Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.03.23

Nicholas Sekunda (ed.), Corolla Cosmo Rodewald. Monograph Series Akanthina 2.   Gdansk:  Foundation for the Development of Gdansk University, 2007.  Pp. 192, pls. 4.  ISBN 978-83-7531-060-3.  $90.00.  

Reviewed by P. J. Rhodes, University of Durham
Word count: 1717 words

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

This is a collection of essays on topics in ancient history, mostly by former colleagues and pupils, in memory of Cosmo Alastair Rodewald (1915-2002).

Rodewald was not a typical modern academic. Rich enough not to need to jump through hoops, push himself forward and strive for promotion, he was committed to the subject and to doing a good job in his own way. He spent nearly all his career as an ancient historian in the University of Manchester (where, as is common in continental Europe but rare in the British Isles, ancient history belonged to the Department of History). He was (by all accounts: I never met him) an exceptionally conscientious teacher, devoted to his students and fair and firm with them; generous in hospitality to them and to colleagues; calm and efficient in administration, and finally elected chairman of his department (in that short era of democracy in British universities which has since given way to the era of management). For a long time he published nothing apart from reviews, but he did eventually produce two well-received books: Democracy: Ideas and Realities (1974: one of the first books to provide ancient history students with translated source texts) and Money in the Age of Tiberius (1976); sadly, failing eyesight made his retirement less productive than it might otherwise have been. He was also devoted to music and the visual arts, and his many benefactions reached into both those areas; they also included New College, Oxford, where he studied as an undergraduate, and the British School at Athens, where he was a student in 1938/9.

This volume in his memory was edited by Nicholas Sekunda, one of his Manchester pupils and now a professor at Gdansk. It opens with three chapters about Rodewald: a brief biography by Alastar Jackson (a Manchester colleague) and Sekunda; an account of his twenty-nine years at Manchester University by Jackson; and an account of his philanthropy by Victor Sayer (for many years his partner) and Sekunda. Then follow the academic chapters, which (as Rodewald himself did) span both Greece and Rome.

Antony Keen and Sekunda write on 'Xenophon the Rhetor'. That is the attribution in two of the four principal manuscripts of the Athenaion Politeia of the Old Oligarch, and Keen and Sekunda argue that behind it lurks not the Xenophon with whom we are famliar but an associate of Socrates who was captured after the battle of Delium and wrote in exile in Boeotia (similar views have been advanced by L. Rossetti, but Keen and Sekunda reached their conclusions independently, before Rossetti's work was published). I have a vested interest, and am not convinced,1 but this is a fascinating attempt to penetrate the obscurity of a frustratingly mysterious author.

David Whitehead discusses 'The Rein and the Spur', arguing that Plato shows much more interest than Isocrates in equine illustrations, and that the original version of the story is that Plato thought Aristotle needed the rein and Xenocrates the spur, not that Isocrates thought Theopompus needed the rein and Ephorus the spur. (He points out to me that on p. 40 the last sentence before the quotation from Suda should begin, 'P-X-A, in Diog. Laert. 4.6, ...'.)

Stephen Hodkinson provides a lengthy study of 'The Episode of Sphodrias as a Source for Spartan Social History'. Xenophon's view that Sphodrias was bribed by the Thebans to attack Athens is one of a long series of unsubstantiated allegations about the bribing of Spartans. The story is typical also in the important role in it of personal connections between Spartans and foreigners; and within Sparta Agesilaus' cultivation of family and friends was important, as was his relationship with his 'servants' (whatever their precise status). The story is significant also for its account of the young men's training system and the importance for Sphodrias' career of his outstanding performance while undergoing it; for the role of the homosexual relationship between Agesliaus' son Archidamus and Sphodrias' son Cleonymus and the relations between the young men and their fathers; and for Cleonymus' death at Leuctra as one of the élite body of (hoplite) hippeis.

John Graham (sadly, no longer alive when this book was published) looks at 'Plato's Anachronisms'. He insists (as he is not the first to do) that they cannot all be explained away. In the Republic, the Parmenides and elsewhere, it is never safe to argue from the putative date and the dramatis personae to actual historical chronology. Some of the anachronisms seem purely gratuitous, serving no detectable purpose, and Graham sees the anachronisms as hints that the dialogues are not vehicles of historical truth.

John Davies studies 'The Phokian Hierosylia at Delphi' in the mid fourth century. Diodorus' figure of 10,000 talents as the sum appropriated by the Phocians, he argues (particularly from the coinage), represents in fact an order to make double repayment of appropriations deemed to be 5,000 talents; the effect of the appropriations on the money supply of Greece, though significant locally, was less than that of the prolific coinage of Athens and Macedon in the third quarter of the century. The Phocians were not the only or the first Greeks to recycle temple treasures for the payment of mercenaries, and the availability of such payments may have helped to ease social tensions in the poorer parts of Greece.

