Friday, December 20, 2019


Andrew Laird, Nicola Miller (ed.), Antiquities and Classical Traditions in Latin America. Bulletin of Latin American Research book series. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2018. Pp. 221. ISBN 9781119559337. $34.95.

Reviewed by Maya Feile Tomes, Christ's College, Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The ranks of publications on Classics ~ Latin America (no one preposition can encapsulate the relationalities) have just grown once again thanks to this fascinating new collection edited by Nicola Miller and Andrew Laird. In 2006, in what was then one of the first Anglophone studies of its kind, Laird called out the degree to which evidence from the Latin American context has traditionally met with blithe 'indifference' from 'classicists who deem such material irrelevant to the business of interpreting … the literary, historical and other legacies of Greece and Rome', resulting in 'the consistent omission of Latin America from histories of the classical tradition'.1 Ten years later, a two-day conference on 'Classical Traditions in Latin American History'—the event from which this volume arises2—was held in London in May 2016 at the Warburg Institute, "home" of the classical tradition itself. This and other recent ventures are a testament to the increased activity and growing traction which—amid the shifting profile of, and pressure on, the field of Classics as a whole—the subject is now beginning to gain.3 Even so, this collection too both opens and closes by sounding the itself by now traditional note of lament at the fact that there is overall still so 'little systematic study of the significance of the classical traditions' of Latin America (p. 7) and that the region remains only 'rarely associated with Greco-Roman antiquity' (p. 196). One looks forward to the day when this sort of claim-staking and scene-setting are no longer necessary: to the day when it is as obvious why Latin America comes under the purview of classical studies as Sicily or Britain—or North America.

Volumes like this will help us to get there. There is currently no other collection quite like it, certainly not in the Anglophone world. 4 Divided into twelve chapters, bookended by a preface and introduction (the former by Laird and Miller, the latter by Laird alone) and an itself 'muscular' Envoi from Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra at the end (cf. p. 200), the pieces showcase the vibrancy and diversity of the classical tradition in Latin America across a range of cultural production contexts, authored by scholars likewise drawn from across the academic spectrum—from doctoral students to luminaries of the field such as those just mentioned. (Authors and titles are listed at the end of this review.) Topics range from well-known subjects and figures—usual suspects include Simón Bolívar, Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges—to the distinctly less familiar, while others again (notably Erika Valdivieso in her chapter on El Inca Garcilaso and Eric Cullhed in his on Bolívar et al.) manage to say new things about well- known ones: altogether the volume attests to a redoubtable body of research. Chapters are arranged in chronological order, taking us from some of the earliest encounters between the Greco-Roman and American worlds in the sixteenth century all the way into the twentieth and twenty-first with such titans of contemporary Latin American letters as Gabriel García Márquez (1927- 2014) and Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003). Nor is the focus exclusively literary: the pieces by Alejandra Rojas Silva and Byron Hamann in particular offer a compelling diptych on interactions between European and indigenous Meso-American traditions in the visual and material culture of sixteenth-century New Spain (Mexico), while Miller in hers on classical traces in contexts other than the "high cultural" likewise stresses the degree to which Greco-Roman forms were woven into the very fabric of public life across Latin America (p. 145). In geographical terms, the volume also achieves good coverage: though Mexico looms as large as it always does in studies of Latin America ~ Classics—it is the overt subject of no fewer than five of the chapters, with extended cameos in several others—the volume does also feature dedicated pieces on places including Cuba, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic, along with more fleeting focus on material from everywhere from Chile to Nicaragua. The only truly glaring omission is Brazil, which commands no dedicated discussion and is confined to a few scattered mentions dotted in the index: while clearly no edited collection can be exhaustive in scope, it does seem an especially large omission for a volume on 'Antiquities and Classical Traditions in Latin America'—and could so easily have been parried as an objection ('…in Spanish America').

More important than any one local context, however, is the lively network of "classical" activity across the whole region to which the chapters cumulatively attest; indeed, given the high mobility of figures, texts and ideas from first European|American contact onwards, the space in which this story unfolds might be aptly denoted by the portmanteau which contributor Byron Hamann coins: the 'Mediterratlantic'. Sure enough, a cover-to-cover reading of the collection reveals a fascinating tissue of interactions between and across all the chapters. (A degree of heavier-duty interventionism might at times have drawn these out even more for the benefit of the non-"cover-to-cover" reader: at present, one gets the sense that the editorial touch was overall a little light.)5 Desiree Arbo and Rosa Andújar, for instance, both consider utopian(istic) interpretations of the American context, of two radically contrasting kinds: the former a colonial-era Jesuit meditation on missionarism in Paraguay parsed through the prism of Plato's Republic, the latter the writings of a post-Independence Caribbean thinker who turned to Greece for his own intensely political vision of Latin America's future. Andújar's chapter, on Pedro Henríquez Ureña, also exhibits close connections with Elina Miranda Cancela's on the role of Greece in the thought of Cuban Independence-era hero José Martí, with a number of similar points made—albeit often interpreted to opposite effect: a prime example of a pair which could perhaps have been brought into closer dialogue. Meanwhile, Valdivieso's Peruvian-born polyglot El Inca Garcilaso, whose literary-historical projects ranged from Quechua to Italian, is in (as it were) conversation with Laird's equally multilingual Meso-American writers, whose activities spanned the gamut from Nahuatl to Latin. Garcilaso's (particular brand of) Neoplatonism also resonates with the (particular brand of) Platonism of the aforementioned Jesuit, while Laird's Meso-Americans were reading everything from Diogenes Laertius to Isidore of Seville. Natalia Maillard Álvarez duly applies herself to the subject of classical books transmitted from Europe to the Americas; Cañizares-Esguerra then considers the texts by which Ibero-American authors "broadcast" back: the Atlantic is alive with materials criss-crossing to and fro. And Robert T. Conn offers a survey piece which, by dint of sheer range of writers discussed, establishes lines of correspondence both across itself and with the volume as a whole. Indeed, one of the writers he considers, the Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó (1871-1917), is easily among the most namechecked in the entire volume, with dedicated discussion of his (proto-)postcolonial epochal essay Ariel (1900) featuring in no fewer than five of the chapters. If one had to choose a single text to represent Latin American classical engagement for the undergraduate Classics curriculum, should this be it?

Rojas and Hamann, meanwhile, present the aforementioned dyad on evolutions in the material-cultural symbolic economies of Mexico—the former a study of a classically-inflected botanical triptych from a sixteenth-century medicinal work, the latter a Greco-Roman apotropaic device working its way into codes of Meso-American visual literacy—while Stuart McManus also offers an interdisciplinary exploration of visual and literary interplay, again from the Mexican context but this time in relation to the theme of rhetorical exemplarity. Conversely, in what I found to be easily one of the most thought-provoking pieces in the collection, Cullhed brings the chapters to a close with his fascinating contribution on unexemplarity. In it, he pulls the rug delightfully from under the reader's feet, just as one was mentally congratulating the volume on having struck such a good balance between Greece and Rome, by pointing out that the "Ancient" Greco-Roman focus is itself narrow when there is also (among other things) Byzantium. This in turn opens the floodgates to thoughts of what else might all have been included: where, for instance, is discussion of the Egypto- and especially hieroglyphomania that gripped Latin America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? In drawing our attention to Latin American receptions of the Byzantine, Cullhed thus offers his own further tweak of a corrective to this already non-standard narrative.

This brings us to a major consideration, as also to our main quibbles. For a volume on 'antiquities and classical traditions', there is remarkably little by way of steer on, or scrutiny of, the remit of the term "classical"—or, for that matter, of "antiquity" itself.6 Though the opening sentence of the preface programmatically declares that '[a]ntiquities and classical traditions in Latin America are not confined to those of Greece and Rome' (p. 7), in practice things do broadly then proceed as if "classical" equated to the "Greco-Roman"7 cultures of the Mediterranean Basin from the era known in Eurocentric periodisations as "antiquity", even though clearly in the Latin American context neither of these is what one might call self-evident. At best there is a degree of slippage as contributors pirouette around definitions of the classic(al): and so one can make it all the way to Cullhed's closing contribution on the 'unclassical' without having yet understood what "the classical" actually is. Similarly, though the volume is on 'antiquities', "antiquity" too could have done with some more obvious theorisation and pluralisation—and relativisation.8 Perhaps this was supposed to go without saying—many of the chapters do deal with co-existences and syncretisms between existing versus incoming cultural practices—but it too could have been more explicitly drawn out. After all, to adapt a phrase from Miller (p. 144), what this is all ultimately about is a tale of Latin American moderns in search of their ancients. The reason that, after 1492, it is by no means obvious who those 'ancients' might be is because of the nature of the colonial wound and the rupture which this caused: a tale of dis/continuities. At the same time, the influx of new cultural elements from Europe—a whole new set of "transatlantic antiquities"—resulted in a radical new pluralisation and opening-out of the field: along with the Incan or the "Aztec" or the Taíno (etc.), Roman and Greek—including, as we learn, Byzantine Greek—cultural elements are now irreducibly also in the mix.

Question of plurality bring us to our second point. While the chronological arrangement of chapters works well in many senses, it does also have the defect (or virtue?) of making it only too clear when something receives mention for the first time, flagging up all the pages—years—of preceding silence on the subject. Though we do have chapters on indigenous figures (Laird's, Valdivieso's; the artisans presumably involved in Rojas's and Hamann's), no Afro-Latino or Afro-Caribbean figure is mentioned until Miller's contribution in Chapter 10, by which point we are nearly a hundred and fifty pages into the volume—and over three centuries into European|American|African contact history.9 (The volume does not, I might add, contain discussion of a single non-male thinking or writing subject either.10) Thus, even though Miller's contribution is then also followed a couple of chapters later by Andújar's excellent one on Dominican-born Pedro Henríquez Ureña (1884-1946)—including overt reflections on the racism which he experienced in both Argentina and North America—these chapters centring on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries only serve to point up all those people about, and from, whom we have not previously heard. The parallels with the Greek and Roman worlds—slave societies too—and the study thereof will be obvious. For every person who enters or inflects the written record, an untold number of people remain in silence: silenced.

With a volume on a subject itself still so widely written out of the cultural narrative, however, it would be churlish to close on the subject of omissa. Clearly not every project can do everything, and this one already puts pressure on the evidence in a number of very important ways. What it undoubtedly does best is precisely that which—"classical" definition question notwithstanding—it seems to have set out to do: to show that, whatever other elements were in the mix in colonial and postcolonial Latin America, the Romans and the Greeks were there among them, and there to stay—introduced through colonial incursion, and assimilated, appropriated and creatively reckoned with ever after. In response to Cañizares-Esguerra's (rhetorical) question of 'Whose classical traditions?', the answer is plainly: also Latin America's, among others—and among others'. No-one who reads the volume could fail to be persuaded of this. Sooner than Rodó, then, perhaps it is rather this that should be required reading for the Classics undergraduate. Though published in a Latin American Studies series, it is a recommended acquisition for every Classics library. More to the point, it is no "though" at all.

