Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.10.34

Ulrich Fellmeth, Peter Guyot, Holger Sonnabend, Historische Geographie der Alten Welt. Grundlagen, Erträge, Perspektiven. Festgabe für Eckart Olshausen aus Anlass seiner Emeritierung. Spudasmata, 114.   Hildesheim:  Olms, 2007.  Pp. ix, 406.  ISBN 978-3-487-13387-4.  €68.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Chris Eckerman, University of California, Los Angeles (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume contributes to the discipline of historical geography while honoring Eckart Olshausen, who taught ancient history at the University of Stuttgart for more than thirty years. The book, deriving its subject matter from Olshausen's long-term interest in historical geography, contains nineteen articles/notes of varying length. Overall, the wide range of contributions displays well the broad interdisciplinary study that is a hallmark of historical geography. The work is an un-thematic Festschrift covering a broad range of topics; accordingly, there is no overarching theme or aim for the volume.

Perhaps it is best to begin by asking: What is historical geography and how does Historische Geographie der Alten Welt contribute to the discipline? Judging from the contents of this book, historical geography includes: historical chronology; the study of ancient geographers and geographic lexica; human settlement patterns; spatial lexicography (i.e. toponyms); spatial studies (e.g. frontiers and the diffusion of material objects); geographic history; literary metaphors; medicinal herbs; biographies of modern scholars of geography; historical topography; cartography; and the publication and analysis of material goods. As the editors suggest in the foreword (p. viii), historical geography investigates the relationship between humans and their environment in particular socio-cultural, spatio-temporal contexts. After a brief foreword that praises Olshausen for his manifest contributions to historical geography,1 the contributions begin, alphabetized by author.

There were several contributions that stood out for me. I found Bianchetti and Billerbeck/Zubler's pieces engaging because they increased my appreciation for Eratosthenes and Stephanus of Byzantium as original thinkers. Bintliff's contribution, similarly, is a standout among the volume for readers who are not familiar with complexity theory. Daverio Rocchi's "state of the discipline" article on frontiers surely will become widely read and cited. I, furthermore, found Hempel's article on the herbs of Crete an attractive contribution to studies of humans and their biological environment. In Kloft, I found an author who had a knack for writing sparkling narrative on a fascinating theme: Gerhard Rohlfs, a nineteenth-century traveler and researcher of north Africa.

Three contributions address themes of frontiers and/or spatial diffusion. As mentioned above, Giovanna Daverio Rocchi, in "Quindici anni di studi sulle frontiere della Grecia antica: alcune prospettive della ricerca," provides an analytic overview ("state of the field") of contemporary scholarship on frontiers in antiquity. The work is particularly well annotated and will provide a valuable bibliography for future research. Pedro Barceló, in "Der Juthungeneinfall des Jahres 358: Plünderungszug oder Migrationsbewegung?," traces the known history of the Germanic Juthungi through the third, fourth, and fifth centuries AD. Barceló, furthermore, stresses that the Juthungi invasion of Raetia, frequently placed in 357, should be up-dated to 358. The sound argument is based on the structure of Ammianus Marcellinus' narrative, upon which the invasion is dated. The contribution also nicely problematizes the supposition that this invasion of Raetia could be considered either an invasion for booty or a migration movement. Domenico Musti, in "Lisippo adriatico," uses Lysippus of Sikyon's famed sculptural oeuvre as a barometer to measure the diffusion of Greek culture in the Adriatic and broader Greek world in the fouth century BC. Musti suggests that Lysippus' home on the Corinthian gulf was a great boon to his career, in addition to his sponsorship by Alexander the Great, since his works could easily be shipped out of the gulf of Corinth to various destinations.

There are two substantial contributions on Greek geographic texts. Serena Bianchetti, in "Frammenti di storici nella Geografia di Eratostene," examines the role of Alexander the Great's journeys and the way these factored into Eratosthenes' geographical system. Specifically, Bianchetti argues that Alexander's journeys allowed Eratosthenes to structure his geographic worldview in a manner, in several respects, antagonistic to Aristotle's. Margarethe Billerbeck and Christian Zubler, in "Stephanos von Byzanz als Vermittler antiker Kulturgeschichte," write on Stephanus' Ethnika, a geographical dictionary and reference work prescribing appropriate formations of ethnic nouns. After an introductory section providing a brief history of scholarship on Stephanus, Billerbeck and Zubler turn to consider Stephanus as an intellectual. Stephanus' meager extant fragments, as opposed to Hermolaus' epitome, suggest that Stephanus included regularly in his Ethnika substantial notes on cultural history. We should, therefore, not think of Stephanus as a mere compiler.

