BMCR 2019.10.19

La question de l’espace au IVe siècle avant J.-C. dans les mondes grec et étrusco-italique: continuités, ruptures, reprises

, , La question de l'espace au IVe siècle avant J.-C. dans les mondes grec et étrusco-italique: continuités, ruptures, reprises. Besançon: Presses Universitaires de France-Comté, 2018. 315. ISBN 9782848676388 €30,00 (pb).

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

In recent years, the study of ‘space’ has become popular in ancient world studies as a result of the so-called ‘Spatial Turn’. This volume is very much a part of that wider development. Sophie Montel and Airton Pollini introduce the collection as an exploration of space, discussing its multiple functions and representations in the wider Greek world with a particular focus on the fourth century BCE. The primary area of focus is the Greek mainland, although the volume also extends to southern Italy, Sicily, Etruria, and Cyprus. The volume is divided into three parts, which correspond to different types and scales of space in the Greek and Etrusco-Italic worlds: these include central spaces, ‘wider’ spaces (which covers temporal as well as physical space), and space in the figurative arts. All three sections are introduced by highlighting the effects of continuity, change, and/or recovery throughout the fourth century BCE. The introduction also effectively outlines the straightforward methodological decisions made in constructing this volume and the way in which the chapters fit together. To put it simply, there are two common reference points for each chapter: the fourth century BCE and the focus on space. Within this wider structure, the volume’s chapters offer discrete, but interconnected, explorations of various aspects of space. The introduction also includes an analysis of the ancients’ perception of time and, subsequently, a much needed problematisation of the division and labelling of centuries in modern scholarship.

Chapter one addresses the topic of ‘Continuity and Change in Phocian Spatial Politics: Commemorating Old and New Victories in Fourth Century Delphi’. In this chapter, Elena Franchi uses two fragmentary monument dedications to discuss Phocian spatial politics within the site of Delphi during the time of the Sacred War. The goal of the chapter, which it is largely successful in achieving, is to find context and meaning in the dedications through social-anthropological, historical, epigraphic, and spatial analyses. Franchi concludes that the first of these selected monuments changed the physical space in Delphi, and used spatial politics to express continuity with the past. This echoes a continuing argument that fourth-century BCE narratives (of Phocian spatial politics) focus on constructing narratives expressing continuity even in times of change, such as during (and in the completion of) the Sacred War.

Chapter two examines the transformations of Delphi focusing specifically on ‘The Spatial Reorganisation of the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi in the Fourth Century’. Amélie Perrier thoroughly discusses the changes in the Western portico and its terrace, as well as the monumental gate, which was first constructed during this century. This chapter also identifies the political significance of the space within the sanctuary (linking with Franchi’s earlier chapter), detailing the prior political impact of claiming and occupying the space within it, and the subsequent regulations put into place (such as the Amphictyonic law in 380) to protect the sanctuary space. This chapter also details changes to the urban space as a result of increased habitation, particularly by the large-scale workforce needed for its construction.

In chapter three, Anna Cannavo discusses ‘Amanthus (Cyprus): The Urban Development of a Cypriot Royal Palace’, which outlines in detail the spatial developments of Amanthus from a Cypriot palace towards a more ‘Hellenised’ city. With a thorough evaluation of the archaeological remains, and detailed discussion of the changing language noted in inscriptions discovered in the area, Cannavo makes clear how slow the change towards Hellenised space and practice was in the Cypriot city, and how the eventual location of the agora was likely influenced by the existence of an earlier (Archaic or Classical) sanctuary.

Chapter four is centred on the ‘Political Records in Public Space: an Innovation of the Fourth Century’. In this chapter, Nicolas Genis shows that the inscriptions of political annals displayed in public space in the fourth century BCE created memory where the past could be seen in the present. This chapter discusses how it is through a public display of these inscriptions that a collective memory is formed and anchored to the space in which it is presented. Genis successfully argues that in a period of unrest (both in identity and politically), reference to the past contributed to the creation of civic traditions and acted as a starting point for re-founding civic identities.

Chapter five analyses ‘Continuity through Rupture: Space, Time, and Politics in the Mass Migrations of Dionysius the Elder’. In this chapter, Jason Harris places emphasis on the fifth-century BCE migrations of Dionysius, and how the temporal continuity (through the chronological continuity of the Deinomenid migrations and the migrations of Gelon) and the transformation of the socio-political climate in Sicily combined to stabilise and indeed increase the power of Dionysius as a tyrannical ruler. Through several case studies of Dionysius and his relations with the Deinomenids, Chalcidian cities, Carthaginians, and the Sicels, Harris argues that it was the combination of continuity and rupture in the temporal, physical, and socio-political spheres that allowed for his success in these mass migrations.

Chapter six examines the phenomenon of ‘Tribal- poleis in Northwestern Greece’, where Chiara Lasagni argues that tribal- poleis in Greece can be, and perhaps should be, differentiated from a standard polis as they differ both spatially and in relation to civic identity. Working on the framework of the studies from the Copenhagen Polis Centre, Lasagni employs case studies from Northwestern Greece to demonstrate successfully the differences between the polis, the ethnos, and the transformation of space within the ethne -based cities towards what is termed ‘tribal- poleis ’ during the fourth century BCE.