Table of Contents

Preface / Andrew Laird and Nicola Miller
1. Introduction: Classical Traditions and Controversies in Latin American History / Andrew Laird
2. The Early Circulation of Classical Books in New Spain and Peru / Natalia Maillard Álvarez
3. Gardens of Origin and the Golden Age in the Mexican Libellus de medicinalibus indorum herbis (1552) / Alejandra Rojas Silva
4. Comparison and Seeing in the Mediterratlantic / Byron Ellsworth Hamann
5. The Inca Garcilaso in Dialogue with Neoplatonism / Erika Valdivieso
6. Universal History and New Spain's Indian Past: Classical Knowledge in Nahua Chronicles / Andrew Laird
7. The Exemplary Power of Antiquity: Humanist Rhetoric and Ceremony in Seventeenth-Century New Spain / Stuart M. McManus
8. Plato and the Guaraní Indians / Desiree Arbo
9. Classicism in Modern Latin America from Simón Bolívar to Roberto Bolaño / Robert T. Conn
10. Classical Motifs in Spanish American Nation-Building: Looking Beyond the Elites / Nicola Miller
11. Greece and José Martí / Elina Miranda Cancela
12. Pedro Henríquez Ureña's Hellenism and the American Utopia / Rosa Andújar
13. Born with the Wrinkles of Byzantium: Unclassical Traditions in Spanish America, 1815-1925 / Eric Cullhed
14. Envoi: Whose Classical Traditions? / Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra


Excepting problems with Spanish accents, which I make no attempt to list, note the following:

p. 9, n. 3: Silk, Gildenhard and Barrow is 2014, not 2013 (correct on p. 25); p. 10 n.4 and p. 22: 'Ijsewijn' > 'IJsewijn'; p. 13: 'sixteeenth' > 'sixteenth'; p. 14 (and passim): 'Patria' should not be capitalised; p. 21 (entry on Buelna Serrano): 'traductor del De re república' > '…del De re publica'; p. 22: the entries on 'Habinek' and 'Haase' should be inverted; p. 25: 'Atlándida' > 'Atlántida' (though N.B. sic in the original); ibid.: 'posesiones españoles' > '…españolas'; p. 27: insert 'the' before 'Catholic monarchs' (conversely, the 'Casa de la Contratación', p. 29, is more usually the 'Casa de Contratación'); p. 30: insert line space between the entries on Terence and Virgil; p. 34: Diego de Mexía (Jr.) travelled from Peru to Mexico in 1596, not 1576; p. 35, n.9: 'terceros' > 'tercetos'; p. 38: '10 Tulios de Oficis, Amberes, in octavo, a 3 reales' should be italicised; p. 41 n.1 and pp. 220-1: 'Velazco' > 'Velasco'; p. 47: superfluous 'a' in '…Quetzalcoatl is described as a "a great craftsman…"'; p. 49: 'omnis feret omnia tellus' should be indented; p. 59: close quotation after the word 'Yucatán'; p. 65: insert 'a' before 'point' in 'this is [a] point to which we will return below'; p. 69: insert 'the' before 'viceregal church'; ibid.: 'Thas' > 'This'/'That'; p. 71: 'Verlagstanstalt' (twice) > 'Verlagsanstalt'; p. 77: delete full-stop after second indented citation (or insert one after the others); p. 81: cross- reference to 'page 69 above' > is page 77 meant?; p. 85: '…de los Poetas Hispano-Americano' > '…-americanos'; p. 91: 'visibles y invisibles': sic?; ibid.: 'la ley evangélico': sic?; p. 99: 'Cosimo de Medici' > 'Cosimo de' Medici'; p. 101: standardise listing of works of Domingo Chimalpahin Cuauhtlenahuanitzin; p. 106: Nicolás del Puerto's oration was in 1666, not 1566; p. 107: spacing of the bottom line is odd; p. 114: 'Caesar Augustus' but 'Augustus Caesar' on p. 115; p. 116: 'para que descuellan y se veneran' > 'para que descuellen … y se veneren'; p. 120: 'quiddam simile exstitisse Platonis inventis inter Guaranios Indos' > '…extitisse Platonicis…'; p. 129 (and p. 119): Feile Tomes 2015c [IJCT 22(3): 383-9] (erratum to 2015b) is missing; p. 130: 'Josephus Emmanuelis Peramasius' > 'Emmanuel'; ibid.: 'libris tres' > 'libri tres'; p. 135: 'Antonio Caso' > 'Alfonso Caso'; p. 156: Rodó is missing from the bibliography; p. 160: insert 'they' before 'offer' (in indented citation); p. 163: 'que yo amo más…' unaccounted for in the translation; p. 165: insert 'the' before 'time' in '…the needs of time'; p. 166: should 'formula' be 'formulae'?; ibid.: the first line of bibliography is widowed at the bottom of the page; p. 172 n.7: 'perfeccionamento' > 'perfeccionamiento'; p. 176: 'prestige' (in Spanish indented citation) > 'prestigio' (and decapitalise 'Guerra'?); p. 180 (entry on Van Delden): 7.3 > 7(3); p. 185: '…the language that I would sing for you' > '…the language in which…'; p. 188: is Greece really offered as a source of 'internal' youth?; p. 191: delete superfluous 'the' in '…at the heart of the González Prada's "festering core"…'; p. 195: 'Tejeras, J. D.' > 'Tejera'; p. 221: 'Villaroel' > 'Villarroel'.

The whole collection is also notable for a rather rogue use of commas, either missing or misplaced. More significantly, there are a number of elements I would query in translations from the Latin and Spanish, including a couple of reasonably serious obfuscations of meaning (e.g. '…en las representaciones populares que se hace el mexicano del poder viril' rendered as '…in popular representations and turns into the powerful Mexican male', p. 139, instead of '…in the popular representations which Mexicans make of male power' vel sim.). However, as it is often not made clear (itself a quibble) whether or not translations are contributors' own, this is not the right place.


1.   Andrew Laird, The Epic of America: An Introduction to Rafael Landívar and the Rusticatio Mexicana (London: Duckworth, 2006), 5.
2.   As the change in title suggests, the focus on history seems to have melted away somewhat in the transformation to published collection: the volume now reads as a series of case studies in the presence of Greco-Roman elements in a variety of artistic and above all literary media—not that literature is unhistorical, of course.
3.   Contrast with his 2006 remarks Laird's more recent statement that 'Anglophone scholars have begun to acknowledge the richness and extent of Latin literature from early modern Spanish America and Brazil' (in 'Classical letters and millenarian madness in post-conquest Mexico: the Ecstasis of Fray Cristóbal Cabrera (1548)', International Journal of the Classical Tradition 24.1, 78).
4.   Though see recently for instance Kathryn Bosher et al., eds., The Oxford Handbook of Greek Drama in the Americas (Oxford: OUP, 2015), and, forthcoming, Rosa Andújar and Konstantinos P. Nikoloutsos, eds., Greeks and Romans on the Latin American Stage (Bloomsbury, 2020) or Matthew Duquès, Maya Feile Tomes and Adam Goldwyn, eds., Brill's Companion to Classics in the Early Americas (Brill, forthcoming). On Hispanophone examples, see pp. 9-10 n.3.
5.   For instance, the tradition of Franciscan education in Mexico, for which Hamann (p. 70) cross-refers to Rojas, is also discussed by several others; the conviction of the C20th Mexican intellectual Alfonso Reyes that 'for Mexico to be modern, it needed to be able to call itself a home to classical philology' (Conn, p. 136) could have benefited from interaction with C18th ideas about it being the patriotic duty of young Mexicans to master Latin (Laird, pp. 15-16). There is also quite some variation in chapter length: and while there is no-one from whom I would have wished to hear less, there are several— notably Arbo and Valdivieso—from whom one would welcome more.
6.   A few honourable exceptions notwithstanding: see for instance Hamann on the use of 'Classic' in periodisations of pre-Hispanic American archaeology (p. 71), and especially Cullhed on the need to 'circumscribe and, conceivably, to relativise the importance of the classical tradition alongside other pre-modern narratives' (p. 183).
7.   Consider, for instance, Cañizares-Esguerra's closing statement that the volume has considered '…the different ways in which classical traditions endured in a region rarely associated with Greco-Roman antiquity' (p. 196), seemingly equating the two.
8.   On the relativisation of antiquity, see recently Ute Schüren, Daniel Marc Segesser and Thomas Späth, eds., Globalized Antiquity: Uses and Perceptions of the Past in South Asia, Mesoamerica, and Europe (Berlin: Reimer, 2015), especially Späth on 'Provincializing antiquity? Uses of the past compared' (pp. 319-37). See also n.6 above. There is also more to be said about Eurocentricity, and indeed the obsession with "remote" antiquity as itself a Eurocentric cultural metric, even in seemingly non-Eurocentric notions like José Martí's that Latin Americans should trace their origins back to their 'own Greece' (quoted Miller, p. 155).
9.   An allusion in the preface to the role of Greek tragedy in representing Latin America's 'racial conflict' (p. 7) is made with reference only to the 'contemporary', viz. C20th and 21st, context.
10.   Compare Andújar on how certain definitions of American utopianism are so narrow as to exclude those 'elements crucial to Latin America: the indigenous, Afro-Latinos and women' (p. 178).

(read complete article)


Jesse Weiner, Benjamin Eldon Stevens, Brett M. Rogers (ed.), Frankenstein and Its Classics: The Modern Prometheus from Antiquity to Science Fiction. Bloomsbury studies in classical reception. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. Pp. xiv, 273. ISBN 9781350054875. $29.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Daniel Cook, University of Dundee (

Version at BMCR home site

Comprising twelve essays, Frankenstein and Its Classics is the first scholarly collection dedicated to understanding the extent to which Mary Shelley's seminal work of fiction and some other works inspired by it draw on ancient Greek and Roman literature, philosophy, and myth. Prometheus is the dominant figure throughout, of course, in no small part because Shelley presented her work as a modern take on the story of the Titan who stole fire and gave it to his lumpish creation, humans. After a mid-sized and pertinent introduction, as well as a brief but important preface, the collection is divided into two parts, each comprising six essays. Ranging from Romantic neoclassicism to contemporary cinema, the scope is pleasingly broad.

The Introduction rehearses the familiar story of the origins of Frankenstein: in the Year without a Summer, 1816, Shelley (still known as Mary Godwin at the time, though already referring to herself as Mrs. Shelley) stayed with her future husband and her stepsister in a small chalet near to Villa Diodati, the temporary home of Lord Byron and his private physician John William Polidori. A recently published collection of ghost stories titled Fantasmagoriana stirred their imaginations, and they began to compose their own gothic tales while whiling away the hours during bouts of bad weather. Percy Bysshe Shelley and Byron barely managed a fragment between them, while Polidori produced what would be published a few months later as The Vampyre, a novella initially attributed to Byron. Mary Shelley debuted an early version of the Frankenstein story, which was published in its full version on New Year's Day in 1818. The origin story is often, as it is here, tied with a new turn in the history of Gothic literature – namely, a decisive move towards modern science fiction.

