Friday, January 31, 2020


Rita Degl'Innocenti Pierini, Pomponio Secondo: profilo di un poeta tragico 'minore'. Testi e manuali per l'insegnamento universitario del latino, 144. Bologna: Pàtron, 2019. Pp. 164. ISBN 9788855534413. €18,00.

Reviewed by Martina Russo, University of Warwick (

Version at BMCR home site

After having published on many different authors and genres of Latin literature, Degl'Innocenti Pierini returns to her first field of research: fragmentary tragedy. The aims of this book include paving the way for further studies on Pomponius Secundus, a distinguished statesman and poet of the first century C.E., and raising his profile for a wider audience, as well as drawing attention to other Roman theatrical fragments.

Some reflections arise from a 2017 seminar held at the University of Palermo, organized by Alfredo Casamento (Sulle tracce del teatro latino. Riflessioni e prospettive di ricerca), where the author presented a paper entitled "Pomponio Secondo: alla ricerca del 'rivale' perduto".

In the course of reading, it becomes clear that Pomponius Secundus deserves much more attention and consideration than has been generally accorded to him.1 Thanks to the profile delineated by the author, the poet emerges as an influential intellectual who engages with other litterati at the Neronian court. The fragments incorporated and discussed in this book give us a suggestive picture of the political climate in which Pomponius Secundus wrote. His tragedies are richly allusive texts which engage with the Augustan poets and Seneca's tragedies on levels far beyond the superficial; potentially, they could have been a model for Statius' works, as Degl'Innocenti Pierini demonstrates in the fifth chapter.

A preface opens the volume, which is organized into two parts: "Studi su Pomponio" and "Studi su poesia tragica in frammenti". Part 1, consisting of six chapters, explores the figure of Pomponius Secundus by discussing fragments attributed to him.

In the first chapter , which takes the form of an introduction, the author draws a portrait of Pomponius Secundus by analyzing passages from the authors who refer to Pomponius: Quintilian (Inst. 10.1.98) praises Pomponius Secundus for his nitor and eruditio, Pliny the Younger (Epist. 7.17.11) for his literary ideas. Pliny's judgment is likely influenced by his uncle who describes Pomponius Secundus as vatem civemque clarissimum (Nat. hist. 13.83). The analysis of references does not follow a chronological order, but the passages are discussed according to relevance. In the second part of the chapter, the author reconstructs Pomponius' biography, political and military career, and public engagement.

Chapter 2 deals with Seneca's mention of Pomponius Secundus in Epist. 3.6. For a long time, scholars discussed whether Seneca refers to Pomponius Secondus, the author of tragedies, or to the homonymous author of Atellanae. The various arguments proposed by Degl'Innocenti Pierini are clear and demonstrate that there are few doubts that the Pomponius to whom Seneca refers must be identified as the tragedian instead of the author of Atellanae (as suggested by Ribbeck). Seneca also provides rare evidence for Pompeius' prose work Ad Thraseam, which, as the author lucidly demonstrates, had an epistolary structure and was important enough to be quoted by the grammarians Charisius, Diomedes and Priscian.

Chapter 3 concerns a fragment reported in a lemma of Nonius Marcellus. Through an extensive reflection on the verbs evolvo and notifico, the author convincingly proposes that the fragment belongs to Pomponius' Atreus. Degl'Innocenti Pierini suggests that notifico can be explained as a reference to Atreus' recognition of Aerope. A similar use is found in Met. 1.760-761, when Phaethon addressed his mother Clymene and demanded proof of the identity of his father. This use of notifico also explains obsecro which, according to the author, may indicate Atreus' prayer to Aerope to tell him the truth.

Chapter 4 examines a fragment from Pomponius' Aeneas reported in Charisius and sheds light on a tragedy which, according to Degl'Innocenti Pierini, should be considered as a praetexta. This tragedy was probably set in Latium and staged the decisive battle between Aeneas and Turnus. In this fragment, the opposition between humilis and rex, which evokes the social climbing exemplified in Roman history by Servius Tullius, recalls on the one hand the Horatian humilis/potens (Carm. 3.30.12), on the other the Senecan miser/potens (Thy. 35). These multiple allusions demonstrate Pomponius' dexterity in engaging with imperial authors, a skill that Degl'Innocenti Pierini often highlights.

Chapter 5 examines fragment 8-11 R2-3 [= fr. 3 Schauer] reported by Terentianus Maurus in De metris and by Marius Victorinus in his Ars grammatica. Both attribute it to Pomponius Secondus. The same fragment is attested in Augustine's De musica 4, 31, without indication of author. By comparison with Seneca's Agamemnon, Degl'Innocenti Pierini suggests that the fragments should be dated to the first years of the Neronian age, and the person who plays the dulcis chelys should be identified as Apollo, instead of Orpheus. The pair of jussive subjunctives pendeat and edat can be explained in the context of an invocation of Apollo in the role of citharode who plays the lyre in a locus amoenus. This identification also relies on iconographic evidence. Although Degl'Innocenti Pierini points out that it is very challenging to identify the amnis quoted in Terentianus, she agrees with Miller who proposed the Xanthus/Scamander.2 Particularly noteworthy is the suggestion of reading an allusion to Nero, the enthusiastic citharode, behind the presence of Apollo.

The closing chapter of part 1 (ch. 6) expands upon the fifth chapter by discussing the other three fragments quoted by Terentianus: Pomp. 5-7 R. 2-3 [= 5-7 Schauer]. All the fragments have a common setting: Troy, as the reference to Rhoeteus in the first fragment implies. By pointing out a complex net of allusions and similarities with Seneca's Agamemnon and Troades, the author cogently suggests that the fragments belong to a chorus of Trojan women.

Part 2 collects three chapters previously published; they have been opportunely updated. Chapter 7 analyses a fragment about Tantalus (110 R.2-3 [= 60 Schauer]) in Cicero's Tusculanae (4.35) and, by comparison with Lucretius (3.980-984) 'che vede nel sasso di Tantalo un'ipostasi mitica della superstitio che incombe sugli infelici mortali come il masso sul mitico dannato' (p. 99), suggests that the fragment comes from a tragedy staging the story of Pelops, whose descent from Tantalus is a constant Leitmotiv, as seen in the prologue of Seneca's Thyestes, to explain the wickedness of his own ancestry.

Chapter 8 starts with Cicero (Ad Att. 16. 5.1), who refers to the presence of a tragedy entitled Tereus as a substitute for Brutus, and explores the affinity between Accius' Brutus and Brutus' Tereus, both characterized as anti-tyrannical. Degl'Innocenti Pierini underlines that the two myths, coupled in Ovid's Fast. 2.851ff., are profoundly related: Accius celebrated the legend of Lucretia, whose silence would have been aroused by psychological violence analogous to the glossectomy perpetrated by Tereus.

Concluding the volume, chapter 9 examines another quotation in Cicero's Tusculanae (2.36). For three reasons the author rejects the hypothesis that TRFinc. inc. 205-208 R.2-33 may come from Accius' Meleager: (1) Cicero never quotes this tragedy; (2) the theme of eugenics is not related to de tolerando dolore, the main argument of Book 2 of Cicero's Tusculanae; (3) the fragment reports the physical exercise of Spartans in opposition to the fertilitas barbara, although but in the myth of Atalanta, there is no element which indicates an opposition between Greeks and barbarians. Instead, she persuasively argues that the fragment is derived from Ennius' Andromache, considering the relevance of this drama in the Tusculanae and relying on the fact that physical exercises by Spartan women are always mentioned in contexts related to Helen.

Pomponio Secondo: profilo di un poeta tragico 'minore' opens a path for further discovery, including the study of fragmentary texts, literary strategies such as intertextuality, reception of topoi and contamination from other genres. The scope, the reception, the intertextual engagement and chronology have been satisfactorily pinned down. We ought to remember the programmatic statements of the author: Degl'Innocenti Pierini's explicit concern was to shed light on a 'minor' author who has been neglected by scholarship. In this, the book undoubtedly achieves its aims, but the volume also supplies a guide of how we should work on fragmentary texts. Caution and originality go hand in hand in this book. Overall, the organization of the volume works very well, as the two parts perfectly harmonize. At the end, the author also supplies an index of relevant passages. As a whole, the book maintains coherence and succeeds in outlining a vivid portrait of Pomponius Secundus and in displaying an excellent methodology for the study of tragic fragmentary texts.


1.   A. J. Boyle, Roman Tragedy London & New York 2016, 186-184: "it is clearly impossible to gain any real sense of the politics of Pomponius' works". The only studies on Pomponius are T. Eckinger, P. Pomponius Secundus, Étude philologique annexée au rapport du Gymnase de la Chaux-de-Fonds 1906-1907, 1-20; A. Della Casa, Pomponio Secondo tragediografo, Dioniso 35, 1961, 58-75; A. Galimberti, & I. Ramelli, L'Octavia e il suo autore: P. Pomponio Secondo?, Aevum 75, 2001, 79-99; A. Galimberti, L'autore dell'Octavia, in: L. Castagna, & G. Vogt-Spira (eds.), Pervertere: Ästhetik der Verkehrung. Literatur und Kultur neronischer Zeit und ihre Rezeption München & Leipzig 2002, 71-73.
2.   J. F. Miller, Apollo, Augustus, and the Poets, Cambridge 2009, 292.
3.   M. Schauer (ed.), Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, Vol. 1: Livius Andronicus; Naevius; Tragici minores; Fragmenta adespota, Göttingen 2012.

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John F. Drinkwater, Nero: Emperor and Court. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019. Pp. xviii, 449. ISBN 9781108472647. $44.99.

Reviewed by Holger Sonnabend, Universität Stuttgart (

Version at BMCR home site

Bei diesem Buch handelt es sich nicht um eine Nero-Biographie im klassischen Sinn. Es erhebt nicht den Anspruch, eine weitere Interpretation und Analyse von „Leben und Herrschaft" jenes Kaisers zu liefern, den die antiken Quellen als einen exzentrischen, wenn nicht sogar wahnsinnigen Tyrannen porträtiert haben und der trotz vielfältiger wissenschaftlicher Bemühungen um eine ausgewogenere Sichtweise bis heute in der breiteren Öffentlichkeit als Inbegriff des dekadenten römischen Kaisers firmiert. John Drinkwater, emeritierter Professor für Roman Imperial History an der Universität Nottingham, will keinen neuen Nero präsentieren, sondern erklären, warum in jenen 14 Jahren, in denen der letzte Kaiser aus der iulisch-claudischen Dynastie formell an der Spitze des Reiches stand, Politik und Verwaltung in einer Weise funktionierten, wie es unter einem monsterhaften Kaiser nie hätte der Fall sein können. Seine zentrale These lautet: Herrschaft und Administration liefen zwischen 54 und 68 gut, weil hinter dem Kaiser ein effizientes, kompetentes Team stand, das die eigentliche Arbeit machte, und Nero sich mit der Rolle des musik- und sportbegeisterten Zuschauers begnügte.

