Monday, April 22, 2019


Pamela A. Webb, The Tower of the Winds in Athens: Greeks, Romans, Christians, and Muslims: Two Millennia of Continual Use. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, 270. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2017. Pp. xviii, 172. ISBN 9780871692702. $65.00.

Reviewed by Nassos Papalexandrou, The University of Texas at Austin (

Version at BMCR home site

In the last two decades visitors to Greece and other Mediterranean countries have been confronted with the proliferation of the now ubiquitous and unavoidable wind farms. The towers of these aeolic parks have punctuated cherished landscapes— once impenetrable and accessible only to the admiring human gaze— that now, totally, and perhaps irreversibly, have been surrendered to the quest for cheap and sustainable energy. The hardware of these towers exceeds any sense of measure: stilt-like supports carry turbines equipped with humongous rotor blades of ca 80 feet in length. Always craftily shaped like swords aimed for fights with superhuman giant beings, these blades provide a contemporary standard for assessing the power of the invisible forces of the winds, by contrast, the ancient conceptualization of these divine beings was graphically expressed on the elegant Athenian structure that is the monographic subject of Pamela Webb's book. Vitruvius and Varro, our extant ancient textual sources on the octagonal Horologion, assumed their readers' familiarity with it. Likewise, in this review I assume that the monument is well-known to BMCR readers. Unlike the oversize wind machines of today, throughout its life the Tower was integrally embedded in a vibrant civic space whereas in the beginning its functions were cognitive and aesthetic. Webb weaves an engaging and often insightful narrative of its rich biography.

The Tower dates from an era when weather phenomena were predictable in their recurrence, behavior, intensity, and effects. This is no longer the case. The last few decades have witnessed the disruption of age-old weather patterns. As everywhere in the world, in Greece storms have grown so ferocious and unpredictable that weather authorities have been giving them names—as I type these lines an "Okeanis" is ravaging the country. It is perhaps ironic that the last decade has also witnessed a remarkable wind of change in scholarly attention to the Tower of the Winds in Athens. In 2014 Herman Kienast published an admirable archaeological study that is commensurate to the quality of the Tower and its original technological sophistication. This will be the standard source of reference for a long time. Meanwhile the monument underwent systematic conservation and opened—for the first time ever!—to the public in 2016. This momentous development yielded new evidence (e.g., remnants of medieval frescos) and coincided with the similar handling of the Fethiye Mosque ("of the Conqueror" but also known as "mosque of the grain market") slightly to the northeast of the Tower and immediately to the west of the latrine building northwest of the Tower's north façade. Like the Tower, this seventeenth-century mosque had been used as storage space by the Greek Archaeological Service since the foundation of the modern Greek state. Now its domed interior is accessible and affords visitors a rare and very instructive comparison with that of the Horologion.

Webb's book provides a careful assessment of the Tower that often takes issue with or expands upon Kienast's and other scholars' interpretations of various aspects of the monument. More importantly, it attempts to assess its social life on a programmatically diachronic basis. Separate chapters scrutinize the evidence for the Christian and then the Muslim usage of the Tower until the establishment of the modern Greek state when, as Webb argues, the structure ceased to be functionally operational and became an archaeological site. Her analysis is careful, clear and eloquent and pivots around a main argument: at its very beginning (ca 140 BCE), the octagon also served a cultic function that somehow remained constantly ingrained in its operational DNA until the nineteenth century. Despite the severe lacunae in the available evidence and Webb's tendency to overstress circumstantial or insufficient evidence, this bold and interesting argument is well presented and worthy of scholars' attention. It will surely generate discussion and debate within the wider framework of the long overdue attention to the post-antique life of classical monuments and sites in Greece and elsewhere.

The first chapter (pp. 9-50: "The Hellenistic and Roman Tower") contextualizes the building during its earliest phase when an east-west street on its south side directly connected it with the Athenian Agora. The construction of the Roman Agora in the first century BCE and the so-called "Agoranomion" a century later surely altered our understanding of the original setting of the building. Webb stresses its relationship with an important but poorly known Hellenistic stoa at a slightly higher elevation to its southeast. A thorough analysis of all main aspects of both the exterior and interior of the tower includes Webb's points of contention with previous interpretations which will surely reinvigorate discussion. For example, she disagrees with Kienast on the dating of the chancel screens that once surrounded the centrally placed mechanism of the interior. Kienast wants it contemporary with the original construction whereas Webb finds it discordant with the consistent attention to "exactitude" of its geometric design (19-20). In the same chapter, of more import is Webb's iconographic and stylistic analysis of the sculptural complement of the Tower. Following Karanastasi, she stresses the affinities of the reliefs with the Altar of Zeus at Pergamon and suggests for them the rather high date of ca 140 BCE—a chronology connected to her argument that the patron of this building was Attalus II of Pergamon. This is an interesting and plausible suggestion and it will remain so until more corroborating evidence comes to light.

Webb's discussion of the Tower's interior water-run mechanism is fascinating but by necessity inconclusive given that the surviving evidence is sadly incomplete. Scholars have proposed a water-powered chronometric device or, as Kienast proposes, a celestial globe ("orrery")—the latter interpretation is definitely more in harmony with current understandings of the building as a wondrous cosmographic planetarium of sorts. Webb argues that this complex building also accommodated a religious function "…as a cult site of Boreas (and to a lesser extent his brothers) and commemorated his role in the Athenian defeat of the Persian Navy in 480 BC" (38). The supporting evidence, however, is circumstantial at best. The representation of the winds per se does not necessarily point to a cultic function. Webb discusses in detail the affinities between the type and morphology of the exterior and interior of the Tower vis-à-vis other centrally planned structures of Hellenistic date whose function was "cultic and commemorative" (42). These comparisons show only that the Athenian building conformed to the most sophisticated design traditions of the Hellenistic koine. Neither its civic context, however, nor its surviving apparatus point to anything more than a civic function. Webb's reconstruction of a boat-shape support of the mechanism in the interior of building (44) rests on very tenuous evidence and does nothing to strengthen the argument for a cultic function. The same holds true for the two boat-shaped graffiti in the interior—the longest is substantial in size (126 cm long: see Kienast 2014, 150)) and points perhaps to moments of fanciful story-telling inside the Tower, somewhere between the second and the fourth centuries CE. One can't help but agree with Webb's assessment of these graffiti as "…another curiosity in this monument rife with curiosities" (46).

After the Tower suffered some damage during Sulla's attack, it was restored but yet again the contents and precise function of its interior remain elusive. The construction of the Market of Caesar and Augustus in the late first century BCE largely affected the physical accessibility and visibility of the Tower. The subsequent addition of the latrines northwest of the Tower undoubtedly impacted the sensory ambience of the space that the Tower inhabited as long as the latrines functioned. A cultic usage of the Tower, as proposed by Webb, would have been incompatible with the presence of the latrines right at its northern foot. This book should have tackled this important problem face on.

Webb argues throughout that the Tower continued to function until its conversion to a Christian building. However, there is no evidence about the nature of this function. Neither is there any evidence about the date and nature of its conversion to a Christian use, the subject matter of chapter 2 ("The Christian Tower," pp. 51-76). Webb proposes that it functioned as a martyrium, perhaps in unison with the early Christian phase of the "Agoranomion" at some point in the early seventh century CE. In this early phase, however, the Christian usage would have been incompatible with the bold figural apparatus of the building, which does not bear any signs of intentional mutilation (e.g. the Parthenon's east, west, and north metopes). In a footnote Webb tentatively suggests that in this period the figures of the winds could have been interpreted as angels—one would have expected a rather lengthier discussion of the interesting possibility of a Christian interpretatio for these bold and powerful images. What responses did they generate in the local community around it? It may not be a coincidence that just a block to the east of the Fethiye mosque stands the parish church of the Taxiarchs, the archangels Michael and Gabriel. The Taxiarchs may be a successor of the three aisled church underneath the Fethiye mosque, an edifice now dated to the middle Byzantine period—was this cult localized here as a response to the appeal of the ancient reliefs? However this may have been, there is archaeological evidence (e.g. remnants of frescos that have yet to be dated precisely) and textual testimonies, amply discussed by Webb, that by the 15th century the Tower was used as a church. Webb accepts Evliya Çelebi's testimony for the cult of a certain "saint Philip the Greek" inside the building. The evidence she uses for reconstructing the characteristics of this cult draws from models of the first millennium that would not necessary apply to 17th century Athens.

By the time Stuart and Revett witnessed and studied the Horologion (1751), the Christian usage had been abandoned and the octagonal edifice served as a tekke for the Mehlevis, a Sufi sect of whirling dervishes (chapter 3, "The Muslim Tower," pp. 77-86). The two Dilettanti excavated the significant amount of debris that had been brought inside by the Muslim users. Their report of human bones inside this fill prompts Webb to associate them with Christian saints' relics—this is very problematic as the bones could have been mixed in the fill, especially if this soil had been collected from the immediate vicinity of the Tower, which has yielded a number of archaeologically documented graves. On the basis of this questionable evidence Webb argues that it was the memory of the Tower as a martyrium that attracted the Sufi ascetics to this significant building.

The book is complemented with three useful appendices (on the first Christian churches in Athens, on their conversion of Classical structures for Christian use, and on the conversion of Classical heroa) that will enable readers to contextualize the long life of the Tower under Christianity. Despite the criticisms expressed above, this study deserves attention and close reading. The medieval and post- medieval archaeology of Athens have yet to catch up with that of its antique past. One hopes that new discoveries and continuous scrutiny of the building and its context will enhance our understanding of the Tower and its life throughout the ages.

(read complete article)


Ivo Van der Graaff, The Fortifications of Pompeii and Ancient Italy. London; New York: Routledge Ltd., 2019. Pp. 352. ISBN 9781472477163. $120.00.

