Thursday, September 19, 2019


Andrea Massimo Cuomo, Erich Trapp (ed.), Toward a Historical Sociolinguistic Poetics of Medieval Greek. Studies in Byzantine history and civilization (SBHC), 12. Turnhout: Brepols, 2017. Pp. viii, 233. ISBN 9782503577135. €65,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Foteini Spingou, University of Edinburgh (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The publication of the volume under review is the result of two workshops in Vienna, co-organised by Erich Trapp and Andrea Cuomo.1 Cuomo has been particularly active in promoting the application of sociolinguistics to the study of literature written in learned medieval Greek. Despite the progress made over the past two decades in the linguistic analysis of medieval Greek, the field remains rather limited, while sociolinguistics is a rather new domain for Byzantinists.2

The ambitious aim of the volume under review is to push toward the study of "historical sociolinguistic poetics of Medieval Greek." (Learned) medieval Greek is a superposed (later-learned) linguistic version of the language. It is the result of a constant interaction between ancient, current highbrow, and vernacular forms of Greek (cf. Horrocks, pp. 109–10). The interaction between society and literature is currently a focus of attention for Byzantine literary historians, but the synergy between society and language continues to be unexplored. The field of sociolinguistics examines how "language use symbolically represents fundamental dimensions of social behaviour and human interaction."3 Key points for the discipline include linguistic variation at a particular point in time and the principles that shape the spread of such varieties. Sociolinguists are most often interested in vernaculars (the most basic learned variety of language), rather than superposed varieties. The volume takes up the challenge of applying the methodologies of sociolinguistics to a superposed variety of the language, a form of it that survives only in writing and about the speakers of which there is only limited evidence.

The first chapter (pp. 1–33), by Andrea Cuomo, promises to set the scope and the intention for the volume. The author (p. 3) defines historical sociolinguistics as "the discipline that explains why texts are such as they are." He continues, "Given that the language is the product of a particular society, and texts are the means of communication occurring within a particular speech community, I do research on texts, considering them in their contexts of production and reception, having as a working question 'who can say what, how, using what means, to whom, when and why'" (pp. 3–4). Central to Cuomo's approach is the premise that the members of a speech community use a single grammar and participate in the same or closely related social networks.4 The validity of this premise for Byzantine Greek cannot be verified, since fundamental research tools, such as comprehensive linguistic corpora and prosopographical databases connecting individuals spatially and socially, are lacking in Byzantine studies. The examples offered are unescapably isolated and their subsequent discussion remains casual, relying on individual cases rather than renditions of a fuller picture.

Klaas Bentein's chapter (pp. 35–44) is an informative, concise introduction to the field of sociolinguistics and its potential as a theoretical framework for the study of ancient variations of the Greek language. In the first part of his chapter, Bentein helpfully offers a critical overview of generally-accepted concepts relating to sociolinguistics that could be useful to students of ancient forms of Greek. The second part is mainly concerned with evidence from a corpus of 736 letters and 230 petitions written on papyri between the first ¬and the eighth centuries AD. Bentein's analysis of the formal use of particles reveals how such words mediate social status, distance, and the agentive role of the people involved in a given communication.

The chapter by Geoffrey Horrocks (pp. 109–18) is an instructive introduction for readers who wish to start exploring "learned medieval Greek" of the later period. Horrocks scrutinises the expression of future and modality in the highly classicising History of George Akropolites (1217/20–1282). Horrocks argues that although choosing classicising vocabulary, phraseology, stylistic traits, and morphology was relatively effortless for well-educated Byzantine authors, the same individuals had difficulty in applying classicising syntax and semantics in the more 'abstract and subconscious domains' (p. 110) of language use.

Although the above chapters are written by linguists, the majority of the contributions come from cultural/intellectual historians and focus on thirteenth- and fourteenth- century Byzantium. Stefano Valente's chapter (pp. 45–55) presents an overview of Palaiologan lexicographical trends, relying mainly on unpublished material. It aims to uncover trends in the reuse of ancient lexicographical treatises from later scholars and place the compilation of medieval lexica in their social context. Daniele Bianconi's chapter (pp. 57–83) is a readily accessible yet strong research piece¬ that gives examples of the use of erudition in education through an array of new discoveries: a summary of Aristotle's Dialectics in diagrammatic form by Maximos Planudes (ca. 1260–ca. 1305) and numerous examples of reading notes by Nikephoros Gregoras (ca. 1295–1360). The concept of the sociolect emerges as instrumental for understanding the variety of these and similar reading notes.5 Bianconi's contribution should be read together with that by Inmaculada Pérez Martín (pp. 85–107) on Gregoras' scholia on Aelius Aristides' Panathenaic Oration. According to Pérez Martín the scholia were addressed to novices of the "koine, the history of Athens and its political virtues." At the end of her chapter, Pérez Martín publishes Gregoras' notes on Aristides' oration and a number of marginal notes by Gregory of Cyprus (1241–1290). The chapter brings to light important evidence for paideia in the thirteenth century. Rightly so, Pérez Martín makes no claims for a connection of her chapter to the field of historical sociolinguistics.

In fact, the shortcoming of this volume is exactly that: although contributors are often interested in the texts' social context, the methodologies of sociolinguistics (or of other fields related to linguistics) are rarely relevant to the content of the book. And when it used, it is applied in a rather fragmented and superficial manner. For example, Ioannis Telelis (pp. 119–42) highlights wonderful examples of interpretative mechanisms in the composition of George Pachymeres' commentary on Aristotle's Meteorology. The identification of Pachymeres' target audience is here the main aim for the application of 'sociolinguistics'—although this is ultimately served by placing the text in its historical context. Similarly, Divna Manolova's detailed and informed analysis (pp. 143–160) of Nikephoros Gregoras' Hortatory Letter Concerning Astronomy—a text intended to praise his mentor Theodore Metochites—is primarily focused on the reception of Classics through a contextual stylistic analysis, rather than a technical linguistic scrutiny. Paolo Odorico (pp. 161–73) highlights the importance of classicising language as a marker of elite identity in Serres following the conquest of the city by the Serbian king, Stefan Dušan. Odorico does so by analysing a passage from the fourteenth-century Miracles of Saint Theodore by Theodore Pediasimos where the author defines his and his audience's identity (pp. 164–65) and the manuscript in which the Pediasimos' works are included. Again, the connection to socioliguistics is weak and rather questionable.

In all, the volume is a rather intriguing attempt to advance a linguistically-theorized approach to learned medieval Greek literature, but the application of the theoretical principles of historical sociolinguistics remains rather immature. Thorough linguistic analyses are rare in the book, and when a linguistic approach is used it is rarely combined with an emphasis on social behaviour and human interaction. The publication thereby highlights a major shortcoming in the study of Byzantine literature: the lack of integration of methodological frameworks from linguistics (and sociology) with interpretative literary approaches. Regrettably, the very title of the volume does not reflect its contents. "Historical sociolinguistic poetics" or, better, "historical sociolinguistics"—since the notion of "poetics" remains undefined throughout the volume— appears only in the first chapter, and most contributions have a rather loose theoretical connection with linguistics or sociology. The contributors are more often concerned with aspects of the reception of Classics and the intended audience of the literati, but not with features related to linguistic categories (grammatical, morphological, lexical or phonological). Nonetheless, this is among the first attempts—and it should be treated as such—on the part of a group of scholars to approach medieval Greek literature based on sociolinguistics.

Similar endeavours in the future should feature a deeper understanding of the theoretical field of sociolinguistics by Byzantine cultural historians; the integration of social network analysis,6 including sociometrics, in the study of language by linguists of medieval Greek; the analysis of a chronologically diverse corpus (beyond the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries); and active engagement with works composed by the same authors but in different linguistic or stylistic registers.7 By taking such steps (and similar ones), sociolinguistics can reveal not only how language was shaped by society, but how it shaped society and identities.

Authors and titles

Andrea Massimo Cuomo, "Historical Sociolinguistics – Pragmatics and Semiotics, and the Study of Medieval Greek Literature"
Klaas Bentein, "Towards a Socio-Historical Analysis of Ancient Greek? Some Problems and Prospects"
Stefano Valente, "Old and New Lexica in Palaeologan Byzantium"
Daniele Bianconi, "La lettura dei testi antichi fra erudizione e didattica. Qualche esempio d'età Paleologa"
Inmaculada Pérez Martín, "Aristides' Panathenaikos as a Byzantine schoolbook: Nikephoros Gregoras' notes on Ms. Escorial Φ.Ι.18"
Geoffrey Horrocks, "Georgios Akropolitis: Theory and Practice in the Language of later Byzantine Historiography"
Ioannis Telelis, "Tεχνικὸς διδάσκαλος: Georgios Pachymeres as Paraphrast of Aristotelian Meteorology
Divna Manolova, "The Student Becomes the Teacher: Nikephoros Gregoras' Hortatory Letter Concerning Astronomy"
Paolo Odorico, "Identité et craintes. Théodore Pédiasimos à Serrès au XIVe siècle"
Abstracts, pp. 175–80


1.   'A Sociolinguistic Approach to Late Byzantine History Writing', September 1–2, 2014; and 'Historiographie der Paläologenzeit zwischen Philologie and Soziolinguistik', June 20, 2013, both organised by Erich Trapp and Andrea Cuomo. The detailed programs of both conferences can be found in Andrea Cuomo's profile in
2.   Since the volume was published in 2017, one should mention the appearance of the colossal The Cambridge Grammar of Medieval and Early Modern Greek earlier this year (2019)—a publication that would have been instrumental if the contributors had had it at their disposal.
3.   W. Wolfram in Linguistic Society of America (30/07/2019).
4.   On the complexities of defining a speech community see, e.g., P. L. Patrick, 'The Speech Community', in J. K. Chambers, P. Trudgill and N. Schilling-Estes (eds.), Handbook of Language Variation and Change (Oxford: Blackwells, 2004), 573–97.
5.   See, e.g., N. Gaul, Thomas Magistros und die spätbyzantinische Sophistik: Studien zum Humanismus urbaner Eliten in der frühen Palaiologenzeit, Mainzer Veröffentlichungen zur Byzantinistik (Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2011), 125–28.
6.   A database that would allow the user to search and export data about the social connections, social mobility and spatial mobility of Byzantine literati is currently been prepared as part of the ERC-funded project 'Classicising Learning in Medieval Imperial Systems: Cross-cultural Approaches to Byzantine Paideia and Tang/Song Xue' (ERC CoG 726371, 2017–2022).
7.   Register = 'a language variety associated with a particular situation of use', see Bentein, p. 39 in the volume.

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Antonio Gonzales, Maria Teresa Schettino (ed.), Tra le rive del Mediterraneo: relazioni diplomatiche, propaganda e egemonia politica nella Sicilia antica. Geloi, I. Besançon: Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2019. Pp. 151. ISBN 9782848676425. €16,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Randall Souza, Seattle University (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Tra le rive del Mediterraneo forms the scholarly component of a two-pronged publication effort by the organizers of the Geloi initiative, a collaboration among a number of European universities and Sicilian cultural associations that seeks to study and promote Sicily's role in Mediterranean history. For the organizers, Sicily's location in the center of the Mediterranean and its history of intense interaction among diverse populations make it an attractive and important island to study. The volume includes most of the papers from the inaugural conference held in Gela in 2014, with two additions (the chapters of Péré-Noguès and De Vido). The other component, aimed at the general public, is a website created to disseminate the results of the initiative's conferences. Geloi has already held a second conference, in 2016, and envisions publishing additional volumes in the future.

