Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.10.33

Hadrien Bru, François Kirbihler, Stéphane Lebreton (ed.), L'Asie mineure dans l'Antiquité: Échanges, populations et territoires. Histoire.   Rennes:  Presses Universitaires des Rennes, 2009.  Pp. 483.  ISBN 9782753507760.  €24.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Maria Beatrice Bittarello, Rome, Italy (
Word count: 2664 words

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

The greatest merit of L'Asie mineure dans l'Antiquité: Échanges, populations et territories, a volume collecting the conference proceedings of the homonymous conference held in 2005 at the University of Tours, is that of opening new perspectives on old issues in the history, geography and archaeology of Asia Minor, either by adding new evidence, or by applying new methodological approaches. In this work of solid scholarship, all but one of the twenty-two essays are in French, as are the preface by Maurice Sartre, and the final evaluation of the conference by Pierre Debord.

In the preface, Sartre makes clear that one of the intentions of this volume is to introduce the way in which a new generation of (mostly French and British) scholars has started to interpret the history as well as ancient and modern representations of Anatolia. As the three editors, Hadrien Bru, François Kirbihler and Stéphane Lebreton outline in their concise introduction, an established historiography has long studied Anatolia as "an appendice marginal du continent asiatique" (p.7). As Mitchell's and Sartre's synthetic works on the history of Asia Minor have challenged such a view,1 this volume is to be framed in the same "esprit" (p. 7). Rather than examining Anatolia as a transitional region, therefore, the essays lie within the framework of a diachronic approach that ranges from the pre-Hittite phase to late antiquity, and use three main perspectives: communications, (diversity of) populations, and territories to sharpen the focus on Anatolia proper. The book is divided into four thematic sections that cover representations of Anatolian territories and communities; the control and management of territories; the relations of populations to the countryside, their communications and exchanges with the outside world; and cultural aspects.2

In a detailed analysis of literary sources, Stéphane Lebreton explores how Anatolia was perceived by the Ancients, and how the descriptive models of representation of Anatolia (for example as isthmos, or as marked by inner routes, whether North-South or East-West) varied and increased over time, in relation to Persian, Greek (and later Roman) interests. Lebreton concludes that the now dominant conception of Asia Minor as a transitional space, or 'bridge' between East and West, is a representational system that emerged only from the third to the beginning of the fifth century CE (p. 44).

Anna Heller focuses on the complex elaboration of collective identities (whether civic or familial) in Asia Minor. In inscriptions from Lycia, she identifies two parallel discourses, one ascribing great importance to the Hellenic origins of cities and families, the other giving value to Anatolian roots. In the genealogy of the Lycinnii of Oinoanda (around 210 CE.), the Roman identity also plays a central role aimed at establishing the superiority and elite status of this Lycian family. The paper illustrates an interesting 'non-exclusive', but rather cumulative and dialectic model of establishing collective identity.

The next article by Anca Dan proposes a new reading of the numerous classical literary sources on Sinope (some of which, like the Roman itineraries, are usually ignored), which grounds her discussion of ancient and modern representations of Sinope and its history. Dan's discussion highlights the fallacy of those readings that present Sinope as isolated from Anatolia and fully projected on the sea.

Henri-Louis Fernoux shows how cities in Asia Minor re-affirmed their control over their territories by various means, such as the strategic location of sanctuaries, and argues that cities maintained a remarkable degree of control over their frontiers. Fernoux challenges a dominant scholarly perspective by suggesting that the two forms of control exercised by Rome (frontiers and criminal jurisdiction) did not much limit the cities' control of frontiers, in part because Rome needed the cities' intervention for daily policing of the territory. Although some aspects of his reconstruction would need to be confirmed by further evidence, the author's thesis offers a far more balanced perspective on the issue than have previous interpretations.

