BMCR 2005.06.28

Gli stati territoriali nel mondo antico. Contributi di storia antica, 1

, , , Gli Stati territoriali nel mondo antico. Contributi di storia antica ; 1. Milano: V & P università, 2003. viii, 355 pages ; 22 cm.. ISBN 8834310039. €28.00.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

With this book the well-known Italian academic publisher ‘Vita e Pensiero’ and the Department of Historical Studies at the Catholic University of Milan open a new series of studies in Ancient History. A new series is always a bit of an enigma. However, it was the name only that changed. The new series of “Contributi do storia antica” continues a 30-year tradition of “Contributi dell’Istituto di Storia antica” and in most respects resembles the earlier 28 volumes published as CISA in both internal structure of the volume and choice of the particular fields of interest.

This book, therefore, is a collection of studies centered on a particular theme, the territorial state of antiquity. The subject is an extremely important one, and this choice means a reappraisal of the questions so dear to the CISA editor, Marta Sordi. The targeted audience of the book can be easily defined as a narrow circle of specialist colleagues. It cannot surprise, since the book grew from the seminar papers by Milanese scholars and invited guests representing a few other Italian universities. Although studies forming a collection almost never can be of equal importance and value, one must state that the present book achieved a high degree of coherence. I will not attempt to review every contribution: some of them have nothing or little to do with the Classical world. Therefore, I single out those to which a classicist can be especially attracted.

The book is divided into two sections of nearly equal size. There is no general introduction that would explain the basic principles of the project. Without such an introduction particular papers are hardly accessible to an unprepared reader, and the short preface (“Presentazione”) cannot replace a more detailed opening. A provisional definition of a territorial state according to the editors would have been valuable for every reader. Such an introduction could also explain inclusion of some chapters in the book.

The first part (Pensiero politico e sovranità territoriale — Political thought and territorial sovereignty) includes seven papers. One can note an attempt to cover non-Classical antiquity as well, but six contributions deal with the Classical World.

The only pre-Classical contribution, by Clelia Mora (3-19), investigates the Hittite Empire.

The main part of this section consists of four Hellenistic chapters (Cinzia Bearzot, Paolo Tucci, Marcello Bertolli, Emanuele Vimercati) that are partially overlapping. All these papers are based on Polybius as the main source and focus on homeland Greece or Magna Grecia, with a lesser interest in the Hellenistic East.

Bearzot begins with an analysis of loci classici on dynasteia and re-groups the principal uses of the word according to an actual meaning. She differentiates between (a) “the personal power of absolutist character” (the most popular meaning in the Classical period), (b) hegemony, and (c) “political power on a territorial and (or) dynastic basis”. The last is an object for further analysis. Bearzot underscores the term’s role in defining the Macedonian monarchy (32, 36-37). Then she turns to the multi-word expressions as ethne, poleis, basileis, dynastai. In effect, Bearzot reaffirms the ambiguity of the term that denoted equally the great kingdoms and small territorial monarchies.

Tucci surveys Polybius’ use of the term demokratia, and stresses, in concord with most scholars, that it was applied technically to the democracies, and, in a non-technical way, also to republican regimes of any form. He also gives attention to the expressions that blend demokratia with a representative government ( demokratike kai synedriake politeia) or variety of political forms within a state ( demokratikon kai polueides politeuma), and concludes that Polybius’ democracy was far from the classical one.

As in earlier studies, Bertolli too investigates an old (Classical) concept (of autonomia) in a new (Hellenistic) age. He rightly recognizes the importance of the anti-Aetolian manifesto of Philip V and his allies in 221 (Polyb. IV 25, 7) by making the Polybian report (notably without mention of the term autonomia) on this event the central point in his investigation. The conclusion that there was a continuing need to define autonomia more precisely seems plausible. However, Bertolli ignores the possibility that an actual choice of the freedoms identified as autonomia may have been sometimes determined by the needs of rhetoric.1 In conclusion, Bertolli insists that in the Hellenistic Age, despite the growth of monarchies and confederacies, international law remained polis-centered. That seems highly acceptable.

Vimercati in investigating the notion of ethnos is in many respects a follower of Giovannini.2 However he subtly develops or changes some of Giovannini’s arguments. For instance, Vimercati notices that in expressions describing the world of states as ethne kai poleis kai dynastai (with variations) and ethne kai poleis the accents fall differently. An addition of “the monarchs” in the longer version of the formula indicates that “the ethnos” did not mean simply “a non-polis people”, but more specifically “a people with a federal structure” (122).3 It is regrettable that this interesting paper makes a mistake which is not easy to explain. Vimercati writes with reference to Polyb. 2. 41, 7-8: “The second phase begins then in 281/0 BC, when twelve Achaean cities refounded the League” (p. 119). In the Polybian text as adduced we can indeed find twelve cities, but this passage does not refer to the revival of the Achaean League. The re-founded League was created by the citizens of four Achaean cities, and Polybius recalls that event slightly later in 2. 41, 11.

