K. Kostopoulos: Vergangenheit vor Augen

Die Vergangenheit vor Augen. Erinnerungsräume bei den attischen Rednern

Kostopoulos, Katharina
Hermes. Einzelschriften 116
Stuttgart 2019: Franz Steiner Verlag
Anzahl Seiten
415 S.
€ 66,00
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Giorgia Proietti / Marco Ferrario, Department of Humanities, University of Trento

Kostopoulos’ book stems from the Author's doctoral dissertation, which was developed under the supervision of Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp and was defended at the University of Köln in 2017. It includes 10 chapters, each provided with a useful summary at the end. Chapter 1 offers a theoretical and methodological introduction concerning the relationship among space, memory, and public speech in 4th century Athens. Chapter 2 presents a detailed insight into Lycurgus’ Contra Leocratem, which shows according to the author “in exemplarischer Weise den Umgang mit Erinnerungsräumen” (p. 20). Chapter 3 to 8 are organized instead synchronically around the main portion of space (the Akropolis), and types of monuments (honorific statues, inscriptions, walls, tombs, trophies), which are evoked by the Attic orators as vectors of historical memory. Chapter 9 provides a summary of the “spaces of memory” of democratic Athens, while chapter 10 supplies two lists: a first one including modern editions and commentaries of the ancient sources, and a wide second one including modern literature. Four final indexes (sources, names, places, things) end the book.

The author's aim is to reveal “die Vernetzung von Monumenten, Rhetorik und Erinnerung zu Erinnerungsräume in Athen und für die Athener” (p. 20), through “eine breit angelegte Untersuchung der Verräumlichung von Vergangenheit und den damit verbundenen (Selbst-)Bildern und Wertvorstellungen bei den attischen Rednern” (pp. 36–37): to this goal, the book investigates how places, monuments, architectures, statues, inscriptions, city-walls, tombs, and trophies are recalled to as “spatial-mnemonic objects” in 4th century Athenian rhetoric. In doing this, it profitably fits into several recent research trends which have been developing in the past 20 years within the study of ancient Greek history, featuring a strongly inter- and trans-disciplinary approach, in connection with several cultural turns characterizing the humanities starting from the 60s–70s (esp. the “mnemonic”, “spatial”, “emotional”, and “performative” turns). More specifically, by focusing on space as “Erinnerungsräume” and on monuments as “materielle Erinnerunsgträger” the book engages with the recent attention paid to the multi-mediality of cultural memory in ancient Greece[1], as well as to its spatial dimension (both real and metaphorical).[2] Moreover, by looking at how monuments and spaces were recalled to in Athenian rhetoric, the book connects to the growing interest in the interrelation between public discourse and the politics of memory.[3] With regard to this, the author shows a detailed knowledge of a wide range of studies, which are discussed in the introductory chapter and referred to all throughout the book: her main theoretical and methodological references include, but are not limited to, Maurice Halbwachs, Aleida and Jan Assmann, Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Tonio Hölscher, Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp, Ulrich Walter, Pierre Nora, Susanne Rau.[4]

In chapter 1 the author provides a very well focused introduction on the relationship between space and memory, and its effectiveness within public rhetoric. From Obama to Demosthenes, the task of gaining the attention and favor of the audience – the latter thought of as a social, cultural and memorial community – is pursued at best when the orator achieves in recalling spaces to which the collective memory of that community is attached: in this communicative process, matters of collective self-representation and identity are in fact involved (p. 12). The mutual interaction between discourse and space, which notoriously lies behind the ancient mnemotechnics (pp. 13–14), appears crucial in the reconstruction of the past history of the Athenians, where a “Kultur der Monumente”, and, especially from Classical times, a “Kultur der öffentlichen Räume” can be detected (cf. Hölscher’s telling concept of “Monu-Mentalität”). Regarding space, the author rightly prefers using Raum, instead of Ort (pp. 14–15), in order to highlight the active, plural, and changing role of space in the memorial process. “Spaces of memory” in fact are not given a priori, but rise, continue, change, or chase, depending on the functions and meanings ascribed to them by the social agents, and the memorial practices attached (p. 17). Concerning monuments, instead, the author uses Denkmal and Monument as synonyms, both meant as dynamic concepts, implying different functions and intentions (especially interesting appears Hölscher's classification of monuments according to their degree of “memorial intentionality”, referred to at pp. 16–19).