Reviewed by Ray Laurence, Macquarie University – Sydney (

Version at BMCR home site


Under the direction of Queen Caroline Bonaparte (1808-1815), the decision was taken to discover the fortifications of Pompeii in order to define the land to be expropriated for excavation and create a perimeter to deter looters and thieves (p. 14). Today, the walls are some 3.2 km in length and 8 metres in height, with eight gates. This fortified circuit existed over a 600-year period beginning with the construction of the Pappamonte fortifications in the sixth century BCE. A second set of fortifications, characterised by orthostats, is dated to the fifth century BCE. The third set of fortifications, dating to the late fourth and early third centuries BCE, is associated with the Samnite city. Towers were added in the late third to early second century BCE, alongside a widening of the agger (internal earth embankment). No full survey of the fortifications has been attempted, but this book provides a means for students and scholars to begin to appreciate a key element of this famous ancient city.

Given the prominence of Pompeii's fortifications and their availability for study, it is surprising that no book has been written on this subject before. Frustratingly, as Ivo Van der Graaff emphasises (p. 9), there is little record of the state of preservation when they were originally excavated, which he tracks in detail in chapter 1. Yet the author has extracted many details from the excavation records, duly setting them down with a full history of the excavations, including, for example, fragments of bronze statuary found at the Porta Ercolano that subsequently disappeared.

There follow two chapters devoted to the chronological development of the fortifications at Pompeii. The original Pappamonte wall-circuit, the remains of which can still be seen in places, could not have been built to more than six courses of stone, according to Van der Graaff, who thinks it would simply have collapsed under its own weight if it exceeded this height (p. 30). The defensive capabilities of such a wall-circuit seem marginal, but as Van der Graaff argues (pp. 27-30), this wall-circuit was set along a defensible line sufficient to meet threats posed by the seasonal warfare typical of the sixth century BCE. The stone was quarried as close to the wall-circuit as possible, and the author argues that we should see the building of the defences in the context of wider urban development, including the building of the temples of Apollo, Mefitis Fisica, and the Doric temple of Athena (p. 31). The renewal of fortifications using orthostats seems to precede a fifth-century disjuncture at Pompeii; Van der Graaf interprets the development of the so-called Altstadt, centred on the later Forum, as a contraction of the city, and reviews the evidence for the fortification of this zone, which he sees as an 'urbanized citadel' comparable to those at Atri, Volterra and Veii.

The initial Pappamonte fortifications were nothing compared to the fourth-century Samnite fortifications, some 9 metres in height and backed by an agger. Van der Graff points out the fortifications from this period are the largest public building in the city, and he also notes the care with which the walls were created to present a well-made and aesthetically pleasing structure (p. 44). However, the walls that we see today were subject to hundreds of years of repairs and an upgrade raising them to 11 metres in height, which the author seems to associate with the threat of Hannibal in Italy (p. 56). He relates a further upgrade to the threat of the Cimbri and the Teutones (p. 66). Ultimately, of course, the real threat was from Rome and Sulla's soldiers in the Social War of 91-88 BCE. It may be that with Rome's power increasing within its alliances with Italian cities, the allies felt less secure (especially after the destruction of Fregellae in 125 BCE); or we might see the continued improvements to the circuit in terms of peer-polity interaction. The twelve towers, coated in white plaster, added to the walled circuit are found by the author to be far from standard (pp. 71-78), but are located in most cases at the end of streets. It is suggested that these towers provided the inhabitants of Pompeii with a sense of security, by the simple prominence of the towers both from the inside of the city (at the end of streets) and from the outside for those returning to Pompeii.

These points on the development of the fortifications are followed by a chapter (4) devoted to the creation of 'an image for Samnite Pompeii'. The human power needed to build the walls is a matter for discussion (pp. 83-84). The fortification of Syracuse in c. 400, for which Diodorus Siculus (14.18) suggests 60,000 free peasants and 6,000 yokes of oxen were employed to build a circuit of 5.2 km is discussed prior to moving to an evaluation of the human power required to build the walls of Samnite Pompeii. Van der Graaff begins but does not complete the calculations. He observes that each block, on average, was 45cm x 100cm x 75cm, and provides the basis for a calculation of scale of the project over the 3.2 km circuit at 9m in height – c. 95,000 blocks of stone (c. 32,000 cubic metres). Quarrying, Van der Graaff calculates, would have involved 300 men over a period of 160 days. This does not include any calculation for the dressing of stone or its transportation. The calculation is interesting, but there needs to be some refinement to include transportation and construction. It is unfortunate that Van der Graaff does not follow through from his initial calculation of the number of blocks to estimate their weight, which might have facilitated a scaling of transport costs, perhaps utilising Janet DeLaine's estimates made for the construction of the much later Baths of Caracalla.2 No calculation is attempted for the human power needed to construct the agger or to dig the ditch beyond the walls of the city. These activities would have caused the building of the fortifications to require much more labor than the estimate of the number of blocks of stone required might suggest initially. One way to place a scale on the figures derived for the amount of labour power is to make a comparison based on quarried stone to the amount of quarried stone used in the paving of Pompeii's streets, as calculated recently by Eric Poehler. To pave the streets of Pompeii over a surface of 243,582 square metres required c. 85,000 cubic meters of stone was needed,1 almost double the amount used in the fortifications We should note that the paving of the streets involved the use of lava, a much denser rock than the tuff used on the walls, with a much higher transport cost.

Chapter 4 then moves on to the use in other buildings of masonry resembling that of the fortifications to create the image of Pompeii established in the second century BCE, when the author sees it as developing 'the necessary architecture to call itself a city' (p. 91). This is an interesting concept or question in itself: when do we see nucleated sites with walls shifting from just that to what we would identify as urbanism? The multiplicity of developments at Pompeii: sanctuaries, houses built with ashlar blocks, and first style wall-decoration tend to confirm that Pompeii had become a city. Yet, should we see these developments as specific to Pompeii or as part of a wider redefinition of urbanism in the second century BCE? The problem will be returned to in discussion of chapter 7. Chapter 4 also discusses evidence for patronage or euergetism, which is addressed through extant inscriptions and a case is presented for the fortifications being of central importance to the city with, for example, gates funded by the elite. The author even suggests, looking to the eituns inscriptions, that Pompeiians 'must have had a rational conceptual understanding of the city and its urban organization' (p. 105). The phrase 'must have' always acts as a warning that speculation is occurring. It is a big shift to go from saying, at the beginning of the chapter, that Pompeii had reached a level to be 'called a city' to invoking, by the end, a 'conceptual understanding of the city and urban organization'. The eituns inscriptions would seem to have been an attempt to create order in a city that was subject to considerable change.

The next chapters, 5 and 6, take us into the period of the Roman colony and make clear that the fortifications continued to be an important element in the representation of the city. Developments at the gates are particularly significant and are covered in depth; mostly these are dated to the Augustan period, but include discussion of the Porta Marina in the Sullan period and the Porta Ercolano after the earthquake of 62 CE. The balance between the symbolism of walls and practical defence is maintained here, with threats such as Spartacus and Catiline named, along with Cicero's contention (in relation to Catiline) that walls create a symbolic division between the civilised and the "other". Van der Graaff (p. 137) extends things to suggest that securitas underpinned Romanitas and that 'The defenses in their strategic and symbolic role would have acted as engines of mutual assimilation' in the context of the settlement of veterans in Pompeii. The argument needs further development to assert this view, especially because not all cities had walls in the late Republic and early Empire. It is also possible to see the walls of Pompeii as a symbol of the oppression of the local population, with the gates controlling their movement into and out of the city. There is also a lengthy discussion of the representation of defences in mosaics and wall-decoration at pp. 157-69.

Chapter 7 sets out to place Pompeii into the wider context of fortifications in Italy and the Mediterranean. Parallels for Pompeii's agger are sought. The closest is found locally at Nocera (p. 178). The technology is seen by Van der Graaff to have its origin in the Samnite hillforts, later transferred to the context of a free-standing defensive circuit (p. 179). The towers of Nocera and Pompeii also have much in common (p. 180). The chapter shifts back to the earlier theme of 'patronage and the concept of the city' as identified from inscriptions (pp. 198-200).

The final chapter, "City Walls and Gods", is compelling and involves an in-depth analysis of the association. Gods such as Minerva appear at the gates, to conclude from remnants of sculpture that adorned these entry-points to the city, as well as a sacellum. There follows a review of the evidence for gods at Pompeii to be associated with gods in other cities in Italy.

The book provides the reader with the evidence for Pompeii's fortifications and the author is to be commended for undertaking the challenge of making this important feature accessible to advanced students. Reading the book, though, I was left wondering about the conceptual framework of Roman archaeology in the 21st century. When we discuss building inscriptions, we can be sucked into a discussion of patronage and euergetism, and on identity, we can be drawn towards "assimilation" or "acculturation" (not to mention "Romanization"). Equally, the very idea of what a "city" constituted is open to question – for Van der Graaff Pompeii becomes one only in the third-to-second centuries BCE. It may be necessary for urban studies of Italy to consider urbanism alongside complexity: building inscriptions could perhaps be better understood as a development of the city's complexity, rather than explained through a lens of patronage. But there is an admirable amount of work in this book that provides a way into the subject of defences at Pompeii that – after the paved streets – were the city's largest public monument.


1.   Poehler, E.P. 2017. The Traffic Systems of Pompeii, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 77-78. BMCR 2018.09.22, see my own review of this book AJA Online.
2.   DeLaine, J. 1997. The Baths of Caracalla, Portsmouth RI: JRA Suppl.25. BMCR 1998.11.41.

(read complete article)


Thomas J. Keeline, The Reception of Cicero in the Early Roman Empire: The Rhetorical Schoolroom and the Creation of a Cultural Legend. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xi, 375. ISBN 9781108426237. £90.00 (hb).

Reviewed by Jon Hall, University of Otago (

Version at BMCR home site


This insightful study will be of interest not just to Ciceronian scholars but to those in several other fields as well, including students of Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Seneca the Younger, Quintilian, Roman declamation and Late Republican historiography. The study also takes a place in the field of reception studies, although, as the title implies, it focuses not on the reinterpretation of Ciceronian material in the modern world, but on the reception of Cicero in the first couple of centuries following his death.

