Marek Wecowski: Fiona Hobden: The Symposion in Ancient Greek Society and Thought. in:

Gnomon, page 520 - 524

GNO, Volume 87 (2015), Issue 6, ISSN: 0017-1417, ISSN online: 0017-1417,

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Bibliographic information
M. Baumann: Plett, Enargeia in Classical Antiquity and the Early Modern Age 520 XVI noch klarer machen können: Es wird dort nicht immer deutlich, welche Form von Intermedialität bei den betrachteten Werken genau vorliegt, ob es sich also um Medienkombinationen handelt (= physische Kopräsenz zweier Medien) oder intermediale Bezüge vorliegen (= materielle Präsenz nur eines Mediums) und, wenn letzteres der Fall ist, von welcher Art die Bezugnahme ist, ob also beispielsweise nur in Form von Einzelreferenzen auf konkrete Werke anderer Medialität ausgegriffen wird oder ob ein ganzes altermediales System aufgerufen wird.1 Auch hier hätte außerdem eine solche Erweiterung des eingesetzten Analyseinstrumentariums es dem Leser noch leichter gemacht, die vielfältigen präsentierten Beispiele auf einer systematischen Ebene zueinander ins Verhältnis zu setzen. Nichtsdestoweniger bietet Pletts Buch dem Leser eine ganze Reihe von Vorzügen: Es verbindet – darauf wurde eingangs bereits hingewiesen – Breite mit sinnvoller Fokussierung. Es vermittelt einem Leser, der eher in den antiken Diskursen bewandert ist, einen gut strukturierten Überblick über die frühneuzeitliche Rezeption des antiken Konzeptes von ἐνάργεια/evidentia. Ein Leser wiederum, der eher in der Frühen Neuzeit zu Hause ist, wird kompetent über die antiken Grundlagen informiert. Alle Leser profitieren von der kompakten Darstellung, den vielfach überzeugenden konkreten Textinterpretationen und der einleuchtenden Fokussierung auf wirkungsästhetische Aspekte, die den roten Faden von Pletts Untersuchung bildet. Gießen Mario Baumann * Fiona Hobden: The Symposion in Ancient Greek Society and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge UP 2013. XIII, 299 S. 7 Abb. 60 £. Ever since the early eighties of the previous century, Greek banquet and Greek conviviality has been an increasingly fashionable subject in classical scholarship broadly defined. In recent years, several important books on the symposion were published.2 Based on its very title, Fiona Hobden’s study is perhaps the most ambitious of them. However, instead of a multi-volume synthesis, the reader receives a handsome, highly readable, and relatively compact monograph. As a matter of fact, the title may prove slightly misleading to the unprepared reader as the book deals rather with diverse functions of the symposion (more on the problems of defining this phenomenon below) in ‘ancient Greek thought’ than with its social background(s) or its sociological aspect. Actually, throughout the book the Author focuses on «the rhetorical force of the symposion», «stitching together [its diverse – M.W.] representations» (p. 5). This approach constitutes the unquestionable value of this important study, but also lends itself to criticism regarding the book’s place in current ‘sympotic’ scholarship. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 Zu diesen Termini s. Rajewsky, a.a.O., S. 155–162. 2 Maria Luisa Catoni, Bere vino puro: Immagini del simposio, Milano 2010; Kathleen M. Lynch, The Symposium in Context: Pottery from a Late Archaic House near the Athenian Agora (Hesperia Suppl. 46), Princeton, NJ 2011; Kathryn Topper, The Imagery of the Athenian Symposium, New York 2012. GNOMON 6/87/2015 M. Wecowski: Hobden, The Symposium in Ancient Greek Society and Thought 521 After a brief introduction (‘Introduction: talking about the symposion’, p. 1– 21), to which I will return shortly, chapter one of the book (‘Metasympotics’, p. 22–65) is devoted to the «representations of the symposion at the symposion in song and image», which as such «construct visions of the event that set out a persuasive view of sympotic performance and communicatess ideas» (p. 22). Of course, when dealing with diverse aspects of the symposion ‘talking about itself’, the Author does not tread a virgin territory. But this chapter is full of remarkably fresh and ingenuous analyses of well-known texts, such as that of the famous fragment B 1 West of Xenophanes of Colophon (p. 25–32). I for one would consider this chapter one of the most powerful and most persuasive sections of F. Hobden’s study. In chapter two (‘Ethnopoieia and Ēthopoieia’, p. 66–116), it is argued that in archaic poetry