Monday, November 19, 2018


Julian Yolles, Jessica Weiss, Medieval Latin Lives of Muhammad. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 51. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018. Pp. xli, 664. ISBN 9780674980730. $29.99.

Reviewed by Scott G. Bruce, Fordham University (

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Since its inception in 2012, the Latin series of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library has published over fifty volumes of medieval Latin texts ranging from well-known classics like The Rule of Benedict and Carmina Burana to lesser known satires and beast fables. A small number of these volumes have been thematic anthologies of shorter works curated by a modern editor, like Peter Walsch's One Hundred Latin Hymns: Ambrose to Aquinas.1 The volume under review is another such anthology. It presents nine medieval Latin accounts of the life of Muhammad written between the ninth and the thirteenth centuries. Taken together, these accounts allow the reader to trace the development of the depiction of Muhammad and his role as the prophet of Islam among western readers. These invectives were primarily polemical in purpose. Long after medieval Christians had direct access to accurate knowledge of Islam, they nonetheless persisted in promoting falsehoods about the religion and its prophet. As this volume shows, stories about Mohammad grew in the telling, but certain elements of the narrative, like the role of an evil monk or hermit in supporting the prophet in his youth, were tenacious throughout this literary tradition.

The earliest accounts of Muhammad's life in Latin originated in Spain and Byzantium before the close of the first millennium. The first two texts in the volume are examples of the use of polemic as resistance to Islam in the context of the persecution of Christians on the Iberian Peninsula. Writing about the virtues of the martyrs of Córdoba, a cleric named Eulogius composed the first short account of Muhammad's life to survive in Latin. Several features of his story, including the prophet's insatiable lust and the consumption of his corpse by animals, became tropes in later polemical accounts of his life. In an obscure story from tenth-century Spain known as the Tultusceptru from the Book of Lord Metobius, Mohammad was originally a Christian monk named Ozim. While on a missionary journey, he was beguiled by an angel of temptation, who taught him incantations for summoning demons that loosely resemble the Muslim call to prayer. Much more influential than these Spanish texts was the Greek world chronicle of the Byzantine monk Theophanes (ca. 760-818 CE), which circulated in Latin by the end of the ninth century. This account introduced the character of the false monk (pseudomonachus) as a witness to the authenticity of Muhammad's visions and the notion that the prophet suffered from epilepsy.

A flowering of verse renderings of the life of Muhammad appeared in the age of the early crusades, including 1149 lines of elegiac couplets written in the late eleventh century by Embrico of Mainz and 1090 lines of elegiac couplets composed in the mid-twelfth century by Walter of Compiègne. Embrico's account relates how a deceiving magician raised up a former slave named Mammutius as the prophet of a new religion. He drew on earlier traditions to depict Mammutius as an epileptic. In this tradition, the prophet is eaten by pigs, which explains to Christian readers why Muslims do not eat pork. The story is replete with false miracles performed by the magician and at the tomb of Mammutius, which led John Tolan to characterize the poem as a work of "anti-hagiography."2 Walter's poem relates similar themes, but he jettisons Embrico's magician to present Muhammad as an autonomous agent of his own religious agenda, aided only in part by a Christian hermit who foretells his coming. The editors' suggestion that "the poem may be understood as a sort of elegiac comedy and akin to Old French fabliaux" (p. xvii) requires further elaboration to substantiate, especially given the monastic context of its composition. Contemporary with Walter's poem was a prose account of the life of Muhammad by a pilgrim named Adelphus, who allegedly heard the story in Antioch on his return to the west from Jerusalem. In this story, the fifth-century heresiarch Nestorius plays the role usually attributed to a Christian monk or hermit in fostering the young prophet.

The centerpiece of the volume (comprising pp. 217-537, a book in its own right) is the Apology of al-Kindī, a refutation of Islam couched as an exchange of letters between a Muslim and a Christian. Written in Arabic in the ninth century, this work was part of the dossier of Muslim religious texts rendered into Latin by the team of translators assembled in the early 1140s by Abbot Peter the Venerable of Cluny. The inclusion of this very long text in a collection devoted to Latin accounts of Muhammad's life struck me as slightly odd. While portions of it do, in fact, draw on polemical traditions about the life of Muhammad to discredit the authority of his teaching (as does Peter the Venerable's treatise against Islam, written in the mid-1150s), much of the sprawling Apology is not directly related to the prophet's life at all.3 In particular, the Muslim interlocutor spends much of his time explaining the fundamental tenets of Islam and refuting core doctrines of the Christian faith, which, while interesting, bear little affinity with the other texts in this anthology.

The volume concludes with two short, anonymous texts from the later Middle Ages: The Book of Nicholas and Where Wicked Muhammad Came From. Both of these works originated in Dominican circles in the thirteenth century. The first text offers a rare divergence from the polemic tradition by depicting Muhammad as a late antique Christian missionary named Nicholas, who founded a new religion when his ambitions to become the bishop of Rome were thwarted. As the editors note, "the purpose of the Book of Nicholas was not to provide accurate information on Islam, but to satirize the papal Curia" (p. xxvii). The second text returns to the tradition of time-honored invective. In this work, an exiled Christian named Nicholas takes as his disciple a young man named Maurus ("Moor"), who carries on his master's nefarious plans after his death. Maurus, in turn, tutors the young Muhammad, whose lust for a married Jewish woman leads to his demise. While drawing on earlier tropes about the prophet, neither of these obscure texts exercised any influence in the western polemical tradition about Islam.

The editors of the Medieval Latin Lives of Muhammad have done a good job of assembling a diverse array of polemical Latin accounts of the life of the prophet. The volume has all of the positive aspects of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series as a whole: a handsome appearance, superior production quality, and a reasonable price. It also shares the primary shortcoming of the series: a laconic introduction. The decision to exclude a translation of Bonaventure of Siena's 1264 Latin version of a story about Muhammad's ascension known as the Liber scalae Machometi struck me as a missed opportunity (see p. xl, n. 80). Even so, scholars and students with an interest in Christian-Islamic relations and religious polemic will find much food for thought in this volume.


1.   See my review in BMCR 2013.02.07.
2.   John Tolan, "Anti-Hagiography: Embrico of Mainz's Vita Mahumeti," Journal of Medieval History 22 (1996): 25-41.
3.   Peter the Venerable's Contra sectam Sarracenorum has recently been translated into English by Irven Resnick in Peter the Venerable: Writings against the Saracens (Washington, D.C., 2016), pp. 51-161; and discussed in Scott G. Bruce, Cluny and the Muslims of La Garde-Freinet: Hagiography and the Problem of Islam in Medieval Europe (Ithaca and London, 2016), pp. 93-98.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018


John O. Hyland, Persian Interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450–386 BCE. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017. Pp. xi, 257. ISBN 9781421423708. $54.95.

Reviewed by David Branscome, Florida State University (

Version at BMCR home site


When modern historians of ancient Greece have approached the interactions between the Greeks and the Achaemenid Persians, two time periods have taken pride of place: 499–479 BCE (the Ionian Revolt through Xerxes' invasion) and 336–323 (the career of Alexander the Great). By contrast, the history of Greek-Persian interactions that took place in between those two periods, whether in the Pentekontaetia or in the Peloponnesian War, has received relatively short shrift.1 For forty years, the only comprehensive historical treatment of Greek and Persian relations in the years from around 450 to 386 has been Lewis' monograph. 2 With his book, Hyland aims not only to offer an updated study of those years but also to argue against the traditional scholarly reading of Persian policy and goals toward Greeks of the period. Hyland provides a revisionist narrative of Persian interventions in Greek affairs during 450–386 that is compelling and persuasive.

The book consists of eight chapters, a brief conclusion, and detailed endnotes; while the text runs to 172 pages, the endnotes run to almost 50 more. Chapter 1 serves as the introduction. In it, Hyland argues that advances in Achaemenid studies enable us to revise the view expounded first by Thucydides (8.87.4) that Persia's main goal in 450–386 was to regain control of Ionia. The Persians therefore enacted a defensive policy of balancing, trying to ensure that neither Athens nor Sparta became too powerful, and they also tried to avoid direct military conflict between Persians and Greeks.3 But this theory does not match the worldview revealed by Achaemenid royal inscriptions: Persia had a claim to world dominion, and Persian kings had a duty (sanctioned by the god Ahuramazda) to establish order over chaos at the earth's edges, which included Greece. Persian interventions in Greek affairs during this period were motivated primarily by such ideological beliefs and by economic considerations.

Chapter 2 explores why the Persian king Artaxerxes I (465–424) formed the Peace of Kallias with Athens in (probably) 449. Scholars have considered this peace—the historicity of which most now accept—a defeat for Artaxerxes because he lost control of Ionia. In Hyland's view, the peace simply made good economic sense for Artaxerxes, since it would have removed the threat of constant naval skirmishes in the Aegean. Hyland explains how expensive building and maintaining a trireme fleet was, even for the Great King. Besides, Artaxerxes may have considered Athens a client state. It would have been in Artaxerxes' interests that Athens be powerful (not weak), so that it could better defend the Persian Empire's northwest borders. After 449, Artaxerxes' support for Athens never seriously wavered.

In Chapters 3–5 Hyland turns to the reign of king Darius II (423–405). Scholars have usually seen Darius' change of Persian support from Athens to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War as a response to Athens' siding with the Persian rebels Pissouthnes and Amorges and to the Athenian disaster in Sicily (415–413). While both of these may have been contributing factors, Hyland argues in Chapter 3, a major reason for the change was that Athens, after Sicily, stopped collecting tribute in Ionia. Since Darius would have looked at Athens' tribute collection as a gift conferred by the King, now the King was taking that gift back and giving it instead to the new western Anatolian satraps Tissaphernes and Pharnabazos. The Persians were operating under the false expectation that a weakened Athens would be defeated soon after 413. Chapter 4 concentrates on Tissaphernes and the treaty he brokered with Sparta in 411. Tissaphernes' halving of his promised pay to the allied Peloponnesian fleet was due not to the balancing policy, but to the economic difficulty placed on his personal resources by the protracted war. He even began negotiations with Athens, until his agent, the Athenian exile Alkibiades, undermined them. Tissaphernes was trying to end the war as expeditiously and economically as possible. A favorable result of the Persian outreach to Athens was that Sparta became quicker to accept the treaty. In Chapter 5 Hyland dismisses the balancing policy as the reason behind Darius II's recall of the Phoenician fleet sent in 411 to join the Peloponnesians in Ionia. Instead, Hyland blames the expulsions of Persian garrisons in Ionia. Not only did the expulsions—instigated by Peloponnesian sailors in anger over Tissaphernes' payment delays and Alkibiades' switching sides to Athens—represent a breach of the treaty by the Spartans, but also cities such as Miletos losing their Persian garrison meant that the Phoenician fleet would not have had friendly places to land.

The help in winning the Peloponnesian War that Darius II's younger son, Cyrus, gave to Sparta forms the subject of Chapter 6. In the vain hope that his father would name him successor rather than his older brother Arsakes (the future Artaxerxes II), Cyrus was committed to ending the war. Cyrus contributed a large portion of his own fortune in 405–404 to propel Sparta to victory. He did not engage in a balancing policy, even when in 406, after the Spartan defeat at Arginousai, he temporarily stopped funding the Spartans.

