BMCR 2006.11.15

Dalle parole ai fatti. Relazioni interstatali e communicazione politica nel mondo antico

, Dalle parole ai fatti : relazioni interstatali e comunicazione politica nel mondo antico. Rapporti interstatali nell'antichità ; 3. Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2005. xvii, 149 pages ; 21 cm.. ISBN 8882653323. €78.00.

1 Responses

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

This is the third volume in the series Rapporti interstatali nell’antichità edited by Luigi Santi Amantini, whose first volume appeared in 2002. This slim volume dedicated to Luigi Piccirilli contains 5 papers that range chronologically from the fifth century BCE to the 18th century CE. What ties this collection together is an interest in coming to a more precise understanding of the terminology of Greek diplomatic relations.

The first paper in this collection concerns the “precautionary” formula “without fraud and without deceit” in Greek treaties. Francesca Gazzano makes an important contribution to our understanding of the Greek terms that were used to ensure fair play in international relations. She notes the many examples in Greek literature where ruses and deceptions are given positive coverage, while it was customary to denigrate tyrants, barbarians and women by accusing them of mendacity. When so much of international diplomacy depended on verbal communication one had to guard against ambiguities and insincere promises.1 While wily stratagems and deceptions might be considered legitimate in war, they were not to be used in diplomatic relations. Bad faith was not to be contemplated in the drawing up of accords, and good faith between the contracting parties was guaranteed by solemn judicial measures like divine sanction through oaths. Yet such measures were not always effective against perjury. The Greek propensity to disregard oaths gave them the reputation in Roman eyes for “Graeca fides” and for thus being morally reprehensible. Gazzano contends that the procedure for making treaties came to rely for enforcement less on magical/religious measures and more on measures such as taking hostages to ensure that the agreement would be kept. This statement would appear to contradict her main theme that the insertion of anti-fraud clauses was designed to provide such guarantees, rather than hostage-taking and that the clauses were inserted to prevent the circumvention, manipulation and deceit in the carrying out of treaty provisions.

The most valuable part of G.’s paper is where she takes issue with Wheeler, who suggested that anti-deceit clauses were inserted into interstate agreements to prevent parties taking an insincere oath and taking a sophistic approach to concluding treaties.2 Gazzano faults Wheeler’s study for not taking into account the epigraphic record and for omitting the historical circumstances that led to the insertion of the anti-deceit clauses. Gazzano does not provide an exhaustive epigraphic study, as she herself readily admits, but she finds a uniform pattern. She notes a difference between the terms used in literature and those used in inscriptions; for example, in literature ἀπάτη is more likely to indicate “deceit”, whereas in inscriptions ἀδόλως is more frequently used. More importantly Gazzano finds that in the literary sources the phrase οὐδὲ τέχνη οὐδὲ μηχανῆ carries a general, comprehensive meaning but in inscriptions the purpose of this phrase is as a precautionary clause(24). While the words δόλος and ἀπάτη may be rare in the literary sources, their use is common in treaties between states. Gazzano makes the point that anti-deceit clauses were originally inserted not as a moral or religious condemnation of deceit but, rather as routine formulae that presumed the tangible possibility that fraud would occur.

The second paper in this volume is a valuable addition to the debate on the historicity of the Peace of Callias. Luigi Santi Amantini provides an analysis of three fragments of Theopompus (Frg. 153, 154, and 155). One of the arguments against the historicity of the Peace of Callias is that Theopompus wrote in fragment 154 that the inscription recording the peace could not be genuine because it was written in the archaic Ionic alphabet. Santi Amantini notes that this alphabet was in use in Athens down to 450 BCE and that Theopompus did not consider the possibility that the inscription that Theopompus saw may not have been the original but a copy. Santi Amantini revives Grote’s argument that Theopompus saw a copy of the treaty from Ionia. The text of Theopompus was tampered with in the first to second centuries CE with the insertion of the word συνθῆκαι. Here Santi Amantini draws on his previous study on the terms for ‘peace’ in Greek international relations.3 From a citation of Theopompus in Strabo (10.1.3), Santi Amantini thinks that the original word used was ὁμολογίας, a word that Theopompus uses in fragment 300 in the legal sense of “a pact drawn up to include hostage-taking”. Santi Amantini suggests that an analysis of the technical terms used by Theopompus indicates that εἰρήνην ποήσασθαι refers to the diplomatic instrument to put an end to war and σπονδαί refers in the technical sense to a treaty. Santi Amantini believes, therefore, that Theopompus’ use of terminology provides an argument for the Peace of Callias and that Theopompus’ criticism on the basis of paleography is too a narrow basis on which to deny its historicity.4