Um diese These zu belegen, wählt Drinkwater eine akribische, kleinteilige und differenzierte Vorgehensweise. Das Buch ist nicht als kontinuierliches Narrativ konzipiert, sondern präsentiert und analysiert in systematischer Form eine Vielzahl von einzelnen Aspekten. Verbindendes Element sind drei übergreifende Kapitel mit insgesamt 16 Abschnitten. Das erste trägt die Überschrift „Background" (S. 5-168) und gliedert sich in sieben Unterkapitel, deren erstes („Nero, Bad or Good?") unter anderem eine kürzestmögliche, 14-zeilige Darstellung der biographischen Eckdaten Neros enthält. Damit wird bereits deutlich, dass es dem Autor nicht um Nero als Person an sich geht, da der Princeps nicht die Kontrolle über die Politik hatte und diese auch nicht anstrebte. Gleichwohl schließt er sich in der Beurteilung des Phänomens Nero der Einschätzung von Edward Champlin (Nero, Cambridge/Mass.; London 2003) an (S. 57: Er stellte seine eigenen Interessen vor die des Staates und gestaltete sein Leben als ein Drama, in dem er the sole star war). Die antiken Berichte über den despotischen, kriminellen, den „schlechten" Nero hält er indes nicht für den richtigen Nero, sondern für den Nero seiner Feinde (S. 31). Die weiteren Unterkapitel stellen die Bedeutung der „Queen Mother" Agrippina für Neros Herrschaft heraus, porträtieren das „Establishment Team", bestehend aus Hofgesellschaft und Ratgebern, skizzieren die Rolle der führenden Militärs sowie politischer „Power-Groups". Auch die Funktion von Literaten und Wissenschaftlern im Herrschaftssystem der Zeit Neros wird beleuchtet. In der Summe, so die Aussage dieses ersten Kapitels, waren es Männer und Frauen wie Agrippina, Pallas, Seneca, Burrus, Tigellinus, Statilia Messalina und Nymphidius Sabinus, die Nero an die Macht brachten oder in pragmatischer Weise dafür sorgten, dass er an der Macht blieb und dass das Imperium in dieser Zeit ordentlich regiert und verwaltet wurde.

Im umfangreichen Kapitel „Assessment" (S. 169-368) werden signifikante Etiketten auf den Prüfstand gestellt, die Nero von den Quellen, von der Forschung und in der modernen Rezeption immer wieder angeheftet worden sind. Nero war Mörder, Brandstifter, Christenverfolger, sah sich selbst als Gott, war verrückt, liebte die Schauspielerei, war extravagant und verdorben. Außerdem konnte er nicht mit Geld umgehen. Drinkwater analysiert all diese Vorwürfe in segmentierten Abschnitten und gelangt zu überwiegend anderen Resultaten. Auch hier liefert er kein Porträt Neros, sondern versucht, die ihm von den Quellen oder der Forschung zugeschriebenen historischen Rollen und Eigenschaften in ihren Bedingungen und Voraussetzungen zu erfassen.

Ein Mörder war Nero nicht – viele der ihm zur Last gelegten Verbrechen (Claudius, Britannicus, Agrippina) habe er nicht begangen, andere seien von seinem Team organisiert worden, jedoch nicht etwa aus purer Mordlust, sondern aus Gründen der politischen Stabilität (S. 272 in Bezug auf die Morde nach 62: due to political necessity and managed by the establishment). Ein Brandstifter (eines der Attribute, das sich im Zusammenhang mit Nero am hartnäckigsten gehalten hat und anscheinend nie mehr aus den Köpfen herausgeht) war er ebenfalls nicht – die verheerende Feuerkatastrophe des Jahres 64 brach von selber aus (eine Einschätzung, in der dem Autor uneingeschränkt zuzustimmen ist). Die Implikationen der Katastrophe erschließt der Autor, methodisch nicht völlig unproblematisch, durch Analogien zum Großen Brand von London 1666. Überzeugend analysiert Drinkwater in diesem Kontext die Funktion der stadtrömischen Christen in ihrer Eigenschaft als Sündenböcken (S. 244-248). Die Christen seien nicht wegen ihrer Religion, sondern als Brandstifter sanktioniert worden. Daran schließt sich die historische Einordnung des „Goldenen Hauses" an. Bei diesem habe es sich nicht um einen Architektur gewordenen Anspruch auf göttliche Verehrung des Herrschers gehandelt, auch nicht um den Ausdruck purer Megalomanie, sondern um eine durch das Feuer von 64 ermöglichte Baumaßnahme, die zwar alle bisher bekannten Maße sprengte, sich jedoch letztlich in die Tradition imperialer Repräsentationsbauten einfügte und speziell dazu dienen sollte, den armenischen König Tiridates bei seinem Besuch in Rom zu beeindrucken (S. 249f.). Auch unter Nero, so hält der Autor fest, driftete das römische Principat, auch wenn die Versuchung, eine solche Wertung vorzunehmen, in der Forschung immer groß gewesen ist, nicht in Richtung einer hellenistischen Monarchie (S. 271f.). Natürlich muss auch dieses Buch, selbst wenn Nero nicht im Focus steht, zur angeblichen madness des Kaisers Stellung beziehen (S. 276-286). Der Hinweis, dass wir keine Möglichkeit haben, den mentalen Zustand Neros, gewissermaßen in einer retrospektiven Ferndiagnose, zu bestimmen, ist fast überflüssig, aber wiederum auch notwendig, weil diese Frage bis in die Gegenwart hinein – neben dem Topos des Brandstifters - zu den beliebtesten Sujets bei der Decodierung des Phänomens Nero gehört. Wichtig ist die Beobachtung, dass die „Verrücktheit" erst in den späteren Quellen, nicht aber bei Tacitus und Sueton explizit thematisiert wird (S. 285f.).

Instruktiv sind, wenn auch an dieser Stelle etwas überraschend platziert, die Ausführungen zu den Finanzen (S. 326-368). Kenntnisreich und überzeugend bilden die kompetenten Darlegungen aber einen rationalen Kontrapunkt zu pauschalen Urteilen, die Nero (wie auch Caligula) als reine Geldverschwender charakterisieren.

Das dritte große Kapitel („End", S. 369-415) befasst sich mit den Vorgängen, die zum Sturz Neros und seinem vorzeitigen Tod führten. Es setzt ein mit Neros Tournee nach Griechenland im Jahre 67, die er nach Drinkwater auf Anraten seiner Berater unternahm, um ihn nach den Erfahrungen der Pisonischen Verschwörung aus der Schusslinie zu nehmen. Nach der Rückkehr fühlte sich Nero mehr denn je als Künstler, Schauspieler und Sportler. Der Fall begann mit der Revolte des Vindex und der Erhebung Galbas. Beide Vorgänge waren Ergebnis einer strukturellen Schwäche des Principats, das sich anfällig zeigte gegenüber den Ambitionen einflussreicher Militärführer an den Peripherien des Reiches. Nero starb am 9. Juni 68 mit den Worten qualis artifex pereo (Suet. Ner. 49,1). Einem der berühmtesten Aussprüche aus der römischen Kaiserzeit gibt Drinkwater eine bedenkenswerte eigene Deutung (S. 414), indem er in der Verwendung des Begriffs „Künstler" einen ironischen Kommentar zu seiner finalen Situation sieht (und die Übersetzung Designer vorschlägt).

Abgeschlossen wird das Buch durch eine kompakte Zusammenfassung der wesentlichen Argumente („Conclusion", S. 416-421), ein Verzeichnis der Forschungsliteratur und einen Index der Namen und Sachen.

Rom ging es gut, als Nero Kaiser war, weil er ein gutes Team hatte. Diese These wird angesichts des Umstandes, dass Nero gemeinhin als einer der schlechtesten römischen Kaiser gilt, bei künftigen Versuchen, seine historische Bedeutung zu definieren, nicht zu ignorieren sein. Nero wird von Drinkwater nicht etwa rehabilitiert, sondern als Hauptakteur eliminiert: Er stand abseits der großen Politik im Scheinwerferlicht auf der Bühne, um die Politik kümmerten sich viele bekannte und unbekannte Helfer und Ratgeber. Deren Rolle wird im Rahmen des vorliegenden Buches deutlich angemessener und sachlicher beurteilt als in auch jüngeren Publikationen, die es sich angewöhnt haben, in Bezug auf Neros Umgebung pauschal und polemisch von „Henkersknechten" oder „Schergen" zu sprechen.

Die These gibt über den engeren Rahmen der Herrschaft Neros hinaus Anlass, über das System frühes Principat an sich zu reflektieren. War es bereits so institutionalisiert, dass es, anders als zur Zeit des Architekten Augustus, zu seiner Funktionsfähigkeit des Kaisers gar nicht mehr bedurfte? Hatte Fergus Millar Recht, als er vor mehr als 40 Jahren dem Kaiser die Fähigkeit zum Reagieren, nicht aber zum Regieren attestierte? So reizvoll (wenn auch nicht komplett originell) die Gedanken Drinkwaters sind, so sind sie methodisch nicht ganz unbedenklich. Denn wie er im Vorwort selbst konzediert (S. XIII), waren es seine Studien zur Spätantike, die ihn veranlassten, auch frühere Herrschaftssysteme unter dem Aspekt unter die Lupe zu nehmen, wie sich negative Wertungen über die Kaiser in den Quellen mit erfolgreicher Politik der Administration in Einklang bringen lassen. Unter dieser Perspektive ist das Ergebnis seiner Forschungen eigentlich bereits determiniert, sie führt fast zwangsläufig zu der Idee, dass nicht die Herrschenden, sondern der Apparat die Fäden in der Hand hielt. Überdies handelte es sich bei Neros Freunden und Helfern nicht um eine homogene Regierungsmannschaft, sondern um konkurrierende Individuen und Gruppen. Auch sollte der patronale Charakter des frühen Principats nicht außer acht gelassen werden. Augustus konnte seine exponierte Stellung auch wegen seiner persönlichen Leistungen für die Res publica legitimieren. Der Princeps musste, wollte er störungsfrei regieren, um die Akzeptanz möglichst aller relevanten gesellschaftlichen Gruppen werben. Anders als in der Spätantike konnten sich die Herrscher der frühen Kaiserzeit nicht einfach zurückziehen. Auch Nero mischte aktiver in der Politik mit, als es Drinkwater zugestehen will, und setzte dabei vor allem auf die plebs urbana als Unterstützer. Und ist der Dämon Nero auch sicher ein Konstrukt der Quellen, so gehörten Gewalt und Extravaganz durchaus zum Repertoire seines Herrschaftsstils, wie auch der bewusste Einsatz der Kunst als Inszenierung der Macht.

