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Greek History.

Hitler may have had only one ball, but Pericles had `no testicles at all'. So Michael Vickers, waxing ever more controversial, in (B)(**)Pericles on Stage(1) (72). It all starts with the intriguing idea that, just like the Paphlagonian and his fellow-slaves in Knights, every leading character in Aristophanes' early plays represents a contemporary public figure. In the search for clues to their identities, V. performs marvels of ingenuity, but there is a touch of madness in his method. Every mention of `wood' or `board' is taken as a reference to Pericles, because he allegedly had Samian POWs fled to planks and beaten to death with clubs (e.g., 11). For the same reason, all talk of `twisting' and `turning' is supposed to refer to Pericles: the verb in question can also mean `to torture'. Every time Aristophanes says `lamp' and every time he uses a word related to noos (such as `sense', `goodwill', or `thought'), he is having another sly dig at Pericles, whose friend Anaxagoras, nicknamed Noos (`Mind'), was credited with a witticism about lamps not burning without oil. And when Dicaeopolis in Acharnians says that it has been six years since he brought out the phallic image used at the Rural Dionysia, and six years since he last ate Boeotian eel, these are not simple references to the effects of six years of war, but yet again a swipe at Pericles, who, about five year's ago, along with thousands of others, had caught the plague. The illness may well have affected his genitals, you see (71-2, 87-8). Nods in the direction of Alcibiades are everywhere, too. Does anyone utter a word that might be amusing if its Rs were pronounced as Ls -- brotoi (mortals), say, or aiskhros (shameful), which would sound a bit like plotoi (floaters, 147) and Aiskhuleios (Aeschylean, 47, 117)? We know that Alcibiades suffered this `lambdacizing' speech defect, so it must be him. An anonymous groom who is offered a `ladle' of wine is obviously our man again, because a cold metal ladle could be applied to bruises, and Alcibiades notoriously beat up a number of people, including his father-in-law (94, 123). On the strength of such allusions, V. identifies the majority of older male characters as caricatures of Pericles, and the younger men as parodies of Alcibiades. In order to give himself a little more leeway still, V. posits that Aristophanes' characterizations involve `polymorphism', `poecilomorphism', and frequent resort to the `Hermogenes principle'. Polymorphism (e.g., 15-16) means that a single historical figure may be represented by several dramatic characters at once: in Wasps, for instance, Philocleon, Sosias, and the chorus of jurymen all represent Pericles (122). Poecilomorphism (185) means that a single dramatic character may represent several historical figures at once: thus, the Hoopoe in Birds stands for Pericles (172) as well as for a Spartan ephor (165-6), King Agis (169, 179), and Brasidas (180-1). The Hermogenes principle (e.g., 14), finally, allows a dramatic character to be in some ways the precise opposite of its historical counterpart, by way of ironic role reversal. `The audience were doubtless rolling in the aisles' (128) at the notion of Pericles being represented by someone named `Cleon-lover', because that is the last thing the real Pericles would have been. This is not far short of saying that anything goes; the scope for character-spotting is limited only by one's imagination and erudition, both of which V. has in plenty. As a party game for classicists, Pericles on Stage could be a runaway success. As an approach to the study of Aristophanes, it is not likely to catch on, but if it does, we shall have to learn to live with the idea that the extant comedies all have the same subject, and that beneath their surface of caustic wit and brilliant satire lurks plodding allegory fuelled by Christmas cracker puns. As if to distance himself from his Oxford colleague, Christopher Pelling, editor of a volume on (B)(**)Greek Tragedy and the Historian,(2) insists that his contributors' `readings need not imply that the plays are allegories' (217). This is true, although Alan Sommerstein does argue that the plot of Aeschylus' Suppers draws heavily on recent events (74-9), and Angus Bowie, in a balanced and subtle paper, suggests that in Euripides' Suppliants and Sophocles' Philoctetes `particular historical events are made homologous with mythical stories in such a way that the action of the drama provides various models for viewing the events' (61). P. himself, by contrast, warns that historical content may be subordinated to literary motifs even in Persians, the one play which is supposed to deal with recent events (2-9). Most contributors deal with the possibility of relating tragedy, not to the history of events, but to the social and cultural history of Athens, and tend -- perhaps wisely, but somewhat disappointingly -- to seek connections only at a very general level. Pierre Vidal-Naquet, for instance, is content to conclude that `every Athenian tragedy is a reflection on the foreigner, on the Other, on the double' (119). The editor's comment that `historians like evidence' (213) -- implying, I think, that classicists, who