BMCR 2003.09.45

In Altum: Seventy-Five Years of Classical Studies in Newfoundland

Joyal, Mark., In altum : seventy-five years of classical studies in Newfoundland. St. John's, Newfoundland: Memorial University of Newfoundland, c2001. iii, 379 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.. ISBN 0889013519 $19.95.

The nineteen essays in this volume are in honour of the seventy-fifth birthday not of an individual, but of Canada’s easternmost Classics department. All of the contributors are past or present members of the Department of Classics at Memorial University of Newfoundland (= MUN). To honour a department may seem unusual, but to a Canadian Classicist it makes perfect sense. It is a celebration that a vibrant department has been able to endure the extreme difficulties felt by most Canadian Classics departments in the 1980s and 1990s.

The essays are divided into four groups. Part one comprises two essays on Classics at MUN. First is Mark Joyal’s history of the department, ‘Classics at Memorial, 1925-2000: A Brief History’ (3-38). Joyal provides a thorough and fascinating overview of the history of the department, and he provides background and a synopsis of the research of many of the members past and present of MUN, including the members whose papers appear in this volume.1 It also contains an interesting appendix on the teaching of ancient Greek in Newfoundland schools to 1924 (I write ‘interesting’ as this reviewer is a member of the generation after which Greek and Latin were offered in high school, whether as compulsory or elective subjects; those of us who had to wait until university to begin our study of Latin and Greek always looks back upon these earlier times as a Golden Age; see also 14-18 on the Greek and Latin curriculum at MUN). Joyal’s introduction makes fascinating reading as it charts the birth and growth of Classics at MUN (and the college in general, for it was an axial part of the institution in its early years).

One of the people mentioned by Joyal, J. L. A. Paton (see 4-5, nn. 7-8), receives closer attention in the second paper (39-54). H. H. Huxley provides an account of the career of Paton, a Classics teacher who came to Newfoundland before confederation and served as the first President of Memorial University College, as MUN was called in its early years. Part two contains eight essays on Greek and Roman history and historiography. Authors whose works survive only in fragments are the subjects of the first two papers. Iain Bruce examines a fragment of Philochoros ( FGrH 328 F 149a): ‘Philochoros on the King’s Peace’ (57-62). Bruce offers a compact and yet thorough discussion of the difficulties in understanding this fragment. This is followed by Frances Skoczylas Pownall’s paper on Demosthenes in Theopompus of Chios’ Philippica : ‘Theopompus’ View of Demosthenes’ (63-71). Pownall examines five surviving fragments of the Philippica (which come to us via Plutarch’s life of the orator) to determine to what extent Theopompus was hostile to Demosthenes. As Pownall notes, not all of the fragments are wholly negative; in fact, some of the fragments appear to be positive. Despite this Pownall argues that ‘Theopompus profoundly disapproved of him [sc. Demosthenes], and did so consistently’ (69-70).

Adrian Tronson moves us from Greeks to Romans with his intriguing paper on Caesar, ‘Pompey the Barbarian: Caesar’s Presentation of “The Other” in Bellum Civile 3′ (73-104). This paper makes an important contribution both to the understanding of Caesar as historian, and the concept of the ‘Other’. Using BC 3.96.1-2 as a starting point, Tronson examines carefully Caesar’s presentation of his enemy. Caesar figures Pompey and his supporters as non-Romans, which partially enables Caesar to justify his action against them. By doing this, Caesar engages with past historiographical practice on the presentation of foreign communities. This paper demonstrates how Caesar does this while at the same time building upon recent work on Caesar that has stressed the merits of his commentaries (see 74 n.2).

Bernard J. Kavanagh’s contribution, ‘Asiaticus, Seneca and Caligula’s Assassination’ (105-17), is an interesting examination of the life of D. Valerius Asiaticus and his possible role in the assassination of the third emperor. Asiaticus is a fascinating character: he began life in Gallia Narbonensis, ‘a descendant of barbarian chieftains’ (107), and by 39 CE had become an member of the extended imperial family through Caligula’s brief marriage to the sister of Asiaticus’ wife. Although Seneca is perhaps the most important source on Asiaticus, Kavanagh also investigates Asiaticus as presented in Tacitus, Josephus, Dio Cassius and Suetonius.

