Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.03.14
G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, Oleg Grabar, Late Antiquity. A Guide to the Postclassical World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. Pp. xiii + 780, 2 maps, 30 ill..
Reviewed by Ralph Mathisen, University of South Carolina.
Word count: 5678 words
This massive volume is yet one more consequence of the continually expanding interest in Late Antiquity as an historical period. It is edited by three scholars of immense reputation and includes entries by a virtual who's-who of late antique scholarship. It contains both lengthy essays on special topics and a multitude of shorter "encyclopedia" entries, providing not only a general overview of things late antique but also a survey of "the advances in scholarship" (p.x).
As a raison d'être for the volume, the editors suggest that "the time has come for scholars, students, and the educated public in general to treat the period between around 250 and 800 as a distinctive and quite decisive period of history that stands on its own... It cannot be treated as a corpse to be dragged quickly offstage so that the next great act of the drama of the Middle Ages should begin" (p.ix). This rather defensive statement reflects a continuing quasi-apologetic feeling among some who study Late Antiquity at a time when others would argue that it already has become, de facto, just the independent period that the editors would like to see it be. As evidence that this already has happened at a very fundamental level, one only has to look at the number of university position descriptions that specify Late Antiquity either as a specialty or as a field.
The editors stress that the volume "is a guide ... not an encyclopedia, a dictionary, or a lexicon" (p.xii). They note that they "attempted to cast our net wide", with the caveat that "it was never our intention that it should be all-inclusive" (xii). They decline, for example, to cover all "Christian figures" or include "too many saintly men and women, too many bishops and too many heretics" (p.xiii). In other regards too, it is suggested that the guide "is there to point the way" (p.xiii).
As a justifiable rationale for not being inclusive, the editors note that there already exist a plethora of compendia dealing with various aspects of the late antique period. Attention is drawn, for the history of the Christian church, to the existing Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, the Dictionaire de Spiritualité, the Prosopographie chrétienne (and in this regard, it might be noted that the volume for Italy has just made a very welcome appearance), the Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, and the Coptic Encyclopedia. To this list might be added, as potential English-language competitors of this volume, the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (2nd edition: E. Ferguson, M.P. McHugh, F.W. Norris eds., New York, 1997) and the Encyclopedia of the Early Church (A. Di Berardino ed., Oxford Univ. Press, 1992).
In addition, the editors cite other compilations dealing with this period, such as The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, the Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire [3 volumes], The Oxford Classical Dictionary, The Encyclopedia Judaica, the Encyclopedia of Islam, and the Reallexikon für germanische Altertumskunde. One also might note the voluminous Dictionary of the Middle Ages (11 vols., J.R. Strayer ed., New York, 1982ff.). As a result the existence of so many other encyclopedic resources, the editors note that "we have been freed from the need to tell all" (p.xiii), and they present instead a more impressionistic view of the late antique world.
One of the editors' goals is to provide Late Antiquity with a cohesion and unity in spite of its apparent chronological, geographical, and cultural diversity. The volume's chronological span ranges from AD 250 to AD 800. This is an expansion over the older orthodoxy of ca. AD 250-640, and reflects current thinking, especially as to the upper limit. Geographical coverage extends from the Atlantic to Afghanistan, and geographical unity is suggested by references to "Eurasia" as a single entity, rather than to Europe and Asia as separate zones; even the Far East is included. The editors encourage readers to "begin the 21st century with fewer artificial barriers in their minds, erected between periods and regions..." (p.x). In addition, they also promise to consider material culture, and to give "much attention to recent archaeological discoveries" which allow the period to be studied "in the accumulation of vivid details on the ground" (p.xii).
As an additional unifying factor, the editors point to elements of continuity and stability that were provided during Late Antiquity by massive imperial establishments and made the period an "Age of Empires." The Roman Empire persisted, represented by the "Byzantine Empire" (the term 'Byzantine' is described as "a modern misnomer redolent of ill-informed contempt" [p.vii]) in the east, and by papal government in the west, where "the pope was still a 'Roman'." To the east, the Islamic caliphate, which occupied not only the Sassanid (or New Persian) Empire but also the easternmost, North African, and Spanish parts of the Roman Empire, "gained stability by settling back into the habits of the ancient empires it had replaced" (ibid.). Even in Western Europe, where it is suggested that "the long summer's afternoon of empire had begun to fade," "the clergy still thought of themselves as part of a wider world embraced by great empires" and "the ruling classes ... inherited ... a Roman penchant for extended empire" (p.viii). Late Antiquity drew to an end in the year 800, it is suggested, when Charlemagne and the caliph Harun al-Rashid were both "inheritors of a remarkable Age of Empires" (ibid.) This empire-based philosophy helps to give Late Antiquity a cohesiveness and identity that was not always apparent in the past.