The last two chapters focus on Artaxerxes II (405–359). Chapter 7 examines this king's Anatolian policies in the wake of Cyrus' failed rebellion against him. Artaxerxes' preference for (cost-saving) diplomatic solutions for Ionian unrest is why it took so long for Persians to deal with Spartan incursions into Anatolia; contra Xenophon, it was not because of Tissaphernes' cowardice. The restraint shown by Tissaphernes came from the King, who only executed him after the defeat of the satrap by Agesilaos and the Spartans in 395. By contrast, Pharnabazos, joined by the Athenian exile Konon, crushed the Peloponnesian fleet at Knidos in 394. If Artaxerxes II had only wanted Ionia back (as scholars argue), he would have stopped fighting Greeks after Knidos. Instead, he sent Pharnabazos and Konon to ravage the Laconian coast and to fortify Cythera. As Hyland points out in Chapter 8, Artaxerxes II was not practicing a balancing policy during the Corinthian War (395–387) and leading up to the King's Peace in 386. In the 390s, the king had helped Athens (under the guidance of Konon) rebuild its walls. It was after the Persian karanos Tiribazos arrested Konon in 392 and an offended Athens turned against Persia that Artaxerxes switched his support back to the Spartans, who would become the agents for guaranteeing the dictates of the King's Peace. By establishing peace in Greece and dictating its terms Artaxerxes demonstrated the reach of his influence.

In his conclusion, Hyland reiterates the implausibility of the balancing policy theory. He stresses the overall success of Persia in ending the Peloponnesian and Corinthian Wars, the latter culminating in the King's Peace. But two things prevented Persia from having even greater success against Greece in 450–386: economic conservatism, which led to reluctance on the part of the kings to commit money to the Persian fleet, and misunderstandings of Greek motivations, as evidenced by Tissaphernes and Tiribazos misunderstanding Alkibiades and Konon, respectively.

My criticisms of the book center on how Hyland deals with his target audience/s (presumably, students and specialists in ancient Greek history). First, it is not entirely clear how great a command of Greek he expects readers to have. All Greek in the text and endnotes is transliterated; the endnotes, which are geared more toward scholars, contain more transliterated Greek (and some Old Persian) than the text does. Readers of the text are still expected to know, however, what an oikos (59) is and what poleis and even chora (73) are.

Second, Hyland does not tell readers exactly why he begins his narrative at 450 and ends at 386. Although he does refer to the "interventionist period" (4) in relation to Lewis' monograph, he does not establish what makes this period a distinct one worthy of study by itself. Why does Hyland not begin his narrative, say, in 479 and end it in 336? He needs to explain to readers what is unique about 450–386.

Third, by seeking to demolish the balancing policy theory, Hyland admirably tries to offset the Hellenocentric bias of ancient sources and modern historians depending on those sources. And yet such a bias occasionally appears in the book. Hyland says (171) that the King's Peace represented "the point at which all the Greeks who mattered accepted membership in a universe ruled from Susa." We do not know why ancient Greeks (beginning with Aeschylus in the Persians) believed that the Persian king's primary royal capital was located at Susa; could it have been that the King conventionally met with Greek ambassadors at Susa, rather than at any of the other capitals? And for a book whose thesis rests in large part on how Achaemenid royal ideology shaped and motivated Persian interventions into Greek affairs, it is notable that Hyland almost never quotes from Achaemenid royal inscriptions, our main evidence for such ideology. In the text Hyland frequently mentions and occasionally quotes briefly or more extensively from Greek authors like Thucydides and Xenophon. While Hyland often cites Achaemenid inscriptions in endnotes (beginning with the very first note from Chapter 1: "XPh §3; cf. DSe §3; DPe §2" (173 n. 1)), quotations from non-Greek ancient sources in the book's text are rare: a letter of Arshama, satrap of Egypt (58–9); a Persepolis Fortification tablet (80); seven words from an inscription of Darius I (165), and ten words that recur in inscriptions of Darius I and of Xerxes (167). These last two in-text quotations are the only ones from Achaemenid royal inscriptions, and they do not appear until the end of the book's eighth and final chapter.

Fourth, there are problems with Hyland's treatment of Pharnabazos. Hyland consistently refers to him as the satrap of Daskyleion (reflecting Greek terminology: Hdt. 3.120.2; Thuc. 1.129.1), but he never indicates for readers (in the text, at any rate) the region in which this satrapal seat was located, Hellespontine Phrygia. This region only appears in Map 3 on page 82. Overall, Hyland treats Pharnabazos sympathetically, and so it is all the more striking that, shortly after he has related (165) that Pharnabazos married Artaxerxes II's daughter Apame, he lets Pharnabazos disappear from his narrative without a comment: he refers (167) to "the new satrap of Daskyleion, Ariobarzanes." While we do not know what (if any) connection Ariobarzanes had with Pharnabazos, Weiskopf has reasonably suggested that Ariobarzanes was Pharnabazos' son, especially since Pharnabazos had succeeded his own father, Pharnakes, as satrap of the region.4

These criticisms aside, Hyland's book is an important one that all scholars dealing with ancient Greek or Persian history will henceforth have to take into account. As Hyland convincingly shows, the balancing policy theory will no longer stand.


1.   Scholarly studies of Greek and Persian relations have tended to concentrate less on historical events and more on either cultural interchange (e.g. M. C. Miller, Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC: A Study in Cultural Receptivity [Cambridge 1997]) or Persian perceptions of Greeks (e.g. R. Rollinger and W. F. M. Henkelman, "New Observations on 'Greeks' in the Achaemenid Empire according to Cuneiform Texts from Babylonia and Persepolis," in P. Briant and M. Chauveau, eds., Organisation des pouvoirs et contacts culturels dans les pays de l'empire achéménide, [Paris 2009], 331–51).
2.   D. M. Lewis, Sparta and Persia (Leiden 1977). Lewis takes a single event, the Athenian general Aristeides' capture of the Persian emissary Artaphernes, whom the Persian king had sent to Sparta in 425/4 (Thuc. 4.50), and fills in the historical narrative of 450–386 around it.
3.   See, for example, M. Waters, Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE (Cambridge 2014), who refers (185, cf. 166) to Persia's "successful policy to keep the Greek city-states unbalanced and diminish their threats to Persian interests."
4.   M. Weiskopf, The So-Called "Great Satraps' Revolt," 366–360 B.C.: Concerning Local Instability in the Achaemenid Far West (Stuttgart 1989), 27.

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Ariadne Konstantinou, Female Mobility and Gendered Space in Ancient Greek Myth. Bloomsbury classical studies monographs. London; New York: Routledge, 2018. Pp. x, 189. ISBN 9781474256766. $102.00.

Reviewed by Paola Angeli Bernardini, Università degli Studi Carlo Bo​ (

Version at BMCR home site


Ricostruire gli aspetti più importanti della vita degli antichi Greci e dei popoli che si affacciavano sul Mediterraneo significa anche prendere in considerazione la possibilità per il genere femminile di spostarsi da una parte all'altra del luogo di residenza, di uscire dall'oikos per affrontare l'ambiente esterno e per confrontarsi con realtà non domestiche, di intraprendere viaggi. Non si tratta solo di spostamenti abituali per le donne nell'ambito delle strutture cittadine, come andare alla fonte ad attingere acqua o partecipare a cerimonie religiose o ad un'assemblea, ma di una mobilità più complessa nell'ambito di più vasti orizzonti, che comportava un allontanamento impegnativo dal proprio ambiente, un distacco non solo fisico e, in ogni caso, un cambiamento rilevante.

Il fenomeno della mobilità muliebre nella cultura degli antichi è giustamente e opportunamente ripensato da A. Konstantinou a partire dalle numerose testimonianze che di essa sono presenti nel mito greco: mobilità delle dee e mobilità delle eroine. Il supporto fondamentale è rappresentato dall'esegesi dei testi nei quali queste storie sono raccontate, dall'epica al teatro, alla mitografia. Non è affrontato (ed è un peccato) il tema dell'effettiva mobilità delle donne comuni nella realtà storica e quotidiana dell'antica Grecia, anche se l'argomento, come vedremo, rimane necessariamente sullo sfondo e non è del tutto obliterato, come indicano le conclusioni (pp. 155-158).

Il volume si apre con un'introduzione da leggere con particolare attenzione perché utile e direi indispensabile per comprendere la struttura e lo sviluppo del discorso portato avanti dall'Autrice. In poche pagine sono sviluppate con rigore questioni che hanno avuto un posto rilevante nella più recente bibliografia—soprattutto anglosassone—sulla posizione delle donne nell'antichità e viene suggerita una nuova prospettiva per spiegare i loro movimenti, i viaggi, gli spostamenti nell'ambito del territorio o della polis. Il confronto tra dei e dee, eroi e eroine, uomini e donne è inevitabile. Gli spazi riservati all'uno o all'altro sesso o ad ambedue i sessi oppure la possibilità di passaggio da uno spazio all'altro sono intesi con valore prevalentemente sociale, in relazione anche alla fissità e alla dinamicità delle due categorie. La domanda che si impone è sempre la stessa. Come può il mito con le storie di dee e di eroine far luce sulla "actual experience" delle donne greche? Tra la posizione di Dowden (1995), che privilegia il significato mitico dei racconti sulle donne nel mito, e quella di Pomeroy (1975), che utilizza simili racconti per ricostruire la mentalità e le istituzioni dei Greci, Konstantinou si allinea con quest'ultima e, a ragione, indirizza la sua ricerca sullo spazio e il movimento nel pensiero mitico in rapporto sia alla realtà fattuale, sia al genere di appartenenza dei personaggi mitici.

Naturalmente la ricerca riguarda quelli femminili che nel mito hanno un ruolo di assoluto rilievo. Il volume si divide in due grandi sezioni: nella prima parte le dee in movimento (divinità vergini come Hestia, Atena, Artemide, nel cap. 1; divinità Olimpiche spose e madri come Afrodite, Demetra, Hera nel cap. 2); nella seconda parte le eroine in movimento (nella tragedia greca nel cap. 3; nei rituali e nella caccia nel cap. 4). Il cap. 5 fornisce le coordinate ideologiche per inquadrare e illustrare il materiale sulla mobilità femminile, raccolto dall'Autrice nelle fonti greche antiche, prevalentemente letterarie e raramente archeologiche. In realtà risulta il capitolo centrale e quello più influenzato dalle problematiche presenti nella critica femminista contemporanea. Sui limiti e sulle prerogative della mobilità femminile nell'antico mito greco si allunga l'ombra delle difficoltà professionali e degli ostacoli incontrati dalle donne nella cultura odierna nell'ambito dei rapporti di lavoro e di carriera. Il ricorso a una terminologia—a dire il vero un po' abusata—come "il soffitto di cristallo" per definire l'impedimento per tante donne, a parità di merito, di accedere a posizioni di responsabilità in senso verticale, o le "pareti di cristallo" per indicare le invisibili barriere che prevengono l'avanzamento laterale delle donne e di altre minoranze a causa della differenza di genere, è in tal senso significativo. È tuttavia necessario precisare che per Konstantinou l'accostamento tra passato e presente riguarda sempre l'immaginazione mitica e le caratteristiche della mobilità femminile, divina ed eroica, nei più antichi racconti mitici dei Greci. Non è funzionale per descrivere la posizione delle donne greche nell'oikos e nella polis, anche se, alla fine, l'Autrice ammette che "la mobilità delle donne nel regno del mito sembra essere parte e porzione dell'ideologia sociale" (p. 152). Il problema è sempre se il mito può essere una "lente costruttiva, una categoria di studio che può aprire una finestra sulle posizioni sociali del Greci , sui presupposti sociali, sull'immaginario"(p. 12). Con la prudenza che deriva dalla difficoltà e dall'opinabilità di questo tipo di ricostruzione mi sentirei di condividere le conclusioni di Konstantinou sulla possibilità che i movimenti delle dee e delle eroine nel mito riflettano abitudini in uso nelle varie zone della Grecia (vedi Atene) e nelle diverse epoche.

