BMCR 2003.12.19

Andreia: Studies in Manliness and Courage in Classical Antiquity

, , Andreia : studies in manliness and courage in classical antiquity. Master and use copy. Digital master created according to Benchmark for Faithful Digital Reproductions of Monographs and Serials, Version 1. Digital Library Federation, December 2002.. Leiden: Brill, 2003. 1 online resource (359 pages) : illustrations.. ISBN 141750675X $100.00.

This is the collection of papers which resulted from the first Penn-Leiden colloquium on Ancient Values, held at the University of Leiden in June 2000.1 It represents far more than the average conference proceedings, however: the papers are clearly focussed on an interesting and important subject, which they cover effectively from a number of different perspectives, from epigraphy to philosophy, through various permutations of history, literature and visual culture. It is an excellent book which anyone interested in ancient masculinity will need to consult. It also provides a model of different ways of thinking about an ancient concept, which will prove extremely useful for encouraging students to situate language in its social, political and historical contexts.

This study underlines the fact that masculinity is not the undifferentiated norm from which women, slaves and others diverge, but rather that it too is a social construct, open to renegotiation and redefinition; it provides a valuable insight into Greek debates around what it is to be man, from Homer to the ‘Second Sophistic’.

If I have one small quibble, it is that Rome is under-represented (given Classical Antiquity in the title): Greek material from Homer to Plutarch dominates one article on Republican uirtus. Inevitable, perhaps, given the focus on the Greek concept of andreia, but the project could have profited from more comparison and contrast with the Roman concept of uirtus. Inevitably, some papers are more useful than others; in this review, I will give a brief summary and evaluation of each article individually.2

Ineke Sluiter and Ralph M. Rosen, ‘General introduction’.

The general introduction begins bravely with 9/11 as an example of the disputed nature of courage, and continues, in an apposite and stimulating manner, to examine Plato’s Laches in the light of recent theories of concept formation, making a pre-emptive strike against critics of semantic enquiry: this is not just a book about the word andreia but about the concept of manly courage, how it is used and talked about. The editors go on to discuss effectively the way Socrates is shown at various points to be aware of the tendentious nature of rhetoric.3 There follows a section on comic poets claiming andreia as part of their poetic self-presentation, looking at Aristophanes’ parabases, the Frogs, and, briefly touching on the Roman side with Juvenal’s first satire. Finally, the obligatory summary of articles to come is neatly dispatched.

Karen Bassi, ‘The semantics of manliness in Ancient Greece’.

Bassi’s is the most fundamental essay in this book and one of the most useful, going beyond the act of defining andreia into the way it is used in Thucydides, Homer, drama and philosophy. This is a sophisticated and complex piece, which sets up the discussions to come and will be invaluable in its own right as a pedagogical tool. Bassi argues that manliness is a bodily attribute in Homer and in later Greek discourse it nostalgically looks back to epic as the site of the only true manliness while using andreia to denote a lack of ‘real’ manliness. There are some problems of uneven transliteration and translation, symptomatic of the problems of discussing semantics in a way that is accessible to those with no knowledge of Greek, which by and large this article manages to do.

G.I.C. Robertson, ‘The andreia of Xenocles: Kouros, kallos and kleos‘.

This paper examines the connection between andreia and beauty. It marshals an interesting and wide-ranging collection of material (from the inscription about the kouros of Xenocles through Homer, Tyrtaeus, and Bacchylides, to Pindar) and argues that beauty was an important part of what it was to be a man, made visible by the kleos provided by poetic representation. In general, it might have benefited from further development.

Sarah E. Harrell, ‘Marvellous andreia : Politics, geography and ethnicity in Herodotus’ Histories‘.

This is the first paper in which gender surfaces, as Harrell explores the paradoxical andreia in Herodotus. Harrell argues that gender ambivalence, as displayed in the manly woman Artemisia and in womenly men (Telines) is characterised by ethnic ambiguity. Some of the arguments are not entirely convincing, in particular the parallels between the two examples. Ethnicity, however, is certainly important for a reading of andreia, but perhaps it is fairer to say that these two examples do not represent something typical of andreia, but something exceptional about these particular circumstances.

