Abstracts for Volumes of Antichthon

Beginning with Antichthon 45 (2011), it has been decided that authors should prepare an abstract of their article, which is to be printed at the start of their article and which will also be placed on the ASCS website. The abstracts will then be archived each year on this page of the website as each volume is published.

Abstracts are also available (free) through Cambridge Journals Online.


Current Volume - Vol. 47 (2013)

Erich S. Gruen, The University of California, Berkeley
Did Romans Have an Ethnic Identity?

This paper begins with a stark contrast. Whereas the Athenians took great pride in claiming autochthony, a bloodline unsullied by admixture with barbarians or even other Hellenes, Rome’s legendary genealogy unhesitatingly encompassed a host of divergent blends and multiple minglings. Greek forbears from Arcadia, Trojan immigrants who merged with Latins, Sabine and Etruscan kings, the fabled intermarriage of Romans and Sabine women – all indicate a firm belief in ethnic mixture at the origins of the nation. This article asks a pointed question: if Romans were perfectly comfortable with multiple identities in their own makeup, how does one account for the numerous slurs, smears and nasty comments addressed by Roman writers against other races and peoples? It examines a variety of such calumnies and stereotypes and argues that they do not fall into the category of ethnic prejudice. Many of the more (ostensibly) hostile remarks have been taken out of context, misunderstood, more humorous than malicious, and outweighed by a host of admiring comments. The collection of quips, jibes and clichés does not amount to ethnic bigotry. Indeed ethnicity, in terms of genetic characteristics that render non-Romans inferior to Romans, plays little or no role in these assessments. A far better indicator of the Roman outlook is the remarkable practice of extending citizenship to manumitted slaves – almost all of whom (or their ancestors) came from abroad. The Romans’ sense of themselves did not require the establishment of ethnic superiority.

Margaret Miller, The University of Sydney
Clothes and Identity: The Case of the Greeks in Ionia c. 400 BC

The capacity of the individual to maintain several identities concurrently is well established, as is the ability of dress to reflect (passively) or to announce (actively) the social identities of its bearer. Within a multi-national structure such as the Achaemenid Persian Empire the semiosis of dress is especially complex. Since dress functions as a form of non-verbal communication, study of the language of dress of past cultures must appeal to the widest possible range of literary and visual sources.
Analysis of the visual arts within the Persian sphere shows careful attention to vestimental definition of the Iranian ‘dominant ethno-class’ and its separation from the dress of the subject peoples in the western empire. Artistic and literary evidence for the Greek and West Anatolian experience of the Persian Empire testifies to the extent of the Persian presence in the west. It also shows the cultural flexibility of the local populations, who might occasionally emulate the Persian model by adopting Persian dress while retaining the traits of their traditional cultures.

Ian Betts and Bruce Marshall, Macquarie University
The Lex Calpurnia of 149 BC

Erich Gruen long ago put forward the view that, in the twenty-five years or so before the introduction of the lex Calpurnia, the senate saw that it was losing control of foreign policy and that tribunes were playing a larger role in stirring up popular outrage at the conduct of provincial governors. Therefore, he claims, the senate felt that something had to be done. Gruen and others also stress that the catalyst for the introduction of the lex Calpurnia arose from atrocities committed by Sulpicius Galba in 150. The first part of this article examines a whole series of atrocities over those twenty-five years to test how accurate these two views are, and concludes that the senate did play a large part in attempting to curb the excesses of some governors and that all the atrocities contributed to the climate of opinion which led to the establishment of the Calpurnian court. The second part describes the scope, limitations and implementation of the law, leading to the conclusion that it was not really of benefit to the socii and peregrini, since actions could be brought only by Roman citizens or by patroni acting on their behalf.

Lea Beness and Tom Hillard, Macquarie University
Insulting Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi

Plutarch records calumny directed at Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, though he offers no detail as to its content. This article speculates that Cicero’s reference to rhetorical misgivings concerning her marriage offers a clue. References by Pliny and Solinus to the ominous nature of Cornelia’s post-natal condition prompt the further speculation that enemies of the Gracchi were able to claim that both her marriage and the birth of her children had run counter to divine injunction.

