Thursday, January 23, 2020


Michael P. Foley, Against the Academics: St. Augustine's Cassiciacum Dialogues, Volume 1. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2019. Pp. xli, 307. ISBN 9780300238556. $18.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Erik Kenyon, Rollins College (

Version at BMCR home site


Do we become happy by finding the truth (Socrates in Plato's Republic) or in the dogged pursuit of it (Socrates in Apology)? Fragments of Cicero's Hortensius suggest both options. But are we really in a position to judge? If not, how can we even find guidance when we aren't sure what end goal we're working toward? In the months between his conversion and baptism, Augustine gathered a group of family and friends at a villa outside Milan to wrestle with such questions. The "Cassiciacum Dialogues," present their conversations in literary form and mark the beginning of Augustine's extant corpus.

Foley's project of producing translations and commentaries on the complete set—Contra Academicos, De beata uita, De ordine, Soliloquia, De immortalitate animae—is the most recent stage of a new wave of scholarship on these works. 20th-century scholars, starting with Alfaric in 1918, mostly mined the dialogues for evidence for or against Confessions' more famous account of Augustine's conversion. In the last 15 years, scholars have attempted to understand the dialogues in their own right.1 But use of these works in undergraduate classrooms has been problematic, given that most lacked good English translations, commentaries or both. Foley has provided a vital and long-needed service, giving us lively, engaging and accurate translations, and commentaries that are well-grounded without being overwhelming.

Against the Academics is unique among the dialogues in that Peter King has already produced a perfectly fine translation and Blake Dutton has already written a perfectly fine philosophical commentary.2 Foley's edition goes beyond both, however, by bringing together philosophical and literary questions and by treating C. Acad. as an integral part of a larger, unified set of dialogues.3

To judge by the two volumes now in print, each part of his set includes a common preface, translation key, general introduction to the Cassiciacum dialogues, possible chronology of the Cassiciacum retreat, glossary of names and bibliography. Through this scholarly apparatus, Foley sets out to situate Augustine against his own intellectual horizons. This brings to fruition the reading Foley sets out in "Cicero, Augustine, and the Philosophical Roots of the Cassiciacum Dialogues,"4 which makes sense of the Cassiciacum set in terms of "antiphonal referents" to the dialogues of Cicero. The result is a rich and thoughtful discussion of Augustine's debt to Cicero, Plotinus and even Plato.

Foley's translation "aspires to be as literal as is reasonable" (ix) and does not try to "save readers from the disorientation that would ensue from an unmediated encounter with an alien worldview" (xi). Augustine's Latin is occasionally turgid for specific ends. We find this particularly in the dedications to C. Acad. 1 and 2. In the work's opening sentence, Augustine addresses his North-African patron, "O Romanianus, if only Virtue could take a man who is well suited to her and snatch him away from an opposing Fortune, in the same way that she keeps Fortune from snatching anyone away from her!" (1.1). This is hardly the stuff of skim-reading. But that's the point. The text trips readers up and invites them to rethink assumptions as they struggle to make sense of what lies on the page.

The main debate of book 1 presents Romanianus' teenaged son, Licentius, arguing that we may obtain happiness in perfectly seeking truth, and his companion, Trygetius, arguing that happiness is attained only in finding the truth. (Both have been reading Hortensius.) Augustine concludes the book, explaining that his intention was to exercise (exercere) the boys (1.25). Decades of scholars have taken this as an invitation to flip to book 2 for the work's 'real arguments'. Foley pushes back. On his reading, the entire dialogue is one big spiritual exercise. Our task as readers is to understand it in that light (138). This is a breath of fresh air.5 Foley's commentary sets out the reasoning behind the debate's numerous "mental curveballs" (xxxiii), such as the (chiastic) irony of Licentius who invokes Cicero as an authority to defend skepticism and Trygetius who, in attacking skepticism, throws off authority in ways that Cicero would support (125). Foley sets this against the "Roman adage facta non verba." He explains, "One cannot always divorce the arguments of one's speech from the arguments of one's deeds" (121). With this, we find a first glimpse at the work's driving concern for "self-referential coherence" (11-12).

Midway through this opening debate, Licentius reflects on their discussion as a time of "great tranquility of mind," even though they "found nothing but merely searched for the truth" (1.11). Foley is sympathetic to this self-reflective line of argument and cites Thales and Einstein as intellectuals who would become completely engrossed in their work (129-132). But his final view is that this is "dubious" (137) support for the idea that we can be happy in merely seeking truth, and he later connects it to a youthful "libido spectandi" and "curiositas" at watching people debate (158 citing Confessions). I'll admit, as Foley points out, there might be some "thumotic" jousting between the boys (123-129). But why not also accept authentic delight in the process of inquiry? C. Acad. 1 builds on the idea, common to most ancient schools, that happiness, virtue and truth are a package deal. The question is how the pieces fit together. Foley assumes there is one right answer. I see at least two. When Augustine, the character, reveals his grand design at the end, he contrasts "true" virtues with "truth-like" or "political" ones (3.37). Meanwhile, in addressing Romanianus, Augustine claims to be "purging" himself "of vain and pernicious opinions" (2.9). To my ear, C. Acad. explores grades of virtue—civic, kathartic and real/contemplative—as found in Plotinus, Enneads 1.2. This scheme echoes the human and divine wisdom of Plato's Apology (cf. 127-128 for echoes of this in Aristotle, EN). While a life of searching and purifying may not be the best one possible, it has a kind of integrity which Foley comes close to embracing but never quite does.6

The main argument of book 2 is that Academic skeptics cannot both follow the "truth-like" and claim not to know the "true" (2.16). This is another problem of self-referential coherence, for which Foley's previous discussion of facta non verba has already paved the way. Otherwise, Foley treats the debates of books 2 and 3 as a single piece, tracing Trygetius' and Licentius' attempts to pass their roles to Augustine and his lawyer friend, Alypius, and Alypius' growing suspicion that Augustine is up to more than he's letting on (164). Alypius is right to be suspicious. In the speech which concludes the work (3.15-36), Augustine lays out a conspiracy theory, suggesting that the Academics' skepticism was a facade erected to protect their views on intelligible reality from the Stoics' rampant materialism. Along the way, we get some of the most powerful anti-skeptical arguments prior to Decartes. Philosophers have analyzed these arguments at length.7 What Foley's discussion contributes is to untangle the lawyerly wrangling that leads up to this speech and to show how it sets the stage for a conspiracy theory that seems to come from "out of the blue" (202).

Writing nearly eight centuries after the death of Socrates, Augustine confronts several layers of philosophical history. The central action of book 3's speech involves sorting through these layers with an eye to the present implications for Augustine, his companions and eventual readers. The general move is to take up concepts developed by the Stoics, show how Academic skeptics used them to refute the Stoics' empiricism in ways that set the stage for Platonic intellectualism and then suggest that the skeptics were Platonists all along. The task for an interpreter is to present the technical terms of the Stoic / Academic debate accurately while also running with Augustine's fantasy of crypto-Platonist Academic skeptics.

Foley's reading of the work's overall argument is largely in line with my own,8 and I applaud him for acknowledging Augustine's positive debt to skepticism (172-173, 188-189, 200-201). But there are two fronts on which his translation and commentary strike me as potentially misleading. The first is the skeptical term 'probabile.' The term is key to Cicero's dialogues, which argue for and against various schools' views and end as characters decide which view now strikes them as probabile. The trouble is that the closest English term, 'probable,' which Foley uses, can mean either 'plausible' / 'worthy of approval,' or 'statistically likely' (xxi). But there is never a time when Cicero or Augustine uses the term to invoke statistical likelihood. While Foley corrects potential misunderstandings in his notes, a reader working from the translation alone could get the argument very wrong. Why not just use 'plausible' throughout?

My second worry is how Foley understands 'scientia' / 'knowledge' in reconstructing the dialogue's overarching argument. In the translation key, Foley claims scientia "usually refers to … the grasp of eternal realities" (xxi). It's unclear whether he means this to be a formal definition. At points in his commentary, though, he seems to use it that way. At 2.27 Licentius throws off the yoke of skepticism and claims to "know" that the tree they're sitting around "cannot turn silver right now." Foley rejects this as a knowledge claim, "[a] Since scientia is of eternal and immutable realities not intrinsically shaped by space, time or matter, and [b] since when it comes to empirical phenomena, virtually nothing can be ruled out a priori" (167). There are two different lines of argument run together here. Within the dialogues, characters have agreed to Zeno's Stoic account, according to which scientia must be objectively certain. But the Stoics were also empiricists, and the Academic skeptics delighted in arguing that, even if we do grasp the world as it is, there is always the possibility that we are dreaming, insane, etc. This is enough to render all such graspings uncertain and thus, by the Stoics' own standards, unknown. We get a condensed form of this in Foley's argument (b). Argument (a), on the other hand, simply assumes that knowledge must be non-empirical. This will hardly convince a Stoic. More importantly, it will hardly convince anyone today who is not already committed to some hefty Platonizing assumptions.

This distinction matters when we get to the end of the work. Here, Augustine lays out a litany of claims that pass Zeno's certainty criterion. They consist in exhaustive disjunctions, mathematical truths and first-person statements of one's phenomenal state (3.21-29). But Augustine does not accept these as knowledge because they fit well with Platonic intellectualism (Foley's Argument (a)). The point is that the objective certainty of these claims is obvious, yet it cannot be readily explained in empirical terms (Foley's Argument (b)). This is the discovery that undergirds Augustine's endorsement of Platonic intellectualism (3.37), not the other way around. On my reading, Foley's argument (b) is doing the real work here, while argument (a) isn't an argument at all. It's the conclusion! To be fair, I suspect Foley offers (a) speaking as an intellectual historian ("since Augustine is a Platonist, he rejects empiricism") and (b) speaking as a philosopher ("since empiricism can't explain our rational activity, Augustine rejects it"). My worry is that these perspectives aren't clearly distinguished in the commentary, which leaves open the possibility for empirically-minded readers to latch onto (a) as an argument from Platonist dogma and miss the power of (b).9

But that is simply to say: there is much in this dialogue and Foley's presentation of it for contemporary readers to take seriously. If anything, I worry that Foley might be under-selling his case! It is my hope that this new edition and the set to which it belongs will spark a new wave of teaching and scholarship of these works.


1.   Books written in English include Catherine Conybeare, Irrational Augustine (Oxford, 2006); Simon Goldhill (ed.), The End of Dialogue in Antiquity (Oxford, 2008); Brian Stock, Augustine's Inner Dialogue: The Philosophical Soliloquy in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010); Ryan Topping, Happiness and Wisdom: Augustine's Early Theology of Education (Catholic University of America, 2012).
2.   Peter King, Augustine: Against Academicians and the Teacher (Hackett, 1995). Blake Dutton, Augustine and Academic Skepticism: A Philosophical Study. (Cornell, 2016).
3.   In this, Foley builds on my own Augustine and the Dialogue (Cambridge, 2018).
4.   Revue des Études Augustiniennes 45 (1999): 51-77.
5.   In his general introduction, Foley draws from Plato, Cicero & Lonergan to frame this approach to the Cassiciacum set (xxiii-xli).
6.   My critique here is aimed mostly at Foley's commentary. The one spot where this affects the translations is 1.9 where Licentius talks of one who seeks the truth "perfecte". Foley translates this as "completely" rather than "perfectly" which obscures the connection to the next sentence, "For we are seeking a perfect man, but a man nonetheless."
7.   See Dutton's excellent analysis and review of the scholarship. German readers should also see the extensive publications of Therese Fuhrer and Karin Schlapbach, which are not cited in Foley' bibliography.
8.   See chapters 1 and 2 of my Augustine and the Dialogue.
9.   At 134-136, 140, 183 and especially 203, we find versions of (a) but not (b). At 179, Foley contrasts modern empirical science with true knowledge which must be "fully complete, eternal and immutable," but he does not mention whether it is conditioned by space, time or matter. At 243 n. 72 he tempers (a), quoting Sol. for the claim that "knowledge involves (but is not identical to) comprehension through the understanding or intellect" (cf. 194). He lays out (b) more fully at 188-189 and 200-201.

