Online Review: Book

Attika: Archäologie einer “zentralen” Kulturlandschaft. Akten der internationalen Tagung vom 18.–20. Mai 2007 in Marburg

Hans Lohmann and Torsten Mattern, eds.

116.2

Reviewed by Ilaria Bultrighini

Philippika 37. Pp. x + 284, figs. 5, pls. 54, tables 5. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2010. €78. ISBN 978-3-447-06223-7 (cloth).


The present volume collects papers presented at a conference held in Marburg in 2007 that dealt with a wide range of aspects connected with the history and archaeology of Attica. It contains 19 articles, 7 of which are in English, 12 in German. As its title clearly states, the conference aimed at emphasizing the central role played by the Attic territory for the functioning of the polis of Athens. This is a relatively recent idea, as scientific interest in Attica arose quite later than interest in Athens. The first archaeological and topographical studies in Attica date back to the late 19th century and are inextricably associated with such names as Ernst Curtius, Johann August Kaupert, Arthur Milchhoefer, and Habbo Gerhard Lolling and the creation of the fundamental cartographic work Karten von Attika (Berlin 1895–1903). Afterward, the investigation of Attica resumed only in the 1960s with the Belgian excavations of Thorikos and the research conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the British School at Athens. The Anglo-American activity led to the publication of such milestones as Eliot's book on the demes of the southwest Attic Paralia (Coastal Demes of Attika: A Study in the Policy of Kleisthenes. Phoenix Suppl. 5 [Toronto 1962]). The 1980s mark a crucial point in the history of both historical and archaeological research in Attica. In those years, as the Greek Archaeological Service began carrying out an increasing number of rescue excavations throughout the region, an interest in Attica arose among historians, as witnessed in the fundamental books by Traill (Demos and Trittys: Epigraphical and Topographical Studies in the Organization of Attica [Toronto 1986]) and Whitehead (The Demes of Attica, 508/7–ca. 250 B.C. A Political and Social Study [Princeton 1986]) on the political organization of Attica and on the Attic demes. At the same time, Hans Lauter renewed the German archaeological exploration of Attica, starting with an intensive survey of an area situated in the southwestern end of Attic Paralia and subsequently extending the scope of the investigation to other parts of the region. Such research was later pursued by scholars such as Heide Lauter-Bufe, Lohmann, and Hans Rupprecht Goette and led to a substantially deeper knowledge of life in Attica in antiquity.

It was not by chance that the conference took place in Marburg, where Lauter worked in the last period of his life. The book is dedicated to his memory. In addition to papers of strictly archaeological, historical, and epigraphic interest (although the last, regrettably, in very low proportion), the volume also contains two essays on the history of scientific research in Attica (Kreeb and Lohmann).

Ruppenstein and Lohmann's papers deal with Attica during the Mycenaean period. Starting from the case of the proto-Mycenaean acropolis of Kiapha Thiti by the modern village of Vari, Lohmann discusses the history of settlement in Mycenaean Attica. Kiapha Thiti was one of the many Middle Bronze Age villages run by local princes, which are known from their fortified acropoleis and related necropoleis. Lohmann notes that almost all these settlements came to an end between Late Helladic II and III, and he proposes an interesting connection between this event and the mythical tradition of Theseus' synoikismos. The end of this princely village system could be interpreted as resulting from a first formation of an extended, earlier state. He refers to the idea of synoikismos expressed by Thucydides (2.15): a political synoikismos, which did not entail a concentration of the population of Attica within Athens. Thus, he states that instead of synoikismos, it would be more correct to speak about sympoliteia, a political unification of a series of villages that were previously independent (44–5). Lohmann finally argues that the ancient myth of a unification of Attica through Theseus undoubtedly became topical after Kleisthenes' reforms, whose aim was to strengthen the unity between state and territory. In his opinion, this could be the reason why Theseus' synoikismos is so frequently handed down, while other myths probably got lost (45).

