Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.08.13

Christian Marek, Geschichte Kleinasiens in der Antike. Historische Bibliothek der Gerda Henkel Stiftung.   München:  Verlag C. H. Beck, 2010.  Pp. 941.  ISBN 9783406598531.  €44.00.  

Reviewed by M. Weiskopf (

Marek’s history, written with the assistance of his Hittite companion, Peter Frei, is aimed “einer interessierten Öffentlichkeit” of standard, modern historical works. Marek more closely defines his audience (p. 7) as “kulturhistorische interessierte Touristen”, the educated public interested in history, and “Fachmaenner” (each of whom will find a point of disagreement). Intelligently rejecting the tendency to theorize (which I have found to have polluted much English-language academic writing), he stayed close to the sources (p. 8) in hopes of presenting a “Gesamtdarstellung” (p. 24) worthy of the foundations laid by Louis Robert. In this, Marek , with Frei, has succeeded: there is much for the student (and specialist) and for the educated public.

In the initial chapters (pp. 17-72) Marek presents an excellent account of the geography of Anatolia (maps, pp. 34-35) and of investigations into Anatolia, personalizing modern scholars and emphasizing the important Turkish role in scientific archaeology since the 1920’s. Chapter Three (pp. 73 ff.), a discussion of Anatolia to 1700 B.C., continues along this line as Marek tries to evoke some sense of wonder in his readers and uses Assyrian merchants as a means of presenting Anatolia as an object of interest to foreigners. Frei is responsible for most of Chapter Four, "Spätbronze- und Eisenzeit" (pp. 99 ff.), which is written with the assumption that his readers can understand there are uncertainties in reconstructions--he refrains from any rash conclusions or proposals. Although the Hittites must seem the most alien to the general reader, Frei presents them as a unifying force in Anatolia, providing the language of diplomacy and the first historical writing (pp. 118-119). His account of Hittite culture is clear, and the Hittite impact will be noted by Marek later in the work (pp. 629 ff., 646). Frei notes recent archaeological advances (p. 128) and his expectation of continued scholarly disputes (p. 134). Post-Hittite states are more familiar to tourists, which Marek recognizes in his account of Lydia. Chronological problems are mentioned (and Marek expresses doubts where proper, pp. 154-157), illustrative anecdotes and humor (pp. 168, 191) are successfully introduced, modern parallels drawn (p. 173), and awaited research results foreshadowed (p. 176).

The next two chapters discuss the age of big empires (Persian, pp. 185 ff., Hellenistic, pp. 235 ff.), again periods somewhat more familiar to general readers. That group will be interested to learn how the archaeological and historical records support each other (e.g. p. 193 on the Didymaion and finds at Susa; continuity in cultural practice from antiquity to the present day, p. 197 and Abb. 31a). Modern medical journals (p. 700 n. 7) are cited to prove the persistence of Xenophon’s “poison honey” (pp. 198-199) into the 1990’s. The Hellenistic age was the age of the polis and royal city building (pp. 249 ff.). Followers of royal goings-on will be amused by the Seleucid and Attalid stemmata (pp. 260, 270)--parallel to those found for royals last century. Major events (and gossip, pp. 294-393) in and continuities between the two realms are reported. New epigraphical evidence is often cited (e.g. p. 250, 293, 321), while anecdotes (e.g. p. 265, 384 ff.) and humor (p. 296, 372, and 381, which wins the crown) lighten the account. For the early period of Roman rule (no exemplar of good government) Marek begins to enter his areas of specialization. He presents a detailed and understandable account of Anatolia during the time of Mithridates Eupator (esp. pp. 341 ff.), including the first explanation I recall reading about the origin of the (modern) term “Ephesian Vespers” (p. 711 n. 155). The more general audience will be interested in noting Mithridates’ Nachleben in music (Mozart) and stage (Racine). The plot summary for the latter (p. 364) might inspire some to read Racine’s play since they now know the historical background.

