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The Western Greeks: Classical Civilization in the Western Mediterranean.

One book in this assemblage is a downright bully in terms of heft and range, and we must start with it. (B)*The Western Greeks(1) is a genuine compendium, born from an ultradidactic exhibition in Venice last year. It was a matter of some discontent to display-professionals who attended the exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi: too many information panels, and an overload of information on every one of them. But although the catalogue is far too large to serve as a textbook, many students are going to be grateful for the efforts made here to reflect the diversity and vigour of Magna Grecia studies in Italy and elsewhere. It was fitting that the exhibition happened in Venice, for there is a tradition of specialists descending from the north of Italy -- Paolo Orsi, Umberto Zanotti-Bianco, Vittorio Macchioro. We still do not fully understand the ancient connotations of that term `Megale Hellas', but the academic isolation of the area was firmly fixed in 1961, when the Taranto conferences on Magna Grecia began. So the book, declaring itself a witness to the `extraordinary cultural dynamism of Western Grecism in its osmotic relationship with the Italic environment', gathers in the best of several decades of archaeological, historical, and philological research. An essay on the Phoenicians in the Western Mediterranean is placed at the beginning as an appeasement to supporters of I Fenici (a previous Palazzo Grassi megashow); then a great circus of experts is convened. Thus we have, for example, on rural settlement and urban development, Emanuele Greco and Dieter Mertens, with Joe Carter on the Metapontum survey; an exegesis of the Tomb of the Diver from Paestum by Angela Pontrandolfo; a survey of Greek artists in Republican Rome by Eugenio La Rocca. Individual studies are made of interaction with each of the contingent indigenous peoples in Italy. There are also some elegant attempts to reconstruct the tenets of Orphism and Pythagoreanism. Apart from one flash of mischief on the part of the organizing committee -- the catalogue nowhere explains the point of juxtaposing the Ludovisi Throne with its surely spurious sister from Boston -- this is a worthy monument to those determined emigres or black sheep who created `Great(er) Greece'. Though the translation bears signs of haste, it is useful to have this quality (and quantity) of material divulged in English -- and, from a librarian's point of view, easily worth the asking price. Aberdeen is no longer a far northern lamp of Hellenic light, but an endowment for visiting lectures ensures an occasional flare. Brian Sparkes's stint as Geddes-Harrower lecturer is commemorated in his (B)*The Red and the Black.(2) The easy tone of the lecturer to a non-specialist audience is retained, as Sparkes effectively indulges all those discursive topics that lay beyond the scope of his 1991 Greek Pottery handbook. With the benefit of a lifetime's study, shrewd and humane remarks abound: on ancient and modern values of vases, for instance; and on iconography (where, as Sparkes points out, it is foolish to go pursuing distinctions between `myth' and `reality'). Especially useful is the chapter on the history of collecting, which incorporates much unfamiliar material. Still with pots, (B)**Polygnotos and Vase Painting in Classical Athens,(3) by Susan Matheson, is a substantial monograph built upon Beazley's attributions. It lists 73 vases by the painter, and gathers other pieces by painters judged to be `near' him. But for most readers the interest here will not be in questions of attribution. The style of Polygnotos may be judged to vary between the insipid and the statuesque: and where it is statuesque, it naturally invites the exploration of links with sculpture, since Polygnotos was working in Athens around 450-420 B.C., and can hardly have been unaffected by the programme of Periclean projects. In fact Matheson allows herself a section entitled 'Pheidian vases', where she presents a fine account of iconographic cross-fertilization. Polygnotos, alas, did not trouble himself to record pedantically the details of the Parthenon pediments; nor explain (with clear identifying inscriptions) what was understood as happening on the east side of the Parthenon Frieze. But he evidently abstracted figures from the monument, and it is valuable to have this intermediary influence now carefully documented. Mary Eaverly's (B)**Archaic Greek Equestrian Sculpture(4) is a slimmer study. She goes where many scholars would hesitate to tread -- amongst the rubble of Acropolis statuary wrecked by the Persian occupation. How many of us, nurtured by Humfry Payne, reserve a particular affection for that wreckage. The eager-eyed, trim-bearded riders -- peculiar, as a statue-type, to Attica -- still evoke all the glee and pride of a hippotrophic society, and naturally the author speculates whether they may not relate to some sixth-century cavalry institution: a form of the dokimasia, perhaps. But she cannot do much more than speculate here. The theory that the `Rampin Rider' may have belonged to a group showing the sons of Peisistratos is given no support (though with names like Hippias and Hipparchus, surely it must remain attractive, no need, either, to insist on their guise as the Dioskouroi). Eaverly prefers to see an incarnation of Akamas, son of Theseus, paired with Demophon. There is enough evidence for Peisistratid sponsorship of Theseus to make this just about plausible, though tenuous. Probably it is safer to speak of the riders simply in terms of their conspicuous pedigree. They are, at any rate, engaging emblems of the four-legged factor in archaic Athens. Turning to the Roman arrivals, Lori-Ann Touchette's dissertation, (B)**The Dancing Maenad Reliefs,' must be regarded as timely. `Timely' is an odd compliment to dispense in the direction of any study of antiquity, so I should explain. The fact is that the whole notion of the Roman process of copying Greek originals is currently under scrutiny by a number of scholars (such as Amanda Claridge at Oxford and Peter Stewart at Cambridge). And their findings suggest that the word `copying' should no longer be used of this process -- or at least, should no longer be understood as the making of faithful replicas. Elaboration, adaptation, recontextualization: Rome-based `copyists' were much more creative than their calling implies, which is why a valid investigation can be made of the various treatments of a `stock' motif such as the Dancing Maenad. This is good news for aficionados of Roman art, -- but dismaying to those Greek enthusiasts who would, for instance, set callipers on a Roman `copy' of the Doryphoros in a vain attempt to reconstruct the Polykleitan Canon. Homage, forgery, `copying' -- it happened in other media too, and naturally enough in the realm of `personal ornament', which is how Catherine Johns prefers to term jewellery. The publishers would not have let her get away with `The Personal Ornament of the People of Roman Britain(6), but her (B)*The Jewellery of Roman Britain' is that: a people-based study of rings, bracelets, brooches, and other gee-gaws. The heavier Celtic tradition (of torcs and so on) is included, as too the latest hoard (from Hoxne, in Suffolk). Much material comes from the British Museum, where Johns is a curator: she writes lovingly of objects that were themselves usually laden with affection. What Mediterranean ardour warmed grey Corbridge in the wake of the man whose ring was inscribed as Polemiou philtron? Some swarthy little addition, perhaps, to the local population? The text of this book is sympathetic not only to the former owners of personal ornaments, but to novice readers too: an admirable introduction and guide. Finally, and, it seems, inevitably -- Augustus. No batch of new books seems complete without him. Paul Zanker, whose Power of Images in the Age of Augustus arguably started this academic vogue ten years ago, has a lot to answer for. This time, the approach is made by someone in Los Angeles and trained in urban architecture. And parts of Diane Favro's (B)*The Urban Image of Augustan Rome(7) are done with scholarly panache: at the beginning of the book she takes us on an earnest walk through Rome in 52 B.C., and at the end she takes us by the elbow again, and steers us through the city as she imagines it in A.D. 14. The illustrations, especially the architectural elevations, are nice. Favro takes at face value, and beyond, the boast of Augustus that he had transformed a place of sun-dried bricks into one of gleaming marble. I have already commented elsewhere (Cambridge Archaeological Journal 5.2, 19953 318) on Favro's exaggeration of the Rome-is-Augustus effect. Here I would criticize her comprehensive oversight of what was surely a large part of Augustan intentions, which is the Rome-is-Athens effect. Augustus, after all, was hailed Soter in Athens, -- was initiated at Eleusis; put up that little but noticeable Ionic monopteros behind the Parthenon; re-enacted Athens versus Persia at his naumachia playground in Trastevere, sublimating his own `victory' over the Parthians; had Erechtheum-style Caryatids in his Forum . . . and so on. Favro might have made her case more convincing if she had pillaged the Augustan writers more relentlessly. Perhaps, then, her book should be used in conjunction with Catharine Edwards's Writing Rome (Cambridge, 1996), where the Ovidian, Propertian, and other nuanced reactions to 'Augustan Rome' are thoroughly exposed.