Finally, the editors also point to religion as not only one more unifying element but also one that provided continuity between Late Antiquity and the modern day, when "millions of persons are the direct heirs of religions either born or refashioned in late antiquity" (p.ix). And, indeed, there is throughout the volume a focus on various aspects of the ways in which religion was intertwined in the society, culture, and politics of Late Antiquity. Overall, the flavor of the volume tends to be much more socio-cultural than political. One will not find here any entries dealing with wars and battles, and only a few dealing exclusively with secular politics or persons.
All of these efforts to create an integrated late antique world are both valid and valuable. Perhaps the only inconsistency is the rather traditional Byzantinist approach to western Europe. Very few entries deal specifically with the western barbarian kingdoms, and, as will be noted below, there are many omissions. In particular, the British Isles are represented only by a token entry on "Ireland" (there is not even one on Britain, even though there are entries on "Gaul", "Iberia", and "Italy", nor are there entries for such as Bede, or St. Patrick). The western barbarian kingdoms are allowed to step to the threshold of membership in the late antique world, but not to pass through the door. As the editors noted, western Europe does not quite fit the imperializing theme that so neatly gives coherence to their definition of the rest of the late antique world. Nevertheless, some would argue that western Europe is more than a poor stepchild of Late Antiquity, to be admitted to the club only on sufferance. After all, from the point of view of modern society and culture, it is here (and by implication in the western hemisphere) where the legacy of Late Antiquity has had some of its most momentous influence.
Following the Introduction, the book is divided into two sections. The first (256 pp.) contains 11 lengthy articles on special topics "meant to provoke thought ... to encourage readers to travel further in new directions ... that ... point firmly away from many commonly accepted stereotypes of the period" (p.xii). The first four of these articles, in one way or other, consider religious matters. In "Remaking the Past" (pp.1-20), Averil Cameron discusses how Late Antiquity recreated the classical past to be consistent, in particular, with the Christian ethos: "The past was very real to the men and women of late antiquity: as they saw it, it had not so much to be remade as reasserted" (p.2).
Béatrice Caseau, in "Sacred Landscapes" (pp.21-59), suggests, "In the late antique period we can watch the processes of sacralization and desacralization as different religions came into contact and competed with each other" (p.22). She considers not only the material process, but also the metaphorical one, as seen in the desacralization of the Roman state itself. The uses of the dead bodies of saints within city precincts, moreover, demonstrate how space was sacralized in a new way, in violation of classical custom.
"Philosophical Tradition and Self" (pp.60-81), by Henry Chadwick, investigates the fate of ancient philosophical thought, and especially Neoplatonism, in Late Antiquity, and concludes, "Although the Christians of late antiquity found themselves in much sympathy with the language of the Platonists, the generalization holds good that in the long run they were to take a more positive view of the physical realm of nature, and of the human body in particular" (p.80).
Garth Fowden looks at the issue of "Religious Communities" (pp.82-106), and examines how during Late Antiquity there arose "communities of belief" to stand alongside the more geographically based communities of the classical world: "The members of such a community accepted a more or less defined and internally coherent ... system of belief and practice... Acceptance across broad sections of society of this previously rare type of self-consciousness was among the distinguishing characteristics of the late antique world" (p.83).
The three following articles have more of a secular focus. In "Barbarians and Ethnicity" (pp.107-129), Patrick Geary discusses the process of "ethnogenesis," by which a sense of identity was created among barbarians. He begins with the assumption that the Romans did not see barbarian peoples as distinct entities: "These peoples, like other natural phenomena, had no real history... Thus the concept of ethnogenesis was alien to the Roman understanding of their neighbors" (p.107). He suggests, "Peoplehood is the end of a political process through which individuals with diverse backgrounds are united by law" (p.108).
