Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.06.36

Kathryn Lomas (ed.), Greek Identity in the Western Mediterranean. Mnemosyne, Suppl. 246.   Leiden:  Brill, 2004.  Pp. 504.  ISBN 90-04-1300-3.  €99.00.  

Contributors: Kathryn Lomas, David Ridgway, Jonathan Hall, Carla Antonaccio, Richard Jones and Jaume Buxeda i Garrigós, Michael Kerschner, John Boardman, Maurizio Harari, Vedia Izzet, Mario Torelli, Mario Rausch, John Barron, Alastair Small, Thomas Braun, Lorenzo Braccesi, Joseph C. Carter, David W. J. Gill, Javier de Hoz, Adolfo J. Domínguez, and Efrem Zambon

Reviewed by Michael M. Eisman, History, Temple University (
Word count: 3215 words

With the publication of T. J. Dunbabin, The Western Greeks, in 1948; Carl Roebuck, Ionian Trade and Colonization, 1959; and John Boardman, The Greeks Overseas, first edition 1964, the scholarly world had reason to believe that the general outlines and questions of the Greeks in the Western Mediterranean had basically been given a sound answer and that attention could be turned to other areas. As with many other areas of scholarly study, the last forty years have raised more questions than answers, and new avenues of thought barely possible to conceive of in those confident days have dominated publication. In the area of Greek identity in the Western Mediterranean, no one has done more to make this a reality than Brian B. Shefton, through his publications, his teaching and his mentoring of a generation of newer scholars. It is therefore fitting that we have the present publication of the papers given in honor of the 80th birthday of Shefton at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in July of 1999. Revised and updated they present a status report on the state of our knowledge at the beginning of the 21st century and mark out the road to be traveled in the future.

After a brief biography of Shefton and a selection of his bibliography, Lomas introduces the study with a statement of basic revisionist ideology and bibliography before placing each of the contributions into this framework. In this context she raises the question as to when Greek literary concepts of Greekness were formed and suggests that they are considerably later (5th century) than the events that established the nature of Greek identity in the west. As she notes, one of the major questions addressed was, "whether there are any significant differences between the heartland of the Greek world and the peripheral areas of Greek colonization in the ways in which a sense of Greek identity and ethnicity develops" (pp. 2-3). Lomas answers her own question: "Although it is doubtful that there is such a thing as a 'western Greek' identity, it is also clear that Greek identity in the western Mediterranean does have aspects to its development which differ from those of the mainland and Aegean Greeks" (p. 12). The essays that follow on the whole concentrate on elucidating the nature and development of western Greek identity but leave it to the reader to decide on how and to what extent they differ from mainland and Aegean Greeks.

As could be expected, the twenty essays range in scope and quality. With the exception of the first several essays and the recurring concern with Phocaea, there is very little overlap. We move from point to point and in the end such picture that is achieved is created by agglutination rather than developmental sequencing. The essays are divided into four sections: 1. Early Western Colonization, 2. Representations of Identity, 3. Regional Studies of Colonial Identity and 4. Greek Identity in the Hellenistic and Roman West. Of these the first is the most coherent, setting out the basic developments and approaches to this study. The second and third are rather diffuse, and there is no clear methodological and thematic distinction between the two sections. The fourth, concerned with two special cases of later history, is more of an appendix to the other studies. It should be noted that each essay has its own bibliography and that the seminal works noted at the beginning of this review are hardly used at all -- eloquent testimony to the state of our knowledge.

David Ridgway, "Euboeans and others along the Tyrrhenian Seaboard in the 8th century B.C.", begins with a discussion of the new chronology that accepts the results of R. Peroni1 and then moves to a review of scholarship, notably the rejection of Euboean presence advocated by Bernal and S. Morris. He then makes a convincing case for the presence of Euboeans and others in the area. As would be expected most of the evidence turns on the excavations of Pithekoussai. Most important in this work is the awareness of the high percentage of the pottery that is locally made. In the acropolis assemblage, which contain Euboean and Corinthian pots, the locally made imitations outnumber imported products by 80% to 3%.

Jonathan Hall, "How 'Greek' were the Early Western Greeks?", nicely complements Ridgway's article. Hall's treatment is primarily linguistic and challenges the concept of Hellenism in Sicily and Magna Grecia. The amount of bilingualism in the Greek texts of the area suggests a strong intermixture of peoples, including intermarriage. The old concepts of Hellenic purity cannot stand up to the evidence presented here. As a follow-up Hall notes that the standard definition of βάρβαροι is a fifth-century concept, which therefore has little to do with concepts of Hellenism in the earlier periods. All of this makes for a much more complex historical situation than previously assumed. As Hall notes, "the intensity, nature and perception of encounters between Greeks and non-Greeks almost certainly varied from area to area throughout the western Greek world" (p. 45).