Two remaining contributions of the first part are connected with the Western part of ancient world. Marta Sordi (127-134) investigates the priority of some Etruscan legal and political notions over their Roman counterparts ( ius terrae Etruriae versus ius terrae Italiae, nomen Etruscum, the myth of aboriginality of Etruscans and Romans). She ends with a conclusion that the notion of terra Etruria need not imply the existence of an Etruscan state of any kind. Instead, Sordi argues for the amphictyony-like character of the Etruscan League of Twelve populi. The paper by Arnaldo Marcone (135-155) reaches the transition period of Late Antiquity/the Early Middle Ages and studies identities, legal or imagined, of Germanic peoples who founded their states on ruins of the Western Roman Empire, underscoring the importance of the Christian Church for the emergence of new Western nations.

One must admit that the last two chapters of the first “theoretical” part could easily belong to the second part of the book, which is devoted to “La realtà territoriale: alcuni esempi” (Territorial reality: some examples). Some contributions are rightly placed under that heading, others are rather loosely associated with the general theme of the book (see below).

Of the nine case-studies there are two (by Franca Landucci Gattinoni and Gennaro di Leo) that are closely related to the body of the first part in period and area. Landucci Gattinoni studies Macedonia, di Leo Epirus. To elucidate the real nature of Macedonian monarchy Landucci Gattinoni starts with a clear survey of the term βασιλεύς in a Macedonian context. She rejects — in accord with most students — a view that the Macedonian monarchs officially used the title of King before Gaugamela. Then Landucci Gattinoni turns to the inscriptions of Cassander and Philip V including the title of βασιλεὺς Μακεδόνων. She sees in them an indication that, for internal use, Cassander attempted to legitimize himself as an heir of the national monarchy in opposition to other Diadochi, exploiting the propaganda of the spear-won land, ge doriktetos. Thus she joins ranks of the moderate constitutionalists in the Macedonian controversy.

Di Leo tries in his contribution on the Epirote state to mix an overview with original research. An element of the overview is his survey of historical geography (226-231), where Di Leo follows earlier students, as in dates of the Epirote conquest of the land that became historical Epirus. However, there is a disappointing lack of reflection on these data and the actual ethnicity of conquerors (a constitution of particular Epirote tribes in later Epirus should also be taken into consideration). Later in the study Di Leo tries to establish the exact share of various Epirote tribes (Thesprotians, Molossians and Chaonians) in the land’s leadership and the chronology of hegemony over Epirus. Like Gattinoni in the case of Macedonia, Di Leo also takes a constitutionalist approach, studies the use of expressions κοινόν or κοινὸν δόγμα, and argues that the Epirote state was “a federal state under monarchy”.

Three studies explore aspects of territoriality in Asia Minor (Clara Talamo on Miletus, Laura Boffo on Hellenistic Anatolia and Domitilla Campanile on the beginnings of the province Asia).

The contribution by Talamo may be somewhat surprising, since it is a study in territorial and governmental structure of Miletus, a city-state. The relationship between city and countryside was too close to justify introducing a polis-state among the states that could be called territorial. I believe that the existence of the term Milesia designating the territory of Miletus is not itself a sufficient reason. Although slightly odd in this volume, the paper is a piece of well-based scholarship. The author succeeds — I believe — in establishing the link between local archoi and territorial organisation of Milesia. However, I cannot see sufficient evidence in favor of Talamo’s view that the Milesian assembly κατὰ μέρος mentioned in Arist. Pol. 1298a 10 was arranged on a territorial principle. Rather, a personal subdivision of the polis (tribe, phyle) is plausible.

Boffo reappraises the theme of sanctuaries and territories in Hellenistic and Early Roman Asia Minor, and scrutinizes the actual worth of clichés like “temple state”, “priest state”, “priest kingdom” or “sacerdotal kingdom” for Hellenistic Anatolia (259-267). An important portion of study is devoted to terms expressing territorial control — Boffo is careful to avoid the modern notion of sovereignty, which she holds to be an anachronism (255-259). A further investigation focuses on the conflicts between poleis and sanctuaries lying within their confines. Those struggles, described as “political, ethnic, cultural and cult ones”, are understood, with some hesitation that is true, as conflicts between the rule of priests and the order of Hellenised and democratic polis.

Campanile turns our attention to the first decades of Roman rule in Asia Minor (271-288). She looks into the fates of the principal cities of the province Asia and stresses that seats of judicial districts were eager to underscore their new role in the official documents whereas the community of Ephesus, the capital of the province, avoided self-advertisement as the seat of the Roman governors. According to the author, that attitude should be ascribed to the conflicts that arose between the Greek and Roman residents of the provincial capital. The most significant part of this study is an attempt to date conventus iuridici of the province (277-288). Campanile argues for the early creation of the judicial districts, most likely being an action by Manius Aquillius who organized the province in 120s BC. The last question she solves is that of the governors’ residence during his activity in poleis — seats of conventus iuridici. There is a convincing argument that in each city a governor resided in a private house, usually belonging to the first notable of polis.

