Sunday, December 8, 2019


Richard L. Hunter, Casper C. de Jonge (ed.), Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Augustan Rome: Rhetoric, Criticism and Historiography. Greek culture in the Roman world. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019. Pp. ix, 300. ISBN 9781108474900. $105.00.

Reviewed by Beatrice Poletti, Queen's University (

Version at BMCR home site

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

A welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship on Dionysius of Halicarnassus, this volume investigates critical aspects of Dionysius' oeuvre focusing on its indissociable and unique relationship with contemporary Rome. The volume, which is based on the 2012 homonymous conference held in Leiden, comprises ten contributions by international experts of Greco-Roman historiography and rhetoric, many of whom have a long familiarity with Dionysius' work. The contributions are preceded by the editors' foreword, which presents the background of Dionysius' literary activity, and are followed by Joy Connelly's inspiring envoi. The volume is organized into thematic sections (listed below). The first one (contributions 1 to 4) focuses on Dionysius' activity as a literary critic; the second one (contributions 5 to 7) centers on his historiographical work (i.e., the Roman Antiquities); while the third one (contributions 8 to 10) presents as a unifying theme the relationship between Dionysius and his Roman setting. The volume ends with a robust and up-to-date bibliography, which however includes surprisingly few titles by Emilio Gabba, despite his life-long study of the Greek author. A more detailed index could have been a useful tool to navigate the volume.

De Jonge and Hunter's introduction (1-33) provides insights into the volume's agenda and main themes. One is the duality inherent in Dionysius' oeuvre, which was deeply informed by the relationship between Greek and Roman identity. Beyond the simplistic view of Dionysius as 'a Greek living in Rome,' the editors remind us of the complexities of Dionysius' networks, activities, and intellectual background as well as his distinctive ideas of Rome as a Greek city and of Roman leadership as responsible for generalized intellectual renaissance (cf. the introduction to On the Ancient Orators). In stressing this, the editors (and the volume's contributors) explore a path already laid out by Gabba, but not followed systematically or coherently after his pioneering monograph.1 In fact, a common error of modern scholarship on Dionysius has been the separation between his treatises on literary criticism and the Roman Antiquities. The approach taken here, by emphasizing unity rather than division, is undoubtedly refreshing. It rejects the traditional dichotomy between rhetoric and historiography stressing instead their connection as inseparable components of Dionysius' educational project.

Another theme of the volume is the strenuous and overall effective attempt at contextualizing Dionysius in the intellectual and political milieu of Augustan Rome. Parallels with other contemporary writers, both Greeks and Romans, are scattered throughout to show the multiplicity of literary interests and critical ideas with which Dionysius' own intertwined, thus moving on from fruitless assumptions of Dionysius' inferiority, especially when compared with his contemporary fellow- historian Livy. The volume also tackles long-debated topics in Dionysian scholarship, such as the relationship between Dionysius and Augustan ideology and the 'ethnic' identity of Dionysius' audience. In such cases, the contributors take a nuanced approach that avoids the (outdated) contrasts pro- or anti-Augustan, and Greeks or Romans.2 The hypothesis of a mixed, Greek-speaking readership, in particular — though not a novelty3 — remains important and is rightly emphasized here, being crucial to better understand Dionysius' oeuvre and to situate it within the fluid framework of early imperial society and literature.

Part 1, Dionysius and Augustan Rhetoric and Literary Criticism, comprises contributions by Richard Hunter, Nicolas Wiater, Harvey Yunis, and Laura Viidebaum. Based on his reading of De Thucydide, Hunter (37-55) discusses Dionysius' idea of a 'critic' and draws attention to the judicial language used by Dionysius to elucidate the twofold judgement involved in the critic's tasks, as 'he' both judges and is judged for 'his' criticism (44). Hunter emphasizes the continuity, in Dionysius' conception, between the forensic world of Classical Athens and the political arena of contemporary Rome and persuasively shows how Dionysius' criticism was ultimately specific to his time and place, namely, Augustan Rome. Wiater (56-82) distinguishes two levels of understanding the past: the 'ideal' and the 'historical'. Dionysius, Wiater argues, is interested in the 'ideal' past that he constructs in his reading of the classical texts and presents as a model for Augustan Rome. The classical past is thereby a mental-emotional construct, a 'structure of feelings' encoded in the classical texts. Wiater views Dionysius' engagement with the past not as an attempt to recreate 4th-5th century Athens, but as a process of implementing the classical ideal in the present. While he admits that Dionysius never makes any explicit comments on how he concretely envisioned the pursuit of the classical ideal (73), Wiater identifies the tools (namely, metathesis and selective mimesis) by which, according to Dionysius, the critic could manipulate the classical texts into didactic instruments.4 The contributions of Yunis (83-105) and Viidebaum (106-124) both center on the relevance of studying and teaching the rhetorical models of Attic oratory in Augustan Rome. Viidebaum, in particular, in her discussion of Dionysius' criticism of Lysias' style, makes a convincing parallel between Lysias' charis and the Roman concept of venustas, further illuminating the significance of Dionysius' teaching in the context of Roman eloquence and aesthetics.

Part 2, Dionysius and Augustan Historiography, includes essays by S.P. Oakley, Clemence Schultze, and Matthew Fox. Oakley (127-160) takes a fresh look at Dionysius' fondness for detail and lengthy narratives, considering both Dionysius' views on historiography as expressed in his critical essays and the material Dionysius found in the annalistic tradition. Oakley gives a thorough treatment of the principle of acribeia or 'fullness of narrative' (esp. 141-144) — which was much needed — explaining the different levels where this principle operates in Roman Antiquities. One may wonder, however, if several three-page long quotes from Dionysius' text were really necessary to make the point. Schultze (161-179) analyzes two stories of the Roman Antiquities featuring female characters and shows how the narratives reflect contemporary (Augustan) preoccupations with family and female morality. Schultze expands her observations to include other episodes of the Roman Antiquities and notes that proper interaction with women and family relations are central elements of Dionysius' history of Rome. While the implication is not necessarily that Dionysius supported Augustus' moral programme, the Augustan resonances in his text suggest a certain interaction with the contemporary discourse on morality. Fox (180-200) examines the 'prehistory' of Rome in Roman Antiquities' Book 1. Expanding on previous discussions on Dionysius' source material and his interaction with the readers through it5, Fox explains how Dionysius 'constructed' Rome as a Greek city and brings the discussion out of ethnic definitions and a "crude nationalist polarity between Greek and Roman" (199).

The contributions in Part 3, titled Dionysius and Augustan Rome, respectively by Christopher Pelling, Daniel Hogg, and Casper C. de Jonge, could arguably be reassigned to the other two sections (in fact, all the contributions of the volume contain extensive references to Dionysius' contemporary setting). Pelling (203-220) examines the interpretation of constitutional shifts in the Roman Antiquities focusing on the transition from monarchy to republic. While he detects various themes with an Augustan ring, he underlines their ambivalence, as they could represent praise as well as criticism. He draws attention to several important points in Dionysius' history of Rome, such as the focus on individuals in bringing about historical change and the significance of speeches in explaining constitutional developments. Hogg (221-241) analyzes Dionysius' treatment of the decemvirate and specifically the theme of procedural chaos and senatorial conflicts which, Hogg suggests, foreshadows the weak performance of the senate in the 1st century BCE. He also poses the question about Augustus' role in Dionysius' reconstruction, remarking (like Pelling in his contribution) on the ambivalent interpretation of Dionysius' text: was Augustus the reformer of a chaotic senate or a tyrant like Appius Claudius? Finally, de Jonge (242-266) explores the relationship between Dionysius' treatise On Composition and Horace's Ars Poetica. He not only highlights similarities between these two contemporary works (especially concerning the idea of skillful arrangement of words), but also contextualizes Dionysius' treatise in a broader critical scene comprising the major Augustan authors. De Jonge's conclusion, suggesting that one may find hints of Augustus' own eloquence and even mores in Dionysius, is fascinating but feels slightly speculative.

Joy Connolly closes the volume with an envoi on migrancy (267-277), in which she acknowledges Dionysius' place among the major classical authors in his effort to speak "between cultures and between genres" (268, quoting Hunter and de Jonge's introduction). While her arguments get dense at times, Connolly speaks to a global audience by stressing the distinctive position of migrants in history and society. She also situates the volume in the Cambridge series, Greek Culture in the Roman World, whose aim is to uncover the complexity of intercultural exchange and negotiation of identities in the Mediterranean under Roman rule. The effort of 'rehabilitating' Dionysius is notable and indeed successful. A structural improvement could be made by placing the most cited texts at the end of the book, as many contributions refer repeatedly to the same passages (such as the introduction to On the Ancient Orators). Despite the minor flaws pointed out here, this volume will offer a highly valuable tool not only for scholars interested in Dionysius' works, but also for those investigating Augustan and Early Imperial literature in general as well as the cultural and social changes surrounding the Mediterranean world at that time.

Table of Contents

Introduction (Casper C. de Jonge and Richard Hunter), 1
Part 1: Dionysius and Augustan Rhetoric and Literary Criticism, 35
1. Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the Idea of the Critic (Richard Hunter), 37
2. Experiencing the Past: Language, Time and Historical Consciousness in Dionysian Criticism (Nicolas Wiater), 56
3. Dionysius' Demosthenes and Augustan Atticism (Harvey Yunis), 83
4. Dionysius and Lysias' Charm (Laura Viidebaum), 106
Part 2: Dionysius and Augustan Historiography, 125
5. The Expansive Scale of the Roman Antiquities (S.P. Oakley), 127
6. Ways of Killing Women: Dionysius on the Deaths of Horatia and Lucretia (Clemence Schultze), 161
7. The Prehistory of the Roman polis in Dionysius (Matthew Fox), 180
Part 3: Dionysius and Augustan Rome, 201
8. Dionysius on Regime Change (Christopher Pelling), 203
9. How Roman are the Antiquities? The Decemvirate according to Dionysius (Daniel Hogg), 221
10. Dionysius and Horace: Composition in Augustan Rome (Casper de Jonge), 242
Envoi: Migrancy (Joy Connolly), 267


1.   Gabba, Emilio. Dionysius and the History of archaic Rome. Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991.
2.   Cf., e.g., Wiater, Nicolas. The ideology of Classicism: language, history, and identity in Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2011, and Hogg, Daniel. "Libraries in a Greek working life: Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a case study in Rome." In Ancient Libraries, edited by Jason König, Aikaterini Oikonomopoulou, and Greg Woolf, 137-151. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
3.   As early argued in Schultze, Clemence. "Dionysius of Halicarnassus and his audience." In Past perspective. Studies in Greek and Roman historical writing. Papers presented at a conference in Leeds, 6-8 April 1983, edited by I.S. Moxon, J.D. Smart, and A.J. Woodman, 121-141. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
4.   See also Jonge, Casper C. de. Between grammar and rhetoric. Dionysius of Halicarnassus on language, linguistics and literature. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2008, and Wiater 2011 (n. 2).
5.   Cf., e.g., Schultze, Clemence. "Authority, originality and competence in the Roman Archaeology of Dionysius of Halicarnassus." Histos 4 (2000): 1-38 and, more recently Wiater, Nicolas. "Expertise, 'Character' and the 'Authority Effect' in the Early Roman History of Dionysius of Halicarnassus." In Authority and Expertise in Ancient Scientific Culture, edited by Jason König and Greg Woolf, 231-259. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

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Markus Kersten, Blut auf Pharsalischen Feldern Lucans Bellum Ciuile und Vergils Georgica. Hypomnemata, Band 206. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Verlag, 2018. Pp. 358. ISBN 9783525310557. €100,00.