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David Paniagua (ed.), Polemii Silvii Latercvlvs. Fonti per la storia dell'Italia medievale. Antiquitates, 51. Roma: Sede dell'Istituto Palazzo Borromini, 2018. Pp. vi, 315. ISBN 9788898079841. €35,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Raphael Brendel, München (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is given below.]

Das Werk des Polemius Silvius, von dem hier eine neue Edition vorliegt, dürfte nur wenigen Forschern näher bekannt sein. Daher zunächst einige allgemeine Worte (weitgehend nach S. 1-28): Polemius Silvius ist nur durch sein Werk sicher bekannt, zudem wird ein Silvius in der Vita des Hilarius von Arles (verfasst von Honoratus von Marseille) und der gallischen Chronik von 452 erwähnt, der üblicherweise mit Polemius Silvius identifiziert wird. Von seinen Werken ist nur eines erhalten, das allerdings durch die Editionssituation als zwei erscheint: Im CIL und den Inscriptiones Italiae sind, obwohl es sich nicht um eine Inschrift handelt, die Fasti benannten Abschnitte publiziert, die einen Kalender mit Notizen zu einzelnen Tagen bilden (hier S. 234-237, S. 244-245, S. 253-254, S. 261-262, S. 264-265, S. 267-268, S. 273-275, S. 277-278, S. 282-283, S. 285-286, S. 290-291, S. 293-294). Als Laterculus gelten die Partien, die in Mommsens Chronica minora zu finden sind. Dies sind neben Vorwort und Widmung (S. 231-233) vermischte thematische Sektionen, die zwischen den Abschnitten zu den einzelnen Monaten angeordnet sind. Erhalten sind die mit historische Notizen versehene Liste der Kaiser und Usurpatoren (S. 238-243), die Liste der Provinzen (S. 246-252), die Liste der Tiernamen (S. 255-260), die Beschreibung Roms (S. 269-272), der allgemeine Geschichtsabriss (S. 279-281), der Tierstimmenkatalog (S. 284) und die Liste der Maße und Gewichte (S. 287-289). Nur aus Inhaltsverzeichnissen bekannt sind die Abschnitte zu den Mondphasen (S. 263), zum Osterfest (S. 266), zu den poeticae fabulae (S. 276), zu den Versfüßen (S. 292) und zu den philosophischen Gruppen (S. 295). Gewidmet ist das Anfang 449 verfasste Werk Eucherius von Lyon und im Kontext des Klosters von Lérin zu verorten. Erhalten sind eine vollständige Handschrift, eine Abschrift davon und über hundert Handschriften, die einzelne Abschnitte (manchmal stark modifiziert: S. 51, Anm. 20) überliefern, wobei die Liste der Provinzen sich der größten Beliebheit erfreut. Für den Historiker ist das Werk vor allem als Zeugnis für die Literatur des fünften Jahrhunderts, die Bedeutung von Usurpatoren im antiken Geschichtsdenken und die Provinzeinteilung von Interesse, aber es überliefert auch wertvolle Einzelheiten, da etwa die Notiz zum 27. Februar (S. 245) neben dem Kalender des Philocalus den einzigen Beleg für den Geburtstag Konstantins darstellt und für einige Usurpatoren aus der Zeit der späten Severer ist die Kaiserliste (S. 240) relevant. Irrtürmer und fragwürdige Angaben sind auch feststellbar, da etwa Avidius Cassius als Usurpator unter Antoninus Pius (S. 239) statt richtig unter Marcus Aurelius notiert ist und die beiden ersten Gordiani als Usurpatoren unter Maximinus Thrax, Balbinus und Pupienus hingegen als Kaiser gezählt werden (S. 240).

Nun zu der Edition, die derart unterteilt ist: Vorwort (S. V-VI), Abkürzungsverzeichnis (S. VII), Einleitung zu Autor und Werk (S. 1-28), die fast zwei Drittel umfassende Einleitung zur Überlieferung (S. 29-196), die aus der Liste der Handschriften (S. 29-54), der Diskussion der herangezogenen Handschriften (S. 54-187) und der Behandlung der älteren Editionen (S. 187-196) besteht, Bemerkungen zur Orthographie (S. 197-199), Bibliographie (S. 201-222), Edition (S. 223-295) und Register (S. 299-302 antike Namen und Werke, S. 303-311 Handschriften).

Die umfangreiche Überlieferung und die speziellen Themen des Laterculus machen nur Forschern, die einen ähnlichen Einblick in die Überlieferungszeugen und die einzelnen Spezialgebiete haben, ein zuverlässiges Gesamturteil möglich, so dass die meisten Stellungnahmen notwendigerweise lückenhaft bleiben müssen. Angesichts der Schwerpunkte des Rezensenten sind die nachfolgenden Ausführungen vor allem den historiographischen Partien gewidmet.

Die Literatur ist nahezu vollständig erfasst; es fehlt lediglich der RE-Artikel (im RAC sucht man Polemius übrigens vergeblich) von Konrat Ziegler, Polemius (9), in: RE 21,1 (1951), Sp. 1260-1263. Nur scheinbar übergangen wurden jeweils ein Aufsatz von Gutschmids und Paniguas, die im Literaturverzeichnis fehlen, aber S. 228 notiert sind; allerdings wurde der erstgenannte Beitrag nochmals mit Ergänzungen in Alfred von Gutschmid, Kleine Schriften V, Leipzig 1894, S. 277-279 publiziert. Das gilt auch für die zitierten Beiträge von Timothy D. Barnes (Early Christianity and the Roman empire, London 1984, Nr. IV), Richard W. Burgess (Chronicles, consuls, and coins, Farnham 2011, Nr. V-VI), André Chastagnol (Aspects de l'antiquité tardive, Rom 1994, S. 179-198) und Giuseppe Zecchini (Ricerche di storiografia latina tardoantica, Rom 2011, S. 41-50). Zu spät, um berücksichtigt zu werden, erschien die von Bruno Bleckmann u.a. bearbeitete Düsseldorfer Edition (2017) der Kaiserliste und des Geschichtsabrisses, zu der bereits Gymnasium 125 (2018), S. 391-392 einige Worte geäußert wurden. Zur gallischen Chronik von 452 (S. 5 mit Anm. 12) ist jetzt die neue Edition von Jan-Markus Kötter und Carlo Scardino (2017) zu nennen, in der die relevante Passage, dort 121 (S. 70-71), im Kommentar S. 157-158 diskutiert wird und für den Chronographen von 354 (S. 19-22) ist nun auf die ausführliche Kritik der neuesten Edition durch Richard W. Burgess, in: Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum 21 (2017), S. 383-415 (Erwiderung der Herausgeber S. 416-418) zu verweisen.

Ein Vergleich von Paniaguas Text (P) der Kaiserliste (S. 238-243) und des Geschichtsabrisses (S. 279-281) mit dem von Mommsens Chronica minora (M, dort S. 520-523 und S. 547) und Bleckmann (B, dort S. 188-201) ergab einige Abweichungen. Da die Paragrapheneinteilung bei P die ungenaueste ist, gebe ich für die Kaiserliste die von M (die bei B übernommen ist) und dann die abweichende (da auf das Gesamtwerk bezogene) von P. Den Geschichtsabriss zitiere ich nach der Parapheneinteilung von B, dann nach der Zeilenangabe von M (P verzichtet im Text leider auf jegliche Zeilenangaben) und zuletzt nach der Paragrapheneinteilung von P.

Abweichende Namensformen (Kaiserliste): 5 (15) Chaerea B, M, Caerea P; 7 (15) Syria B, M, Siria P; 8 (15) Aenobarbi M, P, Ahenobarbi B; 8 (15) Agrippinae B, M, Agripinae P; 12 (16) Iudaeae B, M, Iudeae P; 13 (16) Stephano B, M, Stefano P; 17 (17) Aelius B, M, Helius P; 29 (18) Diadumeno B, M, Diadumino P; 31 (18) Sallustius B, M, Salustius P; 37 (18) Philippus…Philippo B, M, Filippus…Filippo P; 38 (18) Iotabianus B, M, Iotapianus P; 45 (19) Odaenathus B, M, Odinathus P; 47 (20) Quintillus M, P, Quintilius B; 49 (20) Vabalathus B, M, Babalatus P; 63 (21) Calocaerus B, M, Calocerus P; 77 (23) Arcadius B, M, Archadius P; 82 (24) Placidus B, M, Placidius P. Als größere Änderungen hebe ich hervor: 39 (19) Herennio B, M, Etrusco P; 41 (19) Hostilianus M, Gallus Hostilianus B, P und insbesondere 64 (22) Constantii M, Constantini B, P. Die Abweichung 83 (24) Iohannes B, M, Iohannis P wird ein Druckfehler sein.

Sonstige Abweichungen (Kaiserliste): 2 (14) reginae M, reginae Aegypti B, P; 2 (14) VI annis B, M, sex annis P; 8 (15) genus humanum M, genus hominum B, P; 8 (15): quaeritur M, quaereretur B, P; 26 (17) Caesare M, Caesare illius B, P; 35 (18) Balbinus, Pupienus M, Balbinus et Pupienus B, P; 37 (18) Philippus cum Philippo M, Filippus, cum filio Filippo P, Philippus cum filio Philippo B; 43 (19) aput M, apud B, P; 52 (20) Gallis B, M, a Gallis P; 52 (20) habere B, M, haberi P; 58 (21) Romanum imperium M, imperium Romanorum B, P; 61 (21) Sub quibus M, P, Quibus B; 62 (21) Alexander fuit tyrannus M, Alexander tyrannus fuit B, P; 62 (21) et Licinius M, ac Licinius B, P; 73 (23) occisus est B, M, occisus P; 74 (23) praedicti frater M, frater praedicti B, P; 81 (24) d. n. M, dominus noster P, domini nostri B; 82 (24) d. n. M, dominus noster P, {dominus noster} B; 83 (24) d. d. M, Dominis B, P. Besonders hervorzuheben sind: 10 (16) Otho occisus. Vitellius occisus. B, P, fehlt bei M; 37 (18) occisi P (ergänzt), nicht bei B, M; 63 (21) factus est Caesar, Hanniballianus frater praedicti factus est rex regum M (ergänzt), factus est rex regum B, P. Als Druckfehler zu vermerken sind 2 (14) occiso B, M, occisso P und 5 (15) occisus B, M, occissus P. Umgekehrt ist ein Fehler aus M getilgt: 73 (23) eius tyranni filius M, eius filius B, P.