Brent Shaw then considers the topic of "War and Violence" (pp.130-169), suggesting that, "Along with love, its ideological opposite, there is perhaps no human activity that is more insistently dialogical than war" (p.133). The nature of warfare in Late Antiquity is seen as fundamentally unchanging: "The dominant social, economic, and geographical forces in which warfare was embedded conduced to a basic continuity in the conduct of war itself" as the "two war cultures" (that is, the Romans and Sassanid Persians) accommodated themselves to each other (p.134). In spite of the article's title, the issue of "violence," one potentially fraught with great potential for our understanding of late antique society (as related, e.g., to the issues of social, civic, or judicial violence) is left undiscussed except for its role as a natural concomitant of warfare.
The article entitled "Empire Building" (pp.171-195), by Christopher Kelly, considers only the Roman Empire and begins by discussing the ceremony surrounding the person of the emperor: "The appearance of the emperor imposed order on society. The status and importance of any individual or group could instantly be gauged by observing their distance from the imperial center." It then turns to the imperial bureaucracy: "Delegation was an inescapable corollary of autocracy" (p.176), and concludes by considering the intermingling of secular and sacred authority: "Imperial ceremonies were given heavenly archetypes" (p.182).
The next two articles return to the theme of religion. Richard Lim, looking at the Roman world, writes about "Christian Triumph and Controversy" (pp.196-218), proposing to depict "in broad strokes certain aspects of Christian religious unity and diversity, techniques of controversy, and their consequences" (p.197). He suggests that before Christian peace and unity could be attained, "Christian communities had become polarized by proliferating disputes over discipline and belief" (p.196). He sees "the inability of conciliar proceedings to resolve disputes and prevent further controversies" (p.207) as one more element of Christian disunity, as was "the lack of a disinterested and neutral broker" (ibid.). Imperial edicts, designed to create unity among "disputing Christians ... turned mud-slinging among them into a far more consequential enterprise" (p.208).
Hugh Kennedy, in an article on "Islam" (pp.219-237), then turns to religious developments in the east. He begins by noting, "Of all the dividing lines set up between academic disciplines in the western intellectual tradition, the frontier between classical and Islamic studies has proved among the most durable and impenetrable," and suggesting that past scholarly efforts "take it as axiomatic that the coming of Islam ... marked a change so complete that there was no advantage in pursuing the topics that had been discussed into the new era." But he proceeds to demonstrate that "the Islamic was as much, and as little, a continuation of late antiquity as was western Christendom" (p.219) and that "early Islamic society built on and developed the late antique legacy" (p.235).
In "The Good Life" (pp.238-257), Henry Maguire "reviews a selection from the abundant material evidence of domestic prosperity in late antiquity, including the interior furnishings of houses, the silver vessels used for eating, drinking, and bathing, silk clothing, and jewelry." He then turns from the objects themselves to "the images used to decorate them," and considers "the attitudes toward those images that were adopted by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and the degree to which each religion opposed, assimilated, or rejected the visual expressions of domestic prosperity in late antiquity" (p.238), concluding that "This imagery was a common frame of reference for pagans, Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike" (p.253).
The final essay, by Yizhar Hirshfeld, deals with the topic "Habitat" (pp.258-272), and looks at "buildings and domestic life in late antiquity" (p.259). He suggests that the fourth century was a period of economic prosperity that benefitted the dwelling conditions of not only the "middle class" but also the "simpler people"; decline came in the fifth century in the west, but not until the eighth in the east (p.258). Another trend was the settlement of "remote, previously unsettled areas" which "expresses a shift of the cultural center of gravity from the city to the rural areas" (p.272).
The essays provide varying levels of documentation. Eight have endnotes, some of them quite extensive and helpful; one has brief in-text citations accompanied by an extensive bibliography; and two lack any notes at all, but do have brief bibliographies. All the essays cover their topics effectively. but they do not always "encourage readers to travel further in new directions," as the editors hoped. They sometimes provide surveys, albeit very useful ones, of past scholarship, rather than convincingly demonstrating how their topics represent new directions in scholarship or clearly postulating new directions that scholarship could take in the future. Other essays on topics of great current interest also might have been included, such as one on the nature of the "Transformation of the Roman World" (the topic of a recently completed large-scale European collaborative project), and others suggested below.
