By Juliette De La Genière. With the participation of Biana Ferra, Antonios Makariou, Marina Pierobon, and Laurent Sauvage, and an essay, “Les momonnaies,” by Olivier Picard. Pp. iii + 92, figs. 23, b&w pls. 48, color pls. 2. École Française d'Athènes, De Boccard, Paris 2006. €80. ISBN 2-86958-215-3 (paper).
Site-specific excavation reports from Laconia are rarities. The exceptions, therefore, demand special attention, particularly when they are compiled by such internationally reputed scholars as de la Genière, who can call on the support of so eminent a numismatist as Olivier Picard. Kastraki (“Little Fort”) lies near the head of the Laconian Gulf, east of ancient Helos (putatively—the precise location of the latter has not been finally established, though the Vezani area seems the most likely) and within the territory of perioecic Akriai (certainly to be located at modern Kokkinia). The local topography has altered greatly since antiquity, thanks to a combination of deposition of younger (alluvial) fill, eustatic rise in sea level, and earth movements of varying severity in this notoriously quake-prone zone. But the hillock of Kastraki itself was never at serious risk of obfuscation, let alone burial, and still pokes up saliently from the surrounding terrain.
I shall return to chapter 1 later. Chapters 2 and 3 are topographical. Chapter 4, “The Catalogue” (21–73), comprises a wide range of categories of artifact, from architectural elements through marble and other stone artifacts, as well as objects in clay, bronze, iron, lead, frit, glass, and ceramic to Picard’s numismatic appendix. The latter consists of 17 bronze coins dating from the fifth century (not “IIe” [67, top]) B.C.E. to the time of Augustus. Picard justly remarks on the unrepresentative oddity of the cache, including as it does a late fifth-century Syracusan coin in association with five later first-century B.C.E. Spartan issues. The other finds, however, are generally unremarkable, if expertly presented. The text is handsomely illustrated by a beautifully drawn plan of the site hors-texte, a no less beautiful color frontispiece, and black-and-white and color figures. Publication of the main site is complemented by an appendix on nearby “Blania,” which has yielded surface pottery finds of familiar type (pl. 48 [no. 23] illustrates small ritual “kalykes” and fragments of three Laconian black-glazed amphoras and a Laconian black-glazed krater) datable to the later sixth century B.C.E. The bibliography cited is perhaps suitably laconic, if a little too spare, and use of even this short a book would have been enhanced by the provision of an index.
What gives this volume and site a special cachet is the establishment at Akriai of a cult of the Near Eastern, non-Greek (Phrygian) Mother goddess, whose temple and cult statue were still “a sight worth seeing” in the latter part of the second century C.E., according to “Baedeker” Pausanias (3.22.4). De la Genière actively contemplates the likelihood of a relatively early—Archaic period—establishment of “The Presence of the Mother on the Banks of the Eurotas” (title of ch. 1). Whether or not one finds that suggestion plausible, this is, all in all, a fine addition to the distinguished Études Péloponnésiennes series published by the French School in Athens.
Faculty of Classics
Cambridge CB3 9DA
Book Review of Kastraki: Un sanctuaire en Laconie, by Juliette de la Genière
Reviewed by Paul Cartledge
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 111, No. 4 (October 2007)
Published online at www.ajaonline.org/online-review-book/523