Online Review: Book

Eulimene: Studies in Classical Archaeology, Epigraphy, Numismatics and Papyrology. 7 vols.


Edited by Nikos Litinas and Manolis I. Stefanakis. The Mediterranean Archaeological Society, Rethymnon 2000–2006. €22–45. ISSN 1108-5800 (cloth).

In this decade of "summing up" the field of classical archaeology—critical essays, review articles, and ubiquitous handbooks and companions—there is a tendency toward reductive definitions of trends that read more like advocacy, or prescripts for disciplinary agendas, than critical summaries of the field itself (e.g., S.E. Alcock and R. Osborne, eds., Classical Archaeology [Oxford 2007]; R. Osborne, "Greek Archaeology: A Survey of Recent Work," AJA 108 [2004] 87–102). This is inevitable because such work can only claim to emphasize singular strands among multiple discourses. Even if recent books and articles seem to privilege certain directions, Greek archaeology as a discipline remains as hard to define as it is to reconcile, with diverse intellectual traditions and methodologies, and with geographic, chronological, and material specialties (see, e.g., A. Snodgrass, "What Is Classical Archaeology? Greek," in Alcock and Osborne [2007] 13–29).

In practice, archaeology in Greece is structured around an array of excavations, research projects, and scholarly agendas of universities, research institutes, foreign archaeological schools, the Archaeological Service, and the Archaeological Society. This sociopolitical culture promotes formal divisions that have historically created sometimes discrete research universes that are administratively self-sustaining and nationalistically and intellectually reaffirming in their traditional (if not hereditary) focus on particular sites (the "big digs")—especially large urban centers, cemeteries, and sanctuaries—as well as their distinct publication venues designed originally to publish the work of the institutions' membership (e.g., AA, AAA, AM, ArchDelt, ArchEph, ASAtene, BCH, BSA, Hesperia, SkrAth). While these main journals have always had or at least encouraged international contributors and a wide range of material, the existing academic or administrative structures have in effect privileged certain regions, sites, and categories of artifacts, circumscribing our perception (or even cognizance) of the range of available archaeological material and even the geographic and intellectual scope of the field itself. If it remains difficult to define, summarily, an "archaeology of Greece," it might be harder still to come to grips with what is actually going on in the field today.

Since the 1980s, the sheer volume of material that we notice annually in various traditional summaries seems to have grown exponentially (e.g., in Archaeological Reports, the Chronique des fouilles of the BCH, and the Arkaiologikon Deltion). An unprecedented number of annual and periodic regional conferences and roundtables have emerged, encouraging wide international participation and sharing of methodologies, as well as the rapid publication of fieldwork of the archaeological service, research institutes of the ministry of culture, and the Greek universities (e.g., M. Stamatopoulou and M. Yeroulanou, Excavating Classical Culture: Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Greece [Oxford 2002]). In addition to the Διεθνές Κρητολογικό Συνέδριο (which has been around for a half century), there are many others, including Aρχαιολογικό έργο στη Μακεδονία και Θράκη (ΑΕΜΘ) (Thessaloniki), Αρχαιολογικό έργο Θεσσαλίας και Στερεάς Ελλάδας (ΑΕΘΣΕ) (Volos), Επιστημονική Συνάντηση για την Ελληνιστική Κεραμική (Ioannina), Διεθνές Συνέδριο Πελοποννησιακών Σπουδών (Athens), and, most recently, the first Παγκρήτια Επιστημονική Συνάντηση για το Αρχαιολογικό Έργο στην Κρήτη (Rethymnon) (November 2008). The universities of Thessaloniki, Thessaly, Crete (Rethymnon), and the Aegean (Rhodes) have been particularly active, not only in the timely publication of primary fieldwork but also in forging connections and collaborative ventures among university departments, archaeological ephorates, and research institutes of the ministry. Given that these relatively new and voluminous publications still have a limited circulation outside Greece, students subsisting within the circumscribed worlds of the foreign archaeological schools (especially those from North American institutions) may need to catch up, expanding their scope beyond the comfortable limits of the Athenocentric academic discourse, and indeed the very idea of the "big dig," to accept a rapidly expanding scholarly as well as archaeological landscape. This new milieu should effectively change the nature and definition of Greek archaeology in this century, challenging academic and curricular developments as well.

Perhaps emblematic of this developing international discourse in Greek archaeology is the journal Eulimene ( Published annually in Rethymnon by the Mediterranean Archaeological Society, the journal has been edited since its inception in 2000 by Nikos Litinas (Department of Philology, University of Crete, Rethymnon) and Manolis Stefanakis (Department of Mediterranean Studies, University of the Aegean, Rhodes). The chronological scope is the end of the Late Bronze Age through late antiquity (ca. 12th century B.C.E.–sixth century C.E.), and while the editors have cast their geographic and cultural net widely (the "Greek and Roman Mediterranean world"), the published papers so far are primarily but not exclusively Aegean in emphasis, suggesting that what might be emerging here in practice if not in original concept is a journal of Greek archaeology.

What is interesting is that the journal's subtitle announces an unusually specific yet broad range of things that includes not only archaeology (however one defines that term) but also epigraphy, numismatics, and papyrology. The latter two fields (also research interests of the current editors) are without apology integrated into the design. That mission also invites submissions in anthropology, paleodemography, paleoenvironmental studies, paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, and bioarchaeology, as well as the ancient economy and history of science—but also warns that such submissions should conform to the stated chronological and geographic parameters. Seven volumes have been published since 2000, one every year to the publication year 2006. The last fascicle combines volumes 6 and 7 for 2005–2006.

