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Reviewed by:
  • The Greek Theatre and Festivals: Documentary Studies
  • Peter Meineck
Peter Wilson (ed.). The Greek Theatre and Festivals: Documentary Studies. Oxford Studies in Ancient Documents. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. xviii, 431. $120.00. ISBN 978-019-927747-6.

This excellent new collection, edited by Peter Wilson and developed from an Oxford colloquium held in 2003, takes a fresh look at the documentary evidence for the Greek theatre. In his introduction, Wilson explains his idea to offer a "worm's-eye" view of the theatre by examining mainly epigraphic material from the "bottom up." He points out that many scholars working in Greek drama still defer to very old sources such as Pickard-Cambridge's Dithyramb, Tragedy and Comedy first published in 1927 and The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens (1946), and that there is a desperate need for new studies incorporating more recent or otherwise neglected material.

Part I, "Festivals and Performances," offers new perspectives on the "big-picture issues" of festival organization. William Slater trawls through largely "unprocessed" epigraphic data shedding light on the Greek world's "militant" festival culture and the problems of interpreting evidence from communities as far afield as Kos, Didyma, Olympia, Delos, and Sardis. Angelos Chaniotis turns the questions of ritual and theater inside out and asks why rituals re-quired stage managing and what kind of impact the theater space had on the form of the rituals themselves, and Sophia Aneziri examines the Hellenistic Artist's guilds and their participation in musical competitions.

Part II, "Festivals of Athens and Attica," offers three chapters (by Eric Csapo, Hans Rupprecht Goette, and Peter Wilson) on the Athenian Theater and tackles a number of current controversies. Csapo's "The Men Who Built the Theaters" is a fascinating look at the institution of Theatropolai (or Theatronai)—the men who erected and rented the theater structure itself and were responsible for collecting admission. Csapo distinguishes between these managers of temporary wooden structures and the arkhitektones who presided over the later stone Lykurgan theater built in the mid-fourth century. He feels that the fifth-century theater of Dionysos sat only 5000–7000 and had a rectangular or trapezoid orchestra. This theory is further supported by Goette's handy archaeological appendix. It is certainly a bold and well-argued view derived from epigraphy and textual references, but I am not sure it settles the question once and for all, as Csapo maintains. There are [End Page 351] some problems with accepting a long horizontal center seating section and side bleachers pitched at a sharp ninety-degree angle. 5,000 seats seems far too small a space for such a major festival event as the Dionysia.1 Goette also examines the choregic monuments offered by the producers of winning dithyrambic performances and shows how these innovative sculptures expertly negotiated the thorny territory between individual glory and community awareness in democratic Athens. Peter Wilson's treatment of the Thargelia festival to Apollo offers a parallel to some of the more widely studied ritu-als of Athens and shows how performance was incorporated into civic ritual with particular emphasis on the much-neglected dithyramb.

Part III ("Beyond Athens") contains chapters from Paolo Ceccarelli and Silvia Milanezi, John Ma, Brigitte Le Guen, Ian Rutherford, Charles Crowther, David Jordan, and Peter Wilson, all on non-Athenian performance traditions such as the dithyrambic festivals of Cyrene and Teos. There are also biographical reconstructions of the lives of Kraton, a Hellenistic aulos player, and Dymas, a tragic dramatist, with a close look at the Dionysia of Iasos, where Dymas presented his works. Two chapters on Sicily complete the volume; David Jordan analyzes a fifth-century opisthographic lead tablet with theatrical financing language on one side and a vicious curse to chthonic forces on the other. An ancient producer, Apellis of Gela was looking to the underworld to guarantee him a smash hit. (As Max Bialystock once said, "Never put your own money in the show!"). Jordan's contribution is a good example of how close epigraphic study can both illuminate and enliven.

Wilson's "worm's-eye view" reveals fascinating and important new data and challenges many preconceived ideas. The Greek Theatre and Festivals...


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