The first chapter ("Pro Milone: Reading Cicero in the Schoolroom") takes an engagingly fresh approach to the reception of Cicero by trying to reconstruct the Roman student's first encounters with a Ciceronian speech at school. This is a challenging task, given the paucity of available evidence, but Keeline puts together a useful collage of observations on Pro Milone drawn from three texts associated with schoolroom explication: Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria, the commentaries of Asconius and the Scholia Bobiensia. As Keeline notes, these discussions primarily draw attention to Cicero's skill in practical rhetorical strategy, and are especially clear-eyed about the speech's mendacious aspects. This emphasis is not particularly surprising, seeing that the main purpose of such training was to produce smart, effective orators. But the repeated stress on Cicero's rhetorical brilliance naturally shaped his reputation in the decades following his death. As Keeline observes, this is the first stage in the reduction of the man's historical complexity as an orator, politician, letter-writer, student of philosophy and family man, to a "partial" Cicero: a model of oratorical excellence to be studied and revered—but not much else.

Overall, the chapter offers a perceptive window onto the Roman schoolroom, and many modern students will find it a useful introduction to the Scholia Bobiensia, a text that can be difficult to handle. Keeline is more willing than many scholars to regard Cicero's performance on the final day of Milo's trial as an embarrassing calamity, although he glides too easily perhaps over the question of the authorship and intentions of the first circulated version of the speech.

Chapters 2, 3 and 4 work together as a unit, examining the practice of declamation in the Roman schools and its influence on Cicero's reputation. As Keeline notes (p. 79): "This classroom tradition lies at the heart of post-mortem evaluations of Cicero by those who had never known him or heard him speak." The topic is not a new one, with various aspects already explored by scholars in the last couple of decades. But Keeline examines the evidence in greater depth, focusing in particular on the way in which certain details of the orator's life and works end up receiving greater emphasis than others. In Chapter 2, for example, Keeline discusses the portrayal of Cicero in the later tradition as the vox publica. This aspect is given a distinctive twist: Cicero is not used as a symbol of Republican resistance to encroaching tyranny; rather, his eloquence is "reappropriated to champion a redefined cause of popular freedom, namely freedom from Mark Antony. This simplified rhetoric neatly aligned with the interests of Octavian and his successors" (pp. 88-89). The point is developed further in Chapter 3, as Keeline demonstrates the way in which school declamations on the theme of Cicero and Antony (and the Philippics) helped to consolidate the fiction that Antony alone was responsible for the orator's murder. Octavian's complicity in the deed is ignored entirely or deftly minimized (pp. 105-10; 121).

Chapter 3 also discusses in detail the ways in which declamatory inventions influenced historical accounts of Cicero's life. Even the version of his death in Valerius Maximus operates in a declamatory mode, with almost every phrase chosen to sharpen the audience's indignation at the wretched character of the murderer, Popillius—himself a fictional figure invented by declaimers in order to offer extra rhetorical color to the scene (pp. 125-27). As a foil to these inventions, Keeline presents an astute analysis of the (relatively early) accounts of Cicero's death by Livy and Asinius Pollio. As he shows, these versions are far more ambiguous regarding the orator's virtues than the elder Seneca (and some modern scholars) would have us believe. For later declaimers, however, there is no room for nuance or ironic subtlety. They "amplify what they found attractive and … ignore any complicating factors" (p. 137), thus helping to consolidate a schematic and misleading version of Cicero. Finally, Keeline identifies similar elements in Greek writers of Late Republican history and biography (Cassius Dio, Appian and Plutarch). The analysis is justifiably cautious about the origins of their rhetorical distortions: Dio and Appian may just be reproducing their sources, with no additional inventions of their own. Nevertheless, these sources "had already been thoroughly dyed in declamation" (p. 146).

Chapter 4 concludes the focus on declamation with a study of six pseudepigraphic sources: In M. Tullium Ciceronem invectiva (Pseudo-Sallust); In C. Sallustium Crispum invectiva, Oratio pridie quam in exilium iret and Epistula ad Octavianum (Pseudo-Cicero); Epistula ad Ciceronem and Epistula ad Atticum (Pseudo-Brutus, preserved as Cicero ad Brut. 1.16 and 1.17). These texts are often marginalized in Ciceronian studies, briskly dismissed as annoying imposters that have little to contribute to a serious understanding of the orator or Late Republican history. Keeline, however, makes a good case for viewing them as "precious artifacts of cultural memory" (p. 194), vital to the study of Cicero's reception. Although they can strike us today as barren exercises, they may have garnered considerable credit within the "intertextual declamatory aesthetic" of their day (pp. 188-195). More importantly, they "give us direct insight into how a later age thought and wrote about [Cicero]" (p. 194). In particular, the invectives reveal the development of tropes through which a declaimer might criticize Cicero and his career. (These include the orator's cruelty in executing citizens without trial, his venality as advocate, his inconstancy in character, his boasting, his status as novus homo, and the occasional sexual misdemeanor.) Again, these themes leave their mark on the historiographical tradition, as is clear in the speech of Calenus in Cassius Dio 46.1-29. (See also Keeline's nuanced analysis of the "consolation" offered to Cicero by the fictional character Philiscus in Cassius Dio 38.18-29.)

The remaining three chapters address the reception of Cicero in the works of Seneca, Tacitus and Pliny. As Keeline notes, Cicero in Seneca "is conspicuous by his absence" (p. 196), but this absence is probably strategic: "If you spend much of your time and energy engaging with Cicero, even if you consistently strive to refute him, you are inevitably playing the game on his terms rather than your own" (p. 207). Indeed, Seneca clearly knew the Ciceronian oeuvre very well and in places expresses his admiration for it. (Keeline professes doubts about Seneca's sincerity in this regard, but does not argue the point in detail; see pp. 201-2.) Overall, Cicero's most significant influence on Seneca (Keeline suggests) was the one-sided form of his decades-long correspondence with Atticus, which may well have served as a model for Seneca's own philosophizing letters to Lucilius (p. 215):

From reading Cicero's letters to Atticus he [sc. Seneca] must have understood the possibilities of the genre, but he rejects letters in a Ciceronian vein. He instead chooses to create a mosaic of philosophical conversations in epistolary form, which, when put together, create an all-encompassing philosophical dialogue tending toward the complete conversion of its interlocutor.

Tacitus' Dialogus provides more substantial material for close analysis: the speeches by Aper, Maternus and Messalla all discuss Cicero directly, a fact that by itself indicates the orator's continued influence upon succeeding generations (p. 273). Indeed, Keeline illustrates well the elements of Ciceronian style that Tacitus effortlessly adopts, especially in the speech of Messalla, with reminiscences of De Oratore extending to specific words and phrases (p. 265). But it is in Maternus' speech (also "shot through with Ciceronian tags", p. 269) that the key to Tacitus' view of oratory is to be found (p. 274): "it is Maternus who has identified the correct cause of the disease and issued the authoritative prognosis—oratory is dead and cannot be revived." The logical consequence of such a conclusion is to write history instead. Tacitus thus "engages in a sophisticated game of intertextual imitatio and aemulatio with Cicero and his followers, and after trouncing them on their own turf, he calmly picks up the ball and says that he will not play the game ever again" (p. 239).

Chapter 7 explores Pliny's reception of Cicero and, following the lead of Stanley Hoffer (The Anxieties of Pliny the Younger, OUP 1999), sees elements of unease in Pliny's relationship with his predecessor. Pliny's prose style, like that of Quintilian, represents a form of neo-Ciceronianism, and in general he views Cicero as a model to be revered. (Quintilian's own neo-Ciceronianism is discussed in some detail at the start of Chapter 6, pp. 225-32.) But Pliny's various observations in his letters betray a concern that he lacks the natural talent to attain such mastery. Moreover, changes in the political system have limited the opportunities to engage in the most vigorous forms of oratory on which Cicero built his reputation (pp. 282-84). Nevertheless, Pliny's publication of his own letters represents both "an act of homage to and rivalry with his most famous epistolary antecedent" (p. 280).

Ultimately, Pliny emerges in this analysis as something of a conflicted, dissatisfied figure who "vacillates between humility and boasting, keen both to follow behind 'Cicero the unsurpassable example' and to surpass him" (p. 292). From a methodological perspective, Keeline applies astute caution when identifying intertextual Ciceronian echoes in Pliny's correspondence, raising polite doubts regarding some of the patterns of allusion identified in previous scholarship (pp. 289, 318, 333).

This study, then, is a rewarding read. It identifies clearly the main interpretative issues pertinent to each author discussed and notes the most relevant associated scholarship; it engages closely with the texts themselves and constructs clear arguments from these analyses; and, as noted above, it examines several works that tend to be passed over in Ciceronian studies. From a practical perspective too, it will serve as a useful scholarly resource for those investigating Ciceronian verbal echoes in later authors: many such allusions are listed and discussed directly, or references given to works that provide the necessary basic details. The writing style is brisk and precise; there is even a decent joke or two. The book is well produced, with only a handful of typographical errors.

(read complete article)

Friday, April 19, 2019


Brian W. Breed, Elizabeth E. Keitel, Rex Wallace (ed.), Lucilius and Satire in Second-Century BC Rome. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xiii, 319. ISBN 9781107189553. £75.00.

Reviewed by James Faulkner, University of Michigan (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The core of the volume under review grew out of a conference on Lucilius at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2013. Readers no doubt will be interested to see how effective Lucilius's revival will prove and, to cut to the chase, this volume will be of great value to scholars working on Lucilius and his environs. Moreover, it is explicitly meant to complement forthcoming projects on Lucilius, including a new edition and translation of the fragments in the Fragmentary Republican Latin Loeb series by one of the volume's contributors, Anna Chahoud, who also promises an accompanying commentary.

Coverage on the whole is skewed in favor of linguistic studies, which itself is a byproduct of the expertise of the contributors. As will become apparent in the course of this review, the book is a bit of a misnomer; it is unexpected to find much of the historical context heralded by Second-Century BC Rome in the title forsworn on p. 2–3 of the Introduction, where questions about who comprised Lucilius's audience, "where Lucilius stood in the Gracchan crisis, [and] what he made of Marius" are set aside. The editors register reservations about strict historicist reconstructions—judiciously, given the state of the poetic remains of Lucilius—and instead refer interested readers to a well-known chapter by Erich Gruen on the topic.1 Yet by analogy those same objections pose problems for sociolinguistic readings of Lucilius, and so perhaps a longer explanation of these obstacles would be a desideratum. The Introduction is rounded out by a biographical sketch of the poet, a linguistic topography of Republican Italy, and a brief account of the troubled transmission and reception of Lucilius.