The second section of the volume (479 pp.) is a more traditional alphabetical listing of dictionary entries, from "Abbassids" to "Zurvan," composed by some 227 scholars (including the editors, both individually and collectively) on topics in some manner connected with Late Antiquity. It is meant "to provide as wide a range of information as possible" (p.xii). The editors generally did an thorough job of selecting scholars who are known for their work on each topic, such as (to cite but a few) T.D. Barnes ("Eusebius"), Tony Cutler ("Ivory"), Hal Drake ("Constantine"), Judith Evans Grubbs ("Concubinage"), Christopher Haas ("Alexandria"), Jill Harries ("Sidonius"), Peter Heather ("Goths"), Yitzhak Hen ("Liturgy"), Tony Honoré ("Law Codes"); William Klingshirn ("Caesarius of Arles"), A.D. Lee ("Espionage"), Neal McLynn ("Ambrose"), Thomas Noble ("Papacy"), James O'Donnell ("Cassiodorus"), Philip Rousseau ("Pachomius"), Michele Salzman ("Festivals"), Raymond Van Dam ("Bagaudae"), and so on.
In a few cases, however, one might wonder why a scholar, even a contributor, who is identified with a particular topic did not write on it. For example, Frank Clover, author of the "Victor of Vita" entry, did not write the "Vandals" one that immediately precedes it. And one might have liked to see John Matthews on "Ammianus Marcellinus," Dennis Trout on "Paulinus of Nola," or James O'Donnell (or Peter Brown) on "Augustine." Which is not to say, of course, that such entries were not admirably done by the scholars who did tackle them. In addition, one cannot help but note that several names of persons who could have provided noteworthy contributions are missing from the list of contributors, including (to cite a random sample) Sam Barnish, Tom Brown, Tom Burns, Alan Cameron, Walter Goffart, Sabine MacCormack, George Majeska, John Matthews, Ted Nixon, and Barbara Saylor Rodgers.
Incorporated here is much eastern material that will be unfamiliar to readers who in the past have focused on western Late Antiquity. Especially valuable is the extensive coverage given to the Islamic world, which in many works purportedly dealing with Late Antiquity writ large is given only lip service and token (if not unsympathetic) attention. One encounters entries, for example, for "Arab", "'Abd-al-Malik", "Aila", "'Ali ibn Abi Talib", "Amrah", "Arab", "Arabia", "Arabic", and so on through the alphabet. The Persian world is covered as well, with entries such as "Ahura Mazda", "Avesta", "Magi", and "Zoroastrianism", as is even the Far East (e.g. "Buddhism", "China").
The entries vary in length; many are less than a single column, but others, on topics deemed of special significance, are virtual mini-essays. Those that weigh in at over 3 pp. include "Agriculture" (Andrew Watson); and "Marble" (Marc Waelkens). At least 2 pp. are devoted to entries on "Architecture" (W.E. Kleinbauer); "Education" (Robert Kaster), "Festivals" (Michele Salzman); "Guilds" (Lellia Cracco Ruggini); "Islamic Empire" (Fred Donner); "Muhammad" (Michael Cook), "Nudity" (Megan Reid); "Prayer" (Henry Chadwick, Peter Brown); and "Sassanians" (Jamsheed Choksy). In addition, some comprehensive topics are covered by two separate entries, e.g. 3 1/2 pp. on "Baptism" (Philip Rousseau) and "Baptisteries" (Annabel J. Wharton); 3 1/2 pp. on "Food" (Aline Rousselle) and "Foodstuffs" (Andrew Watson); 3 pp. on "Mosaics, Ecclesiastical" (Pauline Donceel-Voûte) and "Mosaics, Secular" (Wiktor Daszewski); and 2 pp. on "Slavery" (C.R. Whittaker, O. Grabar) and "Slaves" (Peter D. Garnsey).
As one might expect from its fundamental principle, the volume has a very wide-ranging geographical representation, with entries for most major and many minor places. In addition, there is a broad, although hardly exhaustive, spectrum of entries for individual persons: some whose significance has not, perhaps, been sufficiently appreciated are given entries, but others of quite stellar significance are occasionally omitted.