Abweichende Namensformen (Geschichtsabriss): 1, Z. 2 (94) Assyrios B, M, Assirios P; 2, Z. 3 (94) Habraham M, Abraham B, P; 2, Z. 4 (94) Solymis B, M, Solimis P; 2, Z. 4 (94) Sicyonis M, Sycioniis P, Sicyoniis B; 4, Z. 7 (95) Micynei M, Mycenaei B, P; 6, Z. 9 (96) Lacedaemonii B, M, Lacedemonii P; 6, Z. 9 (96) Corinthi M, Corinthii B, P; 8, Z. 11 (96) Assyriorum B, M, Assiriorum P; 10, Z. 13 (96) Lydi B, M, Lydii P; 12, Z. 22 (98) Conlatino M, P, Collatino B; 13, Z. 27 (98) Brittania M, P, Britannia B; 13, Z. 27 (98) Illyricus B, M, Illiricus P; 13, Z. 27 (98) Thraciae B, M, Traciae P; 14, Z. 29 (99) Galliis et Brittaniis M, Gallis et Brittaniis P, Galliis et Britanniis B; 17, Z. 38 (101) Asterio M, Astyrio B, P. Ein Druckfehler bei 2, Z. 4 (94) Melchisedech B, M, Melchidesech P.

Sonstige Abweichungen (Geschichtsabriss): 2, Z. 4 (94) Zoroastris M, P, Zoroastres B; 6, Z. 9 (96) regnare coeperunt M, regnaverunt B, P; 7, Z. 10 (96) II partes B, M, duas partes P; 8, Z. 11 (96) inperant M, imperant B, P; 10, Z. 14 (96) inperium M, imperium B, P; 11, Z. 20 (97) dicitur M, dictus B, P; 13, Z. 25 (98) sexaginta VII M, sexaginta et septem P, sexaginta et VII B; 15, Z. 30 (99) kalendis M, P, Kal. B; 15, Z. 30 (99) XX B, M, viginti P; 16, Z. 33 (100) chlamydem B, M, clamydem P; 16, Z. 36 (100) cognomenti B, M, cognominis P; 16, Z. 36 (100) qui modus M, quis mos P, cuius mos B. Größere Änderungen sind an folgenden Stellen zu vermerken: 11, Z. 19 (97) sub quo Persae per Cyrum erecti sunt nach Priscus M, P, nach Servius B; 11, Z. 20 (97) Tarquinius M, Tarquinius, Seruius, atque Tarquinius B, P; 14, Z. 28 (99) suevissent creari M, fuerint uicissim creati B, P; 15, Z. 31 (99) exin constitutus M, ei substitutus B, P.

Die Abweichungen gegenüber Mommsen beschränken sich für die geprüften Partien größtenteils auf sprachliche Details und die genaue Schreibung von Namen, deren Diskussion dem Erforscher des Spätlateinischen zufällt. Die Änderungen, welche die Aufmerksamkeit des Historikers beanspruchen, bedeuten einen Fortschritt oder verdienen zumindest eine nähere Diskussion, zumal sich die Editionen von Bleckmann und Paniagua eher ergänzen als einander überflüssig machen.

Sinnstörende Fehler waren nicht auszumachen, lediglich kleinere Versehen: S. 11, Anm 26 wird ein Querverweis auf V.1 geboten, richtig ist IV.2.1. S. 22, Anm. 47 ist die Seitenangabe (S. 492-492) falsch, gemeint ist S. 492-494. S. 23, Anm. 49 „historischen" (richtig: historischem). S. 190, Anm. 125 „ausserordentlichen" (ausserordentlicher). S. 191 „Jahbücher" (Jahrbücher). S. 228 wäre Degrassi S. 263-276 (nicht S. 261-275) anzugeben. S. 238 und S. 243 „Gutschmidt" (Gutschmid). S. 314 ist 4.1.1 zu 4.4.1 zu korrigieren (richtig S. 155). Die Bayerische Staatsbibliothek wird oft, wenngleich nicht durchgehend (richtig S. 113, S. 143, S. 147, S. 307), zu „Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek" verschrieben (S. 49, S. 50, S. 95, S. 130 zweimal, S. 154 zweimal). Fehler im Text sind dünn gesät: In der Kaiserliste ist 2 (14) occisso zu occiso, 5 (15) occissus zu occisus (beide S. 238) und 83 (24) Iohannis (S. 243) zu Iohannes zu korrigieren und im Geschichtsabriss sollte statt 2, Z. 4 (94) Melchidesech (S. 279) vielmehr Melchisedech stehen.

Auch wenn die Edition nicht uneingeschränkt überzeugen kann, da aus der Teilausgabe Bleckmanns (die zudem eine Übersetzung und einen ausführlichen Kommentar aufweist) deutlich präziser und besser nachvollziehbar zitiert werden kann, so bedeutet sie durch die Sichtung des umfangreichen handschriftlichen Materials, die Sammlung der verstreuten Beiträge der modernen Forschung zu Polemius Silvius und den verbesserten Text einen erheblichen Fortschritt und stellt den Ausgangspunkt für jede weitere Auseinandersetzung mit diesem Autor dar, zumal das Buch für eine Edition verhältnismäßig preiswert ist. Als (nicht negativ zu wertendes) Kuriosum zum Schluss sei bemerkt, dass das Rezensionexemplar das erste mir vorliegende Buch aus jüngerer Zeit mit unaufgeschnittenen Seiten ist.

Table of Contents

Premessa (V-VI)
Abbreviazioni (VII)
I. Polemio Silvio e il Laterculus (1-28)
I. L'autore e suo circostanze (1-9)
II. Le coordinate cronologiche del Laterculus di Polemio Silvio (9-10)
III. Polemio Silvio e il Laterculus: quale responsibilità autoriale? (10-13)
IV. Il Laterculus: contenuti e struttura (13-28)
1. Le sezioni tematiche perdute (17-19)
2. Le sezioni tematiche conservate: fonti, parallelismi e testi di tradizioni simili (19-28)
2.1 Il Calendario (19-22)
2.2 La sezione Nomina principum Romanorum (22-23)
2.3 La sezione Nomina prouinciarum (23)
2.4 La sezione Nomina animantium (23-24)
2.5 La sezione Quae sint Romae (24-26)
2.6 La sezione Breuiarium temporum (26-27)
2.7 La sezione Voces uariae animantium (27)
2.8 La sezione Nomina ponderum et mensurarum (28)

II. Storia della tradizione e critica del testo del Laterculus (29-196)
I. Inventatio dei manoscritti (29-54)
1. Codici che tramandano il Laterculus (29)
2. Codici che tramandano excerpta del calendario (30)
3. Codici che tramandano i Nomina omnium principum Romanorum (31)
4. Codici che tramandano il Bruiarium temporum (31)
5. Codici che tramandano i Nomina prouinciarum (31-47)
5.1 Codici deteriores (34-45)
5.2 Codici deperditi (45)
5.3 Codici che tramandano i Nomina prouinciarum come parte delle Abbreuiationes chronicorum di Radulfo di Diceto (46)
5.4 Codici che tramandano i Nomina prouinciarum nella recensio aucta b (46)
5.5 Codici che tramandano i Nomina prouinciarum nella recensio aucta c siue Spirensis (47)
6. Codici che tramandano le Voces uariae animantium (48-51)
6.1 Codici deteriores (51)
7. Codici che tramandano i Nomina ponderum uel mensurarum (51-54)
7.1 Codici deteriores (53-54)
II. Tradizione manoscritta del Laterculus: i codici messi a frutto nella presente edizione (54-187)
1. Bruxelles, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, 10615-10729 e il suo descriptus, Bruxelles, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, 6828-6869 (S. 54-62)
2. La sezione De anno, gli excerpta del calendario, i Nomina principum Romanorum el il Breuiarium temporum (S. 62-70)
2.1 Il codice R e gli studi sul Laterculus (S. 67-68)
2.2 Sui rapporti fra il testo di R e il testo di P (S. 68-70)
3. La tradizione manoscritta della sezione Nomina Prouinciarum (S. 71-129)
3.1 I codici poteriores dei Nomina Prouinciarum (S. 74-101)
3.1.1 I codici della famiglia m (S. 75-85)
3.1.2 I codici della famiglia n (S. 85-94)
3.1.3 I codici della famiglia x (S. 94-101)
3.2 Il testo dei Nomina Prouinciarum (S. 101-121)
3.2.1 Il testo della famiglia m (S. 101-107)
3.2.2 Il testo della famiglia n (S. 107-113)
3.2.3 Il testo della famiglia x (S. 113-121)
3.3 Le singolarità testuali di mnx (S. 122-126)
3.4 Le recensiones auctae (S. 126-128)
3.4.1 Recensio aucta b (S. 126-127)
3.4.2 Recensio aucta c o Spirensis (S. 127-128)
3.5 Il testo dei deteriores (S. 128-129)
4. La tradizione manoscritta della sezione Voces uariae animantium (S. 129-162)
4.1 La famiglia chi (S. 133-135)
4.2 La famiglia lambda (S. 135-151)
4.3 Il testo della famiglia chi (S. 151-154)
4.4 Il testo della famiglia lambda (S. 154-162)
4.4.1 Rapporti tra i codice della famiglia lambda (S. 155-162)
5. La tradizione manoscritta della sezione Nomina ponderum uel mensurarum (S. 162-187)
5.1 La trasmissione del testo Nomina ponderum uel mensurarum (S. 175-187)

III. Storia editoriale del Laterculus (187-196)
Nota ortografica (197-199)
Bibliografia (201-222)

Polemii Silvii Laterculus edidit David Paniagua (223-295)
Indici (297-315)
Indice dei nomi, autori e opere antiche (299-302)
Indice dei manoscritti (303-311)
Indice generale (313-315)
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Pietro Li Causi (ed.), Seneca. Epistula ad Lucilium 124. Palermo: la Bibliotheca di Classico Contemporaneo, 2019. Pp. 77. ISBN 9788868895105.

Reviewed by John Henderson, King's College, Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site

Full Text

This little ebook is essentially a cutting-edge pedagogical exercise, exercise in pedagogy, and exercise on pedagogy, though the 'editor' is a scholar exercising his specialist expertise. Our as-it-happens last piece in EM, like its antecedents in Book XX, made another splendid, splendidly apt, and splendidly manageable text for 'cooperative' study nella classe V L del Liceo Scientifico 'S. Cannizzaro' di Palermo. (Forerunners were NQ1 and EM121). A collective Italian translation twins with individually assigned sections of commentary that were marked, then reviewed by the group, and given the ultima manus by the 'editor' (pp.19-22).