In the first chapter, Sander Goldberg interrogates traditional accounts of the development of the satiric genre, especially Horace's tidy version, Lucilius > me (!), which purposefully glosses over Ennius. Lucilius's status as the satiric "winner," inventor, auctor, or the like derives from the pronouncements of later literary critics who follow Horace, the very gatekeeper responsible for setting the terms of the genre. Some of Goldberg's most interesting observations regard the relationship of satire to epic, the "high" genre with which it shared a meter. In the central case study, Lucilius first redeploys Ennius' concilium deorum, only to have Vergil claim it back again.

Brian Breed dilates on the textuality of Lucilius's works. On the one hand, the written word allows for authorial claims of various kinds, as when Lucilius appropriates the wit of the praeco Granius for his own poetry. On the other, however, are concomitant anxieties about reception and the loss of control over one's work, concerns that feature in fragments addressed to the Satires' readership. Potential critics loom over Lucilius as he embarks, though how real these threats were depends on how sophisticated we think Roman literary criticism was in this period. Breed side-steps that tangent in order to focus on the materiality of satire, which the author dubs "the one Roman genre born textual" (p. 78).

Paolo Poccetti next investigates Lucilius's language variation and multilingualism, as well as his reception as an author whose style was to be appreciated, but not imitated. This wide-ranging study (50 pp.) sets the stage well for subsequent pieces that revisit many of the same fragments in further detail. Poccetti demonstrates how Lucilius varies: social registers, internalized (1st person) vs. externalized thoughts (3rd person), archaic vs. novel language use, and more.2 Jargon is audience-targeted: Lucilius and his interlocutors speak elementally to philosophers, in nautical terms to sailors, and as foodies to gourmands.

In "Verbal Mosaics"—a metaphor itself borrowed from Lucilius (fr. 84–5 M)—Anna Chahoud explores various aspects of Lucilius's stylistics, with a special emphasis on connective and disjunctive poetic devices. Phenomena treated include separation of preverb and verb, pairs marked off by preconsonantal atque, enjambment, and sets of synonyms/antonyms. Chahoud notes that these habits cannot just be chalked up to reasons metri causa, but have real poetic effect and intention.3 Of interest also is the contention that Lucilius was a trend-setter when he stretched syntactic units across the verse boundaries of the hexameter (more common and pronounced in Horace).

Giuseppe Pezzini follows with an informative accounting of Lucilius's iambo-trochaics (books 26–29) in comparison to the comic practice of Plautus and Terence. In brief, Pezzini has demonstrated that Lucilius, on a prosodic level, followed the language of Terence more closely than that of Plautus—a trend which is not so suprising given the relative chronologies of the three authors. As for meter, Lucilius matches the comics closely, showing preferences for common rhythmic cadences and observing the standard metrical "laws." 4 In diction, however, Lucilius was more Plautine than Terentian; he shows a fondness for "Grecisms" of various kinds (lexical, morphological, graphical, all three in combination or severally) as well as for technical terms (cf. Poccetti above).

Angelo Mercado probes Lucilian hexameters for the coincidence of metrical beat and word accent at different positions in the line. As an aid for data collection, Mercado uses alphabetic notation for representing accentual and metrical patterns simultaneously in a scheme modified from that popularized by Gratwick's Menaechmi "Green and Yellow," only with vowels (+ y) corresponding to each foot of the hexameter and diacritics (´/`) for stress.5 In the second half of the article, Mercado applies this method to longer preserved fragments of Lucilius in order to find "responsions" of similar "ictus"-accentual alignments across neighboring lines. This is, at the least, a neat addition to the philological toolbox for close readings of Latin poetry.

The results for the collection overall inspire new questions altogether. A disclaimer first: though I am unqualified to vouch for many of the granular statistical points, I was unable to reproduce some of the raw data that underlie them.6 If Mercado's figures can be confirmed, however, they will disturb the accepted understanding of the organization of the fragments, since books 1–20, 28–30, and the group of hexameters cited without book number all appear to show compositional tendencies distinct from one another.

The last third of the volume begins with Catherine Keane's study of dialogue in books 26–30, especially in the first and last books of that series. Some arguments will not convince readers who are skeptical when dealing with fragmentary texts. Though ostensibly Keane disavows the "grouping" of fragments based on perceived thematic affinities, nonetheless the argument hinges at times on narrative structures that depend on editorial assignments.7 The sheer number of "chatty" exchanges nevertheless makes the case convincing. Keane highlights aspects of meta-sermo in Lucilian speech, that is, the self-awareness of the discussants that they are participant in games of verbal exchange, which naturally applies to the satiric "I" and their programmatic posturing.

In "Name Your Price!", Cynthia Damon examines value judgments in Lucilius's poetry. The first part of the paper demonstrates how Lucilius and his "surrogates" size up people and situations alike in material, often monetary terms. This discussion dove-tails into an inventory of Lucilian equivalences, many of which are humorous to those "readers who play Lucilius' assessment game" (p. 249): the man from Bovillae with orthodontic problems = a rhinoceros; a "food baby" is delivered as diarrhea. What Damon shows is that Lucilius cared about finding the right words (verba propria) and images, or inventing them.

Paired neatly after Damon's, Ian Goh's piece addresses Lucilius's attitudes towards consumption, views which he argues were more multivalent on the whole than derisive. Banqueting and sport featured in Lucilius's poetry to be sure, but did not necessarily reflect for better or worse upon their aristocratic participants. Goh pushes for a more nuanced role for the discourse of luxury in the first satirist when he argues that the relationship between the genre and wealth need not have always been antagonistic, especially granting Lucilius's high social stature.

In the final chapter, Luca Grillo tackles those on the ins and outs of Lucilian friendship. Grillo revisits the longest fragment of Lucilius, a passage on virtus quoted by Lactantius, and suggests that the addressee, an Albinus, is upbraided for failing to uphold the Stoic ideals current at the time. This Postumius Albinus, according to Grillo, is not to be identified with the one embroiled in scandal with Jugurtha, but the wannabe-Greek historian whom Cato and Polybius savaged (= RE 33).

Typographical mishaps occur passim; most are innocuous but some are more consequential. Such errors cause confusion in Mercado's models for tonic scansion, for example: fr. 1076 M should start À A É e , [...] on p. 190, as the same fragment does in fact when repeated on p. 203; fr. 1077 M has the opposite problem, since it appears wrongly on p. 203 but rightly as [...] í , í [...] on p. 190. Likewise, Pezzini's chapter has the mix-up, "...a heavy element (˘) contains..." in an explanation of comic meter (p. 168). The editors have made useful interventions, however, as when they include references to Marx and Warmington numbers in textual citations in order to spare readers trips to concordances. They number most block quotations also for ease of internal references.

Overall, this volume does what it does well. Although it does not really address expectations as a social history of early Satire save in its final third, this work is the most comprehensive study to date on Lucilius's language and attitudes toward language. It will serve as a handy reference and baseline for future Lucilian studies.

Authors and titles

1. Introduction: Lucilius and Second-Century Rome / Brian W. Breed, Rex Wallace and Elizabeth Keitel
Part I. Putting Lucilius' Satires in Context
2. Lucilius and the poetae seniores / Sander M. Goldberg
3. Lucilius' Books / Brian W. Breed

Part II. Lucilius' Language, Style, and Meter: Continuity and Innovation
4. Another Image of Literary Latin: Language Variation and the Aims of Lucilius' Satires / Paolo Poccetti
5. Verbal Mosaics: Speech Patterns and Generic Stylization in Lucilius / Anna Chahoud
6. The Early Lucilius and the Language of the Roman palliata / Giuseppe Pezzini
7. Accent in Lucilius' Hexameters / Angelo O. Mercado

Part III. Generic and Social Settings for Lucilian Satire
8. Conversations about sermo / Catherine Keane
9. Name Your Price! On the Assessments of Value and the Value of Assessments in Lucilius/ Cynthia Damon
10. Pikes, Peacocks, and Parasites: Lucilius and the Discourse of Luxury / Ian Goh
11. Invective, amicitia, and virtus / Luca Grillo


1.   E. Gruen, Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome (Ithaca, NY, 1992) 272–318.
2.   The work of Karin Haß deserves mention, Lucilius und der Beginn der Persönlichkeitsdichtung in Rom (Stuttgart, 2007) 105–11.
3.   These are not incompatible categories, however. In the case of unelided atque, 19 of the 24 (79%) examples from unambiguous hexameters listed on p. 149 fall in the fifth foot, and so lead a homodyne ending. This sedes is preferred in Lucretius' De Rerum Natura (63 of 98 instances of unelided atque = 64%), and relatively so in the Aeneid (10 of 34 = 29%), but is never used in the Eclogues, Georgics, or Catullan hexametrics (see D. Butterfield, "The Poetic Treatment of atque from Catullus to Juvenal," Mnemosyne 61 (2008) 388–95; cited also by Chahoud). Perhaps alliterative pairs alongside the mapping of syllabotonic onto metrical prominences had an "Italic" ring? For what it is worth, the Ennian sample size is two, one of which is the line end: sedet atque secundam (fr. 74 Sk.; cf. p. 145 n. 45). Naevius' scopas atque verbenas || sagmina sumpserunt (Bell. Pun. fr. 31 Morel) may also be relevant.
4.   The two cases of split resolution (violation of Ritschl's Law; p. 172) are obviated if one spreads Priscian's quote across lines, as Marx does (fr. 936–7 M), and if at fr. 890 M one prints the paradosis potes in lieu of Lachmann's conjecture pote.
5.   An example may help: consilium summis hominum de rebus habebant (fr. 4 M) = A á a E . É I | í i O . O . Ú u . u Ý Y
6.   I was puzzled especially by the differences reported for the prevalence of heterodyne lead-in to the caesura in the "weak" time of the second foot, also called the biceps (⏔), since strong caesurae usually guarantee this mismatch. My preliminary attempts did not discover large discrepancies in the approach to the principal caesura across the hexametric subsets of the Lucilian corpus and suggest instead much higher incidences of heterodyned 2nd bicipitia.
7.   Cf. "nearby" parallels across separate fragments (p. 227).

