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Reviewed by:
  • Ambassadeurs et ambassades au coeur des relations diplomatiques. Rome – Occident médiéval – Byzance (VIIIe s. avant J.-C. - XIIe s. après J.-C.) ed. by Audrey Becker and Nicolas Drocourt
  • Dominic Moreau
Ambassadeurs et ambassades au coeur des relations diplomatiques. Rome – Occident médiéval – Byzance (VIIIe s. avant J.-C. - XIIe s. après J.-C.). Audrey Becker and Nicolas Drocourt, Eds. Metz: Centre de Recherche Universitaire Lorrain d’Histoire, 2012. Pp. x + 436. ISBN 2–85730–054–9

In the past fifteen years, there has been renewed study of diplomatic relations in Antiquity and Middle Ages, and the editors of the present volume are among the key French players in this revival. This book is drawn from an international symposium held in Metz in 2010. The colloquium covered a very long time span, from the fifth century bce to the twelfth century ce, but more than half of the papers published here focus on Late Antiquity. The other contributions are equally interesting and important, but this review will focus on the late antique contributions.

After the editors’ general introduction (1–9), which explicates the status quaestionis and details of the methodological approach selected by the organizers, there follow five papers on the Roman Republic and the High Empire. The transition to Late Antiquity is covered in F. Battistoni’s “Retori e ambasciatori dall’Ellenismo al Tardo Impero” (127–141), which examines ambassadors’ rhetorical skills, starting with the embassy led by Hegesias of Lampsacus to Rome in 196 bce and ending with the anonymous Latin panegyric to Constantine [End Page 242] delivered at Trier in 311 (Pan. Lat. 5 [8]). The episodes discussed often have little or no connection between them, but they demonstrate the importance of the mastery of rhetoric in Greek and Roman diplomatic relations. The next contribution, “Legatio, clientèle et munera. À propos d’Ammien Marcellin XXVI, 5, 7,” by Alain Chauvot (143–66), is based on a single historical anecdote, the story of an Alamannic embassy to the imperial court of Milan at the beginning of the reign of Valentinian I, which turned out badly. Chauvot attempts to define the concept of munera in Ammianus’ works, which leads him to a new interpretation of the embassy.

Christine Delaplace devotes her “La diplomatie de l’Empire romain dans l’Antiquité tardive: un limes invisible, mais efficace face aux pressions des peuples barbares et de l’Empire perse aux IVe et Ve siècles” not to a specific embassy but to foreign policy more generally (167–81). Offering an overview of the major work published on the subject since 1975, this study tries to establish the object of the Roman Empire’s diplomatic choices in the fourth and fifth centuries ce based more closely on ancient sources. “Les activités secrètes des ambassadeurs dans l’Antiquité tardive” by Ekaterina Nechaeva (183–202) focuses on a concept currently popular in the media—closed-door diplomacy (185). The paper is divided into three unequal parts, the first devoted to secret negotiations, the second to acts of sabotage, and the third to conspiracies (197–201). Despite the imbalance of presentation, the study really does shed light on its core issue and manages to go beyond the evidence of Procopius, its main source. The shortest paper of the book, “L’ambassade de l’Arménien Narsēs/Narseus (a. 358),” by Giusto Traina (203–9), is nevertheless one of its most original, since it offers a critical look into another Late Antiquity than that to which we are usually accustomed. Starting from Nina Garsoïan’s hypotheses about the embassy of the kat’ołikos Nersēs to the Roman imperial court, in which she establishes an alternative dating to the one offered by the Armenian sources, the author shows how the Armenian evidence still contains some truth, and he strengthens the case for a date of 358 ce.

As its title indicates, “L’affaire d’Anasamos (443): une négociation entre Attila, Anatolius et les habitants d’une place forte danubienne,” by Hervé Huntzinger (211–26), also focuses on a specific episode of late...


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