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Death Rituals

Death-Ritual and Social Structure in Classical Antiquity by Ian Morris


Review by: W. G. Cavanagh
The Classical Review, New Series, Vol. 44, No. 2 (1994), pp. 372-374
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association
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372 THE CLASSICAL REVIEW
expressing
the amazement of one who has
experienced
the Dutch educational
system
-
that there were both medical and
legal practitioners
with adult
responsibilities
even
in their twenties. The children of senators and
equestrians
were
expected
to
accept
their
parents'
values from their teens, since
they already
shared their
positions
of
social and
political responsibility.
This comes
through
most
clearly
in evidence for
office-holding by
children or
young
adults in the Greek
(Ch. 9)
and Latin
(Ch. 10)
worlds; here K.
(who
earlier
appeared
to see the classical world as an undifferentiated
gerontocratic continuum)
realises that there is
copious
evidence for
changes
over
time. As he
points out, these
changes
are
gradual
and not the result of some sudden
crisis in civic values;
but K. does not seem to offer
any explanation (e.g.
in terms of
the
increasing importance of'private' values).
The book comes to a sudden end with
a
carefully arranged presentation
of the
epigraphical
evidence for western
city
councillors and
magistrates aged
under or around
twenty-five.
It is K.'s wide
knowledge
of both Greek and Latin
epigraphical material, as much
as his wide and
up-to-date reading
in modern
scholarship,
which makes this a useful
book. How far his
interpretation
of that material is clear
enough
to be
persuasive
is
another matter.
(It
would be unfair to comment on the
English;
but the hundreds of
spelling
errors could
easily
have been eradicated
by running
a
spell-check
programme.)
Thus when K.
suggests
that both
hereditary office-holding (p. 230)
and
public
benefactions
(p. 244)
are less
emphasized
in Roman than in Greek texts, he
ignores
the considerable
literary
and
epigraphic
evidence
(by
no means all from late
antiquity
as claimed on
p.
245 n.
97)
that members of rich Roman families exercised
patronage
a
pueritia.
Public
office-holding
was indeed a different matter; under the
principate,
fear of
imposing
on the
emperor's privileges perhaps
inhibited the
senatorial families from
making
the kind of
public
utterances about their
expectations
for
prematurely
deceased
offspring
which we find
expressed
in the second
century
B.C.
by
two of the
Scipionic epitaphs. Change
was not
uniformly linear; and K.'s
concentration on the
epigraphical
evidence is
exaggerated.
His criticism of
Eyben
is
revealing (p. 52): 'Unfortunately,
he restricts himself to
literary sources, thereby
ignoring
a whole
spectrum
of
epigraphical
texts
providing
useful information on this
subject'. Precisely
the converse criticism
may
be made of K.: while
berating
others for
failing
to discuss a
particular inscription (e.g. p.
82 n. 30, or
p.
170 on
non-literary
lawyers),
his footnotes
suggest
that most of his
literary
references are selective and
derived from the modern authors he has read
(thus
a section on 'infant
prodigies'
contains
many interesting epigraphical examples,
but K. seems unaware of
Quintilian's
detailed account of his two sons:
123ff.);
and his
grasp
of the
problems
of
interpretation
involved in
using (e.g.)
the evidence of the Historia
Augusta (p. 213)
or of
panegyric
is weak.
University of
Bristol THOMAS WIEDEMANN
DEATH RITUALS
IAN MORRIS: Death-Ritual and Social Structure in Classical An-
tiquity. (Key
Themes in Ancient
History.) Pp. xx+264;
48
figs.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1992.
'I want to make
your
flesh
creep'
claimed Joe, the Fat
Boy
in Pickwick
Papers.
In
Death Ritual M.
explicitly
is concerned less with the emotional and
religious impact
372 THE CLASSICAL REVIEW
expressing
the amazement of one who has
experienced
the Dutch educational
system
-
that there were both medical and
legal practitioners
with adult
responsibilities
even
in their twenties. The children of senators and
equestrians
were
expected
to
accept
their
parents'
values from their teens, since
they already
shared their
positions
of
social and
political responsibility.
This comes
through
most
clearly
in evidence for
office-holding by
children or
young
adults in the Greek
(Ch. 9)
and Latin
(Ch. 10)
worlds; here K.
(who
earlier
appeared
to see the classical world as an undifferentiated
gerontocratic continuum)
realises that there is
copious
evidence for
changes
over
time. As he
points out, these
changes
are
gradual
and not the result of some sudden
crisis in civic values;
but K. does not seem to offer
any explanation (e.g.
in terms of
the
increasing importance of'private' values).
The book comes to a sudden end with
a
carefully arranged presentation
of the
epigraphical
evidence for western
city
councillors and
magistrates aged
under or around
twenty-five.