Come già sottolineato, non è questo, tuttavia, il focus dell'indagine condotta dalla studiosa. I suoi interventi in prima persona (nell'Introduzione, nel sommario dei capitoli, nelle note accurate, nella Conclusione) chiariscono e precisano i confini entro i quali ella intende muoversi.

Ancora molto si potrebbe dire, ad esempio sui due aspetti determinanti di ogni spostamento femminile nell'antichità: (a) la prassi e le modalità dell'allontanamento (quindi sotto il profilo antiquario); (b) il significato umano e sociale del viaggio femminile (quindi sotto il profilo antropologico). Nel libro il secondo interesse, proiettato nella sfera mitica, prevale nettamente sul primo. Lo prova il fatto che ad eccezione di alcuni spostamenti tramite carro come quello di Afrodite (Il. 5, 359), oppure attraverso un libero vagabondaggio tra le montagne come quello di Artemide (Hymn. Hom. 27, 4) o ancora mediante le corse sfrenate delle Menadi (Eur. Bacch. 677-774; 1088-1094), poco spazio è dedicato ad un altro tipo di mobilità femminile. Quella che si realizzava per mare. Una mobilità non scarsa e di poco conto, come si riteneva fino a qualche decennio fa, nell'ottica di un paragone con l'incidenza forte e predominante dell'elemento maschile. Le dee, le eroine, le donne comuni erano in grado di lasciare la terra ferma e di attraversare il mare fendendo le onde o salendo su una imbarcazione o rinchiuse in una cassa galleggiante. Ma, come si diceva, lo scopo della ricerca è un altro.

In conclusione si tratta di una lettura stimolante, che provoca diverse domande e che affronta in maniera problematica alcuni concetti chiave nell'immaginazione mitica relativa all'universo femminile. La discussione investe di volta in volta lo spazio e gli spazi, il privato e il pubblico, il viaggio, la finalità del movimento riservato alle donne. La ricca bibliografia e l'indice delle cose notevoli agevolano la consultazione del libro, non sempre facile nonostante l'ordinata struttura editoriale, l'opportuna presenza di traduzione dei testi greci e l'abbondante apparato di note.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018


Engelbert Winter, Vom eisenzeitlichen Heiligtum zum christlichen Kloster: neue Forschungen auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi. Asia Minor Studien, 84. Bonn: Habelt-Verlag, 2017. Pp. xiii, 302; 67 p. of plates. ISBN 9783774940796. €89,00.

Reviewed by Catherine Steidl, Dartmouth College (

Version at BMCR home site

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

As Engelbert Winter argues, Dülük Baba Tepesi is perhaps one of the most important sites in southeast Turkey for the new insight it offers into the religious and cultural history of the Near East from the 1st millennium BCE through the Byzantine period. He calls it a stroke of luck that long-term continuity of cult activity took place there (p. 12). While we are fortunate that such continuity is richly attested, the chapters collected in this volume illustrate that it is no fluke. The volume succeeds in making this point clear, and the reader who approaches the chapters as a full set will see that the continuous occupation of a sacred space on the hill resulted from several constants: the choice by individuals to maintain local religious practices alongside those of an expanding imperial cult; the preservation of strong economic, religious, and cultural ties to numerous far-flung locales, including the western Aegean, Iran, and Afghanistan, which emphasized its status in the broader landscape; and, it seems, the local memory of the space's sacred character. With their latest publication, Winter and colleagues present the tail end of a 15-year program of excavation at Dülük Baba Tepesi. This rich volume provides a timely, detailed publication of the excavation results from the sanctuary site, offering a window into its history from a site for resource extraction in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), to its development as a substantial Iron Age cult site, a local and supra-regional Roman sanctuary, and finally a Byzantine monastery. The work contained within will be of interest to readers concerned with Anatolian archaeology in the 1st millennia BCE/CE, or questions of continuity, cult practice, and long-term occupation, as well as to specialists seeking regional detail on specific materials (e.g., ceramic and bone products, architecture of the cult precinct or monastery, or local examples of hybridity and syncretism).

The book consists of 17 chapters. Winter's overview of the project's work and major finds from the seasons in question (2013-2015) serves as a helpful introduction to previous research at the site and the context for this latest work in the sanctuary. He also outlines the major contributions of the team's research program—namely, finer-grained detail about Iron Age, Roman, and Medieval activity on Dülük Baba Tepesi than was previously available, and important new insights into various threads of continuity and change in cultural and religious practice, such as the collected votive offerings from the Iron Age and Roman Imperial period, and the architectural development of the sanctuary. Because the individual contributions function more or less independently and seldom interact with one another, Winter's setting of the thematic stage ties together numerous strands of discourse and directs the reader's attention to these common threads.

Subsequent chapters are organized roughly chronologically. Because of their focus and detail, the chapters work well as standalone pieces of scholarship that will be of interest to any specialist seeking high-resolution particulars or comparanda with other materials —Byzantine glazed ceramics or African Red Slip ware in the Commagene region, ultramarine pigment, or Neolithic blades, for example. In the case of both comparatively smaller bodies of material (e.g., lithics, bone artifacts, and locks) and larger (e.g., Roman and Byzantine ceramics), detailed catalogues and figures are provided in conjunction with the texts. This attention to detail—along with its prompt publication—is one of many commendable aspects of the book. The chapters can also be read in order as a full volume, however. Few readers are likely to undertake this, but doing so provides substantial insight into the breadth of evidence available for the sanctuary, from lithics and ceramics, to architectural structure and décor, and osteological remnants of sacrifice and daily consumption. The result is a book that fulfills two roles: it offers a valuable reference for one of Commagene's major sites, which is able to speak to broader regional trends; and it illustrates what the site is already known for in intense detail—its rich and complex long-term history, simultaneously rooted in the local landscape and impressively connected to far-reaching, robust networks that brought with them ceramic imports from the Mediterranean, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and myriad cultural influences that contributed to evolving local practice in all aspects of life.

The chapters work well together to illustrate the tensions between local and far-reaching connection and influence. Wolfgang Messerschmidt, for example, offers a vivid picture of an active Iron Age sanctuary; the hypaethral temenos (enclosed but not fortified) reflects its southeast Anatolian/north Syrian location, while a large cache of roll and stamp seals (640 in total) was sourced from the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Iran. A late Hittite relief bearing Luwian inscriptions expands the scope of connectivity to the north, and the evidence for animal sacrifice suggests practices with West Semitic and Levantine parallels.

Silke Haps' discussion of the architectural development of the sanctuary and its walls in the Hellenistic and Roman periods provides similar context for the trajectory of the sanctuary and its continued importance for regional and supra-regional cult activity into the early 1st millennium CE. One of the clear themes that emerges from these collected chapters is the strength of the local influence maintained in the sanctuary through its physical character and the practices evidenced there, even as influence from supra-regional networks was clearly visible as well (e.g., in the prominence of Roman ceramic imports or the growth of the cult around Iuppiter Dolichenus). Haps presents evidence for the changing nature of wall construction, which is contrasted with the maintenance of techniques for stone preparation and foundation construction over the course of several phases of renovation. Her argument that the large, square temenos of the Hellenistic and Roman periods has parallels at other sacred sites in the Commagene (e.g., Köşk) is echoed by others, as well. The chapters, in fact, fall into two general groups: those presenting catalogued materials that generally reflect trends seen from other regional sites, and those detailing singular case-study finds that offer insight into the commingling of very local traditions and farther-flung contact and influence.

Into this first category fall chapters from, for example, Werner Oenbrink and Eva Strothenke, who detail aspects of the ceramic repertoires from the 5th c. BCE, Late Roman, and Medieval periods, further developing the overall narrative of Dülük Baba Tepesi's place within the landscape of southern Anatolia. Oenbrink's Attic imports reflect the northernmost discovery of their kind in southwest Anatolia, underscoring the particular importance and status of the sanctuary before the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. Strothenke's profiles of Late Roman and Medieval wares, on the other hand, emphasize the high degree of connectivity and preference for specific materials found at other nearby settlements.

Chapters in the latter category act as unusual case studies for the exploration of syncretism, continuity, and change both on the site and in the surrounding region, and the character of the site in different periods. Michael Blömer's vivid discussion of the 'god in the leaf chalice' delivers a convincing argument for a tentative identification of the relief not as Iuppiter Dolichenus himself, but as one of his attendants, the Castores Dolicheni. Similarly, Blömer and Margherita Facella present a small altar of the local god Turmasgade, an enigmatic discovery that they use to pose a series of stimulating questions around the issue of syncretism between Roman and local Near Eastern gods and the origins of Turmasgade's cult. Together, these chapters exemplify the provocative nature of the questions that remain unanswered about the sanctuary and religious practice there, but also highlight the complex interplay between local and non-local traditions that together engendered new forms of local practice.

The theme of local anomaly is carried into the Medieval period by Nadja Plöllath and Joris Peters' insightful discussion of faunal remains, especially fish bones, in the Byzantine monastery. They consider the effect of personal preference on the adherence of the local monks to proscribed dietary restrictions. Extensive connectivity, on the other hand, is clearly demonstrated by work from Constanze Höpken and Frank Mucha, who argue for the presence of ultramarine blue pigment in two vessels found at the Byzantine monastery of Mar Salomon, illustrating the import of lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and the likely production of high quality manuscripts.

Given the size and quality of the body of material coming from the 2013-2015 seasons, the temptation to offer equally rich interpretation is strong. The individual authors, however, strike a measured balance between straightforward reporting and compelling extrapolation. Readers new to the site will gain a clear sense of the state of its current understanding, but also appreciate the chance to engage critically with the ongoing incorporation of new materials into understandings of the site.

The volume lacks a concluding discussion. Stronger linking of the themes noted here would have been a welcome addition to round out the compilation. At times, this reviewer would have also wanted the maps and plans, which are added separately at the end, to include more detailed captions or contextual information. Phased plans of the sanctuary (Plans 2-4), for example, are not labeled by period, and so one is required to flip between the chapter at the start of the book and the images at the back to properly understand the architectural development. Captions would also have been helpful for a number of images only presented as numbered objects (e.g., bone artifacts, pieces of marble, locks and keys, etc.). The tables (in color and black and white) offer a number of very helpful line drawings, however, and the merits of the large selection of accompanying images and plans far outweigh the small inconveniences described here.

Readers following the excavations at Dülük Baba Tepesi, or interested in cultural interaction, continuity, and the interplay between global and local tradition and influence, will find an extremely useful presentation of final excavation at the sanctuary in this volume. The authors' clarity and thoroughness, as well as thoughtful discussion will appeal equally to readers interested in the aforementioned overarching themes, and specialists concerned with individual types of material. The tentative (although nonetheless, at times, provocative) interpretations offered here leave little to quibble with, and will no doubt be further illuminated by planned work in the monastery, as well as at the ancient settlement on nearby Keber Tepe.