In a brisk Introduction (pp.7-18), Li Causi provides an informative applied synthesis of his 2018 Gli animali nel mondo antico (Il Mulino, Bologna) esp. chaps 2-3, 'Zoology before zoology' and 'Zoopsychology and human-animal relations' from the Pre-Socratics to the C2nd Roman empire', esp. pp.119-20, 'The (momentary) victory of anti-animalism'. He also takes for himself the top-and-tail sections in the Commentary...and co-initials all the rest, alongside the student assignee. The latter must come away with intimate knowledge of a snappy Latin text and the experience of joining in with the routines expected in Latin filologia (where, for example, every crux in the paradosis must individually acknowledge reproduction of Reynolds' O.C.T. along with its reasoning); with experience of a specific model of teamwork melded with individual input, organized within an educational régime of tight top-down control (shades of I. A. Richards' version of 'Practical Criticism', where Professor holds all the cards, then deals them...?); and with the lesson, so I presume, that the classical scholar labours long and minutely to put h**self at service of the text, as we say, in its own terms.

By contrast, the Introduction jazzes up the pertinence to us (student proficientes) of the topics involved in this latest Senecan meta-lecture on learning to practise rigorous reasoning — on one side weird (so compulsive?) logocentrism and scala naturae, zoopsychology and zoomimesis, disjunctive anthropopoesis and theomimesis... , on the other a compact rousting of the sorts of commonnonsensical guff about animals and minds that saturates quotidian discourse, — class doesn't get to formulate limits to their openness to Stoic dogmatics or objections to Senecan intellectual jingoism — although Seneca's provocatively pressurizing cosmic dirigism is bound to antagonize ecowarrior commitment to today's (tomorrow's?) Western armature of biological organicism, cognitive neuroscience, cultural antitheism...

Instead, students get to write piecemeal-patchwork commentary conscientiously amassing the forbidding technical lexikon of Greek Stoicism (why? learning the raw power in power-terms? weird, so compulsive?) but eliding their own stake and take, submitted like Lucilius to drilling in the master lesson of rhetorical drilling as 'educative reading': class documents the maestro's every (frequent: x7) ergo, and learns that they must be confirming, as they are confirmed by, Seneca's thesis in their collaboration in his mandatory reasoning about reasoning (the message in the massage); but EM124's headline citation from Virgil that tendentiously aligns (-que) resistance to ancient commandments with sloth shrinking from critical close reading is not launched into resistant reading (and/or/=) into unpacking the Georgics' gospel of love-as-moil, which tells us to get in the ring and take the classics on. (What Seneca embroils in the reading/argument as appetitionis et fugae arbitrium, §3 ?). The commentary on §1 goes the other way on the rhetoric: 'if you don't...' => 'don't'). So, what professor/e could duck wearing this badge?

Possum multa tibi ueterum praecepta referre,
ni refugis tenuisque piget cognoscere curas.

The bright idea of immersing a Latin class in Seneca's letters has always had legs in Italy; and Brad Inwood's selection of Book 20 (= EM118-24) for his 2007 bloc of ancient philosophy-in-translation (BMCR 2009.04.32) already proves just how high-yield and high-immersion these riveting disquisitions can be: perfectissimo! (Classe V L is, naturally, hugely in his debt throughout.) Especially if dissent and critique can bring reasoning readers into the reckoning, engaging with the logic for real.

Meantime, what Li Causi brings to the pedagogic table is the utile in, and of, the e-future tools for the spiritual agriculture of the Classico Contemporaneo. And we all better muck in, if and as we can.


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Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Lucio Ceccarelli, Contributions to the History of the Latin Elegiac Distich. Studi e testi tardoantichi, 15. Turnhout: Brepols, 2018. Pp. 362. ISBN 9782503574592. €105,00.

Reviewed by Alfredo Encuentra Ortega, Universidad de Zaragoza (

Version at BMCR home site

Lucio Ceccarelli, the author of a previous monograph Contributi per la storia dell'esametro latino (Rome, 2008) on Latin hexameter, now presents a continuation on the Latin elegiac distich. This book provides a general overview of the main features of this metre, especially with regard to the rather overlooked pentameter, and sketches both its evolution throughout the Late Republican, Augustan and Flavian eras and its continued use by Late Antique authors. The study is based on the manual scansion of around 16,500 distichs (from Catullus to Venantius Fortunatus) and on 50 tables, which provide numerical data, percentages and, in some cases, other statistical indexes which enable significant comparison between corpora of different size.1

The book is divided into two parts preceded by a general Introduction (p. 11-22), where the methodological bases are expounded, though their theoretical ground is not justified. For, as the author states on p. 16, his aim is not "to present a complete analysis of the metre of the Latin distich" but to focus on those "aspects more strictly linked to the realisation of the metrical scheme," overlooking those concerning other levels of metrical analysis.2 As in the previous monograph on the hexameter, Ceccarelli follows a rather conventional scheme based on Meyer's analysis of caesurae and Duckworth's distribution and patterning of dactyls and spondees,3 and avoids proposing (p. 21) any "explanations for the phenomena that are identified." This attitude differs from Platnauer's comprehensive monograph or Poe's seminal structural study on caesurae4 and reduces the scope of would-be results, especially in the case of the shorter poems such as those included in the Appendix Vergiliana and the Corpus Tibullianum. In the first part the author analyses the relation between dactyls and spondees foot by foot and in the line as a whole, the treatment of caesurae (or "line-breaks" in the author's own terminology)5 in the third and fourth feet, the different clausulae, the frequency of synaloepha, and the structural relation between elegiac and kata stichon hexameter. The second part is almost symmetric and opened by preliminary considerations on the Late Antique elegiac distich.

On these foundations, each part contains six chapters dealing with:
a) the realisation of the metrical scheme in the Classical (p. 25-68) and Late Antique (p. 131-168) elegiac distich;
b) the line-breaks of the Classical (p. 69-84) and Late Antique (p. 169-186) elegiac distich;
c) the verbal metre of the Classical (p. 85-102) and Late Antique (p. 187-198) elegiac distich;
d) synaloepha in the Classical (p. 103-106) and Late Antique (p. 199-200) elegiac distich;
e) the relation of the elegiac hexameter to hexameter kata stichon in the Classical (p. 111-126) and Late Antique (p. 201-2014) periods;
f) conclusions both for the Classical (p. 107-110) and Late Antique (p. 215-224) distichs.
These chapters are followed by some Final Considerations (p. 225-230), Bibliography (p. 231-248), Tables (p. 249- 356) and an Index of Tables (p. 357-362).

Summing up the main results of this study, in Ceccarelli's view Tibullus and Ovid emerge as the great innovators in classical times. They restricted the relative freedom of Catullus' elegiacs, the first author analysed.6 Tibullus was thus the first to limit the clausulae of the pentameter to iambic words and, conversely, to avoid placing iambic words before the diaeresis after the first hemistich. Ovid developed this tendency to the maximum and reduced the verbal metre of the second hemistich of the pentameter to two main types. This confirms previous studies on the verbal structure of the second hemistich of the pentameter.7 As regards the hexameter, Ovid shows a tendency to avoiding both exceptional clausulae and lines without a break in the third foot, but increases trochaic line-breaks in the fourth. This coincides with his clear purpose to reinforce dactyls in the fourth foot against the general tendency to reduce them from the first to the fourth foot, as Table 1 shows. Generally speaking, the Classical authors analysed adopt different attitudes and vary between two poles: Catullan freedom, on the one side, and Ovid's more regular and dactylic distich, on the other.

Ovid is to Ceccarelli the poet whom Late Antique authors took as a model. Vergil's Aeneis and Statius' Thebais are also included in the tables as contrasting references on the assumption that, as school models offering two peculiar versions or interpretations of the Latin hexameter, they could have inspired and conditioned Late Antique poetry. In that contrastive analysis only Venantius Fortunatus seems to adhere closely to Ovid, whereas the rest of the poets (Ausonius, Paulinus Nolanus, Prudentius, Dracontius, Luxorius…) show their own personalities "in the choice between various possibilities offered to them by the classical inheritance" (p. 224). Ceccarelli declares that "it was not possible to construct an alternative model to those inherited from the classical period, but it was possible to rework them, in various forms – by the acceptance of certain features and rejection of others, the accentuation or attenuation of certain characteristics of the model, the mixing of different models" (p. 229).

All these results are based on solid statistics and criteria and offer essential information for the history of this metre. However, these conclusions could have offered a much deeper and richer picture if the author had expanded his analysis, restricted to the level of metrical scheme, to include phonetic, syntactical and semantical considerations. As many studies have shown, skilful poets exploit both exceptions to metrical rule and word-ends where the rhythm is at risk to create images and effects (such as well-known Vergil's sound metaphors, e. g. the avoided final monosyllable in Aen. 5.481 procumbit humi bos) or they simply turn them into personal or generic markers (e. g. the way Vergil effaces and Ovid enhances a semiquinaria after, respectively, et and est). For, as J. Perret declared, "le mérite propre d'une mise en œuvre artistique n'est pas de faire passer des irregularités en les escamotant ou en les restreignant l'emploi, mais d'en tirer parti".8 Therein lies the difference between a punctuation highlighting an avoided word-end (e.g. in the clausula of the hexameter, or when the bucolic diaeresis, a mere word-end, becomes a ponctuation bucolique, conveying a conversational effect in satire and epigram) and the phonetic devices (mainly the liaison syllabique) which let the rhythm flow up to regular caesuras in epic and didactic poetry.9 Yet the author focuses on quantity and percentages and excludes quality and detailed analyses, save for an exception. In p. 204-207 he pays attention to the final syllables of the line, and, following Quintilian's remark (Inst. 9.4.93), he tests whether short open vowels are avoided therein or not. Conversely, in the cursory analysis of synaloepha the type of vowels elided (short, long, nasalised) and the preferences of particular poets are not considered,10 which would have yielded interesting conclusions on the Late Antique crisis of vowel quantity.11 On the other hand, the possibility that an influential Late Antique author (Ausonius, Prudentius, Paulinus) might have supplied the model for posterity should not be ruled out.

The author also extends consideration to some areas which are arguably partial in scope or prove to be largely irrelevant. For instance, line-breaks are analysed in the third and fourth foot, but not in the first and second, so that structures typical of authors (especially Lucan) who try to reflect in Latin poetic diction the structural role of trochaic caesura in Greek hexameters, such as the combination of semiternaria (caesura after the longum in the second foot), third-foot trochaic break and semiseptenaria (caesura after the longum in the fourth foot), go overlooked. This difference would explain, for instance, why Tibullus increases both the third-foot trochaic break and semiseptenaria, but the author refrains from exploring such issues and gives no reason. Besides, the analysis of the different combinations of dactyls and spondees proves to be somewhat redundant, since, as Ceccarelli himself concludes (p. 51), "the preferences for the realisations of the individual feet seem to be the determining factor," and – I would add – not only for the most frequent schemata but also for those that are sought out and avoided. A different category is the testing whether there is any structural difference between the elegiac hexameter and the hexameter kata stichon. At the level of analysis proposed, that comparison (p. 122; sim. p. 201, 208) "does not seem to have brought to light any unambiguous structural differences between the two types of verse," aside from some preferences in Sidonius.

To conclude, Ceccarelli's is a careful, detailed and valuable study. Though combining many authors writing in different literary genres and across different times and contexts, the author offers a broad overview both of the structure of the elegiac distich and of its evolution. I thus encourage him to submit the huge amount of statistical data at his disposal to other levels of metrical analysis and to further research individual and generic features (elegy, epigram, Christian literature) in future works.