This volume addresses diplomacy in Classical and Hellenistic Sicily, with particular focus on the cultural and legal frameworks that governed relationships between communities. Schettino's introduction quickly settles us in the vibrantly heterogeneous world of "la Grecità coloniale" (11), with its native populations, its Greek and Punic settlers, and its increasing visibility to the Roman state. This is indeed fruitful ground for an analysis of politically charged diplomatic encounters, and in summarizing the contents of the book, Schettino knits the themes and conclusions of the constituent papers together into an admirably coherent account. One disconcerting feature of this overview is the extensive reproduction of very lightly paraphrased sentences from the papers themselves that are not marked with quotation marks; this practice creates a sense of déjà-vu when one later encounters the original formulations.1

The first two chapters appear in a section on connections and confrontations between poleis. Moggi sets the stage with a review of eastern Sicily's early polis landscape, based primarily on Thucydides' 'Sicilian Archaeology' (6.2-5). To these communities the Carthaginians posed a threat "più presunta che reale," and provided Greek tyrants with an enemy against which they could both unite their subjects and prove their own Greekness (33). Moggi concludes his chapter with a critical reading of Hermocrates' call for Greek Sicilian unity against Athenian encroachment at the Congress of Gela in 424 BCE (Thuc. 4.58-64). The Syracusan leader both erases the island's non-Greek inhabitants from the picture and misapplies the concept of insularity as he encourages the polis-dwellers gathered at Gela to think of themselves as a natural group, i.e. the Sikeliotai, surrounded by a hostile sea. Zizza, in turn, examines a distinctive feature of the landscape sketched by Moggi, i.e. the relative ease with which cities were dissolved and reconstituted as compared with those in the Eastern Mediterranean. He highlights two factors: the widespread use of mercenaries as opposed to hoplite citizen soldiers, and the fact that all the poleis in Sicily emerged from a rejection of pre-existing communities and the establishment of new ones. Zizza pushes this second factor even further, proposing that the apoikiai were unstable precisely because their inhabitants knew they had been created by human beings, while the poleis in the Aegean had claims to autochthony and/or divine agency in their foundations. This may go a step too far, since the apoikiai also claimed the participation of the gods in their foundation narratives and made heroes of their mortal founders. Still, the thesis that a mythic tradition about dislocation could have significant effects on later generations of Sicilians deserves further attention.

The next section comprises three chapters on Syracusan foreign policy. Jacquemin surveys the population transfers effected in eastern Sicily by Syracusan leaders of both autocratic and democratic regimes, and ends with the claim that this succession of demographic interventions, from the Deinomenids down to Hieron II, is evidence of a centuries-long Syracusan goal to make itself Sicily's only polis (69). It is an intriguing possibility, but one that would require considerably more argumentation than the author provides here. Péré-Noguès next offers a detailed review of Agathocles' diplomatic policy in three main phases: from 319-311 the tyrant focused on consolidating his position in Syracuse and his influence over the rest of Sicily; from 310-306 he turned to a campaign against Carthage; and from 305 until his death in 289 he worked to create a kingdom on the model of and in collaboration with the Macedonian Hellenistic monarchs. Beyond its unobjectionable definition of the three phases, this chapter interrogates but does not really attempt to uncover the central aims of Agathocles' career, although toward the end Péré-Noguès does hint at the notion that by attempting to establish hegemony over Sicily and working to project his authority into Magna Graeca and the Adriatic Agathocles was fulfilling goals nurtured continuously in Syracuse since the Deinomenids. The present tour through the tyrant-king's varied endeavors suggests to this reviewer instead that his successes were due to opportunism rather than either long-term planning or patriotism.

Patriotism figures heavily in Motta's chapter on the ways in which Livy understood and justified the Roman brutalities of the Second Punic War. Motta argues that ius and mos were the key concepts in Livy's accounts of how the Romans dealt with Capua and Syracuse. I was not able to follow any particular claim about mos throughout the chapter; while the term gets some attention in the section on Capua, it is basically dropped thereafter. This chapter is strongest in picking apart the specific concept of ius belli as employed by Romans and Sicilians in debates about the capture of Syracuse, and in subsequent Roman negotiations with the Greeks and Macedonians.

A third section, on relations between Greeks and non-Greeks, contains the last two chapters. De Vido has written the masterpiece of the volume, reconstructing the complex diversity of populations in Sicily at the time of Timoleon and taking up the thread of Greek chauvinism introduced by Moggi in the first chapter. She begins with a detailed study of the Halykos/Lykos, the river that at times divided Punic territory in the west from Greek territory to the east, and then turns to expose the inadequacy of such political boundaries for any full explanation of relations between and within communities. With this background, the figure of Timoleon can be considered an anachronism in two ways (123). In the historiographical tradition he is a composite hero, divorced from any particular historical context, who represents an idealized past of thriving democratic poleis. His project, meanwhile, was an abortive attempt to undo decades or even centuries of demographic change by promoting the polis as the structure that would fill Sicily (once again, as the fantasy would have it) with free Greeks. De Vido methodically diagnoses the paradoxes around Timoleon's project as well as his persona, and dissects the allure of a 'do-over' for Greek settlement in Sicily. The chapter's final section (126- 130) traces the development of a primarily Greek cultural homogeneity among ethnically disparate populations throughout Sicily after Timoleon.

Finally, Scuderi addresses the diplomatic exchange that took place between the Romans and Hieron II just before the outbreak of the First Punic War, working from Diodorus' fragmentary narrative and focusing on Hieron's fervent rejection of Roman overtures. By comparing this text with the other literary sources at our disposal, Scuderi shows that Diodorus' Hieron was voicing a harsh and contemporary critique of the hypocrisy inherent in Roman commanders' appeals to fides as they sought to support a policy of defensive imperialism.

Tra le rive del Mediterraneo packs a great deal into its 151 pages. The conference and volume have been well conceived and, while some of the chapters are rather conventional, others cast a much-needed critical eye over Sicilian history. Readers of Italian (and French) will find the book a useful guide to current research on the five and a half centuries in which independent poleis existed on the island. The most inspiring essays collected here approach these communities with innovative frameworks that require a reconsideration of received wisdom, first and foremost the irritatingly tenacious conception of the polis as the natural and superior form of political organization in antiquity. Such reconsiderations, whether implicit or explicit, can lead to new questions about the internal dynamics of Sicilian communities across the island, the roles of geography and ideology in conditioning interaction between groups, and the mentalities that made the inhabitants of Sicily so prone to uproot others and so apt to be uprooted themselves.

Production value is relatively high, but the execution is not perfect. A handful of typos have been overlooked.2 The section themes are quite broad, and certain chapters seem to only nominally fit in their boxes. Finally, while this is a review of the book and not the sibling website, the laudable goal of communicating the Geloi project's results to the public at large needs a more compelling digital presence than is currently active at the address listed.

On balance, this book is well worth the time, and its low price makes it a good value as well. Students and scholars currently engaged in research on Sicilian cultural and political history will find thought-provoking arguments with which to wrestle. While the different chapters vary in the density and reach of their citations of modern scholarship, collectively they provide a relevant and up-to-date bibliography. Taken together, they both clarify and challenge, and they will be of interest to those seeking a deeper understanding of ancient Sicily, as well as those exploring wider issues of group dynamics for which Sicilian history provides eloquent evidence.

Table of Contents

Introduction (Maria Teresa Schettino) 9
Assetti poleici nella Sicilia orientale di epoca arcaico-classica: fondazioni e rifondazioni di città (Mauro Moggi) 25
"Come ti faccio ti disfo..." Distruzioni di città e trasferimenti di popolazioni nella Sicilia dei Greci: alcune osservazioni generali e qualche ipotesi (Cesare Zizza) 41
Non importa il regime. "Noi Siracusani facciamo sempre così" Trasferimenti di popolazioni nella Sicilia d'epoca classica a favore di Siracusa (Anne Jacquemin) 61
Les relations diplomatiques sous le règne d'Agathocle (Sandra Péré-Noguès) 71
Diplomazia e diritto durante la seconda guerra punica: su ius e mos nei discorsi di Tito Livio (Daniela Motta) 89
Oltre il confine. Egemonie territoriali, barbari misti, primato greco nella Sicilia di Timoleonte (Stefania De Vido) 109
I prodromi della prima guerra punica nell'ambasceria romana a Gerone (Diodoro, XXIII, 1, 4) (Rita Scuderi) 135


1.   All the papers have been digested in this way, but one example will suffice here: in the paragraph in the Introduction summarizing Rita Scuderi's essay we read "Davanti al mondo magnogreco, Roma intendeva rappresentare il suo intervento a custodia di valori quali ius, fides, societas e legittimarlo in conformità al bellum iustum" (16-17); later, in the essay itself, we read "...che però davanti al mondo magnogreco intendeva rappresentare l'intervento romano a custodia di valori quali ius, fides, societas: si configurava perciò la teoria del bellum iustum..." (143-144).
2.   My initial read through the text found p.37 "ridimensioneu"; p.61 n.3 "Defi"; p.63 "tranferì"; p.89 "Walsch" for "Walsh"; p. 91 "scuscipiatis"; p.98 n. 52 "pregnate"; and p.128 n. 50 "identità" for "identity" in an English-language quotation. In De Vido's chapter (pp. 109-134) the initial vowels of nearly all proper nouns in the Greek quotations are marked with the aspirate, incorrectly indicating rough breathing in several cases.

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David-Arthur Daix, Matthieu Fernandez (ed.), Démosthène: Contre Aphobos I et II. Suivi de Contre Midias. Commentario, 9. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2017. Pp. 900. ISBN 9782251447162. €27.00.

Reviewed by Nicolas Siron, NHIMA Research Center, Paris (

Version at BMCR home site


Les commentaires du canon des dix orateurs athéniens ont vu leur nombre grandement augmenter ces trente dernières années, grâce à plusieurs spécialistes tels que Douglas M. MacDowell, Michael Gagarin, Christopher Carey ou Stephen C. Todd. Les éditions des Belles Lettres, profitant de leur tradition d'édition de textes grecs avec la « collection Budé », se sont également lancées dans une vaste entreprise de commentaires, au-delà même des orateurs, avec la collection « Commentario », qui a l'avantage de s'adresser à un public francophone. Trois discours de Lysias y ont notamment déjà été publiés.