Reviewed by Wolfgang Polleichtner, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen (

Version at BMCR home site


Kersten legt mit seiner Rostocker Dissertation ein in fünf Kapiteln sehr nützliches Buch zum intertextuellen Verhältnis von Vergils Georgica und Lucans Bellum civile respektive Lukans Rezeption von Vergils Lehrgedicht vor. Kerstens Beitrag stellt einen bemerkenswerten ersten Ansatz zur Schließung einer großen Forschungslücke dar.

Er begründet in seinem einleitenden ersten Kapitel (9-40) die Notwendigkeit einer Studie wie der seinen mit drei Punkten (10): Erstens seien die Georgica von literarhistorischer Wichtigkeit, und Lucan selbst lege großen Wert darauf, literaturgeschichtliche Dimensionen auch des eigenen Werks im Blick zu haben. Zweitens sei Lucans Opus „in gewisser Weise ein >Prequel< der Georgica". Drittens sei es erhellend, die intertextuellen Geflechte von Lucans Epos „chronologisch" zu betrachten. Daher versuche er, so Kersten, Lucan durch die Brille eines „metapoetischen Realismus" zu lesen. Diesen Begriff definiert Kersten auf S. 14 (vgl. auch 20): Er versteht darunter „die direkte oder indirekte Präsenz von literarischer Kultur" in einem Text in ihren Auswirkungen auf den Autor, sein Publikum und die Charaktere seiner eigenen Dichtung. Kersten will von der einseitigen Festlegung Lukans als „Anti-Vergil" weg zu einer umfassenderen Evaluation von Lukans Rezeption auch der Georgica, nicht nur der Aeneis Vergils gelangen (bes. 35f.). Dabei sei nun natürlich zu beachten, um keine Anachronismen zuzulassen, dass die Georgica erst nach der erzählten Zeit von Lucans Epos verfasst worden seien, so Kersten. Wenn Lucans Caesar oder andere Figuren nun doch Vergil gelesen zu haben scheinen, sei „das nicht realistisch, sondern metaleptisch" zu erklären (27, vgl. 313). Diese Metalepse sei für den Leser der Zeit Neros ein starkes Signal dafür, dass seit dem erzählten Bürgerkrieg die Zeit nicht stehengeblieben sei. Die Georgica seien ja auch nicht das erste Gedicht, das von der Kulturentstehung und ihrer Bewahrung handele.

Drei Dinge möchte ich anmerken: A) Die besondere Bedeutung von zeitlichen Strukturen, Kenntnis von Literatur und künstlerisch produktivem Umgang mit ihr bei Lucan beschreibt die Forschung immer wieder.1 Es ist prinzipiell gut, dass Kersten Wert darauf legt, narratologisch genau zwischen dem unterscheiden zu wollen, was die Figuren in Lucan Epos im Gegensatz zu ihren Lesern schon wissen konnten und was nicht.

B) Die Aeneis darf in der Textarbeit jetzt allerdings nicht zugunsten der Georgica unbeachtet bleiben, sondern muss gemeinsam mit den Georgica und vielen anderen Bezugstexten als intertextueller Hintergrund von Lucans Schaffen gewürdigt werden. So würde zum Beispiel der Hinweis auf die Theaterbauten in Karthago (Aen. 1.427ff.) und ihren für Vergil zeitgenössischen Hintergrund den Theaterbauer Pompeius bei Lucan kontrastieren (BC 1.132f.). Gerade die Tatsache, dass Pompeius träumt (BC 7.9ff.), wäre angesichts von Didos Traum (Aen. 4.465-473) hinsichtlich der Unterschiede und Gemeinsamkeiten dieser Träume von Bedeutung.2

C) Der Begriff „Prequel" und der Gegenbegriff „Sequel" sind besonders durch die Filmindustrie (z.B. Spartacus), aber auch in der Literatur etwa schon durch James Fennimore Coopers Lederstrumpf-Zyklus oder unlängst durch Joanne K. Rowlings Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in ihrer Bedeutung sehr fest geronnen. Eine Neudefinition des Begriffs „Prequel" im Sinne von Kersten (27), der ihn nur noch auf ein Werk reduzieren will, das als ὕστερον im Hinblick auf seine Abfassungszeit bei der Zeit der Handlung das πρότερον sein möchte, erscheint hinsichtlich des Verhältnisses von Lucans Epos und Vergils Georgica unglücklich, da das heutige Publikum gewohnt ist, dass sich bei Prequels und Sequels deren Handlungsstränge mit dem Hauptwerk ineinander verweben oder gar durch die spätere Erzählung aufgeklärt oder ergänzt wird, was vorher unklar war. In Lucans Fall scheint es aber nach Kerstens Abhandlung eher so zu sein, dass das früher abgefasste Werk Vergils für das Verständnis des späteren Werks Lucans als Katalysator verwendet wird, nicht umgekehrt. Eine gar ausschließlich auf die Georgica hin ausgerichtete Erzählstruktur oder einen solchen Plot aber gibt es bei Lucan auch nicht (vgl. dazu Kerstens eigene Diskussion im Schlusskapitel, 313f.). Lucans Vorgehen mit einer Arbeitstechnik heutiger Autoren von Dreh- oder anderen Büchern zu vergleichen ist sicher interessant, weckt aber mit dieser Begrifflichkeit obendrein Konnotationen einer industriellen Massenfertigung neuzeitlicher Prägung. In diesem Zusammenhang fehlt auch eine Diskussion über den Stellenwert von Ovids Werken im Verhältnis zu denen Vergils (29); denn gerade das Proömium und besonders die Sphragis der Metamorphosen, aber auch Horazens Ode 3.30 wären zum Beispiel im Zusammenhang mit Lucan 9.980-986 von Belang (11).3

Mit dem Titel „Caesar und die Umwelt" ist das zweite Kapitel (41-154) überschrieben und folgt gegenwärtigen Forschungstrends, literarische Räume literaturwissenschaftlich zu untersuchen und ecocriticism im Zuge des environmental turn in den Geisteswissenschaften zu betreiben. Kersten geht allerdings nur ganz kurz auf die literaturwissenschaftliche Aufarbeitung von Aspekten der räumlichen Gestaltung von Umwelt in der Klassischen Philologie ein (42 Anm. 8).

Kersten gelingt es, in genauer philologischer Arbeit zu zeigen, wie die Interpretation der Figur Caesars vom initialen Blitzgleichnis (1.143ff.) an durch die Hinzuziehung der Lehrdichtung von Lukrez, Arat, Vergil und auch Ovid als Hintergrund für Lucans Verse an Tiefe gewinnt. Caesars Destruktivismus führe zu Neuem, sei aber in höchstem Grade problematisch. Seine Zerstörungen würden keine Grenze kennen, Leid bedeuten, seien unrömisch und würden im Sinne gerade der Georgica obendrein von Unbildung und Unwissenheit zeugen. Auch wenn Caesar mit seiner Unkenntnis des Landlebens bei Lucan nicht allein sei, nehme dies dem Caesarbild Lucans nichts an Ambiguität. Die Georgica würden aber einen Weg aus dem Bürgerkrieg weisen können und würden in den Händen Lucans so zu einem Wink an jeden, vielleicht auch an Nero, die Chance dazu nicht zu verspielen. Denn die Deutungsmacht der Geschichte bleibe nach den mahnenden Worten des Autors an Caesar beim Leser (venturi me teque legent; 9.985). Diese Stelle lässt wieder Ovid anklingen4, und Kerstens Argumentation hätte ganz in seinem Sinne noch weiter abgesichert werden können, hätte er in diesem Kapitel beispielweise bei der Diskussion über die Bedeutung der Gewissheit des eigenen Grabes und der Furcht davor, diesen Platz nicht zu kennen (134f. gerade auch in Verbindung mit dem Motiv des Seesturms in Kapitel 2.4), die Tradition dieses Motivs im Epos von Homer bis zur Aeneis auch berücksichtigt.

In gleicher Weise arbeitet Kersten in Kapitel 3 zu Pompeius und Cato heraus, wie die Bezüge zu den Georgica Vergils Lucans Charakterisierung von Cäsars Gegenfiguren unterstützen. Ihr Scheitern sei die Folge nicht zuletzt ihrer Fehler: der Eitelkeit des Pompeius und der Realitätsverweigerung Catos. Ihr Verdienst liege in ihrer richtigen Absicht, den Tyrannen Cäsar zu verhindern. Lucan erzähle auch den Weg ihrer Geschichte von der elenden Niederlage zur glänzenden Legende. Ergänzend hätte Kersten gerade bei seiner Behandlung des Bienengleichnisses (BC 9.283-302) darauf hinweisen können, dass Lucan in der Umformung des Bienenschwarms aus dem siebten Buch der Aeneis Vergils eigenem Auftrag aus den Georgica nachkommt, sein Werk weiterzudichten (4.146f.).5 Dies wird auch im Hinblick auf das Bienenwunder in 7.161 wichtig (vgl. 242 Anm. 81). Kersten könnte sich hier noch stärker auf Fratantuono stützen.6 Denn nicht nur auf der Inhaltsebene, sondern auch metapoetisch ist die Art und Weise der Verwendung von Gleichnissen wie auch des Umgangs mit anderen epischen Formelementen wie etwa Vorzeichen äußerst aufschlussreich für die Aussage eines Epos, was Kersten an sich überzeugend zu zeigen gelingt.