But their communal space, the Villa Diodati, would have meant something else to keen classicists as the authors present were; both Shelleys and Byron were especially keen on Greek literature. John Milton, arguably the greatest Latinate English poet of all time, had a dubious connection with the place. (The family who owned the property was distantly related to the Italian translator Giovanni Diodati, an uncle of Milton's friend Charles Diodati. Despite the presence of a plaque at the Villa heralding a supposed visit of Milton in 1638, the villa was not built until more than seventy years after his death.) The influence of Paradise Lost on Frankenstein is nevertheless a profound one. After all, the Creature reads Milton's epic poem along with Plutarch's Lives, and other tales of humanity's depravity. Such classical-adjacent sources merit further consideration for a study of this kind – namely a mobilised culture of classicism within and beyond Britain. The Shelleys kept detailed accounts of their reading, with dates and reactions usually recorded. This means a direct case can be made for the relevance of Lucretius, say, when discussing certain passages in Frankenstein. Equally, it reveals the seemingly jumbled way in which they read their classics – Milton alongside Plutarch, and the like. There seems to be a tendency in studies of the afterlives of literary texts to focus largely on the mediating text. But the case of Frankenstein alone suggests that such studies ought to consider the author's often seemingly shambolic engagement with other materials.

The chief aim of the collection is clearly stated and emphatically achieved: "Our highest goal is to help each reader ask for herself how Frankenstein, some of its sources, and parts of its subsequent traditions all constitute important sites of classical reception" (3). The essays look forward as well as backward, inviting us to consider technocentric futures unimaginable to Shelley and her models. Acknowledging the scholarship that has explored the science fiction dimensions of the novel and its progeny, the essayists provide more focused considerations of classically inflected treatments of such scholarship. After all, only one prominent collection, The Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein (2016) has so far considered Shelley's direct references to ancient materials, most of which are dominated by Prometheus. The present editors rankle against that collection's editor's apparent dismissal of the importance of the originary source: "Hesiod, or Ovid, or Virgil do not have a monopoly on the myths they are telling", writes Timothy Morton (qtd. 4). Morton is thinking of the ways in which a charismatic literary work such as Frankenstein can be invoked in passing. After all, you don't need to cite Frankenstein to refer to Frankenfoods, Frankenscience, or any other label of that kind. The editors of the present collection propose a different approach altogether: by paying attention to Shelley's explicit attention to ancient authors we can both clarify and deepen ambiguous, even ambivalent allusions to prior stories.

A case in point is Plutarch, a largely ignored but hardly inconspicuous point of reference in the novel. While Plutarch's popularity has greatly diminished in our time, so the editors assert, throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Lives ranked among the most highly regarded Greco-Roman texts, in both the Creature's native tongue – French – and in English (six English translations were published between 1710 and 1800 alone). The Creature's reading of Plutarch serves the novel's emergent themes. Some of the first words he reads, for instance, come from the life of Theseus, a man who also sought out his father. Tragically but no less fittingly, he will turn to patricide, just like Theseus. (Reading kills, it seems.) The Creature also develops a clear distinction between virtue and vice from his reading of the Life of Alexander. Having a working knowledge of sources such as Plutarch's Lives doubtless enhances our compassion for the Creature. But this is not to say that the Creature's understanding of human behaviour is shaped by (to use the editor's terminology) singular sources in the way in which Morton rejects. Denied kin and companionship, the Creature cannot enact the positive lessons found in Plutarch's morally complex accounts of notable men. The editors of the present collection are right to amplify the importance of understanding the source material; but the suggestion that the Creature, or Frankenstein and other characters, merely embody such sources fails to account for the failures of reading, or blatant misreading, that pervades the novel. Ironically, when their engagement with the Frankenstein story is closer to Morton's approach, the editors are on much surer ground. After Plutarch, they jump centuries forward to John Scalzi's 2006 novel The Ghost Brigades, which centres on a genetically advanced soldier named Jared Dirac. Jared explicitly likens himself to Frankenstein's Creature, not merely Shelley's version but every celluloid iteration he can find, and then, beyond that, a long lineage of Pygmalion creations. Scalzi's work is new to me, so, to my mind, this sort of link is one clear and potent benefit of a wide-ranging study centred not on period surveys, or even on genre, reception and the like, but on the persistence of mythic counterpoints.

Even though the essays themselves are organized roughly in chronological order, there is clearly a strategic focus on thematic connections and shared questions. The first group, "Promethean Heat", explores Frankenstein's engagement with the past, principally events preceding the novel's composition and publication in the period 1816-18. Of particular interest among this group is an attempt to demonstrate some of the ways in which Shelley transmutes ancient sources, sometimes through other works. Genevieve Lively makes a convincing case for Ovid's presence in Frankenstein, particularly through George Sandys's widely read Ovid's Metamorphosis Englished. There are clear formal parallels, as Lively shows, but more than that: Ovid and Shelley share common narrative strategies, not least of the denial of a happy ending for the creator and the created. Martin Priestman attends to different facets of the Frankenstein story, namely the cinematic tradition popularised by James Whale in 1931. But he raises significant questions that enhance our understanding of what the story is doing with classical sources, most notably: which version of the Promethean myth bears the larger burden of the modern (literary and filmic) reworkings, Hesiod's or Aeschylus's?

Andrew M. McClellan, meanwhile, considers Shelley's engagement with Lucan. Whereas other scholars in the collection make a number of broad connections, McClellan instead compares specific scenes: Frankenstein's creation scene and, from Lucan's Bellum civile, an extended episode in which Sextus visits the witch Erichtho, who revivifies a corpse in order to predict the future. In the next chapter, Suzanne L. Barnett takes a whole new approach: she looks at Percy Bysshe Shelley's role in forming a 'Romantic Prometheus', a noble sufferer who endures Jupiter's wrath with stoic resolution, alongside other contemporary treatments that would have been on Mary Shelley's radar. Combining the broader intellectual histories of the previous chapters with the close reading of McClellan, this is a particularly effective piece. David A. Gapp's essay, following this, seems out of place. He revisits the volcanic eruption that led to the so-called 'Year without a Summer'; but if its position in the collection at this point seems odd, the content is still important, not least in grounding the Frankenstein story within its proper European context. The final chapter in this section, by Matthew Gumpert, connects Frankenstein's Creature with Hesiod's parable about the creation of a superlative, superhuman, synthetic artefact. Gumpert's essay pairs well with Barnett's: if Frankenstein is the "Modern Prometheus", then the Creature is a modern Pandora.

The second group, "Hideous Progeny", looks at the novel's role in mediating the creative reception of Greco-Roman myth, literature and thought in later works. There is invariably overlap between the distinct parts – and a handful of ongoing concerns recur throughout. But the structuring lends itself to a clear treatment of the novel's nuanced response to and influence on other works; often the concerns are related, but sometimes not explicitly so. A necessarily brief but potent feature of the book comes at the end: Samuel Cooper's list of further reading and viewing, ranging from Richard Brinsley Peake's Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein (1823) to the Penny Dreadful television serial (2014-16). Benjamin Eldon Stevens takes a broad yet detailed approach to one of the most iconic scenes of Shelley's novel: the Creature's murder of Elizabeth, Frankenstein's bride, on her wedding night. Stevens usefully places the bedroom tableau in a longer tradition reaching back to the story of Cupid and Psyche as told by Apuleius and extends to the works of Salman Rushdie and others. Embedded with some nuanced close readings of the diverse materials, a brief comparative table that itemises common elements is especially illustrative. Carl A. Rubino also places Shelley's novel within a longer tradition, though he attends more to intellectual than literary connections. Proustian in spirit, his chapter considers the reverberation of Lucretius' investigation into the mechanics of the world through Frankenstein, via Newton and Voltaire, and on to Michel Serres, among others. Exploring a quite different view of worldly perception, Neşe Devenot connects the Promethean aspects of the Frankenstein story with the self-mythologization of the psychedelic activist Timothy Leary.

Jesse Weiner, next, heads up a trilogy of essays that attend to the filmic afterlives of Shelley's novel. In particular, Weiner reads Bill Morrison's 2010 movie Spark of Being – and Shelley's novel – as an Ovidian tale of forms changed into new bodies (Metamorphoses 1.1-2: in nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas / corpora). In the next essay, Emma Hammond revisits prior discussion of the Pandora creation myth in an extended response to Alex Garland's Ex Machina (2015), a prominent example of the 'ghost in the machine' theme in modern Science Fiction (SF). In the final chapter, Brett M. Rogers anatomises common features of the 'Postmodern Prometheus' in recent SF. Broad in scope, this essay (along with many others in the collection) asks fundamental questions pertinent to modern critical and creative engagements with the ancients' understanding of humanity and our place in the world. As our relationship with genetic engineering, technoscience and the like deepens, in what ways does our response to Promethean creators shift? Does our intellectual or emotional response to Pandoric creations change? All together, these wide-ranging yet often impressively nuanced essays expand our knowledge of the ways in which the Frankenstein story brings ancient thought to bear on modern concerns in literary, philosophical and cultural terms, and much else besides.

Authors and titles

List of Contributors
List of Illustrations

Introduction: The Modern Prometheus Turns 200, Jesse Weiner, Benjamin Eldon Stevens, and Brett M. Rogers

Part One: Promethean Heat
1. Patchwork Paratexts and Monstrous Metapoetics: "After tea M reads Ovid", Genevieve Liveley, University of Bristol, UK
2. Prometheus and Dr. Darwin's Vermicelli: Another Stir to the Frankenstein Broth, Martin Priestman, University of Roehampton, UK
3. The Politics of Revivification in Lucan's Bellum Civile and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Andrew McClellan, University of Delaware, USA
4. Romantic Prometheis and the Molding of Frankenstein, Suzanne L. Barnett, Francis Marion University
5. Why "The Year without a Summer"? David A. Gapp, Hamilton College, USA
6. The Sublime Monster: Frankenstein, or The Modern Pandora, Matthew Gumpert, Bogaziçi University, Turkey

Part Two: Hideous Progeny
7. Cupid and Psyche in Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's Apuleian Science Fiction? Benjamin Eldon Stevens, Trinity University, USA
8. "The Pale Student of Unhallowed Arts": Frankenstein, Aristotle, and the Wisdom of Lucretius, Carl A. Rubino, Hamilton College, USA
9. Timothy Leary and the Psychodynamics of Stealing Fire, Neşe Devenot, University of Puget Sound, USA
10. Frankenfilm: Classical Monstrosity in Bill Morrison's Spark of Being, Jesse Weiner, Hamilton College, USA
11. Alex Garland's Ex Machina or The Modern Epimetheus, Emma Hammond, University of Bristol, UK
12. The Postmodern Prometheus and Posthuman Reproductions in Science Fiction, Brett M. Rogers, University of Puget Sound, USA

Other Modern Prometheis: Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing, Sam Cooper, Bard High School Early Colleges Queens, USA

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Filippo Canali De Rossi, Le relazioni diplomatiche di Roma. Volume VIII. La crisi dinastica macedone e le contese interne della Grecia (182-179 a.C.). Prassi diplomatiche dello imperialismo Romano, VIII. Roma: Scienze e Lettere, 2018. Pp. 141. ISBN 9788866871453. €30,00.