Le livre de Daix et Fernandez réunit les discours de Démosthène Contre Aphobos I et II (la réplique), prononcés lors de l'action intentée par Démosthène à sa majorité contre l'un de ses tuteurs, et le discours Contre Midias, après la violence dont a fait preuve Midias à l'égard de Démosthène alors qu'il était chorège. Une telle juxtaposition peut surprendre : distants d'une vingtaine d'années, ces discours relèvent de deux catégories différentes d'actions judiciaires (civile et publique). Les auteurs s'en justifient dès le début de leur introduction (VIII-IX), en expliquant qu'ils ont centré la focale sur le personnage de Démosthène et plus particulièrement le début de sa carrière : les deux discours Contre Aphobos détaillent sa jeunesse et le discours Contre Midias permettrait d'« introduire la position de Démosthène face aux menées macédoniennes » (IX), pour ouvrir sur le reste de ses œuvres politiques. Ce prétexte semble un peu léger compte tenu des nombreux discours politiques et harangues de Démosthène antérieurs au Contre Midias, mais, quelle qu'en soit la raison, nous ne pouvons que nous réjouir de la parution d'un commentaire aussi fourni pour ces trois plaidoiries.

À noter que les auteurs suivent l'interprétation formulée par Harris à partir d'Erbse selon laquelle le discours Contre Midias a bien été prononcé, 1 en l'enrichissant de nouveaux arguments (144-152) : comme l'affirment Eschine et Plutarque, Démosthène a bien accepté les trente mines proposées par Midias, mais seulement avant la deuxième phase de l'audience, celle de l'estimation de la peine, qui ne peut survenir que s'il y a eu condamnation au préalable. La plaidoirie connue aujourd'hui n'est donc pas seulement un brouillon inachevé (comme le pensent ceux qui voient Démosthène abandonner les poursuites avant le procès), mais le discours prononcé lors de la première phase du procès.

L'ouvrage se veut précis et utile pour des chercheurs confirmés : si l'apparat critique est limité à quelques notes philologiques en fin de volume, les différents points abordés sont analysés en profondeur et appuyés par des références détaillées, dans des notes parfois longues. Les propositions des éditeurs et commentateurs précédents sont présentées et débattues. Des tableaux sur la fortune de Démosthène (p. 2-3) et la généalogie de l'orateur (6), qui cherche à préciser les dates de naissance mais aussi de mariage, seront toujours utiles, même pour les plus érudits. Des notes grammaticales très poussées sont fournies en fin d'ouvrage.

Mais les auteurs ont également cherché à s'ouvrir à un public plus large. En effet, l'ample introduction (105 pages) expose notamment en détail le fonctionnement de la société et de la démocratie athéniennes dans leur ensemble (XXXIX-LXXXVII), formant à ce sujet une sorte de manuel, ainsi que le système judiciaire athénien (LXXXVIII-CVIII), préalable indispensable à tout néophyte. Les commentaires sont certes organisés de manière classique (en suivant l'ordre des paragraphes), mais toujours agrémentés de titres et sous-titres pour mieux suivre l'argumentation ainsi que de courtes introductions dédiées à certains groupes de paragraphes. De plus, dans les parties en français (introduction, commentaire), les mots mentionnés sont à la fois translittérés et retranscrits en alphabet grec. En outre, une annexe sur le vocabulaire judiciaire (annexe 2) peut former une sorte de glossaire, même si les termes ne sont, dans ce cas, malheureusement pas translittérés, et des annexes thématiques sur le calendrier attique (annexe 3) ou l'organisation de triérarchies (6) offrent de rapides mises au point. Il convient de signaler l'annexe sur les monnaies à Athènes (4), qui propose très utilement une correspondance avec le coût de la vie actuelle pour souligner l'ordre de grandeur des dépenses évoquées. Dernier point, et non des moindres, le prix peu élevé (27 €) malgré la somme impressionnante (plus de 750 pages) rend accessible le livre à toutes les bourses.

L'édition est en grande partie fondée sur les textes établis par Louis Gernet et Jean Humbert (corrigés à partir des éditions de MacDowell et Dilts), que les auteurs annoncent avoir entièrement contrôlés (CIX). Seule exception dans le Contre Midias : les documents (témoignages, lois, et même oracles), considérés comme ajoutés a posteriori à la suite de la démonstration de MacDowell,2 ne sont pas insérés dans le texte mais placés dans la première annexe. Cette solution, dont le principe a déjà été appliqué par Harvey Yunis dans son édition du discours Sur la couronne, présente l'avantage de respecter la forme du plaidoyer tel qu'on l'accepte aujourd'hui tout en fournissant tout de même la possibilité de consulter ces documents. La traduction, nouvelle, vise à s'approcher au plus près du texte grec, en reprenant la plupart des structures de phrase et des formulations. L'initiative est louable : il sera ainsi plus facile de passer du français au grec, et inversement, même si la lecture se révèle parfois légèrement déroutante.

La partie « commentaire » est tout à fait impressionnante et donne une valeur considérable à l'ouvrage. En effet, elle dépasse régulièrement la stricte compréhension d'une citation, pour approfondir un sujet sur plusieurs pages, voire une dizaine dans certains cas, en utilisant des passages provenant de tout le discours concerné (voire de la réplique pour le Contre Aphobos). Par exemple, l'imprécision des chiffres donnés par Démosthène au sujet de la fortune gérée par ses tuteurs, détaillée à propos du § 6 (52-61), reprend l'ensemble des calculs proposés dans tout le discours. De même, l'hubris de Midias donne lieu à un examen de la notion qui dépasse largement l'affaire elle-même (265-276). Ces analyses, qui font le bilan des thèmes traités, donnent à quelques reprises l'impression d'être de véritables études scientifiques. Les ouvrages et articles critiques existants sont d'ailleurs cités et discutés, parfois longuement, comme par exemple les hypothèses de Badian ou de Harris concernant l'omission de Midias dans le deuxième Contre Aphobos (135-137) ou le débat sur la présentation anticipée des arguments de l'adversaire, pour lequel une interprétation pertinente est proposée (296-302), peu avant une comparaison intéressante entre Démosthène et Théognis dans leur critique des gens fortunés (318- 326).

Contrepartie négative, le livre ne se prête pas toujours à une utilisation en tant que commentaire classique (par la consultation de la section qui intéresse le lecteur), mais implique dans certains cas (heureusement peu nombreux) la lecture complète des pages consacrées à l'un des discours. Ainsi, pour prendre du recul sur la formule de Démosthène demandant la peine de mort contre Midias exprimée au § 118 (commenté p. 367-368), il faut en fait avoir lu les observations données à propos du § 12, soit quatre-vingts pages auparavant (281-285), ou attendre celles du § 201, soixante pages plus loin (429-430), sans aucun renvoi à ces développements dans l'analyse du § 118. Il en va de même quand la demande est réitérée aux § 49 (p. 309-311), 70 (327), 92 (351), 130 (374-375) et 182 (420-421).

Cet aspect problématique est renforcé par les notes grammaticales et philologiques fournies en fin d'ouvrage de manière séparée : il faut finalement se référer à trois endroits différents du livre pour étudier un seul passage. On regrettera en particulier que certaines fines analyses grammaticales ne soient pas mises au service de la démonstration générale présente en commentaire, du fait du cloisonnement occasionné, à l'image des réflexions sur l'hendiadys (figure rhétorique qui dissocie une expression unique en deux noms coordonnés) qui débute le Contre Midias (475).

De même, les références bibliographiques, formalisées avec le système anglo-saxon, sont éclatées dans la bibliographie en plusieurs catégories, qui rendent plus compliquée la recherche d'un ouvrage à partir du commentaire. Enfin, index des sources et index des noms sont fondus en une seule liste, ce qui est fort dommageable. Surtout, en ce qui concerne les sources, les paragraphes précis des citations examinées dans le corps du texte ne sont pas indiqués dans l'index : il faut ainsi passer en revue tous les renvois à un discours pour retrouver le commentaire d'un passage. L'index en devient alors inexploitable.

Du point de vue du fond, très peu de points peuvent être remis en cause. On signalera, dans l'introduction générale, l'étude de ce qui rend le style de Démosthène « sublime » (XXII-XXXVIII), qui pose question : devoir en faire la « preuve par trois » en affirmant notamment que, « quelle que soit la distance qui nous sépare de son auteur, jamais un discours de Démosthène ne nous laisse indifférent, mais nous vibrons au contraire et croyons voir l'orateur en action sous nos yeux, comme si nous y étions » (XXIX-XXX) est surprenant dans un ouvrage scientifique.

L'ensemble de la partie sur la société et la démocratie dans l'Athènes classique, au sein de l'introduction, laisse de même une impression mitigée car plusieurs remarques sont approximatives. Par exemple, il n'est pas vraiment faux de dire « la démocratie est instaurée par les réformes de Clisthène, en 507 av. J.-C. » (LXIII, voir aussi 392), mais on attendrait une distinction plus fine pour faire place à l'isonomie. La partie sur l'Assemblée n'est qu'un résumé de l'ouvrage d'Hansen en 1991 (fruit de ses travaux pendant les années 1980), sans prendre en considération les avancées de la recherche qui ont eu lieu ensuite. Le reproche principal tient ainsi à l'ancienneté de la bibliographie. Par exemple, les références concernant l'organisation de la famille (XXXIX-XLIV), dont le statut des femmes libres, ne dépassent pas 2004, alors que l'histoire des femmes et du genre a été profondément renouvelée depuis une vingtaine d'années.

Enfin, très peu de coquilles ont pu être repérées, ce qui est d'autant plus remarquable au vu de l'ampleur de l'ouvrage (voir par exemple « Deuxième Olynthienne (I) », XIX). La bibliographie aurait cependant pu être mieux relue. On notera, sans prétendre à l'exhaustivité, « Philipps » à la place de David « Phillips » (613, qui reprend une erreur située LIX), « Murray » placé avant « Murphy » (611) tout comme Thomsen avant Thémélis (617), un tiret en trop à « Pauline Schmitt Pantel » (598), des accents parfois oubliés sur les majuscules alors qu'il est par ailleurs choisi de les faire figurer (« Economie » et « Editions », 604), certains prénoms non détaillés d'auteurs alors que le deuxième prénom est pourtant souvent fourni (606 ou 613), un « in » qui n'est pas en italique (607, sans parler de la virgule auparavant qui manque ici comme souvent), un auteur qui n'est pas en capitales d'imprimerie (611).

En bref, un bel ouvrage d'érudition particulièrement utile aux chercheurs français mais aussi étrangers, d'autant plus qu'il fait l'effort de ne pas se fermer à un public plus large, même s'il aurait tiré profit d'une organisation un peu mieux pensée et, à quelques occasions, d'un regard davantage historien. Nous ne pouvons qu'attendre avec intérêt le commentaire par les deux mêmes auteurs du discours de Démosthène Sur les forfaitures de l'ambassade prévu pour 2021.


1.   Hartmut Erbse, « Über die Midiana des Demosthenes », Hermes, 84-2, 1956, 135-151 ; Edward M. Harris, « Demosthenes' Speech Against Meidias », Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 92, 1989, 117-136.
2.   Douglas M. MacDowell, Demosthenes: Against Meidias, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, 43-47.

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Niccolò​ Mugnai, Architectural Decoration and Urban History in Mauretania Tingitana. Mediterranean Archaeology Studies, 1. Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 2018. Pp. 410. ISBN 9788871408538. €40.00.

