The study of ancient religion and its archaeological manifestations is an important topic and one that is currently approached from many different aspects. The purpose of Genovese’s book, based on his dissertation at the University of Pisa, is to provide a thorough presentation of the evidence for rural (i.e. extra-urban) sanctuaries in Calabria within the setting of Magna Graecia.
After a brief introduction summarizing current scholarship on the topic of cities (poleis) and countryside (chora), documented with an extensive bibliography, the author presents the territory of four of the major Greek colonies in southern Italy, Sybaris/Thurii, Kroton, Lokroi, and Rhegion in separate chapters. Within each territory the author presents all the known archaeological evidence for sanctuaries, both architectural remains and objects. Each piece of evidence is described in the text, but rarely illustrated, with thorough bibliographical references provided in the footnotes.
The following four chapters focus on the historical interpretation of the ancient texts seen in conjunction with the archaeological documentation for Greek and indigenous sanctuaries (ch. V), the rise of the Italic peoples, in particular the Brettii, and their interaction with the Greeks (ch. VI), an evaluation of the cults and divinities at the rural sanctuaries discussed earlier (ch. VII), and a concluding chapter (ch. VIII). Throughout the discussion of the sites and objects, the focus is on the sites themselves and the objects rather than on the setting of these sanctuaries in a rural context. While the use of the term ‘rural’ as synonymous with ‘extra-urban’ provides a distinction between the cities and their territories, a more detailed discussion of the different types of extra-urban sanctuaries would have been useful and interesting.
This is a very learned book, and will no doubt become a useful research tool in most libraries. As is indicated in the title, the emphasis is on Greek Calabria, and although the author includes pre-Greek material, the many interesting general issues of continuity, interaction, and cultural influence are not developed beyond the presentation of indigenous material. Because of the very dense style of presentation, it is a book for an advanced student and not a beginner. The documentation for each item discussed is extremely thorough, but at times there is a repetition of statements which do not correspond with the text in the works quoted. So, for example, the author emphasizes several times that the sanctuary of Athena at Francavilla Marittima is Greek and not indigenous (e.g. pp. 137, 180), but a careful reading of the source he quotes as stating the contrary shows that his source focuses on the continuity of the sanctuary and the settlement from pre-Greek to Greek rather than indicating that the sanctuary of Athena was exclusively indigenous.
In spite of the extensive documentation of the material remains from the sites included in this book, there are some drawbacks in the form in which the topics are presented. First of all, the publisher should have guaranteed a much better presentation of the illustrations, in particular the maps, which are virtually illegible due to the small scale. Ideally, many more architectural remains and objects should have been illustrated since they are not likely to be known to scholars and students not directly connected with this material. Furthermore, the lack of an index makes it difficult to compare and analyze the different sanctuaries which are discussed throughout the chapters.