Reviewed by Federico Russo, Università degli Studi di Milano​ (

Version at BMCR home site

Il volume di seguito recensito rappresenta un ulteriore contributo della serie Prassi Diplomatiche dell'imperialismo romano, a sua volta parte della serie, sempre ad opera di Canali De Rossi, Relazioni Diplomatiche di Roma. Il volume, in effetti, è denso di rimandi ai precedenti fascicoli delle due serie, a dimostrazione di un piano d'opera ben strutturato, complesso e soprattutto completo, grazie al quale l'Autore (d'ora in poi l'A.) ha raccolto, e continua a raccogliere, testimonianze di diversa provenienza e natura, utili per ricostruire le relazioni diplomatiche di Roma, seguendo un andamento puntualmente cronologico.

Il volume qui in esame si fa apprezzare in primo luogo, oltre che per la continuità anzidetta con i suoi precedenti, per la breve ma significativa precisazione con cui l'A., già nella premessa, sintetizza la concezione stessa di atto diplomatico. A fronte di accezioni troppo generiche di tale concetto, che potrebbero anche sviare il lettore dalla corretta interpretazione delle fonti oltre richiamate, l'A. dà dell'idea di "atto diplomatico" una definizione sì sintetica, ma anche e quanto mai complessa, declinandolo in tutti gli aspetti che lo potevano caratterizzare. Definizione, questa, che risulta utile al lettore in generale ma certo anche a coloro che si apprestino a leggere le pagine successive del volume di Canali De Rossi (o anche i fascicoli precedenti delle serie citate, poiché, come specifica l'A., la comprensione stessa del concetto di atto diplomatico riguarda anche le fonti e gli episodi già raccolti nei volumi già pubblicati).

Dopo questa breve ma significativa premessa, che peraltro annuncia in via programmatica alcune novità che riguardano il volume stesso rispetto ai suoi analoghi delle serie precedenti (essenzialmente una ricca e ragionata rassegna bibliografica che segue la trattazione delle fonti antiche, utilissimo strumento per studiosi interessati alle problematiche discusse), l'A. si concentra sull'analisi, sempre attenta, dei fatti che interessarono Roma negli anni 182-172 a.C.

Prima di addentrarci nella breve trattazione della parte centrale e principale del volume, vogliamo innanzitutto evidenziare, in generale, l'aderenza sempre puntuale e precisa tra l'analisi condotta dall'A. e le fonti antiche, debitamente citate alla fine della trattazione di ciascun anno. A questo proposito, e più in particolare in materia di fonti antiche, preme qui anticipare un altro aspetto estremamente utile che caratterizza il volume di Canali De Rossi, vale a dire la presenza di due indici lessicali, uno in latino ed uno in greco, posti alla fine del volume stesso e comprendenti i termini più significativi (in realtà numerosi) che ricorrono nelle fonti menzionate e riprodotte nel corso del volume. Chiaramente, un approccio di questo genere risulta strumento davvero utile per gli studiosi che vogliano approfondire la tradizione antica sui rapporti internazionali (ma non solo di Roma): il lessico utilizzato dalle fonti, infatti, piò rivelare molte informazioni, spesso ignorate ad una lettura più superficiale. Gli indici compilati dall'A., invece, oltre a mostrare attenzione puntuale per le fonti, ci permettono anche di esplorare l'impiego anche di particolari formule o sintagmi che tornano con regolarità nelle fonti stesse e che ci permettono di individuare con precisione prassi e metodi che, altrimenti, potrebbero risultare meno visibili. Sempre in tema di indici, oltre agli usuali, ma sempre utili, indici dei nomi, segnaliamo l'indice delle cose notevoli, che permette al lettore un'ancora più agile e mirata consultazione dell'opera.

Tornando al corpo principale del volume, esso è diviso in 5 capitoli principali (la cui numerazione si riallaccia a quella del fascicolo precedente della serie), ciascuno dei quali dedicato ad un anno circa e dotato di un titolo, che, icasticamente e sinteticamente, rende l'idea dell'argomento trattato dalle fonti antiche selezionate per quel determinato arco di tempo. A questo proposito, è degna di nota la completezza del quadro degli eventi principali che, di ciascun anno, Canali De Rossi restituisce al suo lettore e che travalica l'argomento, pur ristretto, delle relazioni internazionali di Roma. Ad esempio, il primo capitolo ("Il travaglio della Macedonia: 182 a.C.", pp. 1-12) si apre, in stile per così dire annalistico, con una dettagliata ma sintetica descrizione dei fatti che interessarono Roma in quell'anno, dopodiché si passa richiamare, con dovizia di particolari e dettagli, i fatti che riguardarono, in questo caso, le lotte che già si coagulavano intorno a Filippo V per la successione al trono di Macedonia. Grazie a questa struttura, che informa anche capitoli successivi, Canali De Rossi restituisce al lettore un quadro quanto mai completo del contesto storico in cui i vari avvenimenti di respiro internazionale, che riguardarono più o meno da vicino Roma, accaddero, permettendo nel contempo, grazie a quell'aderenza alle fonti antiche prima segnalata, di cogliere legami tra la politica interna e la politica estera di Roma, senza, nel contempo, rischiare di dare una visione distorta dei fatti, ma facendo parlare, in maniera quanto mai diretta, la fonte. Ancora in relazione alla struttura dei capitoli, ciascuno di essi si regge su una fitta rette di rimandi tra sintesi dell'A. e supporto delle fonti antiche, richiamate nel corpo del testo e riportate in conclusione del capitolo, dimodoché può il lettore verificare di prima mano il dettato della tradizione antica.

Il primo capitolo (pp. 1-12), il cui titolo, come si diceva, è "Il travaglio della Macedonia: 182 a.C.", si dedica in particolare, tra gli altri argomenti, alla contesa che si venne a formare per la successione al trono di Macedonia e che vide come diretto protagonista, naturalmente, Perseo. Senza ripercorrere le vicende inerenti alla questione, sintetizzate dall'A., noteremo solo la scelta di riprodurre, in traduzione, il discorso che Filippo V tenne di fronte a Demetrio e Perseo e relativo proprio al problema della successione (pp. 7-11). Meglio di ogni altra sintesi, le parole di Filippo V rendono bene l'idea di quale fosse il clima che si respirava alla corte macedone ed in cui era calata la lotta per la successione, la quale, naturalmente, non prescindeva, né lo poteva, dai rapporti certo problematici se non ambigui che esistevano tra essa stessa e Roma. Peraltro, tale testimonianza pone anche in risalto l'ambasciata di Demetrio a Roma e le conseguenze che essa ebbe nei rapporti tra Roma e la Macedonia, tema, questo, che molto bene si attaglia all'argomento del volume.

Il problema delle contese tra Demetrio e Perseo informa anche il secondo capitolo (pp. 17-28), intitolato "Le reciproche insidie dei fratelli: 181-181 a.C.". Con andamento cronologico, Canali De Rossi si concentra, inizialmente, sulle posizioni di Perseo, le quali, giustamente, vengono intese, già dalle fonti antiche, come radici per la futura guerra macedonica. Con approccio annalistico, la trattazione conclude le vicende del 182 a.C. (occupate, in particolare, dallo scontro con i Liguri) e passa al 181 a.C. (pp. 22. ss.), di cui, ancora una volta, vengono riportati i fatti salienti (anche grazie a fonti per così dire secondarie, quale, ad esempio, Giulio Ossequente). Tra quelli di politica estera, un posto di particolare importanza è occupato dalle ambascerie provenienti da Eumene, Ariarate di Cappadocia e Farnace del Ponto, a noti note grazie alla testimonianza di Polibio, riportata a fine capitolo. Infine, viene trattata anche la vicenda dell'arrivo degli ambasciatori Philocles e Apelles (p. 24) da parte di Filippo di Macedonia, la cui missione non era, come specificano le fonti, ottenere qualcosa dal senato, ma, ancora, accertare "ciò di cui Perseo aveva accusato Demetrio" (p. 24), vale a dire se veramente l'ispiratore del colpo di stato che avrebbe comportato l'uccisione di Perseo fosse da identificare in T. Quinzio Flaminino.

Il terzo capitolo, diciassettesimo nel paino generale della serie, si intitola "Il trionfo di L. Aemilius Paulus sui Liguri: 181 a.C." (pp. 29-42) ed è dedicato, inizialmente, al prosieguo della narrazione dei fatti relativi alla corte macedone, per poi passare al tema che dà il titolo al capitolo, vale a dire la campagna del proconsole L. Aemilius Paulus nel territorio dei Ligures Inguani, i quali, non appena videro l'accampamento dei Romani, vi inviarono un'ambasciata col pretesto di chiedere la pace, ma, in realtà, con lo scopo di spiare i nemici (pp. 31 ss.). Anche in questo caso, dell'intera vicenda, richiamata in dettaglio nelle pagine seguenti, l'A. si concentra in particolare sulle fonti relative ai contatti diplomatici tra Roma e i Ligures. Parte del capitolo è poi dedicato, secondo una struttura sinottica, ai fatti dell'Iberia e a quelli d'Asia Minore e di Grecia. Tra i vari episodi richiamati, degno di nota in particolare (perché poco noto in altre trattazioni) risulta l'invio da parte di Eumene dei propri fratelli a Roma (p. 39): scopo dell'ambasciata era, tra l'altro, rinforzare i legami tra Pergamo e Roma.

Anche il penultimo capitolo ("L'ambasceria di Callicrate: 180 a.C.", pp. 43-57) riprende per struttura e approccio tematico la logica dei capitoli precedenti, con attenzione particolare per i rapporti diplomatici di Roma con popolazioni e comunità sia dell'Iberia che della Grecia e dell'Asia Minore, senza tralasciare la cornice della politica interna di Roma di quell'anno. In questo caso, l'episodio principale è costituito dall'ambasceria di Callicrate a Roma da parte della Lega Achea, da cui emergono i buoni rapporti che si vennero a formare tra quest'ultimo e il senato romano (pp. 50-51).

Il quinto e ultimo capitolo, diciannovesimo della serie, dal titolo "La morte di Filippo V: 179 a.C." (pp. 59-71), segue la medesima struttura di quelli precedenti, delineando i fatti essenziali del 179 a.C., sia di politica interna che di politica estera (senza tralasciare di evidenziare i legami tra la prima e la seconda), per concludersi con la narrazione della morte di Filippo di Macedonia e le conseguenza che essa ebbe sia per i Romani che per altri protagonisti della scena internazionale dell'epoca. Con andamento anulare, dunque, il volume si apre con l'inizio per la lotta alla successione al trono macedone e si conclude con la morte del sovrano e l'ascesa al potere di Perseo, del quale si mettono in risalto le prime mosse, atte naturalmente a rafforzare la propria posizione e, nel contempo, ad impostare con gli alleati un fronte antiromano. Anche in questo caso, ma più in generale in tutta l'opera, notiamo il ricorso a fonti per così dire secondarie, che integrano, talvolta in maniera anche importante, le narrazioni più complete di Polibio e Livio, portando alla luce, peraltro, anche l'esistenza di tradizioni alternative a quelle più spesso consultate.