Solange Biagi analyses in detail a group of inscribed boundary markers from the region of Pontus-Bithynia, some of them recently found, to determine if, and in what context, the cities' fines could appear on the miliarii. She suggests that this group of miliarii should be seen in the context of the maintenance of the most important route of the province of Pontus-Bithynia in the third century CE. Biagi suggests that the elliptic formula 'ad fines' does not refer to the cities' frontiers, but to "Le but... et le terminus jusqu'auquel la voie est construite ou refaite" (p. 173).

Séta Kilndjian studies the passages to Armenia on the mid-course of the Euphrates. Kilndjian interprets the high number of nearby bridges in a specific region (illustrated by pictures taken by the author in the course of a travel study), as 'lieux de passage' in a large and complex frontier system put in place progressively, probably from Claudius or Nero, and then by Vespasian to ensure the security of the region and to maintain the integrity of the imperial frontiers (p. 197). As Kilndjian suggests, perhaps the concept of limes needs rethinking; this essay is a good example of how an apparently minimal issue can shed light on wider ones such as the Roman geopolitical vision in the High Empire. Olivier Casabonne examines the Taurus as 'repère physique et mental' (p. 205), and highlights its two aspects as mountain barrier and route of communication from the Hittite to the Roman period.

The next article, by Cristiana Doni, is the only contribution in English of the volume and outlines the history of the Pisidians, especially before the expedition of Alexander the Great (p. 213). This fascinating essay describes the Pisidians as Luvian-speaking, independent warlike tribes of the Southern coast of Anatolia, with a good level of civilisation and organisation at a very early stage, and very receptive to external influences. The Pisidians emerge as very different from their portrayal in Greek sources as isolated and hostile brigands; rather, as Doni points out, their local traditions could survive "by means of internalising the new imported culture" (p. 220).

Éric Raimond examines the issue of the spatial limits of the Lycian country. By highlighting the correspondences between Greek myths and historical evidence, especially archaeological evidence, (p. 233), and by examining the pantheon of Lycian cults, he is able to propose a possible distinction between an imperialist foreign population, the Termiles and the Solymes, which was progressively pushed to the periphery of the Lycian country. Raimond's approach is of great interest, as is the analysis of the two religious domains he identifies in Lycian cults, which would have been worthy of a lengthier exposition.

The two authors of the next article, Hannelore Vanhaverbeke and Marc Waelkens belong to the Belgian team that is currently excavating the city of Sagalassos in the Taurus mountains as part of the Pisidia project. The question they ask is how could Sagalassos acquire the control of a relatively extended territory and then become a regional centre? The authors discuss the notion of territoriality, as space inhabited "et/ou utilisé de manière plus ou moins exclusive par un groupe humaine" (p. 245), and go on to test a series of models for the emergence of complex societies against the archaeological evidence they found in Sagalassos, and to propose a theory of the development of Sagalassos.

One of most enjoyable essays in the volume, in this reviewer's opinion, is Hadrien Bru's essay on the ethnic origin of the Roman colonists of Antioch in Pisidia. Previous studies pointed to a direct Italic origin; by using both literary (such as Titus Livius and Caesar) and epigraphic sources, Bru convincingly argues for an origin from Hispania Baetica, where colonies of veterans from Italy had been established in the II century BCE.

Alexis Porcher's contribution takes up the organization of the vast territory of Termessos (Pisidia) in the imperial age. Porcher examines certain findings from the localities of Ovacik, Kelbessos and Neapolis, to explore the organization, management, defence of territories, and political connections of Termessos. One of the most interesting results of Porcher's analysis is that the kind of administration of each zone derived and depended on ("découlait") from the nature and function of each economic zone; thus, Kelbessos an Neapolis were administrative centres with a religious and political life, whereas the same kind of organization cannot be found in Ovacik, although this was an important economic centre (p. 295).

In his paper, François Kirbihler outlines the evolution of the territory and population of Ephesus from the fifth century to the dramatic earthquake of 262 CE, and proposes a new and different method of calculation of the population of Ephesus. Even if Kirbihler's results are, as he repeatedly points out, far from definitive, and based on rather scant literary, epigraphic and archaeological data, most of which are of controversial interpretation, his approach is going to be of interest (and of use) for specialists working in this specific field.

