Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.01.02

Hervé Duchêne, Philippe Fraisse, Le paysage portuaire de la Délos antique: Recherches sur les installations maritimes commerciales et urbaines du littoral délien. Exploration archéologique de Délos fasc. XXXIX.   Athens and Paris:  (École française d'Athènes) de Boccard, 2001.  Pp. 192, 120 illustr.  ISBN 2-86958-162-9.  700 FF.  



Reviewed by Marietta Horster, Universitaet Rostock, Germany (marietta.horster@philfak.uni-rostock.de)
Word count: 1531 words

Ancient and modern authors often describe Delos as doublefaced: it had the famous sanctuary of Apollon and was an important trading place. This book will change some of the views on Delos, its trading capacities in archaic to hellenistic times, and its economic impact on the Aegean. The main part of the book is written by Hervè Duchêne, one of the chapters is written by Duchêne together with two geologists. Philippe Fraisse is not a co-writer but was member of the Duchêne-team on land and under water (2) documenting and drawing maps (doc.XXXV; pl.LXV 3; plans I-IX). Duchêne was responsible for investigations on the Delian coast in the late 1980s. He compared his results with his information thoroughly collected from the diaries of the never published and uncontinued excavations of, among others, Johannès Pâris, who died in World War I.

Duchêne's book consists of three parts: I. Des voyageurs aux archéologues (13-62); II. Archéologie du front de mer (63-126); III. Un paysage dans l'histoire (127-176). This review will not follow this order in all respects, though the books three-part organization will be its basis.

First, Duchêne presents all written sources on the Delian littoral, the Delian ports and its maritime trade. These are ancient authors (135-140) from the fifth century B.C. to the second century A.D., Herodot to Pausanias. Duchêne cites 35 eyewitnesses (i.e. travellers) from Aelius Aristides in the second century A.D. to Simone de Beauvoir in summer 1937 (13-29). Additionally, he provides some historical photographs (years 1904 to 1911) and drawings, for example three drawings of the "Port sacré" from 1810 by Ch.-R. Cockerell (pl. I B1; II A) and two inkdrawings of Th.C. D'Aligny painted in 1845 (pl. II B). Moreover, written information comes from inscriptions (141ff.) and the highly valuable excavation diaries which have not been published in full (44-47, and passim). The last mentioned group of texts is Duchêne's guide through the description and interpretation of the remains on the Delian littoral. The diaries, drawings and photographies of Pâris were kept in the École française d'Athènes along with the notes and pictures of his equipe and other archeologists of the early 20th century. Duchêne has chosen not only to cite Pâris extensively but also to reprint 21 of the pages of Pâris' diaries. This is, so to speak, the first edition of larger parts of the only extensive excavation of the port at an early stage and will become a starting point for further investigations and interpretations. But do not expect too much: Pâris is often enough our only source of information, but he can be very enigmatic and he is mistaken somestimes (114f.).

Second, Duchêne analyses the still-visible remains and compares them with the descriptions and documents of Pâris and others. The remains on the coast as well as the under-water investigations of Duchêne's team are documented with photographs (pl. passim) and some plans.

The author starts north of the Sacred Harbour with the "maison au flanc de la colline" (63-73), which had two storeys and was built in hellenistic times. Nothing hints at a use in connection with trade and business. Near to it is a cistern (72-80) that was decorated with a monumental facade at the end of the second or beginning of the first century B.C. The quarter north of the Sacred Harbour was not intended to fullfil economic functions primarily (80-85).

Duchêne then discusses the area of the Sacred Harbour (87-92). The circular construction 10m in diameter once called an exedra should be interpreted as another water reservoir or may be even a pharos. South of the harbour is an area with shops and store-buildings (95-106). The so-called "pointe des pilastres" buildings are similar to the horrea vinaria in Ostia and the horrea of Lycian Myra and Patara (106), though the latter are built about 300 years later, in Hadrianic times.

The next chapter (107-118) deals with the southern littoral of the Delian island. The quays have a width of 3.50m. Some irregular big stones functioned as bondells. The facades at the southern quays are of regular shape, as if they were built according to a concept (111f.). The existence of a sixth water basin of the port was claimed by Pâris, but it seems to be a phantom (113-115). Given that the southern mole was not as large and well-equipped as was conjectured at the beginning of the 20th century (115), the southern littoral has a certain link to commerce and trade but is not the large and homogenous ensemble sometimes postulated.