fill most of the volume, do not `like evidence' -- may account for the general reluctance to press the plays harder for what they may tell us about contemporary culture and society. The classicists' putative distaste for evidence may also explain why two of the book's best chapters are by historians, both of whom argue convincingly that aspects of religion featured in tragedy do indeed reflect contemporary experience. Robert Parker demonstrates that the `cruel' gods of tragedy, with its insistence `that divine justice is or ought to be visible in all the circumstances of life' were no less real to the Athenian audience than the `kind' gods to whom continual appeal is made in political speeches, with their `compulsory optimism' (157-8), while in the closing paper Robin Osborne shows how changes in the iconography of maenads and Dionysiac cult seem to reflect increasing familiarity with, and involvement in, ecstatic worship, suggesting that Euripides' Bacchae was `an exploration of what it is like to be an outside observer of phenomena with which Athenian society had long been familiar' (210). Religion, it seems, brings out the best in people, for it is also the subject of a particularly nice chapter by Richard Buxton in (B)(*)The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece.(3) This lavishly produced volume, edited by Paul Cartledge, has two great virtues. First, the text gets so far away from conventional narrative that the history of events is covered in a mere twenty pages and labelled `intermezzo'. The chapters before and after the break offer an attractive and accessible social and cultural history of Greece, under such headings as `women, children and men', `literature and performance', `rich and poor', and `work and leisure'. The first two of these range more widely than one might have expected, with Marilyn Katz tackling tactics and slaves alongside women and children (but saying rather less about gender issues than her title suggests) and Edith Hall placing tragedy in a context of poetic, athletic, and rhetorical competition; the second pair of chapters, both by Nick Fisher, stand out not only because they deal with aspects of social life which elsewhere tend to get not nearly enough attention, but also because they are most densely packed with information and ideas on anything from class analysis to cock-fighting. The editor himself has written about a third of the volume, with an eye for the big picture as weft as the unusual detail: his discussion of sources, for example, makes room for a portrait of Panyassis (5) and a full-page box on Aesop (7), while his chapter on the Greek legacy includes an Italian soft-porn magazine cover featuring a young lady having sex with one of the Riace Bronzes. (No, I am not giving you the page reference for that one.) The volume's second virtue is that most chapters use pictures far more effectively: than your average book for the popular market, and live up to the claim that the images, aided by substantial captions, `are supposed to tell their own stories' (12). The quality and variety of the illustrations are most impressive, with the exception of two of my favourite things, the Chigi vase and the Olympias trireme, which are represented by low-grade scanned images in C.'s chapter on warfare, perhaps produced in some haste (170, 178). Greek war takes centre stage in (B)(*)Soldiers, Citizens, and the Symbols of War,(4) a book derived from an undergraduate course on ancient warfare taught by Antonio Santosuosso, a modern historian. From the bibliography one would never have guessed that S. is not a specialist in the field, since it is full and up-to-the-minute, but the text does hint that his knowledge derives more from absorbing lots of what he calls `secondary sources' than from immersion in the actual source material. We are told why `N. G. L. Hammond agrees with the choice' of Marathon as the landing place for a Persian invasion before we learn that most of his reasons are also given by Herodotus, as it happens (26). The evidence, when cited, is too often taken at face value, as if the details of `an emotional conversation' between Miltiades and Callimachus (31) or exchanges between Alexander and Parmenio (142) were tape-recorded rather than the product of historical imagination, and as if Xerxes' divine visitations could simply be rationalized as `sleepless nights and nightmares' afflicting a nervous commander, `perfectly credible from a psychological viewpoint' (40). There are a few oddities, too, such as the baffling comment that victory at Plataea `brought four decades of peace to the Greek states' (89), or references to `A. du Picq' which deprive the distinguished Colonel of his double-barrelled surname, Ardant du Picq, not to mention his quadruple-barrelled first name, Charles-Jean-Jacques-Joseph. None the less, this is by and large a perfectly respectable account and analysis of major infantry battles (and Salamis) from the Persian Wars to the Roman conquest of Greece and defeat of Carthage (in that order), which commendably goes beyond covering strategy and tactics to discuss, more briefly but sometimes -- as in the treatment of light-armed (93-102) -- quite effectively, ideologies and styles of warfare in