The Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents has recently become involved in an unexpectedly exciting cross-discipline enterprise. Combining two of the Centre’s current projects, the Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions (CPI), and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), the CSAD has recently begun preparation for the capture of RTI and 3D interactive images of the 6.7 meter tall obelisk from Philae in Egypt, now situated in the grounds of the Kingston Lacy estate in Dorset.
The CSAD’s three-year CPI project is currently creating a corpus of up-to-date editions of almost 500 Greek, bilingual and trilingual inscriptions on stone from Egypt during its rule by the Hellenistic dynasty founded by Ptolemy I in 323, and ending with the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC. The obelisk at Kingston Lacy is one of those important multi-lingual inscriptions, in which Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphic scripts exist alongside one other, and which in the 19th century provided clues to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The CSAD's RTI project is focussed on the development and implementation of a photographic method that captures a subject’s surface shape and colour and enables the interactive re-lighting of the subject from any direction. A particular strength of RTI is that it can reveal surface information that cannot be seen with the naked eye. While the scripts on the Kingston Lacy obelisk are in a reasonably good state of preservation, and reading is still possible, the opportunity to improve the accuracy of the text, and to find and identify elements of pigment in the inscription, provide sufficient reason for re-examining the monument. There are also considerable conservation benefits to be gained for the National Trust, which now owns the Kingston Lacy estate, through the creation of a permanent, accurate, interactive virtual image of the obelisk as it is today, since gradual deterioration of the original over time is an inevitability.
But the biggest surprise did not come to light until after identification of the obelisk as being of particular epigraphical interest. Soon after discussions with the National Trust were begun, it was revealed that the obelisk is set to achieve considerably wider significance later this year: its name has been given to the robotic craft that in November 2014 will attempt a landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as part of a mission launched in 2004 by the European Space Agency. The main robotic spacecraft has been named Rosetta, after the famous Egyptian basalt slab, featuring a decree in three scripts, and the lander is named after the Nile island of Philae, where the Kingston Lacy obelisk was discovered. The European Space Agency hopes that, just as a comparison of the scripts on the Rosetta Stone and the obelisk led to a greater understanding of the Egyptian writing system, the Philae and Rosetta space mission will lead to a better understanding of comets and the early Solar System.
So it was decided that the CSAD work on the obelisk should become part of the multi-disciplinary focus on the obelisk, planned to culminate at the time of the comet landing. RTI and 3D imaging of the obelisk, together with another obelisk fragment and a sarcophagus nearby in the Kingston Lacy grounds, will be carried out over the summer and early autumn; time-lapse photography will record the process, from erection of the purpose-designed scaffolding, through the cleaning of the obelisk by the National Trust conservation department, to the RTI photography and 3D scanning; an exhibition, and the possibility of a short documentary film on the obelisk and its flamboyant history, and the CSAD’s part in recording it, are also being discussed, all to be ready to mark in style the landing of its namesake, Philae, on the comet in November.
Oxford Epigraphy Workshop, Trinity Term 2014
All meetings at 1.00 in the First Floor Seminar room, Ioannou Centre, 66 St Giles
Monday, May 5: J.- C. Decourt ‘Une nouvelle lex sacra dans la région de Larissa (Thessalie)’.
Monday, May 12: tba – offers welcome
Monday, May 19: Daniele Miano, ‘Portable salvation in the fourth century BC: on bronze strigils marked in Greek from central Italy and Tyrrhenian islands’
Monday, May 26: Chris Faraone, ‘Writing Greek amulets’.
Monday June 9, Pierre Fröhlich, ‘New Inscriptions from Euromos’.
Friday, June 13 (n.b. unusual day!): Massimo Nafissi, ‘The new Iasian momument for the Hecatomnid basileis and its dedicatory epigram’.
British Epigraphy Society
Practical Epigraphy Workshop
24- 26 June 2014
The British Epigraphy Society will hold its sixth Practical Epigraphy
Workshop this summer from 24 to 26 June at Corbridge, Northumberland.