In Kapitel 4 (217-312) geht es besonders um Lucans Gebrauch von Anspielungen auf den Anfang und das Ende des ersten Buches der Georgica und deren Konsequenzen für die Interpretation besonders auch des Lobliedes für Nero im Proömium des Bellum Civile. Kersten arbeitet unter Bezugnahme auf mehrere Intertexte Lucans heraus, dass dieses Lob dann, aber nur dann ein Lob darstelle, wenn Nero entsprechend handeln würde und es ihm vielleicht gelänge, das bereits von Augustus versprochene neue goldene Zeitalter auch wirklich zu realisieren. Lucan als Dichter jedenfalls baue an diesem goldenen Zeitalter gerade durch seine Bezugnahmen auf die Georgica. Wie bereits oben angedeutet, hätte Kerstens Argumentation etwa Ovids Schilderung der vier Weltalter (Met. 1.72-150), besonders des goldenen Zeitalters (Met. 1.89-112), und Ovids Bezugstexte einbeziehen müssen.7

Im letzten Kapitel (313-318), in dem Kersten zusammenfasst, dass Lucans Werk in den Versen Vergils oft ein Gegenbild findet, aber eben auch oft ein Ideal sehe, zeigt er zusätzlich an zwei Beispielen, dass Lucans Werk gleich nach seinem Tod durch Tacitus gerade in diesem Sinne rezipiert worden sei: A) Die Stelle ann. 15.70 zeigt den sterbenden Lucan, wie er sein eigenes Werk und die Aeneis offenbar zusammendenkt. Laut Kersten wird an dieser Stelle nicht deutlich, ob Lucan oder Tacitus das Verhältnis zwischen beiden Epen als eher antagonistisch oder das Gemeinsame suchend betrachten. B) Dial. 13.5f. zitiert georg. 2.475. Dieser Vers spricht von dem Wunsch, die Flucht vor der Politik und der Stadt anzutreten. Die Dichtung entspringe dem goldenen Zeitalter (12.3). Dieses Arkadien Vergils, das Maternus sich wieder wünscht, erkenne, so Kersten, der Dichter bei Tacitus genau in seiner geistigen Wirklichkeit der Kultiviertheit. Maternus spreche aber in diesem Zusammenhang nun von seinem eigenen Grab und seiner Gestaltung und erinnere damit an Lucans Hinzufügung der Rede vom eigenen Grab zum Lob des Landlebens (BC 4.392f., an sich schon eine Anspielung auf georg. 2.490), was eine kühne, aber interessante Möglichkeit wäre. Maternus werde, so Kersten, zu einem Abbild Lucans. Kersten legt durch seine Ausführungen nahe, dass schon Tacitus das komplexe Verhältnis von Lucan zu Vergils Werken bewusst gewesen sei.

Ein Abkürzungsverzeichnis (319), ein ausführliches Literaturverzeichnis (320-350) und ein hilfreiches Stellenverzeichnis (351-358) beschließen das Buch.8


1.   Vgl. z.B. J. Wilson Joyce: Time as and Emotive Factor in Lucan's Pharsalia. Diss. masch. Austin 1982, 2 und 6.
2.   Ähnliches gilt für Aen. 9.446ff. (32 Anm. 108) und die Bedeutung dieser Stelle in der Tradition des Epos. Vgl. B. Effe: Epische Objektivität und subjektives Erzählen. ‚Auktoriale' Narrativik von Homer bis zum römischen Epos der Flavierzeit. Trier 2004, 38f.
3.   Vgl. C. Wick: M. Annaeus Lucanus. Bellum civile. Liber IX. Kommentar. München 2004, 416, BC 7.207-210 (dazu N. Lanzarone: M. Annaei Lucani belli civilis liber VII. Florenz 2016, 249), BC 8.863-872 und Kerstens eigene Diskussion letzterer Stelle (183-186) sowie F. Schlonski: Studien zum Erzählerstandort bei Lucan. Trier 1995, 154f. Pompeius' und Caesars Nachruhm stehen nebeneinander. Der Gebrauch des Wortes fulmen durch Lucan in 1.151 und in 8.864 ist kaum Zufall. Intratextuelle Bezüge ergänzen die intertextuellen. Vgl. zur Bedeutung letzterer Stelle schon R. Mayer: Lucan. Civil War VIII. Warminster 1981, 189. Auch die Rolle des Dichters als vates in diesem Zusammenhang zu beachten ist wichtig. Vgl. F. Ripoll: Peut-on considérer la Pharsale comme une "épopée tragique"?, in: V. Berlincourt, L. Galli Milić, D. Nelis (edd.): Lucan and Claudian. Context and Intertext. Heidelberg 2016, 61-76, hier: 63f.
4.   Vgl. C. Wick a.a.O., 419.
5.   Lucan ist hiermit nicht allein. Vgl. Columella, mit dem Lucan am Beginn einer großen Rezeptionstradition steht. Vgl. R. Monreal: Vergils Vermächtnis: die Gartenpraeteritio in den Georgica (4, 116-148) und Typen ihrer Rezeption im Neulateinischen Lehrgedicht, in: Humanistica Lovaniensia 54, 2005, 1-47. M. Seewald (Studien zum 9. Buch von Lucans Bellum Civile: Mit einem Kommentar zu den Versen 1-733. Berlin 2008, 166) will im Bienengleichnis Lucans lediglich eine Adaptierung von Homers Bienen aus dem 2. Gesang der Ilias (84-89) sehen. Überzeugend dagegen C. Wick a.a.O., 104f.
6.   L. Fratantuono: Lucan's Bees and the Ethnography of the Pharsalia, in: P. Esposito, C. Walde (edd.): Letture e lettori di Lucano. Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi, Fisciano, 27-29 marzo 2012. Pisa 2015, 57-72.
7.   Vgl. z.B. die Pflüge in BC 7.852 und Met. 1.102. Weitere Parallelen bietet Lanzarone a. a. O., 516f. Siehe auch Kerstens Hinweis auf das eiserne Zeitalter auf S. 102 und seine Ausführungen auf S. 27f. zur Tradition des Lehrgedichts Vergils.
8.   Das Buch ist verlagsseitig hervorragend hergestellt und redigiert. Ungenaue Formulierungen oder gar Fehler finden sich selten. 13: Zum Cäsarbild heute fehlen entsprechende Literaturangaben; 40: „Lucans Nerolob schließlich ist unumgänglich."; 44: „Überdermination" müsste durch „Überdetermination" ersetzt werden; 173: „Genero" müsste großgeschrieben werden. Vgl. „qui" (175), und generell die Anpassung von lateinischen Wörtern an die deutsche Rechtschreibung (z.B. 202f. und auch „linguae" auf Seite 319).

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Friday, December 6, 2019


Peter E. Knox, Angelo Poliziano. Greek and Latin Poetry. I Tatti Renaissance library, 86. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019. Pp. 448. ISBN 9780674984578. $29.95.

Reviewed by Frances Muecke, University of Sydney (

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Like A. E. Housman in Tom Stoppard's play The Invention of Love, Poliziano was both a poet and a scholar, but, unlike Housman, he is a scholar's—and philologist's—poet. His Latin and Greek poems dazzle by their erudition as well as delight by their writing. The sheer mastery of vocabulary is breath-taking. Then comes the generic variety: Silvae, Elegies, and Epigrams (in a number of metres), with the collection of Latin epigrams including Odes, Epodes, and Hymns. The poems in the present volume are mostly occasional, for patrons, teachers, lovers, friends, and enemies, for fun and to show off. There are more small slips in this volume than its author would have wished, but these do not detract from its great service in presenting its selection of Poliziano's Greek and Latin poetry in an accessible version, informed by the latest scholarship.

Knox's ordering of the components in his volume initially follows that of the Aldine edition (1498), compiled after Poliziano's death with variety more than chronological order in mind. First the Elegy for Albiera degli Albizzi (1473), then the Latin epigrams, and finally the Greek epigrams. To these are now added the longish epistolary elegy To Bartolomeo Fonzio (1473) transmitted with the works of Janus Pannonius (1434-72) but first attributed to Poliziano by Count Samuel Teleki, an eighteenth-century scholar and book collector. After this comes A Silva on Scabies (1480?), found in manuscript by Paul Oskar Kristeller in 1952. Under the rubric Additional Poems and Dubia are poems either omitted from the Aldine edition or that have come to light in other ways since Isidoro Del Lungo's edition (1867). Therefore, we now have in the I Tatti series (full disclosure: I have contributed to a volume published in 2016) all Poliziano's Latin poems except for his longer translations from Greek, which can be found in Del Lungo.1 There was already Charles Fantuzzi's edition of the Silvae (2004), the Introduction of which could well be read in conjunction with Knox's.

As is usual in this series, the texts and translations are accompanied by a brief workman-like Introduction, in this case setting the poems in the context of Poliziano's life and works, Notes to the Text, Notes to the Translation, and a General Index. As well there are Concordances to the Book of Epigrams with Del Lungo's edition (1867), needed because he departed from the order of the Aldine edition, and an Index of First Lines in Latin and Greek. The texts come from various sources: modern editions have been drawn on where these are available (Elegy for Albiera degli Albizzi, The Book of Greek Epigrams, To Bartolomeo Fonzio, A Silva on Scabies). The Latin epigrams are based on the Aldine edition (1498) with orthography and punctuation modernized. Apart from a few typos, the Latin texts are reliable,2 although anyone really interested in the text is advised to use Francesco Bausi's Due Poemetti Latini (Rome, 2003) for Elegy for Albiera degli Albizzi and To Bartolomeo Fonzio.3 Some convincing corrections are suggested by the editor and by Nigel Wilson (e.g., p. 260 line 89 futurae).

The Greek epigrams are a different matter, however. Apart from too many wrong or missing breathings and wrong accents (I noticed VII 6, X 2, XVII 5, XX 4, XXI 1, XXIV 5, XXVI 10, XXVII 2, XXVIII 2, XXX 1, 3, 5, XXXb 5, XLIX 5, LI 5, LV 6, LVI 4), there are misspellings (XXV 3, XXVIII 3, 9, XXX 3, 7, XXXb 10, XXXI 2) and the wrong font in XXIX 1. In the Notes on the Text (p. 318) Knox tells the reader that he has based his text on F. Pontani's (Liber Epigrammatum Graecorum (2002)), but, in fact, there are places where the Aldine reading is kept without comment. This is particularly noticeable in XXVI (9, 15, 17), but see also IV 1 and XXVI 12 (here it is not the Aldine text–which Pontani adopts–but Del Lungo's), XI 17, 24, XXVIII 12. In Ep. VIII line 6, Knox adopts Pontani's suggested correction (ad loc.) but not in the parallel case in line 12.4

As far as the translations are concerned, we are in good hands, and my comments would be quibbles.5 At one point, however, I do not think Knox has quite got the meaning. Latin Epigram CXXV is an interesting Preface to The Brothers Menaechmus, composed for a student performance of the play in May 1488 before Lorenzo de' Medici. In this (additional) speech for Prologus, which shows Poliziano as a lover not only of archaic Latin but also of medical technical terms,6 in lines 3-6, I believe Prologus tells the audience that their role is to be spectators, whereas his is to perform the play. Otherwise, they should put on his costume and take to their feet while he goes and sits down in the audience. Knox translates lines 4-5 ("Alioqui, capite isti hunc ornatum scaenicum,/Atque exporgite lumbos") as "Okay now, why don't you take in this set design and give your gams a stretch". Here I would take ornatus as costume or garb, its meaning in Plautus and Terence. For comoedo in line 37 (not "comic poet" but "comic actor") see Quint. 1.11.1-3.