In chapter seven, Thomas Merle applies contemporary geographical models to Boeotia, employing the ‘Parisian Model’ and applying the geographical models of Walter Christaller and August Lösche to the fourth century BCE region. The focus of this chapter is how geographical models can be used to describe, qualify, and explain the distribution of cities in antiquity. After a discussion of the geography surrounding Thebes, Merle concludes that late-classical Boeotia seems to fit Christaller’s model well, and that these geographical models of spatial organisation can therefore demonstrate how past societies organised their space and territories.

Anastasia Painesi, in chapter eight, outlines the representation of landscape elements in ceramic art and wall paintings of the fourth century BCE. This discussion is divided into separate sections looking at natural terrains, infrastructure and architectural landscape, iconography suggestive of setting, and inscriptions to define what is representative of space in the paintings of the fourth century BCE. Through this, Painesi identifies what iconographical markers are used to mark open air, sanctuary, palace, tomb, mythical, religious, military, and domestic spaces. Painesi also makes note of the issues around the lack of surviving Greek wall paintings, and how this means we cannot fully reconstruct the evolution of the art form.

Chapter nine discusses the increase of ceramics with representations of naiskoi in fourth-century BCE Canosa, Italy. This study, which focuses on the Monterisi hypogeum in Canosa, comments on the mythological and reality-based depictions present on the vases, and how this consequently creates a spatial dialogue. Florence Le Bars-Tosi convincingly argues how the dialogue between these different types of space (mythological and ‘real world’), on both sides of the same vase, or from one vase to another, makes it possible to better understand the way in which the deceased staged his own ‘honour’ after death through the objects in the tomb.

The focus of chapter ten is ‘Seated Figures: Status and Topography of the Sacred Sphere in the Etruscan World’. In this chapter, Vincent Jolivet divides vases painted with seated figures into eight main groups (stating groups 3, 5, and 8 were likely invented and disseminated from Etruscan Workshops). Jolivet persuasively concludes that the choice of seat for the seated figure in Etruscan ceramics was related to issues of status and space, and that the themes of love, wine, and Dionysian celebration suggest a framework of harmony and neutrality related to the social context of the time.

In chapter eleven, Fabio Vergara Cerquiera selects case studies from a number of Apulian vase paintings that depict the Apulian cithara to examine ‘The Apulian Cithara, a Musical Instrument of the Love Sphere: Social and Symbolic Dimensions according to Space Representations’. After the application of a solid methodology clearly outlining the parameters and aims of the study, Vergara Cerqueira argues that the Apulian cithara appears in several spatial settings (domestic, transitional, outdoor, and ambiguous), and that these settings all depict erotic, marital, courtship, or mythological-based love scenes.1

In sum, this edited volume successfully demonstrates the abundant ways in which space can be interpreted and studied in relation to the ancient world during the fourth century BCE. That said, the title of the volume is perhaps slightly misleading: while the title suggests that the book will cover ‘the Greek and Etrusco-Italic Worlds’, the content instead focuses on the former over the latter (which was, admittedly, acknowledged by the editors in their introduction). Overall, the collection covers a wide variety of spaces, and does so in a logical manner through thematic divisions. The volume also succeeds in covering recent developments in the field, making great use of current scholarship, and introducing new ideas and paradigms relevant to spatial studies. Finally, the inclusion of chapters focused on archaeological material, as well as chapters concerned with literary material, creates a pleasantly well-balanced collection, which approaches ancient space from various angles using multiple forms of evidence. This volume represents a welcome addition to a burgeoning field and is of use to anyone studying the spaces of the ancient world.

Authors and titles

Introduction: Sophie Montel, Airton Pollini – La question de l’espace au IV e siècle av. J.-C. dans les mondes grec et étrusco-italique: continuités, ruptures, reprises.

Première partie: Les espaces centraux
1. Elena Franchi – Continuity and Change in Phocian Spatial Politics: Commemorating Old and New Victories in Fourth Century Delphi.
2. Amélie Perrier – La réorganisation de l’espace du sanctuaire d’Apollon à Delphes au IV e siècle.
3. Anna Cannavò – Amathonte de Chypre. Développement urbain d’une capitale royale chypriote.
4. Nicolas Genis – Les annales politiques dans l’espace public: une nouveauté du IV e siècle av. J.-C.?

Deuxième partie: Les grands espaces
5. Jason R. Harris – Continuity through Rupture: Space, Time, and Politics in the Mass Migrations of Dionysius the Elder.
6. Chiara Lasagni – “Tribal- poleis” in Northwestern Greece.
7. Thomas Merle – L’application de modèles géographiques contemporains à la Grèce classique. L’exemple de la Béotie.

Troisième partie: la représentation de l’espace dans les arts figurés
8. Anastasia Painesi – La représentation de l’espace dans la peinture du IV e siècle av. J.-C.
9. Florence Le Bars-Tosi – Aux frontières de l’Hadès. La représentation des espaces funéraires dans la céramique du IV e siècle av. J.-C.: l’exemple des vases de l’hypogée Monterisi de Canosa.
10. Vincent Jolivet – Les Assis: statut des protagonistes et topographie du sacré dans le monde étrusque.
11. Fabio Vergara Cerqueira – The Apulian Cithara, a Musical Instrument of the Love Sphere: Social and Symbolic Dimensions according to Space Representations.


1. There is a minor error in the number of transitional vases: the first instance states six, but they later discuss seven.