POMPEII’S ASHES

By Eric M. Moormann

De Gruyter (2015) h/b 488pp £67.99 (ISBN 9781614518730)

If you are an intelligent general reader or specialist interested in ‘the reception of the cities buried by Vesuvius in literature, music and drama’ (the volume’s subtitle), here is the book for you. This substantial survey of Western European works, equipped with extensive notes and bibliography, contains very few black and white illustrations and intentionally omits all pictorial representation except film. Each of the ten chapters, despite numerous cross-references, aims to be read independently, and the detailed index promotes easy browsing of specific authors or works.

The first chapter contains a lengthy overview of the rediscovery of the buried towns aimed to relate the findings to later literary accounts. It covers the evolving process of archaeological excavation from hasty treasure seeking, through the implementation of more scientific methods in uncovering whole houses and regions of the towns with their graffiti, artefacts and body voids, to modern stratigraphic procedures, as well as treating the financial implications of restoration and conservation and the effects of recent exhibitions, media coverage and mass tourism.

The following chapters document such subjects as the personal experiences of early and modern tourists through journals and travel writing; works stimulated by encounters with the casts or skeletons of victims of the eruption and the origins of fictional motifs like the brave sentinel at the Herculaneum Gate; educational and popular historical novels for both adults and children; and nineteenth century Christian novels, including the highly influential Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1834). Pompeii features as a setting for modern encounters with the past in genres like crime fiction and modern thrillers and as a vehicle for exploring time travel with its possibilities of contacting the dead and experiencing their emotions. There are treatments of the short stories, novels, diaries, epic poems and political pamphlets inspired by the charred scrolls discovered in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum; of the operas, stage plays, music and songs (‘concoctions of reality and fantasy’) prompted by the final hours and destruction of Pompeii, including Victorian panoramas and pyrodrams (costly mass spectacles with actors, music and fireworks), which were the forerunners of today’s films such as Paul Anderson’s Pompeii (2014), television shows (a Dr Who episode from 2008) and modern video games. The last topic is poetry centred on Vesuvius and Herculaneum.

The final chapter presents the conclusions of this comprehensive research: that Pompeii, where the ability to walk through ancient houses and streets is unmatched anywhere else in the world, and the immediacy of contact with the skeletons and casts of its former inhabitants, act as a unique catalyst to writers in recreating the daily lives of ordinary people and relating to the human drama of the eruption. The result is ‘an extremely rich corpus of fictional and poetic works,’ which in turn stimulates scientists, archaeologists and ancient historians to reassess the physical evidence. Unsurprisingly, M. concludes (p. 424) that ‘we all create a version of Pompeii and Herculaneum that suits us… not tombstones of dead towns, but monuments that illustrate how very much alive they still are.’

Claire Gruzelier—King Edward VI High School for Girls, Birmingham

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LYKOPHRON ALEXANDRA: Greek Text, Translation, Commentary & Introduction

Edited by Simon Hornblower

OUP (2015) h/b 618pp £120 (ISBN 9780199576708)

This is a formidable work of scholarship by an ancient historian of noted distinction, which will doubtless not be, or need to be, replaced for many years ahead. To start with the author, who was not Lykophron of Chalkis—as is shown by internal evidence—but the later (2nd century BC) ps-Lykophron, to use the late Peter Fraser’s designation: for convenience, this review will revert to Lykophron.

The work is a ‘monodrama’ in iambic trimeters of 1474 lines, all but 44 of which are spoken by Kassandra (Alexandra being her name in Sparta) after her rape (‘hubristheisa’ at Eur. Troades 69) by the Locrian Ajax. It takes the form of a prolonged prophecy of events ranging from the foundation of Troy, and concentrating on the nostoi after the fall of Troy, up to the Roman dominance in Greece. The language used is intentionally of a high degree of obscurity, and although H. regards it as a ‘minor poetic masterpiece’ and an ‘imaginative creation of very high quality’, even listing seven individual lines which he finds worthy of especial praise, others have been less kind: the reviewer has heard ‘Aeschylus on speed’ given as an unkindly summary description of the work, and its often bizarre language can make reading it frankly laborious even for competent Hellenists.