The second section begins with Carla Antonaccio, "Siculo-Geometric and the Sikels: Ceramics and Identity in Eastern Sicily", addressing the problem of interpreting archaeological data in the absence of significant literary context. The Euthymedes Krater from Morgantina is her starting point for an examination of local wares and Greek pottery. Ethnic identity here is seen in anthropological terms of culture and cultural differentiations. When placed in context, the krater is part of a diverse set of imports that reflect a complex local culture. In the assemblage the Castulo Cup originally studied by Shefton2 presents, like the specialized Nikosthenic workshop products, an example of an Attic workshop producing specialized wares for overseas markets. Within the more sophisticated view of Sikel society in Morgantina, Antonaccio sees the Euthymides krater as a priceless heirloom. The study is valid for Morgantina but also has wide application for other sites.

Richard Jones and Jaume Buxeda i Garrigós, "The Identity of Early Greek Pottery in Italy and Spain: An Archaeometric Perspective", provide a succinct review and evaluation of the work done in instrumental techniques for pottery analysis. The authors clearly set out the techniques and their applications as well as the limitations of the studies. Rather than reaching significant conclusions this is more of a progress report and preliminary analysis. Even so, it clearly points to a major direction for all future pottery studies.

The question of Phocaea and its colonies is one of the themes that occurs in several contributions. Michael Kerschner, "Phokäische Thalassokratie oder Phantom-Phokäer? Die frühgriechischen Keramikfunde im Süden der Iberischen Halbinsel, aus der ägäischen Perspective", holds that technical analysis basically undercuts the literary evidence of Herodotus on the Phocaeans. Moreover, analysis of the finds in Phocaean colonies in the west and northwest Ionia puts the question of product domination in a new light. While there is no way in which the archaeological evidence supports the literary evidence, I would note that the two forms of information do not necessarily contradict each other. Figures 2 and 3, two different breakdowns of early Greek ceramic finds for Huelva (Phase II, i.e., 590/80 - 560), show a wide range of imported ceramic products. While the entire analysis clearly shows that local Phocaean pottery or Grey Ware is not the dominant pottery, it does not show who transported these and other imported wares to Huelva. Certainly the ceramic analysis is valid, but far-reaching conclusions based on it are probably premature given the strong case for Phocaean cohesiveness indicated by later contributions in this volume.

John Boardman contributes a pithy essay, "Copies of Pottery: By and for Whom?", which begins with the rather commonsense but often overlooked proposition that pottery workshops make pottery for people who like to use their products. Shape production, then follows user preference. With this guide Boardman discusses some specific examples of shape preference, which he shows follow ethnic lines. Preference for stemmed or unstemmed drinking bowls is just one indicator of ethnic usage that helps clarify relations between Greeks and non-Greeks overseas. Local copying of products raises interesting questions about for whom such copies are being made. While Boardman opts for products made for settlers from the area of the original vase productions (i.e., imitation Corinthian vases are made for Corinthians residing in the local area), I do not think that he has given enough consideration to the creation of demand that may come from seeing and trying "exotic" shapes by non-Greeks and then using them for short periods of time. Certainly more than any other product from antiquity that we have, ceramics shows human capriciousness in matters of fashion.

Maurizio Harari, "A Short History of Pygmies in Greece and Italy", ranges both chronologically and geographically over large parts of the ancient landscape. Heavily dependant on the Dasen article in LIMC,3 Harari selectively surveys representations of pygmies in Orientalizing through Hellenistic work both in Greece and the western Mediterranean. He suggests two different applications of pygmy iconography: 1) to "express with naive immediacy the xenophobic distress of the Greeks engaged in their colonial diaspora" (172) and 2) as a funerary image for departed children. The former is more central to the topic of the proceedings but the later represents an aspect of adaptation by non-Greeks of Greek imagery for their own uses. It is somewhat annoying that Harari gives only LIMC references for many of his examples, particularly attributed Attic vases, where Beazley references and museum numbers would have been helpful. The latter are given only when illustrated.4

Vedia Izzet, "Purloined Letters: The Aristonothos Inscription and Krater", provides a very skillful and clear analysis of one of the major Western Greek objects. Yet one cannot help but feel that this is just a bit too clever and skillful to be accurate. She sees hidden meanings in the inscriptions and in all the details of the painting. As with Boardman's comments on manufacture of vases I am inclined not to look too deeply into "hidden" analysis of objects designed primarily for use in a drinking party. Even the author (p. 202) has realized that the analysis has probably gone too far and taken on a life of its own. Shefton's own analysis is much more down to earth.5