As they read these texts, well-trained classicists will immediately start composing their own mental commentary as they recognise topoi, rhetorical ploys, linguistic iuncturae, allusions, and borrowings and are struck by coined words. It must have been hell for Knox not to be able to go there more than he does. His annotations are mainly confined to historical references, identification of historical personages, metrical questions, and explanations of mythological allusion. Some mythological points escape, e.g. Ares and Hephaestus (Greek Epigrams LIV) and how Daphne became the tree (Latin Epigrams CXVIII, CXXIV). Classical sources are noticed occasionally, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are, however, go-to commentaries to confirm and supplement one's surmises: those by Bausi and Pontani already mentioned and for A Silva on Scabies that of A. Perosa (Rome, 1954).7

I could not help wishing that Knox had been allowed to let himself go a little more in the (perfectly adequate) notes and added a little more colour from the rich historical context. The poems are peopled by a 'who's who' of extraordinary figures more or less embroiled in the dramatic events and political and intellectual ferment of their particular place in time. Take Francesco Salviati (1443-78)), for example, "an archbishop who was ready to found his career on murder."8 A relative and protegé of Pope Sixtus IV, he had close links to the Pazzi family tooand was a key figure in the 'Pazzi Conspiracy' against the Mediciin 1478. In 1473 (Latin Epigram XVI, To Francesco Salviati), Poliziano wrote him a begging poem asking that he put his case to the pope as a good but poor poet, devoted to him. But in the later distich Additional Poems XX (On Salviati), a joke is made of Salviati's end: the gallows grieves at losing his victim to the noose at the high window (see also XXI and XXII). On the afternoon of the failed plot, Salviati (aged 36) was hanged from a window of the Palazzo Vecchio. Elsewhere, in his prose account of the conspiracy, Poliziano records that, as he died, Salviati bit the chest of a fellow-conspirator dangling with him.

While I was working on this review, I began to make a selection for five one-hour sessions at the Sydney Latin Summer School next year. It is hard. There has to be something from the (Horatian) description of the 19-year old Poliziano's daily activities in To Bartolomeo Fonzio 131-254. Then the narrative of Albiera degli Albizzi's death, with its remarkable Ovidian mythologization of the repulsive goddess Fever, recruited by Nemesis, to infect her victim with fire and chills (89-164). Can I fit the Plautine prologue together with Additional Poems XXVII At the start of his studies on the life of Ovid? Latin Epigram CIX (an epode that expands Horace's Epode 4) is a great example of the vicious Poliziano, which does not go quite as far as another Horatian epode On an old woman (CXXXVI). My favourite Greek epigram, LVII On mosquitoes, can be mentioned quickly in passing—it was written to correct the grammar of Bartolomeo Scala, the hidden subject of Latin Epigram CIX (miller's son, parvenu, politico-cultural figure, and eventually Chancellor of Florence). This leaves one day for the rest of the Latin epigrams. How can we leave out Lorenzo de' Medici, especially the cheeky Latin Epigram I in which the poor poet asks for some of Lorenzo's own clothes? But then what about A Silva on Scabies, with its bravura lines on itching, scratching, blood, pus, and scabs (53-117) and mock-epic elaboration on the tiny beast that bores into the skin, "monstrosities summoned from the Stygian abyss" with a king called Lichobrotus (Bloodlicker), son of Helcomedusa (Ulcerqueen) and Cybista (Diver) (118-225)?


1.   Iliad Bks II-V, Callimachus Hymn 5, and De Ludis saecularibus.
2.   P. 138 line 48 read perplexabilem; p. 152 CXXII 1 read manavit; p. 246 line 113 read Phoebum; p. 326 Perosa read Dactylotroctus.
3.   In the note on p. 325 to To Bartolomeo Fonzio 25 amoto is not Ald. but what Teleki calls "Vulg." He already signalled a problem. Knox reads admoto and translates "imported", but it could just mean "applied" from the medical sense. Bausi translates amoto by "forestiero."
4.   At XXXb 14 it appears the translation follows a discarded version of the text.
5.   For example, "two pledges" for pignora bina at p. 241 line 28, referring to Piero's sons, Lorenzo and Giuliano? p. 256 line 11 Phlegethonteae…ripae genitive? p. 260 line 72 Sardonio…risu rather "Sardinian grin"? p. 262 line 106 totos…penates rather "the whole house"? p. 268 lines 214-15 omnem…manum rather "every hand"?
6.   See line 43 Superciliosum incurvicervicum pecus of hypocritical friars, cf. Pac. Trag. 352 Warmington quoted in Quint. 1.5.67; line 14 devorare…catapotia, cf. Celsus med. 4.8.
7.   I have not seen Ange Politien, De l'ulcération (Silve) , ed. and trans. Danielle Sonnier (Paris, 2011).
8.   Lauro Martines, April Blood. Florence and the Plot Against the Medici (Oxford, 2003), p. 1.

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Stéphane Martin (ed.), Rural Granaries in Northern Gaul (6th century BCE-4th century CE): From Archaeology to Economic History. Radboud Studies in Humanities, Volume 8. Leiden: Brill, 2019. Pp. xi, 182. ISBN 9789004389038. €83,00.

Reviewed by John F. Drinkwater, University of Nottingham (

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[Authors and titles are listed below.]

As its editor explains in his Introduction, after years of neglect ancient grain storage, the subject of this short collection of papers, has recently become a lively issue. It lacks drama but is massively important since without the systematic production, collection, conservation and distribution of foodstuffs we would all still be hunter-gatherers.

Its core is Bossard's Chapter 4, on agricultural storage in northern France during the pre-Roman Iron Age (sixth to late-first century BC). In a clear and methodical fashion, taking into account the most recent archaeological excavations and data, and providing a range of excellent distribution-maps and illustrations, he reviews 4,623 structures over 583 sites. He identifies a wide range of storage facilities, the most frequent being the overground wooden 'loft' granary, raised on piles. There are, however, local variations such as simple underground silos and elaborate wood-lined cellars. Bossard notes that we cannot be sure if these contained only cereals, or how their contents were stored, but his main point is that storage-patterns changed in response to contemporary socio-economic conditions. In the early period in Picardy and the Seine-basin, for example, concentrations of silos and raised granaries in or near aristocratic rural residences suggest a centralisation of power and wealth. Likewise, in the third and second centuries BC there was a decline in the number of such installations, which Bossard explains as the transfer of storage to the rapidly developing oppida and so an indication of another form of socio-economic centralisation and control.

In Chapter 5 Ferdière continues the story into the Roman period. He notes a predominance of raised, overground granaries, continued from the late Iron Age, but observes that the Roman were larger and stone-built. He identifies three main types, 'buttressed', 'aisled' and 'tower'. Focusing on the first two of these, he maps their varied distribution throughout Gaul, with a pronounced concentration in the north. Ferdière then turns to a question not directly addressed by Bossard, that of the capacity of granaries. This is important since the amount of staple grain that can be stockpiled for seed, immediate use, as an emergency store and to pay taxes or trade (cf. p. 100) is crucial in determining the socio-political strength and complexity of any pre-industrial society.

Capacity, in fact, is the main theme of the volume, which begins with Blöck attempting to calculate the capacities of villa-granaries in Upper Germany. He uses medieval and early modern records to propose that grain was stored loose and spread relatively thinly. If we assume that the horrea of Roman villas had only one storey, their capacity was much lower than has been thought previously. Acceptance of an upper storey would significantly increase this volume, though this involves discounting the unknown (because there is no clear archaeological evidence of the species grown) variable of weight; and the lower storey could have been used for other purposes. Despite a lack of evidence for crop-varieties, quantity of seed sown, and yield per seed, Blöck hazards figures for the cultivated areas needed to fill two villa-granaries in south-west Germany and Switzerland: of 303-460 ha and 695-1016 ha respectively. He notes that these are large, but not implausible, and might represent the produce of more than one villa.

Likewise, in Chapters 3 and 6 Martin proposes a model for the capacities of Roman granaries in general and uses it to address an historical issue in a particular area. Ranging wider than Blöck, he examines rural granaries in northern Gaul from the Iron Age into the Roman period, considering a variety of forms, from underground silos to complex buildings, and taking into account recent thinking on, for example, the need for space to turn grain to keep it sweet and, notwithstanding such care, the likely rates of wastage. He applies the resulting figures to the Batavian countryside in the Roman period and on this basis questions the recent proposition that this countryside, conventionally considered unsuitable for arable farming, produced surplus cereals that could be passed on to the army and towns. This proposition is based on the changing — larger and more Roman — architecture of Batavian rural granaries from the late-first century BC. Martin argues that, though there was some such change, this was not a general phenomenon and should not be taken as indicating any great overall increase in storage space necessitated by significant new surpluses. Martin's explanation for larger and grander storage buildings at some sites is that these resulted from socio-political, not economic, developments. Contemporary, and sometimes even associated with, new nucleated, ditched settlements, they suggest greater centralisation of Batavian life. They could have been built to store the growing personal wealth-in-kind of the rich, derived from their own land and/or that of dependants, while, by their monumentality, also advertising the power of their owners. They may therefore signal the end of the special tax-arrangements that the Empire had with the Batavi and the taking-up by their aristocracy of the responsibilities and lifestyle of civitas-based decuriones.

Ferdière, in turn, proposes another capacity-model, based on finds at 148 sites and assuming two-storey granaries containing piled grain. He presents a table and graphs showing: 1) very few small (c. 10 m3) granaries ; 2) a substantial proportion (30.5%) of medium-sized (c. 10-50m3); a majority (57.5%) of largish (c. 50-200m3) ones; and again a very few really big ones (c. 240m3), with just a handful at c. 260 m3 and above. Bemoaning the lack of evidence about Roman granary-use in both texts and archaeology and, like Blöck, seeking answers in more modern literature, he moves to the tricky question as to whether greater storage capacity in the Roman period indicates greater cereal-yields or only an increase in the land under cultivation. He notes the problems involved in answering this, which include those of correct identification of structures as granaries as well as the type of cereal being grown and the manner of its storage. He tentatively proposes that yields were rising even before the Roman conquest and were further stimulated by the need to feed new towns and military bases and the opportunity to sell grain into markets.