Kathryn Welch, The University of Sydney, and Hannah Mitchell, The University of St Andrews
Revisiting the Roman Alexander

Green (1978) overturned the standard view of Romans’ desire to compare themselves with Alexander the Great. He especially criticised the too-credulous acceptance of Caesar’s ‘Alexander complex’. Gruen (1998) and Martin (1998) extended Green’s arguments to include Pompeius. This paper argues that in attempting to redress the balance Green, Gruen and Martin go too far. Alexander was a powerful icon in first-century BC Rome but the desire to be compared to him grew out of specific, not general, considerations. In the case of Pompeius and Caesar, emulation of Alexander was as much about competition between themselves as it was about any third party.

Martin Stone, The University of Sydney
A Year of One’s Own: Dating the Praetorship of Marcus Crassus

It is curious that, although a whole Life of Plutarch is devoted to Marcus Crassus, so little is known as to the facts and dates of his cursus honorum. His praetorship is a fact, but of uncertain date. Plutarch is often interpreted as associating it with his special command against Spartacus in 72; Appian can be read as placing it in 71. A virtual consensus of scholars follows Broughton in favouring 73. It is contended here that Crassus’ destined year was 75, when he turned 40. That it was his actual year is supported by his nobility, ambition and talent: one of eight places should have been his. No province is attested or likely. But the limited availability of praetorian provinces in these years and Crassus’ known interest in special commands make this unproblematic.
The early dating proposed makes sense of the absence of an aedileship. It creates, however, an expected consular year of 72. The blocking of this is associated with the discourse of rivalry between Crassus and Pompey: the very odd trial for incestum with a Vestal Virgin finds explanation in this context. The article aspires to shine a light on the post-civil war period in which Crassus, no less than Pompey, is both player and exemplar.

Tom Stevenson, The University of Queensland
The Succession Planning of Augustus

Erich Gruen has questioned the notion of ‘succession planning’ under Augustus, arguing that the princeps was careful to avoid giving the impression that he wanted to create a heritable dynasty, for it was not in his interest to emphasise autocracy and there was no office of state to pass on. This view seems incomplete, since the prerogatives and resources of the Julian family were of such magnitude that Augustus’ heir could hardly fail to occupy a position of dominance in the state, as everyone surely knew. Moreover, it seems likely that Gruen overestimates the level of opposition to autocracy, that the cause of state stability was aided overall by clear lines of succession, that relevant attitudes were dynamic rather than static, and that there was a higher public profile (and more practical, substantial importance) for the imperial family than Gruen describes.

Sarah Pearce, The University of Southampton
Rethinking the Other in Antiquity: Philo of Alexandria on Intermarriage

The fundamental traditions of Judaism preserve strict prohibitions against intermarriage with outsiders. The interpretation of such prohibitions in ancient Jewish literature provides our main evidence for Jewish attitudes towards intermarriage with non-Jews, and underpins discussions about the marital habits of ancient Jews. While the scriptural commentary of the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, represents a substantial body of material on this topic, scholars remain very divided in their interpretation of his attitudes and their significance for Jewish intermarriage in antiquity, a problem compounded by the absence of detailed studies of Philo’s evidence. This article explores Philo’s reading of the prohibitions against intermarriage in his commentary On the Special Laws, devoted to the rationalising of the laws of Moses, as represented in the Greek Pentateuch. It argues that Philo’s interpretation of the prohibitions against intermarriage does not resolve questions about the relative prevalence or absence of Jewish intermarriage in Philo’s era. But, through his actualisation and rationalisation of the prohibitions, exploiting the rich resources of the Greek intellectual tradition, Philo underlines the crucial importance of these prohibitions for his contemporaries, as a means of preserving the Jewish community and its foundations in the monotheistic tradition.