(read complete article)


Leila Badre, Emmanuelle Capet, Barbara Vitale, Tell Kazel au Bronze récent. Études céramiques. Bibliothèque archéologique et historique, 211. Beyrouth: Presses de l'Ifpo, 2018. Pp. 256. ISBN 9782351597408. €45,00.

Reviewed by Ilaria Calini, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, UMR 8210 ANHIMA (

Version at BMCR home site

Dédié à la mémoire de Jean-Paul Thalmann, le volume publié par Leila Badre, Emmanuelle Capet et Barbara Vitale propose une première présentation de la céramique du Bronze récent dans la plaine du Akkar, ayant pour but de « servir de manuel de référence pour des recherches futures » (p. 9). Après un avant-propos précisant l'importance des liens entre les fouilles de Tell Kazel et de Tell Arqa—dont Jean-Paul Thalmann avait été responsable depuis 1978—, l'ouvrage se compose de deux parties : La céramique de Tell Kazel au Bronze récent (p. 11-163), écrite principalement en français par Leila Badre et Emmanuelle Capet avec des contributions en anglais de Barbara Vitale et Reinhard Jung, et Tell Kazel : imported Late Bronze Age Cypriote wares from Areas II and IV, rédigée entièrement en anglais par Barbara Vitale (p. 165-234).

La première section résume Le contexte historique (p. 11-12) de Tell Kazel dans la seconde moitié du IIème millénaire, dans une région du Proche-Orient ancien à la frontière entre les sphères d'influence des empires égyptien et hittite, ainsi que sur un axe stratégique pour les communications entre la Méditerranée orientale et la Mésopotamie, et présente ensuite une synthèse de L'état des recherches archéologiques dans la Trouée de Homs (p. 12-20). Situé dans la région côtière de la Syrie actuelle et fouillé sous la direction de Leila Badre depuis 1985 (mission du Musée archéologique de l'Université Américaine de Beyrouth), Tell Kazel correspond à l'ancienne ville de Sumur/Symira, centre de premier plan du royaume d'Amurru à partir du milieu du XIVème siècle av. J.-C. Le phasage minutieux établi à Tell Arqa grâce à une analyse stratigraphique fine, domaine de prédilection de Jean-Paul Thalmann, ainsi que les nombreux échanges entre les équipes de ces deux sites majeurs du Akkar ont abouti à une chronologie commune. Sont ensuite résumées les situations respectives de Tell Arqa et de Tell Kazel et du matériel céramique qui en provient pour le Bronze récent.

Bien que Tell Kazel ne propose pas de chronologie absolue, sa chronologie relative peut s'appuyer sur la comparaison d'un riche matériel céramique, dont une quantité importante retrouvée in situ. L'occupation du Bronze récent est attestée dans deux secteurs, dénommés II—secteur résidentiel du côté est du tell—et IV—temple entouré de complexes résidentiels, du côté ouest du tell—et se concentre dans trois phases d'occupation dans la deuxième moitié du Bronze récent, K1 à K3. Le tableau 1 (p. 16) met en évidence la proportion par unité architecturale et stratigraphique des catégories morphologiques des vases, pour une sélection de formes entières in situ—sols de maisons ou du temple—et de tessons retrouvés en position secondaire. Le choix de présenter ce tableau avant même la discussion détaillée des types de vaisselle permet de donner très rapidement un bon aperçu de la « situation céramique » du site pour le Bronze récent, ainsi que d'introduire des remarques d'ordre général sur la fonction des catégories céramiques. Les auteurs précisent également les critères ayant guidé la sélection du corpus, où on distingue entre types plus fréquents et plus rares, pour terminer avec des exemples plutôt atypiques pour la période ou la région. Un deuxième tableau (p. 20) illustre les corrélations entre les phases d'occupation de Tell Kazel et de Tell Arqa pour le Bronze récent (phases L et K), en y ajoutant le parallèle de la chronologie égéenne issue de l'étude du matériel céramique mycénien par Reinhard Jung (p. 47-51).

La description détaillée du corpus céramique s'articule en quatre parties, suivies d'une conclusion et de deux annexes. La première, Les pâtes, les techniques, les cuissons (p. 20-23), propose une répartition du matériel fabriqué localement en quatre types principaux sur la base des caractéristiques de l'argile, du dégraissant, des techniques de façonnage et de la cuisson, toujours dans une perspective de mise en parallèle avec Tell Arqa. On passe ensuite à la description des décors et des engobes, en précisant les associations éventuelles avec des formes spécifiques.

Dans la deuxième partie, Les formes (p. 23-43), le matériel est reparti selon une approche traditionnelle en une série de macro-catégories morphologiques, chacune desquelles peut comprendre un ou plusieurs sous-types. Les auteurs prennent soin d'expliciter leur démarche méthodologique et épistémologique, en rappelant les risques d'un emploi trop rigide et artificiel des appellations céramiques et en soulignant que les types présentés ont été déterminés de manière contextuelle. Un exemple emblématique est celui des « assiettes », type qui regroupe des vases pouvant être utilisés à la fois comme contenants-vaisselle de table et comme couvercles-bouchons. La démarche comparative est également au cœur de cette présentation : les types céramiques de Tell Kazel sont systématiquement reliés à leur contexte stratigraphique et mis en parallèle avec les exemplaires attestés à Tell Arqa, avec l'ajout de comparaisons ponctuelles avec d'autres sites, en particulier dans la zone côtière du Levant—où plusieurs similitudes importantes avec le matériel d'Ugarit sont mises en évidence. La troisième partie est dédiée à La vaisselle Handmade Burnished Ware (p. 44-45) : connue aussi comme « barbare » et produite localement, elle provient surtout du secteur du temple et son apparition dans la phase finale du Bronze récent (K1, première moitié du XIIème siècle av. J.-C.) serait à mettre en relation avec la disparition progressive et concomitante des importations d'origine mycénienne.

La quatrième partie, Importations de l'Ouest (p. 45-51), comprend trois sous-sections, la première concernant la céramique Grey Lustrous Wheelmade Ware. Une note de bas de page (p. 45, n. 252) indique que la démarche suivie dans le traitement du matériel importé diffère de celle concernant la céramique locale, car la sélection effectuée ne concerne pas uniquement les contextes non perturbés du Bronze récent, mais plutôt ces exemplaires dont les caractéristiques sont particulièrement dignes d'intérêt. Bien que le renvoi à la note apparaisse clairement dès le titre de cette section, il aurait peut-être fallu intégrer directement cette précision dans le corps du texte, comme cela avait été le cas pour les choix méthodologiques annoncées précédemment dans le volume. La céramique d'origine chypriote étudiée par Barbara Vitale (Cypriote pottery, p. 45-47), dont une quantité significative a été livrée par les niveaux du Bronze récent II (environ 1350-1190 av. J.-C.) du secteur du temple, montre des traits morpho-stylistiques plus variés par rapport à la production locale, avec plusieurs parallèles dans d'autres sites levantins comme Ugarit et Byblos. La céramique mycénienne analysée par Reinhard Jung (Mycenaean pottery in coastal Syria p. 47-51) témoigne également de l'intensité des échanges entre l'Égée et la côte syrienne, et fait de Tell Kazel l'un des sites du Proche-Orient les plus riches de ce matériel. La céramique mycénienne d'importation a pu être distinguée de celle locale : la première correspondrait à une production orientée par la demande des centres du Levant entre 1350 et 1250 av. J.-C. (à partir de la phase K4 du chantier IV), alors que la deuxième l'aurait progressivement remplacée en faisant son apparition avant la phase de destruction à la fin du XIIIème siècle pour continuer à être en usage pendant la période de transition (fin phase K2 et phase K1). Un tableau (p. 50) résume les correspondances chrono-stratigraphiques établies pour ce matériel.

Ces quatre parties sont suivies par des observations conclusives sur l'évolution générale et par phase des formes et des techniques (p. 51-53). Dans plusieurs cas, des évolutions apparaissent de manière visible dans les sous-types d'une même catégorie de vases, tout en s'inscrivant dans un processus sans solution de continuité, dans lequel les changements, bien que parfois nettement identifiables, ne semblent pas correspondre à des ruptures totales. Les auteurs soulignent ensuite que, « malgré son rattachement à l'Empire hittite vers 1350 …, l'Amurru reste, dans sa culture céramique, plus côtier et chypriote que perméable aux mondes de l'est de la Trouée de Homs » (p. 52), et illustrent leurs propos avec une carte du Akkar au sein des « régions céramiques » (p. 161). Deux annexes présentent la Concordance typo-chronologique avec d'autres sites du Levant (p. 53-56) et l'Échantillon de lots de vases (p. 56-57).

La présentation résumée ci-dessus comprend de nombreux renvois aux planches (p. 58-155), qui illustrent le matériel à travers des dessins clairs et un choix d'images en noir et blanc, en suivant l'ordre proposé dans la description des formes. Les illustrations sont accompagnées par des tableaux élaborés comme des extraits d'une base de données traditionnelle pour la description du mobilier archéologique, complétant les références stratigraphiques et le numéro d'inventaire de chaque exemplaire avec les données de l'analyse macroscopique. Certains exemplaires se distinguent par l'originalité et la qualité de leurs décors. Nous pouvons citer le magnifique cratère reproduit sur la couverture du volume (n. 266, p. 34 ; planche XXIV, p. 104-105 ; planche couleur III, p.159)—caractérisé par un décor bichrome qui intègre à une série de registres avec des motifs géométriques une série alternée d'hommes et animaux variés—et un grand brasero cylindrique (n. 443, p. 43 ; planche XXXVIII, p.134-135 ; planche couleur IV, p. 160) montrant un décor peint et appliqué de type zoomorphe. Cette première section du volume se termine par quatre planches couleur (p. 157-160), la carte des régions céramiques précédemment mentionnée (p. 161) et deux plans topographiques, respectivement de Tell Arqa (p. 162) et de Tell Kazel (p. 163). Il est à signaler que certains renvois—notamment aux planches couleur et à la carte des régions céramiques—ne sont pas toujours indiqués dans le texte, bien que cela n'entraîne aucune difficulté dans la consultation du volume, dont la structure est claire et bien organisée. Une petite erreur s'est glissée à la p. 44, dans le renvoi à la planche couleur I (les photos qui illustrent la Handmade Burnished Ware sont e-f, alors que c-d ne concernent pas cette catégorie de céramique).