It is clear that the all-important calculation of capacities is bedevilled with so many unknown variables that each researcher can present different figures. As a result, the reader cannot be sure what to believe, and this uncertainty is increased by the fact that, as early as Chapter 2, Salido directly questions the very utility of modelling granary-capacity. On top of the problem of identifying archaeological structures as granaries, we do not know for sure: the extent to which 'granaries' were used for storing produce other than grain; the species of cereals grown; the form of the grains brought in for storage (in the ear or threshed?); the manner of storage (loose, in sacks or bins?); the efficiency of storage in preserving the crop; and the extent to which grain was held locally or transported further afield. He urges that what is needed is more qualitative, not quantitative, studies, integrating available archaeobotanical data. It is not surprising that Reddé's Conclusion is no prescriptive Bilanz or even a neutral Zusammenfassung but, referring to issues raised in previous chapters and raising new problems, amounts to another appraisal of changes in cereal production and distribution from the Iron Age into the Roman period. To this end Reddé produces his own range of comparative, not absolute, sizes for selected Roman military, urban and rural granaries, based simply on their surface area. He uses this to demonstrate that military granaries are always much larger than even the largest rural, villa-based, structures. He then notes that the largest Iron-Age rural granaries are not much different in size from those of Roman villas, and proposes that there may have been a tendency to exaggerate the increase in size of the Roman and, so, of Gallo-Roman productivity. He accepts that the need to feed the troops engaged in campaigning in Germany caused an unprecedented demand for Gallic grain in the Augustan period, but argues that it is unrealistic to suppose that this sparked an immediate rise in production in the north. Instead, there were probably forced requisitions over a much wider area. On the other hand, he argues that the large rural granaries now being found in High Imperial Gaul should not be interpreted as permanent collection-points for the Rhine army. He ends by suggesting that the large northern Gallic granaries of this later period do not necessarily indicate a rise in production. Those close to the frontier may have been for military purposes; those further away may have been for storing the produce of more than one estate. We should never consider granaries in isolation but, however difficult this may be, always try to set them in their wider context.

The book is frequently a stiff read, but is always thought-provoking and is appealing in its frankness: the work-in-progress of a group of scholars with a common interest in an important and newly active field, who think differently but who are prepared to engage in reciprocal criticism. It has an extensive bibliography and two useful indices, and is linked (by 'cat.') to an online table and bibliography: HAL However, with reference to its sub-title, and that of Reddé's Conclusion, honest 'Archaeology' has yet to lead to concrete 'Economic History'. In particular, to my disappointment, there is nothing on foodstuff-storage in the later Empire, when growing and more effective taxation-in-kind must have necessitated extensive storage facilities. But this absence is due to lack of evidence, not the inattention of contributors. As with the Iron-Age oppida, it is likely that Late Roman storage was urban, not rural.

Table of Contents

Introduction, Stéphane Martin, pp. 1-10
Chapter 1, Lars Blöck: A model for calculating the capacities of horrea and agricultural areas of Gallo-Roman villas in the province of Germania Superior, pp. 13-22.
Chapter 2, Javier Salido Domínguez: Is it possible to quantify the Roman agrarian economy? In favour of quantitative scepticism, pp. 23-32.
Chapter 3, Stéphane Martin: Calculating the storage capacities of granaries: a tentative model, pp. 33-47.
Chapter 4, Stanilas Bossard: Évolution du stockage agricole dans le moitié septentrionale de la France à l'âge du fer, pp. 51-72.
Chapter 5, Alain Ferdière, with Véronique Zech-Matterne and Pierre Ouzoulias: De nouvelles formes de stockage à l'époque romaine en Gaule: quels changements, avec quel(s) moteur(s)?, pp. 73-105.
Chapter 6, Stéphane Martin: Storage in a non-villa landscape: the Batavian countryside, pp. 106-27.
Conclusion, M. Reddé: Des greniers ruraux aux greniers militaires et urbains. Les enjeux historiques d'une enquête archéologique, pp. 128-44.
Bibliography, 145-77.
Index of ancient sources and inscriptions, 178-9.
Index of place names, 180-2.

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Francesca Silvestrelli, Jean Pietri, Le duc de Luynes et la découverte de la Grande Grèce. Mémoires et documents sur Rome et l'Italie méridionale. Nouvelle série, 9. Naples: Centre Jean Bérard, 2017. Pp. 86. ISBN 9782918887782. €15,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Sandra Péré-Noguès, Université Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès ; UMR 5608 TRACES (

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L'ouvrage de Francesca Silvestrelli, concis et très bien illustré, est le fruit d'une recherche menée au cours de deux séjours à l'Institut national d'histoire de l'art de Paris. L'originalité du sujet est d'aborder une période assez peu connue de la carrière d'Honoré d'Albert, plus connu sous le nom de duc de Luynes (1802-1867), à savoir celle de sa formation et de ses premières expériences en Grande Grèce, au sud du royaume de Naples, une région longtemps restée peu attractive pour les amateurs d'antiques. En quatre chapitres, l'auteure retrace le parcours du jeune duc dont la vie privée profondément affectée par des deuils successifs (dont celui de sa jeune épouse) le poussa à choisir une vie d'étude, une sorte de sacerdoce que son protecteur le vicomte de la Rochefoucauld encouragea en le faisant nommer directeur adjoint honoraire des Musées royaux de Charles X. Il prit une part active à la constitution des collections du futur musée en y contribuant non seulement par des dons de pièces provenant de sa collection personnelle mais aussi par le classement qu'il effectua des céramiques figurées. Mais au bout de trois ans de services, il devait démissionner pour se tourner résolument vers le terrain.

L'auteure essaie de restituer les principales étapes des deux voyages qu'il accomplit en 1825 et 1828. S'il n'était pas le premier à se risquer dans ces contrées, Vivant Denon ayant visité la région en 1778, les motivations du jeune duc, numismate averti, étaient guidées par sa « volonté d'ajouter de nouveaux éléments à la connaissance de l'architecture dorique » (p. 33). De fait, il était accompagné de l'architecte Joseph Frédéric Debacq qui mesura la seule colonne du sanctuaire d'Héra Lacinia à Capo Colonna. Ses voyages révèlent surtout l'intérêt que le duc de Luynes portait à l'archéologie, une discipline alors en pleine construction, et dont il devint l'un des promoteurs par son intégration à l'Institut de correspondance archéologique. Un frontispice qu'il dessina pour les Annales de l'Institut en est d'ailleurs une remarquable allégorie. L'auteure montre ainsi comment, lors de son premier voyage, il rencontra de nombreux érudits tels Theodor Panofka et comment il intégra la Société des Hyperboréens, rejoignant ainsi cette « aristocratie du savoir », à laquelle il apportait ses talents de dessinateur et d'observateur rigoureux du mobilier, autant de compétences qui feront sa réputation. Saisi par le « contraste des splendeurs passées et un présent de décrépitude » (p. 35), le duc de Luynes allait cependant donner à voir une toute autre image de ce territoire, notamment lors de son second voyage durant lequel il accomplit à Métaponte des fouilles dans le temple alors nommé Chiesa di Sansone (temple A), fouilles qui eurent pour résultat le transfert à Paris de plusieurs pièces architecturales, dont les traces de couleur allaient alimenter le débat sur la polychromie des vestiges antiques. En 1833 le duc publiait un admirable ouvrage orné de diverses planches non seulement de Métaponte mais aussi de sites moins connus comme Locres ou Vélia. Ainsi, c'est la Grande Grèce qui recevait par ses travaux un véritable statut de sites archéologiques, et par conséquent une reconnaissance scientifique pleine et entière.

Malgré la rareté des archives, Francesca Silvestrelli retrace un parcours assez exemplaire de ce monde d'érudits tel qu'il s'observe dans la première moitié du XIXe siècle. En effet à une époque où l'archéologie reste à construire, des savants comme le duc de Luynes ont réussi à mettre en place des méthodes d'analyse et d'interprétation des vestiges antiques qui resteront pertinentes pour les décennies suivantes. Ainsi c'est à l'héritage du duc que l'auteure donne toute sa valeur : un héritage qui a enrichi la collection du Cabinet des Médailles de la Bibliothèque nationale, mais dont les apports sur le plan scientifique sont ici remarquablement mis en lumière.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019


Grégoire Lacaze, Turba Philosophorum. Congrès pythagoricien sur l'art d'Hermès. Philosophia antiqua, 150. Leiden: Brill, 2018. Pp. xiii, 663. ISBN 9789004360327. $256.25.

Reviewed by Philip Thibodeau, Brooklyn College (

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[The author would like to apologize for the lateness of this review.]
[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Greco-Roman alchemy originated as an effort to perfect and codify craft-knowledge about materials—knowledge of what happens to metals, stones, and liquids when they are heated, cooled, roasted, boiled, melted, mixed, or dyed—in the context of a physics that was primarily Aristotelian in inspiration but featured certain Hermetic themes. The oldest pieces of the alchemical literary corpus were pseudonymous works by figures like 'Democritus', 'Cleopatra', and 'Maria' (though the latter's name may be genuine) composed in Roman Egypt. Later alchemists like Zosimus of Panopolis and Stephanus of Alexandria wrote on the subject under their own names and with greater philosophical ambition. The transmission of this corpus to the Islamic world started in the seventh century CE, inspiring various creative appropriations. Shortly before 850 an unknown author working in Egypt composed a work framed as a dialogue in which a host of 'Pythagorean' sages expounded on various facets of the alchemical craft. Around 1300 this Arabic treatise was rendered into Latin under the title Turba Philosophorum. The Arabic text later went missing, but the Latin one would go on to have an impressive Nachleben in scholarly Europe, inspiring numerous commentaries and serious attention from figures like Cornelius Agrippa, Isaac Newton, and Carl Jung. Although the Turba has been edited before, by Julius Ruska in 1931, Lacaze's edition is the first to take into account all of the available manuscript evidence, to spell out in detail all that is now known about its relationship to its Arabic- and Greek-language predecessors, and to offer prospective readers all the tools they will need to understand this curious treatise.1

A few remarks on the contents of the Turba may help to set the scene for Lacaze's contribution. With its numerous set speeches the work bears a superficial resemblance to sympotic dialogues like Athenaeus' Deipnosophists or Macrobius' Saturnalia. The Turba, however, has many more participants—approximately forty-four—and their speeches are typically much shorter, sometimes no more than a page. Their names form a wonderfully exotic parade: Arsuberes, Horfachol, Iargos, Iksimidrius, Locustor, Pandulfus, and so on. In a few cases they are sufficiently transparent—e.g. Parmenides, Anaxagoras, 'Democrites'—to permit the reader to guess the truth about their origins: these are Greek names, distorted in some cases beyond recognition by their double journey from Greek into Arabic, then into Latin. In the opening section of the work nine of the savants take turns expounding different aspects of a conventional four-element physics; together their speeches serve to adumbrate the cosmology in which alchemy must perform its work. The contributors in the Turba's middle section unfold a large collection of classic alchemical recipes, including procedures for altering the colors of metals and creating useful agents like sulfur water. The Turba concludes with an account of an elaborate dream narrated to Pythagoras by his student Arsileus. The vision features a kingdom afflicted by sterility, a mystic marriage, and a miraculous resurrection, and hints at alchemy's ability to renew the world. For a technical treatise the work is quite lively: the participants banter back and forth, and the 'crowd' frequently interrupts speakers to demand that they expand on or clarify some point. Yet there is a noteworthy absence of polemic, and one gets the impression that the sages belong to a unified tradition, each contributor articulating different facets of a single underlying truth.

