out that inspired prophecy was comparatively rare in the ancient Mediterranean, but was highly praised and frequently used in Greece, where it was institutionalized within oracular sanctuaries: a skilled medium could manipulate his/her own state of consciousness in order to communicate with gods or direct contact with the deity could be provided to the visitor. Apart from oracular centers specialized in professional mediation with the gods, there were also independent prophetic priests, either operating in a certain place or itinerant. As the performance of ecstatic prophecy could be a threat for social order, especially in times of crisis, Ustinova suggests that the prominent role of inspired prophecy should be interpreted as evidence of the openness of the Greek society: it was institutionalized to a certain extent, but never suppressed or cast into the cultural and social periphery (p. 87-88).

In the second chapter, Ustinova discusses telestic mania and near-death experiences as embodied religious experiences. From the sixth century BC onwards, mystery cults are attested in Greece, such as Eleusinian Mysteries, Corybantic rites, and Bacchic and Sabaziac initiations involving ecstatic elements. These cults enjoyed a great popularity and, although the membership was exclusive, Ustinova notes that the majority of adult Athenians were Eleusinian mustai (p. 115). She convincingly demonstrates that alteration of the initiate's state of consciousness, mania, was a major element of mystery rites, which was achieved by music, dance, and the suffering of physical pain. She determines two categories of telestic mania: in the Corybantic, Sabaziac and some Bacchic rites, possession by the gods was sought, and ecstatic initiations seeking alteration of consciousness were the main purpose of the ceremony. The second category includes the much more complex Eleusinian and Orphic-Bacchic mysteries. There, at a first stage, alteration of consciousness was used as a means of attaining vision and enlightenment, the epopteia. The second stage, which was the peak of the mystery initiation, included visions or sensations of contact with the divine, out-of-body states, and even near-death experiences. Unfortunately, the sources supporting this interesting theory are very scarce. Ustinova mainly relies upon inscriptions on gold tablets yielded by graves, which refer to initiatory experience as a preparation for individual death. Furthermore, she collects other written sources and compares them with medical studies on near-death experiences to show that the phenomenon was not unknown in Greek Antiquity.

Chapter 3 sheds light on another aspect of the Bacchic rites: the collective ecstatic mania caused by Dionysus, the god of madness par excellence. After having analyzed Dionysus' ability to inflict madness upon individuals, Ustinova discusses the bakcheia, ecstatic rites mainly celebrated by women, which are attested in myth, poetry and Greek vase paintings, but also in historical and epigraphic testimonies. The bacchants following Dionysus experienced enthousiasmos and aimed at attaining unity with the god. The rites included a wide range of alterations of consciousness and also an inversion of gender roles, when women wandered in the mountains, showed frenzy and aggressive behavior, butchering animals with their bare hands. Ustinova offers an anthropological model as an explanation for the Bacchic rites. The bakcheia were destructive and risky for the social order, but they also had therapeutic and social benefits. As the uncontrollable behavior of the bacchants was limited, rites offered a chance for women to leave their accustomed environment for a short period of time and afterwards return to the polis communities, released from their frenzy and in a happy mood.

The fourth chapter looks at mania on the battlefield, which has many faces and includes warriors' fury, divine epiphanies and enemy's panic. The warrior's mania is expressed by intrepid courage, incredible force, and bestial cruelty against the enemy. It was highly valued, but also feared in archaic and classical Greece. Many written sources report on divine epiphanies of supernatural heroes or of Pan on the battlefield, when they interfere in the battle and cause panic among the ranks of the enemy. Ustinova explains these hallucinations as the result of extreme physical and psychological stress experienced by the soldiers.

Nympholepsy and panolepsy are addressed in chapter 5. Pan and the nymphs were believed to seize humans (and even animals) when they were alone in the wilderness. The seizure particularly occurred in caves, where silence and darkness cause sensory deprivation and where the human mind produces hallucinations reacting to the lack of external stimuli. Similar to the phenomenon of nympholepsy is the poetic inspiration (ch. 6), believed by the Greeks to be caused by Apollon or the Muses and experienced by poets and musicians even until modern times.

Erotic mania is discussed in chapter 7 mainly on the basis of Plato's Phaedrus and of expressions in poetry and drama. Ustinova provides a detailed analysis of Plato's consideration of erotic passion, but states that his philosophical thoughts were probably not supported by most Greeks, who would have considered erotic mania to be dangerous but did not necessarily associate it with a loss of perception of reality.

The final chapter, chapter 8, is devoted to the philosopher's mania and his path to truth, giving a new insight into the development of philosophical ideas. Ustinova states that the rational argumentation and the coherent form displayed by the texts of Greek thinkers do not exclude that these men had undergone mystical experiences. While many modern scholars tend to believe that what Greek philosophers wrote stemmed from logical deliberations only, many ancient sources and statements by the ancient philosophers themselves attest that they experienced inspiration through spontaneous moments of illumination or that they were even able to manipulate their state of consciousness.

In an admirable way, Ustinova explores the complex phenomena that the ancient Greeks subsumed under the term mania. Communication with the divine through alteration of consciousness was regarded as very positive by the ancient Greeks. That is why a large number of references survived in ancient literature. Ustinova offers a synthesis of a great variety of literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources on divine mania and makes clear distinctions between the various forms it could take. A major result of her study is that mania, as a distinct cultural phenomenon, was an integral part of its social environment and displayed some features unique to the Greek culture (p. 16). The ancient Greeks seemed to be very open to ecstatic practices, unlike other cultures of the Mediterranean, where such practices never played a prominent role in the society. The practice of using methods to reach an altered state of consciousness can be traced back at least to the Archaic age in Greece. This realization sheds new light on the so-called oriental cults, which entered Greece in the Classical age. The ecstatic worship of the Corybantes, Cybele, Sabazius, and Dionysos were often regarded as foreign by scholars. As recent studies show, ecstatic features and mystery initiations were not part of these cults in their original homelands or remained marginal. Therefore, Ustinova convincingly claims: "many cultic and cultural phenomena involving states of mania were not innovations or foreign intrusions, but were venerated as part of the ancestral patrimony handed out from generation to generation: people who experienced divine mania or enjoyed its effects, were not 'the other,' but 'we,' or at the very least, 'our wives.' It would therefore be misleading to maintain that different kinds of consciousness alteration were merely tolerated in Greece, similar to foreign cults and dissident philosophical teachings: most practices involving mania were viewed as mainstream and actively endorsed by the communities" (p. 371).

Overall, Ustinova's book on divine mania is an excellent and highly innovative contribution to the study of Greek culture. By applying a cognitive approach, she explores embodied experiences of Greek religion. As "people are biological and cultural creatures at the same time" (p. 18), an unbridgeable dichotomy of these categories can no longer be presupposed. The book is a successful example of how the application of cognitive sciences to a historical study of Greek culture can lead to new insights into complex cultural phenomena. ​


1.   See for example: Yulia Ustinova, Caves and the Ancient Greek Mind. Descending Underground in the Search for Ultimate Truth (Oxford 2009); Jennifer Larson, Understanding Greek Religion. A Cognitive Approach (Oxford, New York 2016).

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