(1.) The Western Greeks. Classical Civilization in the Western Mediterranean. Edited by Giovanni Pugliese Carratelli. Thames & Hudson, London, 1996. Pp. 799, with 1,600 illustrations, 600 in colour. 55.00 [pounds sterling].

(2.) The Red and the Black. Studies in Greek Pottery. By Brian A. Sparkes. Routledge, London and New York, 1996. Pp. xxvii + 203, with 109 figures. Hardback 45.00 [pounds sterling], paperback 14.99 [pounds sterling].

(3.) Polygnotos and Vase Painting in Classical Athens. Wisconsin Studies in Classics. By Susan B. Matheson. University of Wisconsin Press, 1995. Pp. xvii + 537, with 181 plates. 54.00 [pounds sterling].

(4.) Archaic Greek Equestrian Sculpture. By Mary Ann Eaverly. University of Michigan Press, 1995. Pp. xiii + 141, with 22 plates. $34.50.

(5.) The Dancing Maenad Reliefs. Continuity and Change in Roman Copies. BICS Suppl. 62. By Lori-Ann Touchette. Inst. of Class. Studies, London, 1995. Pp. x + 119, with 56 pages of plates and drawings. Paper. Price not stated.

(6.) The Jewellery of Roman Britain. Celtic and Classical Traditions. By Catherine Johns. UCL Press, 1996. Pp. xvii + 246, with 17 colour plates, 134 figures, and 1 map. 30.00 [pounds sterling].

(7.) The Urban Image of Augustan Rome. By Diane Favro. Cambridge U.P., 1996. Pp. xxi + 346, with 116 illustrations and 6 tables. 45.00 [pounds sterling].
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Author:Spivey, Nigel
Publication:Greece & Rome
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1997
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