Reviewed by Nichole Sheldrick, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

In this volume, Mugnai sets out to analyse the architectural decoration and urban development of the cities of Mauretania Tingitana (modern Morocco) from approximately the mid-1st c. BC to the 3rd c. AD. In particular, he is concerned not only with investigating the style and development of the architectural elements themselves, but also the urban contexts in which they were situated, in order to examine the relationship between decoration and setting and explore what such relationships can tell us about the people who created and lived amongst these buildings. As the basis of his study, Mugnai undertook fieldwork at four ancient cities in Morocco, recording, cataloguing, and creating a new typology for all of the visible and accessible column-bases and capitals that could be identified at each of these sites (pp. 26–30). While other types of architectural elements are considered where relevant in the text, as he explains, column-bases and capitals "are the most diagnostic architectural elements among all the material recorded" and "provide crucial data…which are less evident on entablatures and other mouldings" (p. 27). Many of the elements in his catalogue are published here for the first time, and this cataloguing and presentation of the extant material alone is a significant achievement and contribution to this field. His careful assessment of this evidence, combined with a re-assessment of previously identified material and research has resulted in a book that will be useful to both students and specialists of provincial architecture and Roman North Africa.

The book can be divided into three broad sections: introduction to both the subject and region; case studies and discussion; and the catalogue. The first section presents the background for this work, establishing the aims and methodologies of the study (Chapter 1) and providing useful and important context in terms of the history of archaeological research in Morocco (Chapter 2) and a historical background for the region (Chapter 3). As Mugnai points out near the start of Chapter 1, the province of Mauretania Tingitana has rarely been the focus of studies on its own, particularly with regard to architecture and urban development (pp. 23–24). His review of previous archaeological work in the region traces a story familiar across much of North Africa, from early explorations in the nineteenth century, through the period of French and Spanish colonialism, and finally to the shift to more modern archaeological techniques following Moroccan independence in 1956 (pp. 37–47). As he outlines, studies dedicated specifically to the topics of urbanism, architecture, and architectural decoration have so far been limited in Mauretania Tingitana and often focussed only on individual sites, such that the need for Mugnai's study is plain (pp. 48–54). By synthesising the previously existing scholarship, Mugnai has been able to better identify and address gaps in our knowledge and, drawing on the primary data he collected during his fieldwork, move towards a more complete narrative for the region.

The second section comprises five chapters: four case studies that form the basis of Mugnai's investigation (Volubilis, Banasa, Sala, and Lixus, respectively), followed by a final synthesis and discussion (Chapter 8). Each case study follows the same general structure, beginning with a survey of the evidence divided by district, followed by a discussion of the trends observed at the site. The latter three sites were surveyed in full by Mugnai during his fieldwork, but, due to its size and the volume of material, only selected areas of Volubilis were studied. A major theme illustrated through the case studies is the ways in which "different artistic and architectural traditions were merged together in Tingitana during the Roman period" (p. 21). He identifies three broad styles of architectural decoration which were present in the region: "(1) decoration of pre-Roman tradition; (2) ornament influenced by Roman official-style art; (3) local-style decoration", though stressing that these should not be thought of as strictly separate groups, but rather as "decorative trends" which could overlap and work together (p. 171).

Mugnai argues convincingly that the appearance of these varying carving styles and decorative motifs, sometimes within the same building complex, can be explained by the existence of a "heterogeneous" group of ateliers based at Volubilis, with some more clearly owing their inspiration to "official Romano-Carthaginian models", and others following the "local Volubilitan style" (pp. 108–109). This Volubilitan style of decoration, which was indebted to Punic-Hellenistic traditions (as previously argued by other scholars), can be seen at several other sites throughout the region, and it is likely that Volubilis itself was a centre of production. Direct imports of this work can be seen at Banasa (p. 176), and apparent imitations of this style seem to have developed at Lixus and Sala as early as the mid-2nd c. AD, suggesting that this style of architectural decoration and its production at Volubilis was already well-established by this point (pp. 181–182).

Mugnai makes a convincing case for interpreting this "eclecticism" in architectural decoration as a reflection of a similar diversity of identities and experiences in the local population (pp. 185, 193). At the same time, however, as he points out, "probably only a minority [of people] would have been able to recognize those motifs and styles which recalled models from Rome…or the forms of decoration that attested to the continuity of pre-Roman legacies" (p. 193). This is an important point to articulate. While analysis of architecture and decoration may give us insight into the character of the communities in which they were constructed, we remain largely ignorant of how or what the average member of those communities thought about architecture and its decoration, if they thought about it at all.

A key success of the book is in its illustration of the importance and benefit of analysing architectural decoration within both its physical and socio-historical contexts. One significant outcome of Mugnai's approach is that he has been able to revise the accepted dating for certain types of architectural elements, which has implications not only for the sites included in this study, but also for wider studies of provincial architecture. For example, he demonstrates that Attic bases without plinth, which have previously been attributed to pre-Roman periods, not only in Mauretania but across North Africa, are used in the basilica of Volubilis, which can be confidently dated to the Severan period based on its relationship with the Capitolium and nearby Arch of Caracalla (pp. 84–85). In a similar fashion, he argues that "stylized capitals", particularly plain ones, which had previously been attributed to Late Antiquity based on their similarity to Byzantine period examples from Constantinople, actually belong to a much earlier period in Volubilis, since they can be found, for example, in situ in the Severan basilica just mentioned (pp. 103–105).

Following the case studies and summary discussion, Chapters 9 through 13 make up the catalogue, which is divided into the same four sections as the case studies, preceded by an introduction and followed by photographic plates and plans. The catalogue is organised in a simple and straightforward manner. The plans that show the exact location of each catalogue entry will be a useful tool for any future researchers or students wishing to revisit the material in situ. All of the plans with the catalogue and throughout the text were drawn or re-drawn by Mugnai in a clear and consistent style.

A high-quality photographic plate has been included for each type recorded in the catalogue. These have not been reproduced at a consistent scale, however, but rather have been scaled to be approximately the same size, with each photograph featuring its own, independent scale. The intention was presumably to facilitate direct visual comparison of the architectural elements. However, this approach then disguises the reality of the substantial size difference between some of the examples. For example, on p. 117, Mugnai describes a capital "of remarkable size" from Banasa (Ban 2.35), but the impact and significance of its size in comparison to the other examples from the city is lost in the illustration.

The organisation of the plates also unfortunately ignores the groups and typology that Mugnai has so carefully created. For example, in the text (p. 128), he discusses a specific group of capitals, Ban 2.26–2.30, which belong to the same type (Corinthian capitals with group 6 acanthus, pp. 260–261). However, instead of including these five types in a single plate, with a single scale, the first four are on Plate 30, along with a single example of the previous type, and the last is found on Plate 31, with several others of the next type. A rearrangement of both the scale and grouping of the images would likely have resulted in a larger number of plates, which is an understandable practical concern for a publisher. However, given that there are relatively few images of the architectural elements which form the basis of each case study incorporated into the text itself (until the concluding discussion), the reader must refer to the catalogue with relative frequency in order to connect the descriptions and discussion with the individual pieces. A reorganisation of the plates to conform with the typological grouping of the materials would have resulted in greater clarity and ease of reference for the reader.

In terms of general presentation, the volume is well-edited, with few, if any, grammatical inconsistencies or errors. The only error of any import that I noted is the mislabelling of the location of the forum on the plan showing the areas of Volubilis covered by Mugnai's study (Figure 4.1), which could cause some confusion for readers who are less familiar with the site. The few minor issues identified above, however, do not detract greatly from the quality and usefulness of the volume. Mugnai is to be applauded for writing a book about architectural decoration which will be welcomed by specialists, but also makes a clear effort to be understandable and accessible to non-specialists, for example by including in the introduction clear and concise illustrations of the component parts of the architectural elements which he discusses, i.e. bases and capitals, for those who may not be familiar with them (pp. 28–29). Overall, Mugnai has managed to strike a good balance between a detailed analysis of architectural decoration and an appreciation of the larger context and significance of these elements, making this a useful and relevant volume for scholars and students of Roman North Africa and wider provincial studies.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Francesca Piccioni (ed.), Apuleio. 'Florida'. Introduzione, testo, traduzione e commento. University press letteratura, 26. Cagliari: Cuec Editrice, 2018. Pp. 167. ISBN 9788893860628. €15.00.

Reviewed by Francesco Montone, Liceo Scientifico 'G. Marconi' (Grosseto) (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

La studiosa offre una traduzione completa in italiano e un ricco commento del testo dei Florida; per la prima volta un'edizione italiana dell'opera di Apuleio comprende sia i 23 excerpta che tradizionalmente ne costituiscono il testo, sia i cinque excerpta confluiti nel De deo Socratis (la cosiddetta falsa praefatio), che ormai l'orientamento critico maggioritario ritiene parte integrante della raccolta antologica dell'autore delle Metamorfosi. Primo punto di merito del volume è quindi il fatto che esso va a colmare una lacuna nella bibliografia italiana, dal momento che sia l'edizione curata da Augello1 sia il commento di La Rocca2 escludevano i cinque excerpta, un tempo inseriti nel De deo Socratis (essi sono indicati nel commento con numero romano, laddove per i 23 excerpta si utilizzano i numeri arabi). L'editrice si avvale per i 23 excerpta del testo da lei stabilito nella tesi dottorale del 2014,3 frutto di una ricerca sulla tradizione delle opere oratorie di Apuleio; per i frammenti I-V utilizza come base l'edizione stabilita da Beaujeu,4 indicando nel commento i punti in cui si discosta da essa. La paragrafazione dei 23 excerpta segue quella operata da P. Vallette nella sua edizione per Les Belles Lettres (1924, 19602); per i cinque frammenti, che un tempo costituivano la praefatio del De deo Socratis, la studiosa provvede ad una sua ripartizione interna degli estratti, in mancanza di un'edizione che la fornisca.

La studiosa dedica utili paragrafi introduttivi all'autore, alle altre opere apuleiane, alla natura dei Florida, al problema del falso prologo del De Deo Socratis, alla lingua e allo stile di Apuleio, alla tradizione manoscritta, all'ecdotica dei Florida, alle peculiarità dell'edizione allestita.

