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Listy filologickÈ CXXXVII, 2014, 1ñ2, pp. 167ñ207

Two Recent Books on Alcibiades

P. J. RHODES, Alcibiades: Athenian Playboy, General and Traitor. Barnsley, Pen & Sword Military 2011, xv + 143 pp. ISBN 978-1-84884-069-0.

HERBERT HEFTNER, Alkibiades: Staatsmann und Feldherr. Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2011, 240 S. ISBN 978-3-534-23853-8.

Alcibiades has always been a controversial figure that aroused much interest. Ever since the antiquity, there were some who despised him and others who admired him; 1 few have ever remained unconcerned or deemed him unimportant. 2 That said, few would expect that two high-quality monographs on the life of the son of Clinias would appear in the same year. Both the books reviewed here are written for a general readership (which is more apparent in the case of Rhodesí book, thanks to its subtitle) and both avoid the de- pressingly common beginning of biographies, ìX was born in the year Y in the city of Zî. Rhodes begins with a very short chapter on ancient sources, with appended list of modern studies (pp. 1ñ4), followed by Greek and Athenian history in a nutshell and Alcibiadesí lineage (pp. 17ñ19). Heftner, beginning with the battle of Coronea, starts from Alcibiadesí ancestry (pp. 11ñ14) and after outlining Alcibiadesí education and noting some stories about his childhood (pp. 14ñ18) he describes in some detail the intellectual environment and political context of Alcibiadesí youth (pp. 19ñ36). Rhodesí chapter three (pp. 21ñ38) follows Alcibiadesí fates from his birth through the celebration of amphidromia, his fatherís death, his relationship with Socrates and various stories of his boyish and teenage years, his entry into politics in late 420s, his first generalships, the rise and fall of his aggressive policy on the Peloponnese and his supposed role in the affair of Melus. Not surprisingly, Heftner follows the chronolog- ical frame, too. He includes his descriptions of Alcibiadesí role in the first part of the Peloponnesian war (pp. 36ñ40) in his first chapter (ìKindheit, Jugend und erste poli- tische Pr‰gungenì) and everything of Rhodesí third chapter in his second section (ìEintritt in die Politikî, pp. 41ñ116), which furthermore includes the ostracism of Hyperbolus (which he dates in 416), 3 Alcibiadesí show at the Olympic Games of 416, the Sicilian debate, the affair of the Herms and the mysteries, the beginnings of the