Table of Contents

Engelbert Winter, Das Heiligtum auf dem Düluk Baba Tepesi bei Doliche. Die Grabungen der Jahre 2013-2015
Dirk Leder, The Lithic Finds from Dülük Baba Tepesi and their Place in the PPNB of the Western Euphrates Region
Wolfgang Messerschmidt, Das Heiligtum auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi in der vorhellenistischen Eisenziet – Versuch einer kulturgeschichtlichen Einordnung
Werner Oenbrink, Neufunde attischer Keramik vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Silke Haps, Überlegungen zu den Mauerzügen des (hellenistisch-)römischen Heiligtums auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi bei Doliche. Ergebnisse der Kampagnen 2013-2015
Michael Blömer, Der Gott im Blätterkelch. Ein neues Relief vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Margherita Facella, A New Altar for the God Turmasgade from Dülük Baba Tepesi
Werner Oenbrink, Gorgo Medusa? – Beidseitig reliefierte Fragmente aus dem Heiligtum des Iuppiter Dolichenus auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi
Jan Pieter Löbbing, Kaiserzeitlicher Marmor vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Torben Schreiber, Ein Feldherr, Bonus Eventus und eine Ziege. Drei Gemmen vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Daria Olbrycht, Beinartefakte vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Constanze Höpken, Schlüssel und Schlösser vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Eva Strothenke, Die African Red Slip-Ware und Late Roman C-Ware vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Nadja Plöllath and Joris Peters, Fish and Fasting – Insight into the Diet of Late Antique-Byzantine Dülük Baba Tepesi

Constanze Höpken, Ultramarinblau-Pigment aus dem Kloster des Mar Salomon auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi
Frank Mucha, Analysen der Blaupigmente vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Eva Strothenke, Ausgewählte Funde glasierter Keramik vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
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Floris van den Eijnde, Josine Blok, Rolf Strootman (ed.), Feasting and Polis Institutions. Mnemosyne, supplements, 414. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018. Pp. xiii, 384. ISBN 9789004356726. €121,00.

Reviewed by Jessica M. Romney, Dickinson College (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume, the result of a three-day conference held at Utrecht University (2014), examines the relationship between the sacrificial feast, the symposium, and the political institutions associated with them. The volume's title and theme link feasting to polis-institutions, but the chronological spread from the Early Iron Age to the Imperial period necessitates that 'polis' be understood broadly. The volume is arranged roughly chronologically, allowing the reader to get a sense of the larger developments over time alongside the specific developments on which each contribution focuses. The geographical spread is narrower than one might hope; over half of the papers concern feasting patterns in Athens and Attica, or rely almost entirely on Athenian evidence for feasting institutions across the Greek world. The papers that specifically step out of Attica include Vlachou's contribution on Amykles, Whitley and Madgwick on the Cretan andreion, and Mari on the Macedonian influences on Hellenistic feasting. All in all, however, this volume will be a welcome contribution to the Greek room in the Food Studies house, particularly due to the spread of evidence for Greek feasting practices and for the focus on the ways that feasts contributed simultaneously to ideas of citizen equality and to hierarchies of power (the "dialectic of hierarchy and equality" is a common theme). The introduction will be particularly helpful for those new to the field.

That introduction establishes the feast as a "condensed social fact" (p. 6) and "the very institutional framework that keeps the polis in place" (p. 2). The volume is addressed to answering the question of how the framework of the feast supported the structures of the polis, particularly in regards to the question, 'who paid for what?' The introduction is grounded in work on the anthropology of feasting, particularly that by M. Dietler and B. Hayden on political commensality. Van den Eijnde devotes the bulk of it to reviewing six main topics: feasting and communication; feasting and power relations; ritual and religion at the feast; the rise of sacred temenē and the ideal of shared patronage; conbibiality and feasting; and the decline of egalitarian feasting. While all are addressed in the volume, the break-down is haphazard: feasting topics such as the first one in the above list (feasting and communication) are very broad, while others are far narrower in the scope of the volume (for example, the rise of sacred temenē and shared patronage). For those new to the anthropology of feasting and food studies, a break-down of the large topics into sub-groups, such as an overview of the various forms of communication at feasts and what they connote, would have been helpful. A section on group membership as predicated on participation at the feast would also have been appreciated, not only due to the prevalence of this theme but also because, as several papers demonstrate, membership can be flexible and even physical presence may not be necessary for participation in the feast and the feasting group. Van den Eijnde's subsequent contribution to the volume is most concerned with the question of who paid for what as he follows the changing feasting practices in Attica and patronage roles from c. 1100-600 BCE, over which time he argues that the consumption of meat migrated from feasts thrown by local big men to the sacred temenē with a divine patron. The shift to divine patronage means that individual elites are no longer competing with one another for status through increasingly large feasts; elite status is instead displayed by contributing to the divine feast. Van den Eijnde gives one of the more thorough explorations of theory and methods in the volume, focusing particularly on the distinction between 'ritual' and 'religion.'

Three papers examine how feasting contributes to self-definition. Alexandridou's paper on feasting in Early Iron Age Attica reviews the ceramic evidence from the "Sacred House" at the Academy and compares the assemblage to material from contemporary structures elsewhere in Attica. In contrast to previous work, which emphasizes the presence of sacred activities at the site, she argues that the ceramic assemblage points to feasting by an extended elite kinship group whose commensality was linked to EIA practices of elite self-definition; the subsequent abandonment of the site can then be traced to changes in elite status displays. Vlachou's contribution focuses on feasting at the sanctuary of Apollo Hyakinthos at Amykles (ancient Amyklai), from the late 11th to the late 8th century. Feasting is an important component of the ritual activities at the site, and Vlachou proposes that it "served as the crucial factor in maintaining the memory of the place" (p. 113) for the groups involved. Lambert's contribution returns to Attica as he focuses on the sacrifices and sacrificial calendar of the Marathonian Tetrapolis in the 4th century. Lambert includes an appendix with the text and translation of the calendar to accompany his study of how feasting, and particularly the funding of a feast, served as a site for individuals to articulate their status and relationship to the collective. In the Tetrapolis, local identity grounded itself in the sacrificial calendar, and the epigraphical evidence shows a "remarkably collectivist" (p. 168) approach to funding the sacrificial feasts, to which about a third of the adult men contributed.

Three papers examine the connections between the citizen collective and feasting institutions. Whitley and Madgwick's contribution on the Cretan andreion examines the evidence for the 5th/4th-century building in the First Acropolis of Praisos identified as the Almond Tree House/Andreion by the excavator. They argue that this building was an andreion, as evidenced by the cup deposits, high numbers of wild/feral caprines and hares, and the masculine iconography. As a space where the male spheres of commensality and ritualized bonding produce citizens, the Cretan andreion constituted citizenship through consumption of the wild. Steiner's paper turns to the more formalized Athenian parallel, the public dining of the prytaneis at the Tholos in Athens. She argues that the principle of isonomia that Ephialtes' reforms articulated was tangibly expressed in the dining practices of the Tholos, as seen in the round form of the building, the polis' role as host, and the standardization of ceramic vessels used. Enforced equality accompanied the mandatory shared meals of the prytaneis, reinforcing the new reforms and values of the Athenian democracy. Complementing this, Blok and van't Wout's paper examines the institution of sitēsis at the Prytaneion, the polis hearth of Athens. Their paper includes a new text and translation of the Prytaneion decree, and, while the focus of their paper is on the text and situating it in the early 420s, they also note the significance of sitēsis for Athens as an institution with diacritical significance among the citizen body and for effecting external relationships.

Two papers, those by Lynch and Wecowski, focus on the symposium as such, and both examine its evolution in line with the changing needs of the Classical elite. Wecowski's paper argues that the twilight of the symposium should be dated to the mid-4th century, with the decline beginning in the mid-5th (versus arguments that date it to the late Hellenistic period). He argues that the diminishing importance of musical accompaniment by the symposiasts themselves, the increasing practice of drinking to one's pleasure, and the gradual disappearance of the skolion game all point to a change in sympotic practices. Furthermore, during this period the symposium began to lose its role as the site of elite cultural expression and status performance. Lynch's paper turns to the change from 'symposium' to 'symposium-feast' as food becomes increasingly important to elite banqueting in the late Classical to Hellenistic period (c. 425-200). Starting in the late 5th century, fine ware assemblages suggest that food becomes more important to elite social activities, and by the 3rd century, food service and consumption vessels exceed the drinking equipment. The square andron is replaced by a rectangular hall, and the emphasis is now on personal relationships with the host rather than group bonding. The increased reliance on wealthy individuals to fund polis initiatives in this period helped shift the diacritical symposium to the empowering and promotional symposium-feast.

The final four papers of the volume focus on feasting in the Hellenistic period. Mari's paper examines the influence of Macedonian feasting practices on Hellenistic feasting, and she argues that the Macedonian influences go back further than Alexander. She traces five elements of Hellenistic feasting (moveable events; massive increase in scale; masses as audience; mixed contests; and strong military element) to three major Macedonian festivals: the Olympia at Dion, the Xandika, and the Daisia. The other three papers concern themselves with who shares in the sacrifice and how. Strootman's contribution examines how the Hellenistic kings become members of polis communities through feasting. He argues they did so through patronage feasts hosted by the king and by coopting civic feasts through ceremonial entry into the poleis. Paul turns to the practicalities of civic sacrificial division, where the shares of the sacrifice participate in a dialectic of equality and hierarchy. As seen in the sacrifices to Zeus Sosipolis in Magnesia on the Meander and the Athenian Lesser Panatheneia, the division of special portions among priests and/or those who participate in the pompē define a group separate from the general sacrificial assembly, whose membership is stressed through their notional participation in the sacrifice and division of meat. Finally, Carbon's paper turns to the issue of 'traveling meat': the sending of portions to honorands who are not present at the sacrifice. The granting of honorific portions of meat allowed foreigners and/or metics to participate in the polis community, while the additional grant of meat to those in absentia defined a Mediterranean-wide network through a commensality relationship that overcame the distance between host and guest.

This book will be useful to graduate students and scholars specializing in ancient food studies; the untranslated Greek will pose difficulties for undergraduates, as will the general assumption that the reader shares the same level of contextual knowledge that the authors do concerning specific points in Greek history, regions, and the theory concerning food and feasting. Adherence to the theme established in the introduction varies, as some papers focus more on food than the accompanying political institutions. There are a few typos,1 but the photos and line drawings are generally of high quality. In all, this contribution is valuable for its breadth and for its attempts to link feasting practices to the political institutions which operate beside and through them.