Chapters Seven ("Imperium Romanum: Die Provinzen von Augustus bis Aurelian", pp. 389 ff.) and Eight ("Kleinasien und Imperiale Administration unter dem Prinzipat", pp. 447 ff.) have Marek at his best. He provides a good introduction to the literary and archaeological evidence (pp. 391-396), and takes time to cite the texts of a number of inscriptions (e.g. p. 398, the oath of loyalty to Augustus). Sometimes there is a little too much detail for the non-student, e.g. pp. 401 ff. on provincial boundaries, and other times too little (the color maps following p. 464 offer precision on boundaries but fail to indicate the locations of many cities mentioned in the text or the locations of the client kingdoms). Marek’s account of the Roman governor and personnel will appeal to the general reader (e.g. p. 457: “eine erstaunlich duenne Personaldeck”--as was the case in the Raj and Deutsch Ostafrika), as will the account of the Roman infrastructure (map p. 468), a model built upon by modern Turkey (p. 463). Tourist and taxpayer may be “amused” by the account of customs duties (map p. 483) and taxation (p. 482 for recent discoveries, p. 724 n. 81 for future publications of interest to the specialist).

The final major chapter (pp. 491 ff., pp. 679-682 is a short epilog) presents cultural issues in the provinces of the Roman empire. Marek provides an excellent sketch of a society in which the lines between citizens and non-citizens and rich and poor were often blurred. Tourists will appreciate the discussion of monumental architecture (pp. 542-555) and perhaps the comparison between ‘tipping’ and being responsible for a liturgy on p. 535. Modern sports find their ancestors in city rivalries, famous athletes, and extremely costly games (p. 579, 598, 614 ff.). Marek also makes sense of the difficult-to-unravel threads of the variety of religious traditions. In religion, sports, and philosophy Lucian is cited by Marek as a keen observer of imperial times. His Alexandros sets up a picture of a false oracle embodied by the sock-puppet-like talking snake, Glykon (pp. 641 ff. with illustrations). Fans of gladiator movies will find Lucian of interest as well (pp. 623-624). And all one needs to know about philosophy and rhetoric in order to feel educated is presented in his Symposion (pp. 601 ff.). Pages 650 ff. offer an excellent account of early Christianity (note the discussion of heresy begins on p. 666). Marek highlights the importance of Ephesus, Cappadocia, and Armenia for the early church. All readers will find valuable the discussion of the Pliny-Trajan correspondence (pp. 660ff.). Also of interest is Marek’s argument that the historical kernel of the martyrdom of Ariadne might be found in epigraphical evidence (p. 664).

The bibliography (pp. 750-782; pp. 743-744 for abbreviations) enumerates 642 items, arranged by topic, and, within topic, by chronology. While I am uncertain how many of these works will be sought out by the more general readers, they, at least, will have visible evidence that modern historical and archaeological inquiry has roots in the Kaiserreich (i.e. the two Wilhelms). For students, the bibliography forms the basis for a reading list in modern European languages. Of particular value will be the listing of major journals on Anatolia and inscription collections, non-Greek and Greek (cf. pp. 782-799 for list of cited souces). Many of the 642 will appear (with their numeric abbreviation) as pointers in the body of the text and in the footnotes. These footnotes (pp. 685-742) are directed to more than the educated public because they encompass many references not among the 642, and thus of interest primarily to the specialist (and student). Two forms of chronological tables are presented: a “Zeittafel” arranged by historical period, of greater interest to the general reader, and “Herrscherlisten”, which will be consulted foremost by students and specialists (pp. 799-862). Marek presents the second set of lists as based upon the most recent standard historical and epigraphical work. Those interested in the New Testament and early Christianity will find the Roman imperial governors list of great value (pp. 822-862).

In sum, I appreciate his citation of Robert (p. 72) encouraging all to break out of their narrow field, follow the evidence, and perform their own synthesis: excellent words of encouragement to Marek’s more general audience. But I must point to a shortcoming: While few of the general public will seek out inscription collections, the overall lack of any references to readily available modern (German) translations of literary works is sorely felt. Lucian and the novels set in Anatolia (Chariton’s, Xenophon’s) are the types of works which will appeal to the general public and students, who will find them excellent complements to Marek’s narrative. Few will be so easily amused as I to read Marek cover to cover, but there is much in his work for a broad spectrum of readers to find of value.

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