It is K.'s wide
knowledge
of both Greek and Latin
epigraphical material, as much
as his wide and
up-to-date reading
in modern
scholarship,
which makes this a useful
book. How far his
interpretation
of that material is clear
enough
to be
persuasive
is
another matter.
(It
would be unfair to comment on the
English;
but the hundreds of
spelling
errors could
easily
have been eradicated
by running
a
spell-check
programme.)
Thus when K.
suggests
that both
hereditary office-holding (p. 230)
and
public
benefactions
(p. 244)
are less
emphasized
in Roman than in Greek texts, he
ignores
the considerable
literary
and
epigraphic
evidence
(by
no means all from late
antiquity
as claimed on
p.
245 n.
97)
that members of rich Roman families exercised
patronage
a
pueritia.
Public
office-holding
was indeed a different matter; under the
principate,
fear of
imposing
on the
emperor's privileges perhaps
inhibited the
senatorial families from
making
the kind of
public
utterances about their
expectations
for
prematurely
deceased
offspring
which we find
expressed
in the second
century
B.C.
by
two of the
Scipionic epitaphs. Change
was not
uniformly linear; and K.'s
concentration on the
epigraphical
evidence is
exaggerated.
His criticism of
Eyben
is
revealing (p. 52): 'Unfortunately,
he restricts himself to
literary sources, thereby
ignoring
a whole
spectrum
of
epigraphical
texts
providing
useful information on this
subject'. Precisely
the converse criticism
may
be made of K.: while
berating
others for
failing
to discuss a
particular inscription (e.g. p.
82 n. 30, or
p.
170 on
non-literary
lawyers),
his footnotes
suggest
that most of his
literary
references are selective and
derived from the modern authors he has read
(thus
a section on 'infant
prodigies'
contains
many interesting epigraphical examples,
but K. seems unaware of
Quintilian's
detailed account of his two sons:
123ff.);
and his
grasp
of the
problems
of
interpretation
involved in
using (e.g.)
the evidence of the Historia
Augusta (p. 213)
or of
panegyric
is weak.
University of
Bristol THOMAS WIEDEMANN
DEATH RITUALS
IAN MORRIS: Death-Ritual and Social Structure in Classical An-
tiquity. (Key
Themes in Ancient
History.) Pp. xx+264;
48
figs.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1992.
'I want to make
your
flesh
creep'
claimed Joe, the Fat
Boy
in Pickwick
Papers.
In
Death Ritual M.
explicitly
is concerned less with the emotional and
religious impact
? Oxford University Press, 1994 ? Oxford University Press, 1994
This content downloaded from 143.167.30.128 on Sun, 2 Nov 2014 12:16:09 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
THE CLASSICAL REVIEW 373
of ritual, ('I
see no
way
to
approach
it without
making
a series of indefensible
assumptions' p.
21
[though
how less or more defensible than other
ascriptions
of
meaning
such as 'success of the
ruling group
was
indissolubly
linked to the Roman
alliance'
(p. 47)
or mound-burial as
'symbolic
resistance to
imperialism' (p. 51)
I am
not
sure])
-
more with the social: the
'
Taken-for-granted
norms about the roles and
rules which make
up society
-
relationships
of
power, affection, deference, rights,
duties and so on'
(p. 3).
He writes with students in mind
(with
an excellent
apparatus
of references:
prompts
in the footnotes, a
bibliographical essay,
as well as full
reading
list);
but the book merits a much wider
readership among archaeologists
and ancient
historians, so rich are its ideas. It is not
simply
that the mountain of
grave evidence,
Everest-like, is there, not
simply
a
huge
statistical
sample, but, M.
argues, by
examining
death ritual it is
possible
to win an
understanding
of social
relationships
that the
partial
and
fragmentary
accounts of the Greek and Roman historians cannot
provide.
He
ranges
over a
large
area and covers an immense
span
of time: the
examples
include Archaic Rhodes, Classical Athens, Imperial
Rome and Britain in
the Late
Empire,
and the
topics
touched on
vary
from dental caries in Ptolemaic
Egypt,
to
in-breeding
in
Cambridge.
What to include, what not to include? The book is
organized
with a first
chapter
explaining,
as it were, M.'s
philosophy
of
interpretation:
what is understood in the
book
by
social structure, ritual and
symbols
and how
they
are to be read, and the
problems
of
interpreting
these
through archaeological
evidence. Then come two
groups
of
chapters,
the first
looking
at the treatment of the
body (cremation/
inhumation; the
study
of ancient
populations through
skeletal
remains),
the second
at
display
in rituals
(grave goods, funerary monuments, and inscribed
epitaphs);
these
are followed
by
a case
study,
the site of Vroulia,
in Rhodes.