Authors and Titles

1. Floris van den Eijnde, "Feasting and Polis Institutions: an Introduction"
2. Alexandra Alexandridou, "Feasting in Early Iron Age Attika: the Evidence from the Site of the Academy"
3. Floris van den Eijnde, "Power Play at the Dinner Table: Feasting and Patronage between Palace and Polis in Attika"
4. Vicky Vlachou, "Feasting at the Sanctuary of Apollo Hyakinthos at Amykles: the Evidence from the Early Iron Age"
5. James Whitley and Richard Madgwick, "Consuming the Wild: More Thoughts on the Andreion"
6. Stephen Lambert, "Individual and Collective in the Funding of Sacrifices in Classical Athens: the Sacrificial Calendar of the Marathonian Tetrapolis"
7. Josine Blok and Evelyn van't Wout, "Table Arrangements: Sitêsis as a Polis Institution (IG I3 131)"
8. Ann Steiner, "Measure for Measure: Fifth-Century Public Dining at the Tholos in Athens"
9. Kathleen Lynch, "The Hellenistic Symposium as Feast"
10. Marek Wecowski, "When Did the Symposium Die? On the Decline of the Greek Aristocratic Banquet"
11. Rolf Strootman, "The Return of the King: Civic Feasting and the Entanglement of City and Empire in Hellenistic Greece"
12. Manuela Mari, "The Macedonian Background of Hellenistic Panegyreis and Public Feasting"
13. Stéphanie Paul, "Sharing the Civic Sacrifice: Civic Feast, Procession, and Sacrificial Division in the Hellenistic Period"
14. Jan-Mathieu Carbon, "A Network of Hearths: Honors, Sacrificial Shares, and 'Traveling Meat'"


1.   Most egregious perhaps is temenoi in the introduction for temenē.

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Elena Sánchez López, Javier Martínez Jiménez, Los acueductos de Hispania: construcción y abandono. Colección Juanelo Turriano de Historia de la Ingeniería. Madrid: Fundación Juanelo Turriano, 2016. Pp. 295. ISBN 9788494269578.

Reviewed by Linda R. Gosner, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (

Version at BMCR home site


Aside from the famous aqueduct of Segovia, a remarkably well-preserved and often photographed UNESCO World Heritage Site, most of us would be hard pressed to think of other aqueducts in Roman Iberia. Los acueductos de Hispania: construcción y abandono, a new book about the history and archaeology of urban aqueducts in the Iberian Peninsula, makes details about the many lesser known Iberian aqueducts readily accessible. The book is part of a series of online, open-access books produced by the Fundación Juanelo Turriano, a Madrid-based foundation dedicated to promoting the history of science, technology, and engineering to a broad academic and lay audience. Here, Elena Sánchez López and Javier Martínez Jiménez have compiled new and old data from across the Iberian Peninsula, producing a synthesis of existing information on urban aqueducts. The book—which has a remarkably broad chronological and geographical scope—benefits from the knowledge base of both authors. Together, they cover the entire Iberian Peninsula and discuss evidence ranging from Roman conquest through the Middle Ages. Sánchez López (Universidad de Granada) has previously written on Roman aqueducts across Baetica and produced a detailed analysis of the aqueduct at Almuñécar for her doctoral dissertation and various subsequent articles. Martínez Jiménez (Cambridge University), by contrast, brings expertise on post-Roman evidence for urban water management. His 2014 dissertation was entitled Aqueducts and Water Supply in the Towns of Post-Roman Spain (400-1000). The authors have done us an enormous service, as much of the data comes from recent fieldwork, rescue archaeology projects, and other sources that are difficult to access from outside of Spain and Portugal.

The book is divided into three sections. Chapter 1 situates the topic in scholarship and gives an introduction to Roman aqueducts in general, but with a primary focus on the evidence from the Iberian Peninsula. The second chapter discusses the role that aqueducts played in urban settings, as well as the typical phases of use and abandonment that large aqueducts went through. Finally, chapter 3—the bulk of the volume—is a catalog of 66 aqueducts from across Spain and Portugal, including the island of Ibiza. The book concludes with a series of appendices that present information given in the catalog in comparative perspective. The text is available in PDF, print, and online versions. I recommend the online version, which helps the reader use the text to its full capacity as an interactive research tool. In-text links facilitate jumping between mentions of specific aqueducts in the first two synthetic chapters and their more detailed catalog entries.

Chapter 1 serves as a very brief overview of the history of scholarship on aqueducts in the Iberian Peninsula, methods of studying them, as well as the engineering behind their construction. The first part of the chapter introduces various methods from archaeology, engineering, and history, with short sections on each that are unlikely to be of great utility to specialists. However, given the broad intended audience of the book, the chapter is useful in so far as it introduces the novice to a wide range of discipline-specific methodologies that will help them better understand the terminology used and detail presented later. Included, for instance, are discussions of relative and absolute dating techniques, the mathematical formulas for calculating the speed and volume of water, and the contributions and limits of written sources to the study of aqueducts.

The second part of Chapter 1 turns to the engineering of the aqueducts themselves and their various functions. The authors present details from book 8 of Vitruvius' De Architectura and Frontinus' De Aquaeductu as well as archaeological evidence from across the Iberian Peninsula, with occasional comparisons to notable aqueducts from other Roman provinces and the city of Rome. They do a commendable job of demonstrating how the archaeological evidence from Iberia both differs from and conforms to expectations set out in the ancient texts. For instance, Vitruvius (8.6) describes only three types of channels: built channels, lead pipes, and clay pipes. More varieties are known from the material evidence, however: both stone and wood pipes have been uncovered from archaeological contexts in Iberia (the former from Cádiz and Singilia Barba in Málaga and the latter from Los Bañales in Zaragoza). The chapter concludes with a brief summary of the various uses of water beyond drinking: for public baths and entertainment, sewage and cleaning, urban industry, and symbolic purposes. This second half of Chapter 1 will be of interest to archaeologists specializing in Roman water management and construction for its meticulous detail and presentation of evidence little known outside of Iberia. For those seeing a general view of Roman aqueducts or commentary on the ancient sources, other books will still serve these purposes better.1

In Chapter 2, "Aqueducts in Context," the authors elaborate on various functional and symbolic roles that aqueducts had to play in Roman cities. They detail how the construction, maintenance and repair, and final abandonment of aqueducts was intertwined with the long-term history of urban places in Iberia. The authors' central argument is that aqueducts were not essential components of Roman cities (just as not all cities had theaters), but that understanding how and why they were built and maintained can illuminate processes of urban development. For instance, some cities—like Carmona and Clunia—had enough cisterns and wells to supply the population and never required aqueducts. Other cities started out with simpler supply systems but added aqueducts so that they could supply new neighborhoods (e.g., Córdoba), public monuments such as fountains and baths (e.g., Italica), or industrial quarters (e.g., Baelo Claudia and Olisipo). Some aqueducts, by contrast, seem to have been constructed as local acts of euergetism or when cities became municipia and maintained as a point of pride, even when other water was readily accessible. This was apparently the case with the famous aqueduct at Segovia, which was constructed in a location with plentiful natural springs and cisterns (p. 72). Since aqueducts are often taken for granted as a typical part of Roman monumentalization and urbanization in the provinces, this chapter is a welcome reminder of just how varied and individual urban histories can be.

The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the abandonment of aqueducts: while about a quarter were still in use in the 5th century, this number declined steadily in the following centuries. The main exception to this pattern is the aqueduct at Reccopolis, newly constructed as a part of the Visigothic city in 578 AD. The authors bring up an interesting question that is ultimately not possible to answer given the variable quality of extant data: how does the abandonment of aqueducts in Iberia differ relative to other parts of the Roman Empire, like Gaul or Italy, which had vastly different political trajectories between 300 and 700 AD? In the case of Iberia, they argue, financing and specialized labor for aqueduct maintenance was no longer readily available (only four were in use at the time of the Umayyad conquest of Iberia in 711; p. 77). People in many cities adapted by altering the footprint of cities and increasing the use of wells and cisterns for water supply, while surviving aqueducts were privatized to serve Umayyad palaces and private estates.

Chapter 3 is a detailed catalog of 66 aqueducts organized geographically by the Roman provincial territories of Tarraconensis, Baetica, Lusitania, and Gallaecia, with further subdivisions by conventus. While certainly many more aqueducts are known than this, only aqueducts serving urban centers and for which there is material evidence are included. This means that aqueducts used in rural industries—such as agriculture and mining—are omitted, as are urban aqueducts that must have existed but have not yet been found (the authors cite Pollentia as one such example, p. 87). Each entry is presented uniformly to facilitate comparison and general usability. Most entries include the dates of construction and abandonment, as well as references to specific evidence that corroborates the dating. Next is a presentation of the technical elements of each aqueduct (e.g., slope, volume of water flow, and construction techniques and materials). The entries also include—whenever possible—a map, photos and/or drawings, a description of the path of the aqueduct, and, finally, a list of written sources (ancient and modern). The maps are especially well produced, clearly depicting the known and hypothesized routes of aqueducts, their relationship to cities, and their placement with respect to the topography of the wider landscape. Usefully, photographs of many examples are displayed in full color, often showing sections of aqueducts in the process of excavation or close-up shots taken by the authors.

The appendix provides elegant visualizations of the data in the catalog in comparative perspective, making it easier to contextualize and access this information. Bar graphs present a range of topics, including the periods of use and abandonment, relative lengths, relative capacity in volume, and relative heights of different aqueducts. The reader can see readily, for instance, that the aqueduct at Cádiz was the longest at 75 km, while the aqueduct at Toletum was the tallest at an estimated 40 m in height.

Prior to the publication of this work, Acueductos Romanos en España served as the standard text on the topic. The first edition was produced in 1972 from a series of six articles by Carlos Fernández Casado in the journal Informes de la Construcción.2 Because of its unusual origin, the book did not have a clear table of contents or even page numbers until it was reissued in 2008.3 Though encyclopedic at the time of its initial publication, its scope is limited in comparison to the book under review. The focus is on the territory of modern peninsular Spain only; Portugal and the Balearic Islands are omitted. Maps, drawings, and photographs, while of historical interest, are now outdated. Finally, because Fernández Casado was an engineer rather than an archaeologist, his primary focus is on the engineering rather than the life histories or wider contexts of aqueducts.

In light of the limitations of previous work, this new book is a welcome addition to research on Roman aqueducts in Iberia: it presents updated, detailed evidence on aqueducts in urban contexts in a readable, well-illustrated format, accompanied by a thoughtful discussion. I do lament that, although the publication venue of the book does make it widely accessible, it is inevitably more likely to be read by Spanish speakers with interests in the history of technology and engineering than by classical archaeologists, classicists, or historians.4 I hope this review will serve, at least, to make more people aware that the volume exists as a useful resource. Indeed, more open access books and catalogs that present little-known or difficult to find evidence would help facilitate comparative research across the Roman Empire. Los acueductos de Hispania: construcción y abandono should be of value to anyone who studies water management and urban infrastructure, Roman technology and engineering, as well as the history and archaeology of Hispania and of the Roman provinces in general.


1.   E.g., Hodge, A.T. 2002. Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply. 2nd ed. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press (Duckworth Archaeology); Rodgers, R.H. 2004. Frontinus. De Aquaeductu Urbis Romae. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Rowland, I.D., and T.N. Howe. 1999. Vitruvius. Ten Books on Architecture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2.   Fernández Casado, C. 1972. Acueductos Romanos en España. Madrid: Instituto Eduardo Toroja.
3.   Fernández Casado, C. 2008. Acueductos Romanos en España. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.
4.   This is especially true because many of the other volumes in the series deal with topics related to Spain's industrial heritage and engineering in later epochs rather than in antiquity (see Fundación Juanelo Turriano) and because this title does not seem to appear on most university library databases in the US.