Il volume prosegue con un'interessante discussione della letteratura pertinente al tema del volume e apparsa negli ultimi anni. In questa ricchissima (e critica) rassegna bibliografica (pp. 75-101), Canali De Rossi prende in considerazione, sintetizzandone il contenuto, alcuni tra i contributi più importanti ed interessanti recentemente pubblicati, utili alla comprensione dell'attività diplomatica di Roma, latamente intesa. Tra i vari contributi citati e discussi da Canali De Rossi, appare di particolare interesse, anche per il tema del volume, quello di U. Laffi (pp. 77-78), comparso su Athenaeum 104 (2016) e dedicato all'analisi delle procedure giuridiche previste a Roma e necessarie per la dichiarazione di guerra. L'A., ripercorrendo le considerazioni di Laffi, pone in risalto come "la guerra intrapresa senza decreto del popolo o del senato costituiva materia di incriminazione per chi l'avesse condotta" (p. 77).

In generale, questo nuovo fascicolo di Prassi diplomatiche dell'imperialismo romano si lascia apprezzare per la ricchezza documentaria, l'aderenza puntuale alle fonti e la conoscenza approfondita e critica dei più recenti contributi in tema di attività diplomatica di Roma. Si tratta, in definitiva, di un'opera ben strutturata ed informata, il cui studio non potrà che risultare utile in più modi a coloro che si interessino non solo, ed in particolare, delle relazioni internazionali di Roma, ma più in generale della vita politica di Roma, in ogni suo aspetto, per l'arco di tempo a cui il volume è dedicato.

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Federica Nicolardi, Filodemo. Il primo libro della retorica. Scuola di Epicuro, volume diciannovesimo. Napoli: Bibliopolis, 2018. Pp. 462. ISBN 9788870886580. €70,00.

Reviewed by Michael McOsker, Ohio Wesleyan University (

Version at BMCR home site

Philodemus' On Rhetoric was a large work, consisting originally of eight or possibly as many as twenty books, depending on who is reading the subscriptions, and despite a good deal of past editorial work, it can still surprise. Like all the Herculaneum papyri, the surviving books present various difficulties: the beginnings are heavily damaged or totally missing; the bookrolls must be reconstructed both from surviving fragments of papyri and eighteenth- and nineteenth- century drawings (disegni) of now destroyed pieces of papyrus; all this material is catalogued under a variety of inventory numbers because the inventory was developed after the rolls were dismembered. Every text is damaged to some extent, and their state of carbonization makes them fragile and difficult to read.

The On Rhetoric (or rather, all the parts of it known then to belong to it) was edited by Sigfried Sudhaus in two Teubner volumes in 1892 and 1896, followed by a supplementum containing a heavily restored but still only partial text of Books 1 and 2, printed for easier reading without papyrological layout or apparatus. Though he included most of the papyri now known to belong to the treatise, they are badly out of order. Many parts of the treatise have been edited by a variety of scholars since, usually short snatches of text in articles or longer ones in dissertations. The last edition of Book 1 was published in 1977 by Francesca Longo Auricchio, together with Book 2. This work was exemplary for its day, but new identifications of pertinent material, discovery of a method for reorganizing the earlier fragments of books into their correct order, a better understanding of the anatomy of the books rolls, better microscopes, and infrared photography permit more extensive reconstructions and more detailed and secure readings of the text.

Nicolardi has produced a high quality edition (with Italian translation in a parallel column and commentary) of the extremely badly damaged first book of this ensemble.1 Only the final nine of the 238 columns are continuous, so her text necessarily proceeds by fits and starts. Even this is quite an accomplishment, given that huge stretches of the text are missing: between column 40 and column 116, a seventy-five column lacuna gapes. In other places, fragments whose exact location cannot be determined are placed approximately by reasonable conjecture.2 Nicolardi's text is sparing with conjectures, especially before the beginnings and after the ends of fragments, but there is much new text, and text that we already had now makes more sense. Nonetheless, the massive damage means that frustratingly little can be said with certainty about the content. Only the end yields continuous prose and argument, but at least we have a firm sequence of topics and a bit to work with. As the other books of the treatise are better understood, this one too will yield more of its secrets, and Nicolardi's edition has put this book, at least, on a solid foundation for further study.

Much of what you would expect in the introduction—philosophical meat—is in the commentary. In fact, the introduzione treating the content is, at 19 pages, dwarfed by the premessa all'edizione at 131 (including detailed description of the papyri and sketches, the paleography and "rotolology" of the book-roll, the reconstruction of the roll, and concordances). Much of this material will be of interest only to specialists. The commentary is wide-ranging: papyrological and philological where the text does not permit analysis of argumentation (as it usually does not); papyrological, philological, and philosophical where it can be. It could have stood further editing, but is thorough and detailed. The reproduction of the Neapolitan disegno at col. 184 to show a few lines in eisthesis was a nice touch, and we should look forward to more illustrations of this sort, especially since print books can be supplemented with digital publications. The book comes with a maquette laying out the evidence for each column in order in a way that is easy to take in at a glance.

As Nicolardi's edition reveals, the first book of the On Rhetoric seems to have served as an introduction to the rest of the treatise. The final columns, the best preserved, treat the definition (or, rather, prolēpsis) of rhetoric and introduce Epicurean heterodoxy on this point. Philodemus holds the view, which he claims was Epicurus', that only sophistikē—the art of writing and delivering good speeches—is a technē, and that courtroom and political oratory do not qualify as such. Philodemus' infamous statement, that those who claim to be Epicureans but deviate from views of the Founders are nearly guilty of being patraloiai, patricides, survives reedition. These will be the topics of Books II and III in the ensemble. (There was quite some dispute about Epicurus' exact view among later Epicureans.) The topics under discussion fit into this general framework. Persuasion and the tools of persuasion also seem to play a large role, almost certainly because of their association with rhetoric understood as a method of verbal persuasion (a view Philodemus does not share). Then the teachability of rhetoric and the behavior of people educated in rhetorical schools are treated. The question of the utility of rhetoric (of the technai in general?) seems to be an issue as well, and the relationship between rhetoric and philosophy is mentioned, which will be discussed at length in the book of the On Rhetoric preserved in PHerc. 1669 (the sixth, as I and some others think). Then there is a brief methodological discussion about philosophical inquiry and word meanings. The book concludes, in the connected text, with a discussion of grounds for classifying technai on the basis of the varying proportions of talent, instruction, and practice required for competence.

Especially intriguing are the several references to Plato's Gorgias, which seems to have served as a touchstone rather than a target throughout the treatise. Epicureans sharing Philodemus' view might have found Plato's hostility to rhetoric in that treatise amenable to their own position. There are also several citations of fourth-century orators (Apollophanes, Aeschines, Antiphanes, as well as Anaximenes—why all names beginning with alpha?) and, apparently, Anacharsis, Solon, Eupolis, and "the Sicilians" (Corax and Tisias?). Mentions of Nausiphanes, one of Epicurus' teachers, and of Metrodorus and Idomeneus are interesting as well. Throughout, there is a distinction between philosophers and lay persons (ἰδιῶται), and Philodemus proffers or quotes alternative definitions of rhetoric at four places at least (coll. 24, 40, 157, and PHerc. 1606 fr. 1—how many more were there when the text was complete?). The one at col. 40 is actually Gorgias' from Plato's dialogue. At two points (coll. 117 and 140), Philodemus mentions or alludes to the "Sophists," his insulting way of referring to heterodox Epicureans. All this sets up the debate of the next book or two of the treatise, and must have formed a very interesting (and probably idiosyncratic) survey of opinions about rhetoric and whether it qualified as a technē when complete. A possible reconstruction: a number of opinions are being canvased, perhaps both those of philosophers and lay persons (= non-philosophers), with special focus on important theorists of the past, especially Plato, and on the heterodox Epicureans that Philodemus will focus on in the next book. Some questions, such as whether rhetoric is useful or not and what its rules or defining features are, were clearly mentioned, though perhaps not treated at length here. There is still a lot to sort out here, but it is a credit to Nicolardi that we are in a position to do so.

The book was well-produced, though I hope future volumes can include running headers to help readers find their places (especially in the commentary). Towards the end of the Greek text, the Greek and Italian became unsynchronized, making it difficult to look back and forth between the two.

A few thoughts about the Greek text:

col. 16: l.26: ὡϲ before ἔλεγεν, then ϲυμφέρει after l. 36.
col. 24.31: εἰκ]ῇ is not very convincing. I thought about τὴν ῥητορικήν γε,] ἧ διάθεϲιν [π]ονεῖϲ|[θαι δημ]ι̣ουργόν… "others do not accept that it is rhetoric, qua disposition, that labors as craftsman of its successes…
col. 24.33: ὅϲον ἐφ' ἧι for the unintelligible οϲονεφεϲι?
col. 28.28: I suspect a word has fallen out after διὰ τὴν, perhaps διαλεκτικήν (cf. Nicolardi ad loc.). The term should fit with beauty and music, mentioned later in the sentence. What about καταϲκευήν "ornamentation" (cf. 24.26)?
col. 40 τεχνῶν or πραγμάτων after the end of the column?
col. 122.12: a mention of the ἐξω[τερικ- works of Aristotle, especially if ὡϲ Περ<ι>πατ[ητικοί is read in l.8?
col. 135.4: Possibly ἀρρ[ωϲτίαϲ, especially with Longo Auricchio's ἐπί]|πληξιν preceeding. In ll. 27-8, I wonder about οἱ δὲ λο|[γίοι διε]τέθηϲαν (fort. brevius).
col. 164.11: Philodemus does not usually admit the hiatus in π̣[οιεῖ ὑμᾶϲ. In l. 18. perhaps δι[άθεϲιν?
col. 166.8: Perhaps τὸ πιθανὸν] αὐτὸ and then, if πανηγυρικοῖϲ is too long in l. 11, ϲοφιϲτικοῖϲ?


1.   This is the 19th volume in the La scuola di Epicuro series, founded by the late Marcello Gigante, which is the home for many editions of Herculaneum papyri. The last to appear was Giulianna Leone's edition of Epicurus' On Nature II in 2012.
2.   This leads, almost inevitably, to an annoying interruption in the numbering, but it has the benefits of clarity and honesty. (Some older editions are downright misleading about the size of lacunae within or between columns.) David Armstrong and I had to do the same thing in our forthcoming edition of Philodemus' On Anger, and many editors of Herculaneum papyri have ended up with fragments whose placement cannot be determined certainly or even approximately. ​

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019


Anna Cannavò​, Sabine Fourrier, Alexandre Rabot, Kition-Bamboula VII. Fouilles dans les nécropoles de Kition (2012-2014). Travaux de la maison de l'Orient, 75​. Lyon: MOM Éditions​, 2018. Pp. 408. ISBN 9782356680617. €56,00.

Reviewed by Adriano Orsingher, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen​ (

Version at BMCR home site

Open edition

This new volume in the series of the French Mission of Kition-Bamboula, the third during the past fifteen years, has recently been published, while the next in the series, on the shipsheds of the military harbor, is already in preparation.1 The volume under review is primarily devoted to the final report of a three-year excavation project in the necropolis of Pervolia, to the north-west of the ancient site. This fieldwork is part of a research program on the urban topography of Kition in the Iron Age, which aims at filling topographical, chronological and typological gaps in knowledge of the ancient city by collecting unpublished data from previous investigations (thanks to collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus), entering them into GIS (more than 450 tombs were listed in 2016), and undertaking targeted excavations using a multidisciplinary approach.