The workshop is aimed primarily at graduates wishing to develop hands-on
skills in working with epigraphic material, though we also welcome
applications from those at any stage in their career who would like to
acquire a greater sensitivity to the gathering of epigraphic evidence.
With expert tuition, participants will gain direct experience of the practical
elements of how to record and study inscriptions. The programme will
include the making of squeezes; photographing and measuring inscribed
stones; and the production of transcriptions, translations and commentaries.
Participants may choose to work on Latin or Greek texts, and the workshop
will be open to those either with or without epigraphic training.
The course fee will be £90 for this three-day event.
Please direct enquiries about the workshop to Peter Haarer:
To apply for a place on the Workshop, please contact Maggy Sasanow
for an application form: email@example.com
Monday, Jan. 27: Susan Walker, ‘Dignitas amicorum: text on late Roman gold-glass.’
Susan Walker has kindly arranged an opportunity to see and handle some of the glass in question in the Ashmolean straight after the seminar, but places are limited to ten and she needs to know numbers in advance: if you’d like to take up this offer, please let Robert Parker know by Wednesday, January 22: first come, first served.
Monday, Feb. 3: Rachel Mairs, 'Greek and Demotic on the Stele of Moschion: The Interaction Between Languages and Scripts.'
Monday, Feb. 10: Robert Parker, ‘ A New Legal Soap – the territorial dispute between Messenia and Megalopolis (SEG LVIII 370).’
Monday, March 3: Greg Votruba, ‘Literacy, ethnicity and religious consciousness of ancient mariners: inscriptions and pictographs on Hellenistic and Early Roman anchors.’
Monday, March 10: Ilaria Bultrighini, ‘The history and development of the seven-day week in the Roman Empire and the Near East: some notes on the epigraphic evidence.’
posted by Hannah Cornwell
Denis Rousset - The Stele of the Geleontes in the sanctuary of Claros. Purchases and gifts of land for a koinon of Colophon.
On Monday 28th October, Denis Rousset (École pratique des hautes études, Paris) presented his research on an unpublished inscription for the sanctuary of Claros. The stele, found during the French excavations of Claros in 1995, near the Temple of Apollo, documents the purchases and gifts for land for a koinon of Colophon during the second half of 3rd century BC and the 1st quarter of 2nd century BC. Rousset argues that the stele contains two successive texts, concerned with the communal land of the Geleontes.
The publication of this inscription was entrusted to Rosset by the late Philippe Gauthier, and Rousset’s research on the stele will be published in the forthcoming publication of the inscription in Journal des savants 2014, fasc. 1, and forms part of his wider research project on the inscriptions of Claros.
From the takeover of Egypt by Ptolemy after Alexander the Great died in 323 BCE, until the deaths of Cleopatra and Antony in 30 BCE, government and administration was conducted almost entirely in Greek, which became the predominant language. Both in the public and private spheres, epigraphic inscriptions on stone were central to Greek culture, commemoration and communication, and the Ptolemies brought this tradition with them into the newly formed hellenistic monarchy. Among hellenistic kingdoms, Egypt is unique, however, in that epigraphy in its own language survived alongside the politically dominant Greek.
The project will make available for the first time a full corpus of scholarly editions, replacing older publications and other partial collections which are organised by specific local region and therefore do not offer a full picture of Greek epigraphy of the Ptolemaic period. The new corpus will give proper weight to the importance of public and private documentation on stone, which, in Egypt, tended to be overshadowed by papyrus documents. It will illustrate the ways in which this mode of public pronouncement and display became important in what was originally a language culture 'alien' to the Greeks, not merely in 'Greek' cities such as Alexandria, Ptolemais and Naukratis, but also in indigenous Egyptian towns. Fraser's work between 1950 and the mid-1970s recognised the importance of this material and provided the basis for understanding and exploiting it. Bringing it to completion will give a deeper understanding of Ptolemaic Egypt , whilst also maximising the achievement of a great scholar.
posted by Hannah Cornwell
Giulia Tozzi,‘Inscribed Athenian Decrees and the Theatre of Dionysos in the Early Hellenistic Period. Some Considerations on the Posthumous Honorary Decree for Lykourgos (IG II/III2 457+3207).’