The volume contains several contributions to the study of historical topography. Angelos Chaniotis, in "Thynnara: Ein neuer karischer Ortsname," writes regarding a votive base (second c. AD) that preserves a dedication to Zeus Thynnaretes in Caria. The base was found near Aphrodisias in the winter of 2002. The epithet Thynnaretes, formed from a toponym, suggests that there must have been a Thynnara (otherwise unknown) in the region of Aphrodisias. As Chaniotis notes, the alternative would be to assume that this base came from Phrygian Synnara, also known as Thynnara. Erick Kettenhofen, in "Toponyme bei Lazar P'arpec'i," catalogs the toponyms of the history of Lazar P'arpec'i: an Armenian author who flourished c. 500 AD. A typical entry provides a description of the respective toponym (for example, Alowar as a "village"), its spatial position, and further secondary bibliography. The article contributes greater awareness to the historical topography of Armenian lands in the early Middle Ages; a helpful map locating the toponyms is included. Hans Lohmann, in "Wo lag das athenische Boudoron? Ein Beitrag zur Historischen Geographie der Insel Salamis," focuses on the historical topography of Boudoron, an Athenian stronghold on Salamis during the Peloponnesian war. Lohmann refutes the thesis of W. E. McLeod, who had placed Boudoron on the southern side of the Phaneromeni peninsula. Lohmann argues persuasively in favor of the earlier interpretation of F. G. Maier et al., who positioned Boudoron on the northwestern coast of the Phaneromeni peninsula. Lohmann also studies the remains of towers on Salamis and concludes that watchtowers could adequately signal from Boudoron to the town of Salamis. Karl Strobel, in "Beiträge zur historischen Geographie Zentralanatoliens," focuses on the Roman road system of central Anatolia. His important article derives from recent survey and historical-topographical research. He concentrates particularly on Roman roads in the vicinity of Tavium, Ekkobriga and Yeniyaki (near modern Yozgat, Kirikkale, and Ankara, respectively). In addition, he publishes a Roman milestone marker housed in the Yozgat Museum.

Regional studies also have a strong place within the volume. Gerhard Dobesch, in "Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula und Britannien," contributes a synthetic overview of Roman interaction with Britain from Caesar to Caligula, roughly from 55 BC to 40 AD. He bases his study primarily on contemporary Roman historians and poets and turns relatively infrequently to the evidence derived from material culture, leaving this to other specialists. Heinz E. Herzig, in "Alpes muri vice tuebantur Italiam: Das Bild der Alpen und ihrer Pässe in den römischen Quellen," develops the importance of the Alps as a geopolitical border for multiple Roman authors (e.g. Livy, Polybius) and suggests that Livy's description of Hannibal's invasion over the Alps was an important intertext for all later Roman literary representations of the Alps. He also addresses the several paths through the Alps mentioned by Roman authors. Our knowledge of the historical geography of the Alps is broadened thanks to Herzig considering the place of the Alps in the Roman imagination and experience. Heiki Solin, in "De Latii idea," addresses the spatial and ideational qualities of Latium. After a section on physical boundaries, Solin addresses representations of Latium in Roman literature and provides a historical overview. Solin thereafter turns to the physical geography and towns of Latium. It is curious to find Solin choosing to publish in Latin. Even the proud Oxford Classical Text series has begun to offer vernacular prefaces in place of the relatively elitist and inaccessible Latin. As scholars, should we not want our work to reach the broadest possible audience, including non-specialist scholars and students?

