Online Review: Book

L'Illyrie méridionale et l'épire dans l'Antiqué 4: Actes du IVe Colloque international de Grenoble


Edited by Pierre Cabanes and Jean-Luc Lamboley. Pp. 659, figs. 450, tables 8, maps 41. De Boccard, Paris 2005. €80. ISBN 2-9519433-1-8 (paper).

The fourth volume of conference papers dedicated to studies on ancient southern Illyria and Epirus covers field activities and documentary research for the period 1997–2002, commendably up-to-date for an archaeological publication. The six-year intervals between each conference, staged first at Clermont-Ferrand (1984, 1990), subsequently at Chantilly (1996), and most recently at Grenoble, have proved to be a workable pattern, with the proceedings regularly published within two to three years. As in previous volumes, the papers range from field and building surveys through excavation reports to numismatic, epigraphic, linguistic, historical, and cultural topics, all arranged in a broadly chronological sequence. The contributions are divided into two general sections, the first on recent research (11–490), the second on religious life (491–622). This is a big book, densely written and annotated but visually accessible. Most of the papers, and all but 10 of the summaries, are in French. The remaining summaries and 11 papers are in English. Two more are in German, and four are in Italian. The editors and contributors deserve to be praised for the care that has been taken to provide appropriate plans, photographs, tables, and other supporting graphic material, usually to more than adequate specification for a work of this kind, although some maps, based on electronic files, could have had better definition.

The close integration of images and text provided by 74 authors in 55 papers reflects an extremely well-organized form of international collaboration that cannot easily be matched for other Mediterranean regions. The addition of a topographical map showing all the regions referred to in the text and flagging the locations highlighted in this volume would have made it accessible to a wider audience. Without such a map, the reader is forced to refer to some other publication or to selective maps scattered across the chapters. This is a pity, since the book is exactly the kind of regional study that should not be confined to those researching northwestern Greece. It has much value for historians and archaeologists of the eastern Mediterranean in general.

The volume does far more than bring up to date projects in the various subdisciplines and periods covered. Each of the previous conference publications has reflected scholarly attempts to progress in methodological terms. A conscious strategy to focus analytical thinking and concentrate research efforts effectively in order to answer coherent research questions has clearly borne fruit. Although archaeological and historical approaches are still distinct, it is becoming easier to see how they can become mutually beneficial.

Perhaps the most visible development from earlier volumes is the increasing space devoted to Late and post-Antique remains. No less than seven chapters are devoted to topics connected with transformations in the fifth and sixth centuries (417–90): the exploration of the design and function of early Christian basilicas (Muçaj, Sodini, Chevalier, and Vanderheyde on sanctuary designs at Byllis; Haxhimihali on the wider significance of Byllis); the defensive network represented by Dardanian fortress sites (Përzhita and Hoxha); and the distinctive cultural characteristics emerging in northern Albania that have been designated by the umbrella term “Komani culture” (Nallbani). The reason why Byllis, located on an inland plateau above the River Aoos, played such a significant role from the fifth century onward is partly explained by geomorphological change. A collaborative program of coring and pollen analysis conducted by Fouache of the University of Paris XII, colleagues of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, and geologists from the Institute of Geology, Tirana, provides the data for a marine regression since the early first millennium B.C.E. Adriatic Apollonia, founded by Corinthian and Corcyrean settlers ca. 600 B.C.E. on a peninsula, was one of the foremost urban centers along the Illyrian coast until its demise in Late Roman times. In Strabo’s day, it was a river port, some 60 stades from the sea (7.5.7). Alluvial silt carried by the Rivers Seman (Apsos) to the north and Vjosë (Aoos) due south of the city exacerbated the effects of the regression and eventually undermined the city’s natural assets, although the southerly diversion of the two rivers took place after the seventh century C.E. (241–60).

Fewer contributions on this occasion explore early prehistory. The identification of new Palaeolithic sites is nevertheless represented by papers covering Albania (Korkuti) and northwestern Greece (Palli and Papadea). A Franco-Albanian team that has been conducting a survey of prehistoric settlement in the Korçë basin of southern Albania has excavated unusually well-preserved organic remains at the lakeside Middle Bronze Age site at Sovjan (Lera and Touchais). A longer-lived Bronze Age site in western Corfu at Hermones provides a useful parallel (Metallinou).