Ralph M. Rosen and Manfred Horstmanshoff, ‘The andreia of the Hippocratic physician and the problem of incurables’.

Rosen and Horstmanshoff discuss the metaphor of combat and the way that andreia is used of physicians. They well overcome the fundamental problem of the fact that andreia is not really used of physicians with an interesting examination of the ancient debate about the ethical position of the treatment of incurables, reading the Hippocratic De arte through Plato’s Laches, a text to which this collection repeatedly returns.

Adriaan Rademaker, ‘ “Most citizens are europroktoi now”: (Un)manliness in Aristophanes’.

In this tightly argued paper (perhaps too tightly), Rademaker explores Aristophanic representations of masculinity, taking as case-studies the argument between Right and Wrong in the Clouds and the representation of the Sausage-seller in Knights; he also brings in Aeschines’ Against Timarchus as a control. He shows convincingly that we can learn about the discourse of andreia from comedy.4

Joseph Roisman, ‘The rhetoric of courage in the Athenian orators’.

Roisman’s offering, which is condensed from a ‘more extensive paper’, looks at the way that cracks and grey areas in the understanding of andreia were used and represented by orators for their own ends. In particular, he explores the agonistic nature of courage, in which representing andreia is a zero-sum game, through the speeches of Demosthenes, who uses different rhetorics of andreia when opposing campaigns, and persuading the Athenians to go to war. The paper culminates with a section on Demosthenes’ Against Meidias.

Edward E. Cohen, ‘The high cost of andreia at Athens’.

Rather than tackling the concept of andreia itself, Cohen takes a wider look at gender structures in Athens and their economic impact. In a vividly (sometimes colloquially) written piece, he argues that because masculinity is incompatible with salaried employment, or even business ventures, women and slaves gained wealth and power at the expense of men.

Peter T. Struck, ‘The ordeal of the divine sign: Divination and manliness in Archaic and Classical Greece’.

Struck is concerned with the distinction between anthropos and aner, with relations between man and the divine. He looks at examples of the interpretation of oracles and argues that the good reader of signs is equivalent to the effective man; that reading the signs correctly is only one stage of the process; the leader must also convince people to accept his interpretation. He examines Sophocles Oedipus, Homer Iliad 2 and 12, Themistocles and the wooden wall in Herodotus. This is clearly argued and largely convincing but less focused on andreia as a concept.

Marguerite Deslauriers, ‘Aristotle on andreia, divine and sub-human virtues’.

Deslauriers develops a detailed interpretation of Aristotle’s conception of andreia, focusing on the definitions in the Nichomachean Ethics and the Politics. She argues that andreia in Aristotle is not about circumstances but motivations. Women and slaves on the one hand and gods on the other are excluded from andreia because they cannot act ‘for the sake of the noble’. This is a complex and sometimes confusing piece which concentrates on detailed philosophical argument.

Helen Cullyer, ‘Paradoxical andreia : Socratic echoes in Stoic ‘manly courage”.

The article by Cullyer continues the philosophical thread with an investigation of the Stoic conception of andreia. She suggests how Chrysippus resolves the paradox at the end of the Laches (in which andreia is identical to all virtue and yet has specific qualities of its own) and asks how this solution relates to wider heroic and Socratic conceptions of andreia, finishing with the paradox of Heracles, who would not have been andreios, if he had not happened to encounter monsters, because he was asleep. This is a good, clear discussion, well cross-referenced to other articles, and strongly focused on its main aim.

Myles McDonnell, ‘Roman men and Greek virtue’.

