THE NAMES OF HOMERIC HEROES

By Nikoletta Kanavou

De Gruyter (2015) h/b 187pp £59.99 (ISBN 9873110409970)

This is Vol. 15 in a series called ‘Sôzomena’, based on a DPhil thesis supervised by Stephanie West: an old topic, probably known best to English readers from Stanford’s Odyssey commentary. K.’s general approach is to set modern etymologies alongside what ancients thought these names conveyed, as far as this can be discerned.

Chapter 1 sets out her methodology, in a careful and judicious way. Many names seem to come from the heroic epic tradition, formed in the distant Bronze Age before the Homeric poems were composed (including Linear B attestations), while some were almost certainly chosen by the poet. It is often difficult to distinguish between them.

Some etymologies are straightforward: Agamemnon, ‘Very Steadfast (in battle)’, Hektor ‘He Who Holds (the city)’; others are harder to disentangle, e.g. Achilles and Odysseus (see below). Obvious examples of Homeric inventions are Alcyone in Il. 9, reminding her parents of the melancholy sea bird’s cry; the list of Phaeacian sea captains at Od.8.111ff; the Trojan elder Oukalegon (‘Don’t care’?) in Il.3; and Thersites (from thersos/tharsos, ‘audacity’) in Il.2. Important evidence of how the origins of names were regarded in antiquity occurs for example in Hesiod, Plato, and the Homeric scholia. The ancients were not of course bound by the rules of modern onomastics, and enjoyed what we would call wild etymologizing (‘lucus a non lucendo’); but their solutions often help us to understand how Homer was read in antiquity.

The book’s meat comes in Chapters 2 and 3, which deal specifically with Iliadic and Odyssean names, heroes and minor characters alike. K. picks her way deftly through the varied interpretations of Achilles’ name, drilling down into the well known achos– theory: Achilles brought grief to the Trojans (Callimachus’ view), to himself, and to the Achaeans. She concludes that he is probably pre-Greek, and a later insertion in the Trojan saga—though this does not prevent Homer from playing on the ach– element in his name. Is there some connexion with Acheron, river of Hades? Probably not.

Ajax/Aias is another tough nut, possibly also belonging to an earlier generation of heroes. Sophocles (Ajax 430ff.) thought his name recalled the lamenting cry ‘aiai!’. Nestor could be ‘He Who Returns (safely) Home’, nostos. K. admits there may be something in this, but observes that this is not Nestor’s main function inside the Iliad, and wonders if instead his wisdom is connected with noos, ‘intelligence’. Greek writers enjoyed playing with Helen’s name, whose first syllable sounds as if it is connected with the verb meaning ‘to snare, capture, destroy’, but again K. comes to no firm conclusion.

Names in the Odyssey have always seemed more transparent than in the Iliad, and hence have attracted more scholarly attention. Naming crops up in Odysseus’ often lying narratives: he invents elaborate stories about himself as a Cretan, and most famously brags about tricking the Cyclops (Od.9) into believing that his name is Outis, (‘No one’). K. has a very good long section on Odysseus, pointing out that he not only causes grief and hatred in others (the od– root), but suffers grief and pain himself in his return (as he is never tired of observing). In that sense, his maternal grandfather Autloykos’ outwardly disparaging legacy is perhaps a true nomen omen. Penelope means ‘duck’ (though not with that meaning in the Odyssey), and it seems that ducks are significantly faithful and monogamous. Calypso is of course ‘The Concealer’; but what can we make of the fact that Polyphemus seems to mean ‘Much-famed’? The poem is more self-referential than the Iliad, so that we get public bards called Demodokos (‘Respected by the People’) and Phemius Terpiades (‘Singer, son of Pleasure-giver’).

These few examples illustrate the usefulness of this short book to anyone studying Homer seriously. It can be read straight through, or used as a reference tool. It tells us in mostly jargon-free language what we want to know about names, while also marking out linguistic and anthropological paths for the scholarly to explore. K.’s non-credulous conclusion is that it is not just the ancient or modern etymology of names that is important, but the use the poet makes of them, often in a shifting and punning way, according to context.