As indicated in the foreword (pp. 9-16), which contains some remarks on how tombs were registered and finds were catalogued, the book is divided into two unequal parts. The first voluminous section deals with the burial ground of Pervolia and includes both the tombs excavated by the Department of Antiquities before 2012 and those discovered by the French team during 2012-2014. The second part concerns the cemetery of Tourapi, where building works led to rescue excavations by the Department of Antiquities.

Part one is divided into four chapters. An introduction (pp. 17-22) by the main authors locates the cemetery of Pervolia and gives an overview of the history of discoveries and excavations there before 2012. They include a GIS-based map showing the position of all the burial grounds and three plans of the Pervolia tombs drawn over details of low-resolution images (i.e., a satellite view and two historical aerial photos). A map of Larnaca would have helped the reader in locating the cemeteries within the modern-day urban area, especially as modern street names are often mentioned. The few surviving funerary assemblages excavated before 2012 — others, which were stored in the castle of Larnaca, disappeared between 1964 and 1974 — are presented in chapter 1 (pp. 23-43): Anna Georgiadou describes two Cypro-Geometric II-III tombs (ca. 950-750 BC), while Anna Cannavò and Sabine Fourrier discuss three of the Cypro-Classical I period (ca. 480-400 BC).

Chapter 2 (pp. 45-284) — by the three principle authors in collaboration with Nathalia Denninger for the small finds, Nathalie Delhopital and Prisca Vareilles for the human remains, Armelle Gardeisen, Fabien Belhaoues and Lluis Garcia Petit for the faunal remains — represents the bulk of the book and contains the very detailed presentation of the results of the three annual excavation campaigns. For the first time, programmed investigations were undertaken without undue time pressure at the cemeteries of Kition, which have usually been explored during rescue excavations, with work often limited to the burial chambers and allowing only general anthropological observations. In these pages, 13 tombs (T. 378-381, 396- 403, 407, two of them unexcavated), two isolated niches, three circular pits and four depressions are presented, providing a remarkable wealth of data, including an exhaustive catalogue of the finds, discussion of the faunal and human remains, numerous color photos of architecture and finds, drawings, plans and sections, and even the 3D reconstruction of a tomb chamber (figs. 163-165). This section testifies to an exemplary method of excavation, documentation and publication, though one might wish for more drawings of the artefacts, especially of the small finds (which are often reproduced only in small photos), and for a section in drawings of all of the vessels (absent in figs. 49:KEF-1243; 92:KEF-1286, KEF-1287; and 180:KEF-1409).

In these rock-cut tombs — most of them dating to the 5th-4th centuries BC — a stepped dromos led through a stomion, originally closed by a gypsum slab and small stones, to a rectangular chamber. Remarkable cases are: 1) the deposition of a goose in tomb 379 (pp. 71-73, fig. 33);2 2) the horse sacrifice in tomb 407 (pp. 240, 244-245, figs. 206-209); and 3) the high number of individuals in tombs 379 (14 skeletons), 396 (24 skeletons) and 398 (13 skeletons). As Cypriot chamber tombs are sometimes characterized as family graves, it would be interesting to investigate through DNA analysis the possibility of family links among the people buried in each of these three tombs.

Chapter 3 (pp. 285-301) comprises studies devoted to the main categories of artefacts found in this area. The pottery and the terracottas are analysed by Fourrier, a leading expert in both these fields. She starts by emphasizing the Phoenicianising character of the ceramic repertoire of Kition from the 8th century BC onwards: new manufacturing techniques (e.g., burnishing of external surfaces, string-cut bases), decorative schemes (e.g., reserved areas), and shapes (e.g., trefoil-rim and mushroom-lip jugs, handleless bowls and plates) were adopted, pointing to changes in the gestures and positions of the users and, consequently, a transformation in the mode of consumption. Close dependence on external models accounts for the traditional difficulty of archaeologists in distinguishing between imports and local versions of Levantine pottery types. Fourrier's analysis of the ceramic repertoire is divided into two chronological horizons ("archaic" and "classical"), summarizing the main features of each. It is of note that the presence of three red slip Assyrian(izing?) bottles (figs. 130:KEF-1407, 137:K14-94, K14-500) was not recognised.3 Six fragments of clay figurines, found in the fill of dromoi, mirror the very rare deposition of these artefacts in the cemeteries of Kition, in contrast to practices known from the burial grounds of other Cypriot cities (e.g., Salamis, Amathus and Marion). The small finds (studied by Denninger and Fourrier) consist largely of jewelry (i.e., necklaces, beads, amulets, scarab, scaraboids, bracelets, earrings, rings), along with lamps, incense-burners, and stone and faience vessels.

Finally, Evangeline Markou, a prominent scholar of ancient numismatics, examines the only two coins from this area: a bronze hemiobol of Tyre minted under Ptolemy II (ca. 261-240 BC) and a bronze coin of Constantinople of Constantius Gallus (ca. 351-354 AD), attesting sporadic visits in later times.

Chapter 4 (pp. 303-310) presents the results of pollen studies by Rémi Corbineau and charcoal and wood specimen analysis by Maria Socratous. Palynological analysis identified plant remains contained in some ceramic containers, niches dug in the walls of dromoi and other structures. Charcoal and wooden fragments attest to the availability of olive trees during the period when the necropolis was in use and document the presence of a coffin/box made of pinewood. The authors admit, however, that the hypothesis of a deliberate use of plant material in relation to mortuary practices needs to be supported by further data.

A list of loci, Statigraphic Units (US) and concordances of inventory numbers (pp. 311-334) follows. Loci and finds are associated with QR Codes intended to allow access to the entire dataset available in the online archive of the French mission, but these links were not working at the time of the present review (17/08/2019).

The second part of the volume by Anna Satraki, Cannavò and Fourrier presents the results of excavations undertaken in 2012 by the Department of Antiquities in Tourapi, a burial ground to the west of the ancient settlement. Again, it starts with a short introduction (pp. 337-338), where the differences between this necropolis and that at Pervolia are pointed out. The Tourapi site remained in use for a longer period, from the Cypro-Geometric to the Roman age, with some tombs even reoccupied in later times. Additionally, there is evidence for the existence of gypsum sarcophagi and stone markers. Very similar types of grave goods, however, testify to the burial of people of the same social level.

Chapter 1 (pp. 339-342) presents the history of the toponym "Tourapi" (replaced nowadays by "Drosia") and of previous investigations in this cemetery, also explaining the circumstances that led to the rescue excavations of 10 tombs in 2012.

Chapter 2 (pp. 343-373) corresponds to the catalogue of the tombs. None of them could be completely excavated. With four exceptions (two Cypro-Archaic and two of the 2nd-3rd century AD), the tombs were used during the Cypro-Classical period.

In the conclusions to the volume as a whole (pp. 375-387), the three authors provide an overview of the cemeteries of Kition (primarily based on the data from the French excavations in the Pervolia necropolis). They have accomplished the goals announced at the beginning of the volume (p. 9): studying the mode of implantation of the tombs, their spatial distribution and boundaries, any change over time or difference in the social status of the deceased, the modes of circulation, access, and signaling (possible funerary markers), but also understanding the cycle of use of the tombs, from construction to final closure, and the mode of deposition of the deceased.

A bibliography (pp. 389-397) and a list of tables and illustrations (pp. 399-407) end the volume.

The recent publication of two other excavation reports on the cemeteries of Kition4 makes it easy to identify the positive aspects of this volume — at least for part 1, on Pervolia — in its multidisciplinary approach and the collection of data from the usually unexplored dromoi and other features. They result in the very high quality and fresh evidence provided in this volume. An interesting example is the niches in the upper part of the walls of dromoi. Finds there (if present) include miniature vessels and ornaments (metal bracelets, beads and amulets) that are often (but not exclusively) found in rooms associated with children. The authors tentatively suggest that these niches and their contents may have been intended to evoke those children that, due to their perinatal age, were possibly excluded from the family chamber.

In a time of escalating discussion among archaeologists concerning the necessity of fully releasing all recorded data,5 the attention of the French Mission of Kition to Open Data is worth mentioning. In order to understand the quality of this project, it is necessary to consider all its features: 1) the quick online publication of preliminary reports;6 2) a website providing access to the entire dataset collected during the excavation;7 3) on-line access to the GIS data;8 and, finally, 4) this book. The very short time between excavation and final publication deserves commendation, and the fact that this study is already free, digital, and searchable is icing on the cake. However, the problem with the QR Codes mentioned above underlines the need to consider the issue of the long-term digital preservation of data (and of the links to the webpages).

Overall, this volume is a model of publication and it will be especially important for the archaeology of Cyprus, as tombs are still the most numerous sources of our knowledge of the Iron Age on the island. On the Open Data side, it is to be hoped that this approach will be widely adopted and improved by other archaeological expeditions working on the island and abroad.


1.   Harvard Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications.
2.   This case has already been studied in detail: A. Gardeisen et al., "L'oiseau et les enfants: à propos d'une pratique funéraire inédite de Kition", Cahiers du Centre d'Études Chypriotes 44 (2014): 299-322.
3.   For parallels, see S. Anastasio, Atlas of the Assyrian pottery of the Iron Age (Subartu 24), (Turnhout 2010): 50, 52, type BT_13, pl. 31:8.
4.   A. Orsingher, "Kition, tombs and Phoenician narratives. Review article", Sardinia, Corsica et Baleares antiquae 15 (2017): 89-98.
5.   E.g., N. Marchetti et al., "NEARCHOS. Networked Archaeological Open Science: Advances in Archaeology Through Field Analytics and Scientific Community Sharing", Journal of Archaeological Research 26 (2018): 447-469.
6.   Kition-Pervolia - 2012, Kition-Pervolia - 2013, Kition-Pervolia - 2014
7.   French Mission of Kition - website
8.   French Mission of Kition - GIS

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Jan Driessen (ed.), An Archaeology of Forced Migration. Crisis-Induced Mobility and the Collapse of the 13th c. BCE Eastern Mediterranean. Aegis, 15. Louvain-La-Neuve: Presses Universitaires de Louvain, 2018. Pp. 314. ISBN 9782875587343. €36,50 (pb).

Reviewed by Jana Mokrišová, Birkbeck, University of London (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The contributions in this volume comprise the majority of papers presented at a workshop held at Université catholique de Louvain in March 2017 INCAL. The workshop and consequent edited volume are a part of the broader ARC (Action de recherche concertée)-funded research project A World in Crisis?. The title of this edited volume does its contributors a bit of a disservice; it undersells a collection of case studies that consider crisis-induced mobility, ranging from the Late Bronze Age through to the present day and venturing beyond the geographical confines of the eastern Mediterranean. The introduction by Jan Driessen is followed by eighteen contributions listed in roughly chronological order, including anthropological, historical, and archaeological approaches, followed by a brief concluding chapter by Eric Cline.