Finally
there is a brief
retrospect.
The
chapter
on
cremation/inhumation
does not
pull
its
punches
'the
change
in "the Roman custom" from cremation to inhumation...involves tens of
millions of
people
across the whole western
part
of the
empire'.
M. favours the view
that inhumation
swept through
the Western
Empire
for social reasons, roughly
that
the
people
identified themselves as Romans, and therefore
although dying
in York or
at
Ampurias
or wherever, buried themselves as the Romans did. A
process starting
through 'competitive
emulation' became a
symbol
of
unity precisely
as the
empire
seemed to fall to bits. Much of the
chapter
on skeletal
analysis
is concerned with
demography, enlarging
on the
point
M. has made
previously
that burials do not
reflect the
make-up
of the
population
in a
simple way,
and a rise or fall in the number
of those buried in cemeteries does not
necessarily
mean a rise or fall in the total
population.
Likewise where the ratio of males to females is
impossibly
unbalanced
this reflects a social factor, not the true structure of the
population:
inconvenient to
demographers
but
interesting
for historians. The
chapters
on
Grave-goods
and Grave
markers in Classical Athens
go closely together; again changes
in
practice
are seen to
operate
in terms of
ideology,
the
ideology
of democratic Athens
(here
he refers to the
recent work
by
Ober and
Ostwald).
I have one
grouse,
the use of statistics. It has to be admitted first of all that evidence
from
graves presents very
real difficulties of
analysis,
and no
easy
answer is available.
All the same M.'s use of statistical measures, of
regression
and of
significance tests,
in so far as I understand his aims, which are not
very clearly stated, lacks clear
formulation of an
underyling
mathematical model; there
appears
rather to be a
'cook-book'
approach
where even the choice of
recipe
seems
unjustified.
Even the
diagrams
and
simple descriptive
devices seem
likely
to confuse the reader.
But this is an
interesting book, rich in ideas, widely
read and innovative. It is
This content downloaded from 143.167.30.128 on Sun, 2 Nov 2014 12:16:09 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
374 374 THE CLASSICAL REVIEW THE CLASSICAL REVIEW
written in a
beguiling,
enthusiastic
manner;
the style
is fluent, and although packed
with information the
prose
is not unduly
dense or overloaded. It is also an honest
book: M. states his beliefs and makes his case,
but the information is there and an
alert reader will find the means to
disagree,
if unconvinced. Buy it, read
it!
University
of
Nottingham
W. G. CAVANAGH
BRONZE AGE THESSALY
JOSEPH MARAN: Die deutschen
Ausgrabungen auf der
Pevkakia-
Magula
in Thessalien,
III: Die Mittlere Bronzezeit,
Teil
I,
Teil II.
(Beitrage
zur Ur- und
Fruihgeschichtlichen
Archaologie
des
Mittelmeer-Kulturraumes, 30-31.)
2 vols.
Pp. xii+413; 84;
1 colour
plate,
30
black/white plates,
190
figures,
13
plans,
2 microfiches.
Bonn: Dr Rudolf Habelt,
1992. Cased.
The German excavations at Pefkakia Magoula
on the Gulf of Volos were undertaken
by Milojcic
in 1967-77. This
report
on the Middle Bronze Age
follows
H.-J.
Weisshaar, Die Deutschen Ausgrabungen auf
der
Pevkakia-Magula
in
Thessalien
I:
Das
spate Neolithikum und
das
Chalkolithikum (Bonn, 1989),
and there will also be
volumes on the Early
and Late Bronze Ages.
Excavation of the Middle Bronze Age
levels on the summit of the mound
proved
difficult because of erosion and later
disturbance, and the main focus of this
report
is consequently
trench E-F VIII, the
great
cut which is such a
prominent
feature on the south side of the mound. The
stratigraphy
in trench E-F VIII indicates a transitional phase
and then seven
successive Middle Bronze Age levels, designated phases 1-7.
Analysis
of the
architecture suggests
a break between the Early
and Middle Bronze
Ages
but there
was no evidence of the burnt destruction level which Theocharis found when he
excavated at Pefkakia in 1957. It would seem that the Middle Bronze
Age
houses were
built in concentric circles around the summit of the mound. The houses were
rectangular
and either had a
single
room with a central hearth or consisted of a series
of rooms. After
phase
6 the architectural sequence
in trench E-F VIII ended and
phase
7 is
represented by
a cist
grave cemetery.
The stratigraphy
and architecture
of
the other trenches are
presented
in less detail but the
presence
of a
possible
ritual
deposit
in a
phase
7 context in E
VII
is of considerable interest.
