Myth, Literature, and the Creation of the Topography of Thebes.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2018. 1st paperback ed. X,190p. Paperback. 'The author’s program of 'exploring representations of a topography that lies at this juncture of the real and imagined city' (p. 2), fits into established traditions in both philological quiry, as well as those concerned with mapping socially inflected geographical space, the so-called spatial turn. The theories of Henri Lefebvre, Edward Soja, and Yi Fu Tuan that Berman presents in the introduction are, of course, only a few of the many that could be deployed here. From a European point of view, the debates about 'Erinnerungskulturen', i.e. the discussions on the formation of memory attached to specific monuments and places, also contribute to our understanding of how social self-consciousness may be formed in given societies. Nevertheless, Berman should not be criticised for not having written a historical study of these ideas, for he is not a historian but a philologist, presenting the sources he considers to be state-of-the-art according to his own formation as a scholar. Having worked on related subjects for years, he really knows the material he is writing about. (...) After introducing the main theories and scholarly literature on which the book relies, the first part gives an overview of the main archaeological features of the city of Thebes: boundaries and names, natural landmarks, and man-made structures like walls, graves, and buildings ('Introduction: Constructing a city', pp. 1-26). There follows a discussion of sources mentioning, or not mentioning, topographical aspects of Thebes, chronologically organised by types of texts. A first chapter is dedicated to Thebes in epic ('Epic Thebes', pp. 27-48), a second to Thebes in lyric sources (“Lyric Thebes”, pp. 49-74), a third to Thebes in Attic drama ('Thebes on stage', pp. 75-121), and a fourth to Thebes in the surviving poetry of the Hellenistic period ('Thebes of the library', pp. 122-140). The fifth chapter (“The creation of Theban topography”, pp. 141-159) summarizes the previous ones and discusses the evidence in Pausanias. Appendices to 'The plain(s) of Thebes' (pp. 160-161), 'The walls and gates of Thebes' (pp. 162-175, including six maps), 'Pindar’s house' (pp. 176-177), a bibliography ('References', pp. 178-184), an 'Index locorum' (pp. 185-187), and a “General index” (pp. 188-190) complete the monograph. (...) Myths, literature, and poetry supersede the destructive force of wars and earthquakes: a wonderful conclusion for everyone believing in the force of story-telling. This straightforwardly source-based, sometimes repetitive, but admirably detailed philological study provides a trustworthy, useful tool for scholars working on Boeotian Thebes with a view to topographical aspects as represented in ancient texts.' (ANGELA GANTER in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.10.32).