THE UNKNOWN TUTANKHAMUN

by M. Eaton-Krauss

Bloomsbury (2016) p/b 175pp £19.99 (ISBN 9781472575616)

If you were to ask somebody to name an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, there is a strong possibility that they would say ‘Tutankhamun’. His name is universally familiar but the details of his life are not, except that he died at a young age.

The rulers of the XVIIIth dynasty in Egypt (c.1539-1292 BCE) included some noteable figures—Thutmoses III, the great ‘warrior’ pharaoh, Hatshepsut , the female ruler and Akhenaten, the ‘heretic’, whose only god was the sun disc, the Aten. Tuthankamun is now regarded as the son of Akhenaten, but uncertainty still remains as to the identity of his mother. DNA studies carried out in Egypt have not provided certainty, and some people are sceptical about the retrieval of DNA from such ancient bodies. There are also great uncertainties about the sequence of events between the death of Akhenaten and the accession of Tutankhamun, or Tutankhaten as he was originally known. There seems to have been a ‘ruling queen’ somewhere in this period, but which woman it was is again a matter of debate.

E-K looks at Tutankhamun’s life chronologically, from accession through the building projects and finally his death and burial. Why did Tutankhamun die so young? Was it natural causes, an accident, or even an ‘arranged accident’? If the latter, we must ask: what/where/how/who/when/why? And, of course, the famous question cui bono? must also be considered. E-K provides evidence for the apparently hurried and ‘second-hand’ burial of Tutankhamun, but comes to no final conclusion.

Many of the recent studies on the so-called ‘Amarna’ period have been published in journals in either French or German, so that they have not been available to those without the languages. E-K has provided a fine service by gathering together so much information from these publications. She has produced a book that is extremely fascinating for anyone interested in Tutankhamun and at the same time, with copious notes, providing valuable material for professional Egyptologists. She makes clear her own ideas but also includes the contradictory ones.

In spite of this publication, there is still a great deal ‘unknown’ about this young king and, unless further artefacts are found, it will probably remain so.

Olive Hogg—North East Ancient Egypt Society

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ANCIENT GEOGRAPHY: The Discovery of the World in Classical Greece and Rome

By D.W. Roller

IB Tauris (2015) h/b 294pp £62 (ISBN 9781784530761)

If the study of the writers of history is ‘historiography’, this is a ‘geographygraphy’: a study of the ancient writers who invented the discipline. And a very clear and wide-ranging study it is as well, taking the story from Homer to the end of the Roman Empire in the West. By this time, R. shows, Romans were aware, however faintly, of the Azores to the West (and possibly even Río de Janeiro, where Roman amphorae were found but were lost before they could be fully analyzed), Finland and possibly Iceland to the North, China and Java to the East, and the African coast as far south as N. Mozambique.

Only four geographical handbooks survive from antiquity out of a record of about 250 geographers known through quotation or name alone – Strabo (whose work barely survived and was unknown to e.g. Pliny, Plutarch and Ptolemy), Pomponius Mela, Books 2-6 of Pliny’s Natural History (all 1st C AD) and Ptolemy of Alexandria (2nd C AD), whose Geographical Guide located some 8,000 places from the Baltic to central Africa and the Malay peninsula.

But as R. points out, very many writers made useful contributions, e.g. poets such as Pindar, Aeschylus, Virgil and Propertius (whose lovelorn Arethusa consults a map to locate where her soldier is); medical writers interested in health and climate; soldiers like Julius Caesar (Gaul) and Pompey (the near east); and polymaths such as Polybius, best known for his History but who traced Hannibal’s route across the Alps, sailed down the West African coast into the tropics, probably reaching Mt Cameroon, and investigated France, probably as far as the Loire and Nantes. He may have gone in search of the British Isles, in which he shared an interest with Scipio Aemilanus, perhaps having heard of it from Pytheas’ travels in the region (Pytheas first connected tides with the moon). It is one of the few areas of research to which Aristotle did not devote a treatise, though much information is scattered throughout his works, especially his Meteorologica, and he is the first person we know of to use oikoumenê to mean ‘the inhabited world’.

This mapping of the known world followed trade, travel (Hecataeus, Herodotus) and conquest – Greek colonisation, Greek contact with Persians (opening up the East) and Carthaginians (Africa), Alexander the Great (when Greek knowledge of the world expanded in all directions except West), and so on. The idea that the earth was spherical and could be divided into zones (two arctic, two temperate and a ‘burnt’ zone in the middle) developed in the 5th C BC. Ephoros (4th C BC) divided the world into four ethnic groups (Indians, Ethiopians, Celts and Scythians).