Sicilian expedition and Alcibiadesí first going to exile. Rhodes, who dates the ostra- cism of Hyperbolus to 415, 4 describes it and the following events up to Alcibiadesí speech in Sparta and the fortification of Decelea in chapter four (pp. 39ñ54). Rhodesí following chapter (pp. 55ñ69) deals with Alcibiadesí activities on the Spartan side in Ionia, his subsequent running over to Persia and then to the Athenian navy on Samos, with brief mentions of the troubled relationship between Sparta and Persia and of the oligarchy of Four Hundred in Athens. Next he deals with Alcibia- desí performance at the head of the Athenian navy in 411ñ406 (pp. 71ñ93). After the battle of Cynossema, Rhodes stops to introduce to the reader the parallel sources for the subsequent years. The chapter contains some quite detailed battle and siege de- scriptions, including variant versions by Xenophon and Diodorus (the author is in- variably following the latter). Rhodes then turns to the Atheniansí attempts at recon- ciliation with Persia, Alcibiadesí triumphal return to Athens and his subsequent self-imposed exile following the battle of Notium lost in his absence. As for the chro- nology, Rhodes believes that the missing year in Xenophonís first book is 410, dat- ing the Athenian siege of Chalcedon in 408 and Alcibiadesí returns to Athens in 407. Rhodesí last chapter (pp. 95ñ106) deals with Alcibiadesí Thracian exile, his mention in Aristophanesí Frogs, his rejected offer at Aegospotami, his departure to Persia and his death, somewhat questionably including a detailed account of the battle of Aegos- potami in which Alcibiades took no part; but this is perhaps due to the demands of the series, focused as it is on important military commanders. All these events are dealt with in the third chapter (ìExil, R¸ckkehr und Endeì) of the book by Heftner (pp. 117ñ190), who does not discuss the merits and demerits of Xenophon or Diodorus in such detail, pays much less attention to battles and prefers different chronology of the years 410ñ407, dating Alcibiadesí return to Athens to 408 and habitually referring his readers to the exhaustive monograph by Bleckmann. 5 While Rhodes gives just slightly more than one page to his final judgement on Al- cibiades (pp. 105ñ106), Heftner devoted a whole final chapter (ìRezeptionsgeschich- te und neue Fragen der Forschungì, pp. 191ñ207) to it. For a professional historian, this is probably the most interesting part of his book. In his first chapter, Heftner drew a picture of a spoiled child who ñ to the ruin of his homeland ñ never learned how to behave properly (on this point he agrees with Rhodes). Now Heftner denies that Al- cibiades would have had the abilities necessary to make Athens an empire encom- passing the whole Mediterranean or that he would covet a tyranny, and claims that his true significance lies in the fact that he embodies the contradictions of his age. It is perhaps out of place to argue on minor points while reviewing books for gen- eral readership, but several notes are to be made. Rhodes, who wrote an article vigor- ously defending the veracity of ancient Greek historians, 6 disquietingly suggests that Thucydides exaggerated Syracusan unpreparedness in 415 in order to highlight their subsequent victory (p. 49). What does this make from Thucydidesí promise of factual accuracy (I,22,2, esp. o⁄d Íq Ømo˘ ØdÕkei)? Nor do I believe that ìfrom the view- point of rulers of the city of Athens (with the exception of the intermediate regime of 411/10), Alcibiades remained an exile,î as Rhodes claims (p. 66; see also pp. 77ñ78). Heftner, on his part, is perhaps excessively cautious about the usability of Socratic



tradition for an historian (pp. 23ñ26 and 45ñ46) and forgets about the Athenian catas- trophe in Egypt when he claims that the Athenians had never before 415 sent a fleet of comparable size to so distant a place (p. 96). Naturally, these are trifling details. Comparing the two books on a more general level, the longer monograph by Heft- ner is naturally more detailed and more prone to offering interesting re-evaluations of the tradition. For example, he claims that in 421 Alcibiades ultimately wished to be- come a peacemaker (pp. 42ñ43), has some interesting evaluations of Alcibiadesí os- tentatious Olympic victory in 416 (pp. 77ñ78) or compares the effects of Alcibiadesí extravagance to that modern stars (pp. 80ñ81). Unlike Heftner, Rhodes has usefully gathered in one place references to Alcibiades in comedies (p. 25). The maps and il- lustrations in Rhodesí book are generally of higher quality. To be sure, there are illus- trations in Heftnerís book, but their quality (and sometimes their relevance to the ac- companying text) is at times open to doubts. Alcibiadesí family tree (Rhodes, p. 17) is nowhere to be found in book the book by Heftner. All in all, both books may be recommended without hesitation to anyone interest- ed in the phenomenon Alcibiades. They are both erudite and easy to read and neither author deceives his readers by pretending to know for sure something that is contest- ed. Those who have some preliminary knowledge about late 5 th century Athens will probably find more illuminating observations in the book by Heftner. Had the most positive aspects of the books reviewed been merged to one, the position of Hatzfeldís monograph 7 as the most reliable scholarly guide to the life of Alcibiades would have been threatened more than ever before.