Anthony Verity

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PHILOSOPHY BEFORE THE GREEKS: The Pursuit of Truth in Ancient Babylonia

By Marc Van De Mieroop

Princeton (2015) h/b 312pp £24.95 (ISBN 9780691157184)

The conventional view that the Greeks invented philosophy is challenged in this provocative study of the cuneiform tradition. The practice of creating cuneiform texts lasted for thousands of years from the late fourth millennium BC onwards and influenced many other cultures. M. examines a wide range of texts to show that the professional caste who produced them were engaged in a systematic project of constructing reality.

These texts are all lists of various sorts. Although lists may not seem very exciting to us, M. thinks that they offer huge scope for writerly creativity. He considers in turn word lists, lists of omens, and legal codes. The key to knowledge was to read cuneiform signs correctly and, because each one had multiple meanings and multiple pronunciations, the professional scribe was free to engage in creative interpretation. Furthermore, he did so in the manner of a pointillist painting, each entry only being fully understood when the other entries are taken into account. In this way word lists can be seen as providing a systematic description of reality. The rationality involved here is a method of finding truth by informed reading and has little in common with the emphasis given to argument in the Greek tradition. In that respect the Greeks’ claim to have invented philosophical argument remains uncontested.

The Babylonians thought that the gods themselves were engaged in a similar activity, using writing to make known to humanity the fate which they had fixed for each individual. Their writing tablet was the universe itself. Thus the omen lists were intended to give meaning to the full range of possible occurrences, interpreted as messages from divine judges, but also bizarrely covering events like a woman giving birth to nonuplets, which they must have known to be highly improbable.

Finally, M. considers the inscription of such legal codes as the stele of Hammurabi. These marked a seminal change in society, providing an independent source of certainty in a chaotic world with the reassurance that royal justice was founded on truth.

Many scholars who have studied Babylonian thought have dismissed it as crude and been dismayed by a lack of adherence to scientific standards. M. dismisses this as old-fashioned cultural prejudice. In the era of the search engine, knowledge that accumulates horizontally is challenging traditional hierarchical taxonomies. In that sense the Babylonians with their cuneiform lists were ahead of their time. It is a bold thesis, and not everyone will be convinced. Nevertheless, this erudite and attractively priced book will be of use to any general reader keen to study the ancient Near East.

Alan Towey

ROME’S REVOLUTION: DEATH OF THE REPUBLIC AND BIRTH OF THE EMPIRE

By Richard Alston
OUP (2015) h/b 408pp £20 (ISBN 9780199739769)

 This is a history of the political and military events and processes leading to the ‘revolution’ of the book’s title. After starting his story with the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Alston closes it with the death of Augustus in AD 14. In between he sandwiches a back-story starting with the Gracchi brothers, the ‘revolutionary’ tribunes of the later 2nd century BC. Although the territory is familiar, Alston complains, with justification, that the usual treatments are too ‘nice’, with too many ‘settlements’, ‘restorations’ and so on. This more traditional approach may be convenient for setters of exam papers, but fails to do justice, as he argues, to the sheer nastiness of the manner of the fall of the republic and the irrelevance, by and large, of matters ‘constitutional’.

 It follows that the reader should not expect to be overly dazzled by Alston’s presentation of famous individuals attractive to ancient and modern biographers. Cicero, Caesar and co. are certainly on stage, but no one emerges in an especially flattering light. As for Augustus, the reader is offered a portrait of a particularly unsympathetic human being. Alston starts his revolution with the proscriptions of the old political class ordered by the future first emperor and Mark Antony in 43 BC (ch. 8). They had lists of names of intended victims painted on white boards and offered financial rewards to those who produced the decapitated heads. Apparent neighbourliness was replaced overnight by a murderous hatred, reminiscent, as Alston notes, of accounts of intercommunal violence in recent times. The awful Octavian was not just a killer. Alston’s lucid account of the serpentine politics of the ‘restored’ republic of 27 BC, and Augustus’s successful manoeuvring to stay in power through the later crises of his reign, manages to make this stale topic as fascinating as it should be. It is perhaps the best part of the book, even if this reader was left uncertain whether Augustus was, or was not, an ideologue. Conservatism is, after all, deeply ideological (cp. 238-9, 283, 293).