But the big player here was Eratosthenes, working in Alexandria, whose 3-book Geography covered a history of the subject, the size and shape of the earth and the topography of the entire oikoumenê. He created the prime north-south meridian and prime east-west parallel, enabling (in theory) relative positions to be accurately located. He can be said to have invented the discipline of geography.

The Romans carried on the good work. Juba II, scholar, explorer and made king of Mauretania (Algeria and Morocco) by the Romans in 25 BC, wrote a Libyca (also discovering the Canary islands) and an Arabia (joining Gaius Caesar’s expedition there), which together linked India to the pillars of Hercules, the so-called ‘southern border’ of the then oikoumenê. Augustus and Tiberius pushed north into Germany. Archelaus, king of Cappadocia, with the same interests as Juba, picked up information from merchants about India, Bactrians and China (the ‘silk people’, Seres). No fewer than 120 ships made the Red Sea/India run in the 20s BC; in 25 BC an Indian embassy visited Augustus in Spain.

In imperial times Roman traders reached south India, and one Alexandros made a journey to Sri Lanka and the South China Sea, perhaps Hanoi and Java. Romans goods have been found in Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Vietnam, though that does prove that Romans traded there. The advent of Christianity, however, imposed a biblical view of the world, and that was essentially the end of classical geography. Its restoration awaited the 15th C renaissance.

R. has produced a fascinating account of an important subject, which has not been given its due for a very long time. Now it has been, in fine detail, crowned with plain but very informative maps regularly plotting the gradual expansion of knowledge. Highly recommended.

Peter Jones

ARCHAEOLOGISTS, TOURISTS, INTERPRETERS: Exploring Egypt and the Near East in the Late 19th-Early 20th Centuries

by Rachel Mairs and Maya Muratov

Bloomsbury (2015) p/b 147pp £24.95 (ISBN 9781472588807)

In the late nineteenth century an increasing number of people from Europe and U.S.A were travelling to Egypt and the Near East for a variety of reasons. There were scholars, archaeologists, travellers and package tourists, but very few of them could speak the languages or were familiar with the local customs. So they needed a dragoman, an interpreter and guide to be with them. This is the main subject of this book. It starts with general comments about the nature of their work, looks at the experiences of some well-known travellers, and finally, in great detail, talks about two dragomans in particular.

As is the case in all walks of life there are good and bad people. Dragomans are no exception. W.M. Thackeray in 1864 says: ‘our guide, an accomplished swindler’ while in Baedeker’s guide to Egypt (1876) he states: ‘There are about 90 dragomen [sic] in Cairo … but scarcely a half of the number are trustworthy’. On the other hand, many dragomans were indispensable to their employers, acting as tactful diplomats in dealing with local people, bodyguards, messengers, spies and even pimps. They sometimes had to scheme and improvise to enable their employers to fulfil their intentions. Quite often they were abused, discriminated against and treated with contempt by people who were very hard to satisfy. And yet, in many books written by travellers, the dragomans are denied any credit or barely even mentioned

Several well-known people are written about in some detail; Flinders Petrie, T.E. Lawrence, Sir Leonard Wooley and Sir Max Mallowan (all fluent speakers of local languages), while Agatha Christie (Mrs Mallowan) could manage only simple, domestic instructions.

The last two chapters home in on two notable dragomans. The first, Daniel Z. Noorian, worked for several American expeditions to ‘Babylonia’. He became a trusted friend of his employers and finally was helped to settle in America where he became an antiques dealer. The second, Solomon Negima, put together an amazing book of 65 testimonials giving a rare opportunity to access a dragoman’s own perspective.

As M. and M. say ‘This book is first and foremost about attitudes towards communication’. It reflects the present day belief that everyone should be recognised and acknowledged, however humble their role.

Olive Hogg

A COCKNEY CATULLUS: The Reception of Catullus in Romantic Britain, 1795-1821

By Henry Stead

OUP (2016) h/b 339pp £65 (ISBN 9780198744887)

 Although Catullus was known and translated long before the Romantic era, translators confined themselves mostly, though by no means entirely, to the inoffensive and well-known poems, and S. estimates that translations of ‘about half’ of Catullus’ oeuvre had appeared in print by the end of the eighteenth century. Or at least until the first complete translation by John Nott appeared in 1795; a second by George Lamb followed soon after in 1821. These two are the focus of interest in the first chapter.