Not surprisingly, a number of Christian figures are found. True to their word, the editors include only a very few entries for saints: only Antony, "Denis" [i.e. Dionysius of Paris], Genovefa, Martin of Tours, and Sergius made the cut. Other entries for ecclesiastics and religious writers include those for "Ambrose", "Aphrahat", "Augustine", "Basil of Casesarea", "Benedict"; "Caesarius of Arles", "Cyril of Alexandria", "Dionysius the Areopagite", "Ephrem the Syrian", "Eutyches", "Eznik of Koghb" (an Armenian theologian), "Gregory the Great"; [Venantius] "Fortunatus", "Frumentius" (the first bishop of Axum), "Gregory Nazianzus", "Gregory of Nyssa", "Gregory of Tours", "Isidore of Seville", "Jerome", "John Chrysostom", "Leo I", "Muhammad", "Nestorius", "Pachomius", "Paulinus of Nola", "Rufinus", "Shenoute", "Sulpicius Severus", and "Zoroaster." A good sampling, although one might wonder why, if Caesarius of Arles merits an entry, Avitus of Vienne, or Ennodius of Pavia, do not.
The presence of only two popes (Leo and Gregory, both called "the Great") reflects, perhaps, a perceived overemphasis in the past on the influence of the papacy, although entries at least on Damasus, Siricius, or Sylvester might have been welcome. But one might wonder why, given the inclusion of Zoroaster, who is dated to the twelfth century BC, such personages as Moses or Jesus Christ do not have their own entries. There are other more obvious omissions, such as the Gothic compiler and translator Dionysius Exiguus, the inventor of the Christian dating system so much in the news at the turn of the millennium, who ignominiously does not even merit a mention under the entry for "Eras"; and Ulfilas, the "apostle of the Goths," who is found buried in the entry for "Bible Translations." Nor are there entries for Prudentius, arguably the most influential Christian poet of Late Antiquity; or Sedulius; or Proba, one of the most significant woman writers. On the other hand, Egeria, who does not have her own entry, at least is fully discussed in Averil Cameron's essay (pp.9-10), suggesting that the editors intended the alphabetical entries to be complemented by the information presented in the essays, and in this regard the alphabetical entries must be read in combination with the index.
A representative sample of writers of primarily secular works also is included, with entries for "Ausonius", "Boethius", "Cassiodorus", "Claudian", "Dioscorus" [of Aphrodito], "Eunapius", "Himerius", "Horapollon", "Martianus Capella", "Olympiodorus of Thebes", "Sidonius" [Apollinaris], "Symmachus", "Synesius", and "al-Tabari". But where are the rhetors Libanius of Antioch and Themistius; or the grammarians Donatus, Servius, and Priscian; or the poet Corippus; or Macrobius?
Writers of history, both secular and ecclesiastical, are generally well represented, with entries for "Ammianus Marcellinus", "Baladhuri", "Eusebius of Caesarea", "Gregory of Tours", "John of Ephesus", "John of Nikiu", "Jordanes", [John] "Malalas", "Malchus of Philadelphia", "Moses Khorenaats'i", "Philostorgius", "Procopius", and "Zosimus". In addition there is an entry for "Chronicles," although the only chroniclers mentioned are Hydatius, Malalas, and Cassiodorus, the latter two of whom have their own separate entries anyway. No mention, for example, of Prosper, or Count Marcellinus. In addition, a number of well-known ecclesiastical historians, such as Evagrius, Sozomen, or Socrates, to mention just a few, are omitted.
Discussion of individuals representing the purely secular world is more limited. Only a few rulers have entries. Those for the Roman imperial family include "Caesar" [Julius], "Constantine", "Julian the Apostate", "Eudocia", "Anicia Juliana", "Anastasius", "Justinian", "Theodora", and "Heraclius." Others, such as Valentinian I (who does not even appear in the index, although Valentinian II does) are omitted, and a glaring omission is Galla Placidia, not to mention Pulcheria, both of whom would have contributed to the volume's otherwise admirable gender balance. There also are entries for a Persian royal name, "Khosro" (Shapur being omitted), several Islamic caliphs ("'Abd-al-Malik", "'Ali ibn Abi Talib", and "Mu'awiyya"), and an Arab queen (Mavia). Alaric the Goth, Attila the Hun, and Clovis are the only barbarian leaders who merit entries, with none, e.g., for Euric, Geiseric, Gundobad, Odovacar, or even Theoderic the Great (who is mentioned on p.122 in Patrick Geary's essay). Military leaders fare no better. There is an entry for "Stilicho", but none for Aspar, Count Ricimer, or even Fl. Aetius. Several pagan philosophers also have entries ("Hypatia", "Plotinus", "Proclus", and "Sallustius").