The challenges faced by a prospective editor are daunting. The text exists in two different versions, each represented by a dozen manuscripts. There is almost no end to the different ways in which the speakers' names are spelled, some like Horfachol appearing in as many as thirty-five alternative forms. A similar diversity affects the technical names for alchemical substances, not to mention the Decknamen or code-names for idealized stuffs; for example, the lead ore galena is in various manuscripts referred to as absemerich, absemic, ebmich, ebsemech, esement, ebsemth, ebsemetich, ebsemith, ebsenc, emith, exebmich, exebsimerit, obsemech, obsemerich, obsemet, obstmerich, and obsemith.2 In his presentation of this material Lacaze has chosen to err on the side of thoroughness, which makes for a rather hefty volume but also a very useful one. Most of the information is broken out into separate sections, including a detailed account of the manuscripts and two substantial appendices dealing with nomenclature. To further assist the reader Lacaze has provided an analytic paraphrase and commentary on the entire work, along with a lucid translation into French which graces the facing pages of the Latin text.

One of the chief aims of scholarship surrounding the Turba is to understand its relationship to its precursors in the Greek and Arabic traditions, and to get some sense of the circumstances under which the Arabic original was composed. That book, as noted above, no longer exists; however, we possess a number of potential allusions to it by Islamic scholars, several fragmentary texts in Arabic that bear some resemblance to the Turba, and a fairly complete corpus of Greek antecedents. Lacaze surveys the scholarship on these matters, laying out what we do and do not know, and quotes the parallel passages in full at the bottom of his Latin text. (The latter are cited from published German, French, or English translations; if there is any criticism to be made of this volume, it is the curious absence of printed Arabic.) Among other things his treatment helps to resolve an issue which has considerable importance for the study of the Presocratics. The nine speakers who appear in the cosmological preface can be linked to certain Presocratics based in part on their names and in part on the substance of their teachings: Anaximander ('Eximedrus'), Anaximenes ('Eximidrius'), Anaxagoras, Empedocles ('Pandulfus'), Archelaus ('Arisleus'), and Leucippus ('Lucas'), plus Pythagoras qua 'Locustor', and Pythagoras qua 'Pitagoras'. In a pair of publications Martin Plessner suggested, on the basis of similarities between their speeches and the doxographical reports for these figures found in various Greek sources, that the author must have been drawing on some lost doxographic text for his information.3 His argument opened the door to the tantalizing possibility that, after allowance is made for the distortions of translation, the nine speeches might provide new, authentic testimony for the views of these early thinkers.4 However, Ulrich Rudolph has sought to rule this possibility out, arguing that the author of the Turba made use, directly or indirectly, of just one Greek doxographic source, Hippolytus' Refutation of All Heresies.5 Lacaze's presentation of the evidence makes it virtually certain that Rudolf's view is the correct one: what sometimes look like unattested bits of doxography should instead be seen as the work of the Turba's author. There is, unfortunately, nothing new to be learned about the authentic doctrines of the Presocratics from this text.

Lacaze's edition is, in short, an admirable piece of work, potentially of great interest to those interested in the reception of Greek and Islamic science, to medievalists, and to scholars of magic and alchemy.

Table of Contents

PARTIE I. Contribution à l'étude de la tradition manuscrite latine
I. Histoire de la recherché sur la Turba Philosophorum
II. Présentation de la tradition manuscrite latine
III. Les sources et parallèles de la Turba: avancées et synthèse
IV. La composition de la Turba Philosophorum
PARTIE 2. Texte et traduction
Appendice I: Les noms des orateurs
Appendice II: Substances et noms de substances
Appendice III: Fragments arabes découverts par Ruska, Stapleton et Plessner
Index des termes latins
Index des termes français
Index des auteurs et personnages antiques et médiévaux
Index des auteurs modernes


1.   J. Ruska, Turba Philosophorum. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Alchemie, Berlin 1931.
2.   Incidentally, one of these terms may be the origin of the element name 'bismuth'.
3.   M. Plessner, "The Place of the Turba Philosophorum in the Development of Alchemy", Isis 45, 1954, 331-8, and Vorsokratische Philosophie und Griechische Alchemie in arabisch-lateinischer Überlieferung, Wiesbaden 1975.
4.   Two recent studies that treat material from the Turba as evidence for the Presocratics are P. Kingsley, Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic, Oxford 1995, 56-68, and A. V. Lebedev, "Alcmaeon of Croton on Human Knowledge, the Seasons of Life, and Isonomia: A New Reading of B 1 DK and Two Additional Fragments from Turba Philosophorum and Aristotle", in C. Vassallo, ed., Physiologia. Topics in Presocratic Philosophy and its Reception in Antiquity, Trier 2017, 227-58.
5.   U. Rudolf, "Christliche Theologie und vorsokratische Lehren in der Turba Philosophorum", Oriens 32, 1990, 97-123.

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Philip Matyszak, The Greeks: Lost Civilizations. London: Reaktion Books, 2018. Pp. 208. ISBN 9781780239002. £15.00.

Reviewed by Benjamin Pedersen, University of Southern Denmark (

Version at BMCR home site

The book under review narrates the story of the origin, development, and collapse of the Greek civilization. It is part of the series "Lost Civilizations," which is aimed at the general reader and whose previous narratives have focused on the Etruscans, Persians, Goths, "The Barbarians," and "The Indus." The author of the present volume, Philip Matyszak, seems the perfect choice for the task, having over the course of several decades written extensively for the general reader. His works include The Sons of Caesar (2006), The Greek and Roman Myths (2010), Sparta: The Fall of a Warrior Nation (2018) and Ancient Magic (2019).

While the overall aim is to present a chronological narrative of the ancient Greeks, this comes with a twist. Matyszak states that "Classical Greece … represents only a minor portion of the overall history of the Greeks in antiquity" and that "much of the rest has been forgotten or is mentioned only when the Greeks of other times and places came into contact with different cultures" (p. 19). The author's goal is therefore to write the history of the Greeks outside the Peloponnese and Attica, built on the premise that the Greek way of life was largely unchanged throughout the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods (p. 21).

Matyszak ignores the Greek mainland in the fifth and fourth centuries BC and focuses instead on other themes and periods. He takes us chronologically from early Greek colonization to the fall of Constantinople, covering periods such as the Archaic period and themes such as the Greek encounter with new cultures, Alexander's conquest of the East and the Wars of the Diadochi, the flourishing of Greek culture throughout the Hellenistic world, and the Roman and Byzantine takeover of the eastern regions. The principal characters are generals, leaders, and intellectuals who never lived on the Greek mainland, but who nevertheless laid some of the foundations for the origin and development of Greek civilization.

In order to fulfil the aim of narrating the history of the Greeks outside the mainland, Matyszak provides us with a chronology, prologue, eight chapters, an epilogue, and a bibliography (but no notes). Chapter 1 ("The Greeks before Alexander") covers the spread of Greek culture in the Mediterranean from 800 BC onwards. Matyszak points to colonization and trade as stimuli that "brought about the intellectual revolution in the 5th century and the thought processes that have shaped our modern world" (p. 28). He also notes that the Greeks never blindly adopted ideas from other cultures, but rather improved on them in order to synthesize various phenomena. The chapter also touches on Ionian philosophy and Herodotean historiography as examples of disciplines ultimately shaped in Asia Minor. Surprisingly enough, Matyszak ends, despite the professed aim of excluding events from the Greek mainland, by covering the Athenian empire and the Peloponnesian War (pp. 39-43).

Chapter 2 ("Alexander and the East") focuses on the conquests of Alexander and includes brief descriptions of the campaigns at Granicus, Issus, Gaugamela, and the Indus river as well as short discussions of Alexander´s motivations and choices, for example the policy of fusion and the trouble it created when implemented at the court. Matyszak rightly regards the reign of Alexander as the turning point and centrepiece of his narrative, as the world changed dramatically and ushered in the so-called "Greek Empire" that was to dominate the Hellenistic world in subsequent centuries.

Chapter 3 ("The Greek Empire") looks at the Seleucid, Ptolemaic, and Macedonian empires after the death of Alexander. This includes brief surveys of the Wars of the Diadochi, the Greek influence on the native populations and short introductions to philosophical movements such as the Epicureans, Sceptics, and Cynics, the scientific innovations of Aristarchus of Samos and Herophilus of Chalcedon, and the literary writings of Callimachus, Theocritus, Menander, and Philemon.

Chapter 4 ("The Hellenistic World from East to West") examines the Seleucid Empire and how and why its rulers adopted Hellenistic ideology. Matyszak argues here that Greek culture laid the foundation for a possible fusion of eastern and western traditions and that it allowed new groups of people to be incorporated into the empire (p. 99).

Chapter 5 ("Macedon and Egypt") tackles the empires of Macedonia and Egypt. Matyszak first surveys the history of Macedonia from Amyntas I to Philip V and then moves on to Egypt, briefly covering the history of the Ptolemaic dynasty and giving some consideration to the importance of the library, lighthouse, and innovations of Eratosthenes.

Chapter 6 ("Rome and the Hellenistic Kingdoms") addresses the fall of the Hellenistic monarchies and the Roman conquest of the east. This includes a brief outline of the Punic Wars and the collapse of the Macedonian, Seleucid, and Ptolemaic Empires owing to Roman expansionism. Matyszak devotes some paragraphs to possible explanations for the stability of the Ptolemaic dynasty, pointing to the influence of the priestly caste and the system's inclusiveness towards foreigners.

Chapter 7 ("Greece in Rome") covers the Greek influence on the Romans. Matyszak points for example to architectural inspiration (the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian styles) and to the presence of Greek thought in the minds of esteemed Romans such as Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Cicero, Nero, and Hadrian. The chapter ends with the rise of Christianity and the division of the Roman empire.

Chapter 8 ("Byzantium and the End of the Greek East") focuses on the Eastern Roman (i.e., Byzantine) empire. Matyszak presents a narrative of a shrinking empire but one with a durable culture that was able to resist until the fall of Constantinople in the fifteenth century.

In the final chapter ("The Greek Legacy"), Matyszak concludes in particular that "Greek legacy is an integral part of the Western based culture" in such a way that, "in a sense, today we are all Greeks" (p. 190). While this is clearly a questionable sweeping generalization, given the fact that our modern world is influenced by other cultures as well as the Greek culture, it nevertheless seems a fitting ending for a narrative of the lost Greek civilization.

Matyszak states that he "is less concerned with causes than with results" (p. 27). The consequence is that most of the book is devoted to a chronological survey of military and political affairs with only limited space set aside for further discussion. This prioritization comes at a high price. Firstly, the omission of explanatory notes allows for little or no discussion of several important issues. This is especially problematic in regard to the ancient source-material. While this decision is most likely made with the intended audience in mind, it would have been beneficial to include some brief remarks on those sources, either in the notes or alternatively in a final appendix. In its present form, the reader does not know whether Matyszak is basing his judgments on ancient source material, modern research, or his own knowledge.