Nigel M. Kennell discusses the use of olive oil in the Greek gymnasium in the next paper, ‘Most Necessary for the Bodies of Men: Olive Oil and its By-products in the Later Greek Gymnasium’ (119-33). Kennell is building upon recent studies of olive oil production and consumption by David Mattingly and Marie-Claire Amouretti (see 120, nn. 5-6). he points out just how important olive oil was to the later Greek gymnasium, ‘the characteristic institution of the Hellenistic period’ (119), and provides a useful overview of how it was used. In the final section of his paper Kennell provides an interesting analysis of what ancient medical authors thought about its application (129-33).

Hélène Leclerc’s paper, ‘Prosopography and Social History: The Augustan Moneyers, the Position and the Consulship, the Family Background’ (135-76), although an initial exposition of her inquiry, is a detailed examination of the moneyers in the Augustan period. This paper serves an additional function in that it is a very useful introduction to prosopography (which Leclerc notes has since the 1980s been the subject of renewed interest) as it contains a thorough section on methodology and provides a substantial list of further reading in the footnotes (137-45).

This reviewer found especially interesting Jane Francis’ paper on ancient candles, ‘ Lumen et candela : The Candle in Ancient Greece and Italy’ (177-95). This paper in a way complements Nigel Kennell’s paper mentioned above, for both papers provide insight into subjects Classicists know are important, but have probably not examined in sufficient detail before now (in fact, Kennell notes [120] that Mattingly [see above] suggests that a town of 10,000 would need as much as 27,000 litres of oil per year for lighting lamps alone). We look forward to Francis’ forthcoming book on the subject.

The section on Greek and Roman history concludes with S. A. H. Kennell’s study of the springs at Aponus: ‘Aponus’ Admirers: Omens and Abdomens from Tiberius to Theodoric’ (197-216). She examines carefully the archaeological and literary evidence for this spring. The most important of these literary sources is the passage from the Pharsalia in which Lucan mentions the divinatory power of the spring (7.192ff).

Part three comprises seven essays on Greek and Latin literature. The section begins with a short paper by Odysseus Tsagarakis on the Odyssey, ‘The Intermezzo ( Odyssey 11.328-384) Revisited’ (219-24). This paper examines Odysseus’ pause in his story in books 9-12. This is an important passage, as it puts Odysseus in the position of a poet. Tsagarakis also notes comparisons between this episode and the other examples of poetic recitations in the epic (223-4). This is an interesting and compact paper, which perhaps should be read on the back of the Tsagarakis’ previous study of this book of the poem: Studies in Odyssey XI. Hermes. Einzelschriften 82 (Wiesbaden, 2000).

Ancient theatre is especially well represented in this volume. Euripides is the subject of two papers in this section. First, C. W. Marshall in his excellent paper tackles the question of the date of Euripides’ only surviving satyr play: ‘The Consequences of Dating the Cyclops‘ (225-41). This paper is an expansion of an idea published previously: ‘Literary awareness in Euripides and his audience’, in I. Worthington, ed., Voice into Text: Orality and Literacy in Ancient Greece (Leiden, 1996) 81-98. Marshall considers the date of the Cyclops by examining possible allusions to the Hecuba and Sophocles’ Philoctetes. The date of this satyr play has been much discussed by others, and Marshall provides further bibliography at 228 n.9. Marshall argues that the play could date as late as 409.

Rather enjoyable is Michael Parker’s contribution, ‘The Choruses of Euripides’ Bacchae‘ (243-71). While this is not a scholarly paper per se, it is a very welcome contribution to this volume. Parker provides his translation of the choral passages in Euripides’ Bacchae, which he prepared for a 1982 production for Theatre Newfoundland Labrador. He saw his task as a serious challenge: in his introductory remarks he states that his aim was ‘to combine the quantitative accent of the Greek verse with the stress-accent of the English’ (243). Moreover, Parker is a composer who also wrote music to accompany the choral passages (it is a shame that this has not been included).