Trotz dieser Einwände und Bedenken ist dieses anregende, sorgfältig recherchierte und instruktive Buch ein wichtiger Beitrag zur Geschichte Roms in der Zeit Neros und zur Erforschung der politischen Strukturen und der Herrschaftspraxis in der frühen Kaiserzeit.

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M.C. Bishop, The Secret History of the Roman Roads of Britain. Yorkshire; Philadelphia: Pen & Sword Military, 2019. Pp. 224. ISBN 9781526761132. $29.95.

Reviewed by Tønnes Bekker-Nielsen, University of Southern Denmark (

Version at BMCR home site

There has been no shortage of books on Roman roads recently, but few have as catchy a title as this one. Opening the book for the first time, the reader wonders whether a volume on ancient roads can match the level of sex and scandal attained by Procopius or Donna Tartt. Let it be said straight away that it does not, but it is a good read and the author's straightforward, nuts-and-bolts approach will appeal to many readers, not least among the numerous non-specialists who take an informed interest in Britain's road heritage.

The history of a Roman road network may be approached from two angles: synchronically, studying the roads within their Roman context and drawing on parallels from other provinces within the imperium Romanum; or diachronically, viewing the Roman network as a stage in the development of the road system from prehistory to the modern period. Dr. Bishop takes the latter approach, placing the Roman roads of Britain within a longue durée that stretches from prehistory to as far as the eighteenth century, where the road-building activities of Marshal Wade in Scotland are cited as a parallel to the activities of Roman road surveyors (e.g., pp. 20-22).

Though outdated in many respects, Ivan D. Margary's Roman Roads in Britain remains the standard work for British road-hunters, thanks not least to the numbering system for Roman roads which it introduced. Margary's approach was morphological, taking the physical appearance of the road – especially its straight alignment – as the point of departure. 1 His method was taken up by a group of enthusiasts calling themselves the Viatores (glossed as 'road surveyors' on p. 121, but Latin viator means 'traveller') who produced a volume on Roman Roads in the South- East Midlands (London: Gollancz, 1964). They succeeded in reconstructing a dense network of 'Roman' roads within their region, but their results were later called into question by Angela Simco,2 who pointed out that many linear features cited as evidence of Roman origin were in fact created during the Enclosures of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

More recent studies tend to favour a contextual approach, setting roads in relation to known settlement or burial sites, e.g., the work of Dorsey on Iron Age Israel (1991) or of Lysandrou and Agapitou on Hellenistic and Roman Cyprus (2016).3 Bishop, too, follows a contextual approach with a special focus on military camps of the Roman period and the use of Roman roads by medieval and early modern armies (pp. 49-58; 70-71).

The first five chapters of the book are chronological, beginning with prehistoric roads (pp. 1-15), the Roman conquest (pp. 16-38), the development of the road network (pp. 39-69), its afterlife (69-108) and rediscovery (pp. 108-130). These are followed by a brief chapter summarizing the main results ('secrets') of the study (pp. 131-135), an equally brief guide to further reading, five appendices, notes, bibliography and a detailed analytical and geographical index.

The author is careful to present the reader not only with the facts as he sees them but with his arguments as well—a laudable principle, though sometimes taken to extremes. The idea that the invading armies of AD 43 built roads as they marched forward is discussed in detail, then emphatically rejected (pp. 16-19); but to this reviewer's knowledge, such a theory has never been put forward by any serious student of Roman roads. On the contrary, thanks to Strabo (4.6.11) we know that work on the highways from Lyon into the Three Gauls did not commence until more than a generation after Caesar's victory, which supports Bishop's contention that in the first stage of conquest, Roman commanders made do with whatever routes were at hand. With good reason, Bishop also rejects Hugh Davies' theory, first put forward in Britannia4 and later reiterated in several books, that Roman road surveyors used scale maps (p. 23), for which there is no evidence in the sources.

In his discussion of milestones (pp. 25-26; 30-34), the author loses himself (and his reader) in a labyrinthine argument for 'the possibility that not all Roman miles within Britain were the same length' (p. 26), but when rounding errors and the omission of sections intra muros from the calculation are taken into account, the distances found in itineraries and on milestones are compatible with the 'canonical' Roman mile of 1482 metres. Based on the skewed chronological distribution of British milestone finds, Bishop further theorizes that 'the practice of carving inscriptions' on milestones only 'became popular' in the third century AD (p. 33). But there is ample evidence from other provinces that inscribed milestones were already being set up during the Republic.

Chapter 3 on 'Development and Use' examines the context of the roads, the travellers who used them and, briefly, the evidence of the Peutinger Table and the Antonine Itinerary (pp. 47-49); this is followed by a more detailed analysis of the spatial relationship between roads, forts and urban settlements in the second century AD, supported by a series of useful maps (figs. 15-20, pp. 54-58). The interplay of roads and warfare is further explored in chapter 4, the book's longest and richest, which takes the story of Britain's road network beyond the collapse of Roman control and traces the military function and strategic value of the Roman road network through the Middle Ages into the Early Modern period. The text is supplemented by three useful appendices (2-4, pp. 150-162) listing port-Roman battles in chronological order and giving the Margary number of the nearest Roman road. From the viewpoint of the ancient historian, chapter 4 comes closest to fulfilling the promise of a 'secret' history – or at least a history that is not generally known – of Britain's Roman roads.

The same contextual approach is chronologically inverted in appendix 5 on 'Possible Roman Roads in North-East England and South-East Scotland'; here, the use of roads by medieval armies is taken as a possible indication of a Roman or prehistoric origin. Further fieldwork will be needed to confirm or reject these conjectural 'Roman' roads. (Though Bishop elsewhere acknowledges the uses of Google Earth for tracing roads, he gives map coordinates according to the British grid. Geographical coordinates of latitude and longitude, or UTM coordinates, would be more helpful for a reader wishing to find a specific site on Google Earth).

Chapter 5 on 'Rediscovery' offers useful hints to the road hunter on how to search for and identify roads in the landscape (pp. 108-116) and an overview of older and more recent scholarship on the Roman roads of Britain including an assessment of Margary's work, which is criticized on a number of points (pp. 120-123). Bishop is less critical of the Viatores, and while he acknowledges that 'their methodology can be criticized' he nonetheless accepts their hypothetical road network more or less at face value, as 'a salutary lesson of what may await discovery in the rest of Britain' (p. 124). In general, he takes a charitable view of the amateur scholars to whose work 'the steady increase in our knowledge of the Roman roads of Britain is almost exclusively due' (p. 125), even including such heterodox figures as Alfred Watkins, the originator of the ley line theory (pp. 117-118).5

In the same chapter, the author offers an overview of the cartographic resources available to would-be students of Roman roads (pp. 125-127); this is supplemented and to some extent duplicated by the suggestions for 'Further reading' (pp. 135- 137). These include the Ordnance Survey Map of Roman Britain (fourth edition, 1978) and the two British sheets of the Tabula Imperii Romani (1983 and 1987), but no mention of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (Princeton UP, 2000). Equally surprisingly, a list of useful websites does not include the Orbis project at Stanford University.6

Free access to satellite coverage on Google Earth has, as the author points out, 'revolutionized' road studies (p. 114). One of the many advantages of Google Earth and other new digital tools over older, non-digital aerial imaging is that with a few clicks of the mouse, it is possible to generate a longitudinal profile of a route – an operation which formerly required hours of tedious work using topographical maps or stereoscopic photo images. However, while its linearity (or lack thereof) in the horizontal plane is a recurrent theme, the vertical profile of a road is rarely discussed by Bishop, save for a brief excursus on road inclines (p. 67). Other new opportunities which might have deserved at least a brief mention are Least Cost Path Analysis and Network Analysis, both of which have been successfully applied to Roman road networks in other provinces.

The reader who has been waiting for the 'secrets' will find them in the Conclusions, where they are listed one by one: 'Our first "secret" is that the Romans did not give us a new road network, they merely adapted an existing one' (p. 131); 'rather than staring forlornly across frontiers, the Romans looked along their roads' (p. 132), 'the provision of an all-weather road networks for military purposes ... had unexpected benefits for the inhabitants' (p. 132); 'the road network as it is ... a palimpsest, an accumulations of many different networks' (p. 133); 'the Roman system definitely had a profound effect on medieval life ... most of the post-Roman battles ... were fought on or next to a Roman road' (p. 133); 'our knowledge of the Roman road network can be a valuable tool in assessing the location of unknown or poorly attested battle sites' (p. 133); 'our seventh and final secret is that the study of Roman roads in Britain is patently incomplete' (p. 134). Few readers will find reason to disagree with any of these points, and as the author himself soberly concedes (p. 134), 'The secret history of the Roman roads of Britain does not really contain any secrets at all'.

The book is generally well produced, with only a few typos (Charthouse for Charterhouse, p. 115), and the black-and-white plates are crisply printed. The maps accompanying the text are on the whole easy to interpret, though some lack place- names (e.g., fig. 2, p. 4; figs. 16-17, pp. 54-55); at least a handful of names would be helpful to readers who were not born and raised in the UK.


1.   Margary, Ivan D., Roman Roads in Britain, 3rd ed. (London: Baker, 1973), 18-26.
2.   Simco, Angela, Survey of Bedfordshire: The Roman Period (Bedford: Bedfordshire County Council, 1984), 78-79; not in Bishop's bibliography.
3.   Dorsey, David A., The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1991), 52-56; Lysandrou, Vasiliki & Agapitou, A., Cities of the Dead: Approaching the Lost Landscape of Hellenistic and Roman Necropoleis of Cyprus, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 8 (2016), 873-874.
4.   Davies, Hugh, Designing Roman Roads, Britannia 29 (1998), 1-16; not in Bishop's bibliography.
5.   Watkins, Alfred, The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (London: Methuen, 1925).
6.   ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman Empire, ORBIS

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020


Rebecca Langlands, Exemplary Ethics in Ancient Rome. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. 336. ISBN 9781107040601. $99.00.