and visual imagery, in classical historiography as well as in later ethnographical and philosophical works, depictions of eating and drinking in company among foreign peoples form a sort of ‘shorthand’ for the main characteristics of those tribes or peoples. After so many previous studies on the subject, especially by French scholars such as Pauline Schmitt Pantel, François Hartog or François Lissarrague, all this looks hardly new, but interestingly F. Hobden consistently argues that «while convivial customs repeatedly give definition to other peoples, Greek ethics are equally implicated in the interplay between ethnicity and éthos that emerges through the representations of foreign symposia» (p. 69). One important deficiency of this otherwise excellent chapter is the fact that, if I am not badly mistaken, the Author does not refer her reader to Posidonius of Apamea, whose unparalleled philosophico-historico-ethnographic agenda would no doubt interestingly round her argument off. When reading F. Hobden’s study, chapters three and four seem somewhat less persuasive. Generally speaking, in chapter three (‘Politics in performance’, p. 117–156), in the symposia described or alluded to by Timaeus of Tauromenium, Ion of Chios, Demosthenes, or Aristophanes, «[a]cross the texts and genres, the symposion provides a hook for constructing positions on a range of political developments and issues and thus contributes to larger debates» (p. 140). Or more precisely, in different literary genres sympotic acts, feats, and misdemeanours become indicative of the character and attitudes of individuals active in the political sphere and at times of their political communities as well. Much in this chapter is truly revealing, but some interpretations look far-fetched, especially that of Ion of Chios (FGrHist 392) fragment 6 (p. 122–126), where an innocent homoerotic stratagem effectuated by Sophocles during a symposion is interpreted as dramatizing «the complexities of the allied position» towards the imperial Athens of the times of Pericles (p. 126). Chapter four (‘Politics in action’, p. 157–194) interestingly deals with diverse scenes of political power play over wine in Greek thought, thus exploring the banquet’s (perceived) potential for confrontational politics in the Odyssey, Euripides’ Ion, in tyrannicidal banquets in Xenophon and Herodotus, or in Macedonian and Persian ‘symposia’ culminating in murders perpetrated or orchestrated by a tyrant. As neatly summarized by the Author, «when politics are in performance [as in chapter three – M.W.], the relationship between symposiasts and the outside world of the polis is at issue; when politics are in action [as in chapter GNOMON 6/87/2015 M. Wecowski: Hobden, The Symposium in Ancient Greek Society and Thought 522 four – M.W.], it is the relationship between symposiasts that are put under strain, with potential consequences for the polis (or kingdom, or empire) beyond» (p. 193). What is not altogether clear in this chapter is the exact nature (and the function in the Author’s argument) of the parallelisms between Greek and Near Eastern «cosmological confrontations» over wine (p. 159–164), where the Old Babylonian story of Inanna and Enki and other Near Eastern stories of ‘convivial deceit’ come to the fore as bearing a resemblance to a scene of Aeschylus’ Eumenides (l. 723–728), to Odysseus’ revenge on the suitors in the Odyssey, to the scene of the death of Agamemnon in the same poem, or even to the scene of the drunken intercourse between Resource (Poros) and Poverty (Penia) in Plato’s Symposion. The somewhat vague and anticlimactic conclusion of this section by the Author is highly revealing here: «[d]espite variations in action, a ‘threat from within’ is shared by all these stories of convivial power play. A guest poses a threat to a host or is lured into danger by them. Stories in epic that echo Near Eastern traditions and project struggles between gods and heroes for control of their dominions into convivial gatherings may have resonated with the experience or expectations of Archaic drinking companions» (p. 164). Chapter five (‘Symposion and Symposium’, p. 195–246) makes a pleasurable finale to Fiona Hobden’s book as it presents the reader with a commentary on the rhetorics of the sympotic exchanges in Plato’s and Xenophon’s Banquets, with a series of interesting insights regarding the sympotic works of Plutarch as well as the ‘disrupted symposia’ of Parmeniscus and Lucian. All