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Patrasso colonia di Augusto e le trasformazioni culturali, politiche ed economiche della provincia di Acaia agli inizi dell’età imperiale romana: Atti del convegno internazionale, Patrasso 23–24 marzo 2006

Patrasso colonia di Augusto e le trasformazioni culturali, politiche ed economiche della provincia di Acaia agli inizi dell’età imperiale romana: Atti del convegno internazionale, Patrasso 23–24 marzo 2006

Edited by Emanuele Greco (Tripodes 8). Pp. 324, figs. 179. Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene, Athens 2009. €70. ISBN 978-960-98397-4-7 (cloth).

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Roman Greece, once dismissed as inferior, is moving into the mainstream of historical and archaeological scholarship. A growing number of conferences and publications focus on Greek cities under Rome (e.g., S. Vlizos, ed., Athens During the Roman Period: Recent Discoveries, New Evidence [Athens 2008]), and such interest is especially welcome for cities such as Patras (ancient Patrae), which experienced its greatest ancient floruit only in the centuries after Christ. Only limited areas of Patras have been excavated, generally under salvage conditions, but a new archaeological museum recently opened, and a few historical studies have appeared (e.g., A.D. Rizakis, Achaïe II: La cité de Patras. Épigraphie et histoire [Athens 1998]). The volume under review presents research integrating archaeological evidence with textual sources, further illuminating the long-term history of Roman Patras.

This volume emerges from a conference held in Patras in 2006, when that city was European Capital of Culture. The focus is on Roman Patras, refounded by Augustus ca. 14 B.C.E., and the “transformation” of Hellenic culture in provincial Achaia. Both conference and volume were sponsored by the Italian School of Archaeology at Athens and the Institute for Greek and Roman Antiquity of the National Hellenic Research Foundation. Their respective directors, Emanuele Greco and Miltiades Hatzopoulos, introduce the 11 papers, written in Italian, Greek, or French.

Despite the title, only seven papers focus on Patras. There is no conclusion or index; separate bibliographies at the end of each paper lead to some repetition. Black-and-white illustrations in the body of the text are reduced to a size that makes many unreadable; one set of full-page plans of the city would have been helpful. Yet the Patras papers are valuable for the sheer quantity of archaeological evidence and historical interpretation they offer, drawing on otherwise widely scattered reports in Archaiologikon Deltion. The Italian government withdrew funding from the Italian School in 2010, and it is to be hoped that this is not its final publication and that donations will enable this venerable institution to continue supporting archaeological scholarship.

After a brief introduction to “Romanized” Greece by Coarelli, Rizakis provides the historical framework for the volume, placing Colonia Augusta Achaica Patrensis in its colonial context. He argues that at Patras, Augustus intended to create a new provincial elite, restore prosperity to Greece, and keep routes of trade and communication open. Patras, like other Augustan colonies, was designed to draw into the city agricultural wealth from a greatly expanded civic territory. Coloni settled in Patras, or built villas nearby, and controlled the best land; the original inhabitants made do with the rest, even if across the gulf, or near subsidiary towns. Old and new Patraeans were unified by the venerable cult of Artemis Laphria; her statue, and probably her temple, were transferred by Augustus to the acropolis of Patras from Calydon. The new Roman elite of Patras dominated the western gulf, but enough rights were retained (or retaken) by the preexisting population to ensure integration and use of the Greek language.

Petropoulos gives a thematic overview of Roman urban infrastructure excavated at Patras by the Sixth Ephorate through 1999. He notes pottery and graves beginning in the Early Helladic era, with a Hellenistic city plan perceptible between the acropolis and the area of the modern Psila Alonia Square (likely the ancient agora). Roman development is his focus, however: a shift of the agora northeast to the area of the odeum; expansion westward to the harbor; and the construction of terraces, paved roads, aqueducts, and drains, partially atop the existing grid. Pausanias (7.18–22) is used for religious topography, from Artemis on the acropolis to Olympian Zeus on the agora (under the Church of the Pantokrator) near the epigraphically identified Aedes Augustalium, and the Oracle of Demeter by the harbor at St. Andrew’s spring, along with Egyptian sanctuaries. The odeum and stadium area is interpreted as a late first-century “spectacle zone,” with Pausanias’ other cults; the remainder of the city was filled with houses and industrial areas.