Di particolare interesse è il paragrafo 3.2, "I problemi di trasmissione e il cosiddetto falso prologo delDe deo Socratis". La divisione in excerpta è un'acquisizione che risale ai Symbola Critica in L. Apulei philosophi Platonici opera, di C. Schoppe (Lugduni Batavorum, 1594), mentre nei manoscritti la materia appare suddivisa in quattro libri. Tuttavia la ripartizione dei codici fa nascere il sospetto che l'opera, nella forma in cui è pervenuta a noi, sia l'esito dell'attività di un antico editore interessato a mantenere la divisione in quattro libri con omogenea distribuzione della materia in parti con buona approssimazione uguali. È inoltre problema assai dibattuto se la cosiddetta falsa praefatio sia un'unica sezione, realmente introduttiva, o viceversa si tratti di cinque brevi frammenti indipendenti l'uno dall'altro, affini per natura retorica ai Florida e ad essi pertinenti. Se già Pierre Pithou nei suoi Adversaria subcesiva (Parisiis 1565) notava l'estraneità della presunta praefatio rispetto all'opera che pretendeva di introdurre, è stato fondamentale nel 1900 un contributo del Thomas,5 che evidenziò nella sezione incoerenze e contraddizioni interne, tali da indurlo a enucleare i cinque distinti estratti. Tale posizione è oggi prevalente. Il fatto che i Florida non terminino come la tradizione manoscritta ce li ha consegnati sembra corroborato dalla mancanza di una subscriptio solo alla fine del quarto libro (forse per caduta di una sezione finale), nonché dalla bipartizione della tradizione delle opere di Apuleio in due blocchi: il primo trasmetteva De magia, Metamorphoses, Florida, l'altro De deo Socratis, De Platone, De mundo, Asclepius. È convincente l'ipotesi avanzata dalla studiosa che a monte potesse esserci un'originaria raccolta comprendente le sette opere, con Florida e De deo Socratis contigui. I cinque frammenti nel momento in cui la tradizione delle opere narrative e oratorie è stata scissa sarebbero stati erroneamente attribuiti al De deo Socratis.

Per quanto riguarda lo stile, l'editrice sottolinea quanto la prosa di Apuleio sia variegata e pirotecnica, al punto da dar ragione al giudizio del Norden,6 che definiva lo scrittore il più brillante giocoliere della lingua che sia mai esistito. Il risultato dell'operazione di Apuleio è una prosa artefatta, spesso definita barocca, che il Paratore inserì nel cosiddetto neoasianesimo.7

La studiosa, oltre a chiarire alcuni aspetti contenutistici, si sofferma in particolare nel commento su problemi testuali, stilistici, letterari e linguistici. Si fornisce in questa sede un campionario delle principali tipologie di intervento sul testo, tutte condivisibili, operate dall'editrice. Nel primo degli excerpta, ad esempio, Piccioni non ritiene giusta la proposta di correzione dell'umanista Steewech,8 aliqui lucus aut alius locus, in luogo del tradito aliqui lucus aut aliqui locus, poiché si sciuperebbe il bicòlon simmetrico, in cui la paronomasia lucus /locus è enfatizzata dall'anafora dell'indefinito. In 2, 7 viene stampata la lezione dei codici effusam, seguendo Hunink,9 laddove molti critici correggono in offusam; interessante il fatto che la correzione effusam compaia già nell'editio Aldina del 1521.

In Florida 3, 6 viene difesa la lezione tràdita inlutibarbus, che l'editor princeps Bussi (Romae 1469), banalizzando, sostituiva con multibarbus. Anche nell'excerptum 6, 11 la studiosa propone di salvare il testo dei codici, intendendo commemorant in senso assoluto, raccontano, anziché provare a integrare il testo inserendo un complemento oggetto retto dal verbo, come hanno fatto altri studiosi. Suggerisce, però, come altra soluzione, di considerare commemorant come una glossa esplicativa interlineare scivolata di copia in copia nel testo e come tale da espungere. In 8,1 si accetta la correzione sibi, stampata anche da alcuni editori, mentre i codici hanno la lezione tibi; sibi appare maggiormente coerente, dato il verbo alla terza persona debet. L'editrice in 9, 3 accetta opportunamente la congettura di Thomas10 lividulis che, nel suo significato, è sinonimica e più preziosa rispetto a lividis (stampata nelle edizioni correnti), spiega meglio la lezione libidinis dei manoscritti e incontra il gusto apuleiano per i diminutivi. In 9, 8 la studiosa stampa la lezione tràdita verum, anziché la congettura vero di Leo,11 accettata da tutti gli editori. In 12, 1 viene stampato Psittacus Indiae avis est, poiché il testo tràdito, Psittacus avis Indiae avis est, lascia sospettare una corruzione; convincente la spiegazione fornita sulla genesi dell'errore: il copista, dopo aver trascritto psittacus avis est, per inserire Indiae, ha probabilmente registrato a margine Indiae avis, confluito nel testo in successive copie. In 16, 35 testimonium… in curia Carthaginiensium non minus splendidissima quam benignissima viene mantenuta la lezione dei codici, mentre i moderni editori, tranne Hunink12 e Martos,13 stampano la congettura di Van der Vliet14 splendidissimum … benignissimum, che collega gli aggettivi a testimonium. La scrittura tràdita può essere salvata, a parere della studiosa, dal momento che numerose sono le lodi apuleiane del senato di Cartagine (si vedano in particolare 16, 4, ab hoc splendidissimo conspectu vestro; 16, 41, in illa sanctissima curia).

In 19, 3 la studiosa accetta la lezione dei codici ut incognosceret, già difesa da Hunink, intendendo incognosco come sinonimo di cognosco; Van der Vliet, con altri editori, emenda in utine cognosceret. In 20, 3 l'editrice sceglie eximit, lezione tràdita, laddove altri editori stampano la congettura excitat di Helm; 15 eximit, col suo senso di rimuovere, togliere via, evoca un procedimento maieutico da attuarsi sull'animo del discente. Va tuttavia evidenziato che l'excitat di Helm ha il merito di creare una triplice metafora militare con i successivi instruit … armat. Nell'excerptum 20, al paragrafo 4, la studiosa e alcuni editori scelgono di stampare commixtam, in luogo della lezione dei codici commentam, difficilmente riferibile ad una coppa di vino, che l'editrice aveva in un primo tempo accettato nella tesi dottorale.16

In 21, 3, nell'espressione vivatae pernicitatis, viene stampata la correzione di Armini,17 laddove i codici F e A hanno vivace, chiaro errore. I moderni editori giustificano la scelta di vivacis perché presente in un codice, sulla base anche di vivacissimae pernicitatis di Gell. 9, 4, 9. Piccioni, però, ritiene la correzione vivatae più vicina al testo di F e soprattutto di ascendenza lucreziana (vivata potestas si legge in 3, 409; 558; 680), in un passo in cui Apuleio sta descrivendo un viaggio a cavallo con parole luciliane. L'aggettivo rende bene l'incalzare rapido del cavallo come mezzo di trasporto.

Nel quinto degli excerpta aggiunti all'edizione, al paragrafo 1, la studiosa rifiuta il cetera Latine materiae persequamur, stampato dalle già citate edizioni di Thomas e Beaujeu, a suo parere innaturale, a favore di Latine cetera materiae persequamur di Goldbacher.18 L'inversione si può spiegare se si pensa a trascrizione operata per brevi pericopi di testo lette e imparate per la copia.

Altro punto di forza del volume è l'accuratezza delle note, di cui forniamo qualche esempio, in cui vengono segnalate le peculiarità linguistiche e stilistiche della prosa di Apuleio. In 6, 6, a proposito di bubulcitare, pascere buoi, l'editrice sottolinea che si tratta di uno degli esempi di ripresa di parole plautine; il passo è confrontabile con Pl. Mos. 53 e si trova anche in Varrone (Men. 257). In 9, 30 (sigillatim ac discretim, sed cunctim et coacervuatim), oltre a sottolineare la predilezione di Apuleio per gli avverbi in -tim, data la loro patina arcaica, Piccioni evidenzia che il suffisso diventa produttivo anche per neologismi, come in questo caso, in cui tre avverbi su quattro (fa eccezione il singillatim) non sono mai attestati prima, anche se hanno poi successiva fortuna.

Opportunamente viene segnalata nell'excerptum 11 la giustapposizione di diversi preziosismi lessicali (gli arcaismi scruposum e senticetum, il neologismo rupina, un termine assai raro, come tesquis, e il raro costrutto furatum eunt, con eo + supino. In 16, 45, a proposito dell'avverbio praefascine, l'editrice, evidenziando che si tratta di uno scongiuro (prae fascinum), ricorda che è termine attestato in Plauto (ad es. As. 491), ma si ritrova in Petronio (73, 6); ritiene, quindi, che il termine fosse presente nella lingua parlata, anche se non affiorava nei testi letterari.

In 17, 15, a proposito della citazione di un verso virgiliano (Ecl. 8, 56), la studiosa ricorda che Apuleio non cita Virgilio quando riporta i suoi versi (si veda anche il verso citato in 3, 3 o 16, 33), dando per scontata la conoscenza da parte del lettore, diversamente da quanto fa con altri autori.

In 19, 2 (tristissimos et obsolentissimos) Apuleio è spinto dalla sua creatività verbale ad utilizzare per primo al superlativo l'aggettivo obsolens, per accostarlo a tristissimos e allestire un gioco fonico. In 20, 8, a proposito di punienda, la studiosa ricorda che Apuleio utilizza alternativamente la forma classica e la forma con vocalismo arcaico, attestata in Varrone, Gellio, Frontone (ad es. 3, 7, poeniendam).

Nel terzo degli excerpta aggiunti all'edizione, al paragrafo 1, la studiosa sottolinea che la metafora architettonica offre ad Apuleio lo sfoggio di tecnicismi (maceria, muro a secco, structor, costruttore, architetto, regula, righello, perpendiculum, filo a piombo, pondus, materiale di riempimento, conliniatus, allineato), dimostrando che non c'è campo del sapere in cui l'autore non metta in gioco le sue competenze.

Il volume è apprezzabile per l'acribia filologica mostrata e per l'efficacia del commento e della traduzione proposta; sarebbe stato forse più opportuno inserire un apparato critico, anziché dar conto solo nel commento delle scelte testuali effettuate, data la presenza di un certo numero di problemi filologici. L'autrice, quando possibile, prova a salvare il testo tràdito, in alcuni casi ripropone lezioni convincenti poco seguite dalla critica, in molti conferma quelle accettate in maggioranza dagli editori. Il volume è corredato di una Bibliografia, dell'Indice dei nomi propri e delle cose notevoli, dell'Indice dei manoscritti.