Reviewed by Matthew Roller, Johns Hopkins University (

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In her splendid book on Roman exemplary ethics, Rebecca Langlands tellingly remarks that she required more than two decades to produce it. I experienced a moment of recognition as a fellow-toiler in this field, whose book on Roman exemplarity also appeared in mid-2018 and itself required decades of effort: this is exactly how it is to work with this vast, formless, and intractable material, to try to grasp its scope and implications, and to give it structure.1

Langlands' book builds upon her earlier publications to create a more general picture of the "exemplary terrain" on which Romans operated. An introduction and 13 thematic chapters address a range of interrelated questions within exemplary ethics. The chapters' topics are varied but connected. Extensive discussion of the figures of Mucius Scaevola, Marcus Curtius, Regulus, and Titus Manlius Torquatus span multiple chapters and provide continuity. Also, Langlands everywhere presses home her overarching contention that exempla are, at all times, living and emotionally resonant touchstones for moral thought, providing rich and complex scenarios through which Romans could think out the conflicts and tradeoffs that accompany moral reasoning and action. Indeed, she insists (pp. 4-5) that the ethical function of exempla is their primary function in Roman culture. Finally, the book is avowedly a literary study: Langlands keeps her focus firmly on literary texts and the catchment of consumers that such texts can reach, though many of the figures she treats also leave traces in other media.

Chapter 1, "Roman values and the archetypal exemplum," offers an overview of the moral functioning of exempla. Descriptions of the story patterns associated with three figures, Mucius Scaevola, Marcus Curtius, and Valerius Corv(in)us, illustrate the main components Langlands regards as typifying the exemplary moral tale: the hero, the story, and the moral, the latter of which insists on the hero's embeddedness in a community and subjection to its values. Langlands emphasizes the variability among individual renditions of any given hero's story: while some elements persist, remarkable divergences are also found. Points of consensus and points of divergence are both key to facilitating an exemplum's operation as a moral touchstone.

Chapter 2, "The special capacity of exemplary stories," argues that moral tales are the "lifeblood" of Roman moral thought. Comparanda from other cultures' moral story traditions illuminate how Roman tales might have worked. Based on this comparative evidence, Langlands stresses the multivalency of Roman exemplary tales—that embedded in their fabric are points of doubt, ambiguity, the opportunity to question whether the narrated deed was properly done, and so on—and that Roman moral thinking occurs precisely through such debates. This analysis, like other recent scholarship, stresses the moral openness (not prescriptiveness) of exemplary tales and the opportunities for developing and refining moral judgment that they afford.2

Chapter 3, "Exploitation, participation, and the social function of exempla," elaborates the themes of chapter two. A riveting discussion of exemplary heroic tales from Maoist China suggests that even stories generated within a state apparatus and imposed top-down give subaltern consumers the opportunity to interpret otherwise, or resist, or find countervailing elements in the stories that change their "intended" message. Exemplary tales always provide an excess of interpretive resources, permitting them to be understood in different ways by different users.

Chapter 4, "The experience of learning from exempla," explores the moral learning experienced by participants in exemplary practice. Langlands proposes that exempla first seek to arouse wonder and to inspire comparison. These stimuli may lead the learner to attempt to imitate or emulate the deed portrayed; they may also (or alternatively) lead him/her to grasp better the virtue instantiated in the exemplum, hence to develop her or his own capacity for ethical discrimination. For these processes to take place, she contends that exemplary deeds must purport to have happened in actuality, lest they lose their authority as precedent.3 Langlands delves into ancient theorizing on imitation and modeling, and addresses via Cicero and Seneca (with side glances at Aristotle and Kant) both how we "learn" from exemplary models in order to make cognitive and epistemological progress, and how such learning can go awry. Here she enters the realm of Roman "situation ethics," a topic she defined a decade ago in an influential article.

Chapter 5, "Multiplicity, breadth, diversity, and situational sensitivity in exemplary ethics," further develops "situation ethics." Langlands contends that lists of exempla gathered under a single moral category (as found, e.g., in Valerius Maximus) show readers that the moral category is constituted by a multiplicity of situations, actors, and nationalities. This display of variability helps readers develop the situational sensitivity necessary to judge a given situation correctly, and to "hit the target" in their own moral action.

Chapter 6, "Working consensus around Roman exempla," considers the question of what the participants in exemplary practice agree on. For there must be points of consensus—"common currency"—in any exemplary tradition, simply to have identifiable exempla to talk about in the first place. Langlands contends that this consensus includes agreeing to disagree: agreeing, that is, that any exemplum inherently contains morally indeterminate elements that are themselves essential to its moral operation. Further, exempla provide affordances by which people at every level of moral development and sophistication can engage with and benefit from them.

Chapter 7, "Indeterminacy of exempla: interpretation, motivation, and improvisation," offers a case study of how the consensus about the indeterminacy of moral meaning works in practice. Langlands examines the ways different authors treat the Mucius Scaevola exemplum in different rhetorical and philosophical contexts, focusing particularly on his alleged motives. Tracking representations of this exemplum from Cicero to late antiquity, Langlands shows how the story is adjusted so that the action becomes morally good in different ways (or, rarely, morally vicious or simply evacuated of moral content) in each context. The old tale is never fossilized, but is constructed afresh for each new context.

Chapter 8, "Sites of exemplarity: referentiality, memory, orality," introduces new terminology: a "site of exemplarity," modeled on the phrase "site of memory" employed by scholars of cultural memory, is an amorphous repository of sedimented cultural knowledge about an exemplary figure and deed, lodged partly in texts and monuments and partly in people's minds. Each new telling deriving from such a body of knowledge can be described as a "remediation"—the reinsertion of this knowledge into a medium in which others can access it. To illustrate the operation of a "site of exemplarity," Langlands offers detailed and fascinating discussion of the figure of Robin Hood—an excellent parallel for Roman exemplary figures, with the advantage that this legend (or "site of exemplarity") still continues to be "remediated" and is readily available for study.

Chapter 9, "The dynamics of cultural memory: forgetting, rupture, contestation," pursues the discussion of the "site of exemplarity," with a focus on how "remediations" may lead to rupture. In illustration, Langlands adduces the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitoline Hill, which came to be known in the middle ages as Constantine, with suitable backstories generated to account for the statue's existence in this form. Similarly, she shows how various elements enter and exit the Robin Hood story to meet evolving political and economic exigencies.

Chapter 10, "Changing sites of exemplarity: two case studies" considers further how exemplary tales change from one retelling to another. Langlands begins by making a compelling, if circumstantial, argument that the story of Mucius Scaevola's burning hand enters the tradition only in the mid-first century BCE, as an "explanation" for the cognomen that was already associated with the gens Mucia. This story then "stuck" and became central to the subsequent tradition. Langlands connects this development to a growing interest from the later Republic onward in matters of personal virtue, resilience, and resistance. Thus she speaks of "trends" and "social change" underpinning changes in exemplary tales.4

Chapter 11, "Diachronic overview of the exemplary terrain," pursues the question of how literary exempla, and the virtues and themes their remediations foreground, change from Sulla to Trajan. Langlands convincingly contends that exempla in general display somewhat different preoccupations in, say, Pliny's day than in Cicero's day, noting (e.g., p. 251) that these changes may follow the needs of the texts in which they are embedded. This chapter contains the book's most systematic survey of scholarly literature on Roman exemplarity—especially useful for a scholar seeking orientation into this field. Langlands also reiterates that scholars who attribute a "crisis of exemplarity" to this or that historical moment are actually noting a defining element of exemplarity as such—the inherent indeterminacy and moral ambiguity in the DNA of all exempla (cf. chapters 5-6).

Chapter 12, "Controversial thinking through exempla," analyzes specific literary texts to establish how authors marshal the built-in moral indeterminacy of exempla to stimulate debate and reflection. Here Langlands provides a particularly nice discussion (among others) of how Cicero in de Finibus deploys the figure of Titus Manlius Torquatus to bootstrap a philosophical debate he has constructed between Stoics and Epicureans regarding human motivation—personal interest or "pleasure" vs. serving the community and pursuing honor.

Chapter 13, "Literary and philosophical adventures in the exemplary terrain," is the last and longest chapter. Its main exhibit is extensive discussion of the exempla of Fabius Cunctator and Horatius the sister-killer. Again Langlands considers how authors mobilize the moral indeterminacies that constitute these exempla to advance literary and philosophical ends. Here she focuses on "dissenting voices," figures like Minucius in the Fabius tale who present counterarguments to the strategy and approach that will eventually prevail. Such voices, she argues, help bring the reader into the moment of decision-making, reminding them of the difficulty of establishing what is right to do in a particular circumstance. These analyses provide the book's concluding flourish; a very brief (3 pp.) "conclusion" reiterates with all brevity a few of the overarching themes.

A concise general index and index locorum provide real intellectual guidance to the book's main themes. One could wish for the table of contents to include chapter subsections, to provide a more complete overview of the structure and flow of topics. While I spotted a few typos and slips in translation, production is very clean.

This (dare one say) exemplary book enriches the study of Roman exempla and of exemplarity as such. It opens many paths of productive debate, and will provide a trove of ideas and prompts to further research.


1.   While Langlands and I have discussed our work and read one other's publications, our books developed independently. Their diverse organizational schemes attest to the material's protean quality.
2.   On p. 59 Langlands overstates (in my view) a supposed scholarly consensus that Roman exempla are "highly directive" and communicate clear, unambiguous moral messages (a consensus she rejects). I do not believe any such consensus has existed in recent decades. To my eyes Langlands' analysis here, and generally, swims with current scholarly tides rather than against them.
3.   This argument, also reprised in chapter 9, seems debatable. Some Roman exemplary narratives stress that the narrated deed is unlikely actually to have happened, yet the stories are (re)told anyway with reservations expressed. In modernity, philosophers construct overtly fictional scenarios as "thought experiments," aiming to effect precisely the cognitive and epistemological gains Langlands describes. A relation of analogy, rather than factuality, may suffice for exempla to be efficacious: see Steven Knapp, "Collective memory and the actual past," Representations 26 (1989): 123–49.
4.   I am dubious about connecting particular renditions of exemplary tales to overall social change or historical development. An author tailors a particular textual rendition of an exemplary tale to meet the needs of the specific literary context, and authors produce their texts in light of social and historical contingencies. But this suggests that the exempla included in these texts participate in the texts' rhetoric, logic, and histories, not that they have their own autonomous histories.

