BMCR 1998.11.34

Response: Gabbert on Reger on Gabbert

Response to 1998.10.17

Response by

I don’t know why he assumed the book was intended “for a neophyte reader” and “aimed at the uninitiated reader.” (Notwithstanding that assumption, he regrets a weakness in detailed argumentation, something not associated with books for “neophytes”). Identifying one’s audience is often difficult, and I avoided any specific mention, but had in mind a multiple audience, from nothing more neophytic than advanced undergraduates (who had at least heard of Gonatas; otherwise they would be unlikely to read it) to scholars.

The appropriate venue for detailed argument has always been journal articles, it seems to me, and for that reason I confined most of the argumentation to footnotes with bibliographic citations. That part of the book is for the scholars. I cited articles, including my own, which contain the detailed arguments for my conclusions.

As a related matter, it was clearly not intended to imitate Tarn’s magisterial work. My admiration for Tarn is at least equal to anyone’s, but he used biography as a framework for a general hellenistic history. My attempt was specifically “to describe the life of an important person in history and the events associated with him. The focus is deliberately narrow; other works exist on the general history of the third century B.C. and there is no need to duplicate them.” (from the Preface). To compare my work with that of Tarn seems unwarranted.

I would like to thank Professor Reger for the copious listing of bibliography. I am aware of most of it (I did miss the article from CP in 1914), but the nature of the book publishing process, as is well known, often results in bibliography being not current by the time the book is published. My manuscript was finished in late 1995, although publication was not until 1997. I painfully remember learning of Habicht’s new book (1995) very shortly after the MS was out of my hands!

The criticism of my dating of the Chremonidean War (265/4 to 263/2) was not unexpected. I am aware that the communis opinio is 268/7 to 263/2. It was for that reason that I was so tentative about it (“if — and this is a big if…” note 43, p 77). I’ll be happy to change my opinion if the recent literature gives me reason to do so. I intend to readdress the issue. The fact is that so very little is known about that war, and the few “facts” we have are often ambiguous and subject to variable interpretation. A number of events or incidents are known. They fit reasonably well into a two or three year period (my shorter chronology) if that is justified, and at the time of writing (and now) I thought it was. If the evidence requires the longer seven-year chronology, then those events and incidents must have taken place within a seven-year period and we can all wonder what else was going on. Much else probably was. We shall probably continue to argue about it for a long time to come.

Most important, I must respond to being quoted out of context and made to look more foolish than I am. In connection with the presence of the Ptolemaic fleet during the war, I said that the “…value of a naval victory [,] was primarily psychological.” (p. 49) Professor Reger calls this “extraordinary” and “strange” and reminds us of other naval battles which clearly had a military significance, and were obviously much more than psychological. I could name more, so could anyone. And I could also name other naval battles or actions in human history which were also primarily of “psychological” value — the modern term is “showing the flag.” My remarks quoted in the review were at the end of a three page discussion on the particular circumstances for the fleet in that war. Everyone who has written on the subject has noted the apparent ineffectiveness of the Ptolemaic fleet, that it accomplished nothing and does not seem to have tried to accomplish anything. The question is WHY, and I suggested an answer.