Franck Prêteux re-examines the role of Parion, a city located on the Asiatic coast of the Hellespont, in the light of recent excavations by the University of Erzurum. Preteux reconstructs the history and progressive territorial expansion of Parion, highlighting how the city skilfully used different means to ensure its survival and prosperity, including a web of diplomatic and commercial relations.

Claude Barat's paper examines the relations of Sinope with the Black Sea (apparently limited to the connection with the city of Olbia), and with various 'Anatolian worlds'. Barat underlines the primary importance of the North-South axis in Anatolia in the classical age (the Sinope-Tarsus route), and argues that Sinope was not 'enclavée' en Anatolia because it had access to the Persian royal route, which arrived at Sardis, and to the East-West routes that developed in the Hellenistic age. Barat's analysis of the quantity of Sinopean coins in hoards found in various locations in Anatolia shows that Sinope was a sort of "poumon de l'Anatolia central" (p. 365), but did not have, for various reasons, important relations with the North-West and the South-West of Asia Minor.

René Lebrun focuses on the epigraphic discoveries that, in the past 30 years, have highlighted the survival in Lycia of the pre-Hellenic linguistic substrate (Luvian) until the imperial age. Lebrun points out examples of an impressive continuity, witnessed for example by the remarkable stability of toponyms, in various regions of Lycia, as well as religious and cult traditions some of which are pre- Hittite. Lebrun notes the resistance of the Lycian language in big cities, which is notable as these were near the sea, and thus exposed to foreign influences. Once again, the process of Hellenisation appears as a cultural negotiation rather than an oppressive cultural substitution.

In his well articulated contribution, Guy Labarre re-examines the issue of the origins of Men (the moon god), and of its success in the Anatolian area. Labarre challenges previous reconstructions of the origins of Men, analyses the key economic, political, and cultural aspects of Men's most important sanctuaries, and examines in detail the features of his cult (attested by a growing epigraphic corpus). Labarre argues that the centre of Men's cult was in southern Phrygia and central Pisidia, and demonstrates that Men's success was restricted to Anatolia; Men's cult outside Anatolia was only practised by slaves or merchants coming from this region.

Jean-Christophe Couvenhes notes that the description of the army of Mithridates as composed of barbarians and as parading its wealth found in Plutarch's Life of Lucullus is wholly based on a Sophistic literary image of the age. Plutarch's representational strategy skilfully combines historical reality, for example there were indeed Roman officers that trained some contingents of Mithridates' army according to the Roman model, and rhetorical construction, the Greek topos of the Eastern other as barbarian and luxury-loving. As Couvenhes demonstrates through close textual analysis and comparisons with other literary and historical texts such as Appian, Mithridates' army followed Hellenistic tradition and was based on the Macedonian phalanx.

Stephen Mitchell contests the theory put forward by Louis Robert on the issue of the cultivation of the olive tree in Anatolia. Mitchell points out that this was not necessarily linked to climatic reasons but rather to Greek culture as oil was used in one of the markers of Greek culture, the gymnasia. Mitchell, who uses sources not available to Robert, such as new bio-archaeological techniques (analysis of pollen), concludes that the presence of the olive-tree depended on Hellenisation, and was abandoned in the Byzantine age. Mitchell also uses this specific example to point out the possible fallacies of Robert's use of travellers' accounts to reconstruct ancient Anatolia's geography and history.

Although such short outlines can hardly account for the richness of the essays in this book, they highlight the great variety of approaches and perspectives represented in the volume. The high number of maps and illustrations, all in black and white, are extremely useful for understanding the geographical references in several papers; some of the pictures document the authors' travels in little known areas, and are, therefore, precious documents. There is a list of abbreviations (pp. 455-456), and an index divided into three parts: a geographical index of Asia Minor and neighboring territories, a geographical index of other regions, and an index of personal names.