With Simon Northwood we turn to Rome: 'Quintus Fabius Pictor: Was He an Annalist?' Northwood maintains that not only later but even in early Rome annales were not necessarily histories organised on an annual framework, and the fragments and testimonia do not make it certain that Fabius' history was thus organised; it is too simplistic to suppose that he must have avoided the annalistic form because that would not suit his defence of Rome against its detractors; Cato's attack (fr. 77 P) shows that Fabius used pontifical records but not necessarily that he presented an annalistic account. While accepting B. W. Frier's argument that the annales maximi were not published until the time of Augustus, he doubts T. P. Wiseman's view that there was no usable list of consuls in the time of Fabius and that annalistic history must have been a later creation. That Fabius wrote annalistically he considers not certain but still possible, and he does not wish to see an unbridgeable gulf between non-annalists and annalists.

John Briscoe addresses 'Polybius, Livy and the Disaster in the Macedonian Royal House' in 183-179, maintaining against S. Lanciotti that the differences between Livy XXXIX-XL and Polybius XXIII are due simply to Livy's omitting the secret conversation between Flamininus and Demetrius and the propulsion of Philip by the tyche which haunted him; there is no need to suppose that Livy was deliberately giving the whole story a different slant.

Anthony Birley writes on 'Sejanus: His Fall' (using the title of a play by Ben Jonson produced in 1603). The sources are hostile to Sejanus -- above all Tacitus, who represents him as conspiring against Tiberius. J. P. Pistner in 1880 thought him the innocent victim of defamation; and Syme in his Tacitus made that kind of view fashionable, judging that the only certain plot was that by Tiberius, though towards the end Sejanus may have planned a counter-stroke. Birley's suggestion is that Tiberius had intended Sejanus to succeed him; Sejanus married Livilla in summer 31; he needed to get rid of Caligula, and perhaps what turned Tiberius against him was that Caligula and Macro got the astrologer Thrasyllus to come up with a suitable prediction. Speculation which belongs 'rather to a historical novel', perhaps, but a reminder that here is a mystery which has not yet been successfully unravelled.

Paul Holder makes detailed 'Observations on the Inner Faces of Auxiliary Diplomas from the Reign of Antoninus Pius'. The inner texts came to be increasingly abbreviated, from c.143 omitting the unit list so that they were no longer legally valid accurate copies; at some points there were attempts at improvement, but the inner texts were still frequently unsatisfactory; although technically both outer and inner were needed to guarantee authenticity, in practice only the outer text seems to have mattered.

Robin Seager offers 'Notes on Ammianus Marcellinus XVIII', discussing problems in five passages.

Finally Nick Higham in 'Arthur, Joshua and the Israelites' takes us to a mediaeval Latin text, studying the Historia Brittonum of c. 829/30, and showing that it was not a mere compilation from earlier material but a work composed by a writer from south Wales seeking to please Merfyn of Gwynedd: the Britons were represented as God's people, and after the portrayal of St. Patrick as a second Moses an Arthur was constructed who had little basis in real history but was a second Joshua and also (Joshua and Jesus being the same name) a Christ-like figure.

Academically Cosmo Rodewald was not widely known outside Manchester; and books published in Poland are not prominently displayed in the bookshops of the anglophone world. But Rodewald deserved his tribute; and, while some chapters are more substantial than others, and some will have a wider appeal than others, this book contains material which is serious and worthy of scholars' attention: it should not be neglected.

Table of Contents

Alastar Jackson, Nicholas Sekunda, 'Cosmo Rodewald 1915-2002: A Brief Biography' (pp. 7-9)
Alastar Jackson, 'Cosmo Rodewald at Manchester University 1947-1976' (pp. 11-13) Genealogical table (p. 15)
Victor Sayer, Nicholas Sekunda, 'Cosmo Rodewald's Philanthropy' (pp. 17-23)
Antony Keen, Nicholas Sekunda, 'Xenophon the Rhetor' (pp. 25-38)
David Whitehead, 'The Rein and the Spur' (pp. 39-42)
Stephen Hodkinson, 'The Episode of Sphodrias as a Source for Spartan Social History' (pp. 43-65)
John Graham, 'Plato's Anachronisms' (pp. 67-74)
John Davies, 'The Phokian Hierosylia at Delphi: Quantities and Consequences' (pp. 75-96)
Simon Northwood, 'Qunitus Fabius Pictor: Was He an Annalist?' (pp. 97-114)
John Briscoe, 'Polybius, Livy and the Disaster in the Macedonian Royal House' (pp. 115-9)
Anthony Birley, 'Sejanus: His Fall' (pp. 121-50)
Paul Holder, 'Observations on the Inner Faces of Some Auxiliary Diplomas from the Reign of Antoninus Pius' (pp. 151-71)
Robin Seager, 'Notes on Ammianus Marcellinus XVIII' (pp. 173-7)
Nick Higham, 'Arthur, Joshua and the Israelites: History and Its Purposes in Early Ninth-Century North Wales' (pp. 179-92)


1.   See J. L. Marr and P. J. Rhodes, The 'Old Oligarch': The Constitution of the Athenians Attributed to Xenophon (Aris and Phillips Classical Texts. Oxford: Oxbow, 2008).

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