In chapter 2, the author focuses on Lycurgus' Against Leocrates, as the most instructive example of how orators relied on past monuments and places in order to sustain present needs. Here, in fact, Lycurgus recalls several episodes of the past history of Athens, as exempla virtutis to oppose to the blameworthy behaviour of Leocrates, who left his city after the Athenian defeat at Cheronea. The author shows how the polis' past history (esp. that concerning the Persian wars) is constantly evoked through effective spaces of memory, comprising places, monuments, rites, as well as a whole set of symbols and meanings, traditions and values, which were familiar to the audience. The most severe charge brought against Leocrates, the desertion of the collective rites for the fallen at Cheronea, is opposed to earlier examples of civic devotion: public burials for the war dead are therefore constantly evoked as founding spaces of the polis’ memory. The author also interestingly advances her own interpretation concerning why Lycurgus devotes such a prominent attention to the Athenian spaces of memory: the first lies on a practical level (since he does not have a proper accusation against Leocrates, he refills his charge with past examples), the second on a rhetorical level (he hides himself behind the past, which is evoked in its spatiality and materiality and thus comes to the foreground as the main “authoritative voice” (p. 89)).

Chapter 3 explores how the Athenian Akropolis is evoked in Attic orators. On the one hand, single parts of it are recalled to, especially the Propylaia, the northern wall incorporating parts of the temples destroyed by Persians[5], the statue of Athena Promachos and other pieces of the Persian booty. On the other hand, the citadel as a whole is evoked, dialectically entangling past and present, as a space of memory of military defeats (especially those suffered in the Peloponnesian war, pp. 118–21), as the treasury of the polis (pp. 124–25), and as a public space dotted with inscriptions, honorific statues and dedications (pp. 128–30). As a whole, the orators point to recollect the “Symbolkraft der Akropolis für die Geschichte und damit die Identität der Polis” (p. 131).

Chapter 4 is devoted to the honorary statues for historical people erected in the agora. The author explores how the statues of the military leaders and those of the tyrannicides are recalled to by Attic orators as the cornerstones of the Athenian identity, pointing to both the military and the civic side of it. Relying on Hölscher's concept of “konzeptuelle Präsenz”, she highlights how the statues, both through their physical presence and visibility in the Athenian everyday landscape, and their embeddedness within civic rituals and discourses, act as “realen Gestalten der Vergangenheit” (p. 135), filling the gap between distant times and spaces, also playing an important pedagogic function concerning civic duties and virtues.

Chapter 5 deals with public inscriptions (laws, decrees, funerary epigrams, treaties, lists). Following the recent attention paid to public inscriptions as vectors of social memory and collective identity (by e.g. Gehrke, Lambert, Luraghi, Chaniotis), the author highlights the importance of their spatial dimension: “nicht nur die Inschrift als Monument or Text, sondern auch der Ort ihrer Aufstellung war Ausdruck der Intentionalität” (p. 196). Particularly instructive appears the section devoted to the Persian wars related inscriptions (pp. 211–25), esp. the decrees which Habicht notoriously labelled as “Falsche Urkunde” (pp. 211–16). The author makes in fact an appreciable effort to show that orators do not mention ancient decrees as documents, whose authenticity is supposed to be assessed, but as mnemonic-symbolic objects, which were perceived as real by the orator's audience, independent on their origin.

Chapter 6 explores the role of the “Metaphorik der Mauern” in the Athenian rhetoric, where city walls represent a symbol of the polis’ historical development. Within this metaphorical level, they are evoked at the service of different semantic strategies, in order to remember both power and defeat, both individual and collective efforts. A prominent attention is given to the reconstruction of the city walls after the Persian wars, as well as to the Spartan destruction, and subsequent reconstruction of the Long walls during the Corinthian war (regarding the latter, see already pp. 73–74 on Lycurgus' treatment of the Long walls).

Chapter 7 focuses on the ancestors' tombs, which represent a constitutive feature of the Athenian civic identity. They are accordingly evoked by the orators in trials concerning questions such as citizenship, property, and heritance. The Author considers tombs as a “multi-medial” combination of monument, space, ritual, and speech (pp. 284–93), and devotes special attention to the ancestors' tombs, which are evoked as “spaces of memory” of a distant heroic past, and to those of the fallen in the Persian wars, as paradigmatic of the Athenian war dead in general. Most interesting appears the author’s treatment of the Demosion Sema (esp. pp. 287–89), which is rightly described not as a juridically-defined cemetery, in a modern sense, but as a space mostly devoted to public burials, where civic rituals for the war dead took place, and where the civic identity of the Athenian community found one of its highest expressions.