1.   In particular, the Pearson's test (or χ2) shows the deviation between evidence and theoretical possibility, and the Yule coefficient measures the intensity of the deviation, cf. Ch. Muller, Initiation aux méthodes de la statistique linguistique, Paris, 1973, 148 ff.
2.   Besides metrical scheme, structural analysis also pays attention to structure variation, word patterning and sonorous performance, see J. Luque, "Niveles de análisis en el lenguaje versificado," in P. Bárdenas de la Peña et al. (eds.), Athlon: satura grammatica in honorem Francisci R. Adrados, Madrid, 1984, vol. 1, 287-299.
3.   W. Meyer, "Zur Geschichte des griechischen und lateinischen Hexameters," SBMünchen 6, (1884), 979-1098; G. E. Duckworth, Vergil and Classical Hexameter Poetry. A Study on Metrical Variety, Ann Arbor, 1969.
4.   M. Platnauer, Latin Elegiac Verse. A Study of the Metrical Usages of Tibullus, Propertius and Ovid, Cambridge, 1951; J. Park Poe, Caesura in the Hexameter Line of Latin Elegiac Verse, Wiesbaden, 1974.
5.   I prefer to distinguish between word-end or incision (coup or intermot in French studies) and caesura as a point where metrical pattern, phonetics, syntax and meaning coincide. This distinction is currently used in verbal metrical studies such as L. De Neubourg, La base métrique de la localisation des mots dans le hexamètre latin, Bruxelles, 1986.
6.   The author does not consider the works before and contemporary to Catullus since they are practically lost (p. 225).
7.   J. Veremans, "Evolution historique de la structure verbale du deuxième hémistiche du pentametre latin," in J. Bilbaw (ed.), Hommages à Marcel Renard, Bruxelles, 1979, vol. 1, p. 758-767.
8.   J. Perret, "Mots et fin de mots trochaïques dans l'hexamètre latin," REL 32 (1954), p. 183-199, esp. p.190.
9.   J. Soubiran, "Ponctuation bucolique et liaison syllabique en grec et en latin," Pallas 13 (1966), 21-52.
10.   Contrast Soubiran's exhaustive L'élision dans la poésie latine, Paris, 1966.
11.   On the different distribution of elided nasals and long vowels in Late Antique hexameter, see, my El hexámetro de Prudencio. Estudio comparado de métrica verbal, Logroño, 2000, 101-132.

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P. N. Singer, Ph. J. van der Eijk, Piero Tassinari (ed.), Galen. Works on Human Nature. Volume 1, 'Mixtures (De temperamentis)'. Cambridge Galen translations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xvii, 269. ISBN 9781107023147. $125.00.

Reviewed by Jessica Wright, The University of Texas at San Antonio (

Version at BMCR home site


In this volume, Singer and van der Eijk present a clear and systematic translation of Galen's three-book treatise Mixtures (De temperamentis), together with a thorough introduction, as well as footnotes that comment upon syntax, vocabulary choices, philosophical questions, and Galen's influences. The translation is based on the work of Singer, updating the version published in his Oxford World's Classics volume Galen: Selected Works (1997), while the introduction is largely the work of van der Eijk, and draws substantively on earlier publications, as indicated in the footnotes (xiii).

In addition to the introduction and translation, the authors include a comprehensive list of titles and abbreviations of Galen's works, including references to critical editions and translations (186–199). This resource is intended, the authors explain, to provide a glimpse of "what a complete 'Galen in English'" would look like (186). Further, the authors provide an extensive English/Greek glossary (222–231). This resource maximizes the clarity and consistency of the translation, and will serve as a useful tool for researchers looking to move quickly through the translation, with an eye to the Greek. The inclusion of both Greek script and transliterated Greek ensures both precision and accessibility.

The volume is the first in a two-volume translation of Galen's works on human nature (the second volume will include his Commentary on Hippocrates' Nature of the Human Being, Commentary on the Medical Statements in Plato's Timaeus, and Compendium of Plato's Timaeus). Both volumes are part of a larger series, Cambridge Galen Translations, which provides scholarly translations of Galen "in unified format with substantial introduction and annotation, glossaries and indices" (iii). The volume provides a detailed, scholarly, and accessible entry into Galen's text and a reliable and systematic resource for researchers in ancient medicine. It will be useful alike to those engaging with the text in the original language and those working only in translation.

As argued in the introduction, Mixtures is an important text, both because of the role it played in Galen's recommended curriculum of his own works, and because of how it synthesizes Galen's philosophical and medical interests. Aristotle is a dominant presence throughout the work, but Galen is writing with diagnostic and therapeutic ends in mind. Book 1 focuses on explicating the different kinds of mixture. Book 2 lays out how these different mixtures manifest in the human body. Book 3 examines how the four qualities that constitute mixture (hot, cold, wet, and dry) operate within food and drugs.

The value of the text as a resource for the cultural history of medicine in antiquity may lie also in its function. Singer and van der Eijk argue in both the introduction and the notes that Mixtures originated in lecture format, and that the text contains traces of oral presentation. If the authors are correct, then the text offers a window into the practice of medical pedagogy in antiquity.

The introduction is a meticulous and comprehensive account that draws out the medical, philosophical, and social contexts and significance of Galen's text. Following contextualization of the text and a brief discussion of its argument, the introduction explicates core aspects of the treatise. First it treats the relation between Galen's two, co-existing theories of bodily formation ("features…that are the product of the shaping capacity [sc. the divine craftsmanship of nature] and features that are the result of the mixtures," 13). It then unpacks the various means by which the physician can learn to distinguish bodily mixtures—by touch, based on signs and symptoms, on the basis of bodily activities, and through venesection and dissection. Following this, it lays out Galen's instructions in managing bodily mixture, through both food and drugs. Once these fundamental intellectual and therapeutic components of the work have been examined, the introduction considers Mixtures in its intellectual context, first situating it within its intellectual tradition, especially with regards to the influence of Aristotle, then arguing for its function as the basis for a lecture for medical students, and finally discussing its role in subsequent medical traditions, from late antiquity onward.

This introduction serves as a concise and useful introduction to Galen in general, as well as to Mixtures in particular. There is a slight lack of clarity in the explication of the nine mixtures (8–9), but the reader who follows the footnotes to the relevant portion of the text (Temp. I.8, especially at 86) will find that problem resolved.

The translation is clear and precise throughout. Compared to Singer's 1997 version, the most significant difference is that individual sentences are reworked with closer attention to the Greek. Whereas Singer 1997 breaks Galen's lengthy and often convoluted Greek sentences down into manageable statements, this new translation adheres to the structure of the Greek. As such, it is sometimes more technical and complex, and Singer 1997 may still be best for an undergraduate audience, although the newer version is certainly preferable for a scholarly audience. This being said, the new version does include chapter titles, provided by the translators, which help to organize the text and to make its structure apparent.

There are also some differences of interpretation. More so than Singer 1997, this translation highlights the polemical nature of Galen's writing and situates Mixtures within a culture of competitive debate about medical topics. Compare, for example, Galen's remarks at I.2: "Say a person becomes musical" (Singer 1997, 204) vs. "For example, [these people argue], we say that a person becomes, or is becoming, skilled in music" (Singer and van der Eijk 2018, 54). Or, again, I.3: "In response to such arguments, certain of the followers of Athenaeus of Attalia have formulated the view that…" (Singer 1997, 208) vs. "In defense against such arguments, certain of the followers of Athenaeus of Attalia counter by saying that…" (Singer and van der Eijk 2018, 59). In a footnote to this latter example, Singer and van der Eijk explain their emphasis here on the polemical character of medical debates by noting that "[t]here is a distinctly militaristic metaphor in the language here…" (59, fn44). This movement toward highlighting Galen's polemical language reflects shifts in scholarship over the past few decades, as historians of ancient medicine have examined the competitive aspects of medical texts, performances, and debates during the Second Sophistic.

Singer and van der Eijk offer one revision to the earlier translation that is so substantive it merits a short appendix (97–100) explaining the different possible renderings and their justification. The passage in question is Galen's citation of the "Canon of Polyclitus" (the statue known as the doruphoros) as an example of a well-balanced human form. At the core of the revision is the question of whether the Canon is analogous to the perfect human being (as in the new version), or is a standard that the perfect being surpasses (as in the earlier version). Here are the renderings:

"There is a certain statue which enjoys great fame, known as the Canon of Polyclitus; the name derives from the fact that all its parts are in perfect proportion with each other. Now the subject of our present enquiry is something beyond this Canon. For the man who is 'well fleshed' to this degree must not just be at the median of moisture and dryness, but must also have the best possible construction—something which is perhaps a consequence of that good balance of the four elements, but perhaps has some higher cause of a more divine nature" (Singer 1997, 229).

"And indeed, there is a certain statue that is much admired and which is named the Standard of Polyclitus; it has acquired this name from the fact that all its parts are in a precise state of good balance with each other. The [standard] that we are now seeking is, broadly speaking, this Standard. For the man who is well-fleshed in this way is not just in the middle state with regard to wetness and dryness, but has also got an excellent shaping, something which is possibly dependent on the good-mixture of the four elements, but may perhaps have some other, more divine, source, from above" (Singer and van der Eijk 2018, 93–94).

In Singer 1997, the translation indicates that "the man who is 'well fleshed' is "something beyond" the Canon of Polyclitus, since he must not only be well balanced (i.e., have a good mixture of wetness and dryness), but also "have the best possible construction." According to this reading, the Canon of Polyclitus represents balance alone, and is a standard that the ideal human being must surpass. Singer and van der Eijk 2018, meanwhile, presents the Canon of Polyclitus as the exemplar of a body that is both well balanced and well constructed: "The [standard] that we are now speaking is, broadly speaking, this Standard." In this latter reading, the Canon of Polyclitus represents both balance and the act of intentional shaping or design, and is a model for the ideal human being.

At stake in this is Galen's attempt to reconcile the underlying biological determinism (mixture of elements produces bodily and psychic forms) and the quasi-divine teleological determinism that allows him to interpret corporeal structures as indices of their own function (Nature or the Demiurge created the body and its parts perfectly to suit the purpose and function of each), a tension that is noted in the footnote to the 1997 version also.

Singer and van der Eijk support their translation in the appendix, through reference to the important analogy between doctor and sculptor as experts who shape or mold human(-like) bodies. In keeping with the meticulous quality of the book as a whole, they also provide two other possible interpretations of the text, with reasons for and against each.

Overall, this volume is a welcome addition to the growing body of material available for the study of Galen and of ancient medicine in general. The subsequent volume is to be eagerly awaited.

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Paul Allen Miller, Horace. Understanding Classics. London; New York: I.B. Tauris, 2019. Pp. xii, 204. ISBN 9781784533304. $22.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Aaron Palmore, Loyola University Maryland (

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Miller's contribution to I.B. Tauris' Understanding Classics series takes on Horace, the versatile and prolific Roman poet of the 1st century BCE. The book is aimed at "the educated reader, the avid student and the expert looking for new perspectives" (3). Read an extra emphasis on "educated" and "avid", because this would likely be a challenging book for most undergraduate audiences. Students of poetry who are looking to find out more about Horace as an artist will find much to appreciate here; students of history seeking to understand how Horace fits in with their craft are likely to be less satisfied. Individual chapters are useful for closer looks at the Satires, Epodes, Odes 1-3, and Epistles 1. There is very little coverage of Epistles 2, Odes 4, the Ars Poetica, or the Carmen Saeculare.