Dans la deuxième section du volume, Barbara Vitale offre un catalogue plus détaillé de la céramique chypriote importée—75% du matériel céramique d'importation pour le Bronze récent. L'état très fragmentaire de ce matériel et la présence de nombreuses fosses intrusives rendent toute évaluation quantitative et attribution stratigraphique précise particulièrement difficiles. Après une liste des abréviations (p. 166), on passe à la présentation du corpus retenu pour la publication (p. 166-178) et classifié selon la typologie élaborée par Paul Åström.1 La description des types et des sous-types, très méticuleuse, est enrichie de beaucoup de précisions sur leur distribution stratigraphique. Cependant, le choix d'intégrer les nombreux renvois bibliographiques dans le corps du texte—à la différence de la première section du volume—alourdit et ralentit la lecture. Un plus grand équilibre et une majeure cohérence dans la présentation globale du volume auraient pu être obtenus en harmonisant cet aspect des études présentées, plutôt sur le modèle de la première. La présentation de la céramique chypriote se termine par des observations générales et quatre histogrammes de sa distribution (p. 181). Le catalogue se compose d'une série de tableaux (p. 189-234) résumant les données stratigraphiques et les caractéristiques du matériel—avec un choix de photos en noir et blanc—et de sept planches de dessins (p. 182-188) qui illustrent une sélection des exemplaires figurant dans les tableaux. Le volume se conclut par une bibliographie générale et une liste des illustrations.

La richesse et la variété du matériel attesté à Tell Kazel au Bronze récent fait de ce site une exception assez rare dans le Levant et une référence précieuse pour la culture matérielle de cette période. Le corpus céramique publié dans les deux études, menées de manière systématique et soigneusement présentées, reflète bien la situation du site, au centre d'un réseau d'influences multiples. La grande quantité de vases provenant de la phase K1, correspondant à la transition entre la fin de l'Âge du Bronze et le début de l'Âge du Fer, montre que toute dynamicité commerciale et culturelle n'est pas éteinte dans cette période « obscure ». Si l'importance de la composante d'origine chypriote tend à décliner en correspondances des invasions des « Peuples de la Mer », la production locale va être animée par de nouvelles catégories céramiques, alors que d'un côté des héritages du Bronze moyen persistent, et de l'autre se développent des traits préfigurant le Fer I. Continuité et innovation se côtoient …

On ne peut que féliciter les auteurs pour leur présentation avisée des problématiques inhérentes à l'étude du corpus. La manière dont ils nuancent leurs propos dans la présentation des types céramiques ne nuit en rien à sa clarté et répond au mieux au « souhait de rendre compte de la souplesse ou élasticité des traditions céramiques » (p. 53).

On regrette seulement l'absence de quelques plans topographiques plus détaillés des secteurs où le matériel du Bronze récent a été trouvé, et peut-être, dans un souci de clarté, un tableau de correspondances pour les individus céramiques du corpus chypriote dont la présentation dans le premier catalogue est doublée par celle de Barbara Vitale dans la deuxième section.

Dans le contexte malheureux que traverse la Syrie depuis 2011 et qui a inévitablement affecté toutes les missions archéologiques travaillant sur son territoire, on ne peut que terminer en soulignant la valeur d'une telle publication, qui s'inscrit dans l'important effort de ne pas abandonner les recherches sur le patrimoine archéologique syrien.


1.   Paul Åström, 1972: The Swedish Cyprus Expedition. IV 1C, The Late Cypriot Bronze Age. Architecture and Pottery, Lund.

(read complete article)

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Nathalie Barrandon, Les Massacres de la République romaine. Histoire. Paris: Fayard Éditions, 2018. Pp. 448. ISBN 9782213671314. €23,00.

Reviewed by Clément Bur, INU Champollion, Albi / Laboratoire PLH-ERASME, Toulouse 2 (

Version at BMCR home site

L'étude des violences de masse est dans l'air du temps, comme l'illustre le prix Nobel accordé à Svetlana Alexievitch dont une citation de La guerre n'a pas un visage de femme inaugure cet ouvrage. Celui-ci constitue la publication de l'Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches de Nathalie Barrandon, soutenue en février 2017, et on ne peut que saluer une publication aussi rapide. En revanche, on regrette le choix éditorial de placer les notes en fin de volume, de ne proposer qu'un index général et de limiter la bibliographie aux ouvrages les plus utilisés, laissant la majorité des références dans les seules notes.

En l'absence de terme latin, N. Barrandon envisage le massacre comme le « meurtre en grand nombre de personnes sans défense ».1 Cette définition, assez large, aurait mérité d'être suivie d'explications justifiant les cas retenus (pourquoi écarter la décimation?) d'autant que de nombreux actes sont envisagés et que le recours au comparatisme porte presque exclusivement sur les violences du XXe siècle. Néanmoins cela traduit un véritable intérêt anthropologique qui s'avère pertinent. Ainsi ce travail veut « mettre [les récits] à l'épreuve des faits en procédant à une étude thématique des violences de guerre », « analyser la sociologie et le comportement des victimes comme des exécutants, en contextualisant le passage à l'acte » et aborder le massacre comme un processus à travers « l'élaboration d'une typologie des massacres », avant de « revenir sur la perception des faits, notamment en étudiant les jugements selon différentes temporalités » (p. 16-17). Seuls les deux derniers siècles de la République sont étudiés parce que les sources sont moins rares, mais aussi parce qu'alors les carrières politiques dépendaient plus étroitement de la guerre, extérieure ou civile. L'ouvrage est divisé en trois parties équilibrées portant sur les récits, les faits et les jugements.

Dans le premier chapitre consacré au motif littéraire, N. Barrandon commence par examiner la prise des villes car c'était à cette occasion que les non-combattants étaient le plus souvent massacrés. Le sac de Troie, appartenant à la légende de fondation romaine, en constituait bien sûr le principal modèle. De Scipion Émilien citant Homère devant Carthage en flammes à la description de Virgile dans l'Énéide, le motif était bien connu et on trouvait aussi des similitudes entre l'incendie d'Athènes de 480 et celui de Rome un siècle plus tard. Ces scènes d'urbs captaet de massacres étaient abondamment représentées voire même rejouées lors des triomphes et, propices au pathos, elles devinrent même un cas d'école en rhétorique. Cela expliquerait la fréquence de tels récits chez les auteurs impériaux. N. Barrandon suppose que ce succès a pu pousser les Romains à « se conformer, consciemment ou inconsciemment, aux comportements décrits, car ils étaient des realia communs à la pratique de la guerre antique » (p. 63).

Elle se tourne ensuite vers les récits de massacres où les topoi sont moins utilisés, parce qu'ils ont lieu en dehors du sac d'une ville (Galates en 189), qu'ils sont rapportés par leur auteur (Tencthères en 55) ou lors d'un débat sénatorial (Lusitaniens en 150), qu'ils sont le résultat d'une bavure (Orongis en 207), ou qu'il s'agit des proscriptions. Les récits de ces dernières se distinguent par leur précision et par la part belle faite aux exempla car les victimes étaient des aristocrates dont la mort devait être exemplaire.

Dans la continuité des proscriptions, le troisième chapitre se demande si on peut qualifier de massacres les événements de 133, 121 et 100 lors desquels des citoyens romains furent tués. Pour cela, N. Barrandon entend revenir à une analyse factuelle, dépassionnée, afin de reconstituer le déroulement de ces journées sanglantes, ce qui lui permet de répondre par l'affirmative.

Dans la seconde partie, N. Barrandon suit Jacques Sémelin qui jugeait qu'il fallait « Décrire le comment pour comprendre le pourquoi ».2 Le quatrième chapitre veut donc analyser les différences entre massacres afin d'établir une typologie. Généralement, les non-combattants n'étaient tués que si cela avait été décidé, s'ils entravaient les opérations militaires par leur présence ou leur participation à la défense de la ville. Mais les soldats ne respectaient pas toujours les promesses faites par le général. Ainsi en 190, le préteur Aemilius avait demandé aux Phocéens de se regrouper sur l'agora pour être protégés par des hommes de confiance! À l'issue des pillages, les villes étaient parfois détruites, plus (Carthage) ou moins (Numance) complètement comme le révèle l'archéologie. Une destruction partielle, parfois la perte du statut de cité, suffisait au général qui brossait un rapport plus tragique pour réclamer le triomphe. Les populations vaincues connaissaient des fortunes diverses, généralement la réduction en esclavage ou la déportation, parfois des exécutions. Celles-ci, de nouveau, concernaient surtout l'élite, coupable d'avoir trahi ou décidé une résistance acharnée, ce qui permettait soit d'intégrer l'ennemi d'hier dans l'empire soit de le réduire en esclavage. Lorsqu'il était décidé de châtier une population, un subterfuge était souvent nécessaire pour que les soldats fissent leur basse besogne. N. Barrandon utilise les fouilles de Valence, au cours desquelles furent trouvés les cadavres de quatorze jeunes gens et d'un quadragénaire, probablement leur chef, suppliciés sur le forum après des combats, pour attester la réalité de ces violences.

Le court chapitre suivant porte sur les victimes qui étaient principalement les hommes. Lorsque les sources insistent sur l'exécution des femmes et des enfants, c'est pour montrer que toute la population a été massacrée, mais la réalité était plutôt la réduction en esclavage et l'exécution sélective. N. Barrandon ne dit pas si certains peuples étaient davantage massacrés que d'autres, en revanche elle souligne que seuls les proscrits émurent les contemporains et étaient considérés comme des victimes « car les sociétés antiques n'étaient pas victimaires » (p. 345), ce qui ne facilite pas le travail de l'historien.