In the second section of the
report
M.
analyses
the Middle Bronze Age pottery
from Pefkakia. Clarification of the ceramic sequence
was in fact one of the main aims
of the excavation. The
pottery
from each trench is divided into four main categories
(fine, domestic, coarse and
painted)
and then further subdivided by
ware. The wares
are defined by
surface treatment rather than fabric,
the classification system preferred
by
Zerner
(Hydra
2
[1986],
58-74 and Hydra
4
[1988], 1-10).
First the technique
and
chronological range
of each of the wares are discussed, then there is a list
of
shapes
and decorative motifs. The summary
at the end of this section traces the development
of the Middle Bronze Age pottery
of Pefkakia by phase.
The
appearance of
Grey
Minyan
and Matt-Painted pottery
as early
as the transitional phase
is significant,
especially
as
Early
Helladic III dark-on-light
and Ayia
Marina ware sherds occur
in the earliest Middle Bronze Age
levels. In
phases
6 and 7 there were four Minoan
or Minoanising
sherds and two sherds which could be Cycladic.
However, M. does
? Oxford University Press, 1994
written in a
beguiling,
enthusiastic
manner;
the style
is fluent, and although packed
with information the
prose
is not unduly
dense or overloaded. It is also an honest
book: M. states his beliefs and makes his case,
but the information is there and an
alert reader will find the means to
disagree,
if unconvinced. Buy it, read
it!
University
of
Nottingham
W. G. CAVANAGH
BRONZE AGE THESSALY
JOSEPH MARAN: Die deutschen
Ausgrabungen auf der
Pevkakia-
Magula
in Thessalien,
III: Die Mittlere Bronzezeit,
Teil
I,
Teil II.
(Beitrage
zur Ur- und
Fruihgeschichtlichen
Archaologie
des
Mittelmeer-Kulturraumes, 30-31.)
2 vols.
Pp. xii+413; 84;
1 colour
plate,
30
black/white plates,
190
figures,
13
plans,
2 microfiches.
Bonn: Dr Rudolf Habelt,
1992. Cased.
The German excavations at Pefkakia Magoula
on the Gulf of Volos were undertaken
by Milojcic
in 1967-77. This
report
on the Middle Bronze Age
follows
H.-J.
Weisshaar, Die Deutschen Ausgrabungen auf
der
Pevkakia-Magula
in
Thessalien
I:
Das
spate Neolithikum und
das
Chalkolithikum (Bonn, 1989),
and there will also be
volumes on the Early
and Late Bronze Ages.
Excavation of the Middle Bronze Age
levels on the summit of the mound
proved
difficult because of erosion and later
disturbance, and the main focus of this
report
is consequently
trench E-F VIII, the
great
cut which is such a
prominent
feature on the south side of the mound. The
stratigraphy
in trench E-F VIII indicates a transitional phase
and then seven
successive Middle Bronze Age levels, designated phases 1-7.
Analysis
of the
architecture suggests
a break between the Early
and Middle Bronze
Ages
but there
was no evidence of the burnt destruction level which Theocharis found when he
excavated at Pefkakia in 1957. It would seem that the Middle Bronze
Age
houses were
built in concentric circles around the summit of the mound. The houses were
rectangular
and either had a
single
room with a central hearth or consisted of a series
of rooms. After
phase
6 the architectural sequence
in trench E-F VIII ended and
phase
7 is
represented by
a cist
grave cemetery.
The stratigraphy
and architecture
of
the other trenches are
presented
in less detail but the
presence
of a
possible
ritual
deposit
in a
phase
7 context in E
VII
is of considerable interest.
In the second section of the
report
M.
analyses
the Middle Bronze Age pottery
from Pefkakia. Clarification of the ceramic sequence
was in fact one of the main aims
of the excavation. The
pottery
from each trench is divided into four main categories
(fine, domestic, coarse and
painted)
and then further subdivided by
ware. The wares
are defined by
surface treatment rather than fabric,
the classification system preferred
by
Zerner
(Hydra
2
[1986],
58-74 and Hydra
4
[1988], 1-10).
First the technique
and
chronological range
of each of the wares are discussed, then there is a list
of
shapes
and decorative motifs. The summary
at the end of this section traces the development
of the Middle Bronze Age pottery
of Pefkakia by phase.
The
appearance of
Grey
Minyan
and Matt-Painted pottery
as early
as the transitional phase
is significant,
especially
as
Early
Helladic III dark-on-light
and Ayia
Marina ware sherds occur
in the earliest Middle Bronze Age
levels. In
phases
6 and 7 there were four Minoan
or Minoanising
sherds and two sherds which could be Cycladic.
However, M. does
? Oxford University Press, 1994
This content downloaded from 143.167.30.128 on Sun, 2 Nov 2014 12:16:09 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions