BMCR 2005.08.43

Rhizai. A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science. Vols. I.1 (2004), I.2 (2004), II.1 (2005)

, Rhizai. A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science. Vols. I.1 (2004), I.2 (2004), II.1 (2005). Sofia, Bulgaria: East-West Publishers, 2004-2005.

“A venture which might seem to assist the ever-increasing tendency to specialization should not in these days be lightly undertaken.” Thus D.J. Allen and J.B. Skemp, launching Phronesis exactly fifty years ago, felt obliged to defend the very idea of a specialist journal devoted to articles on ancient philosophy. The subject was after all already served by a whole range of existing classical and philosophical periodicals. Yet in the half century since its launch Phronesis has been joined by Apeiron (1966-), Elenchos (1980-), Ancient Philosophy (1980-), Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (1983-), Methexis (1988-), and Philosophie Antique (2001-), to say nothing of further specialist history-of-philosophy journals whose range includes but is not limited to antiquity.

This blossoming of specialist periodicals has, it can scarcely be disputed, enabled the subject to advance by leaps and bounds. Ancient philosophy is a discipline which brings into fruitful partnership the skills of the classical philologist, the philosopher, the intellectual historian, the palaeographer, the historian of science, the theologian, and the literary critic — skills typically spread across a number of university departments. Scholars’ readiness to communicate with and learn from each other across these traditional divides is one of the subject’s great strengths, but it does require the choice of an appropriate forum, ideally one located outside the territory of the individual component disciplines.

The above considerations are among many reasons to applaud the arrival on the scene of Rhizai, subtitled ‘A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science’, whose first three issues have now appeared. Published bi-annually, it has its regional base in South-East Europe, and in fact originates from the Southeast European Association for Ancient Philosophy, which held its inaugural meeting at Delphi as recently as July 2002. Although there appears to be no definitive list of which countries are included, at least the following seem to be already directly or indirectly implicated: Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia.

From an Anglophone point of view the regional base of Rhizai might seem to invite a comparison with Elenchos (Italy), Methexis (Argentina) and Philosophie Antique (France). Following the pattern set by Elenchos, and before it Phronesis, Rhizai is prepared to accept work in any of the canon of recognized European languages, namely English, German, French and Italian. But whereas in practice Elenchos publishes predominantly in Italian, Methexis in Spanish, and Philosophie Antique in French, Rhizai has so far published exclusively in English, as well as using this as its official editorial language. The pattern is a natural enough reflection of the lack of a single regional language (let alone one with a wide international readership), combined with the rapid rise of English towards becoming the lingua franca of international scholarship. The latter trend may be regrettable for all kinds of reasons, but we can hardly pretend it is not happening.

It would be an error for Anglophone readers to assume that the new journal’s regional affiliation in any way diminishes its relevance to them. What we witness in it is an enterprise undertaken jointly by leading South-East European scholars and their international colleagues. In the first three issues the wider international community is represented in articles by such leading lights as Michael Frede (‘Aristotle’s account of the origins of philosophy’, I.1, 9-44); Susanne Bobzien (‘Peripatetic hypothetical syllogistic in Galen — propositional logic off the rails?’, I.2, 57-102); and Julia Annas (‘Marcus Aurelius: ethics and its background’, I.2, 103-19). And the quality of the local contributions is equally high, including outstanding articles by Paul Kalligas from Greece (‘Platonism in Athens during the first two centuries AD: an overview’, I 2, 37-56); István Bodnár from Hungary (‘Teleology across natures’, II 1 9-29); and Heda Segvic, the brilliant Croatian scholar who died tragically young in 2003 (‘Protagoras’ political art’, I.2, 9-36). For generations a large number of the leading scholars of ancient philosophy have been native Greeks working in north America; it is salutary to be reminded by Rhizai how many there are working in Greece as well.

The journal also carries regular reviews of new books, including but by no means limited to books by authors from South-East Europe. A further feature, valuable for consciousness-raising, is an annual bibliography of books on ancient philosophy and science being produced in the region.

The number of rising stars from the countries served by this new ancient philosophy journal is part of the discipline’s changing intellectual demography. It is partly for this reason that Rhizai can expect to compete internationally on equal terms with the other specialist journals of ancient philosophy, provided that enough libraries have the wisdom to subscribe to it. I am advising my own departmental library to do just that.