Tavola dei contenuti

1. L'autore (pp. 7-8)
2. Le opere e il contesto culturale (pp. 9-12)
3. I Florida (p. 13)
3.1 La natura dell'opera (pp. 13-14)
3.2 I problemi di trasmissione e il cosiddetto falso prologo del De deo Socratis (pp. 15-17)
3.3 Gli argomenti dei 28 excerpta (p. 18)
4. Lingua e stile (pp. 19-20)
5. La tradizione manoscritta (pp. 21-22)
6. Una breve storia dell'ecdotica dei Florida (pp. 23-25)
7. La presente edizione (pp. 26-28)
8. Testo e traduzione (pp. 29-91)
9. Commento (pp. 92-153)
Bibliografia (pp. 154-162)
Indice dei nomi propri e delle cose notevoli (pp. 163-166)
Indice dei manoscritti (p. 167)


1.   G. Augello, Florida di Lucio Apuleio, Torino 1984.
2.   A. La Rocca, Il filosofo e la città. Commento storico ai Florida di Apuleio, Roma 2005.
3.   F. Piccioni, I Florida di Apuleio. Prolegomena, testo critico e traduzione, discussa presso l'Università degli Studi di Sassari, 18 marzo 2014.
4.   J. Beaujeu, Apulée, Opuscules Philosophiques (Du dieu de Socrate, Platon et sa doctrine, Du monde) et Fragments, Texte établi, traduit et commenté, Paris 1973.
5.   P. Thomas, Remarques critiques sur les œuvres philosophiques d'Apulée, BAB, 37, 1900, pp. 143-165.
6.   E. Norden, La prosa d'arte antica: dal VI secolo a. C. all'età della Rinascenza, ediz. ital. a cura di B. Heinemann Campana, Roma 1986, vol. I, p. 606.
7.   E. Paratore, La prosa di Apuleio, Maia, 1, 1948, pp. 33-47.
8.   G. Steewech, L. Apuleii opera omnia Quaestiones et conjecturae, Antverpiae 1586.
9.   V. Hunink, Apuleius of Madauros: Florida, edited with a commentary, Amsterdam 2001.
10.   Thomas, op. cit. n. 5.
11.   F. Leo, Lexikalische Bemerkungen zu Apuleius, ALL, 12, 1902, pp. 95-101.
12.   Hunink, op. cit. n. 9, ad loc.
13.   J. Martos, Apuleyo de Madauros. Apología, Floridas, [Prólogo de El dios de Sócrates], introducción, traducción y notas, Madrid 2015.
14.   J. Van der Vliet, Apulei Madaurensis Florida, Lipsiae 1900.
15.   R. Helm, Apuleius. Verteidigungsrede. Blütenlese. Lateinisch und deutsch, Berlin 1977, ad loc.
16.   La studiosa spiega i motivi per cui ha cambiato opinione nell'articolo On some loci vexati in Apuleius' Florida, Mnemosyne, 69.5, 2016, pp. 799-821.
17.   H. Armini, Studia Apuleiana, Eranos, 26, 1928, pp. 273-339.
18.   A. Goldbacher, De L. Apulei Madaurensis Floridorum quae dicuntur origine et locis quibusdam corruptis, Lipsiae 1867, ad loc.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Paola Ceccarelli, Lutz Doering, Thorsten Fögen (ed.), Letters and Communities: Studies in the Socio-Political Dimensions of Ancient Epistolography. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. viii, 373. ISBN 9780198804208. $105.00.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Mattingly Conner, University of Maryland, College Park (

Version at BMCR home site


How did letters construct and sustain various types of communities in the ancient Mediterranean? The volume under review, a revised collection of papers presented at a 2011 conference at Durham University, contributes to scholarly understanding of a long-neglected dimension of ancient letters: the inherently "prosocial" character of ancient epistolography. According to the editors, three main qualities contributed to the "community-building" character of ancient letters: the letter's permanence, its ability to extend social interaction beyond those who are present across space and time, and its protean generic ideology. As written texts, the letter as verbal artefact was a site of communion, memory, and authority that could enjoy countless lives in the (intended or unintended) broadcast of letter content in conversation and writing, oral presentations, private re-readings, and subsequent preservation. The letter contributed to the social cohesion and communal identities of trans-Mediterranean political, religious, and philosophical communities in unique ways while also complementing oral communication and other forms of communication (e.g., the decree). Furthermore, the ideological flexibility of ancient letters (here termed loosely as a "genre"; cf. p. 13) furnished diverse strategies for authorial self-fashioning and persuasion. In this way, the essays in the volume emphasize the "soft" power of letters to exert influence without force and to project specific moral or civic values which may also define and, in a sense, immortalize one's self and community for moments of transhistorical friendship among like-minded literati initiates.

To unpack the communal dimensions of ancient letters, the present volume contributes to dialogue between Classics and the fields of theology, notably Jewish Studies and the study of early Christianity, by bringing together case studies from four major ancient Mediterranean "cultures," notably, Judaism, Christianity, Greece, and Rome, which range from the classical Greek period to Imperial Rome. Individual contributions focus on various forms of letters, including the well-tilled literary letters of Cicero and Seneca, the political missives of classical tyrants conserved in Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch, the letters of Hellenistic monarchs and Roman representatives to Greece in the 2nd c. B.C.E. that are preserved in epigraphic form, and the use of missives and embedded epistles in Second Temple (Ezra 4-7, 2 Maccabees), early Christian (Paul's 2 Corinthians, the Epistle of Baruch, and the Letter of James), and rabbinic texts.

The first unit of this volume entitled "Theory and Practice of Epistolary Communication" contains two essays exploring how the sociological understandings of epistolary protocol (Thorsten Fögen) and the social performances undergirding epistolary exchange (Bianca-Jeanette Schröder) contributed to the letter's capacity to engender and sustain social interaction and corporate identities. Thorsten Fögen's essay outlines the social expectations of epistolary style in both rhetorical theorists (Demetrius, Pseudo-Libanius, Pseudo-Demetrius) and epistolographers (Cicero, Seneca, Pliny the Younger) to trace the discursive strategies by means of which letters forged social bonds between senders and recipients. Critical to creating common ground between interlocutors was the letter author's quasi-dramatic cultivation of an appropriate, vivid, and genteel persona to simulate synchronic simultaneity and to enhance emotional intimacy and the perception of shared identity. One laments in this context a passing mention of the ancient perceptions of the relationship between image, memory, and language which likely also facilitated epistolary parousia.1

Scholars of the ancient letter will find useful Bianca-Jeanette Schröder's stimulating essay on letter couriers in Cicero's epistolary network, which explores how the selection of carriers fundamentally shaped letter content. Depending upon the available courier, the carrier as "mobile bridge" (p. 99) and "living paratext" (p. 85) between communicants could present potential risks as well as advantages which the letter author had to manage. In Schröder's analysis, it emerges that letter writing could serve more as a ritual obligation of aristocratic friendship than a means of transmitting news, as Cicero would furnish new letters so that a courier would not leave empty-handed rather than wait for a more pressing reason to write (88-89). Interestingly, Cicero also opted not to use his characteristic seal and his own handwriting if he was particularly concerned about protecting a letter's confidentiality and avoiding detection as its author (cf. Att.10.11.1, 93). Schröder thereby emphasizes the role of known carriers in epistolary networks and hints at the social performances of the socially-dependent carrier, though in many epistolary networks in the Roman world which were less politically sensitive, the courier was not always known to either interlocutor and could easily have been a traveler or merchant (cf. Synesius Letters 54 and 101, Procopius of Gaza Letter 71). Presumably, in many cases couriers did not substantially change letter content.

Section B is devoted to the role of letters in large-scale political configurations of the ancient Mediterranean during the classical, Hellenistic, and late Roman Republic. Sian Lewis's fascinating essay (Chapter Three) on the attested letters of Syracusan rulers from Dionysius I to Agathocles (Diod. Sic., Plut. Dion) contributes not only to our understanding of how classical tyrants negotiated their rule but also bears directly on contemporary debates about the relationship between writing and orality in emerging polis constitutions, one-man rule in the classical world, and the transition to rule by letter in the Hellenistic period. Lewis asserts that the classical tyrants carefully deployed the letter form—implicitly a confirmation of the ruler's ability to speak for the whole polis—in extra-polis communications as a form of monarchic display (drawn especially from Persian models) and as a means of eliciting external legitimation. Chapter 4 by Manuela Mari explores how Macedonian kings in the fourth century B.C.E. employed written letters (missives as well as circular letters or diagrammata) to yoke together the monarchic center with its constituent periphery. In particular, Mari's survey of the role of letters in the political culture of Macedonian rule reveals how the epistatai, local magistrates responsible for communicating letters at the local level who were often selected by their home communities, were vital diplomatic conduits connecting king and subjects.

The following essays (Chapters 5 and 6, respectively) of Ceccarelli and Osborne analyze the syntactical, lexical, and discursive ways in which the decree and the royal or proconsular letter embedded unique ideologies of power that articulated in distinctive ways the relationships between author and audience. Ceccarelli focuses specifically on a late-third century B.C.E. epigraphical dossier from Magnesia on the Maeander to explore how a polis community accommodated to royal powers superior to the city-state in the Hellenistic interstate world yet still projected its own unique identity and communal history. Osborne's stimulating chapter bears directly on the fascinating issue of the "Coming of Rome" (Gruen) to the Greek East in the early second century B.C.E. Osborne contends that the Roman decision to maintain the Hellenistic tradition of issuing letters in response to city embassies led to critical cultural misunderstandings for Greek cities who mistakenly assimilated the operating procedures of Roman magistrates to their prior experience with the political culture of Greek monarchs. Ingo Gildenhard's essay (Chapter 7) rounds out the unit by tracing how Cicero's correspondence from 49-44 B.C.E. (roughly a third of his extant correspondence) offered a means for the philosopher-statesman to project the image of a community of like-minded colleagues, a "Republic of Letters", while also reflecting upon and constructing his own identity within Caesar's world.

The third unit of essays focuses on epistolary communication and the letter form in shaping ideas of community and identity for Jewish and early Christian communities. Sebastian Grätz's chapter (Chapter 8) begins this unit by presenting a cogent case for a Hellenistic composition date of embedded Aramaic letters in Ezra 4-8 based upon their linguistic style and themes. Grätz argues that the presentation of these letters as official Persian correspondence aimed to legitimize God's special election of the kingdom of Judah by linking the introduction of the Torah to Ezra in the context of the reconstruction of the Temple at Jerusalem under Persian auspices. In Chapter 9, Philip Alexander examines how embedded letters in 2 Maccabees, Acts 9:1-2, 15:22-35, 28:17-22, the Tosefta Sanhedrin 2.6 and parallel rabbinic texts asserted the primacy of Jerusalem as the center of Jewish identity for the Diaspora periphery. Alexander then traces the diffusion of authority in the Talmudic period in the form of the responsa of the Geonim centered in Babylonia and the Galilee. Lutz Doering's succeeding chapter (Chapter 10) argues that the Epistle of Baruch (2 Baruch 78-86) telescopes the text's actual compositional context—the decades after the destruction of the second temple—with the destruction of the first temple, in order to coopt the authority of prophet Jeremiah's scribe Baruch to enunciate the unity of the tribes of Israel and to urge Israel to shift focus from national to other-worldly expectations.

John Barclay's engrossing yet brief study of 2 Corinthians follows. It exposes the managerial role of Paul's letters to shape communal perceptions and the reputations of leading figures in order to affirm the apostle's authority. The letters point, however, to the myriad social networking strategies and "stage management" of Paul and his associates; these were probably more significant in shaping Paul's contemporary communities and their longevity than his letters. This reality, however, is overshadowed by subsequent re-reading and eventual canonization of these texts by later Christian communities.

The final two chapters open onto the theme of the trans-historicity of epistolary communication. Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr's compelling essay addresses how the Letter of James, by employing the paraenesis of the Diaspora letter genre and the authority of the author (James the brother of Jesus), constructed a distinctively Christian communal ethos and eschatological message at the level of the interpretation of the implied reader, the implied author, as well as the original historical and later late-antique and medieval audiences. Catherine Edwards final chapter on Seneca's Letters to Lucilius (a concluding Unit D) investigates Seneca's exploitation of the genre's ideological capacity to cultivate fellowship among individuals neither spatially nor temporally present. Edwards contends that Seneca sets up in these letters a homologous relationship linking conversations among separated friends to the interaction between philosophical students and the great philosophical teachers of the past. In this way, the re-reading of Seneca's letters becomes a philosophical practice as well as a virtual conversation of the student with the master teachers.