their relation to social structures. I can easily believe that S.'s classes were, as he modestly puts it, `very popular' (ix). Not quite as popular as those of Donald Kagan, though, judging from the glowing testimonia of his former students in (B)(**)Polis and Polemos,(5) a Festschrift to mark his sixty-fifth birthday: `simply unsurpassed' (Paul Rahe, class of `68), `the one unclouded revelation of the bright light of learning that we had come to Yale to find' (John Hale, class of `69) (141, 85). Wow. The papers themselves, too, reflect the impact of Kagan on his pupils, insofar as the majority deal with `his' subjects, Pericles, Thucydides, and the Peloponnesian War. Among these are a study of the causes of the war (Meyer), which has some harsh words for Kagan's opponents (the best-known of whom is apparently so beastly that he `snorts and paws the ground', 38), assessments of Thucydides' thought (Legon, Rahe), and an analysis of the end of the war, which asks, pertinently, why Athens was not destroyed, and, oddly, how Thucydides might have covered these events if he had got round to them (Hamilton). Several contributors broaden discussion of the war in more or less helpful ways. Brook Manville argues that Athens and world-beating modern corporations share a recipe for success: not to settle for anything but the best. John Hale suggests that Phormio's recipe for success was the same as that of Sun-Tzu's Art of War. All good, clean fun, if not as illuminating as Peter Krentz's investigation of Greek attitudes to warfare, which demonstrates that Pericles' famous strategy was really not all that unusual, or Barry Strauss's sweeping comparison of Greek, Roman, and Akkadian alliance systems. Others leave Kagan territory altogether, venturing into the later history of Athens and the world of Sparta. I would single out a piece on the constitution of Demetrius of Phaleron by James Williams, and Ted Lendon's striking analysis of how the Spartan concept of honour managed to reconcile fierce competition with extreme docility. Valerie French's bold attempt to explain the decline of Sparta in terms of changing child-rearing patterns -- as foreign nannies increasingly supplanted the authority of firm, but loving, mothers (258-64) -- perhaps tells us less about Sparta than about the anxieties of working women in the Louise Woodward era. More on (B)(**)Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War(6) from George Cawkwell, who is described on the cover as `an important historian', and rightly so, for he has had stimulating and unorthodox things to say about any number of cruces in Greek history. Here, he tackles five of the most debated issues in the history of the war: its `truest' cause (which Thucydides analysed correctly, 31), Pericles' strategy (`Thucydides was probably right' not to favour any alternative, 55), the role of the demagogues (`we may agree with Thucydides that Cleon did not judge well' in politics, 74), the objectives of the Sicilian Expedition (Thucydides got it wrong initially, but changed his mind later, 91), and the popularity of the Empire (`the argument for thinking [Thucydides] mistaken is not valid', 106). A clutch of minor problems is covered in an opening chapter on Thucydides and three appendices. That C. generally gives his support to our historian's analyses does not mean that he is uncritical in his reading of the evidence, but his approach does tend to be apologetic. Those who argue that Thucydides may have been factually inaccurate once in a while are not critics but `latter-day sages' (7) and `denigrators' (13). Scholars are chided even for believing that they can improve on the great man's interpretations (`De Ste Croix has read and understood, but not Thucydides, a curious conclusion', 96), although it is, of course, in the very nature of historical inquiry to take issue with one's sources We are not surprised, then, to be told that our author was a good democrat (5-7, 96), whose dislike for Cleon was restrained, unmotivated by political bias, and, indeed, not unjustified (63-74). For all his defensiveness, C.'s analytical abilities shine through and make for interesting discussion throughout. His reassessment of Demosthenes' strategy and generalship (50-5, 71-4), in fact, is so different from Thucydides' that a `denigrator' could hardly have gone further. The story of the iota that made a difference is mentioned by C. as a `mighty cloud' threatening to burst and `deluge' Thucydides' reputation (12-13); to Harold Mattingly, another important, unorthodox historian, the same story is a ray of light and offers justification for bringing out (**)The Athenian Empire Restored,(7) a weighty volume containing thirty papers published over a period of thirty years. The iota in question may or may not feature in a fragmentary archon's name on a stone recording an alliance between Athens and (S)Egesta: if it does, the name must be Antiphon and the alliance must have been made in 418/17, which means not only that Thucydides' account of events leading up to the Sicilian Expedition is inaccurate, but also that the three-bar sigma used on this stone was, after all, in use long after 446, which seriously undermines the early dates given to a range of notorious