Les vaincus étaient vendus comme esclaves, mais le produit en revenait au Trésor. Aussi devenaient-ils parfois un obstacle à éliminer ou à faire parler dans la course effrénée au pillage que se livraient les soldats devant un imperator souvent impuissant. Cette recherche du butin et la présence de prostituées à la suite des armées expliqueraient que les viols fussent plus rares qu'on ne l'imagine. Toutefois, N. Barrandon, qui reprend la théorie du « tunnel de violence » de Randall Collins, ne se contente pas de l'explication du massacre dans le feu de l'action. En effet, toutes les victoires ne débouchaient pas sur un massacre. Selon elle, la responsabilité en revenait au commandant, soit qu'il se révélât incapable de l'empêcher soit qu'il l'ordonnât (comme Scipion à Carthagène en 209). Une telle décision visait à favoriser sa carrière (pour obtenir les 5 000 tués requis pour le triomphe, à l'instar de M. Helvius en 195 à Iliturgi?), à réparer ses défaillances en laissant libre cours à la vengeance de ses soldats ou à mettre rapidement un terme à la guerre. N. Barrandon défend donc une vision situationnelle des massacres.

La dernière partie est consacrée à la perception que les Romains eurent des massacres, perception révélée tout d'abord par les procédures judiciaires. En l'absence d'un droit de la guerre écrit, les Romains s'appuyaient seulement sur des pratiques héritées et de vagues considérations morales. Or, « Tous [Grecs et Romains] s'accordaient sur un principe : les massacres sanctions n'ont jamais été considérés comme un crime en soi. La notion de victimes de guerre est inopérante pour l'Antiquité » (p. 283). Ainsi, les plaintes émises contre les imperatores étaient instrumentalisées dans le jeu politique, mais ne donnaient pas lieu à des argumentations juridiques. Surtout les imperatores en sortaient le plus souvent indemnes, au pire ils étaient privés de triomphe. Le Sénat ne dépassa les mesures réparatoires et ne punit les abus que lorsqu'il fallait absolument ménager les alliés. Ces derniers préféraient d'ailleurs souvent une compensation, pour améliorer le sort des survivants, à la punition du coupable. Une autre explication, à peine évoquée par N. Barrandon, pourrait être la solidarité de classe, que l'on retrouve à propos des jurys des quaestiones. Les responsables des massacres de citoyens romains ne furent pas plus inquiétés, surtout à partir du moment où le sénatus-consulte ultime et les proscriptions donnaient aux violences un cadre légal.

Dans le chapitre suivant, N. Barrandon explore la perception des massacres par les Anciens. Leur lecture morale des événements mettait l'accent sur l'incapacité des gouvernants à maîtriser leur colère, leur avarice, leur luxure ou leur orgueil, pour expliquer les massacres. N. Barrandon voit dans les guerres civiles et surtout les proscriptions syllaniennes un point de rupture. Ce fut en effet lorsque les Romains découvrirent le dur sort du vaincu qu'émergea un discours s'indignant des massacres et les associant à la cruauté et à la tyrannie. Pour condamner le tyran, on dénonçait les massacres de citoyens comme preuves de sa folie et de son impiété, ce qui conduisit à blâmer également les violences inutiles faites aux ennemis de Rome. Cette question de la folie, souvent invoquée pour expliquer les décisions des dictateurs du XXe siècle, aurait pu être creusée davantage, notamment parce qu'elle recoupe la question de l'intentionnalité peu explorée dans ce livre.

Dans le dernier chapitre, N. Barrandon met pourtant un terme au (faux) débat sur la qualification de génocide de certains massacres commis par les Romains. Elle rappelle que l'asservissement était, aux yeux des Romains, un châtiment tout autant qu'un moyen de mettre un terme au conflit et que l'on pouvait sortir de l'esclavage, ce qui confirme « que l'idée d'une "idéologie génocidaire" est peu conforme aux mentalités des Romains, dont l'originalité fut justement d'intégrer, au moins à terme, les anciens vaincus dans leur communauté civique » (p. 318). Reprenant les cas qualifiés de génocides par Hans Van Wees ou Luciano Canfora, N. Barrandon montre que ces massacres répondaient à une stratégie, et non à une volonté d'éradication ou à un proto-racisme.

En conclusion, N. Barrandon oppose ainsi le massacre de citoyens ou de déditices, rationnel et condamné et le massacres d'ennemis, « situationnel et chaotique », qui témoignait « d'une défaillance de celui qui avait la responsabilité de la guerre » (p. 356). Il ne faut pas oublier que, si le sort des vaincus semble peu concerner les Romains, c'est aussi parce que le pragmatisme l'emportait et que bien souvent l'esclavage était l'alternative à la mort.

Si le premier objectif de ce livre, proposer une typologie des massacres, est atteint, en revanche, le souci d'exhaustivité et la volonté de contextualiser chaque épisode conduisent à de nombreuses et longues citations et paraphrases qui alourdissent le propos. Cela découle également de la démarche visant à reconstituer les différents épisodes en révélant les biais des sources, surtout sensible dans la première partie. À cela s'ajoute que pour donner un cadre aux massacres et examiner leur perception, N. Barrandon examine régulièrement d'autres types de violences (asservissement, incendie de villes, viols…) qui ne rentrent pas dans la définition retenue en introduction. Tout cela rend la démonstration parfois confuse et entrave sa prise de hauteur. Néanmoins, bien que les conclusions ne surprennent pas vraiment l'antiquisant, la preuve en est désormais faite et elle est d'autant plus solide que N. Barrandon s'appuie tout au long de l'ouvrage sur l'archéologie grâce, notamment, à sa bonne connaissance du terrain espagnol. Ce travail est donc désormais incontournable pour tout chercheur confronté à des épisodes de violences de masse sous la République romaine.


1.   David El Kenz (dir.), Le massacre objet d'histoire, Paris : Gallimard, 2005, p. 8.
2.   Jacques Sémelin, Purifier et détruire. Usages politiques des massacres et génocides, Paris : Éditions du Seuil, 2005, p. 221-222.

(read complete article)


Jeremy Mynott, Birds in the Ancient World. Winged Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. 480. ISBN 9780198713654. $39.95.

Reviewed by Reyes Bertolín Cebrián​, University of Calgary (

Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview

I love birds and so does the author of this book, who published a previous book on birds in 2009.1 Mynott has written a book intended for bird lovers perhaps more than for academics. This does not mean that the book is not carefully researched; on the contrary, the wealth of information and detail is superb. It makes for excellent reading for anyone curious about the Greek and Roman worlds who likes birds or the outdoors. With this reader in mind, the book includes an appendix at the end containing short biographies of a hundred and thirty ancient authors who mentioned birds in one capacity or another. The book includes quotes from authors like Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil and Ovid but also many lesser authors, who may not be familiar to the general classicist. It did come as a surprise to me that birds were so ubiquitous in Greek and Roman literature, probably much as they were in life, as Mynott makes clear throughout the book. The passages of ancient authors are given only in translation, as the work is intended for the general reader. It is beautifully produced and contains many colour illustrations both of ancient and modern depictions of birds: Minoan frescoes, Greek pottery, Roman mosaics, coins, Renaissance paintings and engravings, early twentieth century books, and taxonomic drawings. As with birds themselves, variety and abundance of topics constitute the strength of the book.

The book is divided into six sections, each of which contains a short introduction and three or four short chapters. The structure is the same throughout: Mynott gathers quotes from several authors to illustrate each of the points he wants to make. From the richness of quotes it becomes clear right away that the author must have been collecting these passages for many years before putting them together in an organized manner.

The first part, "Birds in the Natural World," comprises four chapters: "The Seasons", "Weather", "Time", and "Soundscapes". The section discusses how the Greek idea of nature included the human world and was not contrasted to it, as we tend to do in modern times. The first three chapters illustrate how certain species of birds were associated with the change of seasons, prediction of weather patterns and other changes in the natural world. Birds were a standard point of reference for cyclical changes in natural phenomena. In the fourth chapter the author argues that the world would have sounded rather different from ours since there was a greater abundance of wildlife and at the same time there were less mechanical noises to compete against. He also discusses how the songs of certain birds like nightingales, larks or swans were interpreted as lamentations. Many of the birds that the ancients valued for their song are still iconic birds in Westerns culture.

The second part, "Birds as a Resource," is divided in three chapters: "Hunting and Fowling", "Cooking and Eating", and "Farming". This part explores how birds were valuable as a source of food. Hunting birds, as opposed to the elite pastime of hunting big game, was seen more as an activity for the countryman. Everything was basically deemed edible, not just wildfowl, pigeons or partridges but also sparrows, larks or even cuckoos. The ancients had at their disposal a great array of snares, traps, nets and decoys to hunt for birds. Birds constituted welcome additional protein to anybody's table and the ancients developed elaborate ways to cook them. The last chapter in this section reviews Roman agricultural writers' advice on breeding geese, chickens, ducks and pigeons. Some of this advice is at odds with modern sensitivities, including breaking the legs of the animals so they would fatten faster.

Part three, "Living with Birds," also contains three chapters: "Captivity and Domestication", "Sports and Entertainments", "Relationships and Responsibilities". The first deals with keeping birds as pets, either peacocks for the rich or sparrows, nightingales or parrots for everybody else. Even jays would have been kept as pets and some of them were taught to speak. The second chapter discusses the absence of falconry in ancient times, as far as we can tell. It also mentions cockfights and the use of ostriches in the Roman circuses. The last chapter considers how birds were common in daily life and would have shared the same dwellings as humans. Birds could be a nuisance and agricultural pests, but they could also control insects. Corvids and vultures were seen disposing of animal and human carrion. Some birds were also valued for their feathers and pigeons were used as messengers.

Part four, "Invention and Discovery," is also divided into three chapters: "Wonders: travellers' tales and tall stories", "Medicine: folklore and science", and "Observation and Enquiry: the beginnings of ornithology". Mynott argues in this section that humans were curious about the behaviour of birds and differences among species and attempted a classification of birds. The first chapter in this section starts with Herodotus' well-known stories about the birds that lived around crocodiles and the mythical phoenix. It also discusses the fascination with ostriches as well as with monsters like the Sirens, the Stymphalian birds or the Harpies. The second chapter examines the importance that medical writers attributed to birds for a balanced diet and several bizarre recipes prepared with parts of birds for the treatment of all types of diseases from aches and pains to hemorrhoids. The last chapter focuses on Aristotle's taxonomy of birds.