In the guise of an introduction to Horace, Miller has produced here a refreshingly readable monograph about Horatian irony. This, Miller convincingly argues, is a key concept for understanding Horace's consistency as a poet working in many genres. Miller channels Quintilian for his definition of irony: "a moment in which the understood meaning (intellectum) remains at some variance (diversum) with the letter of what has been said (dictum)" (70). For Miller, "understanding Horace, from first to last, is to take him seriously as a poet, thinker and ironist, and ultimately to see these functions as indissociable" (15). Miller makes organic and implicit use of theory (especially Foucault) to spark readers' minds, though the density of theoretical and philosophical ideas may occasionally overwhelm or frustrate less nimble readers.

The Introduction, "Why Horace? Why Now?", provides an overview of Horace's oeuvre and a framework for what makes Horace difficult to capture. Here Miller also deals with the biographical tradition, mostly drawn from Horace's own poems (there is no mention of the Suetonian Life of Horace, for instance), and Horace's relationships with Brutus, Vergil, Maecenas, and ultimately Augustus.

Chapter 1, "Roman Socrates: Irony in the Satires", demonstrates how Horace and Socrates share an approach to philosophical pedagogy: each is a passerby who stops you on the street, lures you in with a few questions, and then sends you on an endless quest of self-understanding and self-definition (17-20). Miller reads the program of the Satires as "a form of self-care that promotes moral health rather than a public indictment of vice" (28-29). Other than 1.4, the most space is reserved for 1.1, 2.7, and 2.8.

Key terms like satura (20-21) and libertas (21-31, with a compelling look at 1.4's complexities) are developed here. Miller finds part of the satiric approach gift-wrapped in the phrase seria ludo (1.1.27), and provides significant help to Latinless readers for the multiple dimensions of ludus (33-36). This chapter will promote further interest in the critical dimensions of the Satires for the reader new to Horace and help the more experienced reader recognize some new layers of Socratic presence in the collection.

In Chapter 2, "Going Soft on Canidia: The Epodes, an Unappreciated Classic," Miller contextualizes Horace's poetic production by situating iambic alongside satire in its "shared commitment to libertas" (53). The reader finds a good overview of the iambic genre with Archilochus, Hipponax, and Callimachus. Miller also reviews Catullus' contributions to the genre and discusses some interesting links between Horace and Catullus in mode and meter.

The chapter's final twenty pages are devoted primarily to readings of Epodes 3, 8, and 12, with a sustained emphasis on irony that "makes possible the cultivation of a private ethical self" (61). This is one strand of what is new in Horace's take on iambic; Horace's poetic persona is another, as he presents as an "impotent self-reflective, rather than a violent other-directed, iambist" (66). This impotence is well demonstrated with Canidia, whom Miller presents as a nexus of meaning (65). He connects the anonymous old woman of Epodes 8 and 12 with Canidia through lexical cues and references. Thus these poems become part of the intricate network of the Epodes, whose unity of image and reference Miller successfully demonstrates throughout the chapter.

Chapter 3, "Exegi Monumentum: Horace's Two-Eared Odes," is about Odes 1-3. The poems are "two- eared" for two reasons: one is their Latin-Greek "cultural bilingualism", the other is their "profoundly ironic discourse", which by now is familiar to Miller's reader (82). He devotes significant space to his reading of 1.9 (88-100) before turning to 1.14 and, finally, several poems in Odes 3. There are, of course, many more poems in the Odes than in the Epodes, Satires, or Epistles, and it was surprising to methat Miller focused on these three selections so heavily while the other chapters function more like surveys. This choice, though, allows Miller both to tackle the different dimensions of reading that the Odes make possible and to demonstrate the theoretical and methodological tools available to the reader for understanding these dimensions.

Miller's strategy in this chapter is perhaps best summed up by his reading of 1.14. Here he finds both a political and an erotic interpretation viable, but does not wish to advocate "a kind of deconstructive undecidability"; rather, he thinks that "this aporia is precisely the point" in that the poem prompts us to consider the "relation between the erotic and the political" (107). This approach to the Odes is refreshing and engaging, though some examples are more compelling than others. I would have liked to see more about the Latin-Greek bilingualism in the Odes. I also wondered how this chapter might work in a classroom setting. Miller's ideas are built upon a sound knowledge of both Latin and critical theory, but readers without this background may erroneously conclude that, with the right rhetorical twist, anything can mean anything in the Odes.

Chapter 4, "Freedom, Friendship, and the Ties That Bind: Socratic Irony in Epistles I," introduces us to a collection of poems that engages with the challenges of amicitia, genuine friendship, and social obligation. Libertas, too, receives a renewed focus, as "one is never simply free: one is always free somewhere, doing something, in relation to other people, who themselves exist in structured relations with one another" (131). As the Epistles—like the Satires, but unlike the Odes and Epodes—have already received extensive treatment along these lines, much of Miller's argument in this chapter seems familiar. A few pages on Persius interject themselves (136-138) to contextualize where the Horatian satire-epistle genre eventually goes, but this seems an odd digression in a book which does not even have space for all of Horace's works.

Metaphor and self-referentiality receive their due attention, as with Horace's key term depromere, which appears here after several occurrences in Odes 1 (139-141). The exploration of 1.19 focuses on the question of how things are versus how things seem, with a compelling argument about the wordplay in liber, Liber, and Libo (142-146). Miller treats us to ironic readings of 1.18's satiric treatment of Lollius (156), 1.2's focus on self-care (160), and 1.7's exploration of when "friendship become[s] patronage, and freedom a form of servitude" (176). These readings all sit comfortably within Miller's overall project, and the chapter makes a strong case for a kind of unity in Horace's diverse poetic output.

A short "Epilogue" covers some ground on reception, with glances at Petrarch, Du Bellay, and Boileau, among others.

The in-text references are helpful at every turn and often indicate more than one secondary source. This is a nice feature because it gives experienced readers a sense of the network of ideas in Horatian scholarship while giving the student, perhaps working on a research paper, a good starting bibliography on virtually any literary or philosophical question about Horace. The 16 endnotes in the book total fewer than 2 pages and would have been better left as part of the text itself.

Most of the time we get the Latin along with Miller's translation, but sometimes (and inexplicably) we do not. There are some proofreading errors in the Latin text.1 Given the intended audience for the book, though, most readers are likely to spend more time with the English translations. The translations themselves are strong but sometimes uneven. Horace's concise juxtaposition of "green" and "white" in 1.9's virenti canities, for example, becomes in Miller's translation "... so long as old age's irritable hoar is far from youthful verdancy" (98). This does the job, but it is far from the engaging voice of Miller's Epodes and Satires. The translation of Odes 1.9.9-12 seems to be missing something for it to make better sense in English (96). Some proofreading errors may hinder readers who want to follow up on some ideas.2 Several items are missing from the bibliography.3

Miller surpasses this reader's expectations of what a book in this genre purports to do. The coherent interpretive thread of irony is a pleasant surprise. That said, those considering adopting this book for classroom use should be aware that it could present some challenges without a guiding hand.


1.   Ars 42 on p. 10 is missing the verb erit. iactentem should likely be iacentem on p. 110. principium should be principum in the text of Odes 2.1 on p. 112. The text of Epistles 1.1.25 on p. 150 is missing the word verba, but "words" makes it into the translation. Epistles 1.7. 23 on p. 168 has significant problems: nec tamen ignorant quid distent area lupinis should be read rather ignorat and aera, which the translation reflects.
2.   Read "Meineke's Law" for "Meineck's Law" (86), perhaps sanitas for sania (30), "Fescennine" for "Fescinnine" (54), "Mamurra" for "Mammura" (55, 65), "Fordyce" for "Fodyce" (133), and "Bithynia" for "Bythinia" (165). The URL in the final endnote (186) is missing a final 'l' (i.e., the working link is ".html", not ".htm").
3.   Add to the bibliography: Fordyce, C. 1961. Catullus: A Commentary. Oxford. Freudenberg, K., ed. 2009. Horace: Satires and Epistles. Oxford. Within this edited volume, the reader will also find three items missing from Miller's bibliography: MacCleod's "The Poetry of Ethics: Horace Epistles I," Moles' "Poetry, Philosophy, Politics and Play: Epistles I," and Harrison's "Poetry, Philosopher, and Letter-Writing in Horace Epistles 1."

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Trevor Bryce, Warriors of Anatolia: A Concise History of the Hittites. London; NewYork: I.B. Tauris, 2019. Pp. xii, 288. ISBN 9781788312370. £20.00​.

Reviewed by Richard H. Beal, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago (

Version at BMCR home site

[Chapters are listed below.]

Trevor Bryce has done more to present the history of the Hittites than any scholar. His present book is an effort to present a breezably readable version to the interested public. The I.B. Tauris editor … "said that he'd like a book that offers to students and general readers more than just core information on Hittite history and civilisation … 'something more daring, less formulaic' … something to make the book's readers think 'in novel and exciting and unexpected ways about the topics addressed.'" The author succeeds. He says that his book is "a bit unconventional and quirky" but also "a reliable introduction to Hittite history and civilization" and "proposes a number of new ideas and approaches to longstanding problems."(p.3) So we are treated to imagined descriptions of an event or a scene, always historically informed, but of course with the details speculative. Ofttimes he will present a controversial theory and end with "what do you think?" But this is only a small part of the book. Most is an informed narration description. There is little new, other than the informed speculation, that cannot be found in Bryce's previous and more expensive books: The Kingdom of the Hittites (2nd ed. 2005) and Life and Society in the Hittite World (2002). Another good one volume study of Hittite history is Billie Jean Collins, The Hittites and Their World (2007). All of these update the standard O.R. Gurney, The Hittites (1952, 1981).

Chapter 1 "Rediscovering a lost world" is particularly enjoyable to read. From Classical Antiquity into the nineteenth century AD, the Hittites were known, if at all, as an obscure ethnic group in biblical Palestine. This chapter discusses the subsequent gradual rediscovery of the Great Kingdom of the Hittites. We see not just the succession of brilliant insights of previous scholars who brought the Hittites back to life, but also what eventually proved to be incorrect conclusions by many of these same people. It is also enlightening to see mention of now obscure scholars who got something right, but were ahead of their time and their pioneering insights overlooked then and largely forgotten until now.

Chapters 3- 5, 7-10, 17, 19, 23, 25 go chronologically through political and diplomatic history, from the late Middle Bronze Age until end of the Late Bronze Age. He presents interesting suggestions concerning the death of Hattusili I (p. 39) and the Hittite foreign policy as seen from the Madduwatta letter (pp. 69-72). His theory (chapter 25) concerning Great Kings Suppiluliuma II, Kuruntiya and Hartapus and their probable partial contemporaneity has much to recommend it. I would simply remind all, that Suppiluliuma II's reign must have lasted some 25 years and that mentions of famine in Hatti date either from several decades before the fall or are from undated texts, and so may or may not be relevant to the destruction of the kingdom.