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Milagros Quijada Sagredo, M. Carmen Encinas Reguero (ed.), Connecting Rhetoric and Attic Drama. Collana 'Le Rane', 66. Bari: Levante Editori, 2017. Pp. 313. ISBN 9788879496841. €42,00.

Reviewed by Nicolas Siron, ANHIMA Research Center (UMR 8210, Anthropologie et Histoire des Mondes Anciens) (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Connecting Rhetoric and Attic Drama est un ouvrage dirigé par deux chercheuses espagnoles publié intégralement en anglais auprès d'une maison d'édition italienne. Je me permets de rajouter une pierre à cet édifice cosmopolite en en faisant la recension en français. Il fait partie d'un projet de recherche qui a déjà connu plusieurs réalisations, avec la thèse (non publiée) de M. Carmen Encinas Reguero intitulée Tragedia y retórica en la Atenas clásica: la rhesis trágica como discurso formal en Sófocles et dirigée par Milagros Quijada Sagredo (2007), ainsi qu'un premier volume commun, Retórica y discurso en el teatro griego (2013 : BMCR 2015.04.31). La plupart des contributeurs ont participé à la première publication (huit sur onze). Si le titre du présent livre semble s'ouvrir à l'analyse des œuvres rhétoriques et s'il est dit dans l'introduction que l'objectif est de « highlight from different perspectives the proximity between theatre and rhetoric in Greece » (p. 22), il y est en fait surtout question des tragédies et comédies athéniennes abordées à partir des procédés rhétoriques qui peuvent y être employés. En tant que tel, le projet se situe dans une historiographie déjà abondante.1 Dans l'ensemble, très peu de coquilles sont à déplorer, à l'exception d'une contribution qui aurait mérité une relecture supplémentaire.2

Essentiellement dédiée au résumé des articles, l'introduction de Milagros Quijada Sagredo offre auparavant une courte réflexion sur les liens entre rhétorique et théâtre grec, en signalant l'importance de la nouvelle attitude envers le langage qui se met en place au début du Ve siècle avec l'élaboration de la démocratie athénienne. À noter que le mot « rhetoric » n'est jamais défini, alors que l'historiographie du terme est riche.3 Les usages qui en sont faits dans le cours de l'ouvrage oscillent entre les méthodes avancées par les philosophes et auteurs de traités de rhétoriques (Encinas Reguero, Quijada Sagredo, De Martino) et les stratégies concrètes utilisées par les orateurs dans les discours judiciaires conservés (Karamanou, do Céu Fialho).

Ruth Scodel s'intéresse aux échecs de la persuasion dans l'Antigone de Sophocle. Elle s'inspire du concept de « Theory of Mind » (capacité à percevoir l'état d'esprit des autres personnes) pour analyser comment les personnages tragiques tentent de trouver des arguments efficaces selon leurs interlocuteurs. Si, selon les philosophes (Platon, Aristote), le bon orateur est censé y parvenir, celui-ci s'adresse à un public nombreux et ne peut s'adapter à chacun de ses destinataires, au contraire de Créon et d'Hémon, qui échouent néanmoins à se convaincre réciproquement du fait des émotions qui les aveuglent. Si la démarche psychologisante est parfois gênante, l'idée directrice de l'article est intéressante et l'étude attentive des passages permet de la mener de manière convaincante, à tel point qu'on espérerait la voir appliquée à d'autres situations tragiques, comme l'Alceste ou l'Hippolyte d'Euripide.

Dans une étude fouillée et approfondie, M. Carmen Encinas Reguero traite quant à elle de l'utilisation des exemples (paradeigmata) dans les tragédies en général. Elle réexamine d'abord la définition des exemples dans les traités rhétoriques d'Anaximène de Lampsaque et d'Aristote : ils font partie des moyens de persuasion provenant du discours (entechnoi pisteis), même si leur place dans l'organisation générale varie considérablement d'une œuvre à l'autre et même à l'intérieur de l'œuvre d'Aristote. La bibliographie à ce propos est riche et bien assimilée. Dans les tragédies, les exemples peuvent être mythologiques (surtout chez Euripide), fictifs (surtout chez Eschyle) ou tirés de la nature (surtout chez Sophocle). Le panorama d'occurrences, traitées par auteur dans les trois cas, permet de montrer comment les comparaisons appuient l'idée ou l'argument d'un personnage en trouvant un parallèle qui les renforce. À noter tout de même que certains exemples analysés, en particulier dans les parties lyriques, ne relèvent pas d'une situation de persuasion à proprement parler (voir par exemple 60–62).

Milagros Quijada Sagredo compare la structure des tragédies au fonctionnement concret des tribunaux athéniens, à partir des Perses d'Eschyle. Dans cette représentation, longs discours et questions-réponses feraient écho aux plaidoiries des plaignants et à l'interrogatoire des témoins (voir la description qu'elle fait de son article en introduction (15), mais il s'agit en réalité du questionnement de l'adversaire : 79–80), pour établir le fait incroyable qu'est la défaite de l'armée de Xerxès. Penser la pièce comme focalisée non pas sur la défaite mais sur les moyens de la prouver est intéressant et l'étude littéraire approfondie des longues tirades et des dialogues stichomythiques successifs est convaincante.

Maria do Céu Fialho examine les évolutions de l'intrigue de l'Iphigénie à Aulis suivant les changements d'opinion des personnages. L'analyse porte de manière assez générale sur la manière dont les différents personnages tentent de se persuader les uns les autres, voire de justifier leurs propres choix, pour dégager les éléments qui contribuent à prendre une décision (obligation du serment de Tyndare, pression de l'armée, arguments logiques, peur de la populace, supplication…). L'auteure en profite pour critiquer l'idée répandue selon laquelle la tragédie serait, dans le contexte de la guerre du Péloponnèse, un appel à la réunion des Grecs. Sur l'indécision des personnages dans la pièce, on aurait attendu la prise en compte des remarques de John Gibert, Change of Mind in Greek Tragedy, (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995).

Les deux études suivantes concernent le procédé de l'ekphrasis. José Antonio Fernández Delgado et Francisca Pordomingo démontrent que la première partie du premier stasimon de l'Électre d'Euripide utilise, comme la suite qui dépeint le bouclier d'Achille, la technique de l'ekphrasis. Le dramaturge est donc perçu comme un disciple de la sophistique rhétorique plutôt que comme un modèle pour des œuvres postérieures. L'argumentation est solide et claire, mais il convient de noter qu'élargir ainsi le sens d'ekphrasis pourrait conduire à l'appliquer à de nombreux stasima tragiques. Francesco De Martino emprunte pour l'appliquer aux comédies la catégorie des prosopa définie par Aelius Théon : description, avec effet comique, de personnages inventés (Dicaiopolis se décrit lui-même en détail dans les Acharniens), mythologiques (le glouton Héraclès et le lâche Dionysos) ou historiques (Périclès dans les Acharniens) et même de poètes (Euripide qui s'auto-décrit dans les Thesmophories) voire d'Aristophane lui-même (Guêpes, Cavaliers…) et de son public, enfin d'animaux. On regrettera que la plupart des extraits ne soient pas traduits.

Les deux présentations qui suivent se concentrent chacune sur une pièce fragmentaire. Ioanna Karamanou s'appuie sur l'édition qu'elle vient de réaliser de l'Alexandre d'Euripide (2017 : BMCR 2018.09.56) et en particulier les fragments se rapportant à la scène qui voit Alexandre être accusé par des bergers et se défendre devant Priam. Les développements témoignent d'une vraie connaissance des sources judiciaires et la thématique de l'ouvrage amène à une focalisation intéressante sur la nature judiciaire du débat, mais on pourra se reporter plus simplement à son édition commentée, plus complète. Maria de Fátima Silva part de la vantardise de Bellérophon dépeinte dans les comédies d'Aristophane pour analyser les fragments conservés de la pièce éponyme d'Euripide (en particulier les longues tirades du héros, fr. 285-286 Kn.). Le rapport à la rhétorique demeure très faible, le sujet des passages conservés concernant plutôt la justice au sens large du terme.

Les deux derniers articles dépassent le cadre du Ve siècle. Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou analyse les agônes de certaines tragédies du IVe siècle (de Chérémon et Carcinos le Jeune) pour identifier des évolutions dans l'écriture des tragédies post-classiques, enrichies selon elle par l'apport de la rhétorique. Lorna Hardwick part de théories actuelles sur la performance et le théâtre pour repenser l'interaction entre raison et émotions dans les tragédies athéniennes. Sa contribution, qui ne se veut pas un essai sur la réception des pièces (242), étudie certaines tirades d'héroïnes tragiques cherchant à convaincre leurs interlocuteurs (Médée, Hécube, Andromaque) pour éclairer la manière dont ces passages peuvent influencer nos sociétés contemporaines et les débats qui les animent.

La bibliographie montre que les auteurs ont lu certains spécialistes du droit (quelques travaux de Gagarin, Kennedy, MacDowell, Mirhady, Thür ou Todd), mais témoigne surtout d'une tendance à l'autocitation (47 références au total). Elle est suivie d'un bon index de 24 pages réalisé par M. Carmen Encinas Reguero.

Au final, l'ensemble paraît déséquilibré : si le domaine tragique est bien maîtrisé, les connaissances manquent parfois du point de vue de la dimension rhétorique et judiciaire. L'article d'Encinas Reguero aurait bénéficié de la lecture de l'ouvrage L'utilisation de l'histoire par les orateurs attiques de Michel Nouhaud (1982), qui lui aurait permis de renforcer ses propositions et de s'ouvrir aux exemples développés pour souligner par contraste les différences avec la situation des protagonistes (à peine effleurés). En ce qui concerne la contribution de Quijada Sagredo, les tirades du messager ou des autres personnages ne peuvent être comparés à des témoins judiciaires (ce qui oblige l'auteure à sur-traduire παρών en « witnessed », 93) : dans les discours judiciaires, les dépositions ne sont qu'une confirmation des paroles de l'orateur et n'apportent aucune information supplémentaire, au contraire du récit riche en détails du messager ou de Darius. C'est plutôt du côté des stichomythies qu'il aurait fallu se tourner, en reprenant la question de l'interrogatoire des témoins, lequel n'existe plus à l'époque d'Aristote mais pouvait avoir lieu au Ve siècle. Enfin, le fragment 3 de Chérémon est très justement rapproché par Xanthaki-Karamanou du Contre Nééra d'Apollodore, mais il aurait été judicieux de le mettre en parallèle avec les déclarations récurrentes des plaignants visant à montrer qu'ils ne sont pas responsables du procès en cours (rapprochement valable aussi pour le fragment reprenant les Phéniciennes d'Euripide : voir 236-237). Dans la même pièce, Agamemnon est comparable à un arbitre privé, tout comme Jocaste dans les Phéniciennes, qui n'a que peu à voir avec un juge (232). Dans la Médée de Carcinos, le passage très intéressant dans lequel Jason demande à sa femme de faire venir ses enfants pour prouver qu'elle ne les a pas tués fait écho à certaines situations où des plaignants ont produit des individus supposément morts.4 Passées ces difficultés, les études des pièces sont pour la plupart bien menées et pourront être utiles aux chercheurs travaillant sur le théâtre antique.