The volume's special flavor comes, however, not from the usual run of "people and places," but from its topical entries, which not only cover practices and institutions of particular significance for Late Antiquity, but also provide insight into some of the curious nooks and crannies of the late antique world. On the one hand, in addition to entries for particular late antique "things" (e.g. "Acta", "Agens in rebus", and so on), the editors have taken special care to identify and create categories of material worthy of special, collective consideration, sometimes applying modern concepts to the late antique world: one notes, e.g., entries on "Budget", "Countryside", "Crime and Punishment", "Dietary Restrictions", "Housing", "Landscape", "Marketplace", "Monopolies", "Police", "Rent", and "Spiritual Direction." And on the other hand, one also encounters such exotic (at least for westerners) items as "Bnay and Bnat Qyama" (a Syriac lay office); "Maioumas" (an aquatic festival condemned by John Chrysostom for its "naked women swimming in a shameful display"); "or "Dendrites" (ascetics who lived in trees). Occasionally, moreover, the editors divide entries into eastern and western categories, as for "Amphorae", "Ceramics", or even into "Documents (East)", "Documents, Islamic", "and "Documents (West)".
Many of the topical entries are in some way related to religion, and reflect the great significance, in particular, of Christianity and Islam. Entries dealing with religion and religious institutions include those on "Almsgiving", "Altars", "Angels", "Anchorites", "Apocrypha", "Asceticism", "Burial", "Catachesis", "Chant", "Conversion", "Defensor ecclesiae", "Dietary Restrictions", "Easter", "Ex-voto", "Holiness", "Imperial Cult", "Liturgy", "Martyrs," "Millenarianism," "Miracles", "Monasticism", "Mithraism," "Monks, Image of" and "Monks, Status of", separate entries for "Pagan" (where Peter Brown offers new insights into the meaning of the word "paganus") and "Paganism", "Papa" and "Papacy", "Pilgrimage", "Priesthood" [pagan], "Relics", "Ritual", "Sacred Space" (cf. the introductory essay on "Sacred Landscapes"), "Sanctity", "Sanctuary", "Spiritual Direction", "Stylites", "Temples", "Theology", "Theotokos", and "Virginity". Also included are entries for a few deities ("Ahura Mazda", "Sarapis", and "Zurvan") and for three Christian church councils (Chalcedon, Ephesus, and Nicaea; the entry "Councils" deals only with the municipal variety). Suggested additions might include entries on Missionaries, or Syncretism.
Detailed attention is given to different kinds of religious preferences and movements. Representing the classical past is the entry on "Paganism". For the middle eastern world, there are entries on "Mandaeism", "Manichaeism", "Mazdakism", "Shi'ism", "Sufism", and "Zoroastrianism". Numerous entries for variations of Christian belief and practice include those on "Antinomianism", "Augustinianism", "Donatism", "Encratites", "Gnosticism", "Iconoclasm", "Messalians", "Monophysites", "Montanists", "Nestorians", "Novatianists", "Origenism", "Pelagianism", and "Priscillianism". Curiously, however, there is no entry on Arianism, arguably the most significant Christian persuasion of the lot, which is barely mentioned here and there elsewhere in the volume, e.g. under "Monks, Image of" and "Nicaea, Council of" (where it is rather minimized). Nor is there an entry for "Christianity" to parallel those provided for other "mainstream" religions ("Judaism", "Paganism", "Zoroastrianism", and the essay on "Islam"). Likewise, there are entries for the scriptures and commentaries of religions such as Judaism ("Mishnah", "Talmud", "Tosefta") and Islam ("Hadith", "Qur'an"), but there is no entry for the Bible or the Itala, although the Vulgate is discussed in the entry for "Bible Translations".
A great deal of attention also is given to social and cultural topics. Several entries deal with society and social relations, including "Aristocracy", "Clients", "Curiales", "Dhimmi" (a non-Muslim living in a Muslim land), "Ethnography", "Holy Fools", "Honestiores/ Humiliores", "Patronage", "Population", and two similar entries on "Slavery" and "Slaves". Family and gender issues also are well represented, with entries on "Celibacy", "Concubinage", "Contraception and Abortion", "Divorce", "Dowry", "Eroticism", "Family", "Homosexuality", separate entries on "Intermarriage" and "Marriage", "Pornography", "Prostitution", and "Women". But lacking, for example, is an entry on Eunuchs, which surely would have been germane and welcome. In addition, several disruptive socio-political factors have entries, such as "Bagaudae", "Banditry", "Circumcellions", "Children, Exposure of" (to go along with the aforementioned separate entry on simply "Children"), "Corruption", "Factions" [the circus kind], "Famine", and "Refugees". Given this thrust, entries, e.g., on Earthquakes and other natural phenomena, or Usurpation, or Riots, also might have been worthwhile.
