Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.06.01

Coarelli et al. on Richardson on Coarelli.   Response to 2003.03.30



Response by Filippo Coarelli, Emidio De Albentiis, Maria Paola Guidobaldi, Fabrizio Pesando, Antonio Varone

Professor Larry Richardson has spent not a little time and energy on reading and discussing our volume on Pompeii. He has been kind enough to publish his thoughts on our publication on the internet, thus obtaining the maximum diffusion possible. To reply to a review with another review is not normal academic practice: but the choice of this particular instrument of diffusion -- itself not traditional -- substantially changes the rules of the game (it is one thing to publish in a specialist journal, it is another thing to publish on the Internet where not every reader is necessarily an expert in the field). For this reason we have decided to reply in the same way.

We will focus on three points.

1) The English translation. We agree with all the criticisms regarding the translation: unfortunately, in current editorial procedures, the authors have very little say, and we were not given the opportunity to check the work of the translator (the same goes for the other editions, German, French, and Russian). Professor Richardson willingly admits that in these conditions the authors are not to blame; his doubts over which has served the reader worse "the authors or the translator" - could have easily been resolved by looking at the original Italian text. In fact it is this text alone that we feel able to guarantee.

2) The idea that with this volume the authors intended to replace the fundamental and classic volume of Mau is totally without sense. This was never the aim of this publication, which presents itself honestly for what it is, as Richardson has kindly pointed out 'essentially a coffee table book', in other words, a well illustrated book, and consequently costly; but not a 'scientific publication' and as a result without notes, full references and critical discussion. Therefore it is incorrect to attribute to the authors intentions which they never had, and then to complain that they have not fulfilled these intentions. For example, there is no sense in stating that "there is no account of the water supply, no discussion of style of masonry and building techniques and technology, no analysis of the Pompeian house and house types, no mention more than casual of furniture and tableware, and, most serious of all, no attempt to define, describe, or date more than roughly the various style of Pompeian decoration". It was never our aim to examine these arguments in detail, and the editor never requested us to do so. Also for practical reasons, in this case the relatively brief text requested by the publishers, such a discussion was simply not possible. However, as regards both the history of public and private buildings (problems of chronology, function of the rooms, decoration etc), and the numerous reconstructions carried out after 62, following seismic activity in the Vesuvian area, see the bibliography published at the end of the volume. The latter Richardson does not seem to take into account in his criticisms, which are almost always the consequence of his strictly personal interpretation of the evidence.

3) To define one of the authors and the editor of the publication, as 'essentially a novice', could appear somewhat inappropriate. Clearly this is not an insult, although the impression is that R. intended it as such, we see it more as an inaccuracy. Filippo Coarelli has edited two extensive guides to Pompeii, one of which is translated in German, and is the author of various articles on specific aspects of the town. These publications are not cited here, but can be easily found in current bibliographies. Furthermore, for over twenty years F. C. has taught university courses on Pompeii and currently directs a collaborative project, involving three other universities, on Regio VI which has stimulated a series of excavations. The preliminary results have substantially modified our knowledge of the urban history of Pompeii and were presented at the recent conference on the archaeology of Pompeii (Nov. 2002) organized by the British School at Rome and the Dutch Institute. The proceedings of the conference are now in press; see also the article on the excavations in Rivista di Studi Pompeiani 12-13, 2001-2. Later in his analysis, R. reproaches F.C. for ignoring or reinterpreting "the work of such serious and scrupulous Pompeianists as Paul Arthur and Maria Bonghi Iovino". Apart from the fact it is the right of any scholar to disagree with another scholars' ideas, it is doubtful that our friends Paul Arthur and Maria Bonghi Iovino -- whose work we greatly respect and appreciate -- can, on the basis of the restrictive criteria of R., be defined "Pompeianists". The fact remains that, novice or not, the validity of the research of any of us is measured exclusively on the results. For example: as everyone knows, R. has for many years studied Pompeii (on which he has also published a work of synthesis), and therefore is certainly not a novice. However, this alone is not sufficient to have a positive opinion of his work (as demonstrated by the formally courteous, but substantially devastating review of R's volume by Stefano de Caro, the Soprintendente of Campania, in the periodical Gnomon 62, 1990, 152-161). R., who is a man of culture, will doubtless recall the epigram of the Anthologia Palatina which, in synthesis, states: "it is not the beard which makes the philosopher, but the brain".

Joking apart, let us move on to the criticisms and firstly those concerning the history of the city. R. maintains that the participation of the old Pompeians in the Catiline conspiracy (Catilene in the English text, is clearly a printing error: similar perhaps to that of the reviewer, who calls Fondo Iazzino, the Fondo Iozzino) constitutes a "revisionist history for which it would be hard to find any substantial evidence". We do not know if Cicero, pro Sulla 60-62, who states precisely this, is to be considered "substantial evidence"; but along with all the other historians who have studied Pompeii, we think so.

