BMCR 2001.06.14

Ideologie-Sport-Aussenseiter. Aktuelle Aspekte einer Beschäftigung mit der antiken Gesellschaft

, , Ideologie, Sport, Aussenseiter : aktuelle Aspekte einer Beschäftigung mit der antiken Gesellschaft. Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft. Sonderheft ; 108. Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck, 2000. 272 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.. ISBN 3851241975 560.00 Austrian Schillings.

This book arises from a symposium held in Innsbruck on 20th October 1998 in honour of Ingomar Weiler’s sixtieth birthday. Reviewers commonly complain that volumes of connected studies lack internal coherence: in this case the contributions cover topics which are very diverse but related to Weiler’s own wide-ranging researches. It was also an aim to tackle topics of significance to the modern world. The result is a book of variable quality, but including some stimulating work.

C. Ulf, “Einleitende Gedanken zur möglichen Aktualität der Antike”, pp. 9-25. As editor, Ulf begins by tackling the—admittedly not new—problem of the relation between the historian and the past, leading up to contemporary attitudes through the examples of Heeren (at the time of the French Revolution), Curtius (in the 1870s), and—as an awful warning of ideology’s possible constraints—Berve under National socialism. He emphasises that, if we are to avoid the dangers of an ideologically constraining use of the past, we must make clear the connection between modern interest in (parts of) the past and the past itself. There is however, he argues, no need to present a single set view of the past: parallel reconstructions of the past offer the possibility of defining more precisely the various links from antiquity to the present, and can lead to opportunities to understand contemporary problems better. In the light of these arguments he then reviews in turn the contributions to the volume, pointing out the clear relevance which some have to issues in the modern world.

P. Mauritsch, “Lüge oder Wahrheit—ein alltägliches Problem?”, pp. 29-50. In M.’s interesting paper the central concern is how characters in Homer can assess whether statements made to them are true (in the poem’s own terms: M. points out that the text provides other indications for the reader). The acuteness of the problem is stressed by the ease with which the gods’ lie to each other and to men. Mortal speakers can use various devices to claim truthfulness, and listeners use their judgment. M. notes that in the cases he has considered statements about the past are not verified.

R. Bichler, “Das Bild der Stadt bei den Griechen. Ein Essay.”, pp. 51-64. B. describes his paper explicitly as a contribution to discussion, and touches rapidly on a number of aspects of this huge topic.

G. Kipp, “Lebensschutz und Sexualpessimismus. Faktoren des Entstehens der frühchristlichen Abtreibungsethik.” pp. 65-108. K.’s illuminating and carefully nuanced argument is too complex to be summarised in all its subtlety here, but his central concern is to explore why, although in antiquity non-Christians did not generally condemn severely abortion and exposure, the early Christian church became strongly opposed to abortion, a stance that—as K. says—has affected modern Christian attitudes. K. argues that opposition to abortion is not found in the New Testament, and first appears in the early 2nd century AD. Even then for some time Christian opinion was probably not unanimous. Part of the argument was about whether, and if so when, the embryo was a person (Lebewesen) in its own right; but another powerful tendency saw abortion as associated with sexual immorality and therefore wrong from conception onwards. Even as opposition to abortion grew, however, some Christian thinkers accepted abortion if it was to save the mother’s life.

W. Decker, “Sport und Fest in Alten Ägypten.”, pp. 111-145. Drawing on the increased knowledge of sport in ancient Egypt gained in the last thirty years, D. points to combinations of elements of sport and festival to argue that there were occasional Egyptian sporting festivals. The evidence is limited, but D. presents good arguments that sporting events are occasionally attested as part of royal celebrations.

R. Rollinger, “Schwimmen und Nichtschwimmen im Alten Orient.” pp. 147-165. R. seeks to counter the view of von Soden that swimming was unknown in ancient Mesopotamia. He demonstrates from ancient images (presented in plates on pp. 160-165) and from texts that swimming is recorded, sometimes in military contexts and sometimes in agonal river-crossing ordeals.