There are two articles on the Peutinger map. Richard Talbert, in "Konrad Miller, Roman Cartography, and the Lost Western End of the Peutinger Map," focuses on Konrad Miller's reconstruction of the westernmost end of the Peutinger Map. He points out that many of Miller's reconstructions for the lost west end are unlikely; he bases his claims particularly on comparative study with the extant remains of the map. Ekkehard Weber, in "Das 'Verkaufsinserat' der Tabula Peutingeriana aus dem Jahr 1715," provides an interesting cultural history of the so-called "notice-of-sale" that was placed in a Leipzig newspaper from 1715. The Peutinger map had been filed away in Peutinger's library, essentially forgotten for a century, until it was rediscovered in 1714.

The rest of the contributions do not group under any common theme. John Bintliff, in "Emergent Complexity in Settlement Systems and Urban Transformations," provides an introduction to chaos-complexity theory and uses three case studies (on Neolithic Thessaly, the classical Greek polis, and the Italian palazzi) to show how "an elaborate structure for human behavior at the community level comes into being" and, secondly, how "potentially destabilising elements within a structure in place can cause divergent trajectories in its long-term development" (p. 52). Bintliff's theoretical interests and case studies are highly engaging. I would have liked, however, to have seen more discussion of complexity theory integrated into the three case studies rather than front ended as an autonomous package; similarly, a general conclusion after the three case studies integrating the conclusions of the case studies and their relation to complexity theory would have been helpful.

Herbert Grassl, in "Älian und der König der Flüsse," writes on Aelian's metaphorical language, specifically his reference to (the) Danube as the king of rivers. He traces the metaphor's history in earlier Greek poetry and sketches its presence in Latin literature. Given Grassl's interest in the literary symbolism of rivers broadly and the Danube specifically, I was surprised to find no references to either Claudio Magris' famed Danubio (perhaps too obvious?) or to Prudence Jones' important Reading Rivers in Roman Literature and Culture (perhaps too new?).2

Ludwig Hempel, in "Kräutergärten in kretischen Hochgebirgen," describes the herbs of the phrygana of the Cretan mountains, outlining ancient authors' descriptions of them, their medicinal properties, and their continuing role in the lives of contemporary Cretans.

Hans Kloft, in "Der Bremer Afrikaforscher Gerhard Rohlfs--Materialien zur wissenschaftlichen Erschliessung Nordafrikas im 19. Jahrhundert," provides a brief overview of Gerhard Rohlfs, the nineteenth century scholar/voyager from Bremen who traveled to north Africa and is perhaps best known for his work "Von Tripolis nach Alexandrien" (Bremen 1871). Rohlfs' book was a synthesis focused on Greco-Roman ruins as well as the flora and fauna of these several "exotic" sites that were relatively unfamiliar to Europeans of his generation; Rohlfs' use of photography (with photographer Emil Salingré) brought knowledge of North Africa, relatively unknown at that time, to the German speaking public. In this informative and highly enjoyable contribution, Kloft contextualizes Rohlfs' ideological participation in (and sympathies with) the wider European colonial movement in Africa at the time.

Rainer Wiegels, in "Ein Reitergrabstein aus dem oberalsässischen Kembs (Haut-Rhin)," publishes the finds of a fragmentary equestrian gravestone, discovered in 1987, from Roman Cambete, a military station in what is now southern France. Seven limestone fragments remain of the ornately decorated stone. The remains preserve reliefs in two zones: a rider on horse in the lower zone and rosettes and acanthus in the upper. Wiegels dates the stone, based on stylistic detail, to the "Claudio-Neronian" age. This solid article does not have a clear link to historical geography; accordingly, it may have been better to publish it elsewhere.

Due to the large number of authors and subjects included in the volume, there is inevitable unevenness; for example, some of the contributions are argumentative, some historiographic, while others are notes or lists. Similarly, the length of the contributions varies widely. Since the volume does not address the topic of historical geography from any particular thematic perspective, the whole is not greater than its parts. Readers will most likely dip into this volume to read the individual article or note that interests them. The volume is well illustrated with black and white photographs and free of excessive typos.3 Indices would have been nice.