Afterwards, some aspects of the so-called harbour of Skardhana are discussed (119-123) without a final interpretation of its structures. This is due to Duchêne's often cautious and careful way of reasoning and not to negligence.

Substantial conclusions of the book result from the discussion of geological data (165-176). The quantity of the water of the Mediterranean has not varied in the last 7-8000 years. However, water level and coastal lines might have changed considerably for other reasons, for example tectonic phenomena. Duchêne's third chapter is coauthored by Rémi Dalongeville and Paul Bernier, both apparently geologists. Some of the ports' remains are now under water. Opposing the view of the geologists Duchêne convincingly argues that these walls originally had been built on land and not under water and that in antiquity the water level was at least 2m (perhaps even 2.50m) lower than nowadays. The presentation of an aerial photograph (pl. LXVI) helps one to visualize the line of the ancient waterfront on the east bank and its ports.

Third, on the basis of the archeological evidence compared with the few literary sources and many more inscriptions, Duchêne draws a prudent picture of the capacity of the ports, the turnover of commodities in Hellenistic times, and the design and function of the ports' quarters especially during the era of Delos' independence from 314-167 B.C. and the later period of the second and first centuries B.C.

There is a dilemma in attempting an assessment of the Delian maritime trade. Some ancient sources who give the impression that Delos was a major trading port in the Mediterranean. These are Strabo, 14.5.2 ("... for not only were the slaves easily captured, but the market, which was large and rich in property,..., I mean Delos, which could both admit and send away ten thousand slaves on the same day" [transl. Loeb]), Pausanias 3.23.2-4 ("Delos was then a Greek market, and seemed to offer security to traders on account of the god" [transl. Loeb]), and inscriptions, which for example mention grain donations by hellenistic kings. This view is challenged by the fact that there are not only the not very impressive port facilities but also the inscriptions mentioning the "Pentekoste". In the accounts of the Hieropoioi of the years 279, 278, 274, and 250 B.C., this tax is mentioned as a refund by the city to the treasure of Apollo's sanctuary. The reported sums of this 2 percent tax on imported and exported goods is very low compared to the figures mentioned for the island of Rhodes before and after it lost its status as a free-port (Pol. 30,31) and for Piraeus in the fourth century B.C. (Andoc., Myster. 133-144). As regards the taxes and revenues of port, city, and sanctuary, Duchêne is right in discussing predominantly the arguments brought forward by Claude Vial, Jacques Tréheux and Pierre Roussel. Surprisingly, Duchêne, who finished his manuscript in January 1998, obviously has not used Gary Reger's "Regionalism and Change in the Economy of Independent Delos" published in 1994. Reger could have given him some clues to the interpretation of the Delian inscriptions concerning the Pentecoste-tax. Reger examined mainly the accounts of the Hieropoioi, the administrators of the sanctuary of the Delian Apollo, and used (not always convincingly) statistical methods. Herve Duchêne's basis are the archeological remains and their interpretation compared with written evidence.

With different methods and objectives both authors come to the conclusion that Delian trade was primarily directed to the regional market: Delos and the Kyklades.

Hervé Duchêne has investigated carefully and made a meticulous presentation of ancient and modern sources. His book will be a reliable basis for all further investigations on the Delian ports and other trading facilities as essential conditions to Delian economy and trade.

Nevertheless, one can disagree on some points with Duchêne's interpretations and arguments. I will present only two critical remarks. One concerns the slave market at Delos. I agree with Duchêne and others that there is no proof that the Agora of the Italians was the slave-market (128f.). However, that there was no "installation spécifique" (129) for such a market is not a decisive argument. What kind of installations are we expected to find? Is there any identified slave-market with special (slave trade) facilities which could provide a parallel? Another unconvincing argument is the small number of known Delian slaves (129).

The other remark is: a good map of a certain size is lacking. The book would be even more useful if in addition to the rich illustrations, maps and photographs, a map naming all the port facilities and harbour quarters that are discussed had been included. But this does not diminish the value of Duchêne's study.

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