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Corpus des inscriptions grecques d’Illyrie méridionale et d’épire. Vol. 2, pt. 2, Inscriptions de Bouthrôtos

July 2009 (113.3)

Book Review

Corpus des inscriptions grecques d’Illyrie méridionale et d’épire. Vol. 2, pt. 2, Inscriptions de Bouthrôtos

Edited by Pierre Cabanes and Faïk Drini. With a contribution by Miltiades Hatzopoulos. Pp. 333, pls. 100, tables 35. Foundation D. et É. Botzaris and École Française d’Athènes, Athens 2007. €110. ISBN 2-86958-206-4 (paper).

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This volume gathers the Greek epigraphical material from Butrint, Albania, as part of the ongoing Corpus des inscriptions grecques dIllyrie méridionale et d’Épire. It first presents literary testimonia, a canned history, and a coruscating survey of previous research; 219 inscriptions follow—translated, illustrated, and commented upon, with indices. Then comes an analysis of the most important category of material, the famous mid-Hellenistic manumission lists from the theater at Bouthrotos (and the unpublished ones reused in a later fortification tower). The volume ends with two appendices (one on the Corinthian calendar in northwestern Greece and one on chronology in the manumission documents, with 39 stemmas of local families, often multigenerational) and addenda to previous volumes in the same series (Corpus des inscriptions grecques d’Illyrie méridionale et d’Épire. Vol. 1, pt. 1, Inscriptions d’Epidamne-Dyrrhachion [Paris 1995]; vol. 1, pt. 2A, Inscriptions d’Apollonia d’Illyrie [Paris 1997]).

Unfortunately, the first part is not successful at locating Bouthrotos in its context. The presentation of literary testimonia is questionable (why quote 200 lines from Vergil’s description of the new Troy founded at Buthrotum?), and the extensive quotations from medieval sources require more elucidation. Yet Cabanes and Drini importantly emphasize the Roman impact in the first century B.C.E.; the estates of T. Pomponius Atticus (Cicero’s friend) and the later foundation of a colony represent a watershed leading to Roman colonial institutions and Latin epigraphy, though Greek later reemerged. Cabanes and Drini present stimulating insights on an official document by [ἠ Βουθρ]ωτίων [κ]ολωνεία in the third century C.E. (262, no. 12).

Most seriously, to gain a sense of the geography (both historical and physical), the corpus should be read alongside survey and topographical work on and around Roman, Late Antique, and Byzantine Bouthrotos (the disconnect between Hellenistic epigraphy and Roman archaeology is regrettable on all sides; see R. Hodges, W. Bowden, and K. Lako, Byzantine Butrint: Excavations and Surveys 1994–1999 [Oxford 2004]; I.L. Hansen and R. Hodges, eds., Roman Butrint: An Assessment [Oxford 2007]). These studies have illustrated the specific possibilities and constraints of Butrint’s geography. It sits between sea, lagoon, alluvial plain (always exploited but not always reclaimed and cultivated), wetlands, and hill. It is within the façade maritime of southern Albania and is also along maritime (toward Italy) and land routes (along the façade maritime but also into inland Greece), which is the story told by the bronze coins found in pre-Roman Butrint and its region (the provenances are Corcyra, Epidamnos, and Apollonia but also Macedonia and Thessaly; see S. Moorhead, S. Gjongecaj, and R. Abdy, “The Roman Coins from Butrint,” in Hansen and Hodges [2007] 78–94).

Likewise, Varro (Rust. 2.2), mentioned by Cabanes and Drini (273 n. 33), might have been quoted in the testimonia, since it concerns land ownership and animal husbandry by Romans in Epiros; this would have brought to the fore the theme of pastoralism to which the authors often allude (e.g., 280).