Secondly, due to the focus on results rather than causes Matyszak allows several questionable generalizations to creep into his narrative. A few examples will suffice. According to Matyszak in his concluding remarks on the fall of Constantinople, "a few remnants of the empire remained, but essentially the fall of Constantinople brought to an end the Greek presence in the east and the wider Mediterranean world – a presence that had endured for millennia. With the loss of Byzantium, the Greek world had gone, and gone so comprehensively that within a few centuries few had remembered that it had even existed" (p. 177). While the lines are meant to connect the collapse of the Byzantine empire to the final chapter on the Greek legacy, the assertion is wrong on several counts. Neither the Greeks nor the memory of them ever vanished from history, as the Renaissance clearly underlines (regarding their memory in the west, at least). Furthermore, as the Byzantine empire was the continuation of the Roman empire, it is a misconception to speak of a vanishing Greek world in the fifteenth century.

A second example is seen in Matyszak's concluding appraisal of Athenian democracy: "While ancient Athens was indeed the home of an extreme democracy, this was not the first democracy in Greece, nor was it the form of democracy that the West later adopted. Western democracy originated among the voting practices of the Germanic moots" (p. 39 and 189). While it seems sound to regard Anglo-Saxon tribal meetings as an inspirational source for the modern parliamentary system, this leaves the reader puzzled as to what elements and principles of Athenian democracy the western world did in reality adopt. To assert that western democracy originated long after the classical Greek period calls for further qualification and discussion.

A final example is found in a remark on the innovative nature of Greek thinking. Matyszak states that "inventions of the nineteenth century were often given Greek names … and the use of such terminology is a reminder that the Greeks can lay claim to being the world's first scientists, in that they were the first people whom we know of who systematically sought out knowledge for its own sake" (p. 190). As with the previous example, a further qualification is needed as the reader will surely wonder why the regions of Mesopotamia and Egypt are left out of the picture.

These three examples are illustrative of those types of errors that often find their way into books of this kind. While Matyszak's stated aim was to create a new perspective by focusing on Greeks outside the Peloponnese or Attica, the book adds no new knowledge to already existing studies on events and people outside the Greek mainland. Thus, it is a book intended for the general public, not the specialist. Despite these issues, Matyszak has written a book that can be recommended for a general audience with no prior knowledge of the Greeks. He provides an entertaining journey through the history of Greek civilization written in a colourful and fluid style. While the book is most interesting when Matyszak deviates from the military history that otherwise prevails throughout, the narrative has the level of detail that I would expect for this type of historical writing. Matyszak succeeds in showing that Greek civilization consisted of more than the Peloponnese and Attica, and he has provided the general reader with a different story of the origin, development, and collapse of Greek civilization.

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Denis Sullivan, The Rise and Fall of Nikephoros II Phokas: Five Contemporary Texts in Annotated Translations. Byzantina Australiensia, 23. Leiden: Brill, 2018. Pp. viii, 252. ISBN 9789004382206. €153,00.

Reviewed by Brian McLaughlin, Royal Holloway, University of London (

Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview

This volume provides annotated English translations, with facing Greek, of five texts related to the career of Nikephoros II Phokas, first as a military commander and later as emperor (r. 963-969). Phokas is an interesting figure, far from the popular stereotype of a Byzantine emperor: he was intensely militaristic, undiplomatic, and expressed his piety through a personal austerity bordering on asceticism. Phokas' death, however, conformed rather more closely with popular stereotype, since he was brutally murdered by a court conspiracy led by his nephew and his own wife. These five texts offer new perspectives on Phokas' life—and death—to a wider audience. They comprise three extracts from longer historical chronicles, an encomiastic epic poem, and an akolouthia or liturgical office for a new saint. The chronicles narrate the reigns of Nikephoros' two imperial predecessors, Constantine VII (r. 944-959) and his son Romanos II (r. 959- 963); all three break off before Phokas' own ascent to the throne. The poem tells of the Byzantine re-conquest of Crete, which Phokas led as domestikos ton scholon for Romanos II. The akolouthia was apparently composed soon after Phokas' death as part of an attempt to have the deceased emperor recognised as a martyr. All five texts have previously been edited and introductory notes for each are kept short, commenting on authorship, circumstances of composition and major themes, while providing comprehensive references to the more detailed studies. Annotations to the translations are similarly brief and concentrate on textual and interpretive matters, with the reader frequently referred to the bibliography for detail on historical issues. The Greek of each is a direct reproduction of a previously published edition whereas the translation itself reflects a somewhat revised text, with the corrected Greek given in footnotes to the translation. Since most modifications are minor, this is rarely obtrusive and, for the first of the five, Sullivan has himself gone back to the manuscript to resolve certain problems.

The first and longest text is the sixth book of Theophanes Continuatus. Although it terminates in 961 and provides the least information directly regarding Phokas, the many similarities of content and language with the other chronicles fully justify its inclusion. The second text consists of the final chapters of the revised chronicle of Symeon the Logothete. These initially cover much the same material as Continuatus, albeit in a more compressed fashion, but carry on the narrative until 963, terminating just as Phokas' army is about to proclaim him basileus. Symeon, during his revision of his work, also added a number of interpolations to earlier chapters (which are not included in the present volume) concerning Phokas' grandfather, also named Nikephoros, and clearly intended to redound to the greater glory of his grandson. These interpolations are collected into an appendix. The third text, the chronicle of Pseudo-Symeon, much more briefly covers the years 944-962. It is apparently derived from the same, unknown source as the two other chronicles but contains some unique additional details among the repetitions, such as details of the triumph awarded to Phokas for his victories on Crete.

The relative syntactic simplicity of the chronicles facilitates and deserves close translation. Sullivan's prose is correspondingly clear, fluent and faithful. It is a little unfair to niggle at such a consistently excellent translation, but Romanos II cavorting with his 'young mates' (p. 65, for ὁμηλίκων) struck an oddly colloquial note for this native of UK English and the phrase 'God-controlled empire' (p. 69, for θεοκυβερνήτου βασιλείας), rather than 'God-guided', seemed overly deterministic. The only—very minor—mistake I noticed was the transliteration of κλεισούρας as kleisourai (Byzantine military districts centred around passes, as stated in the glossary) on p. 71 when, in the context of fleeing Cretan Arabs seeking refuge, the chronicler surely intended the simple geographical sense of 'passes'. Most probably this was the result of an over-zealous search and replace at the editorial stage. The footnotes are clearly not intended to provide a full commentary but they are occasionally a bit too sparse for readers not already conversant with the period. Little information is provided regarding individuals, although their PmbZ1 numbers are listed in the glossary, along with a list of court titles and technical terms.

The fourth text, the Capture of Crete, conventionally known as De Crete capta, was composed by a deacon named Theodosios. He was probably attached to the court in Constantinople and wrote with the apparent intent of flattering Romanos II. Although Sullivan doggedly attempts to draw out what the text can tell us about the military operations on Crete, it was obviously not intended to report the actual events of the campaign in any but the loosest sense. Its chief historical value arguably lies in the attitudes revealed by Theodosios' portrayal of his patrons and the foe, themes which Sullivan highlights in his introduction. Theodosios celebrates both a decisive Byzantine victory and the concomitant slaughter of Cretan Muslims, men, women, and children alike; the tone throughout is of vengeful and bloodthirsty 'holy war'. Phokas naturally looms large in his role as commander and Theodosios' desperate efforts to shoehorn Romanos II into events—whether in the form of inspirational visions appearing to his soldiers or through a reprimand addressed to Phokas by a subordinate officer, for failing to praise his emperor sufficiently—suggest that there was considerable anxiety at court that the credit for victory would accrue to the commander rather than his sovereign. Consequently, it is hard not to smile at the embarrassment evident in the dedicatory proem, which indicates that Romanos died before the work could be presented and that it was therefore hastily rededicated to Phokas, even without removing the reprimand. Phokas, addressed as magistros, could not yet have been emperor but must have been an obvious contender at that time.

Sullivan is more interested in the historical than the literary value of the text and accordingly translates Theodosios' verse into prose. Although Theodosios repeatedly admonishes Homer for writing about deeds that he deems trivial compared to the campaign on Crete, he wisely declines to measure his own literary skills against those of his poetic predecessor. Sullivan's translation is once again clear and faithful, and the occasional awkward English phrase, such as 'ballistic fiery heat' (p. 149, p. 187), is generally a reflection of a similarly awkward Greek simile, in this case φλεγμονὰς πυρεκβόλους. Sullivan follows the suggestion of Panagiotakes' 1960 edition that Theodosios in a number of instances employed στρατηγοί or στρατηγέται to indicate common soldiers. This may be the case on a few occasions, particularly for στρατηγέτης, but sometimes I felt a looser interpretation as 'commanders' or 'officers', rather than restrictively as 'generals', produced a satisfactory meaning without supposing Theodosios could not distinguish a στρατηγός from a στρατιώτης.

The fifth text, the akolouthia for St Nikephoros Phokas, provides fascinating evidence for an organised attempt to elevate Phokas to sainthood. Frustratingly the author is unknown; Sullivan rejects the hypothesis that Theodosios was again the author and makes a persuasive case that a monastic, and maybe even an Athonite, origin is possible. The verses, more restrained than De Creta capta, are translated into elegant prose by Sullivan and, through the introduction and glossary, he helpfully outlines the complex structure of the office for those not conversant with liturgy. The text emphasises Phokas' pious life and death—through his asceticism, forgiveness of his murderers, and acceptance of his demise—and reports that his tomb exuded miracle-working myron, or holy oil. It also celebrates in passing his virtue as a warrior for his faith against Islam. Phokas' well known, but unsuccessful, attempt to persuade the Church to declare his fallen soldiers martyrs for the faith tends to be regarded as an unusual outlier in Byzantine history, where evidence for militant religious passion is quite weak when compared to the crusading outpourings of the Latin world. Yet this and the previous text suggest such attitudes were relatively common in the mid-tenth century, even if they did not develop substantially thereafter.

In summary, Sullivan has performed a valuable service for scholars of Byzantine history and literature by making these texts accessible to a wider audience. It is hard to shake the impression that the volume's title leads the reader to expect something slightly different than it actually delivers, since the five texts presented here do not offer a narrative or even an overview of Phokas' career. This is compounded by the absence of even a summarised biography of Phokas—while the volume is clearly intended for specialists, such an addition would have been welcome if only for reference purposes. It does, however, provide selective, fascinating insights into contemporary attitudes towards the Phokas family and towards Nikephoros himself. The three chronicles, moreover, are of obvious utility to anyone interested in tenth-century Byzantium and, researchers of Byzantine attitudes towards religious warfare will find much to ponder here as well. The book thus contrives both to fall short of and to exceed its promised subject, which is not a criticism of the author or the work but simply of the choice of title. The volume is handsomely presented and has been produced to a high standard; typographical errors are few and trivial. Sullivan's work is a welcome and deserving addition to the Byzantina Australiensia series.