 Alston’s book is in a series called ‘Ancient Warfare and Civilization’ and does not stint on the military narrative, but he is mercifully clear and sparing of the detail so that, e.g., the campaigns of the triumviral period are almost comprehensible. He also offers a perceptive running commentary on the issues and attitudes underlying and shaping Roman politics that is likely to engage the general reader and the expert alike. He emphasizes, and explains, the disdain of republican nobles for the plebs (senators depended on each other for their sense of status, not the poor). He uses a version of network theory to illuminate the mounting impossibility of challenging the position of Augustus. More than any earlier Roman warlord, he established in Alston’s view an ‘almost monopolistic control’ of resources so that he could buy everyone who mattered politically—soldiery, plebs, and what was left of the old political class.

 In sum, this book, written in straightforward, accessible, English, is recommended as a knowledgeable guide to, and with a fresh ‘take’ on, an enthralling period of Roman history.

Antony Spawforth—Newcastle University

HOW TO WIN A ROMAN CHARIOT RACE

By Jane Hood

Icon Books (2015) p/b 224pp £8.99 (ISBN9781848319462)

A miscellany, a pot-pourri, a lanx satura, a ποίκιλμα, a romp through the classical world, with something for everyone from an enthusiastic Year 10 Latin student to the Ladies Who Lunch in my book club. It has been written with humour and covers snapshots of the literature, history, culture, mythology and philosophy of the classical Greeks and Romans. It entertains and entices the reader and is based on some sound research and reliable sources. You can dip into whichever section takes your fancy or read from cover to cover. It is easy to navigate with an excellent contents page, and encourages discussion and further investigation, made possible by the respectable bibliography.

The wide range of subject matter explored brings home to the general reader what makes any study of the classics fun, and how much we have in common with the ancient world. Highlights for me included how Milo died, how to cook an ostrich (don’t try this at home), how to make a spell (don’t try this one either), the bald man paradox, how to recycle a wax tablet, ancient public libraries, and what constitutes true friendship. The book offers topical advice: si pacem vis, bellum para (‘if it’s peace you want, prepare for war’). Be inspired to go and look at the Parthenon sculptures and the Rosetta stone, visit the Antikythera mechanism, (the world’s first computer) in Athens, dust off your copy of Keats, Aristotle or the Bible. Find out why it was difficult to read Latin: ITREALLYISNTTHATDIFFICULT. Test yourself at the end of every chapter with the ‘short written tests’, which include some provocative questions (p. 89: what was the blood of gladiators used for?).

H. succeeds in her aim of counteracting the ‘tweed-wearing old school teacher, who gave classics a very bad name’—if he still exists (p. 3)—by making the subject accessible and appealing to the general reader. The Romans may not have had iPhones (though we all know that Caecilius had a tablet), but H. shows that they were a lot like us. Light-hearted and quickly readable, this book is a marvel to be bought and shared, and I have already recommended it to several people with an interest in the classical world. Perhaps it is not a possession for ever, however, and I am still not sure I know how to win that chariot race.

Alison Henshaw—Nottingham High School for Girls

 

IULIANUS AUGUSTUS: OPERA

Ed. by Heinz-Gunther Nesselrath

De Gruyter (Bibliotheca Teubneriana, 2015) h/b 276pp £59.99 (ISBN 9783110221220)

Julian ‘the Apostate’ is perhaps most widely, but wrongly, known for Delphi’s final oracle supposedly given to Julian’s quaestor, the physician Oribasius. Julian, apparently, consulted it about how he should approach his task of re-evangelising the Roman world on behalf of the pagan gods, and received the following reply:

Tell the king our sculpted hall is fallen in decay,

Apollo has no shrine left, no prophesying bay,

No talking spring. The stream is dry that had so much to say.