Another Roman provincial chapter is one on Mauretania by Maria Teresa Schettino (289-316). This is not an overview of Mauretania’s history in the first century AD and has little to do with the problem of the territorial state in general. What we read is, rather, an important study concerning how the Roman emperors from Augustus to Caligula tried to settle African affairs beyond the province Africa. Undoubtedly, Schettino is correct in assessing the historical importance of the destruction of the Hellenized Mauretanian kingdom at the hands of Caligula and the creation of the provincia that followed, ending Mauretania’s character as a cultural crossroads between the East and the West, and linking the province with the destinies of the Western part of the Roman Empire.

One should also note a thematically and geographically isolated paper on Hermocrates on Sicily (Gabriella Vanotti, 179-198). This paper reconstructs the history of Hermocrates in the generally accepted way. However, Vanotti can go further and convincingly argues for imitatio Gelonis behind the last success of the hero, the march to Himera in 409 BC. She also believes that the idea of “Sicily for the Sicilians” present in the Thucydidean speech delivered by Hermocrates at Gela in 424 (Thuc. 4. 58-65) was crystallised both in Hermocrates and Thucydides only after 424 BC.

There are two papers dealing with states lying more or less on the fringe of the Graeco-Roman World. A contribution by Giusto Traina on Ancient Georgia (317-326) is for linguistic reasons inaccessible to an average classicist. A paper by Alessandro Galimberti on Judea is also the closing chapter of the book (327-355), and provides a clear overview of Jewish and foreign attitudes towards the territory of Israel in the Hellenistic Age.

The book is in general carefully edited, although not free of minor spelling errors in foreign citations. Annoying is repeated “Korrispondenz” for “Korrespondenz” (7, n. 15; 8, n. 22). A strange shortening of Titus Quinctius Flamininus’ name as “T.Q. Flaminino” seems rather uneven in the good paper by Bertolli and is very likely to be ascribed to the Press.

The volume, though coherent, is closer to a journal issue than to an independent book: there are no indices (that could be a serious problem to the readers); similarly there is no house-style followed in all the chapters. The way of quoting from the same sources and references to the same modern works varies from chapter to chapter.

In spite of the indicated deficiencies, the volume on “Gli stati territoriali nel mondo antico” that has resulted from a gathering of leading Italian scholars who have been working for some time on this theme can be seen to be an important voice in scholarly discussion.


Presentazione VII-VIII

PART 1: Pensiero politico e sovranità territoriale

Clelia Mora, “Gli stati territoriali nel Vicino Oriente nel II millenio a.C.: modeli di funzionamento e difficoltà di applicazione” (3-19)

Cinzia Bearzot, “Il concetto di ‘dinasteia’ e lo stato ellenistico” (20-44)

Paolo Tucci, “La democrazia di Polibio tra eredità classica e federalismo” (45-86)

Marcello Bertolli, “Sviluppi del concettto di ‘autonomia’ tra IV e III secolo a.C.” (87-110)

Emanuele Vimercati, “Il concetto di ‘ethnos’ nella terminologia politica ellenistica” (111-126)

Marta Sordi, “Terra Etruria e Terra Italia” (127-134)

Arnaldo Marcone, “I regni romano-barbarici: dall’insediamento all’ organizzazione statale” (135-155)

PART 2: La realtà territoriale: alcuni esempi

Clara Talamo, “Aspetti dell’organizzazione del territorio a Mileto” (159-178)

Gabriella Vanotti, “Quale Sicilia per Ermocrate?” (179-198)

Franca Landucci Gattinoni, “Tra monarchia nazionale e monarchia militare: il caso di Macedonia” (199-224)

Gennaro di Leo, “Monarchia e statualità in Epiro prima della conquista romana” (225-252)

Laura Boffo, “Centri religiosi a territori nell’Anatolia ellenistica” (253-270)

Domitilla Campanile, “L’infanzia della provincia d’Asia: l’origine dei ‘conventus iuridici’ nella provincia” (271-288)

Maria Teresa Schettino, “La Mauretania dal terdo ellenismo alla provincializzazione” (289-316)

Giusto Traina, “Due note sull’identità politica nel Caucaso antico” (317-326)

Alessandro Galimberti, “La Giudea come stato territoriale” (327-355)


1. Cf. remarks on the triad as a common figure of the Hellenistic rhetoric in C. Bradford Welles, Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period, New Haven 1934.

2. A. Giovannini, Untersuchungen über die Natur und Anfänge der bundesstaatlichen Sympolitie in Griechenland, Göttingen 1971.

3. For more traces of federal consciousness behind the term ethnos, see: J. Rzepka, “Ethnos, Koinon, Sympoliteia and Greek Federal States,” in: T. Derda, J. Urbanik, M. Wecowski (eds.), Studies presented to E. Wipszycka & B. Bravo by their Disciples (JJP Suppl. 1), Warsaw 2002, 225-247.