This work addresses classicists;3 it offers a good panorama of recent trends in research on Asia Minor, especially of peripheral regions (cf. p. 8). The wealth of information, quality of articles, high number of illustrations, methodological innovations and rich bibliographies make this book essential to academic libraries, and a good addition to the personal libraries of specialists interested in the study of Asia Minor.

Table des matières

Hadrien Bru, François Kirbihler et Stéphane Lebreton: Avant-Propos 7

Maurice Sartre: Préface 9

Première partie: Penser et décrire l'Asie Mineure : les représentations des territoires et des communautés anatoliennes

Stéphane Lebreton: "Les moeurs des peuples, la géographie des régions, les opportunités des lieux." Comment les Anciens se représentaient-ils l'Asie Mineure du Ve siècle av. n.è. au IV e de n.è. ? 15

Anna Heller: Généalogies locales et construction des identités collectives en Asie Mineure 53

Anca Dan: Sinope, "capitale" pontique, dans la géographie antique 67

Deuxième partie: Gérer, contrôler et s'approprier un territoire : l'Asie Mineure à l'échelle régionale

Henri-Louis Fernoux: Frontières civiques et maîtrise du territoire : un enjeu pour la cité grecque sous le Haut-Empire (Ier-IIIe sie1cle apr. J.-C.) 135

Solange Biagi: L'Empire, les cités et la via publica. À propos de quelques milliaires bithyniens du IIIe siècle de n.è. 165

Séta Kilndjian: De Zeugma à Mélitène : quelques passages sur l'Euphrate, du Ier siècle av. J.-C. au IIe siècle apr. J.-C. 181

Olivier Casabonne: Brèves remarques à propos du Taurus cilicien, des Hittites aux Romains 205

Cristiana Doni: The Pisidians : from their Origin to their Western Expansion 213

Éric Raimond: Mythes, cultes et territoires en Lycie 229

Troisième partie: Territoires, populations et échanges à l'échelle de l'espace civique

Hannelore Vanhaverbeke et Marc Waelkens: La genèse d'un territoire. La cas de Sagalassos en Pisidie 243

Hadrien Bru: L'origine des colons romains d'Antioche de Pisidie 263

Alexis Porcher: Campagnes et habitats du territoire de Termessos (Pisidie): quelques repères pour l'époque impériale 289

François Kirbihler: Territoire civique et population d'Ephèse (Ve siècle av. J.-C.-IIIe siècle apr. J.-C.) 301

Franck Prêteux: Parion et son territoire à l'époque hellénistique : un exemple d'organisation de la chôra sur les rivages de la Propontide 335

Claire Barat: Sinope et ses relations avec la péninsule anatolienne: réseaux, échanges des biens et des hommes 351

Quatrième partie: Les identités culturelles, entre hellénisme et particularismes

René Lebrun: Les permanences culturelles louvites dans la Lycie hellénistique 379

Guy Labarre: Les origines et la diffusion du culte de Men 389

Jean-Christophe Couvenhes: L'armée de Mithridate VI Eupator d'après Plutarque,Vie de Lucullus, VII, 4-6 415

Stephen Mitchell: L'olive, Louis Robert et la répartition de la culture hellénique en Anatolie 439

Pierre Debord: Conclusions 447

Abréviations 455

Index géographique: Asie Mineure et territoires limitrophes 457

Index géographique hors Asie Mineure 469

Index des noms de personnes 474


1.   Stephen Mitchell, Anatolia, Land Men, and Gods in Asia Minor, 2 vol., Oxford, 1993; Maurice Sartre, L'Asie Mineure et l'Anatolie, d'Alexandre à Dioclétien (ive siècle av.J.-C./IIIe siècle apr. J.-C.), Paris 1995.
2.   In the index, the fourth part is mistakenly indicated as troisième, although on p. 377 there is the correct indication quatrième.
3.   As signalled also by the fact that the Greek alphabet is not transliterated.

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