Athenian inscriptions, which in turn means that the history of Athenian imperialism may need to be revised, as M. has been arguing throughout his career. From disregarded scratch to probable letter in 1963 (99-102), to very clear letter identified by several witnesses in 1965 (475), but back to useless `dubious traces' in 1969 (263 n. 7), only to rebound to the status of distinct letter in 1986 (473-6) and to have its identity `virtually proved' with the aid of hi-tech equipment in 1990 (ix-x, 1, 512), the fortunes of our iota -- and of the phi or scratches next to it -- have been mixed even in M's own estimation. Computer-enhancement of photos (as illustrated in ZPE 83 [1990], colour plates A, B), always so effective in the X-files, is something of a disappointment in real life, at least to my untrained eye: the iota still looks as if it could be a scratch, but a remarkably neat one, in just the right place, while the potential phi still looks a mess. A laser-beam pointed at the back of the stone, on the other hand, does reveal something that looks a lot like a squashed phi (ibid., Plate II). The debate will rumble on, but in the meantime M.'s collected papers on fifth-century epigraphy and (some) numismatics are well worth another look. Here, they are all re-set, but with an indication of original page numbers, and apparently without significant change to content, even when M. himself has subsequently made corrections and additions, or recanted. Thus, we can trace how he conceded that his original case for a late date for the colony at Brea was `far from cogent', but still defensible, in 1966 (117), yet five years later called himself `perhaps too adventurous' (321 n. 28), and by 1974 asked to `be allowed to forget the heresy which I expounded' (384). Again, in 1984 he thought that he might `simply have been wrong' in his date for the Athena Nike decree (481), but now, in one of four short Appendices written for this volume, bounces back to save his earlier interpretation (522). These changes of heart are the mark of a scholar both open-minded and tenacious, and they are, of course, perfectly acceptable in a series of articles. In a book, however, they make for a discouraging degree of repetition and a confusing amount of self-contradiction. A fully revised and updated version of M.'s papers might have been an even better way of reopening the debate about the development of the Athenian Empire, but this volume is the next best thing, and it is very welcome. Both Mattingly and D. L. Shipley, author of (B)(**)A Commentary on Plutarch's Life of Agesilaos,(8) acknowledge the help of their academic sons; in the case of the Shipleys, it was apparently the father who followed in the son's footsteps. Plutarch would have had something improving to say about this. S.'s book is something of a genre-bender, in form a commentary, in content more like a monograph (which may be why the dust-jacket does not have `a commentary on' in the title). It is perhaps best likened to a four hundred-page `gobbet' paper: Plutarch's text is printed a few lines at a time, each passage being followed by a short essay on salient points, rather than by the conventional telegraphic explanations, cross-references, and bibliography. These essays are learned, thoughtful, and generally helpful, although one sometimes wonders about what is and is not included. What might be the point of remarking upon the `mysteries' surrounding `the terminal illnesses of Soviet presidents in this century, and perhaps EL Cid' (83) or upon the `third time [Plutarch] uses a participial form to refer to one of the kings' (84), I do not know. Generally, S. tries to be all-inclusive, yet he surprisingly ignores some intriguing questions about, say, Spartan dress (raised by Agesilaos' `simple tribon' at 14.4 and his `coarse and shabby himation' at: 36.9) or about Spartan family life (raised by an anecdote about an embarrassed Agesilaos caught playing horsey with his children, 25.11). These are the sort of quibbles one might raise about almost any commentary, however, and detract little from the quality of the bulk of his observations on the ways in which Plutarch presents character, manipulates his sources, or treats matters such as friendship and enmity, the uses of deception, and the ideals of panhellenism. The hybrid format has the disadvantage of diffusing some of the main arguments, which might have been more clearly developed in a regular monograph, but the extended introduction surveying key themes offers some compensation, and digressions from the commentary offer the reader concentrated discussion of further special issues, of which the most unexpected is blood-letting (`phlebotomy', 307- 8). Another panhellenic crusader, another commentary. Books 11 and 12 of (**)Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus,(9) `the poorest representative of the so-called Vulgate tradition' of Alexander historiography, are given the full works by J. C. Yardley and Waldemar Heckel. Text and lemmata are given in English, which is a kindness to the Latinless, and the scholarly commentary is highly informative, which is a kindness to all. Y. and H. are under no illusions as to the quality of Justin's work, going only so far as to reject Tarn's