The Spudasmata series continues to turn out interesting books. For its 188th volume, Anja Bettenworth and Jürgen Hammerstaedt have edited a rich and varied collection of essays, adding to the upsurge in work on the emotions by bringing light to bear on the ways in which a selection of ancient and medieval texts handles the relationship between emotion and various kinds of order. The collection ranges widely, from Aeschylus to the Carolingian Age. There are ten essays, divided up into two sections. The first is called ‘Theoretical vs. Practical Approaches: Order and Emotion in Philosophical and Documentary Texts’, the second ‘Fact vs Fiction? Order and Emotion in Poetry and Prose’. The former section is subdivided into two subsections, each with two papers, one on philosophical texts, the other on documentary texts. The latter is subdivided into two subsections of three papers each, the first on poetry, the second on prose. We also get five indices and a bibliography. The range is so vast that this reviewer’s inability to comment meaningfully on all the authors and subjects discussed here means that he will merely summarize, in an attempt to bring out the richness of the collection. Few readers will peruse it from beginning to end, I think, but those who dip in will find interesting discussions of a range of subjects.
David Ryan Morphew devotes his paper to Plato, ‘Structuring Emotions: Plato on the Origin of Cognitive Content in the Soul’. His focus is on emotions such as shame and anger and the ways in which they can dispel elements of disorder in the human soul and thus help rational intentions. They can do so when there is alignment within the tripartite soul between the spirited part (to thumoeides) and the rational part (to logistikon) of the soul’s beliefs about what is honorable and shameful. The wider point is of course that the individual well- ordered soul can contribute to the creation of a better society. Jürgen Hammerstaedt’s paper, as one would expect from his important contributions over many years to its study, is devoted to the inscription of Diogenes of Oenoanda. For those who are not familiar with this remarkable inscription, this chapter will act as a fascinating introduction to it, while experts will also be keen to find out what Hammerstaedt has to say about fear of death in this Epicurean text. Eleni Skarsouli also deals with fear, studying some expressions of this emotion via the use of the verbs eulabéomai and phobéomai in some Greek documentary papyri and literary texts. It is good to see subliterary documentary texts handled here in the study of the emotions. The wider point made here is that fear can be a positive emotion when it can be shown to contribute to the maintenance of the social order. Rather similarly, Martin Avenarius studies sub-literary texts, in his paper entitled ‘The Pre-Classical fidei committere and the Order to be Established Upon Death. Emotion as the Basis of the Legal Bindingness of the Decedent’s Last Wishes.’ It is hardly the most elegant of titles, but it has the merit of making clear exactly what the paper is about, as long as you know your Roman law. As far as the emotions are concerned, the point seems to be that legal order is achieved by paying due respect to the voluntas of the deceased, so we are dealing with a sense of obligation seen as an emotion.
Turning to poetry, we find Ruth Scodel on Aeschylus’ Eumenides, and the connection between the Erinyes and political anger. As far as the theme of order is concerned, her starting point is the fact that the stability of systems in which voting determines outcomes, it is crucial for the stability of those systems that the losers respect the result. She sees the play as dramatizing this problem. It is fascinating to read this impressive paper in light of recent events in the USA. Ruth Caston starts out by noting that in all the recent work devoted to ancient emotions, the genre of comedy has been largely ignored. She goes about correcting this gap by looking at examples of pity and empathy in Terence. This is a subtly powerful paper, especially on the tricky question of how we define empathy. In his paper, Tim Leindecker tackles an episode in Ovid’s Fasti (5.231-260). As far as emotion is concerned, his focus is on jealousy (dolor); as far as order is concerned, the important fact is that the story ends with the birth of Mars, one of the greatest of Roman deities. He ends with the suggestion that study of the emotions could be put to further use in the investigation of genre in the Fasti, and this is indeed a rather good idea. Moving on to the final section of the book, we turn from poetry to prose, and Anja Bettenworth has chosen Curtius Rufus’ Historiae Alexandri Magni for her paper. The emotion at the centre of attention is fear, and the theme of order comes into the picture by means of the different ways in which fear as a narrative device is used to explore the nature of Alexander’s character and kingship. Next, Walter Ameling studies a series of exclamations in the notoriously slippery Historia Augusta. One result of his close analysis of the emotional aspects of the acclamations in question, the iudicium senatus on the death of Commodus, expressing hatred for the emperor, is to suggest that this ‘document’ may very well not be genuine, as has been assumed by many scholars. And finally, the final paper brings us forward in time to the Carolingian age, with Peter Orth’s study of the letters of Alcuin and Einhart. Epistolography is something of a hot topic these days, so many classicists will be interested in this paper, as well as students of later antiquity and the early medieval period. The manipulation of emotion in a letter is an obvious element that is nevertheless not all that easy to decode in a sophisticated way. But as Orth shows, mastery of the rhetorical strategies in play is crucial to the understating of the emotional content.
Overall, there is a lot of impressive scholarship here. The book as a whole is better on emotion than on the theme of order, which is often brought into the picture in a rather contrived manner. But the collection can stand its ground simply as a group of good essays on the emotions. Despite all that has been done in recent years in bringing the affective sciences to bear on the ancient world, much remains to be done, as this volume reminds us by ranging so widely.
Damien Nelis, University of Geneva
Publié en ligne le 15 juillet 2021