Authors and titles

Ruth Scodel, « Mind-Reading, Rhetoric, and Antigone » (23–41)
M. Carmen Encinas Reguero, « The Paradeigma: Rhetorical Theory and Dramatic Practice in Classical Athens » (43–76)
Milagros Quijada Sagredo, « Approaching Tragic Structure to Judicial Procedure: Aeschylus's Persians » (77–101)
Maria do Céu Fialho, « Rhetoric and Crisis in Euripides, Iphigeneia at Aulis » (103–116)
José Antonio Fernández Delgado et Francisca Pordomingo, « Ekphrasis, Hesiodic Hypotext and Foretelling in the First Stasimon of Euripides' Electra » (117–136)
Francesco De Martino, « Ekphrasis and Comedy: The prosopa » (137–159)
Ioanna Karamanou, « Fragments of Euripidean Rhetoric: The Trial-Debate in Euripides' Alexandros » (161–176)
Maria de Fátima Silva, « The "Boastful" Bellerophon: The Rhetoric in an Euripides' lost Play » (177–212)
Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou, « Dramatic Debates in Post-Classical Tragedy: Additional Remarks » (213–240)
Lorna Hardwick, « Transformation through Performance: Theatre Conventions, Reason, Emotion and Conscience » (241–264)


1.   Voir par exemple Victor Bers, « Tragedy and Rhetoric », dans Ian Worthington (éd.), Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action, London/New York, 1994, pp. 176–195 ; Edward M. Harris, Delfim F. Leão et P. J. Rhodes, Law and Drama in Ancient Greece, London, 2010.
2.   On notera : « persuasive » (58), « suggests » plutôt que « suggest » (100), « ellaboration » (107), « agains » (108), « Agamenon » (109), « closelly » (111), χοροὺς plutôt que χορούς (135), « the private and public of sphere of action » (176), « Achiles » (214), « betwen » (232), « c'est fair voir » (266).
3.   Voir dernièrement Steven Johnstone, A History of Trust in Ancient Greece, Chicago/London, 2011, chap. 8, après l'article de Victor Bers déjà cité (n. 1).
4.   Voir en particulier Isocrate, Contre Callimachos (XVIII), 52–54.

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Mor Segev, Aristotle on Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. vii, 192. ISBN 9781108415255. £75.00.

Reviewed by Etienne Helmer, University of Puerto Rico (

Version at BMCR home site


La défiance des philosophes envers les religions de leur temps est chose courante, et Aristote n'échappe pas à la règle. Sa représentation de dieu comme premier moteur immobile au livre Lambda de la Métaphysique n'a rien de commun avec le Zeus du panthéon grec, et pourrait passer pour une forme d'impiété. D'ailleurs, Aristote ne fut-il pas traîné en justice comme Socrate pour ce motif ?1 Pourtant, il ne recommande pas de se distancier de la religion traditionnelle, et l'intègre même dans sa cité idéale. Comment comprendre un tel paradoxe ?

Dans un ouvrage clair et convaincant consacré à la religion chez Aristote, Mor Segev défend la thèse suivante : Aristote critique certes les religions traditionnelles, dont le contenu est divulgué par les mythes, la poésie et l'opinion commune, mais il estime que leur fonction est indispensable sur le plan sociopolitique. La religion oriente en effet les âmes des hommes les meilleurs vers les principes dont la compréhension forme le contenu du bonheur. Le faux, en somme, peut aussi servir le bien et le vrai – Aristote a retenu la leçon de Platon.

L'ouvrage comporte cinq chapitres. Les quatre premiers présentent le paradoxe et sa solution, et le dernier examine les prolongements de la position aristotélicienne dans les pensées médiévales juives et chrétiennes, en prenant pour exemples Maïmonide et Albert le Grand.

Le chapitre I expose l'objet des critiques d'Aristote envers les religions : elles visent principalement l'anthropomorphisme qui imprègne la plupart d'entre elles, ainsi que l'idée que les dieux ont une conduite intentionnelle et répondent au culte de leurs fidèles, comme c'est le cas dans un schéma providentiel. Pour Aristote au contraire, dieu est identifiable à la faculté théorétique se pensant elle-même, et il est la cause première de tout mouvement, aussi bien dans notre âme que dans le reste de l'univers. L'interprétation détaillée d'un passage controversé du De philosophia (p. 29-47), qui répond à l'allégorie platonicienne de la caverne, en remet en question les lectures courantes : pour Mor Segev, Aristote n'y soutient ni un argument téléologique pour prouver l'existence de dieu, ni un projet d'éducation philosophique, mais énonce une critique des Formes platoniciennes comme séparées et indument déduites d'un argument téléologique sans fondement.

Les chapitres II à IV expliquent le détail du paradoxe aristotélicien sur la religion traditionnelle, ainsi que la fonction qu'elle peut jouer malgré la fausseté de son contenu. Le paradoxe est d'autant plus fort que, contrairement à Platon, Aristote ne propose pas de transformer ce contenu au moment d'étudier le rôle politique de la religion dans sa cité idéale. A quoi peut- elle donc servir dans ces conditions ?

Dans le chapitre II, l'auteur souligne que son utilité ne tient pas au contrôle social qu'elle permet d'exercer, car la cité d'Aristote est faite d'hommes vertueux. Selon Mor Segev, la fonction primordiale de la religion traditionnelle pour Aristote est de permettre d'atteindre la connaissance de la philosophie première, dont dieu est l'objet central. Le rôle des prêtres – Mor Segev ne dit pas si Aristote estime qu'ils en ont ou pourraient en avoir conscience – est de susciter auprès des fidèles l'émerveillement envers les dieux, émerveillement pouvant alors donner lieu, dans le meilleur des cas, à une enquête philosophique sur les premiers principes. L'anthropomorphisme divin peut ainsi favoriser la connaissance philosophique de dieu. Si cet argument lui-même ne figure pas tel quel dans le corpus aristotélicien, un argument similaire se trouve chez Strabon (Geographica 1.2.8), dont Mor Segev montre, avec toute la prudence requise, qu'il est raisonnable de l'appliquer aussi à Aristote, dans la mesure où, à l'évidence, Strabon puise sans le dire les éléments de sa réflexion chez le Stagirite.

Si donc la religion traditionnelle n'enseigne pas, du moins facilite-t-elle l'enseignement en suscitant un état émotionnel qui lui est propice. Comment concilier toutefois l'argument d'Aristote avec sa téléologie ? Comment le faux peut-il avoir une fonction naturelle ? Pour Mor Segev, il en va de la religion comme de l'argent, qui sont pour Aristote des instruments conventionnels : dépourvus de valeur en eux-mêmes, ils trouvent leur usage naturel quand ils sont employés en vue d'un but naturel, à savoir respectivement l'acquisition limitée des richesses, et le bonheur de la cité et des individus.

Dans le chapitre III, Mor Segev examine l'élément précis qui, dans les religions traditionnelles, permettrait aux fidèles les meilleurs d'entreprendre une enquête philosophique sur les premiers principes. Le dénominateur commun entre les hommes et les dieux, que les descriptions anthropomorphiques des dieux incitent à découvrir, est la possession et l'exercice de l'intellect, dont la fonction est de se penser soi-même comme pensant. Si la religion traditionnelle tend plutôt à distinguer les mortels des immortels, elle peut donc toutefois mettre sur la voie de la connaissance philosophique de ce qu'ils ont en commun, et qui fonde notre capacité de comprendre l'activité divine.

Le court chapitre IV a pour objet le regard qu'Aristote porte sur les mythes et leur usage. A l'exception de ceux dont le contenu est incontestablement obscur, tous sont utiles malgré leur fausseté intrinsèque, qui porte toujours des traces de vérité : ils peuvent contribuer à une forme de stabilité sociale et d'habituation morale, mettre sur la voie d'une instruction philosophique concernant des points théoriques particuliers (comme les théories du mouvement par exemple), soutenir les lois d'une cité, ou encore rendre compte d'un état passé du monde.

Mor Segev consacre le dernier chapitre de son ouvrage à l'influence que la théorie aristotélicienne a exercée sur deux penseurs médiévaux, Maïmonide et Albert le Grand. Maïmonide suit de près Aristote, en estimant que le culte, avec son contenu anthropomorphique, est préparatoire à la connaissance philosophique de dieu. Albert le Grand estime lui aussi que la poésie et les mythes et religieux peuvent servir à persuader les fidèles et orienter leur conduite. Mais à la différence de Maïmonide et d'Aristote, il situe leur finalité propre non dans une connaissance philosophique de dieu ou des premiers principes, mais dans une contemplation théologique directe de la vérité.

Outre quelques répétitions dans l'annonce des idées directrices et dans les conclusions de chaque chapitre, on peut peut- être reprocher à Mor Segev de ne pas situer plus précisément Aristote par rapport à Platon sur cette question, au début du livre par exemple, ainsi que par rapport à certains de ses disciples, comme Dicéarque qui accordait à la vie pratique la supériorité éthique sur la vie contemplative : quel rôle pouvait bien jouer pour lui la religion ? Ces remarques n'entament toutefois pas la valeur et la rigueur de l'ouvrage, qui se distingue par la portée anthropologique que Mor Segev, sans le dire en ces termes, perçoit dans la réflexion d'Aristote en matière religieuse. Ce dernier ne se contente pas en effet de critiquer la religion traditionnelle tout en se résignant à sa nécessité sociale ou politique : il montre en quoi la religion offre une réponse au désir naturel de savoir propre à l'homme, et figure à ses yeux l'institution politique ou sociale du vrai.


1.   Richard Bodéus, « L'impiété d'Aristote », Kernos [En ligne], 15 | 2002, mis en ligne le 21 avril 2011.

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Lia Raffaella Cresci, Francesca Gazzano (ed.), De imperiis: l'idea di impero universale e la successione degli imperi nell'antichità. Rapporti interstatali nell'antichità, 9. Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2018. Pp. 325. ISBN 9788891312457. €144.00.

Reviewed by Olivier Hekster, Radboud Universiteit (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents appears below.]

This volume originated as a conference at Genoa in October 2015. It brings together thirteen articles. Eleven are in Italian, one in Spanish and one in English. Almost all the articles discuss translatio imperii, in that they look at how the notion of 'successions of empires' has influenced ideological frameworks and historiographic debates in antiquity. The notion of 'universal empire', prominent in the title, comes to the fore less systematically. It is indicative that there is not a single reference to Bang and Kołodziejczyk's Universal Empire in the volume. 1

A brief but useful introduction sets out some of the underlying notions of the volume. It mentions four aspects on which the volume contributes to academic debate. Firstly, it highlights empires which are often peripheral in debates surrounding the succession of empires (such as Egypt). Secondly, it looks at modes in which notions of translatio imperii and universal emperorship have been employed to formulate rule. Thirdly, it shows some new perspectives on paradigmatic empires within theories of succession: Persia, Macedonia and Rome. Finally, articles in the volume pay specific attention to late antique and Byzantine discussions of translatio imperii. These aspects do indeed feature in the articles, but often in a somewhat intuitive way. Subdivisions or overarching themes remain rather implicit. The volume is not structured alongside the above-named aspects, but (more or less) in a chronological order of the source-material treated in each chapter. Most of that source material is literary; there are only three images in the book, one of which is of fairly low quality.