Εἴπατε τῷ βασιλῆι, χαμαὶ πέσε δαίδαλος αὐλά.

οὐκέτι Φοῖβος ἔχει καλύβαν, οὐ μάντιδα δάφναν,

οὐ παγὰν λαλέουσαν. ἀπέσβετο καὶ λάλον ὕδωρ.

The oracle, which was shown to be a forgery by C.M. Bowra in an article in Hermes in 1959, was composed by a Christian author with the motive of making Julian look foolish for ‘trusting in gods who, when he sought their help, had already forsaken him’.

Nothing of that here. The book under notice (whose lengthy Latin Praefatio is recommended for the serious reader) contains those works of Julian which can be ascribed to his years as emperor (AD 361-363). They do not, however, include the fragments of Contra Galilaeos, which had been edited by E. Masaracchia in 1990. What we have are works of philosophy of a neo-Platonist description, including (a) a long paean ‘To the Sun’ (in it Julian declares himself to be a devotee not only of the sun, but also of the neo-Platonist Iamblichus); (b) his ‘Beard-hater’ (Misopôgôn), an attack on the inhabitants of Antioch, who disapproved of Julian’s beard (and dishevelled appearance) when shaving was the fashion. Your reviewer’s hopes that this might be a humorous piece in the manner of Lucian were speedily dashed. In language prolix beyond belief, Julian pretends to attack himself for his slovenly manners, the lice in his uncut hair, and austere mode of life before turning to Antioch’s more relaxed habits; and (c) various other pieces, including one against ‘ignorant cynics’ who had attacked Diogenes, and a paean addressed to the ‘Mother of the Gods’.

Julian’s Greek is not difficult, though N. comments on his prolixity, and occasional obscurity, as well as listing divergences, not to say ‘mistakes’, from ‘Attic’ Greek, none of which holds up the reader. Nor do there appear to be more than a few places where the text is seriously in doubt: N. describes 16 MSS, notably the Vossianus (12/13th century), carefully examined by Cobet in 1859, but now regrettably incomplete from a variety of causes. (Julian had not attracted the attention of any major scholar before Cobet, unless Ezechiel Spanheim [17th century scholar and diplomat] be so designated; some notes by F. Hemsterhuis in 1825 hardly qualify).

Julian, although an apostate from Christianity, did not practise persecution. He favoured ‘paganism’, but seems to have been open-minded in religious matters; he was a competent general and a (perhaps surprisingly) admired philosopher. He did well to write so much while running an empire (he did most of it at night). For the Anglophone reader, there is an ancient Loeb in three volumes (1913-23) by Wilmer C. Wright, and a general study by G.W. Bowersock (p/b 1997, originally h/b 1978). A cheap paperback edition of Contra Galilaeos (‘the most dangerous book ever written’, said Cyril of Alexandria [AD 376-444], author of Contra Julianum, from which we learn the most about Julian’s views) is listed on Amazon, but with no details of any kind.

This Teubner edition (effectively dedicated to Rudolf Kassel) contains all that one would expect from this imprint. It is impeccably produced. Competence in Latin and Greek is, however, a pre-requisite.

Colin Leach

 

WHAT CATULLUS WROTE: Problems in Textual Criticism, Editing and the Manuscript Tradition

Ed. by Dániel Kiss

The Classical Press of Wales (2015) h/b 194pp £58.00 ISBN 9781905125999

This book, which is the exceptionally worthwhile outcome of a conference held at Munich in 2011, is unashamedly for the specialist. Since its contents reflect this, it may be held that the editor deserves some reproof for neither providing a synopsis of what is to come in his Introduction, nor for insisting that his six contributors (who include himself) provide a summary of or brief conclusion to their individual offerings (David Butterfield is the praiseworthy exception, since Julia Haig Gaisser’s three valedictory lines hardly qualify.