in all, «[t]he rhetorics of the symposion, especially the construction of identity for symposiasts through their performances at ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’ levels, manifests itself anew in authorial acts of philosophical self-promotion through sympotic prose» (p. 246). The book is summarized by a short «Conclusion: the rhetorics of the symposion» (p. 247–253), exploring one last time «this discursive faculty» through which «the symposion entered the Greek thought world» (p. 248). As the Author puts it herself, «[t]his […] is a book about imagined symposia, events conjured in the minds, mouths, eyes and ears of ancient Greeks. The primary goal is not to provide detailed explication of the historical event, although […] further light will be shed on aspects of sympotic performance dynamics and socio-psychological process» (p. 6). Importantly, this is not a statement of F. Hobden’s modest scholarly goals, but the only possible path of inquiry for such a book as she sees it. And the premises underlying this approach are of utmost importance. Time and again in her study, she radically claims that «the symposion as a precise historical phenomenon is a mirage: its multiplicity and malleability across time and space defies straightforward categorization» (p. 14). Consequently, instead of trying to study the symposion as such, «[b]y focusing on the workings of sympotic representation, considering the scenarios constructed and the contexts of their creation and performance, a nuanced understanding of the priority of the symposion in the Greek thought world, and so within Greek society and culture, emerges» (p. 15). Important historical debates on the exact nature of the symposion, although duly noted in the Introduction, are dismissed when it is realized that «in practice there appears to have been diversity in where and when symposiasts gathered, what they might do and, indeed, who they GNOMON 6/87/2015 M. Wecowski: Hobden, The Symposium in Ancient Greek Society and Thought 523 might be» (p. 13). The problem of the chronological time-frame for a ‘historical symposion’, if I am not badly mistaken, never comes to the fore. Inevitably, however, in order to embark on this ambitious project, the Author needs a rudimentary definition of the symposion to work with. Throughout this book, what is understood by ‘symposion’ is «[wine] drinking in company whilst reclining» (as on p. 13). Now, I would argue that this definition works perfectly well in chapter one and, to some extent at least, in chapter two, i.e. as long as F. Hobden’s material is almost exclusively limited to diverse ‘products’ of the ‘historical symposion’ in its archaic and classical phase, in other words as long as an ‘insider’s perspective’ dominates the picture. In other words, the Author’s methodological restraint in defining «the precise historical phenomenon» is a «mirage» itself. We can all agree on a minimalist definition of the symposion as long as we all more or less agree that, without defining it, we are all dealing with the ‘historical symposion’ and its actual ‘realizations’ (poetic, visual, or else). The problem emerges when this unspoken agreement collapses as we move forward in time and in space – away from the archaic and classical symposion (vaguely defined) and its immediate cultural ‘products’. This is patently clear in chapters three, four, and in particular in chapter five, where, on the one hand, we enter the realm of Macedonian or Persian ‘symposia’ and, on the other hand, we are confronted with the (mainly philosophical) works of the Roman imperial period operating within the intellectual and literary model as set by Plato and Xenophon in their Banquets. Simply put, as the antiquarian sections devoted to the sympotic ‘Realien’ in the invaluable Onomasticon by Pollux in the 2nd century AD show well, his contemporaries (roughly speaking) such as Plutarch, Athenaeus, or Lucian must have been well aware of adopting an ‘outsider’s perspective’ when studying, reviving, and ultimately playing with, the underlying convivial ‘realities’ of the symposion as they could find it in Xenophon, Plato, Aristophanes, or even in archaic Greek lyric poetry – ‘realities’ determining as they did the rhetorical or discursive aspect of the literary symposion. To fully grasp the originality of, say, Plutarch’s sympotic project, we need to move beyond the continuity and interplay between Plutarch’s and Plato’s symposia to observe discontinuities. And