Mario Torelli, "Un dono per gli dei: Kantharoi e Gigantomachie. A proposito di un Kantharos a figure nere da Gravisca", provides us with the publication of fragments of a kantharos found in the excavations of Gravisca. He surveys the fragments and their placement in the production of kantharoi which allows for dating (the findspot giving only a terminus ante quem). Comparison is made with Acropolis 2134, which is probably by the same hand as the Gravisca fragments. Beazley did not attribute the latter vase, but did note that it is in the company of the leading mid-sixth century black-figure artists. The dedication of Acropolis 2134 and the findspot of the fragments suggest that the Gravisca kantharos also is a dedication and a continuation of mainland Greek practices. In recent years there have been many "sociological" analyses of vases that tell us more about the author's proclivities than the vases. A solid well-grounded, dare I say, old-fashioned study like this is to be welcomed with the hope that more will follow.

Poseidonia (Paestum) is now one of the best-known "Greek" sites in Italy, and extensive excavations have dealt with the temples, later Roman occupation, and the painted tomb which is of course well known. Concerns about ethnic life have received less attention, but Mario Rausch, "Neben- und Miteinander in archaischer Zeit: die Beziehungen von Italikern und Etruskern zum griechischen Poseidonia", goes a long way toward rectifying this situation. Surveying relations between the Greeks, Etruscans and Lukanian (Italians) between the 7th and 5th centuries, Rausch shows the strong mixture of elements and the interculturation of the site. Rivers provide political borders between groups but peaceful intercourse maintained trade and the borrowing of cultural elements among these peoples. Given the complex nature of these relationships it is a useful guide for examining other sites in the area including earlier habitation at Pompeii, as well as Pontecagnano and Fratte.

John Barron, "Go West, Go Native", examines the connections of Samos with Etruria and the degree of influences that flowered in both directions. Barron creates a tight argument that uses epigraphic evidence from the fourth and third centuries with philological material to read back the connections of Douris of Samos, Kaios his son and Kaios' contemporary Leukios to Tarquinia and Tarquinios the son of Demaratos. Kaios and Leukios are related to the names Gaius and Lucius.6

Alastair Small's paper "Some Greek Inscriptions on Native Vases from South East Italy" is best read with John Boardman's contribution (above) clearly in mind. Small examines a Lukanian stamnos-krater with Greek inscriptions and associated material. While the stamnos-krater seems to be a native shape, certain Hellenic elements including Greek dipinti complicate the analysis. The presence of Attic and other Greek vases indicates that any simple answer is likely to underestimate the situation. It seems clear that here we are dealing with native adaptation and transformation of Greek social practices.

Thomas Braun's "Hecataeus' Knowledge of the Western Mediterranean" is a large, sprawling study that starts in a basically straightforward manner and quickly loses its way in a mass of detail, in which material from Hecataeus becomes almost secondary to a survey of naming Greek settlements throughout the Mediterranean starting in Iberia and working east and then south. Some of the North African material is Western Mediterranean only by courtesy. Maps are difficult to read and often not as helpful as they should have been. Two indices, I. Index of Hecataeus' Place Names Following Numeration in FGH1 and II. Alphabetical Index of Hecataeus' Place Names, which contains cross references to FGH, are likely to be the most useful part of this contribution. Braun begins by quoting Heraclitus of Ephesus, "Much learning does not teach sense, or it would have taught Hesiod, Pythagoras, Xenophanes and Hecataeus".

The third section of essays: Regional Studies of Colonial Identity, continues with what are supposed to be more compact and localized case studies. Most of these point to wider issues and have applications to other sites. Lorenzo Braccesi, "The Greeks on the Venetian Lagoon", explores the history of the Veneto area from Mycenaean times through to the Roman Empire. Central to this are the emporia of Adria and Spina, with consideration given to other points in the area such as Torcello. In this environment the interplay between Greeks, Etruscans and native populations was apparently peaceful, with mutual interchange and influence that benefited all parties.

Joseph Carter, "The Greek Identity at Metaponto", produces a similar analysis to that of Braccesi although the dominant imported pottery evidence reflects Ionian sources. Carter is also concerned with domestication and uses of animals as well as dwelling types. All of this allows Carter to make comparisons with David Ridgway's work on the western coast of Italy as well as the work at Olbia. In placing this study after Braccesi's work, the editor makes the connections with the Veneto. Over and over it becomes clear that "The Greeks, in short, were not bringing an advanced civilization to a cultural and economic backwater" (p. 386), a conclusion which more and more seems to apply on a wide scale.