The long (112pp) Introduction deals in masterly fashion with many topics: this review will list in italics, not always in H’.s order, most of the major ones, interjecting comments as appropriate. Sources of and influences on the Alexandra: few indeed are the major authors not mentioned; perhaps only Sappho, says H. regretfully, did not write about Kassandra, though the poet himself does recall Sappho: see p. 123. Date of the poem: it is now generally agreed that since the poet refers, albeit with due obscurity, to T. Quinctius Flamininus and his victory at Kynoskephalai in 197 BC, the poem itself must postdate that event. Authorship: the Sicilian and S. Italian ‘slant’ of the work leads H. to wonder whether the author came from that region, rather than Ptolemaic Alexandria: after listing a number of relevant factors, he admits that his case is cumulative rather than decisive; and after careful consideration, and supported by the late Martin West, H. comes down against the ‘appealing’ idea of female authorship. Foundation Myths (etc): this is an important topic in the poem; as an historian, H. is particularly interested in settlements by Greeks and Trojans of non- or partially Greek areas (notably Asia Minor, Cyprus and Latium) and he seeks corroboration of the literary evidence from archaeological or epigraphic material; he waxes notably enthusiastic over a discovery in the Adriatic of some 5th C pottery carrying dedications to Diomedes, though his repeated description of the discovery as ‘spectacular’ perhaps says more about what we do not have than what we do.

Performance: In considering whether this poem was ever publicly performed, H. went so far as actually to experiment, by reciting it himself: it took two hours (which would have been well worth watching!). But it is simply not good enough for H. to compare the difficulties of Lykophron with those challenging the audiences of much of Shakespeare’s work: Lykophron is unrelentingly obscure, and an audience would surely have been bewildered. This is a work, if ever there was one, for the study, not the stage. This leads on to Lykophron and epigraphy: the value and function of cult epithets in the Alexandra. This is a long and important section, well-suited for analysis by a historian. Thus, Lykophron/Kassandra never does anything so brash as to address (e.g.) Demeter by name: rather, she is given five obscure ‘descriptors’: Athena has six, including ‘the Ox-binder, the Seagull goddess, the Maiden’, and of course ‘divine polyonomy’, often with asyndeton, was a highly serious matter. H. makes it his business to check whether the information provided by the ancient scholiasts about the local origin of the epithets, or epikleseis, is of value to the historian of religion: and epigraphy, ‘virtually ignored by all modern commentaries’, is given full attention (it is not practicable to give examples here, but an Index lists over 240 cited inscriptions, by the reviewer’s count). Of course, we may ask just how it was that Lykophron was so knowledgeable, and the suggestion that he had access to a Hellenistic sylloge of cult epithets is highly attractive.

The History of the Text is mainly the work of Peter Fraser, who had himself planned an edition, with some minor updating by H. There has been no Anglophone edition of the work since two appeared in 1921: one of those, by A.W. Mair, is the by now antiquated Loeb Library edition, whose introduction is praised by Fraser; since then, the most accessible text for most will be the Hurst/Kolbe Bude edition (2008), which, however, concentrates on literary matters, almost entirely ignoring epigraphy.

Justice cannot be given here to the Commentary, which is of exemplary detail— indeed, on average it covers no more than four lines per page. This is, par excellence, a historian’s commentary, which is certainly not to imply that literary aspects are given short measure—thus, for example, the many instances of hapax legomena are well treated—but it is reasonable to ask whether, on occasion, H. gives us too much information, or at least speculation. Take the ‘Bones of Hector’, at lines 1189-1213. These bones were translated from Ophryneion in the Troad to Thebes in Boeotia: Robert Parker (2010) called the move ‘unexplained’, but H., whether or not in a spirit of emulation, devotes five full pages (ten columns of type) to considering the story, without reaching a decisive conclusion. One cannot help feeling that (say) Sir Richard Jebb would have demoted the discussion to an Excursus. Another long note on Neileos and the foundation of Miletus (pp. 476-8) is even more complex and finally unsatisfactory, while leaving this reviewer with several unanswered questions. By contrast, the even more detailed treatment of the important Lokrian Maidens episode (pp.404-412) is fully justified.