Papers are accepted in Greek, English, German, French, and Italian; as a convenience for readers and to facilitate bibliographic indexing by L'Année philologique, Dyabola, and Nestor, abstracts are published in one of these languages, as long as it is not the same language as that used in the paper. Of the 56 papers published to date, 30 are in English, 21 are in Greek, four are in French, and one is in German, and though these often represent scholarly rather than native languages of the contributors, the style and copyediting are consistently good. The list of authors reflects the wide range of institutions, disciplines, and academic traditions that we are accustomed to seeing now in the regional conferences mentioned above: universities in Greece, the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States; ephorates, museums, and foreign schools; and perhaps most importantly, a number of research facilities such as the Wiener Laboratory (ASCSA), the Center for Greek and Roman Antiquity (National Hellenic Research Foundation), and the Archaeological Institute of Aegean Studies in Rhodes.

Of the 56 papers in Eulimene, over half (29) qualify as archaeological in subject matter, including nine field reports and synthetic studies; 12 are art historical in nature; five are bioarchaeological; two are scientific applications; and one is archaeobotanical. Of the remaining papers, 15 can be described as historical, epigraphical, or papyrological, while the remaining 11 are in the field of numismatics. There is one paper in ethnomusicology. With the inclusion of epigraphy, numismatics, and papyrology—an editorial aside invites papers also in classics and ancient history if topics are linked or made relevant to the outlines of the editorial statement—the journal seems on the surface to be championing a notion of Graeco-Roman archeology in the broadest sense as "classical studies." In this respect, Eulimene might resemble certain aspects of traditionally eclectic venues in the Anglophone milieu such as the Journal of Hellenic Studies or Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, or indeed the expanded mission of Hesperia (ASCSA), which accepts articles beyond the scope of research and fieldwork of the American School, its membership, and affiliated projects.

However we are to define archaeology or classical studies, in the pages of Eulimene, the juxtaposition of paleoethnobotany, osteology, art history, epigraphy, numismatics, and ceramic petrography is encouraging if not exciting; it neither looks back to archaeology as a compartment of classical studies or art history (or a handmaiden of ancient history) nor claims to define itself as a subdiscipline of archaeology. Rather, it merely presents these various fields as having something to say to each other. Although some of the epigraphical, numismatic, and papyrological papers are highly technical, difficult reading for most nonspecialist readers (like this reviewer), the same might be said of chemical analyses of hydraulic lime in Roman building practices (Davidovits [vol. 4]) or the effects of architectural and natural micro-environments on the taphonomy of burials at Rhamnous (Lagia [vol. 3]). What can be said is that with few exceptions, the contributions are compelling and successful in communicating across disciplinary boundaries, defining clearly the significance of the sample, as well as cultural, historical, and archaeological contexts.

Some contributions are perhaps unusually significant, such as Apostolakou's 52-page publication of some 279 indexed names from 73 inscriptions from the territory of Lato in the last quarter of the second century B.C.E. (vol. 4), Megaloudi's brief survey of archaeobotanical remains from the Protogeometric period (vol. 5), and de Domingo and Johnston's petrographic analyses and chemical studies of Archaic transport amphoras (vol. 4). In the area of primary fieldwork, volume 5 has a lengthy overview of Kouragios' excavations of the Archaic sanctuary at Despotiko Mandra, including the most detailed discussion and illustration of buildings and artifacts yet published. Synthetic works like Knapp's discussion of coinage, Archaic elite identities, and the social role of Greek mercenaries (vol. 3), and Kotsonas' survey of polis formation in seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. on Crete (vol. 3), emphasize the fundamental cooperation and codependence of historical and archaeological categories of data. It is important that these authors ask distinctly different kinds of questions—historical in the former and archaeological in the latter.

On the negative side, some archaeological papers are wonderfully written and detailed but lack adequate illustration, which would allow readers unfamiliar with artifact types or contexts to better visualize the material pattern—for example, Oikonomou's fascinating survey of gold mouth bands (Νεκρικά κοσμήματα: Τα ελάσματα κάλυψης του στόματος [vol. 5]). One technical problem is the lack of consistent and detailed signatures for the articles—readers would benefit from the publication of the institutional affiliation, mailing address, and contact information (also email address) of each author. While some contributors are established scholars, perhaps well known to most readers, many are not, and given the wide range of represented institutions and disciplines, access to complete contact information would facilitate a dialogue beyond the journal itself.

In many ways, the baby boomers' hand-wringing over the state of archaeological publication in the 1970s and 1980s has given way to an embarrassment of riches; new data and dialogues have rapidly outpaced the development of Greek archaeology in academic institutions (especially in North America) and in many ways the traditional venues of excavation and publication. If Eulimene is an inevitable outcome of the changing structure of Greek universities and archaeological ephorates, it is also part and parcel of changes in the field itself. The advantages of a new international journal of Greek archaeology are many: first, as an independent journal, it is open and receptive to material irrespective of the inherently self-defining trends of regional conferences, archaeological schools, and research institutes. Second, as a double-blind refereed medium, the production of articles should encourage a fuller and more careful treatment of data than that normally published in conference proceedings, as well as a critical reflection and dialogue on the work and the direction of the field itself. Finally, the editorial vision of the journal, which intentionally juxtaposes diverse components of archaeology and classical studies, serves to reinvigorate not only discussion of the conceptual or material boundaries of these fields but also the changing character of Greek archaeology as a discipline.

Donald C. Haggis
Department of Classics
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
212 Murphey Hall
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3145


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.