Ancient Documents Old and New



The Centre's seminar series continued in MichaelmasTerm 1998 with four papers on epigraphical themes.

"From Stewartstown to Smyrna: a numismatist's epigraphic notebook"

(David Whitehead, 14 October 1998)

The paper concerned an anonymous nineteenth-century notebook - currently in Northern Ireland - containing transcripts of over two hundred ancient Greek and other inscriptions from the eastern Mediterranean. The original owner/compiler of the book was shown to be Henry Perigal Borrell (1795-1851), best known as an amateur scholar of numismatics and a supplier of coins, via the Bank of England, to the British Museum. As to how the book travelled from Borrell's home in Smyrna (Izmir) to Stewartstown, Co.Tyrone, the key figure was identified as James Kennedy Baillie MRIA (1793-1864), Rector of Ardtrea. Baillie repaid Borrell's generosity in sending him the book, for use in his own epigraphical work, by plagiaristically publishing many of its items. After Baillie the line of transmission became one of the prominent Huguenot families of the area. A full account of this study, including a catalogue of contents, will be published in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy.

"What's in a name: when is an ethnic really ethnic?"

(George Williamson, 28 October 1998)

Individuals are often referred to in inscriptions not only by their personal names, but also by 'ethnics' - terms such as Athenaios or Romaios indicating either the political community to which an individual belongs, or his/her ethnic origin. The paper considered the use of these terms in the light of modern experience of ethnic identity, to ask what sort of information they provide about ethnic affiliations. It argued that what have been conveniently and rather misleadingly termed 'ethnics' have in many cases little or nothing to tell us about what we would consider from a modern standpoint ethnic identity, and often instead deal with political identities. Their use was shaped both by different 'genres' of epigraphic text - in many regions ethnics were rarely employed on burial texts - as well as local civic ideologies. For example, at Athens different types of ethnics reveal a range of distinct political statuses - the term 'Athenaios' was reserved for claims to citizenship. Ethnics are often only secure evidence of official political identities. Examination of ethnics used to describe slaves in a number of cities suggests the influence of official categorisations upon individuals from outside the community. Their identities might be defined in ways officially meaningful, but which do not correspond to their own self-perceptions. A final case-study set in Lycia suggested that a number of ethnic groups we know from literary sources - Kabalians, and Milyans - are only in exceptional cases mentioned in the epigraphic record, perhaps because these identities did not refer to membership of a political community.

"Busy Days for Attic Epigraphy: 307 to 301 B.C."

(Graham Oliver, 11 November 1998)

The last years of the fourth century were busy years; proportionally more state decrees were set up between 307 and 301 than at any other time during the fourth century B.C. One controversy in this period remains the possibility that there were two successive intercalary years in 304/303 and 303/302 (see R. Stroud, SEG 36. 165). The basis of the problems lies in the Athenian decree honouring Medon, general of Antigonus Monophthalmos and Demetrius Poliorcetes published by A.P. Matthaiou (Horos 4, 1986, 19-23; SEG 36. 165). The decree belongs to 304/303 and it seems to indicate that the year had a repeated or intercalated month. Some explanation of this phenomenon is required. Woodhead had suggested that the repeated month of 304/303 was not the result of an intercalary year but in fact the product of Stratokles' proposals to initiate Demetrios Poliorketes into the Eleusinian Mysteries (Plut. Demetr. 26. 2-3). Notoriously Stratokles renamed the month of Mounychion Anthesterion and made Mounychion Boedromion so that Demetrios was able to be inducted into the lesser rites and great rites (epoptica) of the Eleusinia respectively without having to wait a year.

Woodhead's proposal brings with it a number of chronological problems for the last years of the fourth century; his recent publication of decrees from the Athenian Agora overlooks these difficulties and makes little reference to possibilities of two successive intercalary years (see Agora XVI, 114). These difficulties can only be explored by reviewing the epigraphical material for 304/303 and 303/302, and by reconsidering the historical evidence. There remains considerable uncertainty surrounding the precise nature of a month which would normally appear to be intercalary. Not least is the fact that the four inscriptions from the final month of 304/303 appear to behave in a fashion more typical of a normal year (see IG II² 486, Horos 4, 1986, 11-18, Hesperia 7, 1938, 297, no. 22 and IG II2 597 + Add. p. 662). A final solution to this problem is elusive but may well lie in the way in which the events of the years 304/303 and 303/302 are reconstructed.

"Epigraphy and the Athenian Cleruchy on Samos"

(Charles Crowther, 25 November 1998)

The title of this paper masked a narrow textual discussion of one of the fourth-century Athenian decrees included in Geoffrey Woodhead's recent The Athenian Agora. Volume XVI. Inscriptions: The Decrees. Close attention to the formulation of Agora XVI 111, a decree for an anonymous Prienian, suggests a context for the award of a gold crown should be sought in the later years of the Athenian cleruchy on Samos rather than the aftermath of the restoration of the Athenian democracy in 307/6 BC, as suggested by Woodhead.

New Writing Tablets from Vindolanda

(Alan Bowman, David Thomas, Melissa Terras, Trinity Term 1999)

In two seminars in Trinity Term 1999 Alan Bowman and David Thomas presented a series of new texts found at Vindolanda during the 1990s, ranging in content from a letter of recommendation to a list of what may have been the contents of a medicine chest. A third seminar, with contributions from Veit Schenk and Melissa Terras, offered a progress report on the stylus tablet image enhancement project.

Return to Table of Contents


Home | What's New | Events | Images | Links

Created on Sunday, 24 October, 1999: 19:38:37