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Michael Fulford, Amanda Clarke, Emma Durham, Nicholas Pankhurst, Late Iron Age Calleva: The Pre-Conquest Occupation at Silchester Insula IX. Silchester Roman town: the Insula IX town life project. Volume 3. Britannia monographs series, 32. London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2018. Pp. xx, 532. ISBN 9780907764458. £75.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Tatiana Ivleva, Newcastle University (

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Publisher's Preview

Between 1997 and 2014 the University of Reading carried out excavations on the site of a Romano-British town, Calleva Atrebatum, ca 1.5 km west of the modern village of Silchester. Calleva is usually referred to as a Late Iron Age territorial oppidum, which in the subsequent periods developed into a typical Romano-British town. The establishment of the settlement is dated to the last decades of the first century BC, with dating refinement presented in the volume under the review. The site was prominent in the Late Roman period, with an abandonment horizon between the fifth and the seventh century. As it was never built over, Calleva has enormous archaeological potential for investigating the urban development and population dynamics of an ancient town from beginning to end. The excavations presented in the volume were focused on the so-called Insula IX area of the settlement, covering 0.9 percent out of total 32.5 ha of enclosed settlement. It was selected because of its domestic character, as revealed by 19th-century trenching (p. 6), offering ideal conditions for investigating the daily life and activities of the settlement as well as the layout and occupation histories of buildings of non-official character.

The volume under review is the third in the series of Insula IX excavation reports and the seventh for Calleva in general. The first two volumes focus on mid-Roman and Late Roman features of Insula IX,1 with other volumes covering excavations conducted at the forum basilica, the amphitheater and the town defenses.2 The present volume covers archaeology immediately before the Claudian conquest of the British Isles in 43 CE, a period sometimes referred to as Late Pre-Roman Iron Age (LPRIA). Two more volumes, focusing on the mid-first century CE (Claudio-Neronian) and late first to mid second centuries CE at Insula IX, are planned for publication in the Britannia Monograph Series. One hopes that a more general publication will appear, condensing the information from all nine volumes to provide an exhaustive account of Calleva's development and highlight interesting observations and interpretations in language accessible to both academics and laymen.

Late Iron Age Calleva is a detailed report untangling the 50 years of human occupation of the north-west corner of the late Iron Age settlement. The task was a challenging one, as Calleva is typical of early first-century CE sites in southern Britain, where determining which features can be confidently assigned to LPRIA and which ones belong after 43 CE, and what material assemblages are Roman, indigenous or more broadly British, is anything but straightforward. Disentangling the stratigraphy has proved to be a demanding task (pp. 7, 8–11), and the volume's editors are to be congratulated for completing this impressive work of sequence refining.

The volume is focused on the features of period 0 of Insula IX, roughly dated to c. 10 BCE to some time before 43–4 CE, with in-depth study suggesting a further distinction into three phases, though the authors acknowledge that this is conjectural. This tight chronological focus allows the authors to construct an archaeological narrative of the site's first two generations of inhabitants and glimpse their decision-making strategies regarding the spatial development of the area and surrounding countryside. The sheer amount of data collected, presented in the three sections discussed below, makes it especially apparent how peculiar early Calleva was, not only in relation to subsequent periods but also in the wider landscape of south-eastern LPRIA settlements. The book is supplemented by ca 100 pages of appendices, with more data available digitally through Archaeology Data Service.

Section 1 – The Site reveals the distinctive quality of the area's structural elements. The excavation uncovered four structures and an unusually large rectangular building, referred to as a hall. The function of this enigmatic hall-like structure is obscure, but on the basis of various strands of evidence the authors view it as a high-status building originally for domestic use. Structures of similar scale and function are nearly non-existent in British LPRIA contexts, and the authors have rightly turned their attention to the continent to trace the comparanda (p. 26). Their search has provided some parallels, though no direct antecedents, but the discussion is somewhat limited by the absence of ground plans of similar structures on the continent. Meticulous phasing and in-depth assemblage analysis indicate the building's function shifted from domestic to more ceremonial use in the following phase. Another enigmatic structure located nearby and identified as 'the possible Iron Age temple' (p. 37) yielded further clues as to the changing nature of the area around the time of the Roman conquest, but the temple and finds there will be reported in subsequent volumes.

Section 2 – The Finds provides a full inventory of various assemblages such as pottery, coins, brooches, iron-making debris, and small finds, with detailed commentary on how each assemblage complex compares and contrasts with the LPRIA material from the other area excavated in Calleva, the forum basilica. The artefacts are set in a wider regional and continental context to demonstrate how the Insula IX assemblage fits or diverges from other settlements established at around the same time. The section may appear confusing, since it includes finds that typologically can be assigned to LPRIA but were found in the post-conquest context (i.e. after 43 CE). An inattentive reader or one using the volume for the finds only may fail to notice the brief discussion on that pre-/post-conquest ambiguity in the introduction to the section. However, the difficulty in ascribing assemblages to the pre- or post-conquest period continues the necessary debate. Arguments in favour of residuality or just broader acceptance of the absence of any neat distinction between these periods situate this volume well within the current theoretical framework concerning the LPRIA-to-Roman period transition.3 A welcome addition to this section is chapter 10 dealing with organic residue analysis of few coarseware vessels to spotlight culinary practices of Insula IX. The results again support the distinctive nature of the excavated area, as the samples investigated do not contain evidence for cooking with dairy products, which stands in contrast to the evidence from sites nearby or elsewhere in southern Britain (p. 227).

Section 3 – Environmental Evidence covers analysis of animal, plant, insect and wood remains. This section is one of the chief merits of the volume. The adoption of more rigorous and systematic sampling strategies for floral and faunal remains as well as microscopic residues and small fragments of artefacts significantly raised the recovery rate of environmental and economic data. This has resulted in a large assemblage providing important insights into animal husbandry and farming practices, consumption patterns, and land- and woodland use. In that respect, it is interesting to note that the analysis of animal bones reporting the scarcity of young calves (p. 270) complements the organic residue results regarding the absence of evidence for the use of dairy products. Such evidence sets Calleva apart from the other settlements in the area, which consumed dairy products, while other activities reported from the site display the settlement's conformity with the Late Iron practices in southern Britain generally. For instance, the burial of a miniature dog in a foundation trench of the large hall-like structure (pp. 25, 271, 274-6) seems to echo the deposition of dog skeletons in pits or other liminal places reported from other sites. These similarities and differences suggest that each southern British settlement in LPRIA period exhibited a distinct identity, which is a further key in our understanding of pre-conquest life and lifestyle choices.

The concise concluding chapter brings everything together. New sampling strategies and the use of cutting-edge analytical methods and technologies have painted a vivid picture of the early population of Calleva, their consumption patterns, and the spatial development of their settlement over a period of just 50 years. The study of crops has suggested a small number of permanent inhabitants who welcomed a large number of traders to the settlement periodically (p. 376). The early phases of Insula IX indicate thus that Calleva was certainly a socio-political and cultural node in the pre-Roman landscape, possibly acting as a market and meeting place for people coming from across southern Britain and also from the continent. There are some subtle hints that continental immigrants, possibly from northern Gaul, irregularly visited Insula IX before the Roman conquest. This data lends further support to the hypothesis of a mid-scale Gallic migration to southern Britain in late first century BCE – early first century CE.4 Links to other southern British regions, such as to Kent through the presence of briquetage for the storage of salt and to the south-west through its coins, provide strong arguments that trade was one of the most important activity in early Calleva. The conclusion sketches the very cosmopolitan nature of the earliest Insula IX occupants, though its international character is uncertain as there are a few hints of spatial segregation.

This important volume offers a vital contribution to current thinking with regard to the pre-Roman urbanisation processes, population dynamics, commerce, and regional and cross-Channel networks in LPRIA southern Britain. Its methodology and analytical framework will undoubtedly serve as a model for fieldwork on settlements of similar date and type, given the sheer amount of environmental and artefactual data recovered, which are crucial for untangling the LPRIA settlements' complexities and lifecycles. The volume is an indispensable source of information for those aiming to explore and interpret the complex and very dense LPRIA chapter in the archaeological history of Britain.


1.   M. Fulford, A. Clarke, and H. Eckardt,Life and Labour in Late Roman Silchester, London, 2006; M. Fulford and A. Clarke, Silchester: City in Transition, London, 2011.
2.   M. Fulford, Silchester: Excavations on the Defences 1974–80, London, 1984; M. Fulford, The Silchester Amphitheatre, London, 1989; M. Fulford and J. Timby, Late Iron Age and Roman Silchester, London, 2000; J. Creighton with R. Fry Silchester: Changing Visions of a Roman Town, London, 2016.
3.   See L. Wallace (2016). 'The Early Roman Horizon', in M. Millett, L. Revell, and A. Moore (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain, Oxford, 117–34; D. Garrow and C. Gosden, Technologies of Enchantment? Exploring Celtic Art: 400 BC to AD 100, Oxford, 2012.
4.   See R. Niblett, The Excavation of a Ceremonial Site at Folly Lane, Verulamium, London, 1999; T. Moore (2016). 'Britain, Gaul, and Germany: Cultural interactions', in M. Millett, L. Revell, and A. Moore (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain, Oxford, 262–85.

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Frederick Whitling, Western Ways: Foreign Schools in Rome and Athens. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2019. Pp. xxviii, 324. ISBN 9783110601589. . €86,95.

Reviewed by Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (

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Publisher's Preview

In Western Ways, the author examines the history of the foreign archaeological schools in Greece and Italy during the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, analyzing the historical circumstances and intellectual milieu that led to their creation and growth, their war-related difficulties, and their post-war recovery. In addition to a brief preface and introduction, the book is organized into six chapters, followed by conclusions and an epilogue. A general timeline, a dramatis personae, twelve appendices publishing primary sources, as well as information about the location and content of those sources (i.e., archives and interviews) supplement the volume.

In the Preface, Whitling introduces the reader to the scope and content of his book, which targets classicists, historians, as well as the educated public. This is a study about the largest and oldest foreign archaeological schools in Italy and Greece, one focusing on the years before WW II and the immediately post-war period. The author's Swedish nationality offers him the advantage of being a disinterested researcher with a distance and perspective that a British, French, or Greek scholar might not have.