One or two quibbles may perhaps be permitted. H. refers more than once to his forthcoming Lykophron’s Alexandra and the Hellenistic World: one’s appetite is stimulated but not satisfied thereby, and the same is true of the unpublished doctoral thesis by one of his students. Again, references to Christa Wolf’s novel Cassandra (1983) and Christiana Elfwood’s (= Sourvinou-Inwood’s) Murder Most Classical (2007) may seem more relevant now than they will do later in the doubtless long after-life of the work noticed here: there are one or two other instances. And since H. does not accept the main conclusions of the important work of Stephanie West on the poem, it is (presumably of necessity) not given the attention that its quality merits. Finally, that the apparatus criticus is kept to the barest minimum may be a matter for approbation rather than censure.

H. has already won many justified laurels for his work on Thucydides and Herodotus, and more laurels will surely now be forthcoming: moreover, even if historians find fault, such is the depth of detail provided by H. that (as with A.B. Cook’s Zeus), the work will lose none of its abiding value. It is hardly necessary to add that the Bibliography, Indexes etc, match the detail and care everywhere apparent; the quality of the proofreading is such that the reviewer has noted only one, insignificant, typo (in a late Annex). The book is worth every penny of its £120 cost: one can foresee its being discussed at many a graduate seminar, though it is likely to be found only on the shelves of university libraries; and the reviewer is deeply conscious that this all-too-brief notice can do little more than draw attention to what is an outstanding feat of scholarship.

Colin Leach

TRADITION: TRANSMISSION OF CULTURE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

(Danish Studies in Classical Archaeology Acta Hypoborea 14)

Ed. by Jane Fejfer, Mette Moltesen and Annette Rathje

Museum Tusculanum Press: Copenhagen (2015) p/b 493pp £55.99 (ISBN 9788763542586)

Tradition is central to culture. It is through the consistent choice of making and doing in a particular way things that could equally well be done or made differently that we recognize cultures and identify sub-cultures. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger offered a framework for thinking about The Invention of Tradition in 1983, and a range of works has highlighted particular aspects of cultural transmission (one might think of Harold Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence [1973] or Norman Bryson’s Tradition and Desire [1984]) that could do with more thinking about in the context of the ancient world, but the question of why traditions persist awaits theorization and proper historical analysis. Explorations of identity, both in gender studies (following Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity [1990]) and in studies of ethnicity (cf. recently N. Mac Sweeney ‘Beyond Ethnicity’ Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 22 [2009] 101–26), as well as work on the agency of objects (following Alfred Gell’s Art and Agency [1998]), make this a good moment to try to get to grips with the issues of tradition and cultural transmission.

Unfortunately, beyond the first two pages of the introduction, this volume shows no interest in getting to grips with the issues at all. Some papers never even use the word tradition, and those that do fail to interrogate the term. Tradition turns out not to be a problem to be investigated but a hold-all into which any sort of archaeological enquiry whatever can be fitted. This volume is effectively an archaeological miscellany (since when did ‘culture’ exclude literature and music?)—something implicitly acknowledged by the editors by placing the papers in alphabetical order of the surname of the author.

Like most miscellanies this contains some things worth reading, and rather more worth looking at. For while the standards of relevance, English, and editing (there is no index) are low, the standards of production are extremely high: a very large percentage of the figures is in colour and of the highest quality. Among contributions worth reading I would pick out Jane Fejfer’s ‘Statues of Roman Women and Cultural Transmission: Understanding the So-called Ceres Statue as a Roman Portrait Carrier’ and Rubina Raja’s ‘Palmyrene Funerary Portraits in Context: Portrait Habit between Local Traditions and Imperial Trends’. But if I were putting together a bibliography of things worth looking at to think further about tradition, not even these would make the cut. This is an outstanding example of the way many academics think it acceptable to take part in a conference on a theme and then give a paper that has no intellectual engagement with it. Only Tarm Bogtryk, the Danish printer, comes out of this volume looking good.