There is a strong ethnographic component. For example, there are a number of linguistic entries, including those on "Ge'ez" ('a now extinct language of Northern Ethiopia'), "Hebrew", "Irish, Old", "Latin", "Nubian Language", "Pahlavi", "Punic", "South Arabian", "Sogdian", and "Syriac". Indeed, given this thread, some of the issues raised in the entry on "Latin" might have been developed into an essay on the role of language dealing with issues of diversity and integration as related, e.g. to Romans and non-Romans, or the Latin west and the Greek east, and the development of the Romance languages.
Peoples who might be classified as "non-Roman" also receive many entries. Representing peoples within the borders of the Roman Empire itself are entries for "Berber", "Copts", "Mauri", and "Nomads (North Africa)". Eastern peoples who receive entries are "Ghassanids", "Himyar", "Kusana" (= the Kushans), "Lakhmids", "Nomads (Near East)", "Saracens", "Sassanians", and "Turks". And northern and western barbarians cited are "Avars", "Goths" and "Ostrogoths" (somewhat overlapping), "Huns", "Lombards", "Nomads (Northern Empire)", "Slavs", and "Vandals". There also is an entry with the rather passé title "Germanic Tribes" (the word "peoples," as in the essay by Patrick Geary, now to be preferred). It seems, however, that the only barbarian peoples included were those with some sort of eastern connection; exclusively western peoples, such as the Alamanni, Burgundians, Franks, and Saxons, to name only the most significant, all are omitted. There also is an entry for "Barbarian" as a descriptive term.
Popular culture is portrayed well by entries on "Bathing", "Fairs", "Festivals", two similar entries on "Games" and "Games as Contests", "Nudity", and "Theater". In a similar vein are numerous entries dealing with various aspects of magic and the supernatural, including those on "Alchemy", "Amulets", "Astrology", "Demons", "Divination", "Exorcism", "Horoscopes", "Magic", "Mysticism", "Ritual", and "Theurgy".
Economic life is considered in entries on "Agri deserti", "Agriculture", "Commerce", separate entries on "Estates" and "Villas", "Factories", "Fairs", "Gifts and Gift Giving", "Guilds", "Marketplace", "Mining, "Rent", Silk, "Tablettes Albertini", "Treasure" and "Treasure Hoards", "Usury", "Villages", "Water", "Weaving", and "Windmills". In a related vein are entries dealing with naturally occurring substances ("Amber", "Gold", "Marble", and "Silver"), with food ("Bread", "Dining", "Olives", "Pork", "Wheat", and "Wine", not to mention separate entries on "Food" and "Foodstuffs"), and with transportation and travel "Camels", "Horses", "Maps", "Ships", "Transport", and "Travelers").
Turning to material culture, including crafts, art, and architecture, one finds entries dealing with clothing ("Belts", "Clothing", "Textiles", and "Silk"), with other aspects of craftwork ("Amphorae", "Brooches", "Ceramics" [east and west], "Glass", "Metalware", "Sarcophagi", and even "Thrones") and artwork ("Crowns", "Gems", "Icon", "Images", "Ivory", "Mosaics, Ecclesiastical" and "Mosaics, Secular", "Painting", and "Sculpture"). Architectural entries include those for "Amphitheater", separate entries for "Architecture" and "Church Architecture", "Baptisteries", "Basilica", "Bedchambers", "Building", "Hippodrome", "Housing", "Kharana" and "Majfar" (buildings in Jordan), "Mosque", and "Palaces".