this is hardly feasible without a more precise definition of the ‘historical symposion’ and without defining its chronological time-frame in order to state, however vaguely, when did new convivial ‘realities’ and conventions take over. Fiona Hobden’s aforementioned methodological restraint as regards the ‘historical symposion’ (not uncommon in current scholarship on the symposion) is a reaction to «the plurality of sympotic occasions and variability of [sympotic] experience» and the fact that her [metasympotic] «examples are disparate in their geographical origins and chronological spread, and precise venues of their dissemination are difficult to determine» (p. 23). In my opinion this is exactly where a quest for the ‘historical symposion’ should start, once we realize that – for all political particularisms and social diversities involved and for all conceivable local and historical varieties in convivial customs – there is a striking intellectual (and ethical) uniformity as incarnated in the central cultural ‘product’ of the historical symposion, namely in archaic and classical monodic lyric poetry. From Archilochus in the Cycladic island of Paros in the 7th century BC to Critias in GNOMON 6/87/2015 M. Wecowski: Hobden, The Symposium in Ancient Greek Society and Thought 524 Athens in the late 5th century – the underlying artistic and thus performative uniformity of the sympotic elegiac poetry is a good starting point to look for an operative definition of the historical symposion. «The conversation on the symposion continues», says the very last sentence of Fiona Hobden’s valuable study (p. 253). Warsaw Marek Wecowski * Andreas Kakoschke: Die Personennamen im römischen Britannien. Hildesheim/Zürich/New York: Olms-Weidmann 2011. 671 S. 2 Ktn. 4°. (Alpha-Omega. Reihe A. Lexika, Indizes, Konkordanzen zur Klassischen Philologie. 259.) 248 Euro. Unermüdlich arbeitet Andreas Kakoschke an den Personennamen in westlichen Provinzen des Römischen Reiches. Nach den umfassenden Katalogen des Namenbestandes in den germanischen und gallischen Provinzen und in Rätien legt er eine ähnlich angelegte Untersuchung zu den Namen im römischen Britannien vor.1 Zuletzt erschien im Jahre 2012 noch der Katalog der für Noricum überlieferten Namen.2 Es handelt sich um ein dankenswertes Unternehmen. Wie bekannt, gibt es kein verläßliches vollständiges lateinisches Onomastikon – die Erstellung eines solchen Onomastikon gehört zu den größten Desiderata der römischen Altertumskunde. Deswegen kann jeder Versuch, dieses Manko zu beheben, freudig begrüßt werden. Und freilich hat es im Zeitalter des Computers nicht an Versuchen gefehlt, große Namenmassen mit elektronischen Hilfsmitteln zusammenzustellen und so den Weg zu einer allseitigen Verwendung und Beleuchtung dieser Massen zu ebnen, während früher die gewaltige Menge von einer umfassenden Bearbeitung antiker Personennamen hemmend abgehalten hat. Wodurch zeichnet sich das vorliegende Werk3 unter den in letzter Zeit erschienenen onomastischen Verzeichnissen antiken Namengutes aus? Seine äußere Anlage ist dieselbe wie in K.s früheren oben angeführten Bänden. Den Löwenteil des Werkes nehmen die mit Hilfe des Computers erstellten Namenkataloge ein, denen kurzgefaßte und recht mager gebliebene einleitende Bemerkungen vorausgehen. Im Rahmen einer Zeitspanne der ersten drei nachchristlichen Jahrhunderte (mit Einschluß der wenigen Namennachweise aus der Zeit vor Christi Geburt und aus der Zeit nach 300 n. Chr.) wurden vor allem die in den in Britannien gefundenen Inschriften belegten Namen berücksichtigt, und zwar in der möglichst weiten Ausdehnung (auch die Namen von auswärts bezeugten Bewohnern aus Britannien wurden aufgenommen). Sogar Personen, die sich nur zeitweilig in ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 Personennamen in den zwei germanischen Provinzen. Ein Katalog I–II 1–2, Rahden 2006–2008; Personennamen in der römischen Provinz Rätien, Hildesheim 2009 (zu ihnen vgl. H. Solin, Klio 93, 2011, 264–266); Personennamen in der römischen Provinz Gallia Belgica, Hildesheim 2010. 2 Personennamen in der römischen Provinz Noricum, Hildesheim 2012. 3 Von ihm sind mir bisher drei Rezensionen bekannt geworden: A. Gavrielatos, BMCR 2012.02.11 (nichtssagend); O. Salomies, AnzAW 65, 2012, 182–187 (mit wichtigen generellen und Detailbemerkungen); M.-Th. Raepsaet-Charlier, AC 82, 2013, 507–508 (mit guten Bemerkungen). GNOMON 6/87/2015

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