This volume seeks to extend recent turns in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and refugee studies. It draws inspiration from the pioneering work of Catherine Cameron1, who has convincingly argued that archaeologists need to consider coerced forms of movement, including captive taking, fissioning, and forced relocation (in her study, in non-state societies), as well as from recent affective and material approaches to documenting the modern refugee crises, including the work of Jason de León2 on the US-Mexico border and Yannis Hamilakis on Greece.3

In a concise and informative introduction, Jan Driessen sets out the twin aims of the volume (and the workshop from which it arose): to explore whether tangible material evidence exists for conflict-induced migration in the 13th century BCE and to examine whether the concept of conflict-induced migration is relevant to understanding Late Bronze Age societies. Reviewing the existing scholarship, Driessen argues that archaeologists have tended to focus on mass migrations, while forced movements (usually due to political and military conflicts) have been studied through a literary rather than material lens. In addition, he provides crucial definitions and frameworks for studying forced movements and argues that they should be viewed in the longue durée, as involuntary dislocations are experienced both in the past and present and by more people than is often realised.

The volume takes as its point of departure much more recent case studies. The first case-based contribution by Sandra Dudley focuses on modern displacement from Burma to Thailand and examines the interplay between physical possessions and their sensory and emotional connotations for refugees in modern conflicts. By focusing on Karenni women's skirt-cloths, she highlights how the garment's role, meaning, and significance changes in time and space during displacement. Dudley's chapter is particularly effective in showing how the materiality of these skirt-cloths has a key and active meaning in constituting the shifting the sense of belonging and identity before, during, and after forced displacement.

The following three contributions maintain this modern focus by zooming in on conflicts that have played out in Mediterranean Europe in the past century. Maja Gori and Martina Revello Lami discuss two displacements, the first from Libya to Italy in the early 21st century and the second between Italy and the Caput Adriae region in the first half of the 20th century, while Jean-Pierre Legendre presents the material and non-material evidence for the Retirada, the Spanish exodus to France in 1939. A short note on the current state of refugee camps in Greece by Dimitris Dalakoglou, accompanied by a photo essay by Yannis Ziindrilis, offers an activism-focused contribution. These modern case studies provide a helpful reference to archaeological approaches in tracing forced migrations, as they draw — either explicitly or implicitly — one's attention to the low visibility of refugee material culture and the importance of attending to actions and habits, such as food preparation, rituals and religious practices, and other aspects of placemaking, rather than simply attending to material possessions alone.

An excellent contribution by Elena Isayev builds on this set of opening chapters. Focusing on earlier periods of the 1st millennium BCE, Isayev considers a variety of modes of populating Italy by discussing legends and historical cases of colonists, exiles, refuge seekers, and mercenaries. She provides a critical overview of terminology and concepts used in modern migration studies, including discussion of non-effective citizenship and the transformations within the process of de-placement, involving both rupture and integration. Isayev's contribution advances two central claims. By contrast to modern studies of forced migration, she argues that in ancient accounts of legendary and historical displacements the focus is on the vulnerability rather than the marginality of the social, political, and economic position of refugees. Second, she highlights how ancient accounts emphasise endings, rather than beginnings, in narrating displacement, in another departure from what we might expect today.

The following two chapters concentrate on written evidence from antiquity. Johanne Garny and Jan Tavernier discuss what is possibly the earliest Hittite-Egyptian treaty, which is attested (mostly indirectly) in three late 14th-13th century BCE Hittite texts, and which discusses transfers of people. Robert Garland explores instances of involuntary displacement in Livy's Books 1-5, arguing that the writer took much notice of the plight of refugees in Rome's early history.

The remaining contributions focus on Late Bronze Age case studies from the Aegean, Levant, Egypt, and central Mediterranean. First comes the Aegean. Stéphanie Martin presents an engaging methodological study concerned with issues of the material visibility of refugees, forced flexibility in decision making, and the role of social networks. She hypothesises that Ayia Irini (Kea) and settlements on relatively nearby islands, such as Phylakopi (Melos) and Gournia (Crete), might have provided a new home for refugees fleeing the volcanic destruction at Akrotiri (Thera) in the late 17th century BCE. She argues that in times of abrupt crisis, such as the Thera eruption, it might be possible to distinguish between material correlates of different types of movements, including forced movement. The following two chapters discuss late 13th/early 12th century BCE signs of crises and recoveries through the study of settlements and landscapes. Krzysztof Nowicki's chapter brings defensive and refuge settlements on Crete into focus, while Leonidas Vokotopoulos and Sophia Michalopoulou contextualise the settlement of Megali Koryphi on Aegina within the wider Aegean background and provide a helpful overview of issues to consider when applying a landscape approach to identifying displacement.

The contributions focusing on the Levant primarily discuss topics related to the migrations of the Philistines and Sea Peoples. Responding to Driessen's call for approaches to forced migration rooted in a longue durée framework, Assaf Yasur-Landau speaks directly to the issues raised in the volume's introduction and advocates for a deep-time and comparative approach to identifying the experience of forced movement in order to 'put a human face' to processes in the deep past. He invokes some of the crucial strategies during displacement, such as flexibility and adaptation to a new environment, captured in stories of two exiles well known from the ancient literary record — the Egyptian Sinuhe and Idrimi from Alalakh. Anne Killebrew provides an informative overview of the complex reactions to upheavals in the southern Levant. She discusses the archaeological evidence of six major sites — Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Tel Beth Shean, Tel Miqne-Ekron, and Lachish — and emphasises high local variability of relocation and in dealing with the changing sociopolitical landscape. Stefania Mazzoni demonstrates the differing fates of the Highland and Lowland settlements in eastern Anatolia and the Levant, paying special attention to the effect on the countryside of political destabilisation of the Hittite and Aramean centres.

In the first of the contributions on Egypt, Shirly Ben-Dor Evian provides a thoughtful reading of inscriptions from the reigns of Ramesses III and VI, in which she focuses on identifying fugitives from Amurru in Egypt and other parts of the Near East. She suggests a critical contextual approach to reading these difficult texts by distinguishing formulaic units common to narrative genres from historically specific information. Aaron Burke questions the lack of attention to ancient refugees in the archaeological literature and provides a critical discussion of the nature of available evidence for the study of modern and past forms of displacement and risk management by the refugees. He suggests that forced relocation was more prevalent in the past than existing scholarship permits. His argument is that the withdrawal of Egyptian control from Canaan after 1125 BCE corresponds with the start of a phase of unrestricted movement within the Canaanite heartland, correlating with Iron I Highland settlements, which were populated by displaced groups from 'not so distant communities' (p. 236). The last contribution on the archaeology of Egypt and the Near East is provided by Rachel Mittelman, who argues that the presence of Libyan Meshwesh and Labu migrants in Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period was ultimately the result of environmental stress.

Two contributions focus on the central Mediterranean. Bartłomiej Lis proposes an interesting hypothesis that captive Mycenaean potters operated in southern Italy in the 13th century BCE. He demonstrates an intimate understanding of technological transfer, as well as the learning process in pottery production, when discussing the nature of the skill and learning needed to produce Italo-Mycenaean pottery of that period. Reinhard Jung provides a detailed overview of major movements in the Mediterranean and argues for the presence of mercenaries from central Italy in various parts of the eastern Mediterranean based on the material proxy of weapons, such as the Sicilian Certosa and Naue II Type A swords, and pottery. These movements, however, were not always forced; they might have been motivated by economic opportunities.

While the original workshop was divided into a number of sessions, the edited volume is presented without any subdivisions. Eric Cline's useful concluding remarks reflect on the workshop's aims and individual contributions in order of the workshop's sessions rather than their appearance in the volume. He, unfortunately, does not comment on Isayev's and Dalakoglou's essays, which were not presented at the workshop.

This volume significantly enhances our understanding of the more elusive past Mediterranean mobilities. While approaches in existing scholarship have tended to focus on elite movements and historically attested migrations, this volume highlights the possibilities for extricating other types of movement by incorporating archaeological, historical, literary, and anthropological approaches. A number of the contributors (especially Driessen, Dudley, Martin, Isayev, Yasur-Landau, Burke, and Lis) grapple with questions of viability and ethics in drawing comparisons between current 'refugee crises' and past phenomena, developing in the process more nuanced methodological and theoretical toolkits for undertaking this kind of comparative analysis. Moreover, a number of chapters consider the process of 'becoming' in displacement — the flux of being a refugee, who eventually settles, changes, or receives new realities — and the questions of agency. The title of the book, therefore, does not encapsulate well its varied content, which is a pity, as some of the most thought-provoking contributions do not focus on the Late Bronze Age and even go beyond the eastern Mediterranean. The chapters are of highly variable length, and those that are successful in 'peopling' the past tend to be on the briefer end of the spectrum and would thus have benefited from more room for discussion.

A brief note on the publisher's editing is necessary. The speed of production of the workshop proceedings is praiseworthy. The volume, however, would have benefited from an index in order to facilitate one's quest for connections. Editing is at times inconsistent (e.g., 'c.' versus 'ca'; 'c.' versus 'century'; occasional typos) and not all the authors have their current affiliation listed in the first footnote. Images vary in quality between contributions, and a general map of the regions and sites discussed in the volume would have been useful.

Overall, this volume is an important addition to the growing field of critical studies of the varied forms of human movement. Its strength lies in the heterogeneity (and not only in spatial and chronological terms) of its contributors' approaches to, and case studies of, crisis-induced mobility in state and non-state societies.

Authors and Titles

1. Jan Driessen, An Archaeology of Forced Migration — Introduction, 19
2. Sandra H. Dudley, The Corporeality and Materiality of Involuntary Exile, 25
3. Maja Gori and Martina Revello Lami, From Lampedusa to Trieste. An Archaeological Approach to Contemporary Forced Migrations and Identity Patterns, 31
4. Jean-Pierre Legendre, Vestiges of the Spanish Republican Exodus to France. An Archaeological Study of the Retirada, 55
5. Dimitris Dalakoglou (Photos: Yannis Ziindrilis), Camps and Ruins. Materialities and Landscapes of the 2015 Refugee Crisis, 75
6. Elena Isayev, Tracing Material Endings of Displacement, 83
7. Johanne Garny and Jan Tavernier, The Kurustama Treaty. An Example of Early Forced Migration?, 95
8. Robert Garland, Involuntary Displacement in Livy Books 1-5, 101
9. Stéphanie Martin, Forced Migration after Natural Disasters. The Late Bronze Age Eruption of Thera, 107
10. Krzysztof Nowicki, The Late 13th c. BCE Crisis in the East Mediterranean. Why the case of Crete matters?, 117
11. Leonidas Vokotopoulos and Sophia Michalopoulou, Megali Koryphi on Aegina and the Aegean Citadels of the 13th/12th c. BCE, 149
12. Assaf Yasur-Landau, Towards an Archaeology of Forced Movement of the Deep Past, 177
13. Ann E. Killebrew, The Levant in Crisis. The Materiality of Migrants, Refugees and Colonizers at the End of the Bronze Age, 187
14. Stefania Mazzoni, In Search of a Land. The Age of Migrations, Exoduses and Diaspora across the Eastern Mediterranean (13th-11th c. BCE), 203
15. Shirly Ben-Dor Evian, Egyptian Historiography on the Mobility of (Sea) People at the End of the Late Bronze Age, 219
16. Aaron A. Burke, The Decline of Egyptian Empire, Refugees, and Social Change in the Southern Levant, ca. 1200-1000 BCE, 229
17. Rachel Mittelman, Determining Libyan Influence in Egypt during and after the Late Bronze Age Collapse, 251
18. Bartłomiej Lis, Potters in Captivity? An Alternative Explanation for the Italo-Mycenaean Pottery of the 13th century BCE, 261
19. Reinhard Jung, Push and Pull Factors of the Sea Peoples between Italy and the Levant, 273
20. Eric H. Cline, Inching Ever Closer. Towards a Better Understanding of the Archaeology of Forced Migration, 307


1.   Cameron, C. 2013. "How People Moved among Ancient Societies: Broadening the View." American Anthropologist 115(2): 218–231.
2.   De León, J. 2013. "Undocumented Migration, Use Wear, and the Materiality of Habitual Suffering in the Sonoran Desert." Journal of Material Culture 18(4): 321–345.
3.   Hamilakis, Y. 2017. "Archaeologies of Forced and Undocumented Migration." Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 3(2): 121–139.