In his Introduction, Dániel Kiss gives us a sketch of the textual transmission. After ‘Antiquity’—i.e. up to the early 5th century AD—when Catullus (hereinafter C.) was widely read, Kiss shows that, against the idée reçue that C. now vanishes until AD 1300, he was read in much of Europe between the 8th and 12th centuries: evidence for this comes from the Codex Thuaneus of the 9th century and is more convincing than other indirect evidence, including the speciously plausible, but unproven, claim of Bishop Ratherius of Vienna to have been reading him in 965/6, to which he returns in the following chapter. We now arrive at c. AD 1300, and the shadowy appearance of the lost Veronensis, from which our four main surviving MSS are derived (there are also 126 codices recentiores). Kiss gives the most plausible stemma codicum, laboriously constructed over the years, but emphasises that the ‘[MS] tradition of C. is exceptionally corrupt’—and, often, attribution of conjectures is far from straightforward.

Kiss goes on to expand this in the next chapter (‘The lost Codex Veronensis and its Descendants: Three Problems in C.’s Manuscript Tradition’), pointing out that Mynors’s ‘rather conservative’ OCT text of C. contains over 800 conjectures—more than one for every three lines. After considering (inconclusively) the vexed question of whether the recentiores contain any value as independent sources for C.’s text, Kiss considers Goold’s contention that corruption in C. is of a ‘superficial (i.e. post-Veronensis) rather than profound nature’. After necessarily dense argumentation, Kiss concludes, against Goold, that corruptions in C. ‘have accumulated gradually over the centuries’.

G.G. Biondi, (in ‘Catullus, Sabellico [& Co.] and … Giorgio Pasquali’), again discusses Pasquali’s ‘recentiores non deteriores’ in relation to C. Again, the argumentation is too dense to permit summary, but Biondi concludes that C.’s text has been ‘successfully supplemented’ by the ‘recentiores and by the writings of the humanists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries’. Why he then adduces Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle as a possibly valuable source of encouragement to philologists eludes the reviewer.

A lighter tone is introduced by J. H. Gaisser’s ‘Pontano’s Catullus’. Pontano was a 15th  century poet and polymath who was fixated on C. and whom he imitated ‘creatively and extensively’ in hendecasyllables: it is reasonably clear that he owned a MS of C., much less so that he that he contributed to its text in any useful way.

From A. Ramirez de Verger’s contribution—‘Nicolaus Heinsius’s Notes on Catullus’—one might have hoped for more than we get: the great scholar’s suggestions, while invariably worthy of consideration (as dicebat for ducebat at 8.4, papillae for puellae at 55.17, and neglegenti for neglegentem at 10.34), yet fall short of certainty: perhaps only irrupere for peperere at 66.45 is highly convincing.

More satisfying fare is provided by David Butterfield in ‘Cui videberis bella: The Influence of Baehrens and Housman on the Text of Catullus’. Baehrens it was who recognised the importance of the Oxoniensis (as Robinson Ellis had failed to do), and Butterfield gives a number of his convincing conjectures (eg incultum for in ciuum at 64.350 and ultus erratum for ulta peccatum at 44.17). At 76.10, both Baehrens and Housman made attractive conjectures to amend the metre: Butterfield marginally prefers that of Baehrens. Housman’s own most famous correction in C.—Opis for opis—at 64.324 is as beautiful and elegant as Butterfield avers, and his aperit for the parit/perit of the MSS at 64.282 is scarcely less persuasive. Butterfield goes on to discuss five unpublished conjectures: the last of them, dum domino ipso egeat for dum modo ipse egeat at 114.6 is not only plausible and ingenious, but also brings to mind Housman’s famous and certain correction eguit Jove Juppiter ipse at Manilius 1.423. Housman, let it be said, fully understood what Baehrens had achieved in the criticism of C.’s MSS, while regarding most of his conjectures as valueless.

In the final chapter, ‘Poems 62, 67 and other Catullan Dialogues’, S.J. Heyworth examines changes of speaker in the four poems which proceed through dialogue. The reviewer found the arguments (which defy analysis in a brief review) persuasive, and one conjecture ipse sui for illius at 67.23 (by Trappes-Lomax) seems virtually certain.

