Summary and Info
This book results from the first research project carried out by the Finnish Archaeological Institute at Athens. The founding of the Finnish Institute in 1985 reflects a long tradition of interest in classical archaeology and it complements and strengthens the important work being done in Greece by the other Nordic schools and institutes, which have become a significant force in Greek archaeology. Reflecting Finnish academic practice, the new Institute selected a topic for investigation and then invited a team of scholars, many of them still students, to work collaboratively on that topic. The subject chosen for this investigation was the history of Athens between the Herulian raid in A.D. 267 and the supposed closing of the Academy in 529. This topic was selected because, in the words of the editor, "Finnish classical scholarship had already some experience in studying the problems connected with Late Antiquity," and because "there seemed to remain a great number of unanswered questions concerning life, culture and society in Athens in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D." The masterwork of Alison Frantz, Agora 24, appeared during the course of the team's investigation, and the effect of her research can be felt on every page of the present volume.Post-Herulian Athens is a composite work of various authors, edited by Paavo Castren, and translated into English from the original Finnish text. A reviewer may carp about infelicities, misspellings (of which there are many), and the inevitable lack of unity resulting from a book written by different scholars, but problems of syntax rarely obscure what it is that the authors mean to say. This is an important book that belongs on the shelf of any scholar interested in Late Antique Greece. The bibliography and the discussions of previous scholarship in the various chapters make this an ideal handbook. In fact, the book does not attempt a comprehensive discussion of Late Antique Athens, but rather addresses a number of discrete topics. Nonetheless, it comes as close as anyone has recently managed to a broad discussion of Late Antique Athens. One of the curses of scholarship in this period is that it tends toward the descriptive, at the expense of the analytic, and it tends to ignore larger ramifications that may be drawn from the question at hand. Archaeological scholarship on the period is, naturally enough, driven by the reports and analyses emanating from the American excavations in the Agora and the German excavations in the Kerameikos. The present book seeks to go beyond these reports and traditional scholarship on the period. The results are, to be sure, very mixed and the larger goal is sometimes missed, but the compilation - for the period in question - is an important contribution in its own right.After a foreword and bibliographic conventions, the book begins with an overview of "General Aspects of Life in Post-Herulian Athens" by the editor. This survey focuses on topics raised by previous scholarship, especially from the Agora: the "recovery" after the Herulian raid of 267, the "Library of Hadrian," the "Palace of the Giants," and the "House of Proclus." Although the genealogical section is useful, I am not certain why the editor felt it necessary in his introduction to discuss questions that would be treated later in the individual articles: a more general introduction would have been more appropriate and helpful. Nonetheless, one sees from the first chapter that the period is full of problems and certainly worth intensive investigation.There follows a series of five articles on specific topics. These vary widely in theme and in quality. The first, by Erkki Sironen, presents the public inscriptions from Late Antique Athens, in the original text, followed by translation and brief commentary. The discussion of these texts is important and usually convincing, but the presentation is made in a wooden and often narrow manner and some of the conclusions are little more than restatements of previous scholarship. Many of these inscriptions raise important issues, particularly concerning the survival of Athenian institutions into late antiquity, but the article says tantalizingly little about these, content to discuss issues of prosopography and date that have dominated previous scholarship. An appendix on letterforms raises the promising issue of the decline of the epigraphic "habit" in Late Antique Greece (cf. R. MacMullen,AJP 103  233-46), but then does nothing with it; the appendix itself does not discuss the question of whether distinctions (of date or anything else) based on letterforms are of any real significance: do they really allow the dating of individual inscriptions or can one seek more sophisticated analyses such as those by S. Tracy (Attic Letter-Cutters, Berkeley 1990) for an earlier period? The appendix also needs illustrations to help the reader visualize the letterforms as they are described.Next, Julia Burman presents a useful overview of what is known about "The Athenian Empress Eudocia." This is a helpful compilation of primary sources and modern discussion, and it is arranged around the most important themes in the empress's life. Oddly missing is a discussion of the importance and quality of Eudocia's poetry. The organization of the article is a bit artificial and the author does not, unfortunately, add very much to the debate on the questions raised. This cannot be said for the two articles by Arja Karivieri, one on "The So-Called Library of Hadrian and the Tetraconch Church in Athens," the other on the "House of Proclus." Karivieri admirably synthesizes important recent scholarship on the "Library" (especially Shear, Willers, and Spawforth/Walker) with broader studies on imperial cult (especially Kleinbauer and Yegfil) and concludes that the complex can best be described as an imperial forum and the central hall as a "sanctuary where Hadrian was honoured along with other deities." She concludes with a discussion of the construction of the Tetraconch in the complex, identifying it as an example of a "tetraconch-peristyle" type church, identified elsewhere at Perge, Alexandria, Antioch, and even at Constantinople (Church of the Holy Apostles). In Karivieri's view, the Athenian Tetraconch was probably constructed by Eudocia and it symbolized, in a very concrete way, the conversion of the city to Christianity and, at the same time, the continuity of the imperial cult in the same location. Karivieri's article on the "House of Proclus" is much less impressive and far-reaching. In general it follows the procedure, representative of the volume as a whole, of following the issues raised by previous scholarship. Thus, she investigates the question of whether so-called Building Chi from the south slope of the Acropolis was the House of Plutarchus, founder of the Neoplatonic School at Athens, passed down to his successors (including Proclus: based on Marinos, Vita Procli 29). The positive identification was maintained by most previous scholarship, but in 1984 J.-P. Sodini disagreed arguing that this building and others like it on the Areopagus north slope were urban villas similar to those found elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. Karivieri presents a detailed discussion of all the evidence, including indications of sacrifice and other pagan practices associated with Building Chi, and concludes that the traditional identification is probably correct.The final article, by Gunar Hillström, deals with one of the real chestnuts of the period, "The Closing of the Neoplatonic School in A.D. 529: An Additional Aspect." Like the other articles in the volume, this one is organized around and dominated by the divergences of previous scholarship. In the end Hallström argues that the closing of the schools in Athens was not part of the anti-pagan activity of the emperor, but rather was conditioned by his program to reform and unify teaching in all higher institutions of learning. This conclusion may have some value, but it is ingenious in that it ignores the most obvious conclusion from his own discussion: that the Athenian schools simply were not closed at all.As mentioned previously, this is a useful but very uneven book. The bibliography is helpful and a newcomer to the study of Late Antique Athens will find here a good restatement of the various positions of scholarship on several important questions. What unifies the book is that the contributors clearly worked together and profited from contact with each other-witness the centrality of Eudocia in the book and the importance of Sironen's publication of the statue set up to her in Athens (Hesperia 59  371-74)- but in the end the reader looks in vain for common themes or broad conclusions. Furthermore, with the exception of Karivieri, the authors seem remarkably bound to traditional scholarship and interpretation, seemingly feeling a need not to stray beyond positions that have already been taken on the topics. Nonetheless, the Finnish Institute is to be congratulated for the daring step in selecting late antiquity as the focus of its first research project and for producing a book that will add to our understanding of that most important but still understudied period.Review by: Timothy E. GregoryAmerican Journal of ArchaeologyVol. 99, No. 3 (Jul., 1995), pp. 547-549
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