James McLaren, The Australian Catholic University
The Jews in Rome during the Flavian Period

During the late republic and early principate the Jews who called Rome their home occasionally found themselves in the public gaze. Some of their customs and aspects of their ways of life also attracted occasional comment, often for their apparently strange and foreign manner. At no stage, however, during this period did they feature prominently in the public sphere of life in Rome. The aftermath of the war of 66-70 CE brought about an abrupt change in circumstances for the Jews living in Rome. Apart from the immediate visual celebration of the triumph, there followed a number of substantial monumental and numismatic commemorations of the Roman victory. In this article the purpose and function of those commemorations and the possible consequences for the Jews who lived in Rome are examined. In particular, the impact of the public profiling of the war on Jewish identity and of how the writings of Josephus are to be read in this setting is explored. Rather than regard Josephus as a supporter of the Flavian rulers, writing an account of the war that encouraged fellow Jews to collaborate with Rome, it is argued that he was offering Jews in Rome a counter-narrative to the way the war was being publicly commemorated.

Arthur Eckstein, The University of Maryland
What is an empire and how do you know when you have one? Rome and the Greek States after 188 BC

Interstate politics in the ancient Mediterranean was for centuries what political scientists term a multipolar anarchy – a world consisting of a plurality of independent states all contending with each other for survival and hegemony. The most successful of these was, of course, Rome. But did the tremendous victories of 196 and 188 BC over the Antigonid monarchy and then the Seleucid monarchy – which followed the defeat in 201 of the Carthaginian Republic in the West – mean that Rome established an empire in the eastern Mediterranean? That the Roman Republic established an empire in the Greek East from 188 BC is asserted by some scholars. I will argue differently here. The emergence of Rome as a true imperial metropole was haphazard and long-delayed. After the defeat of Carthage, Macedon and the Seleucids, Rome by 188 had certainly achieved what political scientists term ‘unipolarity’: in the Mediterranean state-system of states, the preponderance of power was now in the hands of a single entity. But does the emergence of even greater inter-state asymmetry of power equal the establishment of an ‘empire’? This is the complicated question I will address.

Peter Edwell, Macquarie University
The Euphrates as a Boundary between Rome and Parthia in the Late Republic and Early Empire

It is generally agreed that during the first century BC the Euphrates River came to represent a negotiated boundary of Roman and Parthian power in the Near East, and that this remained the case until the overthrow of the Parthians by the Sassanians in the third century AD. It was during the first century BC that the term imperium began to be used in the context of expressions of corporate Roman power; this eventually saw an additional important usage of the term evolve to that of an expression of physical territory, that is, empire, by the end of the reign of Augustus. This paper argues that it is possible to link the development of the Euphrates as a boundary of Roman and Parthian power in the first century BC with developments and changes in the usage of the term imperium. It traces the history of Roman and Parthian agreements and conflicts throughout the first century BC in the context of the development of the Euphrates as a boundary. The paper also argues that only the upper section of the Euphrates came to play this role and that previous analyses of the middle Euphrates have produced a misleading understanding of Roman and Parthian activity on this section of the river. The analysis of archaeological evidence from the first centuries BC and AD from the middle Euphrates site of Dura Europos is employed to illuminate the analysis of the Euphrates as a boundary. We arrive at a better understanding of Dura’s history during this period if we considert Dura in the broader context of the Euphrates’ role in dividing Roman and Parthian power.

Paul Burton, The Australian National University
The International Amicitia between Athens and Rome

There is no agreement on when international amicitia between Rome and Athens was first established. This article proposes that the most likely date for it belongs in the context of the later stages of the First Macedonian War (215-205) – specifically, during the mediation attempts of 209 or 208 – rather than the other commonly canvassed candidates, 228, 205 and 201-200.


Abstracts for Past Volumes

Vol. 46 (2012)
Vol. 45 (2011)










The ASCS Journal
Antichthon Journal


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