I. Weiler, “Sport und Sportkritik in der Spätanike: Kaiser Iulian als kynischer Aussenseiter”, pp.167-184. W. notes critical comments about sport by Julian the Apostate, adding him to the list of ancient critics beginning with Homer, and then considers possible intellectual influences on Julian. After considering Christian attitudes because of Julian’s Christian upbringing, W. argues that, although Julian’s philosophical beliefs were not primarily Cynic, he shared the view of the Cynics on sport; in other words, he regarded sport as acceptable when practised for health but disliked public festivals of sport.

W. Petermandl, “Der verlachte Athlet. Überlegungen zu Sport und Humor im Altertum.” pp. 185-200. After some preliminary consideration of how humorous intent can be recognised in ancient texts, P. gathers examples of ancient jokes about sport and sportsmen and comes to the conclusion that the humour shown broadly respects established practices. P. shows that the topic is an interesting one, but does not here develop it in great depth.

D. Timpe, “Der Barbar als Nachbar.” pp. 203-230. In a very stimulating piece T. reviews in chronological sequence ancient attitudes to barbarians by Greeks and Romans, but draws out new significance from then. First, he sees attitudes evolving across time rather than as fixed. He argues that in the rare comments on barbarians in archaic Greek literature, the barbarian can be not simply an alien but a near neighbour who is closer to Greekness than more distant aliens. Then by the later fifth century BC there is the well-known Greek-barbarian polarisation, and that is used by Greeks, inter alia, to argue for koine eirene and to justify slavery. The concept of Hellenism as civilisation allowed the assimilation of Hellenised non-Greeks, so important in the Hellenistic period. For the Romans the polarisation civilisation/barbarism justified the promotion of Roman standards rather than multiculturalism and allowed the peoples on the periphery of the empire to be seen as neighbours who could be assimilated. T. is well aware of problems, e.g. in the often troubled relations between the Roman empire and its neighbours, and is forced to move rapidly to cover so much in less than thirty pages, but he has much to offer.

U. Sinn, “‘Strandgut’ am Kap Tainaron. Göttlicher Schutz für Randgruppen und Aussenseiter.” pp. 231-241. S. argues that cuttings in the rock beside the sanctuary of Poseidon on Cape Tainaron were intended for the erection of temporary accommodation for worshippers and refugees, rejecting earlier intepretations. He also argues that the failure of Sparta or any outside patron to develop the sanctuary as a focus for self-presentation is due to the marginal character of many worshippers frequenting the cult.

H. Grassl, “Zur materiellen Situation der arbeitenden Frauen im Altertum.” pp. 243-253. G. collects evidence from many different ancient societies and from many different periods to show that working women, whether slave or free, were expected or obliged to continue working during and after pregnancy, though there are some rare indications of more sympathetic treatment.

W. Schuller, “Frauen in der späten römischen Republik. Neues oder traditionelles Verhalten?”, pp. 255-261. S. reviews some well-known women of the first century BC who played a leading part in public affairs of the late Roman Republic, and then argues that their behaviour was not wholly new, since the much more limited evidence for the second century BC already shows some women in similar prominence. The brief paper barely offers scope to develop such a theme.

J. Ebert and P. Herrmann, “Eine neue historische Inschrift aus Milet.” pp. 265-272. At the Innsbruck symposium in October 1998 E. presented a paper on three non-joining epigraphic fragments from Miletos, only one of which had previously been published, and argued that all three belong to a single inscription in verse. He then offered a translation and interpretation. After his death the text of his paper could not be found, but only a drawing of the reconstruction with Greek text and translation. In the light of previous correspondence with E. and of papers provided by E.’s widow, H. has sought to reconstruct the arguments presented by E. The result is an inscription restored as seven lines of verse celebrating the setting up of a monument commemorating a military victory by Milesians. The lettering is fourth-century and the tone of the verse heathen; H. therefore follows E. in suggesting that the inscription was set up under Julian, though the military victory may have been earlier.