Other entries deal with more intellectual matters. At the basic level are those on "Literacy" and "Reading"; "Books", "Codex", "Papyrus", "Parchment", and three entries on "Documents"; and "Alphabets", "Hieroglyphics", and "Runes" (although none on Scripts). Under the category of education and higher learning come entries on "Astronomy", "Education", "Music", "Rhetoric", "Pharmacy" (but none on Medicine), "Philosophy", "Rationality", "Rhetoric" (but not Grammar), and "Zoology". In this regard, moreover, a collective entry on the Liberal Arts might have been valuable. Very few literary works are cited; exceptions are the scriptural ones noted above, and the entry "Mu'allaqat" (an anthology of Arabic verse).
A rather minimalist approach seems to have been taken to dealing with some categories of literature. Whereas there are entries for types of art ("Sculpture", "Mosaics", "Painting") and architecture ("Architecture"), literary and intellectual genres fare rather poorly, with entries only for "Anthology", "Epistolography", "Heresiology". There is an entry for "Chronicles", but none for History. And there is no entry for genres as important for Late Antiquity as Hagiography (which is cited in the index under "Biography," but that too has no entry of its own) or its cousin Panegyric, or Sermons. Nor is there anything, e.g., on Mathematics, and its important late antique component, Computus.
In addition, one notes a preference for providing entries for particular examples of types of expression, rather than discussions of the methodology that deals with them. For example, there are entries for "Icon" but not for Iconography; for "Coins" and "Medallions" but not for Numismatics; for "Books", "Codex", "Papyrus", and "Parchment", but not for Codicology, Palaeography, or Papyrology; for "Eras", but not for Chronography; and for "Countryside", "Landscape", "Maps", and "Roads", but not for Geography. Other methodologies useful for the study of Late Antiquity, such as Prosopography or Sigillography, receive even less attention.
Perhaps least well covered in the volume is secular politics, although there is a good sampling of topical entries dealing with government and administration (including economic administration), such as "Abbassids", "Agens in rebus", "Annona", "Budget", "Cadastres" [sic: cf "Theaters"], "Caliphate", "Civitates", "Comitatus", "Councils", "Cursus publicus", "Customs and Tolls", "Diplomacy", "Councils" [secular only], "Elections", "Emperor", "Kalends of January", "Metropolis, "Islamic Empire", "Monopolies", "Notarii", "Notitiae", "Officials", "Provinces", "Senate", "Taxation", "Ummayads", and "Urbanism". Additional entries on topics such as the consulate, or secular (not to mention ecclesiastical) ceremony (a topic usefully discussed in the essay by Christopher Kelly) would have helped to illuminate the connection between government and the population.
One aspect of administration that is particularly well covered is law and the administration of justice, with entries for "Acta", "Advocates", "Crime and Punishment", "Heretics, Laws on", "Justice", "Law Codes", "Law Courts", "Law Schools", "Manumission", "Penalties", "Police", "Qadi" (an Islamic judge), "Theodosian Code", "Torture", and "Wills". Nevertheless, there is no entry specifically on the topic of "Law", either secular or ecclesiastical, and this in spite of the fact that in the Introduction, the list of the legacies of Late Antiquity gives Roman law pride of place (p.ix). Given the great importance of law throughout Late Antiquity, and the amount of recent scholarship dealing with it, it is disappointing not to find one of the essays devoted to it.
Military matters receive the least attention of all. Only a few topical entries deal with this issue, several of which also are of social significance as well. Note, e.g., entries on "Armaments", "Bucellarii", "Camps", "Conscription", "Espionage", "Foederati", "Fortification", and "Fossatum". And in this regard an entry, or even an essay, on the significance of "Frontiers" by C.R. Whittaker might have been most welcome, not only for its military, but also for its social and cultural implications.
In general, the volume's great strength lies in its non-political, topical entries relating to late antique practices and institutions. These are just the things that are lacking in standard dictionaries of people and places. In this regard, this "Guide to the Postclassical World" fills an essential niche not occupied by any other existing compendia. The attention it gives to the eastern world, and to integrating (as much as possible) the Roman and Sassanian/Islamic worlds into a single whole, also is to be welcomed. It makes a strong case for focusing upon the similarities, rather than the differences, between the eastern and western worlds.
And finally, it is, of course, unavoidable in a work of this magnitude that knowledgeable readers will find things that are "missing". That's the nature of the beast. But what this volume does contain makes it a true storehouse of material. Like the literary remains of Late Antiquity, it can be mined mercilessly for nuggets of useful information on a multitude of topics, and as such it provides a profusion of precious windows onto the fascinating world of Late Antiquity.