Now, some observations. For the history of religion, the decorated circular base inscribed to Asklepios (no. 177), the dedications to Pan Teletarches and Pasa (nos. 182, 183), and the dedication by “Rufina, friend of the Nymphs” deserve note. Number 180 is a “private honorific” monument (not funerary and not a bust, pace Cabanes and Drini; on the genre, see J. Robert and L. Robert, Bulletin Épigraphique [1972] 375; [1974] 479; Fouilles d’Amyzon en Carie. Vol. 1, Exploration, histoire, monnaies et inscriptions [Paris 1983] 232 n. 1), and its presence is very interesting and unusual in northwestern Greece. Numbers 200 and 201 are gravestones of men named T. Pomponius—probably descendants of Pomponius Atticus’ freedmen; number 200 is strikingly “Roman” in layout, with ligatures and letters within letters. Concerning the authors’ arguments, however, I see no reason why Οὐεργιλία Λευκίου (Vergilia Leukiou) was not of Roman citizen status, nor why the Phokaian or the Iasian buried in Bouthrotos died on the way to Italy, rather than during prolonged or permanent stays (nos. 202, 204).

The heart of Inscriptions de Bouthrôtos is the body of manumission documents, representing the freeing of some 600 slaves over a century or so, and carefully studied from a variety of angles: the social eminence of a few families; the preponderance of small-scale slave ownership; the legal autonomy of women; the workings of manumission, notably in connection with possible fee payments by the manumitted; and the paramone clause, which Cabanes and Drini see as preserving social bonds and protection for freedmen, whereas Hopkins and Roscoe speak of a brake on full freedom (Conquerors and Slaves [Cambridge and New York 1978] 133–71) based on Delphic manumission material.

These documents start modestly at the end of the Epeirote koinon (which succeeded the Aiakid monarchy and lasted until the third Macedonian War). But most were inscribed after the destruction of the Epeirote state, when a regional entity named the Prasaiboi, occupying an area called Prasaibia (nos. 8–10 [proxeny decrees]), centered around the town of Bouthrotos, gained statehood (“Praesebes,” found in some of the archaeological literature, is a mistake). Cabanes and Drini establish that the manumission acts were concentrated in the decades 160–100 B.C.E. and petered out during the first century B.C.E. By the time of T. Pomponius Atticus, it is unclear whether the Prasaibian koinon still existed (as the testimonia gathered by Cabanes and Drini make clear, Cicero simply speaks of Buthrotii). This body of material, along with the few proxeny decrees, as commented on by Cabanes, brings into focus the workings of a post-federal Late Hellenistic state, with its own institutions (notably an ekklesia attended by politai) and an astonishing variety of subgroups (nos. 21, 115). Cabanes and Drini detect 85–90 of these subgroups; their term ethnique does not seem right for these small units, which are often attested for a single family and are perhaps kin based (177, 264–65).

A dialogue with archaeology might prove fruitful—the fortified sites at Kalyvo and Çuka e Aitoit, the Hellenistic strong manor at Mallathrea (S. Islami in P. Cabanes, ed., L’Illyrie méridionale et l’Épire dans l’antiquité [Clermont-Ferrand 1987] 254; N. Ceka, Butrint: A Guide to the City and Its Monuments [London 1999] 63–6; M. Plucienik, “The Environs of Butrint 2: The 1995–1996 Field Survey,” in Hodges et al. [2004] 47–63), seem relevant for Cabanes and Drini’s squirearchy (see page 265 on hamlets, farms, and hobereaux locaux).

It is all the more striking that the world of the Prasaiboi and their subunits (e.g., Phorioi, Sakarônoi, Loigyphioi, Hyppopaioi, Essyrioi) took public interest in the progress of a Prasaibos named Antipatros, who, upon embarking on an athletic career, hired a professional trainer from Teos in Ionia. The trainer was honored with proxeny (no. 9), and, as Cabanes proposes, Antipatros may have gone on to win the stadion race at Olympia in 136 B.C.E.

John Ma
Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford and Corpus Christi College
Oxford Corpus Christi College
Merton Street
Oxford OX1 4JF
United Kingdom

Book Review of Corpus des inscriptions grecques d’Illyrie méridionale et d’épire. Vol. 2, pt. 2, Inscriptions de Bouthrôtos, edited by Pierre Cabanes and Faïk Drini

Reviewed by John Ma

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 113, No. 3 (July 2009)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1133.Ma

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