- Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity ed. by Karl Galinsky
The need for humanists, social scientists, and “real” scientists to work together on memory is a central tenet of Karl Galinsky’s Memoria Romana: Memory in Roman Civilization project that was initiated in 2009 with the conferral of a Max Planck Research Award for International Cooperation. The project’s first collected volume, Karl Galinsky (ed.), Memoria Romana: Memory in Rome and Rome in Memory (Ann Arbor 2014), concluded with remarks by the eminent architect Daniel Libeskind on the connections between architecture and memory; the present volume gives the last word to neuroscience. Indeed, Galinsky’s introduction also privileges neuroscience by comparison with nonscientists (a.k.a. humanists). What struck me, however, was the degree to which the very approachable neuroscientific essay on memory closely resembles what careful humanist research has argued—apart from the material on the brain, of course. Indeed, the present volume offers many examples of good, often very good, humanist treatments of literary, imperial, honorific, and Christian memory in the Roman world from the early empire to late antiquity.
After a long (nearly 10 percent of the volume) and nebulous introduction surveying both memory studies and the present volume, part 1 collects three studies of memory in Roman authors. Alain Gowing, whose groundbreaking Empire and Memory: The Representation of the Roman Republic in Imperial Culture (Cambridge 2005) helped bring the memory boom to classical studies, examines memory as a cause of action in Tacitus, for whom more recent exemplars mattered more than those of the storied past. Brigitte B. Libby’s inventive essay argues that Vergil’s Dido was more a Circe-like enchantress, and so a threat to Aeneas’ need to remember the collective good (the foundation of Rome), than an innocent and abandoned Ariadne. Jörg Rüpke’s somewhat difficult contribution treats the exempla tradition in Valerius Maximus, whose first two books somehow historicize religious knowledge.
Eric Orlin opens part 2 on imperial memory with a lucid and thorough treatment of the massive Augustan reconstruction of memory in the Campus Martius that was both literal (involving actual buildings) and metaphorical, as it were (impacting collective memory). Charles Hedrick then offers a meditation on fantasy, memory, and history—complete with an Aristotelian/Greimassian semiotic square!—using “memories” of Nero or rumors about his return as a case study.
Part 3 then turns to a locus classicus of civic memory, honorific statues. Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp traces the “inter-signification” (or interconnectedness) of monument (a statue of Tremulus) and historical memory (the deeds [End Page 579] of Tremulus) in an oratorical performance (by Cicero), which demonstrates the complex and evolving interplay between place, monument, ritual, and text. Elke Stein-Hölkeskamp explores Sulla’s use of statuary to promote his own memory, battling with Marius on the terrain of memory and eventually removing (the statues of) his competitor from the field, rewriting the rules of commemoration in the process. Although these two essays establish statues as bearers of memory, Diana Ng rightly cautions against simply assuming the value of honorific statues in light of their recycling—though reuse may in fact confirm their value as memory currency—suggesting instead that sculptural programs, which (it seems) were not so easily repurposed, were better able to perform memory work.
The final section assembles a group of papers that, more or less, deal with Christian memory, though Nicola Denzey Lewis examines “pagan” memory practices in funerary contexts in a Christianizing empire. Denzey Lewis convincingly evokes the imaginative use of traditional imagery by “pagans” who were attempting to preserve classical cultural memory in religiously plural funerary environments. John Kloppenborg then follows with a massive essay reassessing the conditions that impacted, or rather impaired, the oral transmission of sayings of Jesus in early proto-Christian communities. Drawing upon an experiment conducted by April DeConick, a professor of religious studies, which recreated the process of the oral transmission of various kinds of sayings, and also contemporary memory studies (including neuroscience...