Chapter 8 concentrates on trophies, which are evoked not only as symbols of victory (or defeat), but as “konkrete Objekte” (p. 319). Special attention is given to the trophies of the Persian wars, which the orators mention as “Zeichen der Verdienste der gesamten Bürgerschaft und nicht der Errungenschaften eines Einzelnen” (p. 333).

Finally, chapter 9 offers a brief conclusion, bringing together the results of the author’s investigation under the title “Die Erinnerungsräume der athenischen Demokratie”. Although the “democratic” label seems unfairly restricting – since the book is much more than a recognition of the spaces of Athens as a democracy – the chapter offers important considerations, for instance concerning the plurality, as well as the interconnectedness, of the spaces of memory evoked by orators. It is in fact only in the multiplicity of stories and symbols attached to those spaces that the Athenian civic community, and orator's audience, could recognize its own identity.

The book is a very well-learned one, making a profitable use of a wide range of interpretative tools, which the author does not apply mechanically, but uses properly in order to question and investigate the ancient evidence. Except for a few minor mistakes (such as a wrong name – John instead of Jan – for Vansina, p. 52; “spaciality” instead of “spatiality”, p. 369), the book appears also very well-finished and well-structured, successfully combining a clear development of the arguments with a rich apparatus of footnotes which discuss in detail both the ancient sources and modern literature. All in all, in light of both its methodology and contents, the book represents a successful enterprise; a welcome example of how an interdisciplinary approach to Greek history, looking for instance at memory studies as well as spatial studies, combined with a detailed knowledge and rigorous treatment of the ancient evidence, can shed new light on how the Greeks dealt with their past. And, in doing that, experienced their present.

[1] Among the most recent books on the ancient Greeks’ “multi-medial” way of dealing with the past are e.g. Hans Beck / Hans-Ulrich Wiemer (eds.), Feiern und Erinnern. Geschichtsbilder im Spiegel antiker Feste, Berlin 2009; Andreas Hartmann, Zwischen Relikt und Reliquie. Objektbezogene Erinnerungspraktiken in antiken Gesellschaften, Berlin 2010; Jonas Grethlein, The Greeks and their Past. Poetry, Oratory and History in the Fifth Century BCE, Cambridge 2010; John Marincola / Llyod Llewellyn-Jones / Calcum Maciver (eds.), Greek Notions of the Past in the Archaic and Classical Eras. History without the Historian, Edinburgh 2012; Tonio Hölscher, Monumente der Geschichte – Geschichte als Monument?, in Ortwin Dally et al. (eds.), Medien der Geschichte. Antikes Griechenland und Rom, Berlin 2014, pp. 254–84. On the Persian wars as a prominent case study: Michael Jung, Marathon und Plataiai. Zwei Perserschlachten als ‘lieux de mémoire’ im antiken Griechenland, Göttingen 2006; David Yates, States of Memory. The Polis, Panhellenism, and the Persian War, Oxford 2019; Giorgia Proietti, Prima di Erodoto. Aspetti della memoria delle Guerre Persiane, Stuttgart 2021.
[2] This trend has already produced important studies, such as e.g. Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp – Elke Stein-Hölkeskamp, Erinnerungsorte der Antike. Vol. I: Die Römische Welt; Vol. II: Die Griechisce Welt, München 2006–2010; Michael Scott, Delphi and Olympia. The Spatial Politics of Panhellenism in the Archaic and Classical Periods, Cambridge 2010; Nathan Arrington, Topographic Semantics. The Location of the Athenian Public Cemetery and its Significance for the Nascent Democracy, in Hesperia 79 (2010), 179–212.
[3] See e.g. Bernd Steinbock, Social Memory in Athenian Public Discourse, Ann Arbor 2013; Mirko Canevaro, La memoria, gli oratori e il pubblico nell’Atene del IV secolo a.C., in: Elena Franchi – Giorgia Proietti, Conflict in Communities. Forward-Looking Memories in Classical Athens, Trento 2017, pp. 171–212.
[4] Among the essential reference points concerning the relation between collective memory and space, and the configuration of “memoryscapes” at a social level, I note the absence of Eviatar Zerubavel.
[5] Paragraph §3.2 (pp. 98–111) represents a pretty wide and in-depth analysis of the “Ruinen of the Perserkriege”, which can be appreciated independent of its connection with the theme of the book, and which can now be enriched with Sarah A. Rous, Reset in Stone. Memory and Reuse in Ancient Athens, Madison 2019, pp. 36–45.

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