Baldassarre leaves Patras aside to analyze the changing iconography of first-century B.C.E. frescoes at Rome and Pompeii, linking those changes to political and social change, with Augustus’ ideology of peace, unity, and nostalgia expressed in Third-Style wall painting. Ghedini sees class struggle and Romanization in Augustan house construction on the Bay of Naples, and in Gaul, Spain, Africa, and Greece. The tetrastyle atrium retains its functions and is taken up in Patras as a sign of Romanitas, while the alae of upper-class houses disappear. Floor mosaics from all over the empire show that the Augustan house was larger, wealthier, and had more outdoor space farther removed from the entry.

Bonini summarizes his 2005 dissertation on Roman houses at Patras, focusing on their layout and concluding with a helpful catalogue of 48 published houses. Salvage excavation means few houses have a complete plan, so separate elements such as the entry, atrium, and decoration are outlined. He concludes that gardens, tetrastyle atria, and opus reticulatum mark houses as “Roman,” and that owners engaged in competition for clients through house decor. Dekoulakou then describes typical examples of five types of tombs from the three main cemeteries of Roman Patras. The southern necropolis was the largest and is prominent when approaching the city from the west. The tombs are typical of cities across the Roman East: open-air enclosures, chamber tombs, and freestanding monuments, especially exedrae.

Former Patras Ephor Papapostolou then provides an overview of the Roman mosaics for which Patras is justly famous. She arranges some 23 (mostly domestic) examples by order of design complexity and offers comments on their context (triclinia, atria), parallels in Greece and abroad (mainly North Africa), and iconography. The last is largely conventional (mythological, athletic, and hunting scenes), but there are a few exceptions (e.g., Pan stomping out the vintage). Only the mosaic of dancing Seasons is reproduced in color (on the cover), and texts are not transcribed from mosaics with inscriptions; dates range from the mid first to early fourth centuries, though adduced parallels extend farther forward in time. It is curious that this paper and those of Ghedini and Bonini do not engage with one another, even though all reference the same houses.

In the last paper on Patras, Papageorgiadou-Bani comments on Augustan numismatic iconography. She calls attention to the disparity between the foundation of the colony at Patras and its first issue of assaria in 2 B.C.E. The imagery is conventional, with the head of Augustus and the founding ritual of plowing the boundaries, but the titulature is unusual, with PATER and PATRIAE split over two sides of the coin. She convincingly contextualizes this first colonial coinage in the dynastic politics of 2 B.C.E.: the visit of Gaius Caesar to Greece, levying of new taxes, and local desire to maintain the colonial connection with Augustus.

Finally, two papers concern Augustan altars outside Patras. Zachos gives an Italian translation of his paper on relief sculpture from the Augustan monument at Nicopolis, originally published in his edited Acts of the Second Nicopolis Conference (Nikopolis B': Praktika tou Devterou Diethnous Symposiou gia te Nikopole (2002) [Preveza 2007]). It contains a brief introduction to the monument, dedicated after Actium by Augustus to Neptune (Poseidon), Mars (Ares), and Apollo at his camp above Nicopolis, where Zachos has excavated since 1995. Though Rizakis drew comparisons between Nicopolis and Patras, Zachos solely considers two examples of relief sculpture from the Nicopolis monument: a cylindrical altar with a procession of archaistic deities similar to Corinth’s Guilford Puteal and fragments of classicizing revetment from the central altar. The latter includes arms, rostra, stern ornaments, vegetal decoration, and a triumphal procession, probably of Augustus in 29 B.C.E. A boy and girl ride in the chariot with the triumphator—Zachos suggests they are the orphan twins of Antony and Cleopatra, while La Rocca prefers Julia and Drusus.

La Rocca’s paper, the last, is on the dedication of the Ara Pacis. He gives a brief overview of literary and epigraphic sources for its 4 July 13 B.C.E. constitutio and 30 January 9 B.C.E. dedication. The significance of the goddess Pax is discussed and connected to Greek Eirene and the month of January. He argues that Augustus himself was key to the ideology of the Pax Augusta, and that Julia rather than Livia was celebrated on the reliefs, though 30 January was Livia’s birthday.

Readers of this volume will find an overview of most monuments of Roman Patras, bar the famous odeum, with some solid contributions to the history of Patras, and a large quantity of archaeological evidence raising timely questions about “Romanization” and Hellenic identity in Roman Greece.

Amelia Robertson Brown
School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
University of Queensland
Brisbane QLD 4072

Book Review of Patrasso colonia di Augusto e le trasformazioni culturali, politiche ed economiche della provincia di Acaia agli inizi dell’età imperiale romana, edited by Emanuele Greco

Reviewed by Amelia Robertson Brown

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 115, No. 4 (October 2011)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1154.Brown

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