BMCR 2005.02.48

Votive im römischen Griechenland. Untersuchungen zur späthellenistischen und Kaiserzeitlichen Kunst- und Religionsgeschichte. Altertumswissenschafliches Kolloquium, 7

, Votive im römischen Griechenland : Untersuchungen zur späthellenistischen und kaiserzeitlichen Kunst- und Religionsgeschichte. Altertumswissenschaftliches Kolloquium, Bd. 7. Stuttgart: Steiner, 2003. xviii, 638 pages, 100 pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm.. ISBN 3515076883 €90.00.

In 638 pages and 100 plates, the author gives us a monumental, fine and scholarly study of a little-known and rather neglected chapter in Greek sculpture. In fact, in the 1970s, while literature on Greek sculpture flourished, it was thought very brave to venture into Hellenistic times, let alone the Imperial Age. Greek Imperial sculpture in Greece was very neglected, and votive reliefs were thought to have practically disappeared in Roman times. Günther Schörner’s fine book proves the contrary and provides us with two catalogues to meditate upon: a catalogue comprising 1240 documents of inscribed votive offerings of various kinds (statues of gods, portrait statues, reliefs, but also architectural fragments, marble ware…) (pp. 225-548), and a second catalogue of 100 votive reliefs, some of which have already been classified in catalogue I (pp. 549-578): votive reliefs, even uninscribed, are the only votive offerings that can immediately be recognized as such.

The subject of the author’s investigation is votive offerings in the province of Achaia (southern and central Greece, Akarnania, Aetolia, Thessaly and parts of southern Epirus) from the middle of the IInd century B.C. up to the IVth century A.D. As the catalogues show, dating the documents is a difficult and major problem. In many cases, the author is obliged to take in consideration the stylistic style of the inscription or of the representation (Introduction). A very useful section (Sprachliche Auswertung) studies the terminology of the dedications: family names, names of the offerings, occasions of dedications and their Greek terminology. This section can be very useful in the study of various fields of Greek Antiquity.

Various kinds of dedications are investigated by the author in a very thorough manner: reliefs, altars, marble ware, pinakes and stelae, statues of gods and portrait statues, as well as architectural fragments and buildings. The analysis of the votive reliefs is invaluable, as the author, after having presented the chronology, the terminology and the typology of these reliefs, studies the iconography of twenty-one divinities who appear on these reliefs. The author then studies votive statues. It is interesting to see which divinities were represented as statues. The major divinities appear both on reliefs and as statues. It would be presumptuous to complete such a rich material, studied in such an outstanding manner and of which the bibliography is so rich. I would nevertheless add to the votive reliefs a small fragment in Delphi, representing Hermes (?) and Apollo-Helios playing the cithara. The fragment, published in my Fouilles de Delphes IV, 6, 1977, pp. 40-41, no. 10, is difficult to date (Hellenistic period). It would have been interesting to add to the author’s list of gods Apollo-Helios, known in Imperial times, important in Stoic philosophy and of whom Plutarch speaks rather disapprovingly on several occasions (see my paper “Plutarque à Delphes” in Revue des Études Grecques 108, 1995, pp. 590-591). It is also regrettable, in so far as portraits and buildings are concerned, that the author was not able to consult Anne Jacquemin’s book on Offrandes monumentales à Delphes (BEFAR 304, 1999), as it gives us a very thorough study of votive offerings in one of the most important Greek sanctuaries and as G. S. does insist in his book on the importance of tradition in Greek offerings.

After this first analysis of the various kinds of dedications, the author gives us a detailed sociological study of the dedicators. He then studies the gods to whom the monuments were dedicated: they are the same gods as in Classical times and usually appear as local gods. Oriental cults or Imperial cult do not seem to have had a very great influence on these types of documents. Under Roman influence, some gods seem to have been less attractive (the god of war, Ares, for instance). The polis though keeps all its prestige.

The author’s analysis ends with three short but very rich chapters. He first considers (pp. 187-198) the change in the representation of gods and dedicators in Roman Greece versus Classical times. In a rather paradoxical manner, he is able to show that while ancient schemes survive, the representation of gods and men change in a subtle manner, thus creating a new form of art adapted to a new mentality. The chapter on archaism (pp. 199-209) is very interesting. Perhaps G.S. does not sufficiently emphasize that Greek art repeats itself and that local traditions were kept alive in sculptors’ workshops for very many years. Archaism can be found in the forms of the letters, in the dialect or language used, but mostly in iconography and style. I quite agree with G.S. when he shows that the origin of Neo-Attic art is religious. As is obvious from his book, many Neo-Attic figures have first been adopted on votive reliefs. But I do not agree with him when he adds (p. 202) that Neo-Attic figures do have a decorative meaning, when they are later adapted in certain media (candelabra, marble vases, etc.), especially in Rome. I take the opportunity here for repeating what I wrote some years ago (“Autour de quelques reliefs néo-attiques”, Revue des Études anciennes 95, 1993, pp. 235-244, fig. 1-7, pp. 245-246): as a whole, Neo-Attic art in the Roman world appears to have been not only a decorative art but an art inspired by an ideal, whether religious or not. My remark here is a digression, as G.S.’s book is not concerned with the essence of Neo-Attic art. Local religious traditions also favour archaism. I quite agree with G.S. when he emphasizes that classicism, especially in the IInd century A.D. did not only repeat classical schemes, but was a creative and original art. The third chapter on the nature of votive offerings in Roman Greece (pp. 211-224) is a sort of general conclusion. I will not give here a detailed account of the author’s broad remarks on this question. I quite agree when he distinguishes a feeble direct influence of Roman civilization on Greek votive offerings and a more pronounced indirect Roman influence on the same documents. I also agree with him when he emphasizes the influence of local religion and the strong survival of the Greek city: the polis does not question Roman authority but is rather a way of consolidating it, with the apparition of new élites, devoted to their city and to Rome.

The two catalogues which I have already briefly presented show the author’s extensive and thorough investigation. The descriptions are short and useful. The inscriptions are transcribed, which is very useful and agreeable. The bibliography is very rich. The catalogues are followed by very useful indices (pp. 579-622) which make this rather thick book easy to handle and to consult. There follows, on pp. 623-628, a series of diagrams: it is thus easy to visualize in a concrete and detailed manner a number of questions, which would otherwise have remained somewhat in the abstract. The photographic documentation (100 plates) is of fine quality.

This is an exciting new book on a much neglected problem. It has a very fine scholarly level, and I would recommend it to all those who are interested not only by sculpture and religious problems in Imperial Greece, but also to all those who wonder how Greece survived under Roman rule.