David W.J. Gill, "Euesperides: Cyrenaica and its Contacts with the Greek World", surveys and summarizes what has surely been a troubled site both in antiquity and in its modern excavation history. The topic might better be described as Greeks under Siege. Euesperides was apparently relatively isolated, and while it shares features with Cyrene and Tocra, there is little more to say. As for the main theme of the other studies, there is an almost total lack of connection both geographically and in the complex experience that is represented by the other areas. A minor point, Gill refers to buildings by the grid designations from the excavations, yet these are missing from the plans that are reproduced.

The question of Greeks living in a non-Greek environment in the Iberian peninsula is the topic of Javier de Hoz, "The Greek Man in the Iberian Street: Non-colonial Greek Identity in Spain and Southern France." De Hoz uses epigraphical evidence, primarily seven Greek inscriptions including dipinti and coins, to build a picture of isolated Greeks living as metics. He notes that Greek was not the link language between Greeks and non-Greeks here, although the Ionic Greek alphabet was used to write the link Iberian language. The information is slender and de Hoz fills out the picture with comparative material from Italy.

Adolfo J. Domínguez, "Greek Identity in the Phocaean Colonies", clearly points up the complexities of the nature of Greek identity. Concentrating on the Phocaean colonies of Tartessos, Emporion and Massalia, Domínguez notes the commonality of these cities along with other Phocaean colonies in establishing emporia first and then maintaining good relations and intermarriage with the native population while at the same time maintaining Greek and specifically Phocaean identity. As noted, Massalia developed her own specific identity while still holding to Phocaean identity. Close relations with local non-Greeks are a hallmark of Phocaean colonization, and no separation between Greek and non-Greek can be discerned in city living arrangements. However, Emporion, the only place with extensive burials discovered, shows a marked division between the two groups in choice of cemeteries. Again it should be noted that this later argument depends on archaeological data and the illustrative material provided is inadequate to see the objects clearly.

The last section, "Greek Identity in the Hellenistic and Roman West" contains two articles that form an appendix to the previous studies. Efrem Zambon's essay, "Κατὰ δὲ Σικελίαν ἦσαν τύραννοι: Notes on Tyrannies in Sicily between the Death of Agathocles and the Coming of Pyrrhus (289-279 B.C.)", is a carefully argued discussion of Phintias of Akragras and Hiketas of Syracuse which suggests the different nature of the power and position that both men held. Phintias follows the model of Agathocles, but Hiketas, while usually portrayed as a typical tyrant, is really a limited military leader. This being said the article while interesting in itself does little to advance our understanding of Greek identity.

Kathryn Lomas, "Hellenism, Romanization and Cultural Identity in Massalia", returns our attention of the Phocaean colonies in a later time period. As she shows, the situation remains complex and a dual identity now of Greek and Roman persists. The Massaliots neither reject not completely accept Romanization. All of the evidence sends mixed signals, and this in itself points us to the earlier material. Mixed signals is the leitmotif of the entire book, and these studies will be a firm basis for the continued exploration of the question in the years to come.

Finally it should be noted that in a study in which so much depends on visual evidence, the quantity and quality of the illustrations is uniformly poor. For those who have been keeping themselves current with this material and have read most of the material referred to in the notes this will be only a minor annoyance, but those coming to the problem without extensive reading will find it necessary to spend hours with the illustrations and plates in referenced material in order to gain a clear understanding of the contributors' ideas.


1.   R. Peroni, Introduzione alla protostoria italiana, Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1994, 215, fig. 80.
2.   B.B. Shefton, "The Castulo Cup: an Attic Shape in black glaze of special significance in Sicily" in G. Rizza et al., I vasi attici ed altre ceramiche coeve in Sicilia, vol. 1, 1996, 85-98.
3.   V. Dasen, "Pygmaioi", LIMC 7 (1994) 594-601.
4.   For those interested, the appropriate numbers are given: LIMC 1 = ABV 76,1; LIMC 2 = ABV 83,4; LIMC 8 = ARV2 382,188; LIMC 11 = ARV2 967, 16; LIMC 16 = ARV2 1466; LIMC 20b = EVP 129, 4.
5.   Arias, Hirmer and Shefton, A Thousand Years of Greek Vase Painting, 1963, 174-175.
6.   Barron hints at a connection between Douris the red-figure vase painter and the Samian tyrant but wisely does not press it.

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