The Introduction follows, albeit with some repetition (Whitling might better have combined the Preface and Introduction or could have invited another scholar to write the former). Founded by the Great Powers of the 19th century in times of nation building, these foreign schools competed with each other for national prestige through their magnificent buildings, big digs, and impressive publications. While colonial archaeology has been examined in depth before by other scholars (e.g., Suzanne Marchand, Yannis Hamilakis, and Frank Braemer, to mention just a few), Whitling promises to address a host of relevant issues, such as the role of individual agency and the different perceptions and transformations of the "classical," as well as to write a "heritage history" (pp. 5-6), all within the socio-political context of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Chapter One traces the precursors of the foreign schools and the foundation of the French Academy in Rome (1666), as well as the works of travelers, such as Cyriacus of Ancona and members of the Society of Dillettanti. These contributed to the gradual professionalization of classical archaeology, as manifested in the establishment of the Institute of Archaeological Correspondence (ICA) in Rome (1828), the Archaeological Society at Athens (1837), and the École française d'Athènes (1846). While the ICA started as an international association of scholars, by the time Italy and Germany emerged as nations in the 1870s, it had already been appropriated by the Germans. In this chapter the reader also learns about a fundamental difference between the foreign schools in Rome and Athens. While the latter were founded with excavation as their primary purpose, the schools in Rome maintained a more antiquarian and aesthetic approach, one dictated by the Italians, who did not allow foreign institutions to conduct systematic excavations on Italian soil until after WW II. This is a difficult chapter to follow since it requires knowledge about the foreign schools that is not presented until the following chapter. There is an interesting discussion of two interwar Italian publications, Africa Italiana and Mare Nostrum, within a subchapter titled "The Big Digs," but again, as with much other discussion in this chapter, the reader is left confused about its relevance to the titles of the chapters and their subheadings.

In Chapter Two, Whitling discusses the historical context that led to the establishment of the four major foreign schools (French, German, American, and British) in Greece and Italy. From the beginning, the Great Powers of the 19th century competed for the cultural appropriation of Greece's and Italy's ancient pasts. The French responded to the creation of the (Prussian by then) Institute of Archaeological Correspondence (ICA) in Rome with the foundation of the École française d' Athènes in 1846, capitalizing on the experience they had acquired from military expeditions combined with scientific explorations (e.g., the Expedition de Morée [1828-1833] and the Napoleonic wars in Egypt). After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, the victorious Germans lost no time in rebranding ICA as the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Rom and establishing a corresponding institution in Athens (1872-1874). No sooner than the French had initiated the Delos excavations (1873), the Germans obtained the rights to dig at Olympia (1875). The example of the Germans and French was soon followed by the Americans (Athens 1881, Rome 1894) and the British (Athens 1886, Rome 1901), who did not wish to be left behind. Rivalry for national and scholarly prestige at a time of dynamic nation building, financial robustness, and a national mandate to enrich museums with original antiquities were the main reasons for the institutionalization of foreign archaeology in Greece and Italy. Note that the treatment of the foreign schools in this chapter, in terms of primary sources and archival research, is unequal, with the American and British schools receiving less attention than their French and German counterparts. Unknown to me was an incident with Panayotis Kavvadias (pp. 69-72), which brought to the surface a grudge that Greek archaeologists had against their foreign colleagues for excluding them from international conferences.

In Chapter Three, we learn how the American, British, German and Italian establishments, either as research institutes or archaeological schools, fared in Rome and Athens during and after WW I. In Greece the most important change concerned a new policy (1924) that restricted the number of foreign excavations on Greek soil: each school was limited to three digs per year. Just before the implementation of this new rule, a new player entered the Greek archaeological scene. In 1922, the Swedes began their first excavation in Greece, at Asine in the Argolid, with a French School permit. For the first time, some of the foreign institutions were facing severe funding cuts. Although this is not clearly stated by Whitling, we understand that the Swedes were able to continue their excavations at Asine under a French permit because the French School in Athens no longer had sufficient funds to support a third dig. In contrast, the American School of Classical Studies was negotiating with the Greek government and raising money for an exceptional fourth dig in the Athenian Agora.

In Rome, during the interwar period, the foreign institutes continued to operate on pre-WW I terms, offering an intellectual rite of passage to young American and European male elites: a year "'to view the past, compare it with the present and formulate [their] conclusions as to future values'" (p.87, note 4).1 With one difference, however. New players had been introduced to the game. Several countries, including Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Egypt, were establishing research institutes in Rome, followed by the Swedes who, in 1927, established their first institute abroad. Fascist Italy encouraged her guest nations to share Mussolini's vision of a Roman Imperial Italy. This period also saw the rise of a number of international associations in Italy and France as a way to overcome national restrictions.

Chapter Four, one of the best chapters in this volume, explores the years immediately preceding WW II (1935-1939) and especially the motivations of the Italian and German schools and their ideological appropriation of the Greco-Roman world. In Rome, Whitling's research in the French School Archives demonstrates that School's justified fears of isolation, manifested in Italian scholars declining invitations to speak at French conferences, or in the need of the British School at Rome for an "informal visit" by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in January 1939. In Greece, Alessandro Della Seta, Director of the Italian School, was chosen as representative of the foreign schools' directors at the centenary celebrations of the Archaeological Society in 1938. (Ironically, a few months later Della Setta, who was Jewish, would be dismissed from his position.) Whitling devotes an entire section in his discussion of the Centenary of the Archaeological Society to an analysis of various speeches that called for "national prestige and international camaraderie" (p. 125), while the Greek prime minister, Ioannis Metaxas, emphasized the "indigenous Hellenism" of the Greek ruins, and Della Setta spoke of the eternal value of romanitá which cut across nations.

Chapter Five considers how the foreign schools fared in wartime Rome and Athens (1939-1945). Based on archival research in the administrative records of various institutions, Whitling discusses the unsuccessful efforts of the French School in Athens to remain open, the suspension of operations by the American schools in Rome and Athens after 1941, the Nazi excavations in Italy in search of Germanic origins, and plans of the Americans to take over the collections of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens as part of post-war reparations. The second half of this chapter is largely dedicated to the role played by the Swedish Institute in Rome (which remained open throughout the War) as a neutral, stabilizing body in negotiations. Among the many achievements of its director, Erik Sjӧqvist, one can count the protection of the German library catalogues, his (albeit unsuccessful) efforts to save Mario Segre, the Italian Jewish epigraphist and his family, and finally, Swedish interventions to reconcile the scholarly community after the end of WW II.

The work of the foreign institutes in the years immediately following the War (1945-1953) is the subject of the book's last chapter (Chapter Six). To this discussion Whitling adds the creation of the International Association for Classical Archaeology (1945) and the Unione degli Istituti di Archeologia, Storia e Storia dell' Arte in Roma, the latter at the initiative of the Swedish Institute. The foreign schools in both Rome and Athens found themselves in a race to reopen their doors and in search of new opportunities for excavation. For the first time, although reluctantly, the Italian state entered into negotiations with the foreign schools to grant excavation permits, with the French School securing Bolsena (1946) and the American Academy the site of Cosa (1947). The reopening of the foreign schools in Greece coincided with the delayed celebration of the French School's Centenary in 1947, albeit in an uneasy climate because of the ongoing Greek Civil War (1946-1949), financial impediments, and a law that banned new excavations in Greece until the country enjoyed political and economic stability. The most poignant issue, however, was the re-opening of the German Institute in Athens and in Rome, a matter of concern to all the foreign schools. Original suggestions calling for the international administration of German assets fell through, as the German scholars cast a damnatio memoriae over the Nazi years, and the world of academia chose to separate politics from scholarship, allowing a slow return to normal life. The immediate post-WW II years also saw the establishment of the Swedish Institute in Athens in 1946.

In his Conclusions, Whitling briefly addresses the issue of funding, which was largely national and thus the main reason why international efforts, such as the post-WW II Unione degli Istituti, did not secure more support. Finally, in his Epilogue, the author spells out his own vision for the foreign schools through schemes (e.g., the creation of a "European University") that would allow them to obtain European funding and adjust to the global challenges of the 21st century.

To sum up, this is a volume with strengths and weaknesses. Its main strength is that for the first time we have a synthetic and comparative work that examines the "foreign schools" at Athens and Rome in their respective socio-political conditions, stressing their similarities and differences, and employing considerable archival research. The drawback is that it takes several chapters before the author finds his voice. The strongest chapters are three to six, and the appendices, although the reader is rarely referred to them in the main text of the book. The first two chapters as well as the preface, introduction, and conclusions would have benefitted from additional editing to remove needless repetition, and occasional misprints and mistakes (e.g. ASCSA director Charles Waldstein cited as Waldheim on pp. XXIII, 30, and in the Index; the Greek Archaeological Service founded in 1829 on p. 42 and in 1833 on p. 44; the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations taking place in 1923, not in 1922 as mentioned on p. 82). Nevertheless, Whitling has made an important contribution to the field of intellectual and institutional history and his book deserves to be read.


1.   Whitling quoting James M. Hewlett, Director of the American Academy in Rome, "Address [to] the people of America" 1934.

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M. Rahim Shayegan (ed.), Cyrus the Great. Life and Lore. Ilex Series. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2019. Pp. 250. ISBN 9780674987388. $24.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Stuart McCunn (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is given below.]

Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore is an edited volume drawn from a conference held at UCLA in 2013. The aim of the conference was to bring new light to issues surrounding "the historical figure of Cyrus the Great, his world, and later reception in antiquity and beyond."1 While the volume itself has no divisions above the individual chapters, the structure and presentation clearly reflects this tripartite focus.

The first five chapters, covering the historical figure of Cyrus, are closely interconnected. The Cyrus Cylinder is the most important document for this section, and the book helpfully starts off with a complete translation ("The Text of the Cyrus Cylinder" by Hanspeter Schaudig). Likewise, the second chapter ("Cyrus Rising" by Matt Waters) is an introductory chapter intended to provide a basic level of background knowledge for the following chapters. It is rare that such chapters prove innovative, but rather than providing a narrative of what we do know, Waters provides a summary of all the issues we do not understand. The emphasis is primarily philological. A disturbing number of conclusions about early Persian history depend on the meaning of one or two words. Does dâku mean that Cyrus defeated or annihilated the Babylonian army? Does ṣaḫri mean that Cyrus was young or insignificant? Laying out the source problems in this way provides a useful foundation for assessing the following chapters.