The third and final paper on ancient theatre includes discussion of ancient Greek art. G. I. C. Robertson, ‘The “Choregoi” Vase: Aristotle, Aigisthos, and Aristophanes’ (273-87), discusses the possible connection between the “Choregoi” vase and a play, viz. Aristophanes’ Proagon. Those not familiar with the vase might wish to consult two analyses of it which appeared after Robertson’s paper was submitted: C. W. Dearden, ‘Plays for Export’, Phoenix 53 (1999) 222-48 and P. Wilson, The Athenian Institution of the Khoregia (Cambridge, 2000), at 259-62. Both works are discussed briefly in an appendix (287).

James L. Butrica covers Latin epic and elegiac poetry in his paper, ‘ Apollo Actius, Apollo Leucadius : A False Problem in Latin Poetry’ (289-311). Butrica considers the confusion between Actium and Leucate, and Actian and Leucadian Apollo in connection with Augustus’ victory at the battle of Actium. Butrica uses two passages from two central Augustan poets as his starting point: Vergil, Aeneid 3.274-80 and Propertius 3.11.69-72. This paper includes an appendix on Apollo Palatinus (310-11).

B. P. Reardon directs our attention to the ancient novel in his insightful paper, ‘Heliodorus’s Ethiopica : La Grande Illusion?’ (313-27). Reardon seeks to build upon important analyses of Heliodorus that have appeared in the last two decades (this work is summarised at the outset of the paper [313]).2 Reardon conveys effectively and concisely the intricacies and interpretive difficulties of Heliodorus’ novel, which he notes is like a jigsaw or a crossword puzzle (322).

The final essay of this section steps outside the traditional scope of Classical scholarship. A.-M. Lewis examines Elizabethan poetry in her paper, ‘Elizabethan Poetry and Politics: The Life and Works of the Latin Poet and Translator Nicholas Allen’ (329-39). This paper provides analysis of Allen who, Lewis notes, was ‘a mysterious (but heretofore unrecognized) poet who seems to have had a tantalizing role in the court intrigue of the Elizabethan period’ (329). Classicists should find Lewis’ analysis of Elizabethan court politics and poetry interesting as a point of comparison to Augustus and his court poets.

Part four wraps up this collection with two essays on ancient thought. First it is back to Mark Joyal: ‘Socrates, δαιμόνιος ἀνήρ : Some Textual and Interpretive Problems in Plato’ (343-57). Joyal, who specialises in textual studies of Plato, examines the notion of identifying Socrates as a ‘divinely inspired man’, beginning with what he believes is a textually suspect passage in the Apology (40a2-7). The collection concludes with a paper by John Whittaker, edited posthumously by the editor: ‘Second Thoughts on Numenius and Exodus 3.14’ (359-74). Whittaker examines the possible relationship between Plato and Moses as suggested by Numenius, who asks ‘what is Plato if not Moses atticizing?’ (this comment provided the title of Whittaker’s previous examination of this topic).3

The diverse range of papers contained in this volume means that this reviewer is confident that any Classicist will find something of interest. All of the papers are of high quality, and the more technical papers are presented in a way that makes them accessible to the non-specialised reader. The reader therefore has the opportunity to explore areas of Classical studies that fall outside his or her areas of specialisation.


1. Readers interested in the pre-confederation history of the university might wish to consult to M. MacLeod’s history of the early years of MUN, A Bridge Built Halfway: A History of Memorial University College, 1925-50 (Montréal and Kingston, 1990). A modified version of Joyal’s essay may be found the Classics department website at MUN.

2. In addition to Reardon’s bibliography, there is the important recent volume on Heliodorus edited by R. L. Hunter, Studies in Heliodorus ( PCPhS Supplementary Volume. No 21) (Cambridge, 1998).

3. ‘Moses Atticizing’, Phoenix 21 (1967) 196-201.