Professor Robin Osborne—King’s College, Cambridge

MARTIAL: SELECTED EPIGRAMS

Translated with notes by Susan McLean

Wisconsin (2014) p/b 189pp £23.95 (ISBN 9780299301743)

Susan McLean is a poet, and it shows. This selection of about 500 epigrams (but not drawing on De Spectaculis, Apophoreta, or Xenia) displays a deftness and wit that frequently comes close to the original. M.’s professed aim—‘I have tried to remain as close as possible to the length and number of lines of Martial’s epigrams and to avoid omitting or adding material to the poems’—is carried through pretty consistently, and she often hits the spot in a very satisfactory way. Try 1.57:

Qualem, Flacce, velim quaeris nolimve puellam?
nolo nimis facilem difficilemque nimis.
illud quod medium est atque inter utrumque probamus:
nec volo quod cruciat nec volo quod satiat.

‘Flaccus, you ask what kind of girl I want?
One not too hard to get, but not too easy.
I like a girl between the two extremes:
One who will neither satiate not tease me.’

And 3.12:

Unguentum, fateor, bonum dedisti
convivis here, sed nihil scidisti;
res salsa est bene olere et esurire.
qui non cenat et unguitur, Fabulle,
hic vere mihi mortuus videtur

‘You gave your guests good scent last night,
I grant you, but no food was carved.
How droll, to be perfumed and starved!
To be anointed and not fed
is fine, Fabullus—for the dead.’

This is good: rhyme is the best way in English to achieve epigrammatic tightness, and M. even manages to reflect the different rhythms of elegiac couplet and hendecasyllable.

Many readers who are familiar with the poet’s seamier side (Byron, disingenuously, ‘And then what proper person could be partial / To all those nauseous Epigrams of Martial?’) will naturally look with interest to find out what M. makes of the many poems that mention bodily functions of various kinds. Here changing attitudes to rude words in print have undoubtedly helped the translator. Walter Ker in the 1919 Loeb, doubtless drawing on his knowledge of a specialized vocabulary, translated poems he described as ‘indescribably foul’ into modern Italian. By 1993 Shackleton Bailey felt able to, or enjoyed (?), rendering Martial’s everyday words into their English equivalent. Martial is notoriously unbuttoned about describing the more common sex acts in order to make a witty point at his enemies’ expense, and M. (who acknowledges being helped by Shackleton Bailey’s literal Loeb versions) seems to relish the challenge of remaining faithful to her original—though she is of course greatly helped by the fact that most modern readers are unlikely to be greatly shocked by a liberal sprinkling of c – and f – words.

Here is Martial making fun at his own expense (11.19)

Quaeris cur nolim te ducere Galla? diserta es.
saepe soloecismum mentula nostra facit.

‘Why won’t I wed you, Galla? You’re well-read.
my cock makes frequent grammar slips in bed.’

M.’s translations are prefaced by a long and rather wearisome historical essay by Marc Kleijwegt, for the poems stand very well by themselves, there is a useful bibliography, and explanatory notes by M. on nearly all the poems; even with her well-turned versions, the jokes often need explaining.

This is an excellent introduction to an often neglected writer. Non-classical aficionados of the Roman world will love it, for its cleverness and also for the light it throws on society under the early Empire.

Anthony Verity

COMMANDERS AND COMMAND IN THE ROMAN REPUBLIC AND EARLY EMPIRE

By Fred K. Drogula

North Carolina (2015) h/b 382pp £54.50 (ISBN 9781469621265

This book examines how the concept of imperium (military command) emerged from Rome’s early history, how it mutated in the late republic and how Augustus used the device to establish the principate.