view that it is `a mass of rubbish' (40) and to make a careful effort to distinguish the epitomator's input from that of his source. Justin, mining Trogus for material suitable for rhetorical composition, casts aside much of value to the historian, carelessly mixes up episodes, omits juicy bits which no other biographer has been able to resist -- the hero's marriage to Roxane, for instance -- and comes up with the amusing conceit that Alexander's army from the outset consisted of elderly soldiers and a general staff so ancient that HQ looked like the Roman Senate of old (11.6.4-6, and p. 113). One might think that the Epitome barely deserves the amount of work Y. and H. have put into it, yet their labours have been well-spent: the full discussion, extensive bibliography, and comprehensive cross-references to other sources make this book a major aid in the study of Alexander. The cover (unlike title-page) calls it `Volume I', so here's hoping for a sequel on the Successors. It is a bad year for Alexander if he does not have at least a couple of new biographies devoted to him. This time, E. E. Rice and Richard Stoneman oblige with two studies called simply (B)(*)Alexander the Great.(10) Despite filling roughly a hundred pages each, S.'s treatment is about twice as long as R.'s, which is printed in the manner of slim volumes of verse: a classy layout and typeface, but not many words for your money. Both studies mercifully avoid any hint of hero worship. R.'s 20,000 words leave space for little but a spare narrative, but she offers a sober and balanced account, while S. makes room for good, concise discussions of source problems and trends in modern scholarship, as well as for effectively used anecdotes. S. has more maps, but R. counters with a small b/w plate section. S., as one would expect, has much to say on the Alexander Romance, but R. can match that with more regular references to archaeological finds. Comparison is ultimately not very meaningful, since the two are aimed at different audiences. R.'s brief was clearly to take nothing for granted, and she accordingly explains very carefully what and where everything is, and keeps flagging people, places, events, buildings, and artefacts as `famous'. Absolute beginners will want to buy this -- even if the author could not resist smuggling `proleptically' (95) past the editor. S., on the other hand, writes for the informed reader, A-level student, and undergraduate, all of whom will find his book a very good bargain. More expensive and more important than any of the preceding volumes is (B)(**)The Decrees of the Greek States,(11) which catalogues thousands of decrees issued in the course of a millennium (from the mid-seventh century B.C. to the early fourth century A.D.) in any part of the Greek world from Massalia to Media -- with the exception of Athens -- and extracts from these an impressive amount of information about public decision-making procedures, with a view to testing the notion that democracy was a dead letter before the end of the Hellenistic period. The achievement is all the more staggering since, after collaborating with David Lewis in the early stages, Peter Rhodes completed the whole thing by himself, by means of `old-fashioned reading of the texts' (v) as opposed to scanning through a stack of CD-ROMs. The catalogue takes up some four hundred pages of small print and gives the Greek text of the bits of decrees that throw light on procedural matters (in abbreviated form if formulaic), omitting names, dates, and the substance of the decisions. Despite these exclusions, the painstakingly presented state-by- state listings will prove a very handy epigraphic resource even for those interested in matters other than decision-making per se. The mammoth work of compilation is prefaced by a chapter on the political process in classical Athens, and, more importantly, by a chapter on the Hellenistic and Roman equivalent, much less well-known and more directly comparable to the catalogued material, the vast majority of which dates from the Hellenistic age. The book closes with ninety pages of meticulous and lucid analysis of what the non-Athenian decrees can tell us about political decision-making outside Athens, and what inferences we may draw about the fate of democracy in post-classical Greece. R. makes a carefully argued case for its persistence in ideal and practice. Strong as his position is, it plays down a few developments which may be significant: the virtual absence, after c. 150 B.C., of public appointments advertised as `open to all citizens' (519), and, after c. 100 B.C., of council motions containing the phrase `if [rather than `when'] the decree is passed' (517-18) or indeed of decrees using the word demokratia at all (535). R. may not have settled the debate once and for all -- as if that were possible -- but he has taken it several strides forward and put it on a new, more stable, footing. Along the way, he has also brought to our attention the remarkable substitute secretary of the council, of Priene publicly honoured for recording documents on bath parchment and papyrus (386, 526; I. Priene 112-14). Never mind the invention of democracy: Greece turns out to be the cradle of multimedia data processing.