"Cyrus, Anshan, and Assyria" (David Stronach) engages with the difficult question of Cyrus' identity. Cyrus identified himself as king of Anshan, an old Elamite city, but most of the obvious influences on Cyrus came from Assyrian and other empires. This chapter would have benefitted from stating its conclusions more clearly. If it is accepted that Cyrus' original title truly was king of Anshan, then why is it significant that this is the title used in the Cyrus Cylinder? It cannot be a Babylonian effort to associate Cyrus with a long-established city-state if the connection predated the conquest of Babylon. The distinction between Cyrus ruling over Anshan (the region) rather than Anshan (the city) seems like it might bridge this gap, but the observation is made and then dropped.

"The Magnanimous Heart of Cyrus" by Hanspeter Schaudig focuses on Cyrus' self-depiction by treating the Cyrus Cylinder as an apologia and comparing it with previous examples of the genre. This proves to be a fruitful line of enquiry. By emphasizing the cultural preconceptions of the term used for Cyrus and his army, Ummān-Manda, the chapter illuminates the religious framework of the text. Rather than translating Ummān-Manda as just "Persians" we have to recognize that it is a religiously fraught term for eastern barbarians summoned by the gods to punish impious kings. All of this is argued with a host of persuasive examples from Babylonian history, the most useful being a list of the sins of earlier kings from the Esaĝil Chronicle classified according to their conduct, offense, and punishment. Schaudig's chapter is one of the best in the volume. Pongratz- Leisten's chapter ("'Ich bin ein Babylonier': The Political-Religious Message of the Cyrus Cylinder") also covers Cyrus' depiction in the cylinder by analyzing the way it attempts to recruit the defeated Babylonians to Persia's side.

Chapters six through eight cover various topics connected to the Persian Empire in the time of Cyrus. The first two chapters, "Cyrus and Post-Collapse Yehud" (William Schniedewind) and "Contrasting Portrayals of the Achaemenid Monarchy in Isaiah and Zecharia" (Marvin A. Sweeney), concern themselves with Judah and the end of the Babylonian captivity. Schniedewind provides an analysis of the province of Judah during the Babylonian exile through the lens of Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge, 1988). Tainter identifies three elements in post-collapse societies: decline in population, decline in monumental construction, and political fragmentation, and Schniedewind convincingly locates all three in Judah. This argument runs counter to the conclusion of biblical scholars (most notably Barstad) that the Babylonian captivity is fictitious and the population of Judah, particularly the area held by the tribe of Benjamin, remained largely in place.2 Schniedewind is part of a broader counter-reaction to Barstad, seen most notably in Avraham Faust's Judah in the Neo-Babylonian Period (Atlanta, 2012), and provides a good overview of recent research. Cyrus is naturally no more than tangentially connected to Babylonian Judah, although the chapter concludes with an effort to connect the topic with Cyrus' ending of the exile, and thus provides an effective starting point for Sweeney's chapter on Biblical accounts of Cyrus.

"Cyrus and Pasargadae" (Rémy Boucharlat) is in many ways the odd chapter out and suffers greatly from limitations of space: it could benefit from being expanded into monograph length study. As an archaeological survey of the site of Pasargadae it provides more questions than answers. Why was Pasargadae unwalled? What was the model for Cyrus' city? Was there an urban population? The chapter does an excellent job of revealing just how much work remains to be done on Pasargadae.

The final topics concern Cyrus' reception. The first chapter, "Cyrus the Great and Ancient Propaganda" (Daniel Beckman), is probably the strongest. It is concerned with the analysis of propaganda in the ancient sense, which he defines as "a conscious attempt by a social group to impose or encourage an attitude by exploiting communication media." The three vehicles of propaganda discussed are the Cyrus Cylinder, Herodotus, and Xenophon/Ctesias. Rather than assessing the reliability of each source, Beckman seeks a consistent methodology for identifying their purpose. He identifies three key aspectsof a communication that need to be identified: the sender, message, and recipient. Once these are known it becomes possible to assess the source's reliability and the nature of its bias, a fact demonstrated mainly through three case studies. The Cyrus Cylinder is the easiest source to analyze in this way since we know the intended recipients: it was written by someone representing Cyrus and meant for the people of Babylon. As such, it is easy to see that the message of his legitimacy was the intent of this work of propaganda. The Greek authors naturally pose more problems since their audiences were not the intended recipients of the original propaganda and as such the original intent has been obscured. Beckman suggests that Herodotus' account of Cyrus' upbringing comes from stories intended to placate the Medes after Cyrus' conquest. By making clear that Cyrus was the enemy of Astyages only, and not of the Medes, the propagandists emphasize the ties between the two peoples. Xenophon and Ctesias are seen as reflecting the rival propaganda of Cyrus the Younger and Artaxerxes II respectively. Even if we accept that they are not repeating the propaganda uncritically, it seems needlessly simplistic to reduce Xenophon's great fictional biography to a mere reproduction of royal propaganda. Still, this basic approach seems promising as a way of clarifying the content and intent of propaganda and may prove useful outside this context.

"Cyrus the Great: A Hero's Tale" (Maria Brosius) compares depictions of Cyrus with depictions of modern heroes (specifically Jason Bourne). This reception study aims to show how modern tales of heroism display the same components as ancient tales, but it is sometimes unclear why specific elements are chosen for comparison. Does it matter, for example, that both men have varying accounts of their death? Whatever the truth of Cyrus' fate, it cannot reflect authorial intent like the representation of Bourne.

The Romans had nothing to say about Cyrus that they didn't get from the Greeks, which is the main problem facing "Cyrus the Great and Roman Views of Ancient Iran" (Jason M. Schlude). While the chapter expands the focus from Cyrus to the depiction of Parthians as Neo-Persians the discussion still seems thin. The conclusion that Roman views of the Parthians as successors to a noble empire were incompatible with the view of the Parthians as a degenerate bunch of Eastern despots would benefit from comparison to better-documented Roman views of the Greeks.

The use of Achaemenid lineage as a source for legitimacy in later Near Eastern empires is the topic of "The Shaping of Political Memory" (Marek Jan Olbrycht). While there is nothing astonishingly novel in the identification of later kings' "blood ties" with their Macedonian and Achaemenid predecessors (and the indifference of the Parthians to such matters), it is useful to have a clear statement of the facts. Touraj Daryaee's chapter ("On Forgetting Cyrus and Remembering the Achaemenids in Late Antique Iran") explores the curious replacement of the Achaemenids with the fictional Kayanids in Sassanid legend. Daryaee has made this argument before, but where this chapter differs is his focus on the cause.3 He argues that the reason for the Persian omission of the Achaemenids lies in the late antique view of history as unfolding according to a sacred, religious narrative. This seems unquestionably an aspect of the change, but cannot provide the whole explanation. What made the Achaemenids unsuitable for a religious narrative?

"Traces of Poetic Traditions about Cyrus the Great and his Dynasty in the Šāhnāme of Ferdowsi and the Cyrus Cylinder" by Olga M. Davidson attempts to connect the story of Key Khosrow and his destruction of a fortress occupied by demons from the Šāhnāme (c. AD 1000) with Achaemenid epic. Though the parallels are questionable, they are more plausible than some efforts to find a historical basis for the myths in this poem.

The Achaemenid Persians often slip through the historical cracks since they lie at the intersection of four separate disciplines: Ancient History, Biblical Studies, Iranian Studies, and Archaeology. To be thorough, any conference on the topic needs to draw on experts in all four fields. This multidisciplinary approach is one of the monograph's greatest strengths. Few researchers opening this book will come away without having learned of some evidence and debates with which they were unfamiliar. While the book contains much detail of use to someone interested in Cyrus' life, it would not serve as the best introduction to the topic. For that it would be better to turn to Pierre Briant's From Cyrus to Alexander (Winona Lake, IN, 2002) or the Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 2 (Ilya Gershevitch, ed., Cambridge, 1985).

Table of Contents

Introduction, by M. Rahim Shayegan
The Text of the Cyrus Cylinder, by Hanspeter Schaudig
Cyrus Rising: Reflections on Word Choice, Ancient and Modern, by Matt Waters
Cyrus, Anshan, and Assyria, by David Stronach
The Magnanimous Heart of Cyrus: The Cyrus Cylinder and its Literary Models, by Hanspeter Schaudig
"Ich bin ein Babylonier": The Political-Religious Message of the Cyrus Cylinder, by Beate Pongratz-Leisten
Cyrus and Post-Collapse Yehud, by William Schniedewind
Contrasting Portrayals of the Achaemenid Monarchy in Isaiah and Zechariah, by Marvin A. Sweeney
Cyrus and Pasargadae: Forging an Empire – Fashioning "Paradise", by Rémy Boucharlat
Cyrus the Great and Ancient Propaganda, by Daniel Beckman
Cyrus the Great: A Hero's Tale, by Maria Brosius
Cyrus the Great and Roman Views of Ancient Iran, by Jason M. Schlude
The Shaping of Political Memory: Cyrus and the Achaemenids in the Royal Ideologies of the Seleucid and Parthian Periods, by Marek Jan Olbrycht
On Forgetting Cyrus and Remembering the Achaemenids in Late Antique Iran, by Touraj Daryaee
Traces of Poetic Traditions about Cyrus the Great and his Dynasty in the Šāhnāme of Ferdowsi and the Cyrus Cylinder, by Olga M. Davidson


1.   Brochure.
2.   Barstad, Hans, 1996. The Myth of the Empty Land. Oslo.
3.   c.f. Daryaee, Touraj, 1995. "National History or Keyanid History?: The Nature of Sasanid Zoroastrian Historiography." Iranian Studies 28, No. 3/4: 129-141.

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Hermann Weidemann, Marcus Tullius Cicero. Über das Schicksal. Sammlung Tusculum. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2019. Pp. 379. ISBN 9783110471182. €49,95.

Reviewed by Andrew R. Dyck, Los Angeles

Version at BMCR home site

De fato is agreed to be the most sophisticated and challenging of Cicero's philosophical works. Any help with this text is therefore welcome, particularly if it is supplied by an expert.

The author of the volume under review, Hermann Weidemann, has long been associated with De fato, both as the supervisor of Magnus Schallenberg's dissertation and as the author of studies of problems in this and related texts.1 Here he presents his views systematically in the form of introduction, text, translation and commentary.