Foreword by the editors (pp. vii-ix)

1. Pedro Barceló, Der Juthungeneinfall des Jahres 358: Plünderungszug oder Migrationsbewegung? (pp. 1-9)

2. Serena Bianchetti, Frammenti di storici nella Geografia di Eratostene (pp. 11-26)

3. Margarethe Billerbeck and Christian Zubler, Stephanos von Byzanz als Vermittler antiker Kulturgeschichte (pp. 27-41)

4. John Bintliff, Emergent Complexity in Settlement Systems and Urban Transformations (pp. 43-82)

5. Angelos Chaniotis, Thynnara: Ein neuer karischer Ortsname (pp. 83-85)

6. Giovanna Daverio Rocchi, Quindici anni di studi sulle frontiere della Grecia antica: alcune prospettive della ricerca (pp. 87-105)

7. Gerhard Dobesch, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula und Britannien (pp. 107-163)

8. Herbert Grassl, Älian und der König der Flüsse (pp. 165-169)

9. Ludwig Hempel, Kräutergärten in kretischen Hochgebirgen vom Altertum bis zum Gegenwart--Eine biogeographische Skizze (pp. 171-181)

10. Heinz E. Herzig, Alpes mure vice tuebantur Italiam: Das Bild der Alpen und ihrer Pässe in den römischen Quellen (pp. 183-198)

11. Erich Kettenhofen, Toponyme bei Lazar P'arpec'i (pp. 199-225)

12. Hans Kloft, Der Bremer Afrikaforscher gerhard Rohlfs--Materialen zur wissenschaftlichen Erschliessung Nordafrikas im 19. Jahrhundert (pp. 227-248)

13. Hans Lohmann, Wo lag das athenische Phrourion Boudoron? Ein Beitrag zur Historischen Geographie der Insel Salamis (pp. 249-278)

14. Domenico Musti, Lisippo adriatico (pp. 279-284)

15. Heikki Solin, De Latii idea (pp. 285-308)

16. Karl Strobel, Beiträge zur historischen Geographie Zentralanatoliens (pp. 309-351)

17. Richard J. A. Talbert, Konrad Miller, Roman Cartography, and the Lost Western End of the Peutinger Map (pp. 353-366)

18. Ekkehard Weber, Das "Verkaufsinserat' der Tabula Peuteringeriana aus dem Jahr 1715--Ein kleiner Beitrag zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte (pp. 367-379)

19. Rainer Wiegels, Ein Reitergrabstein aus dem oberelsässischen Kembs (Haut-Rhin) (pp. 381-397)

Publications by Eckart Olshausen since 1990 (pp. 399-403)

Theses and Dissertations overseen by Eckart Olshausen (pp. 405-406).


1.   Olshausen is perhaps most widely known to scholars of historical geography for his Einführung in die Historische Geographie der Alten Welt (Darmstadt, 1991).
2.   Magris' Danubio (Milan, 1986); Jones' Reading Rivers in Roman Literature and Culture (Lanham, MD, 2005).
3.   The editors and/or the press should have mandated a specific notation style. The contributors use several different styles of footnoting/endnoting and, as a result, the volume as a whole does not look as cohesive as it would have if only one notation style were used throughout. Moreover, some of the contributors translate large swaths of Greek and Latin while others leave large passages of Greek and Latin un-translated; the volume is awkward for this reason too. For the sake of making the volume accessible to the widest group of readers (non-specialist scholars and students included), translations for rather long passages of Greek and Latin should have been provided. I noted the following typos: p. 12 paragraph improperly spaced; p. 19 paragraph improperly spaced; p. 26 l. 8 'dellle' for 'delle'; p. 35 l. 12 'kommun' for 'kommen'; p. 40 l. 12 misplaced comma; p. 50 l. 10 'produced' for 'produce'; p. 57 l. 16 'on' for 'of'; p. 60 paragraph improperly spaced; p. 62 l. 25 'Agrigrento' for 'Agrigento'; p. 84 l. 13 misplaced comma before 'ist'; p. 97 l. 10 misplaced period after 'libertà'; p. 111 l. 2 misplaced period before 'mag'; p. 172 l. 17 'bey' for 'bei'; p. 183 l. 9 following the author's practice elsewhere, the name Nissen should be in all capitals; p. 189 l. 15 'ab Galliam' for 'ab Gallia'; p. 196 l. 8 misplaced comma; p. 238 last line 'Untenehmen' for 'Unternehmen'; p. 279 l. 6 'l' espan-sione' for 'l' espansione'; p. 357 l. 1 'It is also' for 'It also'.

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