Students and scholars of various types of ancient letters will find much that is useful in this volume. Especially helpful is the introduction, which sets out a compelling synopsis of the generic ideology of the ancient letter. This discussion can profitably be read in conjunction with the preface and introduction surveying approaches to defining the letter in the 2007 volume on ancient epistolography edited by Morrison and Morello.2 As is typical for volumes of collected essays of a relatively broad chronological range, every essay may not be of use for each reader, yet one may still wish to peruse many, or perhaps all, of the entries for new approaches and models for reading ancient letters. An unfortunate absence is a concluding discussion synthesizing how volume essays specifically contribute to the plastic ideology of the epistolary genre and to connect more explicitly the themes of chapters pertaining to classical studies with those focused on Jewish and/or early Christian studies.

The volume contains no combined bibliography but excellent bibliographies for each chapter including the introduction as well as several indices (index rerum, nominem, auctorum, locorum) which provide targeted points of entry for specialists and students alike. Typographical errors are rare (cf. p. 23 and p. 25; in order to indicate a contrast, the word "chance" when juxtaposed with "risk" [e.g., p. 99] should read "opportunity"). These quibbles aside, this exciting new volume nicely illuminates issues of major historiographical significance which will no doubt stimulate fascinating interdisciplinary conversations about the sociological and communal character of ancient letters.


1.   See, e.g., Ruth Webb, Ekphrasis, Imagination, and Persuasion in Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Practice (Farnham, England; Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate), 2009.
2.   Ruth Morello and Andrew Morrison, eds., Ancient Letters: Classical and Late Antique Epistolography (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

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Livia Capponi, Il mistero del tempio : la rivolta ebraica sotto Traiano. Piccoli saggi 61. Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2018. Pp. 140. ISBN 9788869732928. €14,50.

Reviewed by Caroline Barron, Birkbeck University (

Version at BMCR home site

In this latest contribution to the Piccoli Saggi series—accessible historical essays from Salerno Editrice—Livia Capponi provides a thorough and useful analysis of the Jewish revolts that took place in Mesopotamia, Cyrene, Egypt and Cyprus under the reign of Trajan. Unlike the siege of Jerusalem, in 70 CE, and the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-136 CE, the Trajanic era outbreak of unrest amongst the diaspora communities of the Roman empire in 115-117 CE has received comparatively little attention. While a number of studies have examined the revolts in their respective locations,1 Capponi's short book attempts, often successfully, to understand the revolts as a whole, as well as their implications for Jewish-Roman relations.

The book is organised into three chapters, each of which contains a number of subheadings, with a brief introduction and conclusion, followed by a useful bibliography of secondary material, a map of the area concerned and a good index. The Introduction (p. 9-12) sets the scene of the revolts, some forty years after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Vespasian and Titus in 70 CE, noting that although the relationship between Rome and Judea was "not idyllic", there had not been such particularly grave episodes since that date to suggest a continued period of hostility (p. 9). Indeed, as the introduction states, the book's aim is to demonstrate how the relationship between Trajan's administration and the diaspora communities broke down from one of relative tolerance through initiatives of philojudaism, to the degree of violence and bloodshed in which the revolts resulted.

Chapter I takes as its subject the background to the revolts, examining their religious and political causes, including Trajan's proposal to allow the Jews to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple in order to ensure the support of the prosperous Jewish communities of Parthia following his conquest of Mespotamia and Armenia. Cassius Dio and Eusebius are given as the primary sources here, and are compared in detail for their presentation of how the revolts unfolded. Capponi provides Italian translations of the relevant sections of the texts, and neatly compares the proposed series of events, concluding that geographically speaking, the revolts of 116-117 CE extended from Cyrene—where the Jews actively promoted unrest—to Egypt and to Cyprus, and only then (later) involving Mesopotamia and the territories recently conquered by Trajan in the 114-115 CE Parthian campaigns (p. 28). Most interesting in this chapter is Capponi's discussion—although brief—of the rabbinic texts. Pages 34-38 identify how the revolts are presented by the Talmud and argue, following the work of M. Pucci Ben Zeev, that although the rabbinic writings do not necessarily help or provide a chronological reconstruction of events, they are a useful supplement for understanding the "psychological and cultural attitudes of the time" (p. 35). 2

Chapter II, Stasis, proposes that the revolts initially broke out in Alexandria and Cyrene due to discord between the Jewish communities and their Greek and Roman neighbours. Capponi demonstrates the domestic unrest presented by Eusebius as the cause of the conflict can be confirmed by a range of primary material, including Greek papyri from Egypt, the Edict of Marcus Rutilius Lupus, and the Rabbinic discussion of the role of Pappus and Julianus in collecting funds for the reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Capponi employs a wide range of textual sources here to build a far greater picture of the cultural climate of these Diaspora communities and their interactions with municipal and imperial authorities than much previous scholarship, although the nuances and details of these varying texts do little to clarify exactly when or how the different revolts broke out. Nevertheless, by the end of the chapter it is clear that the relationship between these Jewish communities and their Greek and Roman neighbours requires greater consideration than the traditional top-down approach of how Rome treated the Jews. While many of the examples provided by Capponi are fictions, in the sense that they contain extracts of conversations and personal details that are incongruous in places, they nonetheless provide necessary colour to an otherwise opaque picture of how these communities existed together.

Polemos, the third chapter, describes how this period of civil unrest, or stasis between the Jews and their neighbours escalated into open conflict between the Jews and the Roman administration. The first four subsections take each geographical location of revolt, namely Cyrene, Egypt, Cyprus and Mesopotamia and the evidence for such, followed by a discussion of the career of Lucius Quietus, the governor of Judaea in 117 CE and the spread of the revolt to that province, and finally the role of Hadrian in suppressing discontent following the death of Trajan. It is in this chapter that the book's reliance on textual evidence is most apparent; although the epigraphic sources for Cyrene are well-indicated and confidently deployed, more could have been made of the archaeological evidence for the Jews' destruction of the urban centres in which their revolts took place. There is ample scholarship on the damage paid to the Temple of Hecate in Cyrene,3 or on the rebuilding of the basilica,4 which would have illustrated Capponi's points even further. Although it is not possible to offer similar archaeological evidence for all of the sites of the revolts—there is little confirmed archaeological evidence for the revolt in Cyprus, beyond restoration to the agora that took place at some point in the 2nd century CE, for example—inclusion of more material evidence would have added further substance to many of the well-argued and carefully references points of Capponi's discussion.

The book concludes with a brief summary of the three chapters, noting that Trajan's initially moderate, even tolerant, policies towards the Jews reached their peak with his promise to allow the rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple and for the Diaspora Jews to return from exile. His failure to do so in the aftermath of the Parthian campaigns incited the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, already suffering from discordant relations with the Greek and Roman inhabitants of their shared cities, to revolt, initially against their neighbours and later in direct opposition to Roman rule. This is a short, but very useful study that has done well to highlight the many and varied sources that deal with these events, but which are so often overlooked in broader histories of Judaeo-Roman interactions. In particular Capponi should be complimented for her excellent integration of the Jewish texts in her argument; valuable sources have been often sidelined by traditional scholarship, which has favoured the Greek and Roman authors' accounts of events.


1.   See e.g. S. Applebaum, Jews and Greeks in Ancient Cyrene, (Leiden: Brill, 1979); G. Firpo, Le rivolte giudaiche (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1999); A. Fuks, "The Jewish Revolt in Egypt (A.D. 115-117) in the Light of the Papyri" in Aegyptus, 33 (1953), p. 131-158; W. Horbury, Jewish War under Trajan and Hadrian, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014); A. Kerkeslager, "Jews in Egypt and Cyrenaica 66-c. 235 CE", in Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 4: The Late Roman Period (ed. Steven T. Katz; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 53-68; M. Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism in Turmoil, 116/117 CE: Ancient Sources and Modern Insights, (Leuven: Peeters, 2005); M. Pucci Ben Zeev, "The Uprisings in the Jewish Diaspora, 116-117," in Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 4: The Late Roman Period (ed. Steven T. Katz; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 93-104.
2.   See M. Pucci Ben Zeev, "La rivolta ebraica in Egitto (115-117 d.C.)" in Aegyptus, 62 (1982), pp. 195-217; Diaspora Judaism in Turmoil, 116/117 CE: Ancient Sources and Modern Insights, (Leuven: Peeters, 2005).
3.   See e.g. A. Kerkeslager, "Jews in Egypt and Cyrenaica 66-c. 235 CE", in Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 4: The Late Roman Period (ed. Steven T. Katz; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 53-68; Serafini, Nicola, "La dea Ecate a Cirene fra storia, culto e iconografia (con un catalogo degli hekataia editi e di tre inediti)" in Cirene 'Atene d'Africa': attività delle missioni archeologiche internazionali a Cirene e in Cirenaica (ed. M. Luni ; Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2006) p. 107-126; S. Walker, "Hadrian and the Renewal of Cyrene" in Libyan Studies 33, (2002) p. 45-56.
4.   See S. Applebaum, "A note on the work of Hadrian at Cyrene" in Journal of Roman Studies 40 (1950), p. 77-90; L. Gasperini, Le iscrizioni del Cesareo e della Basilica di Cirene, (Quaderni di archeologia della Libia; Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 1971); M. Luni, "La Basilica nel Foro di Cirene" in Cirene e la Cirenaica nell'antichità: atti del convegno internazionale di studi: Roma-Frascati, 18-21 dicembre 1996 (ed. L. Gasperini , S. Marengo ; Tivoli: Tored, 2007) p. 377-400; S. Walker, "Hadrian and the Renewal of Cyrene" in Libyan Studies 33, (2002) p. 45-56.

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Felix Budelmann, Tom Phillips (ed.), Textual Events: Performance and the Lyric in Early Greece. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. 315. ISBN 9780198805823. $85.00.

Reviewed by Dennis R. Alley, Syracuse University (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

As editors Felix Budelmann and Tom Phillips observe in their new Textual Events: Performance & the Lyric in Early Greece, "Poems do not just communicate precepts, narratives, and attitudes that align with normative ideologies, knowledge, and beliefs, but they can also be exploratory, opening up new ways of encountering realities and of understanding emotions and ideas."1 So, how should scholars confront the je ne sais quoi experience of engaging Greek Lyric poetry? In so many words, this is the intervention editors Budelmann and Phillips hope to make with Textual Events: to encourage a more holistic approach to Greek Lyric, one that reintegrates and reorients the experiential quality of lyric poetry in scholarly discussions of it. Perhaps the book's most impressive accomplishment is the ease and grace with which it accomplishes this goal. Presented not as a corrective on contemporary methodologies, but as a complementary approach that draws on many of them, Textual Events extends a valuable literary counterbalance to the social-science heavy approaches that have dominated lyric studies for roughly three decades. To be sure, individual chapters are more or less successful at offering compelling cases for their own readings as "textual events," but editors Budelmann and Phillips deserve ample praise for the clarity, organization, and force with which they make their case for the concept throughout the volume. Having considered the book's general aims, let us now turn to its components.

