Online Review: Book

Roman Peloponnese. Vol. 3, Society, Economy and Culture Under the Roman Empire: Continuity and Innovation

117.2

Edited by A.D. Rizakis and C.E. Lepenioti (Meletemata 63). Pp. ix + 450, figs. 79. The National Hellenic Research Foundation Institute for Greek and Roman Antiquity, Athens 2010. €120. ISBN 978-960-7905-54-3 (cloth).

The Roman Peloponnese series is the fruit of Nomina Romana, the ambitious international program to collect, catalogue, and publish all known Roman names from the eastern provinces of the Roman empire. The first two volumes (A.D. Rizakis, S.B. Zoumbaki, and M. Kantirea, Roman Peloponnese. Vol. 1, Roman Personal Names in Their Social Context: Achaia, Arcadia, Argolis, Corinthia and Eleia [Athens 2001]; A.D. Rizakis and S. Zoumbaki, Roman Peloponnese. Vol. 2, Roman Personal Names in Their Social Context: Laconia and Messenia [Athens 2004]) published more than 2,800 entries of individuals with Roman names for the seven regional units of the Peloponnese. The corpus of names inscribed on stone, coins, and ceramics, and dating between the second century B.C.E. and the sixth century C.E., offers a selective prosopographical catalogue of Romans settled abroad, Greeks with Roman citizenship, and non-Romans who adopted Roman names. The publication of volumes 1 and 2 has created an invaluable resource for the study of Roman onomastics, prosopography, and society in the Peloponnese, especially since these volumes have been released in digital form for free download through the National Hellenic Research Foundation website (www.eie.gr/index-en.html).

The present volume was conceived as a collection of essays that would draw “inspiration from the whole of the onomastic material in the first two volumes, as well as from other sources” (Rizakis et al. 2001, 10) and contribute to studies of Romanization, “since a Roman name expresses and projects, to some degree at least, romanitas” (Rizakis and Zoumbaki 2004, 29). Inasmuch as the first two volumes promised onomastic and statistical analyses and commentary, the third volume is somewhat disappointing. While prosopographical commentary is frequent enough in chapters dealing with elite families (e.g., “C. Iulius Eurycles and the Spartan Dynasty of the Euryclids” [Steinhauer]) and citizenship (e.g., “Mécanismes d’acquisition et diffusion de la citoyenneté romaine dans le Péloponnèse sous le Haut-Empire” [Hoët-van Cauwenberghe]), there is little discussion of the overall patterns and meanings of the individuals and names. There are two notable exceptions. A brief chapter by Salomies (“Roman Nomina in the Peloponnese: Some Observations”) patterns the data to show that most (72%) of the 268 distinct Roman nomina representing 3,700 individuals are nonimperial nomina; only 28% mark imperial nomina, such as Claudii and Iulii, that point to concentrated grants of citizenship under the Julio-Claudians (cf. the conclusions of Cauwenberghe). Salomies also compares imperial and nonimperial names with other places (Delos, Macedonia, Asia), raising questions about patterns of migration to the Peloponnese. Marchetti’s chapter (“L’épigraphie argienne et l’oligarchie locale du Haute-Empire”) examines onomastic patterns in Argos to identify families of Roman citizens such as the prominent Tiberii Claudii, who gained citizenship during the reign of Claudius and thereafter concentrated power. Aside from these two studies, the volume is missing broader synthetic discussions and tabulations of names in light of geographical and chronological distribution, social and ethnic origin, gender, or material class. The reader may wonder, for example, about the significance of the greater number of inscribed names from the Corinthia (n=708) and Laconia (n=743) compared with Achaia (n=277) and Argolis (n=279), as well as how names change over time within individual regions.

Volume 3 is more accurately a collection of essays discussing “various aspects of the political, social and economic life of the cities during Roman rule” (ix), mainly between the second century B.C.E. and the third century C.E. The 25 chapters fall into two groups. Roughly half present political, religious, social, and economic studies of individual cities (Corinth, Sparta, Argos, Patrai, Messene), regions (Eleia, Arkadia, Corinthia, Messenia), and sanctuaries (Isthmia, Olympia, Epidaurus). The other half offer synthetic overviews of political geography, careers, citizenship, rural economy, agonistic festivals, imperial cult, and material classes (coins, sculpture, entertainment complexes) for the Peloponnese as a whole. It is regrettable that the volume lacks a full introduction and clear organization that could guide the reader in linking the disparate contributions. Moreover, that the authors have generally not read one another’s contributions leads to frequent overlap and occasional conflict, such as Themelis’ passing comment (based on Strabo and Pausanias) that Arkadia was depressed, abandoned, and ruined (97–8) vs. Roy’s more sensitive and nuanced treatment (“Roman Arkadia”) of settlement continuity and change, lower population with political stability, and relative marginalization with occasionally significant imperial interventions.

These criticisms aside, this volume has value in its presentation of varied glimpses of continuity and change in the Peloponnese during the Early Roman empire based on syntheses of epigraphic, textual, and archaeological evidence. Especially useful are the broad, up-to-date overviews of the entire Peloponnese that consider the collective evidence for rural economy (Stewart), citizenship and citizen training programs (Cauwenberghe, Kennell), cults, festivals, and elite identity (Lafond, Camia and Kantiréa, Lo Monaco), and the distribution of coins (Touratsoglou), sculpture (Palagia), and entertainment complexes (Di Napoli). These chapters, along with Rizakis’ succinct introduction to Peloponnesian urban centers and political geography, will make the volume a convenient starting point for the study of politics, society, and culture in the region. Specialists should consult individual chapters for discussions of the major cities and territories and to assess specific arguments such as population estimates for the Corinthia (Romano), the existence of a hereditary cult of the Dioscuri in Sparta (Balzat), the mixture of public and private cult in Corinth (Walbank), and the Hadrianic revitalization of the cult of Asklepios at Epidauros (Melfi), among others.

The picture that emerges from these individual studies is a wide range of Roman intervention and local adaptation (ix). The old view of decline and abandonment in the Peloponnese, derived from straightforward readings of Strabo and Pausanias, consistently yields to more complex pictures of localized continuity and change based on a wider array of evidence. While the studies support a general picture of growth under the Julio-Claudians that peaks in the prosperous second century before a third-century plummet, the actual patterns of settlement, urbanism, exchange, and elite activities follow more varied rhythms of change relating to local and global processes. As Stewart’s essay (“The Rural Roman Peloponnese: Continuity and Change”) cautions, a narrative of “predominant trends” (227) can easily suppress more varied regional patterns: despite some clear commonalities, cultural interaction in the Roman Peloponnese was often complicated, conflicting, and discrepant.

David K. Pettegrew
Department of History
Messiah College
One College Avenue
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17055
dpettegrew@messiah.edu

Book Review of Roman Peloponnese. Vol. 3, Society, Economy and Culture Under the Roman Empire: Continuity and Innovation, edited by A.D. Rizakis and C.E. Lepenioti
Reviewed by David K. Pettegrew
American Journal of Archaeology Volume 117 Number 2 (April 2013), published online at www.ajaonline.org/online-review-book/1537
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1172.Pettegrew

Add new comment

Plain text

  • Use [fn]...[/fn] (or <fn>...</fn>) to insert automatically numbered footnotes.
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Click "Save" to submit your comment. Please allow some time for your post to be moderated.