BMCR 2000.11.09

Offrandes monumentales à Delphes

, Offrandes monumentales à Delphes. Bibliothèque des écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome ; fasc. 304. Athens: Ecole française d'Athènes, 1999. xii, 434 pages : illustrations ; 30 cm.. ISBN 286958170X. 650 F.

This book is an enormously ambitious undertaking, a study of all the known monumental offerings from the sanctuary at Delphi. Jacquemin’s inclusive definition of a monumental offering, which extends to treasury buildings, honorary statues, and even uninscribed dedications, means that this study encompasses nearly every built structure at the site, as well as many offerings known only from literary testimonia. I agree with J.’s decision to include many different categories of monuments as offerings. Whether a monument is explicitly dedicated to a god, as she shows, has little to do with whether it was intended to be a dedication. J. rightly argues that each monument erected in the sanctuary had two things in common: first, it honored the god (at Delphi, almost always Apollo) by embellishing his sanctuary, and second, its monumentality conveyed a particular message to the other humans who saw it.

The author proves that she is remarkably well-equipped for this Herculean task. Time and time again, J. demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of the site’s physical remains and history and an incisive command of the scholarship concerning them. The careful reader can find thoughtful commentary about not only core issues surrounding the sanctuary but many tangential issues as well. Almost any question about Delphi is profitably addressed at some point in the book.

The challenge for the reader will be to find the information in which he is most interested. The material is organized in a way that breaks up discussions of individual offerings and types of offerings into separate sections in different chapters. The offerings differ greatly in many respects: in date, in type of offering, and in whether they are known from archaeological evidence or only mentioned in literary sources. Yet none of these differences is reflected in the organization of this study.

The study is not presented as a catalogue, although it contains a catalogue at the end of the text. Instead, J. presents chapters which explore different aspects of the offerings. After a first chapter on “l’espace delphique” that puts Delphi into its geopolitical context, J. presents the offerings according to her primary organizing principle, namely the geographic origin of the dedicant. Why geography should be a more important consideration than, for example, chronology is not clear. Because the book is a study of offerings at a particular site, I would have expected that the development of offerings through time would be highlighted by the organization of both the text and catalogue. Instead, both the second chapter and the catalogue are primarily organized by the geographic origin of the dedicants and further subdivided by whether the offerings are “public” or “private.” The second chapter does list offerings within geographic units chronologically, but the chronological order is abandoned in the catalogue. Thus monuments of quite different type and date can appear as consecutive catalogue entries. For example, No. 071, the famous statues of Kleobis and Biton mentioned by Herodotos, may or may not be identical to No. 072, a pair of archaic kouroi excavated at the sanctuary, but neither has any relation to No. 073, the honorary statue of a Pythian victor from the second century A.D. Thus three consecutive entries include one offering known only from a literary reference and two preserved monuments, one of which was dedicated in archaic times, the other more than 700 years later. It seems to me that the whole point of gathering this material is to observe differences in dedicatory behavior throughout the history of the sanctuary, something that the organization of the book does not easily allow.

The succeeding chapters each take up other aspects of the offerings. Thus the third chapter considers the various circumstances of dedication, the fourth chapter addresses the architectural form of the offerings, and the fifth chapter concerns the types of dedication in terms of both material and subject represented. Each of these chapters separates the offerings into specific subheadings, exhaustively categorizing them. While many prominent monuments are mentioned repeatedly, this organization makes it difficult to find one coherent discussion of a particular type of monument. For example, the most thorough discussion of the treasury buildings at the sanctuary is in the chapter on architecture under the subheading “les contenants clos.” Again chronology is not a central feature of the organization, and although J. certainly incorporates chronology in her discussions of particular subcategories, such as her treatment of treasury architecture, chronological observations are rarely stretched across subcategories.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter of the whole book considers secondary uses of offerings. Reuse of monuments is all too often dismissed as a symptom of the decline of Greece during the Roman period. J. demonstrates that the secondary use of monuments, although frequent in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, was quite common in all periods at Delphi, from the reinscription of dedications to the addition of related or unrelated inscriptions to the wholesale reuse of a monument in the dedication of another monument. She also points out that the prevalence of this secondary use suggests that it was considered acceptable by the authorities who oversaw the sanctuary. This is not a subject that has seen much study, and it would be interesting to compare material from other sanctuaries, such as Oropos, where rededication was fairly common.

The final section of the book is perhaps the most unexpected, consisting of three chapters concerned more with Delphi’s place in ancient and modern histories than with the monuments themselves. J. makes a strong argument throughout the book for the importance of Delphi as a place symbolic of Hellenic unity against barbarian invaders, first after the Persian war, and later after the Galatian attack. She also argues that the function of Delphi in the Roman period was less as a site of pilgrimage than as a “lieu de mémoire.” In presenting this picture of the sanctuary, she subscribes to the model of Greece in which the late Hellenistic and Roman period saw constant decline interrupted only by a brief renaissance in the second century A.D. A chronological organization would have revealed the evidence against this tendentious model of Roman Greece, for an enormous number of monuments are preserved from this period of “decline.” By my count about one quarter of the monuments listed in the catalogue date from the period of “decline” starting in the first century B.C. Moreover, this number represents an even greater percentage of the preserved monuments because many of the monuments from the Archaic and Classical periods are known only from literary sources, especially Pausanias, whose preference for monuments of great antiquity is well known. J. does stress several times the important point that the sanctuary flourished not only in the Classical period, but especially during the period of Aitolian domination in the third century B.C. and in the succeeding century.

The book is well produced and extremely well documented, with few typographical errors and a fairly complete index. An entire section of the index is reserved for the monuments listed alphabetically, but by type (e.g. “statue d’Apollon”) rather than by the name of an individual or city. A better solution would have been to include a reference to the relevant catalogue numbers in the index entry for each proper name mentioned in the text and to include the page numbers on which each catalogue entry is discussed in the text in the catalogue entry itself. The illustrations are reasonably well produced but are not well integrated with the text. The majority of them concern the geographical distribution of those who patronized Delphi and are only briefly discussed in the conclusion to chapter two. The two illustrations which accompany the chapter on architecture are confusing and seem to contradict rather than complement the scheme outlined in the text.

One frequent error which I must mention is the use of the abbreviations G. and Gn. for the Roman praenomina Gaius and Gnaeus. The convention is to use the regular Latin abbreviations for these names, C. and Cn. The author’s confusion on this point seems evident from her reference at one point to “Caius [sic] Caesar”(49, n. 94).

There is no question that Offrandes is a work of erudition destined to become an important resource for any scholar interested in sanctuaries in general or Delphi in particular. It is regrettable only that the volume is not arranged in such a way as to pay more immediate returns to such a scholar.