The lion’s share of the volume is devoted to a pattern of studies focusing on the cities of Apollonia and Phoinike. The fortunes of the principal civic communities of the Adriatic coast between the third and first centuries B.C.E. reflect developments that can be duplicated in many other regions, but the quality of the documentary evidence makes it possible to interpret epigraphic and material resources with some imagination. Dyrrhachium became the main port of the Roman fleet after the defeat of the Illyrians in 229 B.C.E., and, with the construction of the Via Egnatia from 148 B.C.E. onward, the northwestern exit of this route (Fasolo, La Via Egnatia, 1: Da Apollonia e Dyrrhachium ad Herakleia Lynkestidos [Rome 2003]). It is now concealed below the modern town of Durrës. In its earlier history as the Corinthian and Corcyrean trading outpost of Epidamnos, this had been a modest stopover to the heel of Italy. The Greek and Latin inscriptions so far gleaned from Dyrrhachium suggest that most of the Roman colonists provided with land there by Augustus were displaced former supporters of Marcus Antonius, swelled by successive groups of freedmen. While the Greek inscriptions include Illyrian and unusual Latin variants that indicate to Wilkes a raffish population of “import-export” entrepreneurs, who gave Dyrrhachium its reputation as the “tavern of the Adriatic” (383–9; Catull. 36).

Graeco-Illyrian traders had a long track record of successful exchange, which has now been reinforced by the discovery of ceramic production centers at Pharos, as well as on the island of Vis (Issa) in Dalmatia. Corinthian Type “B” vessels were being manufactured in the fourth to third centuries at Pharos, succeeded by equally exportable forms in the second and first centuries (75–80). The liveliness of this trade is also reflected here in a systematic study of the autonomous coinage of Rhizon (late third to late second century B.C.E.) (149–68) and of the civic bronze issues of Phoinike, struck after 168 and 44 B.C.E. in response to the immediate economic effects of political changes (169–74).

Apollonia, on the other hand, was evidently a more sophisticated center, fortunate enough to have been chosen as the place where Octavian was sent by his great-uncle to learn Greek and a bit of polish. At least one of the excavated imperial town houses, which boasted two large peristyles, had a Hellenistic predecessor (311–16). It survived at least until the end of the fourth century C.E. A sentimental attachment may explain why the city enjoyed the patronage of leading Romans under the Julio-Claudians. Its reformed bronze coinage, revived under Augustus intermittently until Elagabalus, did not circulate far beyond the city’s territory; this is in marked contrast to the silver issues of the earlier autonomous city (Gjongecaj and Picard). Recent intensive survey by a joint team from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Tirana has revealed a dramatic expansion of settlement beyond the city walls (299–305). Cabanes notes the ambiguous social position of manumitted females at Apollonia who were at once free but apparently without defined status (83–8). We know that in Apollonia, as in many Epirote communities, “colonial,” as well as inland, decision-making powers were formally assigned to women as well as men, but we also know that Apollonia traditionally recognized as free only those belonging to the original founding families (Arist. Pol. 4.4.5, 1290b26; P. Cabanes, ed., in L’Illyrie méridionale et l’Épire II: Actes de IIe Colloque international de Clermont-Ferrand, 1990 [Paris 1993] 150).

The tumulus cemetery at Apollonia, which dates from pre-Roman times, certainly reflects the differential status of the inhabitants (tumulus 9) (307–10), and a new survey of the acropolis circuit walls shows that considerable capital was invested in this major project at a comparatively early date (261–67).

Phoinike is the subject of an ambitious new joint program of research between the University of Bologna and the Albanian Institute of Archaeology, described in four substantial contributions that outline the achievements of survey, excavation, and GIS investigation from the first few seasons (323–79).

It is hard to do justice to the range of other important topics explored in this volume. Two vertically inscribed seventh-century B.C.E. funerary stelae from Vlachomandra, a village on the inland route between Naupactus and Lake Trichonis in Aetolia, are republished by Antonetti and Cavalli (93–112), as is a unique lead tablet from Dodona, inscribed with 137 names, evidently of soldiers receiving a food handout in the late third or early second century B.C.E. (113–31). There are serious reviews of Molossian upland settlement (177–89), Thesprotian coastal settlement (191–96), and discoveries resulting from the construction of the new Egnatia Odos in Greece (65–73). In the section on cult, there is a substantial survey of the Epirote cult of Zeus (515–47), of the newly discovered Thesmophorion at Douroti near Jannina (569–87), and a comparison of cult tradition and festivals between Dion in Macedonia and Dodona in Epirus (505–13). Active international research collaboration in ancient southern Illyria and Epirus has demonstrated that the product is far more than a sum of the parts.

Zosia H. Archibald
School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology
University of Liverpool
Liverpool L69 7WZ
United Kingdom

Book Review of L’Illyrie méridionale et l’Épire dans l’Antiquité 4, edited by Pierre Cabanes and Jean-Luc Lamboley

Reviewed by Zosia H. Archibald

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 111, No. 1 (January 2007)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1111.Archibald

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