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Reviews William J. Slater, ed. Roman Theater and Society. E. Togo Salmon Papers, I. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1996. Pp. xiv + 186 + 8 plates. $42.50. In September 1993, McMaster University held its first E. Togo Salmon Conference, a series named for the distinguished historian whose bequest makes it possible and dedicated to topics that require, in the editor's words, "the confrontation of archaeological with literary evidence in constructing ancient history." The first of these Salmon Conferences dealt with theater in the Roman world. This volume presents seven of its papers. A summary first and then some comments. I.E.J. Jory, "The Drama of the Dance: Prolegomena to an Iconography of Imperial Pantomime" (1-27). Ancient pantomime was an entertainment in which a solo dancer in mask and costume performed the story of a myth to the accompaniment of musicians and chorus. Though quite a popular art form, it is now little understood by scholars of antiquity . Jory here reviews the material evidence for what pantomime dancers looked like and how they performed, which is largely a matter of isolating medallions, mosaics, and figurines that represent masks with closed mouths and realistic features and dancers who are dressed in such masks and ankle-length robes. The discussion of these artifacts, which is very well illustrated, then leads to important discussions of the difference between solo and choral dancing in antiquity and the different attitudes toward dance in Greek and Roman societies. 2.W. D. Lebek, "Moneymaking on the Roman Stage" (29^48). Republican theater, as everyone knows but too often forgets, was a commercial venture for performers and impresarios. Lebek reviews the evidence for the most successful such practitioners in the last two centuries B. C. in the city of Rome. He discusses the early comic writers Plautus and Terence, the tragic poets Ennius and (rather later) Varius, and then goes on to consider the famous actors of Cicero's day, Roscius and Aesopus, the success of pantomime and mime, the role of women in Roman theater, and the careers of Laberius and Publilius Syrus. 3.K. M. Coleman, "Ptolemy Philadelphus and the Roman Amphitheater " (49-68). In the winter of 275/74, Ptolemy Philadelphus, the second Macedonian king of Egypt, staged a grand procession in honor of his father and predecessor, Ptolemy Soter, at the second celebration of a festival called the Ptolemaieia. Coleman analyzes four elements of Ptolemy's display which she believes came to be echoed in the spectacles of later Roman amphitheaters. These are the use of mythological motifs and figures, the distribution of gifts to spectators, the development of elaborate and sophisticated technology, and the presentation of wild animals. Ptolemy's display made the Egyptian festival a demonstration of both the wealth and extent of his domain. It was also, however, a largely passive display of exoticism, and Coleman makes the inter589 590Comparative Drama esting point that the Roman tendency in developing these elements was to make them active, since for the Romans "the natural world was a theater that provided a spectacle for humankind." 4.J. C. Edmondson, "Dynamic Arenas: Gladiatorial Presentations in the City of Rome and the Construction of Roman Society during the Early Empire" (69-112). Gladiatorial shows at Rome were originally held as part of funeral celebrations, and though they could attract large crowds they were by nature activities in the private sphere. Only with Augustus did they become entertainments on the public calendar and come under imperial patronage. Edmondson concentrates on the production of these shows at Rome in the period from Augustus through Trajan (i.e., c.30 B.C-A.D. 117), when our sources are the richest. He shows how the arenas themselves were organized to reflect the social hierarchy of their time through seating by social standing and by regional and national groups. Seating privileges could even be used to set forth social and political agendas. 5.Elizabeth R. Gebhard, "The Theater and the City" (113-27). The acoustics and sightlines of ancient theaters made them ideal venues —generally the best in town—for a wide range of civic displays, including festivals, political demonstrations, and religious ceremonies, as well as what...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 589-592
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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