Nott’s edition had the English versions in verse and the Latin on facing pages, with footnotes. His aims, S. avers, were to make the text accessible primarily to students and scholars rather than the general reader, although there were a number of Latin editions available by then. The translation was ‘poetic but close’—in contrast to Lamb’s poetic versions—and was also more explicit and published anonymously. Lamb omitted 31 poems (Fordyce left out 32 as recently as 1961) and ‘materially altered’ others, thus avoiding ‘all the beastliness of Catullus’ neatly highlighted in this ditty by W.S.Landor:

Among these treasures there are some
That floated past the wreck of Rome;
But others, for their place unfit,
Are sullied by uncleanly wit.
So in its shell a pearl is found
With rank putridity around.

Not a poem for oyster lovers! But Lamb, it appears, was fit even ‘for the delicate hands of high society’s women’. A reviewer in Blackwood’s Magazine was not impressed by Lamb’s ‘drivelling vapidity’, a judgement S. somewhat softens by reference to the ‘untimeliness’ of his ‘method’.

The second chapter has Catullus 64 as its focus, turning first to versions by Frank Sayers (1803) and Sir Charles Elton (1814), before considering the narrative verse of the cockney poets Peacock (‘Greeky Peaky’), Keats and Hunt and their ‘interweaving of classical imitation and unborrowed ideas’. Particular elements, especially the abandonment of Ariadne and the arrival of Bacchus, made this poem appealing as a challenge to the establishment and its ‘traditional heroic classicism’.

Chapter three examines the reception of Catullus by other non-cockney Romantic poets, particularly Landor, Wordsworth, Moore and Byron, before turning to the use of Catullus (in parodies) to attack the reformists. ‘King of Cockaigne’ Leigh Hunt is the subject of chapter four and Keats of the final chapter. Close readings of Hunt’s translations are followed by a search for the ‘shady presence’ of Catullus in Keats, where there is little overt allusion, but sufficient textual echoes, to establish that Keats was at least familiar with some of Catullus.

Catullus may not at first seem an obvious choice of poet for either the traditionalists of the educated elite or reformers to bring before the newly emerging reading public, but S. has assembled a fascinating history of the diverse receptions of Catullus in an age of polarised politics and high anxiety because of events on the continent. The struggle with the poetry and language of Catullus is constantly under scrutiny as we watch, for example, Hunt attempting a diminutive (‘Septimy’ which didn’t work), or emasculating the emasculation of Catullus 63 (‘a custom,’ says Hunt, ‘of which neither our manners nor morals should endure to hear’).

S. is a perceptive guide to these turbulent times. His style is not encumbered by a reliance on jargon, but manages to be both academic and accessible. One solecism, lepidus carmen, should have been spotted at proof reading.

Alan Beale

DEMOCRACY: A Life

By Paul Cartledge

Oxford (2016) h/b 361pp £20 (ISBN 9780199697670)

Professor Cartledge traces the history of democracy from its ancient origins (direct exercise of power by the people) to modern times (representative democracy), noting wide variations in both categories. He has structured the book in the form of a play, complete with prologue and five acts.

Act I provides a review of the sources, both literary and epigraphic. In relation to the 5th/4th century BC notion of δημοκρατία, we are remarkably fortunate. Aristotle’s surviving works include Politics and The constitution of Athens. There are the law court and assembly speeches of Demosthenes, Aeschines and their contemporaries. A selection of Athenian laws and decrees survive. So do some local regulations, including a marble stele of Thoricos recording what sacrifices were required and when.

Act II (which is really the core of this work) guides us through the history of Athenian democracy. In the early sixth century Solon resolved conflicts between the aristocracy, the middle classes and the masses by a redistribution of power. The middle classes were allowed to become archons (top officials) and subsequently members of the Areopagus (a powerful council). The people were given an assembly (Heliaea), which functioned as a court of appeal. In the late sixth century Cleisthenes laid the foundations for what we now know as Athenian democracy. He created the structure of thirty trittyes, ten tribes and the council of 500 (50 men per tribe). The Areopagus retained the right of impeaching high officials. The people gained new powers through their Assembly. They also gained the power of ostracism. No less important, the people gained the power to adjudicate judicially through jury courts. There was a brief interruption in 404-403, when Athens was subject to the ‘Thirty Tyrants’. That raises the interesting question whether Athenian democracy was the same before and after restoration.

Accompanying the narrative history is a review of the theorists, including Herodotus’ account of the ‘Persian debate’, Plato’s logical attack on the concept of democracy and Aristotle’s more nuanced analysis. Aristotle saw oligarchy as rule by the rich and democracy as rule by the poor. He helpfully compiled a manual of the different constitutions prevailing across Greece. This enables Cartledge to provide a broader account of Greek democracies in all their manifestations.

Act III traverses the ‘golden age’ of Greek democracy in the fourth century. It covers Mantinea, Corinth, Phleious, Thebes and Argos. There is a separate chapter on Athens in the age of Lycurgus.

Act IV covers the period from the death of Alexander the Great to the Renaissance in a mere 50 pages. Inevitably, therefore, the narrative gathers pace. Cartledge describes the somewhat confusing decline of democracy during the Hellenistic period. He characterises the middle and late Roman Republic as variants of democracy. But there was this incongruity: the Republic set about extinguishing democracy in the city states which it absorbed into the growing Roman Empire. After that came the Principate, the Dominate and the Byzantine Empire. These vast tracts of world history have little place in any study of democracy. Cartledge disposes of them summarily in a short chapter entitled ‘Democracy denied’. Finally there is a review of Italian city states in the Middle Ages and the emergence of democracy in Renaissance Florence. Along the way Cartledge provides a synopsis of the Magna Carta story and its impact on the history of the United States. The year 2015 has seen a surfeit of books about Magna Carta, not all of the highest quality. It is refreshing to see Magna Carta discussed in the broader context of 2,500 years’ political history.

Act V traces the gradual revival of democracy in more recent times. In England the Putney debates, chaired by Oliver Cromwell, got people thinking and talking about political institutions to serve the whole of society. The inaptly named ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 and a line of political philosophers led progressively to the development of representative democracy in Britain. Cartledge traces the emergence of representative democracy in France after the revolution and in America post-1776. After the inevitable genuflection to de Tocqueville, he identifies the debt which all those jurisdictions owe to Greece as the ultimate source of their inspiration.

Where does all this leave the reader? He/she has a stimulating biography of democracy, both in theory and in all its practical manifestations. The book may be light on detail, except in relation to Greek history and culture (where Professor Cartledge is a renowned expert). In the place of detail, however, there is a coherent overview of the subject as a whole. This book is also a thoughtful response to those scholars, such as Amartya Sen, who argue that democracy is not ‘a quintessentially Western idea’. Cartledge’s analysis suggests that it is just that.
Rupert Jackson

The Art of Euripides

By Donald J. Mastronarde

Cambridge UP (2015) 361pp £20.99 (ISBN 9781107646612)

This book was originally published in hardback in 2010, when it received the serious attention due to a leading Euripidean. But readers looking for interpretations of each of Euripides’ surviving plays will have to look elsewhere. Instead, M. surveys them under topics common to the whole oeuvre: modern scholarship and reception, problems of genre, dramatic structure, the chorus, gods, rhetoric and character, women, males and the limits of autonomy. This allows him to range beyond the strictly Euripidean; there are plenty of acute observations on Sophocles and Aeschylus, pointing out similarities that are often elided by the (now largely discredited) ‘literary history’ approach to tragedy—though M. rightly gives prominence to those characteristics of Greek drama that have always been labelled as especially Euripidean.

Most tragedy, he says, investigates ‘the order and disorder of the world humans inhabit by retelling and modifying traditional stories in a new form’. Tragedy does not have to be tragic. Plays ‘may present important areas of ambivalence…in their scrutiny of psychological, ethical, and social issues’; they are ‘multivocal…and no voices have absolute authority…or reliability’. There is no point in trying to squeeze them into a tight Aristotelian frame; they may have Wittgensteinian family resemblances to each other, but no more.

It is equally too constricting to consult narrowly Athenian democratic concerns in order to find the key to understanding drama’s impact, on either the contemporary audience or on us. M. also usefully observes that it can be perilous to pronounce confidently on the tragic genre when we have a mere handful of the 1,000 or so plays performed in the 5th century at Athenian dramatic festivals.

M. seems to want to link this instability of form to audience reaction. Everything in Euripides, he says, pushes spectators towards a state of aporia. It is certainly true that we are constantly being wrong-footed by Euripides in the course of a single play, sometimes in an uncompromisingly brutal way (think Dionysus and Cadmus in Bacchae, or the end of Medea), but M. is surely wrong to identify this as our principal reaction. Quite apart from the impossibility of multiple rationalizations (there’s simply no time), he gives insufficient weight to the emotive power generated by a dramatic performance. Gorgias (Helen) knew all about being drawn into the action and identifying with people on the stage. This reviewer looked in vain for recognition of the sheer emotional force of a Medea or a Hecuba. Here, as elsewhere, one suspects M. of over-intellectualizing. It is odd to sense the ghost of Verrall lurking just offstage.

That said, there is plenty in this book to interest the non-expert, classically-minded reader (no Greek is quoted). M. is good, for example, on the often awkward invasion of rhetoric into emotional speeches where we post-Romantics would expect unadorned, simple passion. Ways of expressing oneself effectively were big news in 5th century Athens, and many in the audience would have recognized and enjoyed their deployment. And there is a perceptive discussion on the chorus’ simultaneous closeness to and distance from the audience.

Ardent Euripideans will find much to enjoy in this book, and teachers studying a particular play will do well to let themselves be led on by references in the index. But though it is clearly the fruit of a career’s thinking about and teaching Euripides, this reviewer was left with a niggling feeling that much of it travels through terrain already fought over. Somehow one expected more from someone of M.’s reputation and eminence.

Anthony Verity

AENEID BOOK VI

Tr. by Seamus Heaney

Faber (2016) h/b 53pp £14.99 (ISBN 9780571327317)

The Aeneid, posthumously published in 19 BC, receives this posthumously published translation of its eschatological heart by one of the most distinguished modern poets. How much it retains of its original and how much is new, one may ask. To call it the Heaneid is a flippant but neat portmanteau description of a poem tasting of two authors. In a preface (‘Translator’s Note’), H. sketches his engagement with the book from school days, to the death of his father and birth of his first granddaughter. It would be fascinating to see a similar preface from Virgil, but how different, how political would that have been? H.’s enthusiasm for it wanes at the book’s climax, Anchises’ revelation of the future great men of Rome. He even refers to a poet moving ‘from inspiration to grim determination’ to complete the task. Still, hoc opus, hic labor.

H. writes blank verse, a flexible metre particularly suited to English, where it was first used in Surrey’s 16th C translations of parts of the Aeneid. Occasionally the distinctive rhythm at the end of a Virgilian hexameter can be felt as in ‘overwhelmed in the turmoil’. Sentences flow easily, many verses are not end-stopped, and enjambment sometimes works to significant advantage, as when Palinurus finally sights land:

‘I rose on a swell and got my first glimpse
Of Italia.’

However, an uncomfortable contemporary resonance is similarly highlighted:

‘Down to these sunless, poor abodes, this land
Of troubles.’

H.’s diction does not strain to become grandiose, somehow transcends the colloquial, never has a ‘crabbed turn’ or ‘congested cadence’, but exhibits an occasional ‘see here’. While Phlegethon, a river in Hades, is described with suitably awesome compound adjectives (‘rock-rumbling, thunder-flowing’), Deiphobus’ scars are ‘love bites’, a phrase in a way appropriate, but surely bathetic. Where Virgil astounds, for example in describing Charon (stant lumina flamma), H. does not seek to clarify (as a scholar may: ‘his eyes are unmoving and fiery’ [Horsfall]) but adopts the bold metaphor (‘The eyes stand in his head and glow’). When describing the wraith of Aeneas’ father slipping through his grasp (volucrique simillima somno). H. startles (though risking bathos?) with ‘a dream on wings’. The impossible pius Aeneas (9) becomes ‘Aeneas devoted as ever’, a better choice in the context than ‘in duty bound’, ‘god-fearing’, even ‘devout’ and ‘righteous’ which appear in other recent literary translations. Dryden’s ‘The Pious Prince’ is too grand now. H. can reproduce Virgil’s alliteration effectively, as at 833 where it raises the emotional temperature in Anchises’ warning against the horror of civil war: neu patriae validas in viscera vertite viris becomes ‘do not / bloody the bosom of your country with vicious, / valiant battle’. The echo of validas in ‘valiant’ and viscera in ‘vicious’ may mostly be missed, but the juxtaposition of ‘vicious’ and ‘valiant’ neatly captures conflicting emotions of civil war.

‘Neither a “version” nor a crib: it is more like classics homework’ H. tells us – risking 6 out of 10 – in his opening note. It is an affectionate tribute to his Latin teacher who ‘created an inner literalist’, but it is much more the product of a poet attentive to demands of writing verse. The result is a fluent narrative (only ‘scringe’ caused a rush to the dictionary) and an imaginative response to Virgil’s Latin.

Alan Beale