The third study in this collection of essays concerns Alexander, Theopompus and the “Letters to Chios”. Here Gabriella Ottone grapples with the question of whether the restoration of Theopompus from exile through the direct intercession of Alexander the Great as described in Codex 176 of the 9th century Bibliotheca of Photius (lines 120b 19-30) can be reconciled with the letter of Alexander to the Chians ( Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, 3rd ed., 283). Ottone raises the possibility that the inscription could be a letter that accompanied a “diagramma” as suggested in Diodorus (18.8.2-5). Such letters were made public and had gained in the eyes of local communities the force of legal documents. The combination of a letter and a “diagramma” ensured that the general proclamation was made specifically to the community through the letter. Ottone argues that the inscription was the proclamation that was accompanied by one or more letters. Photius was citing the letters and not the original proclamation. Theopompus knew that the letters were important to show that Chios had retained its privileges. Photius or his source attributed the granting of rights to Chios to the personal intervention of Alexander, and Ottone accepts that this intervention made the return of Theopompus possible. The “Second Letter of Alexander to Chios” (SEG XXII 506) has an informal and colloquial tone and dates to the second half of the fourth century BCE. Lines 1-10 refer to the specific intervention of Alexander in the political process at Chios. Ottone identifies the Alkimachos mentioned in line 10 with one of Alexander’s officers who appears in Arrian and was charged to maintain order after Chios’ liberation and the restoration of democracy. Ottone interprets lines 14-19 as a reference to a “philos” of Alexander and she identifies this person with Theopompus.5 Thus Ottone argues (against Flower) that the intervention of Alexander enabled the return of Theopompus to Chios and believes that there existed a book or corpus called Περὶ τῆς Χίας ἐπιστολῆς that is mentioned by Harpalus (FGrHist. 115F 254b). She claims, unconvincingly, that Photius’s information on the “Letters to the Chians” and his reference to the life of Theopompus was part of this book,from an intermediate source. Included is a useful appendix that gives the reader the text of the first letter to the Chians and several versions of the second letter from Forrest, Zolotas and Lenschau.

The fourth contribution in this volume is Gianfranco Graggero’s short essay that expands on his earlier study of Zenobia’s political propaganda.6 In this study Graggero considers a passage in the Historia Augusta (Tyr. Trig. 27.1) that describes Zenobia as a tyrant and equates her with three other figures, Dido, Semiramis and Cleopatra. Rather than seeing these comparisons as negative stereotypes used by the Romans against Zenobia, Graggero explains that they form an echo of her own propaganda designed to foment her anti-Roman revolt. She called herself the New Cleopatra in order to gain support from Egypt. The figure of Dido evoked the remote and legendary past of Dido that would have resonated with Tyre and Sidon. Queen Semiramis was usually thought an ambitious and lascivious woman. Zenobia had the ambition to be queen of Asia and for this she needed the support of Babylon. Zenobia brought into her propaganda the image of the woman who was a warlike symbol in antiquity.

The fifth and final contribution is that of Leonardo Paganelli on the “treaty of peace between Sparta and Athens” mentioned in the 1749 comedy by Goldoni “La famiglia dell’antiquario”. In this play one of the characters says he is in possession of an ancient Greek manuscript written in the hand of Demosthenes that contains a treaty of peace between Sparta and Athens. Paganelli suggests that Goldoni probably found a reference in Lucian that such a manuscript was carried back to Rome by Sulla. Modern scholars have thought perhaps that the manuscript was a copy of the Peace of Nicias. However, Paganelli shows that this reference in Goldoni is false and not to be taken as evidence for a genuine document.

This volume makes a strong contribution to our understanding of Greek international relations through its interpretation of Greek treaties and its emphasis on the way the Greeks used their diplomatic terminology. Several essays in this collection reinforce the importance of looking at the epigraphic record and not placing reliance solely on the literary tradition. Scholars of international law in antiquity will find much of interest in this collection.


F. Gazzano: Senza frode e senza inganno: formule ‘precauzionali’ e rapporti interstatali nel mondo Greco.

L. Santi Amantini: A proposito di ‘pace’ in Teopompo

G. Ottone: Alessandro, Teopompo e le ἐπιστολαὶ πρὸς τοὺς Χίιους ovvero autorità macedone e strumenti di interazione con la communità poleica fra pubblico e private

G. Gaggero: Nuove considerazioni su alcuni modelli femminili di Zenobia

L. Paganelli: Goldoni e i “trattati di pace tra Sparta e Atene”.

[For a response to this review by Gabriella Ottone, please see BMCR 2006.11.37.]


1. I have recently written on the Roman solution to the problem of binding their allies partners to adherence to the terms of a treaty. See L.T. Zollschan (in press 2006) “Politics and the Orality of Roman Peace-Making” in The Politics of Orality, Mnemosyne Supplement, 280, ed. C. Cooper, Brill, Leiden: 171-190.

2. L. Wheeler, “Sophistic Interpretations and Greek treaties” GRBS 25 (1984) 253-274.

3. L. Santi Amantini, “Terminologia degli accordi di pace nelle epigrafi e nelle fonti letterarie greche”, in Atti del II Seminario Internazionale di Studi sui Lessici Tecnici Greci e Latini, Messina, dicembre 1995 (Napoli 1997) 213-231.

4. Ed Carawan graciously allowed me to see parts of his forthcoming article on the Peace of Callias for Brill’s New Jacoby, editor in chief: Ian Worthington, Brill, Leiden, 2006. His article also presents the case for the historicity of the Peace of Callias, although from a fourth-century copy.

5. This idea is not new. See G. Zolotas, ” Χιακῶν καὶ Ἠρυθραϊκῶν συναγωγήAthena 20 (1908) 159-163.

6. G. Gaggero, “Memorie del passato nella propaganda politica di Zenobia”, in A.F. Bellezza (ed.) Un incontro con la storia. Nel centenario della nascita di luca De Regibus. 1895-1995 (Atti del pomeriggio di studio a Vogogna d’Ossola. 1 Iuglio 1995) Genova 1996, pp. 211-222.