D.’s thesis is as follows: Rome’s earliest wars tended to be reciprocal raiding with nearby communities. The leaders of the raiding parties or war bands would have been private individuals rather than state officials. Once Rome had gained control of the Latin League, it started fielding larger armies to combat more formidable enemies. Military command gradually became institutionalised. The top magistrates were automatically the top generals. Quite when the terms praetor and consul emerged is debatable. Commanders acquired the authority of the state (conferred through the comitia curiata) and exercised imperium. The imperium of the military commander was absolute within the confines of his military campaign. He could order executions and even the decimation of his entire army, although doing that too often might not be a wise move. Upon returning to Rome, he lost all his powers when he crossed the pomerium, the sacred city boundary. Occasionally, in times of crisis, the Senate appointed a dictator, who exercised imperium both inside and outside the city.

Imperium was essentially different from the power of civil magistrates (potestas). The latter was hemmed in by legal restrictions and rights of appeal. In addition to their imperium, military commanders also possessed auspicium, which was religious authority. They could consult the gods by taking the auspices. This was deemed essential if Rome was going to win, as it usually did.

The term provincia originally meant a task entrusted to a commander. As Rome started to acquire overseas territories, the word came to mean a geographical area which was subject to Roman administration. If the area was turbulent, a governor with consular powers was needed. If it was more peaceful, like Sicily, someone with praetorian powers would do. The expanding Empire gave rise to the need for more magistrates. Rome met that need by the device of prorogation. A formal decision of the people (or later the Senate) enabled a consul or praetor to continue to perform his military responsibilities after the expiry of his office. So, hey presto, there were plenty of pro-consuls and pro-praetors with all the necessary powers to manage provinces. Julius Caesar’s lex Julia formalised the distinction between consular and praetorian provinces. The need to govern provinces, as opposed to just conquering them, added a new dimension to the roles of pro-consuls and pro-praetors. This included taxation and civil administration. A series of laws (summarised in chapter 5) enabled provincial governors who abused their powers to be held to account.

In the last years of the republic, both the first and second triumvirates distributed provinciae amongst their members on a grand scale. This enabled the triumvirs to win military glory and, in the process, massively to extend the Empire. In the period 48-44 BC Caesar made excessive use of dictatorship, in order to hold imperium both inside and outside the city. This worked admirably in the short term, but it made Caesar unpopular and led to his assassination. In 31 BC Octavian tried a different approach. As consul for several years and then as pro-consul, he held imperium over the key provinces. Octavian/Augustus adapted the institutions of the republic in order to secure his position as Emperor.

This book is well researched and full of interest. It assumes general background knowledge of Roman history, but many readers will have that. By focusing on how military commanders used their imperium over the centuries, D. is able to cut out irrelevant material and keep his text within manageable length. I commend it as a valuable contribution to the classicist’s library.
Rupert Jackson—Court of Appeal

REFLECTIONS ON ARISTOTLE’S POLITICS

By Mogens Herman Hansen

Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press (2014) h/b 127pp £24.50 (ISBN 978876354062 9)

This neat little book contains eight studies of the Politics, of which seven are revised versions of previously published articles, and the eighth and last is an unpublished lecture given in 2012. They all deal with controversial questions about what exactly Aristotle means by some of the terms he uses. In the first, H. looks at Aristotle’s classification of types of constitution and shows how he starts with a ‘traditional’ six-fold model (kingship, aristocracy, oligarchy, politeia, democracy, tyranny) but later replaces it with a subtler model in which elements from these different forms are mixed to varying degrees: he argues that this second model explains a number of problems which are insoluble if we assume the first.

The second chapter discusses A.’s two definitions of polis, as a social organisation of all humans and as a political organisation of eligible ‘citizens’ (i.e. free adult males); H. says that A.’s view that the polis was unique to Hellenes is not supported by other sources, and questions the influence of A. in shaping the belief of many modern historians that most Greek poleis were independent communities before Philip of Macedon appeared.

In chapter 3, H. looks at the meaning of the terms polis, politeia and politeuma, and argues that politeia should be understood in a concrete sense, the structure of the citizen body, not merely abstractly as ‘government’. Chapters 4 and 5 take a further look at the polis and explain a single curious reference to the Arcadians, which H. thinks refers to the Arcadian federation of 370 BC and is A.’s only reference to federations in general.