The volume begins with an exploration of occasionality, which is itself commences with Giambattista D'Alessio's "Fiction and Pragmatics in Ancient Greek Lyric: The Case of Sappho." D'Alessio describes his approach to Sappho as a focus on, "the way in which words are used to evoke deictic coordinates which may or may not be meant to coincide (historically) with any sort of 'external reality'" (p. 34). Touring the poetess's fragments, D'Alessio examines key passages that have been used to reconstruct Sappho's world and culture. In his discussion, D'Alessio demonstrates that often the poetry's language does less to inspire conviction in its interpretation as a freeze-frame of the socio-cultural practices and conditions of Sappho's world than it participates in a complex and intensely self-referential poetic reality—often unique to itself. Even if these findings may seem somewhat discouraging for those wishing to, for example, reconstruct cultic activity in Sappho's world, or illustrate the gender dynamics of her poetry, D'Alessio's study does less to silence these discussions than exhort a healthy skepticism and cautious awareness of poetry's status as poetry. The astonishing caution, balance, and philological command of Sappho's poetry D'Alessio demonstrates are superlative and make the article not only a pleasure to read but a true standout in recent lyric scholarship.

"Sailing and Singing" by Anna Uhlig is among the volume's more challenging entries. Questioning the ubiquity of the ship of state allegory often seen in the poetry of Alceaus, Uhlig argues that as a member of a seafaring society Alcaeus may have composed songs about the sea and seamanship to be perfectly intelligible and, indeed, enjoyable to others in his community without the need for complex allegory. Moreover, on Uhlig's view, the allegorical reading posited in antiquity by Heraclitus (pp. 70–2) and revived in modern scholarship by Bruno Gentili had limited appeal or even accessibility to ancient audiences. She cautions that this, in turn, should cause us to re-think our convictions in it, or, at least, temper our expectations of its pervasiveness in Alcaeus. Despite the work she does to erode her reader's confidence in the extent of the ship of state allegory in Alcaeus, Uhlig is cautious to avoid calling for an outright rejection of it. Instead, she suggests multiple registers of meaning may be overlapping. She leaves the door open to a mixture of allegory and actuality in the extant poems and fragments.

Continuing the former chapter's interest in the poetry of Alcaeus, "Materialities of Political Commitment? Textual Events, Material Culture, and Metaliterarity in Alcaeus," by David Fearn begins with an overview of recent movements in lyric studies of literature generally (pp. 93–5), before settling on the lenses of deixis and ecphrasis to engage the poetic realities of Alcaeus' verses (p. 98). Theoretically, this chapter could have served as a corollary to D'Alessio's entry; however, Fearn's interest in, or perhaps, defense of, the use of literary devices as a heuristic in Alcaeus' poetry at times distracted from his initially promising premise of examining the poetry's cultural elements through deixis and ecphrasis.

Arguably the most straightforward question posed in the volume is the title of the fourth chapter, "What is Setting?," by G. O. Hutchinson. Hutchinson aims not to produce a definition, but rather; "to investigate the notion and bring it in contact with other aspects of the poem" (p. 115) While reading Hutchinson's article, I found myself astonished when I realized how rarely I had seen the concept of setting addressed in studies of lyric. To be sure, aspects of it have been well explored in individual poetic contexts, but Hutchinson deserves praise for recognizing the need to examine the topic broadly, as well as the work he does to offer his intervention on the subject. Looking closely at Alcaeus and Horace, Hutchinson offers a capacious view of setting, which "goes beyond reality, and often beyond even the fictionally immediate. The same spatial context often alters and evolves. The poems are full of life and mobility, and they often develop beyond prediction" (p. 132).

"Sappho and Cyborg Helen" by Tim Whitmarsh begins the book's second section, "Conceptual Contexts" with an examination of Helen's agency in lyric. Using "cyberfeminism" as a heuristic to understand lyric representations of Helen, Whitmarsh suggests Sappho's depiction of Helen—overcome by desire and willingly departing for Troy—and failure to pass judgement on her, "retains and indeed revalues, the cyborg messiness of her epic equivalent. She is both subject and object of desire, a transient mode of identity" (p. 143). Alcaeus (fr. 283), by contrast, in Whitmarsh' view, reacts and responds to Sappho's representation of Helen by reducing, if not denying, the agency given to her by Sappho: "whereas Sappho celebrates Helen's erotic autonomy, Alcaeus holds her qua lustful woman, responsible for the wrongs done to men. In doing so, Alcaeus, takes over Sappho's emphasis upon Helen's agency and subjectivity, but subordinates it to what we might call male "significance': female action has meaning only insofar as it has an impact on the world of men" (p. 148).

"Event and Artifact: The Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Archaic Lyric, and Early Greek Literary History" by Henry Spelman is a true standout, and perhaps offers the strongest case for the adoption of the methodology proposed by the volume. Examining the Delian section of the Hymn, Spelman uses the literary traditions of Homeric biographies and the authorial personae of Greek lyric poets—particularly Pindar and Bacchylides—to argue that the author of the hymn intended for audiences to construe the poem's authorial persona as the great bard himself. To be sure, the use of literary tropes and rhetoric as a kind of archive for both scholars and ancient poets alike has a long tradition in lyric scholarship, but Spelman's balance of literature, literary history, philology, and context is a powerful and convincing way of approaching the longstanding problem of the text's persona. This was a pleasure to read.

Oliver Thomas' short chapter, "Hermetically Unsealed: Literary Genres in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes," explores the interconnections between the Hymn to Hermes and lyric poetry. Contextualizing the poem in its likely sympotic performance context, Thomas sees lines 425–33 of the Hymn as engaging in a sympotic left-right style capping response (177–8) which signals its ludic qualities to listeners. The mixture of context and content addressed here is valuable for considerations of lyric's relationship to the symposium, and authors' potential awareness of this likely environment for re/performance. In particular, Timocreon's poetry came to my mind after thinking about Thomas' discussion.

"Polyphony, Event, Context: Pindar, Paean 9" by Tom Phillips is another standout. Exploring the voices in this Paean, Phillips uses the literary topos of eclipse poetry (especially intertextuality with Archilochus' eclipse poem) to argue that Paean 9 fuses Pindar's poetic persona with the image of the sun. The significance of the observation is not limited to the paean, as the radiance of the sun is particularly important in epinicia as well.2 The article's second section, "Tradition, Mimesis, Musicality," (193–200) is especially insightful for its demonstration of generic expectations and how Pindar positions his work among them.

The book's third and final section, Lyric Encounters, opens with a challenging article, "Echo and the Invention of the Lyric Listener," by Pauline A. Leven. Using the dual images of Echo in Daphnis and Chloē (3.23) and the early recording device of the gramophone to conceptualize re-performance, Leven fascinatingly wonders what re-engagement with ancient lyric poetry would have looked, felt, and sounded like. She finds the notion of Echo, and the repeated phrase δηὖτε as an entrance point for understanding how Greeks responded to existing compositions, and how new poems engaged with or (re)position themselves in the wake of old ones. I fully expect this to be among the more controversial entries in the volume, as many of the thoughts, ideas, and questions it poses are inevitably unanswerable. Still, this should not suggest these are not significant questions to consider when approaching lyric; rather, like D'Alessio's warnings on the context of Sapphic poetry, they remind us of how much we do not know about the original context and performance environment of Greek lyric.

Using the section's title, "lyric encounters" as his starting point, Felix Budelmann's "Lyric Minds" wonders not who or what is speaking in lyric poetry, as many scholars of lyric have, but what the poet's self-representation achieves in the reader's experience. It is a subtle but huge shift on our prospective that illuminates, ultimately, how challenging the process of crafting a coherent and unimpeachable persona is: all perspectives shift or even crumble when pressed under serious scrutiny. Still, for Budelmann, the apparent inconsistencies we may perceive belie a more important facet of response to lyric: readers are expected to suspend their disbelief and fundamentally accept the narrator's narrative. Surely, Hipponax was not the debased, debauched, or impoverished figure his poetry crafted, but the experience of the reader's engagement with the persona demands that we accept that in this poem, at least, he was. Budelmann concludes with a further complication: the performer. What happens to this relationship when the poetic "I" is no longer possibly the author or original intended performer, but a singer at a symposium or even a professional classicist reciting the words 2,500 years after their composition. The answer, as Budelmann sees it, is that the performer, too, engages in the same relationship. Personae are crafted to refract aspects of the human experience in ways that allow us to identify with or respond to the things they say. The intervention feels remarkably important, and, indeed, the article left me thinking not only about my relationship to the voices in ancient lyric poetry, but the ways that lyrics of all genres and times can be remarkably resonant, powerful, and, at times, even haunting to its readers or singers.

The final chapter, "Fidelity and Farewell: Pindar's Ethics as Textual Events," by Mark Payne focuses on Pindar's poetic ethopoeia. Doing this, Payne examines fidelity, which he sees as "the ethical gesture that turns the real-world event into a textual event that can be experienced by the reader as such in the time of the poem." (p. 266), and farewell, which, "seems to want to free itself from fidelity in order to produce a different kind of statement-subject, without the king of moral obligation that fidelity enacts" (ibid.). Payne's grasp of contemporary theoretical approaches to lyric and "event" theory is remarkable. Unfortunately the space necessarily given to the article's theoretical framework leaves less room for an examination of the mechanisms in Pindar than some readers may desire. Nevertheless, the article's introduction of a new methodological approach to Pindar's traditionally assumed "piety" sets clear tracks for other scholars to follow.

How successful is the book at offering a new methodology for approaching lyric? To a great extent, no doubt, the answer will depend on the reader's investment in existing methodologies, but I, at least, was impressed with the clarity and utility of the concept of textual events editors Budelmann and Phillips present. Textual Events does not pitch some wholly new approach to lyric, but rather offers its readers a cautious methodological synthesis with an astonishing degree of flex and sway. Indeed, the title itself serves as a signpost for how the volume joins distant and formerly disparate methodological stars into a limpid new constellation. While, at times, individual chapters may seem to be located on distant edges of that constellation, observed from afar, they patently work together to form an impressive and clarion whole.

Authors and titles

1. Introduction: Textual Events: Performance and the Lyric in Early Greece
2. Fiction and Pragmatics in Ancient Greek Lyric: The Case of Sappho. Giambattista D'Alessio
3. Sailing and Singing. Anna Uhlig
4. Materialities of Political Commitment? Textual Events, Material Culture, and Metaliterarity in Alcaeus. David Fearn
5. What is Setting? G.O. Hutchinson

6. Sappho and Cyborg Helen. Tim Whitmarsh
7. Event and Artifact: The Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Archaic Lyric, and Early Greek Literary History. Henry Spelman
8. Hermetically Unsealed: Literary Genres in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Oliver Thomas
9. Polyphony, Event, Context: Pindar, Paean 9. Tom Phillips

10. Echo and the Invention of the Lyric Listener. Pauline A. Leven
11. Lyric Minds. Felix Budelmann
12. Fidelity and Farewell: Pindar's Ethics as Textual Events. Mark Payne


1.   Budelmann and Phillips 2018, 4.
2.   Arguably, the most famous example is found at the beginning of O.1.

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