In contrast to early Tusculum volumes that began with the original text plus en face German translation, this one contains a detailed (75-page) introduction, in which the origin of the work, its background in the Hellenistic philosophical schools and its structure are clearly delineated. There are also sections on the related texts of Pseudo-Plutarch and Alexander of Aphrodisias and on the reception of De fato. What one misses in comparison with Weidemann's edition of Aristotle, Peri hermeneias, is a detailed account of the manuscript tradition. modern editions, and editorial principles.2

Though the Latin text is presented without a critical apparatus, Weidemann has devoted considerable thought to it. The constitution of the text will be the primary focus of this review.

The text transmitted at §17 reads: nam 'morietur Scipio' talem vim habet ut, quamquam de futuro dicitur, tamen ut id non possit convertere in falsum; de homine enim dicitur, cui necesse est mori. Here Cicero is reporting the views of Diodorus Cronus, whose 'tense logic' holds that past and future events are true at all times and thus necessary. The justification introduced with enim in the transmitted text is thus out of place. Weidemann wants to delete de homine enim . . . mori as a reader's insertion (pp.215-16). But it should be recalled that at this period Cicero is writing in 'leftover time' as he follows political events closely (cf. Div. 2.7, Fat. 1b, and his letters of the period; for the phrase, Leg. 1.9 [subsiciva tempora]). It seems therefore more plausible that this mistake is a result of hasty composition, as Sedley suggested.3

§27: et si tum non esset vera haec enuntiatio 'capiet Numantiam Scipio', ne illa quidem eversa vera est haec enuntiatio 'cepit Numantiam Scipio'. This is the way the text is ordinarily printed. Weidemann rightly objects that the unreal esset in the protasis demands another unreal subjunctive in the apodosis. He adopts (p.255) Montanari Caldini's (1980, 90) conjecture esset vera for vera est, unnecessarily: one of the principal witnesses, A, offers vera esset, which is just as good and is evidently the origin of B's vera est and thus very likely to be the transmitted text.

A little further down in the same chapter, there are two occurrences of 'instantia' that have caused difficulty: nam ut praeterita ea vera dicimus, quorum superiore tempore vera fuerit instantia, sic futura, quorum consequenti tempore vera erit instantia, ea vera dicemus. This is the way the text is ordinarily printed, with fuerit and erit, the readings of the editio princeps (Venice, 1471), replacing transmitted fuerunt and erunt respectively. Weidemann challenges the communis opinio by adducing the three passages where instantia occurs elsewhere in Cicero (Part. 37, Tusc. 4.11, 64) to argue that in our passage the word is the neuter plural participle of instare, not the abstract noun (p.247). At Part. 37 and Tusc. 4.64 we have substantivized participles of a common type ('things present'), as in the latter passage: instantia feruntur . . .contemnuntur sequentia, whereas at Tusc. 4.11 the participle serves as a subject complement: quae enim venientia metuuntur, eadem adficiunt aegritudine instantia. None of these 'parallels' involves a genitival limitation of instantia, which implies that it is an abstract. Now Latin abstracts can be used in the plural, but there is no parallel for the sense Weidemann claims: 'gegenwärtige Verwirklichungen' ('present fulfillments' or the like). That is why instantia in our passage has been taken as the singular abstract ('the fact of being present or impending': OLD s.v. 1, citing our passage), which, though not found elsewhere in Cicero, is in his contemporary Nigidius (apud Gel. 9.12.6). The unusual word will have caused scribes to take it as a plural and change the verbs to plural accordingly.4

At §39 the transmitted text reads: Democritus, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Aristoteles. Weidemann (pp.305-9) rightly objects that Aristotle is out of place in this list of determinists and could more easily count as a member of the libertarians, whose position is described (without an individual being named) in the sequel. He suggests that originally Empedocles was written twice but then replaced by Aristoteles. I suspect, rather, that after the description of the libertarians (altera eorum quibus videretur sine ullo fato esse animorum motus voluntarii) some words such as ut Aristoteles voluit dropped out by saltation, the omission was then noticed and the name Aristoteles added to the margin but falsely inserted in recopying. This hypothesis would remedy both the appearance of Aristotle's name in the wrong place and the omission of a named libertarian.

At §40 Weidemann has performed a service by calling attention to and defending the conjecture of Hamelin, whereby at the slight price of changing transmitted appetitum to appetitus in the phrase illa etiam quae appetitum sequuntur, he restores a logical sequence of arguments and an orthodox Stoic position and enables appetitus to have the same sense in §§40 and 41 (pp.311-21). In §41 he rightly defends the transmitted sint, changed unnecessarily to sunt in most recent editions (p.324). Similarly in the second sentence of §44, he rightly defends the second occurrence of neque, which is often bracketed by editors (pp.336-40).

At the beginning of §44, where two libertarian positions are distinguished, the former, opposed to Chrysippus, is said to be a 'different matter' (alia ratio), the latter in substantial agreement with Chrysippus. The problem is that, according to the transmitted text, there is no identifiable difference between the positions. Here Weidemann (pp.332-36) follows the proposal of J. H. Bremi, who wanted to insert non before fateantur. As transmitted, the relevant part of the sentence is as follows: si illi qui negant assensiones fato fieri, fateantur tamen eas non sine viso antecedente fieri, alia ratio est. Because of tamen, the main clause stands in an adversative relation to the protasis; Weidemann (p. 334) proposes (after Hamelin) construing tamen with fieri, but that is hardly the natural way of reading the Latin; cf. OLD s.v. tamen 1, citing examples of the postpositive use, as well as the following instance, in which it does relate to fieri: nec tamen fato fieri assensiones. The transmitted text provides an adversative relation of the clauses in that acknowledging that a visum ('impression') precedes an assent is a concession to determinists, who hold that an assent follows a visum, in contrast to the libertarians' general anti-determinism. There is also no obvious rhetorical point to the litotes non fateantur . . . non (if Cicero had wanted to achieve that sense, he would presumably simply have omitted the transmitted non). Unless a better solution can be found, we shall have to burden Cicero, writing in haste, with having muddled the argument.

At §46 Weidemann suggests that aliam be inserted before a te, Epicure to match a preceding aliam . . . a Democrito (p.355); this is well worth considering, an omission possibly prompted by saltation from a to a.

At the beginning of the last preserved sentence (§48) Weidemann's suggests <aut> num si atomis . . .; pp. 355-59) instead of nam si atomis . . .. But the combination aut num only occurs in Cicero when a question introduced with a question particle precedes (cf. PHI), which is not the case here. His suggestion can be saved, however, by omitting aut and simply substituting num for nam, which is more plausible anyway.

Though a usable commented English translation has been available for some time (Sharples 1991), German readers have had to make do with Bayer 1963/2000, which Weidemann's version now renders obsolete.5 This new version seems to me both idiomatic and faithful to the sense of the original, but a review by a native German speaker would be desirable.

Weidemann presents a philosophical commentary that often delineates the argument with the aid of formulas. The explanation of philosophical problems is generally lucid, informed by a careful consideration of the Latin terminology, the structure of the argument, the parallel sources (where available) and secondary literature. He points out gaps in the argument, showing, for instance, that the first of the rhetorical questions at the end of §6 is incomplete and ought to contain a reference to natural causes in order to motivate the conclusion implicitly drawn in the second rhetorical question (pp.171-72). Again, in the difficult section in which Cicero tries to show that Chrysippus' embrace of astrology contradicts his modal theory, Weidemann argues, with Kreter (2006) and against some other recent opinion, that both versions of Cicero's argument (§§12 and 14) are logically correct (p.186). He is also good on the 'Idle Argument', correcting and supplementing previous accounts and critically investigating the provenance and relevance of Cicero's examples (pp. 257-72).

The commentary is generally helpful in explicating the content. My only (minor) complaint is that some of the documentation could have been more generous. Thus, on pp. 170-71 Weidemann narrates the background for Cicero's examples of Daphitas and Philip of Macedon (Fat. 5) but never gives the reference to the primary source from which he drew the information (V. Max. 1.8 ext. 8-9), so that the reader without access to another commentary will be left in the dark.

If, then, the results of Weidemann's editorial work are mixed, he has provided a commentary that will advance the understanding of this difficult treatise.6


1.   Schallenberg 2008, esp. VIII; Weidemann lists his own contributions on pp.373-74.
2.   Weidemann 2015, 54-64. The brief note on other editions on p.160 hardly a substitute.
3.   Sedley 2005, 250-51.
4.   I will deal elsewhere with Weidemann's (unconvincing) explanation of the much discussed and emended text at the end of §35.
5.   Sharples 1991; Bayer 1963/2000, on the inadequacies of which cf., e.g., Groneberg 2009, 519 and n9.

Ax, W., ed. 1938. M. T. Cicero, De divinatione, De fato, Timaeus. Leipzig.
Bayer, K., ed., tr., comm. 1963/2000. Cicero, Über das Shicksal / De fato, latein-deutsch. Munich (4th edn. Düsseldorf-Zurich, 2000).
Giomini, R. 1975. M. T. Cicero, De divinatione, De fato, Timaeus. Leipzig.
Groneberg, M. 'Die Entdeckung des "schwachen" Wahrheitsbegriff durch Cicero bzw. Karneades'. Freiburger Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Theologie 56: 516-25.
Kreter, F. 2006. Kann Fabius bei einer Seeschlacht sterben? Die Geschichte der Logik des Kontingenzproblems von Aristoteles, De interpretatione 9 bis Cicero, De fato. Trier.
Montanari Caldini, R. 1980. 'Nota testuale ed esegetica al "De fato" ciceroniano'. Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica n.s. 4: 83-92.
PHI Classical Latin Texts. A resource prepared by Packard Humanities Institute (
Schallenberg, M. 2008. Freiheit und Determinismus. Ein philosophischer Kommentar zu Ciceros Schrift De fato. Berlin (= dissertation, Münster, 2004).
Sedley, D. 2005. 'Verità futura e causalità nel De fato di Cicerone'. In C. Natali and S. Maso, eds., La catena delle cause. Determinismo e antideterminismo nel pensiero antico e contemporaneo, 231-54. Amsterdam.
Sharples, R.W., ed., tr., comm. 1991. Cicero: On Fate (De fato) and Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy (Philosophiae Consolationis) IV.5-7, V. Warminster.
Weidemann, H., ed., tr., comm. 2015. Aristoteles, Peri hermeneias. Berlin; Boston.
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