The sixth chapter summarises A.’s discussion of what constitutes the ‘best’ polis. Chapter 7 compares A.’s definition of ‘freedom’ (eleutheria) with Plato and others, and shows that A. in a key passage is criticising two ideas of democratic freedom: arithmetic equality between all citizens irrespective of merit, and freedom to do as one likes, both of which to A. are incompatible with justice; neither A. nor Plato appears to have a positive view of freedom as a characteristic of a constitution. The final lecture returns to A.’s new model in which a combination of democracy with oligarchy is preferred, for example representative democracy, in which the citizens elect persons from a limited number of ‘competent’ people to run things and may submit them to scrutiny (euthunein); this ‘indirect democracy’ is closer to most modern democracies than the classical Athenian type, but H. suggests that it was more prevalent in ancient poleis than we tend to think, especially in early days (e.g. as in Solon’s time).

These essays are easy to read in spite of the tightness of their subject matter, and are all thought provoking. A general sense comes across of a work in progress: A. developing his thought as he writes, not completing everything he said that he would cover. The book would be a worthwhile adjunct for anyone covering Aristotle’s Politics as part of a political philosophy course, even if they are not classicists. That said, quotes are given in original languages and not always translated, although the most important ones are. References are full and indexed, and there are good notes and a bibliography.

Colin McDonald

OVID: ARS AMATORIA BOOK 3: A Commentary

By Christopher M. Brunelle

OUP (2015) p/b 131pp £17.99 (ISBN 9780199987337)

This seems to be the first in a series of Greek and Latin commentaries edited in America and aimed at ‘intermediate and advanced college undergraduate students’—roughly equivalent to A level and first year of university in the UK.

AA.3 is the book where Ovid advises girls on how to keep their men from straying. The format proceeds page by page, so there is no need to keep turning to the back: a chunk of text at the top, followed by a full running vocabulary, grammatical and syntactical explanation, and some elucidatory commentary. There are rarely more, often fewer, than ten lines of text per page. Most of the space ‘below the line’ is taken up with vocabulary, e.g. in ll.300 – 304, of 28 words of text 16 are glossed (including tunica, aura, superbus, velut, maritus and ambulo). Grammatical content is heavy, often referring onward to a standard grammar or even the OLD—useful perhaps for those interested in delving into this kind of thing, but not necessarily an aid to understanding the text, surely the commentary’s primary aim. The same could be said for citations of parallel passages, which have largely dropped out of student commentaries since the nineteenth century (who follows them up?) on this side of the Atlantic; e.g. at hospes (l.39) it’s fair enough to mention Virgil, since Aeneas is being referred to, but do we need two more references to Ovid, one where he is quoting himself? Consequently comments on e.g. Ovid’s art or Roman society have to fight for room on a crowded page. This is a pity, as B.’s notes are excellent; would that he had spread himself more generously.

B.’s introductory material is also very good, and explains clearly and concisely what a student needs to know before tackling the poem. There are sections on didactic, Roman elegy, AA.1 and 2, the legal and social context of the puella (excellent), carmen et error, the poem’s later influence (mercifully little on reception), myth in elegy, scanning the elegiac couplet, Ovidian style and prosody, and a helpful bibliography (obviously Gibson’s 2003 commentary, but no room for Wilkinson).

It will be interesting to see how further commentaries in this series fulfil its aim of being ‘streamlined, up-to-date, and user-friendly’, addressing ‘the needs of a reader encountering a work or author for the first time’. It may well be that teachers in the USA approach the business of introducing students to ‘real’ continuous Latin differently from their UK counterparts. For this reviewer, the commentary’s often helpful material is over-weighted and sometimes obscured by the kind of detailed technical explanation that belongs to a more advanced edition—though it is admittedly hard to decide exactly what students need to help them make sense of a witty and elegant poem. But they could probably manage without a precise knowledge of syllepsis and polyptoton.

Anthony Verity