Interspersed are chapters on aspects of the culture. Chapter 2 is "How do the Hittites Tell Us About Themselves?" Chapter 6 concentrates on geography. Chapter 11 describes the life of a Hittite Great King. He was high-priest and intermediary between the gods and the land and people, chief commander of the army, chief judge and on death was deified. There is also a discussion of what little we know of ordinary people's beliefs about death and [rather incongrously] a discussion of the other script in use in Hatti-land, the hieroglyphic script used to write the Luwian language. Chapter 13 details the importance of cleanliness, both actual and ritual, at least in proximity to the gods and king. Healing was "holistic," using both medicines and magic. Chapter 14 cuts through the controversy over ANE "law codes" with a most likely correct understanding: the Hittite laws were non-binding precedents; elders and governors judged based on local custom. Compensation was favored over legal retribution. Even male and female slaves could sue and were to be treated fairly by the courts. Chapter 15 concerns sexual intercourse. Chapter 16 tells us that financial arrangement for a marriage included both brideprice and dowry; conversely where the woman's family paid a brideprice for a son-in-law, he became resident with and part of the wife's family. Women could also initiate a divorce. Slaves could marry free partners, if the proper marriage payments were made. The entire discussion on pp. 151ff. about how to interpret Hoffner's translation (in Roth, Law Collections, 1995) of Hittite Laws §§ 34 & 36, which Bryce quite correctly finds difficult to understand, would have much benefited from consulting Hoffner's very different (and opposite) translation in Laws of the Hittites (1997) with its commentary (p.185) and/or the translation and commentary in the Hittite Dictionary of the University of Chicago s.v. parā 6 a 6' a' (1995) : the free spouse of a slave may NOT be enslaved. Chapter 18 describes the Hittite military, as well as non-military way of holding the empire together: patient negotiations and mutual defense-treaties with subordinates and equals. Chapter 20 shows the role of Great Queen as chief priestess of the kingdom. She was wife of the king, but held her office for life, sometimes coming into conflict with a new king's wife. Chapter 21 describes the capital city, Hattusa. Chapter 22 gives an imaginary (though fact based) account of a diplomatic mission from one great king to another. Chapter 24 describes the Hittite gods and their many festivals.

(16f.) The discussion concerning determinatives is correct but the example is incorrect, since LUGAL "king" is never used as a determinative. Rather, LÚ "man" is used before names of male professions.
(p.17) It should have been pointed out that Ugaritic and Aramaic "alphabets," unlike the Greek alphabet and its successors, were vowelless. It is debateable whether these vowelless scripts were easier to learn and then read than Hittite syllabic cuneiform. Old Assyrian merchants learned cuneiform. Cuneiform scripts died out when the languages they wrote died out and were replaced by languages writing in different scripts.
(p. 19) While conflagrations certainly help perserve clay tablets (an advantage over papyrus, parchement and paper), unbaked clay tablets can be preserved in the ground and excavated.
(pp.20-21) To the list of types of content found in Hittite texts, one should add magic-rituals, multilingual dictionaries, compendia of omens and collections of oracles (questions to and answers from the gods).
(p.32) Bryce makes the daring suggestion that Hattusili I's annals cover only 5 years of what was probably a lengthy reign because the original tablets were destroyed in the sack of Hattusa in the time of Tudhaliya son of Arnuwanda I. Subsequently the surviving fragments were pulled out of the rubble and pieced together and copied onto a new tablet. This is ingenious, but the annals of Hattusili I consist of a tablet in Akkadian and a tablet in Hittite, which contain the same episodes. It seems improbable that the original Akkadian version and the Hittite version were broken in the same place and missing the same campaigns.
(p.45) Šauštatar "reduced the former great kingdom [Assyria] to vassel status." When had it been a great kingdom? It was an appanage state in Šamši-Adad I's Great Kingdom much earlier, but didn't become a Great Kingdom until the destruction of Mittanni.
(p.56) Hittite viceregal kingdoms were not generally ruled by the king's sons. Kargamis and Aleppo were founded for Suppiluliuma's sons, but were subsequently ruled by descendants of those sons. Hakpis was for Muwattalli II's brother; Tarhuntassa for the Hattusili III's nephew; Isuwa probably for a son-in-law.
(p. 144) The symbols of womanhood are not "a spindle and mirror". The translation is taken from a 1950 translation. But translations and dictionaries since at least 1976 have understood the symbols to be "distaff and spindle."
(p. 158ff.) Bryce refers to Abdi-Asirti and Aziru, Kings of Amurru as "terrorists." This is most inappropriate. A "terrorist" was originally an agent of the French revolutionary state, who terrorized the state's own population into not resisting the revolution. It now is a non-state actor using acts of terror to destroy the credibility of a state. Neither is true of these Amurrans. No-doubt Abdi-Asirti was duplicitous and a serious danger to his neighbors. But as Bryce elsewhere points out small states need to eat or be eaten. We have no idea if Abdi-Asirti's ancestors were rulers of some territory up on Mt. Lebanon. It is clear that Abdi-Asirti was agressively expanding his territory at the expense of his neighbors—in other words state formation. Much of what we know of him is from those who would have to make way. It is nowhere pointed out that after Abdi-Asirti's son Aziru had double-crossed everyone to secure his father's now sizable kingdom and then joined the Hittites, he remained loyal to them, as did his son and grandson. This is not what should be referred to as "a terrorist clan."
(p. 172) I know of no evidence in archaeology or Egyptian reliefs for chain-mail, but much evidence for scale-armor, as Bryce mentions several lines earlier.
(p.173) "(Horse) training manual, allegedly the work of a prisoner-of-war brought back … as a deportee from Mittanni." Kikkuli who wrote a text for training Hittite chariot horses is assumed to be of Mittannian origin because there are a few technical terms in Indic. Whether he was forcibly brought to the Hittites or volunteered is not known. After all, many European Christians, especially cannoneers, volunarily joined the Ottomans. Another purely Hittite horse-training text appears to pre-date Kikkuli's. Also, 'Prisoner-of-war' (Hittite appanza) and "deportee" (Hittite arnuwala-) are different catagories both then and today, one military and the other civilian. Bryce is far from alone in using the term "deportee" for such civilians. As Bryce makes clear, the Hittites wanted people (thus arnuwala- > arnu- "to bring", so literally "transportee"), while "deport", as anyone living in Trump's USA knows, means "to expell foreigners from your country." When will ANE authors find another term such as CHD's "person to be resettled."
(p. 174) I do not know why Bryce says there is no evidence for 3 man Hittite chariots after the battle of Qades. There is no evidence for Hittite chariots after that battle, that I know of. 1st millennium Assyria had 3 and 4 man chariots. Furthermore, the idea of chariots charging infantry at 45km/hr over uneven terrain seems unlikely. According to lectures by and chats with military historian Steven Weingartner, chariots were most likely mobile shooting platforms, ideal for shooting densely packed infantry. Bryce, however, is way ahead in arguing that chariots were transported to battlefields not ridden.
(p.238) Bryce states that "since Hatti's core region had no sea outlets, its kings would have needed ships supplied by vassal … states with coastal territory and seaports for any Hittite ventures involving naval operations." Yet on p. 161 we are told that Tarhuntassa, briefly capital of the Hittite empire, lay in western Cilicia. Western (i.e., "Rough Cilicia") had a seacoast and ports. Further east the Cilician plain had been directly administered Hittite territory since the reign of Arnuwanda I, five generations earlier. Furthermore, we know that the merchants from the Hittite port of Ura were over-thriving in the port of Ugarit, in the King of Ugarit's opinion. Surely they were not doing all their shipping in Ugaritian ships. It is time to give up the old prejudice that Anatolians couldn't/wouldn't sail, and only Levantines and Greeks dared to go to sea. Of course, Ugarit, Siyannu, and Amurru would have added their ships to the Hittite fleet for a campaign against Cyprus.

Many photos are so darkly reproduced as to be worthless e.g. 21.1, 21.8; The lion-gate in 21.7 is unrecognizable since it is the poorly preserved lefthand lion and is poorly reproduced; many others are from a movie about the Hittites, which I supposed is justifiable. But why not use the real picture of Puduhepa and Hattusili from the Firaktin relief?

The book should be considered a success as a reliable, readable and affordable introduction to the Hittites for the general reader.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Rediscovering a Lost World
Chapter 2: How Do The Hittites Tell Us About Themselves?
Chapter 3: The Dawn of the Hittite Era
Chapter 4: The Legacy of an Ailing King
Chapter 5: 'Now Bloodshed Has Become Common'
Chapter 6: The Setting for an Empire
Chapter 7: Building an Empire
Chapter 8: Lion or Pussycat?
Chapter 9: From Near Extinction to the Threshold of International Supremacy
Chapter 10: The Greatest Kingdom of Them All
Chapter 11: Intermediaries of the Gods: The Great Kings of Hatti
Chapter 12: King by Default
Chapter 13: Health, Hygiene and Healing
Chapter 14: Justice and the Commoner
Chapter 15: No Sex Please, We're Hittite
Chapter 16: Women, Marriage and Slavery
Chapter 17: War with Egypt
Chapter 18: All the King's Horses and All the King's Men
Chapter 19: The Man Who Would Be King
Chapter 20: Partners in Power: The Great Queens of Hatti
Chapter 21: City of Temples and Bureaucrats: The Royal Capital
Chapter 22: An Elite Fraternity: the Club of Royal Brothers
Chapter 23: The Empire's Struggle for Survival
Chapter 24: Hatti's Divine Overlords
Chapter 25: Death of an Empire
Appendix 1: Rulers of Hatti
Appendix 2: Outline of Main Events in Hittite History
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Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Estelle Galbois, Images du pouvoir et pouvoir de l'image: les médaillons-portraits miniatures des Lagides. Scripta antiqua, 113. Bordeaux: Ausionius Éditions, 2018. Pp. 287. ISBN 9782356132260. €25,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Maria Elena Gorrini, Università degli Studi di Pavia (

Version at BMCR home site

Il volume di Estelle Galbois, frutto di una rielaborazione di una parte della tesi di dottorato, affronta un tema complesso e affascinante, i ritratti su medaglione dei sovrani lagidi, tentando una loro contestualizzazione storica. Il lavoro è organizzato in due sezioni: una prima — suddivisa in tre capitoli preceduti da una "Introduction"— che presenta le questioni di ricerca alla base dello studio, e una seconda che contiene il catalogo di tutte le evidenze censite.

Galbois (pp. 15-29), apre con un tentativo di definizione di ritratto, utilizzando e discutendo con accuratezza storica le testimonianze delle fonti antiche, e concentrandosi sulla definizione di immagine reale, al contempo rappresentazione di un individuo, che riprende tratti fisiognomici tali da poterne permettere l'identificazione, e incarnazione di una ideologia tesa a rafforzare la legittimità del potere del sovrano. In particolare, il fenomeno della miniaturizzazione del ritratto, sebbene sporadicamente attestato già in epoca classica, viene situato all'interno della corte di Filippo II di Macedonia e di suo figlio Alessandro, e risulta pertanto legato al potere dinastico fin dalla sua origine. Galbois passa poi in rassegna gli studi precedenti sulla ritrattistica ellenistica, rilevando l'assenza di un lavoro specificamente dedicato ai ritratti miniaturistici, fatta eccezione per un articolo di Renate Thomas.1

Molti problemi sono collegati allo studio di questa categoria: la dispersione dei documenti nelle grandi collezioni, che rende velleitario il volerne proporre un catalogo esaustivo; l'identificazione puntuale di ogni raffigurazione con un sovrano, operazione già difficoltosa per i documenti di statuaria in pietra, e ancora più ardua per i ritratti miniaturistici; i contesti di rinvenimento spesso incerti, quando non ignoti, e la conseguente incertezza nella definizione delle funzioni e degli usi dei ritratti; infine, i committenti e i destinatari degli stessi. La decisione di focalizzare l'attenzione sui sovrani tolemaici, la più durevole dinastia ellenistica, è ragionevole e permette così di vagliare un contesto storico noto anche da altre evidenze documentarie.