Francesco Mari opens the volume with a discussion of 'Il miraggio di Ecbatana. Il dibatto sull <<impero>> dei Medi e l'ipotesi di una provenienza iranica per l'idea di translatio imperii in Erodoto' (pp. 3-36). It summarizes discussions on the existence and nature of a Median 'empire', focusing on historiographical material, in particular Herodotus. As follows from the lengthy title to the article, Mari argues that Herodotus' mēdikos logos, which provides the first expression of the idea of translatio imperii, derives from Iranian, probably Achaemenid, oral sources.

Francesca Gazzano follows with a fascinating analysis of 'L'impero che non fu. La Lidia nella successione degli imperi' (pp. 39-63). Her key question is why Lydia—hardly a proper 'empire' by any definition—is often mentioned in Graeco-Roman lists of successive empires. The reason, according to Gazzano, is less Lydia's perceived imperial status, and more the historical importance Croesus played—not as a ruler who gained universal power but as one whose fall allowed Cyrus to found a universal empire. Gazzano provides an overview of ancient citations of successive empires on pp. 62-63, which could have usefully been an appendix to the whole book, if expanded with authors whom Gazzano does not deal with.

Omar Coloru follows up on the findings from his superb 2009 study on ancient Bactria in the brief 'Come Alessandro, oltre Alessandro. Communicare il potere nel regno Greco-battriano e nei regni indo-greci' (pp. 67-80). 2 He highlights the importance of Alexander the Great in the ideological positioning of Greek kings of Bactria and India. The notion of translatio imperii is stressed by noting how kings positioned themselves as successors to Alexander. Alexander, however, over time became a mythical figure, comparable to Herakles and Dionysos as abstract conqueror of India. This was not someone whom one could politically succeed, leading to a more vague rapport between kings and Alexander.

In the extensive 'L'anello debole della catena? L'egemonia macedone nella tradizione antica sulla translatio imperii' by Federicomaria Muccioli (pp. 83-135), the focus is on historiography surrounding Macedonia as paradigmatic empire. The article can be usefully compared to Gazzano's analysis of Lydia; why and when were certain 'empires' attractive to use as potential predecessors? Macedonia, Muccioli makes clear, was a useful empire to call to mind when in opposition to Rome. A number of Greek authors writing in the Roman period minimized Macedonian 'imperial' status, but eastern monarchies, such as Cappadocia, Pontus and Commagene, extensively used (invented) links to Macedonia to politically position themselves. That was also reflected in later ancient texts like the Sibylline Oracles.

In the only Spanish contribution, 'De Rey del Ponto a Rey de Reyes. El imperio de Mithrídates Eupatór en el contexto del Oriente tardo-helenístico' (pp. 139-170), Luis Ballesteros Pastor discusses how Mithridates Eupator placed his reign within wider imperial history. According to Ballesteros Pastor, Mithridates positioned the Pontic empire outside of any translatio imperii, claiming that it was conquered by neither Alexander nor his successors. In his struggle with Rome, Eupator claimed a (peripheral) position in the succession of empires, and included the title 'King of Kings' on his gold coinage. In that way, he could boost his claim to be an alternative to Rome.

The volume continues with two contributions on imperial Rome: Giovanelli Cresci Marrone's 'Imperium sine fine dedi. Il principato di Augusto e il problema della dimensione temporale' (pp. 173-189) and Giusto Traina's brief 'L'impero romano e il proemio di Appiano' (193-203). Both deal with literary evidence; Cresci Marrone asks how Augustan poets positioned the empire in time rather than in space. One would expect that for most poets the eternal city was supposed to be the endpoint of any translatio imperii, and that seems in fact to be the case, though some less pro-Augustan authors, like Pompeius Trogus, indicate possible successors to Rome. Whether that means that the notion of translatio imperii was important in imperial Rome is somewhat doubtful. It does not, in fact, figure in Traina's piece, though he notes the structural similarities between Appian's prooemion and those of Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in both of whose works translatio imperii figured strongly. Instead, Appian focuses on the spatial dimension, explicitly accepting and defining the borders of the Empire. Appian's Rome no longer claimed to be a universal empire.

A Persian perspective is put forward in the too brief English contribution by Touraj Daryaee, 'Alexander the Great and the succession of Persian empires' (pp. 207-215). Daryaee examines the role of Alexander as lynchpin in discussions about successions of empires in the ancient Iranian world, through his portrayal in Pahlavi and classical Persian literature. There are interesting observations here, but the article supplies too little context or background for the non-initiated reader (of whom this reviewer is one) to usefully compare this Iranian Alexander to, for instance, the Bactrian Alexander in Coloru's contribution. This is somewhat of a missed opportunity for the volume, since the east-west divide in perceptions of translatio imperii is one of the recurring features in many articles. It would have been nice to see that addressed more extensively by stronger emphasis on what happened outside the Graeco-Roman world, something for which Daryaee supplies an interesting starting point.3

The last five articles of the volume deal with notions of translatio imperii in late-antique and byzantine sources. In his very substantial 'translatio studii et imperii. Diodoro, Africano e Giovanni Malala sul ruolo dell'Egitto nella storia universale' (pp. 219-261), Umberto Roberto looks at the surprising absence of Egypt from traditional discussions on translatio imperii. In a detailed overview of various texts, Roberto shows that Egypt plays an important role as place of origin for wisdom, science and technology in ancient historiography, and is also an illustrative example for the decline of empire. Egypt, Roberto shows, is often used in ancient reflections on power and political hegemony, even if it is excluded from traditional schemes of translatio imperii. John Malalas, whom Roberto refers to extensively, is the subject of Agnese Fontana's 'Translatio imperii nella Chronographia di Giovanni Malala: libri I-IX' (pp. 265-289). She convincingly shows how the sequence of empires in Malalas' first nine books is a narrative framework, not an eschatological one. There is a surprising lack of cross-references between this chapter and that of Roberto, especially in discussions of Malalas' description of Egyptian universal dominion. Nor are there cross-references between either article and Lia Raffaela Cresci's discussion 'Si come per levare (Michelangelo Buonarotti, Rime 152): Giorgo Monasco e Giovanni Malala a proposito di successione degli imperi' (pp. 315-332). In it, she shows how the ninth-century George Hamartolos works from the text of John Malalas' Chronicle, but adapts his notions of succession of empires to cohere to contemporary ideology. Having all these three articles in close proximity in one volume allows the reader to ask questions about ways in which notions of translatio imperii change over time, and shows how these are at least partly dependent on viewpoints of ancient authors and scholars analyzing those authors. There is much potential here for debate between the three articles, and it is a pity that this is not really reflected in the texts.

Paolo Odorico takes a wider though still dominantly literary view of how to study translatio imperii in Byzantine sources in his essayistic 'La translatio imperii nella letteratura imperiale di età giustinianea. Un caso di dibattito identitario' (pp. 293-312). He argues that ways in which successive empires are presented in Justinianic texts (with Constantinople as the new Rome) are part of a more general debate about what Byzantine identity should be. Again, the east-west divide is prominent here, less in terms of which empire is included or not, but more in relation to what 'origin' one decides to take as relevant historical past.

The final article is a draft version, without notes or bibliography, of the text that was delivered at the conference by Gianfranco Gaggero, before his unexpected death in 2016. The paper, 'Alcune considerazioni sulle quattro monarchie di Danielle e sulle successive riletture cristiane' (pp. 335-347), has the advantage of bringing later Christian traditions into the volume, and again noting specific developments in the eastern Empire through emphasis on (apocalyptic) Syriac sources. Their very eschatological interpretation of translatio imperii contrasts sharply with Malalas' vision of events, as interpreted by Fontana earlier in the volume. This again highlights geographical and chronological differentiations.

As is inevitable in conference proceedings, quality and focus on the subject matter vary from article to article. Through the dominant attention on literary sources, there is more coherence than in many volumes, and the semi-chronological structuring of the volume helps bringing out interesting contrasts and continuities. It is a pity that there is no real attempt to bring the various articles together. That would have lifted this volume from a series of useful contributions to analyzing ancient thoughts on translatio imperii, to a historiographic analysis of how translatio imperii came to be understood in a spatially and temporally divided 'ancient' world. Still, the contributions are valuable in themselves, and I learned much from reading the volume. Equally importantly, it raised interesting questions—even if it did not answer all of them.

On the whole the book is well edited, though there is a surprising number of references in the various bibliographies at the end of each article to works that were not referred to in the notes. The basis of literature for many of the articles is dominantly Italian and French scholarship, testifying to an increasing and unfortunate division between different linguistic traditions in the field. At the exorbitant prize of Euro 180, the book is unlikely to be widely distributed, and at that price, the press should have really provided indices of some sorts. The brief abstracts of articles at the end of the volume are no compensation for the absence of at least an index of names. For proper use of the volume, an index locorum would have been extremely helpful.

Table of Contents

Premessa, p. IX
1. Il miraggio di Ecbatana. Il dibattito sull'«impero» dei Medi e l'ipotesi di una provenienza iranica per l'idea di translatio imperii in Erodoto, Francesco Mari, p. 1
2. L'impero che non fu. La Lidia nella successione degli imperi, Francesca Gazzano, p. 37
3. Come Alessandro, oltre Alessandro. Comunicare il potere nel regno greco-battriano e nei regni indo-greci, Omar Coloru, p. 65
4. L'anello debole della catena? L'egemonia macedone nella tradizione antica sulla translatio imperii, Federicomaria Muccioli, p. 81
5. De Rey del Ponto a Rey de Reyes. El imperio de Mitrídates Eupátor en el contexto del Oriente tardo-helenístico, Luis Ballesteros Pastor, p. 137
6. Imperium sine fine dedi? Il principato di Augusto e il problema della dimensione temporale, Giovannella Cresci Marrone, p. 171
7. L'impero romano e il proemio di Appiano, Giusto Traina, p. 191
8. Alexander the Great and the Succession ofPersian Empires, Touraj Daryaee, p. 205
9. Translatio studii et imperii. Diodoro, Africano e Giovanni Malala sul ruolo dell'Egitto nella storia universale, Uberto Roberto, p. 217
10. Translatio imperii nella Chronographia di Giovanni Malala: libri I-IX, Agnese Fontana, p. 263
11. La translatio imperii nella letteratura imperiale di età giustinianea. Un caso di dibattito identitario. Paolo Odorico, p. 291
12. Sì come per levar (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Rime 152): Giorgio Monaco e Giovanni Malala a proposito di successione degli imperi, Lia Raffaella Cresci, p. 313
13. Alcune considerazioni sulle Quattro Monarchie di Daniele e sulle successive riletture cristiane, Gianfranco Gaggero, p. 333
TESTI, p. 343
TAVOLE, p. 349


1.   Peter Fibiger Bang and Dariusz Kołodziejczyk (eds.), Universal Empire: A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History. Cambridge/ New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012 (BMCR 2014.08.10). See now also Mark Altaweel and Andrea Squitieri (eds.) Revolutionizing a World From Small States to Universalism in the Pre-Islamic Near East. London: UCL Press 2018.
2.   Coloru Omar, Da Alessandro a Menandro: il regno greco di Battriana, Studi ellenistici 21, Pisa/Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2009 (BMCR 2010.10.33).
3.   In this context, it would be worth including the cosmocratic ideals of the Roman and Sassanian empire, which were taken up in the Umayyad caliphate, as discussed by Matthew P. Canepa, The Two Eyes of the Earth: Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran. The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 45. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2009, which is not referred to in the volume (BMCR 2011.04.16).

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