Although this thoughtful and scholarly book inevitably brings to mind (in the case of C.) what Paul Maas said: ‘There is no remedy against contamination’ (though that remark is not quoted), its appearance is most welcome at a time when detailed textual matters are playing a markedly smaller part in published commentaries than was formerly the case; and of course textual criticism of the high quality of what is on display here is both intellectually demanding and time-consuming (and each chapter is followed by notes of the most detailed kind). The book is elegantly produced, there are all the expected Indexes, and eight full pages of photographs illustrate some of the MSS under discussion: if only there were one of the Veronensis!

Colin Leach

MAGISTRACY AND HISTORIOGRAPHY OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC

By Ayelet Haimson Lushkov

CUP (2015) h/b 201pp £65 (ISBN 9781107040908)

This is a book about Roman historical writing, in particular Livy’s massive work Ab urbe condita (AUC). It highlights two distinct features. The first is exemplarity, meaning the use of examples to illustrate principle. The second is the portrayal of magistrates. AUC is full of stories which exemplify the traditional Roman virtues. One of the most famous is the suicide of Lucretia. After she has been raped by Sextus Tarquinius, Lucretia in the presence of her father and her husband stabs herself to death. The Roman people are enraged and drive the Tarquins out of Rome. Lucretia’s self sacrifice is doubly significant. It manifests her chastity. It also leads to the foundation of the Republic, traditionally dated to 509 BC. Roman magistrates are central characters in AUC. They had a vast range of executive, legal, military and religious functions. These included maintaining the city, managing public finances, sometimes determining foreign policy, commanding armies and, of course, sitting as judges. Any modern student of ‘separation of powers’ would have a fit. But the Romans were quite happy with these arrangements, and Livy thought they were great. L. examines how Roman historians treated the magistrates. The historians’ style was exemplary. Two of the most famous stories involved a clash between loyalty to family and loyalty to the Republic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Republic won every time. In the first example, the sons of Brutus took part in a conspiracy to restore the kings. They were duly captured and sentenced to death. Brutus as consul had to preside over their executions. In the second example, Manlius Torquatus during the Latin Wars broke ranks in order to kill an opposing general in single combat. Despite that outstanding valour, it was still a breach of military discipline. Soldiers were not allowed to break ranks. Manlius’ father, Torquatus, was consul at the time. The elder Torquatus took a stern view of disciplinary breaches. He sentenced his son to death. Again our human rights lawyer would be appalled. Modern judges are meant to recuse them themselves whenever any conflict of interest arises. But the Romans were made of sterner stuff. The message of their historians was clear. Virtue always triumphed, and magistrates of the heroic age did their duty. AUC book 9 tells the story of the Caudine Forks. In 320 BC the Roman army was trapped. They made a humiliating peace treaty with the Samnites, by which the lives of the soldiers would be spared if they went under the yoke. Rome subsequently repudiated the treaty. In order to avert divine displeasure, Rome handed over to Samnium for retribution everyone who had been involved in making the treaty. Then, under new consuls, the Roman army returned to battle and crushed the Samnites. The consul Postumius is a central character in the saga. His blunder as military commander led to the initial defeat. Without authority, he committed Rome to a disastrous treaty. In the subsequent assembly debate, Postumius urged the Romans to renounce the treaty and to extradite himself and his colleagues. As Lushkov demonstrates, this story is an exemplary study of the institution of consulship. It shows Postumius’ failings in military command and foreign policy. It also shows him doing his duty by giving a lead in the debate and making an act of self-sacrifice. He thereby saved the day. L. examines the role of magistrates in the democratic process from two viewpoints: first, when they were standing for office; secondly when they were presiding over the election of their successors. AUC exposed the conflicts which the magistrates faced and recounted how these were resolved. Although Livy is the starting point for his analysis, L. frequently brings in the writings of Cicero and Plutarch. She shows how Cicero, using the exemplary style, deployed historical anecdote in order to illustrate or reinforce his arguments. This is an interesting and well researched book. It will appeal to both general readers and professional classicists. It has helped this reviewer to look at the Roman Republic and the writings of Livy in a new way.

Rupert Jackson