The Geometric period in Attica is considered by Kalaitzoglou, Mazarakis-Ainian and Livieratou, and Lebegyev. Kalaitzoglou deals with Geometric "Adelsgräber" of the ninth century B.C.E. in Athens and Attica and raises a basic question: Are Geometric graves representative of the society of the period? In an attempt to answer this question, Kalaitzoglou carefully examines the evidence (also offering a useful catalogue of these tombs at the end of his article) and associates the burials with upper-class landowners, whereas the mass of the population was evidently buried in a way that is not archaeologically traceable. However, whether this partition of society corresponded to the old distinction between agathoi/aristoi and kakoi cannot be determined.

Focusing on the area called Kokkinarás, which is situated near Mount Pentelikon, Goette presents a preliminary study on ancient marble transport in Attica. At Kokkinarás, he argues that a quarry road, which was previously considered modern, is ancient. On either side of the road, evidence for an ancient settlement has been detected, convincingly identified by Goette as the deme Trinemeia (134–36). He also discovered that in this area, a gray-blue marble, very similar to the well-known Hymettian marble, was quarried. While there is no evidence of the use of this Pentelic gray-blue marble for buildings or monuments in Athens, we have clear indications that it was exported as far as Italy, at least in Imperial times. Goette points out that the Pentelic quarries lay at a considerably longer distance from the center of Athens than the Hymettian ones (133–34); this is undoubtedly the reason why the Kokkinarás marble was not used in the city but was probably exploited by surrounding demes such as Kephissia, Athmonon, or Phlya.

Attic salt is the subject of Langdon's paper. His valuable contribution includes both salt pools recorded by the maps of Attica—especially the Karten von Attika—and any ancient source or significant toponym that can be connected to traces of ancient salt pans still traceable along the Attic coast. Langdon admits that "not much has been found" (166) in terms of tangible evidence. However, as the author notes, this research could be a fundamental starting point for a possible future archaeological exploration of the Attic coasts.

Five papers (Mazarakis-Ainian and Livieratou, Welwei, Summa, Karvonis, and Herman) deal more specifically with Athens. Summa compellingly shows the primary importance of epigraphic sources in the study of Athenian theater. In particular, she demonstrates that epigraphic evidence actually plays a prominent role in the study of postclassical theater, of which no complete dramas survive. She focuses on the didaskaliai, that is, the lists of all dramatic poets and actors, along with their dramas, who took part in the competitions of the Lenaia and Dionysia. Her study confirms the assumption that even though Athens apparently had lost its primacy, the history of Athenian and Attic theater did not end at all with the Classical period. On the contrary, it remained prolific and lively, as additionally proved by the fact that most theatrical documents from the Attic demes date to the postclassical era.

Finally, Attica in the Late Antique and proto-Byzantine periods is the theme of Mattern's contribution. Stressing the absence of any comprehensive study of the region in those times, Mattern ascribes this deficiency to the unattractive picture of a deserted and devastated land that appears to be caused by historical events, as recounted by Late Antique and Byzantine sources. By considering a broad spectrum of archaeological evidence related to the period in question, Mattern's paper attempts to outline an alternative picture of Attica in those times. Due to methodological problems partly created by the limited state of data, only a sketch can be offered. However, Mattern shows that Attica was not deserted at all, and that the picture of a "skythische Wüste" is in fact erroneous, resulting from a Late Antique over-representation (219–21). In this respect, he emphasizes the need to increase archaeological research.

Overall, I would define this volume as substantial, both for its length and, above all, for its contents. It presents an important overview of current research on Attica, showing that it is still lively and productive. Thanks to the large variety of topics discussed, this volume will attract not only scholars concerned with Attic archaeology, history, and epigraphy but also anyone interested in one or more of the many specific subjects dealt with in the book. I am confident that the hope expressed by the organizers of the conference in the preface—that this volume will spur future research in Attica—will come true.

Ilaria Bultrighini
Department of Classics from Antiquity to Contemporary
"G. D'annunzio" University of Chieti-Pescara
66013 Chieti-Pescara
Italy
ilorie_bul@yahoo.it

DOI: 
10.3764/ajaonline1162.Bultrighini

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