This is a very strong paper indeed and we should anticipate the publication of McDonnell’s forthcoming book ( Roman Manliness: Virtus and the Roman Republic) with enthusiasm. He looks into competing discourses of uirtus from the Roman Republic and suggests that the Greek concept of arete was influencing Roman uirtus through the large bilingual population of Latin and Greek speakers. Hence an ethical conception ( uirtus as virtue) was an alternative to the traditional and predominantly martial conception ( uirtus as courage). From a detailed examination of usage, and a discussion of the mechanics of bilingual transfer of concepts, McDonnell addresses the wider issue of how Roman elite ideas about what it was to be a man changed through contact with Greek culture.

Onno van Nijf, ‘Athletics, andreia and the askesis -culture in the Roman East’.

Van Nijf’s paper here slants his wider concerns with athletics and self-presentation in Greek culture under Rome to think about athletics and the construction of andreia.5 He argues, against Gleason’s emphasis on Sophistic paideia, that athletics remained the dominant arena for masculine self-presentation, basing his argument on the abundant epigraphic evidence. Texts which challenged athletic dominance in ‘making men’ were just that: challengers. He provocatively suggests that the ‘Second Sophistic’ should be renamed the ‘Second Athletics’. This is another excellent paper which fits a very large amount of material, epigraphic and visual, into a small space, alongside clearly expressed and convincing big ideas.

Joy Conolly, ‘Like the labours of Heracles: andreia and paideia in Greek culture under Rome’.

Conolly takes very much the opposite tack from van Nijf (although the two papers do not engage with each other as much as they might have done) and discusses the problems of the self-presentation of sophists who claimed to teach manhood but in the process left their own manhood open to challenge. There are interesting pointers towards comparison with modern anti-intellectualism, and this is a very theoretically aware paper (though it is not always clear exactly how quoting Derrida at this particular moment drives the argument along). Her main examples are drawn from Dio Chrysostom’s Kingship Orations. The version of the paper given at the conference was more pointedly focused on ‘the gender-trouble of sophistic elegance’ and the paradoxical use of Heracles as an exemplar of sophistic manliness. This version is now more wide-ranging and complex but has lost some of its force.

Jeremy McInerney, ‘Plutarch’s manly women’.

The final paper in the collection takes a close look at Plutarch’s Mulierum uirtutes, a fascinating text to which I was certainly glad to be introduced. He begins by examining the lack of fit between Plutarch’s philosophical and radical introduction, which suggests that men and women have the same virtues, and the actual collection of exempla which represents a highly conventional and gendered version of women’s andreia. Female virtue is enacted on the body or through concealment and trickery; it is connected to women’s sense of propriety and shame, or, when involving direct action, it becomes morally ambiguous. McInerney argues that Plutarch’s concern is not with redressing the gender imbalance but with preserving social order. He gives a brief tour of many different stories from the text and a clear and critical sense of how it works.


1. I very much enjoyed attending this event and would like to thank my hosts on that occasion. It is interesting to see the evolution of conference into publication. A second collection, Free Speech in Classical Antiquity, is forthcoming; a third conference on City and Countryside is planned for 2004. See call for papers on the APA website.

2. The book is edited and produced to a high standard with very few errors indeed, the main problem being an occasional unidiomatic moment in the English: e.g. p. 99 n. 9, for ‘him’ read ‘them’; p. 201 for ‘virtue’ read ‘virtues’; p. 116, for ‘the more straightforward’ read ‘a …’. There are four indices: of Greek words ( andreia, passim), Latin words (only five entries), a very full index locorum, and a rather thinner general index. Each chapter has its own bibliography and there is no general bibliography, which might have been useful given the tightly focussed nature of the collection.

3. The interesting comparison with the Nazi German redefinition of the word ‘fanatical’ is obscured by the lack of a translation for the German (given that all Latin and Greek is translated).

4. Rather coyly, ‘the radish treatment’ and ‘ europroktos‘ are never explained, which might lose the more general reader.

5. See his related articles: ‘Athletics, festivals and Greek identity in the Roman East’, PCPhS 45 (1999) 175-200; ‘Local heroes: athletics, festivals and elite self-fashioning in the Roman East’ in S. Goldhill (ed.) Being Greek under Rome. Cambridge 2001, 306-34.