Similar considerations can be made about another criticism: "On the same page we are told that Sulla occupied Pompeii in the Social War and that the colony sent there after the war was a military colony. To whom, should we ascribe such misstatements?". In reality, the text is not cited with precision. The original text reads (page 19): "In the course of the Social War (our italics)...Pompeii was occupied by Sulla...Finally, in 80 BC. after the end of the Civil War between Marius and Sulla, a military colony was founded there". Perhaps R. thinks that to define a veteran colony as military is incorrect? It is to be hoped that he is aware that the social war and the civil war are different events. However in the event that he does doubt this fact, he can find confirmation in the well known texts of Appian, b.c. 1.39, Orosius 5.18.22. We have not included the bibliographical references for the latter given that R., expert Pompeianist, can easily find it by himself.

Now let us come to some specific points.

1. R. accuses F.C. of accepting the theory of Altstadt of A. von Gerkan, which (according to R.) is now discredited. This requires a long discussion, which here is impossible. Let us just say that this opinion is shared by many eminent archaeologists, and that the recent excavations of Pirson and Dickmann presented in the conference cited above, confirm the validity of this theory, although the chronology needs some modification.

2. R. says, "At that time (sixth century BC) he (F.C.) believes the fortifications were of pappamonte tufa, although no remains of these survive in the area". The dating of this phase of the walls to the sixth century BC has been demonstrated without any possibility of doubt by the excavations of Stefano De Caro. Remains of these pappamonte walls have been discovered in several points to the north of Regio VI: Torre di Mercurio, Porta Vesuvio.

3. R. states, "The Forum was laid out with an axis focused on the summit of Vesuvius, which was regarded as the seat of Jupiter. But the ash cone that dominates the view today is of relatively recent formation...Vulcanologists tell us that it was Monte Somma that erupted in AD 79. Moreover, there is no evidence that suggests that Jupiter was so venerated in precolonial Pompeii; the patron divinity, so far as we know, was always Venus". Firstly, we do not believe that R. really meant that in ancient times Vesuvius was situated elsewhere. However the reconstruction of the original cone, following the line of Monte Somma, coincides more exactly with the axis of the Forum than the present day cone (cf F.C. in AION Arch, n.s. 7, 2000, 87-111). Secondly, regarding the relative antiquity of the cults of Jupiter and of Venus, the available evidence allows us to confirm exactly the contrary. The temple of Jupiter, in its first phase, dates to the second half of the 2nd century (as A. Maiuri has demonstrated). Whilst we have no information regarding the cult of Venus prior to the Sullan colony. On the other hand, Venus could not exist with this name in a Samnite city: one would expect Herentas or Mefitis; the latter divinity is documented at Pompeii by an Oscan inscription. Regarding this argument, allow us to suggest the article of F. C., Il culto di Mefitis in Campania e a Roma, in I culti della Campania antica, Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi in onore di Nazarena Valenza Mele, Napoli 1998, 185-190.

4. R. says "Not only do I know of no such stage architecture in any Greek theatre, but the evidence for the upper order is meagre and questionable". As regards the tribunal of the basilica, the exact phrase reads "the tribunal, with a stage-like façade inspired by Greek architectural models, consisting of two levels of columns, Corinthian below and Ionic above". This refers, as regards Greek models, to the colonnaded structures on two levels, which were not necessarily stage architecture, although in the Hellenistic period the latter had similar architectural structures (cf stoai of Pergamon, stoa of Attalos in Athens, etc; for stage architecture see the theatre of Tindari).

5. The interpretation of the function of the Edificio di Eumachia as a possible slave market is not the hypothesis of F.C., but that of an American scholar, Elizabeth Fentress (who presented her theory in a recent conference at the British School at Rome, the proceedings to be published shortly). However, one of us (F.C.) had arrived at the same conclusion independently, and certainly not on the basis of the Satyricon of Petronius. The argument is too complex to discuss here, so we must kindly ask R. to be patient until the publication of the conference proceedings. Clearly, this is only a hypothesis and one with which not everyone will be in agreement. However the following statement of R. that "the Romans were never good at the design of architecture of this sort", remains incomprehensible to us, and the situation is made even worse by the incongruous comparison with Trajans' Markets (for which no-one, and certainly not one of the authors of the volume, has suggested a possible use as a slave market).

6. The presence of the cult of Hercules in the Triangular Forum is based on evidence from various sources including the recent discovery of a bronze statuette of a fighting Hercules. As regards Minerva, the indication of the inscription eituns leaves no doubt. We would ask R. to take a look, not only at the publications of F. Pesando, but also at the article of F.C.: Il Foro Triangolare: decorazione e funzione, in Pompei, Scienza e società, Milano 2001, 97-107.

7. As regards the interpretation of the so-called Grande Palestra as the Campus of Pompeii there can be no doubt, following the series of studies on this argument by H. Devjiver and F. van Wonterghem.

In conclusion, it seems to us that if Prof. Richardson had controlled his animosity towards us, for this is the impression which comes through his review, he could have chosen his arguments with less haste and above all he would have been able to verify them. In his own interests, we would advise him to improve his knowledge of a complex subject which he clearly has not yet quite mastered.

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