Pavel N˝vlt (Prague)

1 The first category includes those who paid for LYSIAS, Contra Alcibiadem I and II, and the author of [ANDOCIDES], Contra Alcibiadem. To the second belong all those who listened or read with pleasure ISOCRATES, De bigis. For the presentation of Al- cibiades in ancient sources, see the exhaustive treatment by DAVID GRIBBLE, Alcibia- des and Athens: A Study in Literary Presentation, Oxford 1999. Among prominent modern scholars, Alcibiadesí admirers would include, e. g., FRITZ TAEGER, Alkibiades, M¸nchen 1943, or M. F. MCGREGOR, The Genius of Alcibiades, in: Phoenix 19, 1963, pp. 27ñ46.

2 Alcibiadesí influence on the history of his time was perhaps most forcibly denied by E. F. BLOEDOW, Alcibiades Reexamined, Wiesbaden 1973 (who gives further refer- ences to Alcibiadesí admirers on pp. 1ñ2), and IDEM, ëAn Alexander in the Wrong Placeí. Alcibiades, ëthe Ablest of All the Sons of Athensí?, in: Studi Classici et Orien- tali 41, 1991, pp. 191ñ216.

3 See in more detail HERBERT HEFTNER, Zur Datierung der Ostrakisierung des Hy- perbolos, in: Rivista Storica dellíAntichità 30, 2000, pp. 27ñ45.

4 See in more detail P. J. RHODES, The Ostracism of Hyperbolus, in: Ritual, Fi- nance, Politics: Athenian Democratic Accounts Presented to David Lewis, (eds.) ROBIN OSBORNE ñ SIMON HORNBLOWER, Oxford 1994, pp. 85ñ98.



5 BRUNO BLECKMANN, Athens Weg in die Niederlage: die letzten Jahre des Pelo- ponnesischen Kriegs, Stuttgart ñ Lepizig 1998. 6 P. J. RHODES, In Defence of the Greek Historians, in: Greece & Rome 41, 1994, pp. 156ñ171. 7 JEAN HATZFELD, Alcibiade, Paris 1951.

I. A. RUFFELL, Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy ñ The Art of the Impossible. Oxford, Oxford University Press 2011, xii + 499 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-958721-6.

It is immediately clear to every reader of Old Comedy that it was closely related to contemporary politics. The precise nature of the relationship, however, has proved quite hard to grasp. The book under review set out to bring fresh answers to the ques- tion from the realm of modern theory. The first chapter, ìTripping over the light fantasticî (pp. 1ñ28), begins with Pla- toís responses to comedy, as the philosopher is our only contemporary source for the effects the comedies had on their public. Having noted that Plato condemned comic mockery as a means of social control, the author shows that despite Platoís having problems with comic imagination in his mimetic theory of literature, the philosopher understood the explanatory force of absurd comic narratives very well, as Aris- tophanesí speech in Symposium proves. There follows a brief introduction in the aim of the book and some preliminary criticisms and general observations on comedy (and its relation to logic), carnival and laughter. The following chapter, ìPossible worlds and comic fictionsî (pp. 29ñ53), deals with fiction and fantastic under the theory of fictional worlds. The author notes spe- cifics of comic worlds, concentrating on communicative aspects of the fiction, and stresses the importance of the spectatorsí both cognitive and emotional cooperation on the creation of fictional worlds. He also touches the questions of comic worldsí reference and transworld identity. He uses these concepts, among other things, to de- stroy the once popular approach of finding the more realistic passages the more ìseri- ousî, as any passage in a comedy constructs relevant parts of its fictional world re- gardless of its realism. The third chapter, ìOn eating cake: joke semioticsì (pp. 54ñ111), begins with con- tinuing polemics with the separatist approach and criticisms of modern attitudes to Aristophanic humour. 1 The author then turns to similarities and differences between tropes and jokes, making creative use of modern theories of both (engaging in de- tailed discussion with Freud and Raskin, using theories of Palmer and Lakoff). The jokes, he argues, share illogicallity with tropes, but depend much more on incompati- bility, implausibility and associative motivation; they include and are products of se- mantic opposition and constructive motivation and are both structurally distinctive