NOTES

(1.) Pericles on Stage. Political Comedy in Aristophanes' Early Plays. By Michael Vickers. University of Texas Press, 1997. Pp. xxxiv + 255. $37.50.

(2.) Greek Tragedy and the Historian. Edited by Christopher Pelting. Oxford U.P., 1997. Pp. xii + 268, with 13 plates. 40.00 [pounds sterling].

(3.) The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece. Edited by Paul Cartledge. Cambridge U.P., 1998. Pp. xix + 380, with colour and black-and-white illustrations. 24.95 [pounds sterling].

(4.) Soldiers, Citizens, and the Symbols of War. From Classical Greece to Republican Rome, 500-167 B.C. History and Warfare. By Antonio Santosuosso. Westview Press, Boulder and Oxford, 1997. Pp. x + 277, with 50 figures. Hardback 50.00 [pounds sterling], paperback 14.50 [pounds sterling].

(5.) Polis and Polemos. Essays on Politics, War, and History in Ancient Greece in Honor of Donald Kagan. Edited by Charles D. Hamilton and Peter Krentz. Regina Books, Claremont, 1997. Pp. xxiii + 368, with frontispiece, tables, and maps. Cloth $39.50, paper 1119.50.

(6.) Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War. By George Cawkwell. Routledge, London and New York, 1997. Pp. ix + 162. Paper 11.99 [pounds sterling].

(7.) The Athenian Empire Restored. Epigraphic and Historical Studies. By Harold B. Mattingly. University of Michigan Press, 1996. Pp. xvii + 561. 55.00 [pounds sterling].

(8.) A Commentary on Plutarch's Life of Agesilaos. Response to Sources in the Presentation of Character. By D. R. Shipley. Oxford U.P., 1997. Pp. xiv + 514, with 4 maps. 65.00 [pounds sterling].

(9.) Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus. Volume I Books 11-12: Alexander the Great. Clarendon Ancient History Series. Translation and Appendices by J. C. Yardley; Commentary by Waldemar Heckel. Oxford U.P., 1997. Pp. xxiv + 360, with 3 maps. Hardback 45.00 [pounds sterling], paperback 17.99 [pounds sterling].

(10.) Alexander the Great. Pocket Biographies. By E. E. Rice. Sutton, Stroud, 1997. Pp. xiv + 104, with 12 illustrations and 1 map. Paper 4.99 [pounds sterling]; Alexander the Great. Lancaster Pamphlets. By Richard Stoneman. Routledge, London and New York, 1997. Pp. xx + 101, with 4 maps. Paper 6.99 [pounds sterling].

(11.) The Decrees of the Greek States. By P. J. Modes with the Late David M. Lewis. Oxford U.P., 1997. Pp. xiv + 640. 85.00 [pounds sterling].

((*) denotes that a book is specially recommended for school libraries; (**) that it is suitable for advanced students only; (B)that a bibliography is included.)
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:VAN WEES, HANS
Publication:Greece & Rome
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1998
Words:4742
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