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Margalit Finkelberg, The Gatekeeper: Narrative Voice in Plato's Dialogues. Brill's Plato studies series, volume 2. Leiden: Brill, 2018. Pp. viii, 190. ISBN 9789004390010. €121,00.

Reviewed by Carol Atack, Newnham College, University of Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site


The relationship between Plato's philosophical arguments and the dialogues in which they are contained has attracted scholars from a variety of disciplinary starting points. While some philosophers in the analytical tradition still attempt to extract Plato's arguments entirely from the fictive settings in which he delivered them, much of the richest recent scholarship on Plato has shown how the literary and argumentative content of the dialogues interacts.1 Margalit Finkelberg's book offers a useful contribution to the literary analysis of Platonic dialogue, in applying the technical methods of narratology to the construction of individual dialogues. This exercise provides a range of insights into Plato's authorial practice, and delivers interesting conclusions about the corpus as a whole. It demonstrates that Plato developed his dialogue form to deliver narratives tightly controlled by either the narrator (when that is Socrates) or the focal character of the dialogue (when the narrator is not Socrates). Plato scholars will find it a useful resource, confirming some suspicions about Plato's art and demanding a more careful reading of the dialogues as works of fiction.

Finkelberg argues that Plato's narrative constructions anticipate developments of modern fiction; she compares his framing of Socrates' discussions with the framing of novels. Her Plato is as much a literary innovator (and critic) as a philosopher, although his innovation is entirely in the service of his philosophy. Her introduction contains a careful consideration of the relevance of narratology and its toolset to reading ancient texts, pointing out some dissimilarities and adjustments keyed to Gérard Genette's original terminology and its continuing development.2 Readers less familiar with the language of narratology will find this a useful orientation, with definitions of important terms. This will come in useful in some passages of the later analysis, which are occasionally dense with technical jargon.

As a tool of literary analysis, narratology is perhaps falling out of fashion after its heyday in the 1990s. Its original application was to the modern novel, but novelists themselves as well as Genette made use of Plato's contrast of diegesis and mimesis in the Republic, and the Theaetetus provides an example of metadiagetic economy, the omission of the speaker identifications which mark reported speech. Like other recent scholars, Finkelberg finds parallels but not a direct match between Plato's account of how texts imitate speech and Genette's model of narration.3 During its first adoption by classical scholars narratology was applied productively to epic and historiographical texts, where the significance of narrative style is perhaps easier to grasp.4 But given Plato's allusive engagement with both Homeric epic and Thucydidean historiography, and reliance on their contributions to the common framework of Athenian culture, it is not such a great leap once one makes the move of treating arguments as narrative.

Treating philosophical dialogues as if they were emplotted in the same way as an epic or historical text might seem counterintuitive. But Finkelberg argues that the dialogues do have plots—the unfolding of arguments—and narrative structures as different speakers come to the fore, arguments are tested and abandoned, and most significantly, sections of dialogue are enclosed within frames, so that whole passages of argument are focalised through specific characters. It is in the analysis of these structures, Plato's deployment of complex and multi-level containers for his characters' speech, that her approach provides the most welcome clarity. Other scholars of Plato have pursued similar lines of enquiry into his authorial choices—Malcolm Schofield's survey of Plato's use of narrated dialogue, for example, makes some similar observations—but Finkelberg has the space to work through more examples.5 That is not to say that the possibilities of narratological analysis are exhausted by this book; although she surveys all the dialogues, her focus is on major structural elements, leaving scope for more detailed readings of some of the texts.

The book is divided into two sections, the first assessing dialogues according to their 'mode of presentation', narrated, direct or mixed, and the second containing three interpretive arguments based on that analysis. Finkelberg begins by examining the mismatch between this set of categories and the discussion of mimesis and diegesis in Republic 3; she suggests that the Republic itself would only pass the test given there if it were authored by Socrates himself rather than by Plato. She closes with a look at Republic 10 and its multi-level account of representation. Her analysis offers many reminders that the dialogues are a fictive world controlled by Plato, not documentary evidence of Socrates and his philosophical practice. In this world narrators act as gatekeepers, controlling readers' access to the philosophical conversations of Plato's characters.

The Republic is the major example of the first type of dialogue, the narrated dialogue, in which a first-person narrator relates first a social encounter and then a philosophical conversation (Chapter 2). These dialogues offer clarity on one of Plato's signature structural devices, the frame narrative/dialogue. Finkelberg is particularly interested in the shifts Plato sets up to separate these from the subsequent conversation; these may involve changes of setting (examples include the Lysis and Republic), the introduction of new characters (Lysis, Republic, Charmides), and temporal shifts. Finkelberg demonstrates how the 'zooming in' of these narrative shifts enables Plato to focus the reader's attention on specific arguments. In the Republic, she concurs with Ruby Blondell that the shift between books 1 and 2 is strongly marked, but notes that Socrates still emerges as a narrator at key points, such as opening of book 5, which introduces the 'three waves' of argument which lead into the epistemological explorations of the central books.

Such features are less explicit in the second type, the direct dialogues, which lack explicit narration, but Finkelberg shows that narrator figures in the direct dialogues perform similar roles to that of the narrator of narrated dialogue. Her third chapter shows how techniques such as 'zooming in' work in these dialogues. Even the short, presumed 'early' dialogues (such as the Euthyphro) exhibit 'zooming in' through the identification of the interlocutor and the question at hand. But Finkelberg reveals the presence of an 'implicit narrator-observer' in these dialogues, through whom the dialogue is focalised. While Socrates is the focus of attention (and so, as Finkelberg argues, most dialogues are focalised 'on him'), most direct dialogues are focalised through an implicit narrator character, who delivers much of the scene-setting and stage directions of the text, helping the reader follow the action and setting the scene for important stretches of argument. This character is not always Socrates himself. In the Laches, for example, it is Lysimachus who is present throughout, introducing the setting although retreating into the background during the main conversation.

In the much longer Gorgias, the initial conversation between Callicles, Socrates and Chaerephon takes place in the street, with the main dialogue beginning when they encounter Gorgias and Polus at Callicles' house. Here, Finkelberg argues that Chaerephon is the implicit narrator—the dialogue as a whole is the 'remedy (pharmakon) for the presentation he and Socrates have missed' (p. 67). She cites Chaerephon's intervention in the discussion, where he points out the response of the larger crowd watching the discussion (Gorgias 458c3-7). But there is room for further assessment of the impact of these interventions—the behaviour of the crowd is marked as thorubos, and there is a political resonance to the function of the implicit narrator which Finkelberg does not follow through. Nonetheless, this suggests that there is fruitful space for the technical work of narratology to engage with further political analysis of the dialogues, in pursuing the fraught question of Plato's relationship to Athenian democracy.

The third type of dialogue, in which direct and narrated sections are mixed, shows Plato weaving together the techniques found in the first two types. These dialogues contain the most explicit instances of metalepsis, as characters from the frame dialogue interrupt the narrator of the central section. Again, these mark important points in the argument of a dialogue, the problematic identification of the master art in the Euthydemus and the argument for immortality of the soul in the Phaedo. Finkelberg shows that these are not isolated instances, but part of a broader pattern of 'metaleptic contamination' between levels of the dialogue, marked throughout the Euthydemus by Socrates' apostrophes to Crito. Other scholars, notably James Collins, have used narratology's technical terminology to unpick what Plato is doing in this complex dialogue.6 Finkelberg's interest lies more in identifying the use of narrative devices than in determining the consequences of their use for Plato's argument.

However, the second part of the book sets the model to argumentative use in identifying features of Plato's dialogic world. Finkelberg uses her account of Plato's changing narrative style to suggest a developmental account of the corpus. This enterprise offers an intriguing balance to schemas, such as that of Gregory Vlastos, concerned with the development of specific ideas communicated in the dialogues.7 While Plato's work is characterised by 'experiments with narrative voice', these have been shown to fall into patterns of narrative. But this can be taken further; earlier dialogues have a single 'focus of perception', while later dialogues privilege the perspective of Socrates. Plato's experiments with different ways of framing dialogues, and of breaking those frames, offers another way through the dialogues—one that offers an intriguing ordering of composition of key dialogues. The lack of characteristic narrative features in some dialogues may also inform debates on authenticity (Alcibiades I, for example, lacks 'zooming-in').

Another feature that emerges in this second half of the book is 'clustering', the tendency for metanarrative features of the dialogues to be located around key structural moments in the dialogues. A further examination of the Gorgias illustrates this well—from Chaerephon's appeal to the audience to the repeated discussions of different styles of speaking, stretches of argument are regularly punctuated by reminders of the fictive world and its construction.

Finkelberg leaves readers in no doubt of Plato's narrative control and the limited access he provides readers to his fictional world. But she leaves readers to draw their own conclusions about the philosophical and political consequences of that narrative control. For this reader, the political consequences are significant—Plato has been linked with controlled and closed societies before, after all—as are the pedagogical consequences, raising questions about the possibility of Socratic dialogue as a model for educational practice.8


1.   For example Blondell, R. (2002) The Play of Character in Plato's Dialogues (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press); McCabe, M.M. (2000) Plato and his Predecessors: the dramatisation of reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
2.   Genette, G. (1980) Narrative Discourse, trans. J. E. Lewin (Oxford: Basil Blackwell), 162-6, 236-7.
3.   Liveley, G. (2019) Narratology (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
4.   Jong, I. J. F. De (2004) [1987], Narrators and Focalizers: the presentation of the story in the Iliad (2nd edn.; Bristol: Bristol Classical Press); Rood, T.C.B. (1998), Thucydides: narrative and explanation (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
5.   Schofield, M. (2013), 'When And Why Did Plato Write Narrated Dialogues?', in I. N. Theodoracopoulos, E. Moutsopoulos, and M. Protopapas-Marneli (eds.), Plato, Poet and Philosopher: in memory of Ioannis N. Theodoracopoulos: proceedings of the 3rd international conference of philosophy, Magoula-Sparta, 26-29 May 2011 (Athens: Academy of Athens Research Centre on Greek Philosophy), 87-96.
6.   Collins, J.H. (2015) Exhortations to Philosophy: the protreptics of Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle (New York: Oxford University Press).
7.   Vlastos, G. (1991) Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).
8.   Popper, K.R. (1966) [1945], The Open Society and Its Enemies: Volume One: The Spell of Plato (5th edition; London: Routledge).

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