1.   Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit Online. Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Nach Vorarbeiten F. Winkelmanns erstellt. 2013. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. Retrieved 10 Sep. 2019, from De Gruyter's preview.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019


Orazio Cappello, The School of Doubt: Skepticism, History and Politics in Cicero's 'Academia'. Brill studies in skepticism, volume 1.. Leiden: Brill, 2019. Pp. xiii, 382. ISBN 9789004389861. €175,00.

Reviewed by Peter Osorio, Cornell University (

Version at BMCR home site


Orazio Cappello has written the only Anglophone monograph devoted entirely to Cicero's Academica. Cappello studies the dialogue's two substantive fragments (Luc. and Ac. 1) intensely and only occasionally brings Cicero's other dialogues and works in for discussion. The School of Doubt examines the dialogue's paratextual letters (Part One), historical methods (Two), and skepticism (Three) in a way that yields a sustained argument for a radically skeptical interpretation of the text. Since Cappello's study is so wide ranging in the questions it poses, its review of scholarly literature, and its appeals to modern theorists and philosophers as foils for Cicero, I focus my comments on a selection of its more important claims.

Part One, in three chapters, argues that the letters relating the dialogue's tortured publication, (i) form a narrative of uncertainty that is designed to complement the skeptical persona of the dialogue's author-narrator; and, following Sean Gurd on literary revision,1 (ii) creates the persona of an author who works collaboratively. From a commitment to dialogic inquiry Cicero aims to create a literary community of critics, and this ideal community reappears in chapters 6.3 and 7.3. Regarding (i), Cappello chastises scholars for failing to see how Cicero's epistolary self is continuous with that of the dialogue. At fault, says Cappello (p. 67), is the field of Classics, slow to change paradigms, and analytic philosophy's obliviousness to literary and rhetorical effects. But a more charitable reason why scholars haven't picked up on (i) is that Cappello's order of explanation seems backwards. Cappello wants to explain the intentional function of the letters for Cicero's philosophical project, whereas the same aspects of Cicero's epistolary self are usually read as the incidental effect of a writer writing about himself: we tend to think that Cicero appears anxious in his letters because he is an anxious person, rather than that Cicero holds philosophical views that privilege doubt and so chooses to depict himself in letters as doubt-ridden in order to complement his dialogue. More is needed to show either explanation is right, and I suspect they interrelate in an interesting way.2

The next four chapters (Part Two) treat Cicero's interest in the historical character of philosophy. Chapter 4 contextualizes the history of philosophy in Plato, Aristotle and the later Academy, while chapter 5 argues that Cicero uses disputes about perception to show the connection between epistemological and historical inquiry in Luc. In chapter 6 Cappello surveys the various historiographical modes of philosophy in the Academica as reflected in, for instance, debates about the unity of the Academy and the views of Arcesilaus and Carneades. Cappello stresses that no historical approach is rejected outright; the Academica is inclusive of historiographical difference, insofar as it doesn't settle which interpretive models work best.

Part Two builds towards the claim in chapter 7.1 (and cf. 10.1) that Cicero recreates interpretive puzzles about Carneades by representing himself as a character whose views are by design in conflict. So, on the one hand, 'Cicero' accepts Clitomachus' radical skepticism; on the other, Cappello refers to four arguments that 'Cicero' is a mitigated, Philonian skeptic: (i) 'Cicero' is committed to truth as the end of inquiry, (ii) he says he holds opinions, (iii) he reveals rather than conceals his views, and (iv) at Fam. 9.8 and Ac. 1.13 he aligns himself with Philo. These do not strike me as persuasive: (i) there is good reason to think Clitomacheans are pretheoretically committed to truth as discoverable (for otherwise why keep inquiring?), (ii) his opinions are a lapse from his normative position, (iii) it is inconsistent for both Philonians and Clitomacheans to reveal beliefs/views, and (iv) we aren't bound to interpret these passages as evidence that 'Cicero' accepts Philo's mitigated skepticism in particular. Cappello explains scholarly impulses to "rein in incoherences" (p. 185) by the pursuit of making Cicero's philosophy serve a clear political function. But again, we can be more charitable to Cappello's opponents. Cappello relies on Thorsrud's reading of a Philonian framework in Lucullus (p. 181) in order to set up one half of the incoherence in Cicero's position.3 Yet Cappello rejects Thorsrud's global interpretation of Cicero's mitigated skepticism (p. 297). In effect, Cappello supports a radically skeptical interpretation not because we can consistently read its narrator as a radical skeptic but because its narrator defeats attempts at interpretation. This is puzzling: how exactly is uninterpretability a base from which to understand the narrator as a radical skeptic?4 Either he is interpretable as a skeptic of some kind or other, or he is uninterpretable. Cappello's position looks unstable and is unnecessary, for one who reads the narrator as a consistently radical skeptic can still acknowledge that the author gives compelling voice to other skeptical and non-skeptical perspectives in ways that open up space for disagreement.

Chapter 8, the first in Part Three, contains an interesting reading of Philo's Roman Books. Cappello says that in Luc. 11–12 Lucullus' recounting of the Alexandrian episode, or the Sosus Affair, mythologizes Antiochus' break from Philo as "clean and instantaneous" (p. 229) and that Cicero combats this myth by showing that Antiochus had already broken from Philo before his reading of the Roman Books (because Antiochus had already rejected Philo's skepticism). The upshot is that "Cicero is teaching us how to read the Sosus Affair" (p. 238). Cappello is opposing older work that treats both Cicero's response (Luc. 69–70) and Lucullus' recounting of the affair (Luc. 11–12) merely as documentary evidence for Hellenistic figures. The aim of this reading is admirable, but it is not clear that Lucullus does imply that Antiochus broke for the first time from Philo due to the Roman Books—Antiochus is shown to differ already from Heraclitus of Tyre, who studied with Clitomachus and then Philo. If Antiochus already differs from Heraclitus, whose position was at least at one point that of Philo's, then Antiochus already differs from Philo regardless of the Roman Books.

In the rest of the chapter Cappello takes the parallel portraits of Philo and Antiochus—parallel in that they both weakened their skeptical positions in response to external criticisms—to draw attention to the institutional crisis of the Academy by the time of Cicero's writing, so that Cicero can "legitimize" an "inheritance claim" (p. 259). This discussion looks back to chapter 6.4 (also cf. 283 n.368, 299, 324–25), where Cappello compares Cicero's history of philosophy to a constructive Hegelian project—Cicero wants to "drive the discipline forward" (p. 170)—and even casts it as superordinate to his skepticism—"the explanation that imputes his continuous shifts of historiographical models and incoherent (self- contradicting) positions to his skepticism [is not] satisfactory" (p. 166). This, if right, produces a tension between Cicero's skepticism, according to which deference to tradition impedes inquiry, and the view that Cicero seeks to legitimize the skeptical Academy in Rome. It is left for others to explore this tension.

The School of Doubt culminates in its last chapter (10), where Cappello argues most directly for his interpretation of the Academica. The argument turns on the point that Cicero's text reproduces the interpretive difficulties, and doubts, that surround the persuasive impression. So, while Cicero claims to follow Clitomachus' interpretation of Carneades' pithanon, Cappello takes as significant that at Luc. 139 Clitomachus is said to affirm that he could never understand what Carneades found to be persuasive; in context this refers to Carneades' ethical views, but Cappello takes it as generalizing. Cappello also thinks it is significant that Clitomachus "never claims ... that Carneades did not approve or was not persuaded by anything. Such a claim would have allowed certainty to take root" (p. 304, italics for emphasis). The worry is that negative statements like denials lead to negative dogmatism, but what leads to negative dogmatism are not negative statements as opposed to positive ones, but statements of certainty, whether positive or negative. Cappello also takes Cicero's criticisms of dialectic and logic to undercut any infrastructure on which the probabile could offer rational warrant.

In a conclusion Cappello seeks to figure the Academica as a clear break from Cicero's earlier (Stoic) political philosophy, whereas others have either overlooked the work or subordinated it to more general accounts of Cicero's conservatism. In 45 BCE Cicero, in response to the Republican losses, is "razing all certainties to the ground" (p. 337). In this context Cappello reads Cicero's contrast of the concepts auctoritas, on one hand, and libertas and ratio, on the other, as indicative of a radical critique of traditional concepts. Tying all these threads together: "Balancing the task of laying the groundwork for a Roman philosophical tradition with the challenges of translating Carneadean skepticism into a hermeneutic instrument for rethinking the paradigms of Roman political and intellectual life deserves recognition as Cicero's great achievement in the Academica" (p. 338).

There follows an index locorum and a general index. A generous range of scholarship is represented in the monograph, revised from a doctoral dissertation. Aggressive editing of literature reviews would have better showcased Cappello's daring arguments. It would also have avoided some mistakes in representing others. For instance, Cappello, recapping Charles Brittain on Philo's Roman view,5 says (p. 208) a "kataleptically perceived object" may not be "truly perceived." But only impressions that are perceived in the relevant (sc. evident) way and are true are kataleptic. That an impression is true "does not automatically imply" that it is kataleptic—not the other way around as Cappello reports. This error leads Cappello to say (p. 208) that "Philo is able to claim that it is a kataleptically valid impression, even if the observer sees the wrong twin [in the case of thinking one is seeing Quintus Servilius while one is actually seeing Publius]." The Roman view of the twins case is that there is no katalepsis, only a false impression that was perceived under correct perceptual conditions. Cappello also misreports the evidence of Luc. 18, saying Philo weakened Zeno's definition of an impression, not just the definition of the kataleptic impression. This slip perhaps leads Cappello to say falsely that Philo's Roman period involved the view that the truth of an impression is not related to its causal history (p. 248). While such errors do not usually effect Cappello's immediate arguments, they produce a work whose utility will remain limited to specialists already familiar with the literature. For those anticipating Tobias Reinhardt's new edition and commentary of the Academica, The School of Doubt still provides much for consideration in the meantime.


1.   Sean Gurd. 2012. Work in Progress: Literary Revision in Classical Antiquity. Oxford.
2.   Cf. Demetr. Elocut. 227: "the letter should best capture character, as dialogue also does, for nearly everyone writes a letter as an image of their own soul. It's also possible to see a writer's character in every other genre, but in none so well as in a letter."
3.   Harald Thorsrud. 2002. "Cicero and his Academic Predecessors: The Fallibilism of Arcesilaos and Carneades." Journal of the History of Philosophy 40: 1-18.
4.   Cappello does not appeal to a distinction between author and narrator-character.
5.   Charles Brittain. 2001. Philo of Larissa: The Last of the Academic Sceptics. Oxford.

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