Below are the citations for the three winners of our 2019 Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit. Please join us in congratulating this year's winners and in thanking the Goodwin Committee members for their hard work.
Andrew C. Johnston, The Sons of Remus: Identity in Roman Gaul and Spain. Harvard University Press, 2017
The story of the Roman Empire, much like the story of the American West, has long emphasized assimilation and Romanization: parcere subiectis et debellare superbos. Presumably discarded were the local identities and indigenous traditions that no longer defined or empowered the provincials. Unlike the cities of the Greek East, with their indigenous and hyper-literate insistence on their own distinctive identities, past and present, the Roman West has been thought to be a virtual tabula rasa, on which Romanness was inscribed with little difficulty.
In The Sons of Remus: Identity in Roman Gaul and Spain, Andrew C. Johnston goes west to two major provinces in search of their local experiences, memories, and discourses, and paints a strikingly different picture. Alongside the “grandsons” of Romulus, Romuli nepotes, as Catullus dubbed the Romans of his age, and far from the imperial center, lived the provincial sons of Remus, who asserted and enacted their indigenous identities even as they adopted Roman customs and recognized imperial authority. Johnston compellingly argues for the persistent diversity of local communities and the role played by local character, creatively curated, in their sense of identity and belonging. A variety of fascinating case studies reveal how the provincials of the Roman West represented their own communities; how they defined themselves as they interacted and competed with other communities, sometimes violently; the importance of both the Roman past and the pre-Roman past in negotiating and maintaining a community’s sense of self; and the provincial performance of identity in and through their local governing structures, rituals, myths, and culture. Marshalled for investigation is an extraordinarily rich spectrum of evidence literary, artistic, archaeological, and epigraphic, much of it recent, like an inscription from Palma in the Balearic Islands attesting a local lupercus who seems not, or not merely, to be a delegate to the Roman Lupercalia (a foundation festival that seemingly makes sense only at the Palatine Lupercal in Rome), but a priest responsible for some kind of vibrant local celebration in his home community.
Andrew Johnston’s trip west reveals that the Roman Empire was not only very big but also very diverse, and his The Sons of Remus provides a firm foundation for future research in what is obviously a rich and important field, with timely resonance in our own era of globalism, resurgent nationalism, and the assertion of local identity and indigenous integrity in the face of hegemonic agency.
Josephine Quinn, In Search of the Phoenicians. Princeton University Press, 2018
Today we think we know who the Phoenicians were. Credited with a range of cultural firsts, from the alphabet to civilization itself, indeed “from the pole star to the Cornish cream tea,” the world would simply not be the same without them. But do we really know who they were? Josephine Quinn’s In Search of the Phoenicians offers a surprising answer: we do not; check the evidence itself. Understood as a singular, self-defining ethnic group, their shared identity manifest in language, in forms of government, and in a set of cultural practices, “the Phoenicians” appear in the historical record of other peoples only, from Homer to the present. Their ethnic and cultural label was not their own, but was awarded to them by others.
The thesis is startling, and its consequences mind-boggling. If we remove the label, the Phoenicians cease to enjoy an independent existence. Did they even have a sense of shared identity? Or were they no more than a phantom product of the West? They may be a historical mirage, but that is only the beginning of Quinn’s remarkable story. Early Greek literature filled out the seascape with a not-us group of Phoenicians, whose very name tellingly derives from the Greek language. From the late fifth century, the Carthaginians, progressively confident in their territorial empire, claimed this suitably sweeping identity for themselves. The distinctive cultural politics of the Hellenistic kingdoms and the Roman Empire further encouraged the search for a common past and history that rivaled those of competing superpowers. In the imperial competitions of premodern and modern Europe, Carthage’s long status as an anti-Rome encouraged multiple self-identifications as Phoenicians. In short, the Phoenicians emerge not merely as an “invented” people, but as a multiply reinvented one. Quinn is equally compelling on the shifting dynamics of self-identification amongst “Phoenicians”. In the areas conventionally associated with the “Phoenicians”, the reference point for locating selves is frequently family or local community, as is the default throughout the ancient Mediterranean. Sometimes, however, we also find small clusters (e.g. the “circle of the Tophet”), and larger opt-in networks (e.g. participants in the Melqart cult).
To pursue these questions about identity, In Search of the Phoenicians takes its readers on an epic journey from the tenth century BCE to the 20th CE, from Lebanon to Ireland, from the Hebrew Bible to Heliodorus, John Milton and James Joyce, from bilingual epitaphs to Anthony D. Smith on nation-building, and from western Mediterranean Tophets to Stonehenge. The fruit of these travels is a new genealogy of an invented people, the Phoenicians. With its deep appreciation for the multiple agencies and perspectives, geographies and networks of the Mediterranean and Near East, and for the two thousand years of subsequent entanglement of ancient and modern cultural and political wars, Quinn’s outstanding book exemplifies the breadth and depth of Classics in the 21st century. Above all, it articulates a methodological template for examining nations, cultures, and ethnicities in the ancient world and in their long, productive afterlives. Quinn’s work will oblige scholars to rethink their assumptions about what it means to be a “people” of any kind, including those who are known today as “Greeks” and “Romans.”
Francesca Schironi, The Best of the Grammarians: Aristarchus of Samothrace on the Iliad. University of Michigan Press, 2018
The Best of the Grammarians: Aristarchus of Samothrace on the Iliad is a monumental study that is unlikely to be surpassed for generations to come. Indeed, Schironi’s only true rival is Arthur Ludwich’s work in two volumes from 1884-85, Aristarchs homerische Kritik. Weighing in at over 900 pages of densely argued text, and seemingly exhaustive in its canvasing of the relevant issues and available evidence, including some 4,300 pertinent scholia, The Best of the Grammarians is a massive reconstruction of the methods, techniques, and principles that guided Aristarchus’ study of the Iliad as he went about analyzing and emending the Homeric text.
The results are at once theoretical and pragmatic, not least because Aristarchus’ theory is embedded in the way he practiced his criticism of Homer. Schironi’s own study models this “practice of theory” approach. It begins with such basic questions as, How did Aristarchus read Homer? How did he discriminate among his sources? What were his touchstones in the Homeric text? He made use of paraphrase, like most of his contemporaries. He advocated reading aloud and was alert to poetic and rhetorical figures, including metaphor, allegory, and irony. He analyzed Homeric vocabulary, and he identified characters, customs, and places in the epic as well as its cosmology. He sought to discover etymologies, and he made use of analogy to solve linguistic puzzles. He was also prepared to judge the aesthetic quality of Homer’s poems, drawing on Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric for his critical categories. Aristarchus was aware of the formulaic nature of epic verse and the use of epithets, and he had a subtle appreciation of Homer’s narrative style. When he athetized a line, it was for good reasons, such as internal contradiction.
While Schironi recognizes that Aristarchus’ studies had inevitable limitations and were not infrequently grounded in circular reasoning, she concludes that his procedures were motivated by a noble commitment to Homer’s unsurpassed greatness as a poet, his deep self-consistency, and his sole authorship of the two epics—principles that were not universally accepted in antiquity any more than they are today. She sets out these points and many others with consummate learning, clarity, and elegance. And while the book lends itself to use as a reference work, it is much more than that. After working their way through her study, readers will come to regard Aristarchus as a friend and fellow critic with whom one can carry on stimulating mental conversations even today. Francesca Schironi has brought Aristarchus to life, and thanks to her efforts, we can all be better acquainted with the best of the ancient grammarians.
Citations by the Goodwin Award Committee:
James I. Porter