Part five, "Thinking with Birds," also has three chapters: "Omens and Auguries", "Magic and Metamorphosis", and "Signs and Symbols". The first chapter in this section presents what can only be a quick overview of the topic of auguries, which, of course, has merited many studies on its own. In the next chapter we learn how birds were used for love magic and necromancy. Several passages of Ovid's Metamorphoses are discussed as well. The third chapter of this section deals with the interpretation of dreams, how birds were often symbols for our longing to fly away from difficult situations, and it also discusses the military symbolism of the eagle.

Part six "Birds as Intermediaries" includes three chapters and an epilogue: "Birds as Intermediaries", "Messengers and Mediators", "Mother Earth", and "Epilogue: then and now". This section is a bit repetitive since most of the topics have already been dealt with elsewhere in the book. Nevertheless, Birds in theAncient World is a welcome addition to anyone's library. The prose is clear and engaging and the author reflects on our modern attitudes towards birds in particular and nature in general. Mynott's great accomplishment is that he brings to the forefront the presence of a type of animals among the ancients that we often take for granted or ignore. Birds lived much closer to humans in the ancient world than they do today. There were more birds and more kinds of birds in evidence and they shared the space in the cities and in the fields. Just as today, birds belonged to the reality of life and to the imagination.


1.   Mynott, Jeremy, Birdscapes: Birds in our Imagination and Experience, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.

(read complete article)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Anna Kouremenos (ed.), Insularity and Identity in the Roman Mediterranean. Oxford; Philadelphia: Oxbow, 2018. Pp. 208. ISBN 9781785705809. $55.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Erica Angliker, Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London (

Version at BMCR home site

Insularity is a paradigm that has impacted the identities of various populations of the Mediterranean, a region characterized by a great many islands lying in relative proximity to each other and continental masses. The islands have traditionally been viewed as places simultaneously isolated and engaged in multiple networks. In recent years, however, scholars working on insularity have gone beyond this contradiction to examine other features of these islands, which they now regard as dynamic sites continuously shaped by multiple processes. Within this context, insularity is no longer a phenomenon that is uniformly applied to every island, but an open subject that is culturally constructed. The present volume of essays, whose origins lie in a session presented at the Roman Archaeology Conference panel organized by Anna Kouremenos at the University of Reading in 2014, contributes a great deal to the research on islands by presenting several cases studies on the relationship between insularity and identity. To this end, it has brought together a group of archeologists and historians working on different islands.

Its ten essays open with a preface by Kouremenos (Chapter 1), in which she defines the principal objective of the project, namely, to investigate insularity and identity in the Roman Mediterranean through the study of specific island groups within the interconnected world of the Roman Empire. Explored in the volume are question such as: what does it mean to be an island? How did insularity shape ethnic, cultural, and social identity in the Mediterranean during the Roman period? And how were the islands connected to the mainland and other islands? Given that the Roman period has traditionally been regarded as one that caused significant disruption on the various islands of the Mediterranean, the volume also poses the crucial question as to whether insularity led to the isolation of these islands or whether they participated in a common Roman culture.

In Chapter Two, Jody Michael Gordon questions the traditional view of Cyprus as an isolated and provincial backwater during the Roman period. Through careful analysis of archaeological remains, generally neglected by scholars due to their uniformity, the author shows that diverse local identities flourished on the island throughout this period. The author argues that the physical size of Cyprus (the third largest island in the Mediterranean) meant that the island was home to a wide range of topographical features (the Troodos Massif in the west, the Pentadaktylos Mountain in the north, the Mesaoria Plain on the east, as well as 600 km of coastline) that not only affected the way in which its inhabitants perceived insularity, but also provided it with abundant and varied natural resources. Gordon also shows how these resources, paired with the island's strategic location at a hyper-connected crossroads, enabled Cyprus to participate in the networks of the Roman period.

In Chapter Three, Anna Kouremenos investigates insularity and identity on Crete in the Roman period, which she interprets by discussing the notions of Cretan insularity during the Archaic period and as presented in the epic tradition. Before presenting her argument, she first discusses the concept of insularity with great care. Given the multifaceted meaning of this concept, Kouremenos' clarification is highly opportune. She then shows how the location, climate and economic activities of Crete, as well as its mythological/historical past, gave form to its identity and corresponding insularity. As in Gordon's chapter, so here, topographical features are presented as being important to the shaping of the island's identity. Kouremenos points out, for example, that the mountains dividing the island at its center led to the formation of subcultures that explored various natural resources. With the Roman conquest, Crete became part of the empire and was thus able, she argues, to export greater quantities of its products through the latter's ample network. She also points out that in addition to trading its natural resources, Crete took advantage of its famous mythological past to promote tourism on the island.

In Chapter Four, Alkiviadis A. Ginalis uses the Northern Sporades (Skiathos and Skopelos, which were known in antiquity as Paparethos and Alonnesos, or Ikos), to demonstrate the diachronic shift from insularity (Roman Republican) to "islandness" (Imperial period). With the help of written documents and ceramic evidence, the author shows that the proximity and relationship of these islands to the Thessalian coast had a direct impact on how they perceived their insularity. During the Republican period, when the Romans regarded them as strategic steppingstones in their expansion eastward, the islands were highly insular and possessed an independent identity through which they attempted to preserve their sustainability. During the Imperial era, they developed regional and supra-regional trade within the networks of the Roman mare nostrum. This economic participation in the Roman Empire led to a change in identity and a population that perceived itself as isolated.

In Chapter Five, Sophia Zoumbaki examines the Ionian islands. Here geography once again played a key role in insularity. The author observes that the islands' proximity to the mainland and crossroads in Adriatic waters meant that their inhabitants never perceived themselves as absolutely insular; indeed, on various occasions they joined forces with the mainland. By examining each island separately, Zoumbaki shows that though all of them participated in maritime trade and the networks promoted by the Romans, the interaction between them and Rome was not uniform.

Chapter Six, by Danijel Dzino, discusses connectivity and insularity on central Adriatic islands by focusing on one particular cultural aspect of the exchange between these islands and the Roman world: the cult of Silvanus. The author shows that on these islands, Silvanus was represented with Pan's attributes much as he was in Dalmatia. This image of Silvanus, the author argues, differs visually from the one found in other areas of the Empire. Based on this particularity, Dzino concludes that the islands were connected to the Dalmatian mainland and thus represented Silvanus in a manner common to Dalmatia. Nonetheless, this connection should not be interpreted as evidence of the cultural unity of these two places as the god was not a native divinity. Silvanus was, in fact, an Italic god worshipped by the local population. After aligning himself with more recent theories that have abandoned the traditional dichotomy—the local populations' acceptance of or resistance to the Romans—Dzino proposes that the worship of Silvanus as Pan expressed both local cultic practices and connections to Dalmatia. As local cultic places traditionally associated with Silvanus became globally recognized symbols, connectivity, promoted by the Roman Empire, enabled these communities to participate in the creation of common images and symbols such as Silvanus.

In Chapter Seven, Maxine Anastasi explores the relationship between identity and industry on Malta. Her paper offers a good example of how to examine insularity by going beyond the information provided by literary texts. Instead of examining textiles—a product that made the island well known in Antiquity but is mentioned only in literary sources as it has left behind few archaeological traces—the author explores the production of wine and olive oil, which are not mentioned by ancient authors. Through a meticulous analysis of ceramics, Anastasi shows that wine consumption remained local, while olive oil was produced for exportation on a large scale. She also makes an important observation on the presence of imported ceramic fine ware, the use of which never outdid that of local ware. She concludes that given the purchasing capability of the Maltese, the preference for local wares may indicate a deliberate decision to promote local identity.

Moving on to Sardinia, Chapter Eight turns to the theoretical concept of insularity as a means of understanding Sardinian identity. Andrea Roppa, its author, argues that this island, which was relatively isolated despite its central location in the western Mediterranean, was characterized by a multifaceted insularity. In contrast to the Bronze and Iron Age, during which Sardinia developed a strong cultural identity, the Republican period saw the elite exploiting Mediterranean connectivity to participate in trade networks. Roppa demonstrates that though its communities retained some traces of their Punic cultural roots, they gradually submitted to change; by the early Imperial era, typically Roman material culture had penetrated all aspects of its life.

In Chapter Nine, Jean-Baptiste Mary discusses the insularity of Corsica, an island that has benefitted from little scholarly attention. His paper is a detailed and valuable survey that allows us to identify those places mentioned in ancient texts. After examining ceramic evidence, which includes a significant quantity of imported Greco-Italic items, the author concludes that though the island's indigenous population never abandoned its culture, the presence of such imported objects indicates a desire to adopt certain Roman practices. Mary claims that the adoption of Roman culture was the consequence of internal divisions within local populations, which led to the rise of pro-Roman groups.

In the final chapter of the volume (199-205), Swii Yii Lim surveys the preceding chapters to present some general conclusions drawn from the volume as a whole. Highly valuable here are her suggestions for future research. Lim is absolutely correct in her observation that archaeological evidence offers the key to revising various earlier scholarly views of the islands. Indeed, Lim's claim is confirmed by a recent publication on the Roman Cyclades in which archaeological and historical documents are combined to demonstrate that the common view of the Cyclades' decline during the Roman period does not correspond with the material evidence and needs to be reevaluated.1 In the future, many misconceptions about the islands can be dismissed through studies of this type. Lim is also right to draw attention to the way in which the concepts of insularity and identity have been used, and the multiplicity of approaches and interpretations these constructs entail.

The present volume is an important methodological contribution for all those interested in insular studies more broadly, as many of the questions and problems raised therein can be applied to comparable contexts in various periods. Its essays show that the size of islands, their natural resources and geography, their location within maritime nodes, and their proximity to the mainland are all factors that influence particular configurations of insularity. However, such fixed factors can be manipulated by the populations of different islands to generate myriad identities within insular space. The volume also shows that insularity is not a fixed concept but one that varies by island, each of which has its own ways of constructing and negotiating identity. Finally, the volume will also be welcome by those interested in the Roman Empire in general. The essays contribute to the theory that the Romans did not transmit a uniform cultural package to the territories that they conquered. Instead, their culture was a multi-faceted globalized system in which cultural values were negotiated between imperial entities and local populations.


1.   Enora Le Quéré, Les Cyclades sous l'Empire romain: histoire d'une renaissance. Histoire. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2015).

(read complete article)