L'opera inizia ("Première Partie. Représenter le souverain lagide: la fabrique des "medaillons-portraits" miniatures", pp. 31-56) discutendo la definizione di medaglione-ritratto, e analizzando le forme di questo tipo di documenti e le convenzioni iconografiche adottate. L'autrice affronta in dettaglio la questione del supporto materiale: pietre preziose e semipreziose, avorio, metalli (suddividendo i documenti su metalli in anelli con sigillo, emblemata bronzei di mobili e di specchi, piccola plastica, e un esemplare isolato di una placchetta bronzea che ella identifica con la coppia tolemaica di Tolemeo II e Arsinoe II);2 faïence , vetro (nelle categorie degli intagli, dei cammei su pasta vitrea e della scultura miniaturistica), osso, gesso, fino all'argilla (suddivisa in cretule e coppe a emblema). Dal punto di vista storico la nascita del medaglione-ritratto monumentale viene riconosciuta originariamente come decorazione architettonica, situata convincentemente a Delo, al Neorion, intorno all'inizio del III sec.a.C. Dapprima riservata agli dei e agli eroi, questa forma di ritratto viene poi estesa a rappresentare i sovrani ellenistici e, in seguito, gli imperatori romani: la sua traccia nella storia dell'architettura viene seguita con attenzione nelle sue attestazioni successive. L'analisi dei medaglioni-ritratto nelle arti decorative (il corpus comprende le coppe a emblema e i coperchi di pissidi) concludecercando di chiarire il rapporto tra questa tipologia di produzione e i ritratti numismatici, constatando come tra le due categorie gli elementi di differenza prevalgano sulle affinità.

La conclusione, a cui l'autrice arriva attraverso una dimostrazione serrata, è che i medaglioni-ritratto miniaturistici siano una produzione specifica e meritino una trattazione storico-artistica per se.

La seconda parte del volume ( "Fonctions, contextes d'utilisation et enjeux des médaillons-portraits miniatures des Lagides" , pp. 57-96) esamina funzioni e contesti di utilizzo, committenza e distribuzione di queste immagini. La provenienza, laddove è stato possibile stabilirla, indica per la grande maggioranza l'Egitto, segnatamente Alessandria e la sua chora, seppure i medaglioni si diffondano sino a Cipro, nel mondo greco, e a Pompei. I contesti di rinvenimento sono sia pubblici sia privati (domestici e funerari). Per i contesti pubblici vengono analizzate le cretule da ambienti di archivio (Callon/Callipolis, Edfou, Nea Paphos e, in modo più incerto, Artaxata); viene poi ipotizzato che i ritratti miniaturistici, all'interno di un quadro pubblico di relazioni diplomatiche, poterono essere offerti agli ambasciatori stranieri, come confermato da diverse testimonianze letterarie (p. 66). L'esame si sposta poi sui possibili contesti cultuali legati ai sovrani lagidi, osservando l'utilizzo dei ritratti miniaturistici nelle corone sacerdotali, o come appliqués sui vasi (oinochoai in faïence e nelle coppe a emblema), fino al caso isolato e problematico della già citata lastrina in bronzo del Cabinet des Médailles di Parigi. Il cosiddetto Ptolemy Group di produzione ateniese è invece espunto dalle testimonianze di pratiche cultuali e considerato dall'autrice piuttosto segno di gratitudine per le donazioni di grano e di denaro di Tolomeo I ad Atene. In conclusione, nel quadro pubblico i medaglioni-ritratti miniaturistici sembrano da inserirsi nell'ambito ristretto dei notabili legati alla corte. Differente, e assai più sfaccettato, è il quadro di committenza e di utilizzo in contesti "privati", in cui essi possono essere declinati come >ex voto ; ornamenti personali — talvolta con l'intento di replicare i costumi dei cortigiani —; talismani; decorazioni di mobilio e di vasellame di lusso. Infine, in misura più marginale, essi entrano a far parte del corredo funerario, come dimostrano esempi da necropoli d'Egitto, cipriote e della regione del Ponto Eusino (pp. 86-87).

Le questioni legate alla produzione e alla committenza dei ritratti medaglioni occupano la seconda parte del capitolo 2. Partendo dalla riflessione sulla molteplicità di funzione dei calchi, attraverso l'imprescindibile riferimento agli esemplari da Memphis e a quelli del "tesoro" di Beghram/Kapisi, l'autrice riflette sui modi di produzione degli ateliers di toreuti, arrivando a stabilire come le officine di Memphis non fossero affatto specializzate nella produzione di oggetti di lusso, avendo anche restituito modelli di elmi e di spade, e non sembrerebbero essere state poste sotto l'autorità del potere reale, al contrario di quanto accade ad Aï Khanum e a Beghram. Da ciò deriva la questione dei responsabili della diffusione di questi oggetti che, nel caso specifico di Memphis, l'autrice identifica in modo persuasivo con gli alti funzionari di corte, che li ordinarono in segno di lealtà e di riconoscenza verso la coppia regnante. I ritratti, non generici ma resi attraverso dettagli essenziali al riconoscimento, dovevano essere acquistati sia da aristocratici e notabili (per gli esemplari realizzati in materiali preziosi e in pietre preziose o semipreziose), sia, per gli esemplari in materiali non di pregio, da classi più modeste della popolazione (come dimostrano incontrovertibilmente tanto i contesti di rinvenimento delle oinochoai delle regine quanto la documentazione epigrafica.

Infine, nella terza parte "Reconnaître le roi et la reine: mise en scène et attributs du pouvoir" , pp. 97-147) è affrontata la questione dell'identificazione dei sovrani e degli attributi del potere. Una rassegna delle fonti letterarie antiche sui ritratti dei Lagidi e delle loro consorti prosegue con l'analisi dei segni di potere esibiti dai sovrani (e.g. la kausia , il diadema, la clamide, l'uniforme militare). Ugualmente, dai segni di esibizione del potere nelle basilissai tolemaiche, si passano infine in rassegna gli attributi faraonici e le assimilazioni sub specie deorum dearumque, funzionali a sottolineare il legame tra le virtù incarnate dagli dèi e dai loro emissari sulla terra, i sovrani. Quello che emerge chiaramente dalla disamina è che la pluralità di funzioni e di contesti di utilizzo dei medaglioni-ritratto si traduce in iconografie particolarmente variegate, a differenza di quanto si può osservare sia nella numismatica sia nella grande plastica fatto che costituisce un ostacolo tanto all'identificazione puntuale dei sovrani quanto alla datazione dei pezzi.3

La "Synthèse" conclusiva (pp. 149-159) riprende le questioni trattate in precedenza, in maniera sintetica ma esauriente, sottolineando nuovamente come si debba definitivamente abbandonare la lettura dei medaglioni-ritratto come oggetti di propaganda reale. Bisogna invece, , alla luce dei dati raccolti, abbracciare il loro essere esito di una molteplicità e di una varietà altissima di azioni e di decisioni, compiute e prese da attori tanto locali quanto centrali, e destinati ad assolvere una identica pluralità di funzioni.

Conclude lo studio un catalogo di 138 esemplari, suddivisi tipologicamente secondo la natura e il materiale del supporto. Per ciascun pezzo vengono forniti provenienza, stato e luogo di conservazione, dimensioni, , datazione e pubblicazione, oltre a una breve descrizione e a una riproduzione iconografica di buona, e spesso ottima, qualità. Bibliografia, una carta geografica con le indicazioni dei luoghi di rinvenimento dei medaglioni, due tabelle riassuntive delle assimilazioni dei sovrani e delle sovrane lagidi con le divinità, e gli indici forniscono inoltre un quadro organico complessivo dei ritratti in miniatura su medaglioni, fino ad ora mancante.

Lo studio della Galbois è tanto impegnativo quanto piacevole. Impegnativo perché segue la complessità della ricerca compiuta dall'autrice, che muove dagli oggetti per allargare il quadro fino a una loro contestualizzazione storica attraverso l'uso sapiente di fonti di varia natura (storico-letterarie, epigrafiche, numismatiche, archeologiche); piacevole per la sistematicità di esposizione, per l'ampio respiro che assume la trattazione e per l'equilibrio nella valutazione delle ipotesi in gioco. Si tratta di un volume fondamentale per la comprensione storica dei medaglioni ritratto e, più in generale, dei meccanismi all'origine della creazione del ritratto stesso. Infine, l'autrice sovente effettua efficaci richiami aritratti miniaturistici moderni nei contesti delle corti, specialmente di Francia e di Inghilterra, a testimoniare, da un lato, la sua profonda competenza storica ma anche, e soprattutto, come documenti così peculiari possano essere pienamente studiati solo superando specialismi ed expertises per giungere a una storia critica e problematizzata della società che li ha pensati, voluti, prodotti e acquistati.


1.   R. Thomas, "Miniaturporträts'als Propagandamittel" , in Kosmos der Zeichen. Schriftbild und Bildformel in Antike und Mittelalter, Ausstellung im Römisch-Germanischen Museum der Stadt Köln, 26. Juni bis 30. September 2007, Wiesbaden 2007, pp. 269-292. Alla rassegna va aggiunto lo studio di Elisabetta Gagetti, Preziose sculture di età ellenistica e romana, Milano 2006, che, pur occupandosi di statuette di piccolo formato a tutto tondo in materiale non metallico, può offrire un valido confronto su alcuni aspetti trattati da Galbois, quale la produzione e la committenza dei ritratti preziosi.
2.   Si tratta del doc. M18, pp. 212-213.
3.   Un esempio della difficoltà di provvedere a un'identificazione definitiva dei ritratti su questa categoria di oggetti è dato dal doc. G14, p. 193, un granato recante la firma dell'incisore Nikandros, oggi alla Walters Art Gallery di Baltimora, in cui la Galbois riconosce il ritratto di Arsinoe III sulla scorta della veste, del mantello e della collana di perle che si ritrovano anche sui coni monetali della regina (su Arsinoe III, da ultimo, si veda E. Ghisellini, Due ritratti di bronzo tolemaici nel Museo Archeologico di Firenze, in Archeologia classica 66, 2015, pp. 225-251). La maggioranza degli studiosi (come riporta la Galbois a p. 193) considera invece il documento un ritratto di Berenice II, mentre la Zwierlein-Diehl (E. Zwierlein-Diehl, Antike Gemmen und die Nachleben, Berlin; New York 2007, p. 376) preferisce identificarlo come immagine di Cleopatra I. Questo esempio vuole mostrare come nella ricostruzione della ritrattistica tolemaica permangano diverse aree di discussione, che dipendono dall'ampio spettro di soluzioni iconografiche e formali adottate, proprio come ha sottolineato la Galbois nel suo studio.

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