On Monday 13th May, Giulia Tozzi presented an re-examination of the evidence for the Posthomous honorary decree for Lykourgos (IG II/III2 457 + 3207). Tozzi’s current research considers the ideological value of inscriptions in the area of the theatre of Dionysos in the early Hellenistic period, and she offered arguments that the honorary decree for Lykourgos should be understood within this context.
The posthumous honorary decree, enacted in 307/6 BC by Stratokles of Diomeia in honour of the leading Athenian politician Lykourgos of Buthadai, who had died in 323 BC and be a prominent democratic politician in the 330s onwards. Tozzi argued on the basis of the find spots and contexts of the three fragments (IG II/III2 457 + 3207) that the theatre is a plausible site for the publication of the decree, particularly given Lykourgos’ links to the site, and fragment b, found near the theatre does not appear to come from a reused context.
Tozzi further argued that the inscription should be understood within the political context of 307BC and Stratokles’ own prominent role within the newly restored democracy.
posted by Hannah Cornwell
Abigail Graham – Re-Appraising the Value of Same-Text Relationships; a Study of ‘Duplicate’ Inscriptions in the Monumental Landscape at Aphrodisias
On Monday 4th February, Dr. Abigail Graham (Warwick) presented a series of inscriptions from Aphrodisias in order to explore the ways in which we view inscriptions and in particular ‘same-text inscriptions’. The purpose of Dr. Graham’s discussion was to emphasise what a study of ‘same-text inscriptions’ can reveal about the relationship between text and monumental space, and what we might learn from that about the values and processes of creating a monumental inscription, both in terms of the ancient audiences’ perceptions and the very act of carving the inscription.
Dr. Graham examined the exterior and interior dedications of the Sebasteion propylon, the inscriptions recording the reconstruction of the propylon and North portico, and the dedication on the East Court at the Hadrianic Baths. She demonstrated how the presentation of the texts was dependent on the architectural space, and that functional markers and spaces were used to make sense of the message of each text. Texts were carefully arranged in the space in order to express certain values: spatial distinctions were made between recipients and benefactors, whilst civic identity and family were also emphasised.
Dr. Graham concluded by emphasising that the existence of the same text, as in the instances from Aphrodisias, does not necessarily mean the same inscription: each inscription must be treated as an individual text, and understood in terms of the process of its creations and how it would have been viewed within its monumental space.
posted by Hannah Cornwell
Jas Elsner, 'Visual Culture and Ancient History: Ruminations Inspired by a Stele in Athens (Acropolis Museum 1333, IG cubed 127 and IG squared 1)'
On Monday 22nd October, Jas Elsner neatly demonstrated ways in which visual culture and ancient history need to be examined together when examining inscriptions, using as an illustration the particular case of the Samos Stele, from the Athenian Acropolis.
The stele records three different decrees, the first from 405 B.C. and the second two from 403/2 B.C., concerning the relationship of Athens to Samos (IG3 127 and IG2 1), and carrying a relief of two female deities (one of which is clearly identified as Athena) shaking hands. Elsner emphasised that only one edition of the inscription has given an image of the whole stele (Rhodes & Obsorne Greek Historical Inscriptions 404-323 B.C.), whilst the first decree has been separated from the second two in epigraphic publications, based on the fact that they document different periods of political history. Thus the discipline of Ancient History has influenced and dictated how to package and use the text. Elsner pointed out that this is very much a text-based treatment of the inscription, rather than a consideration of the text as a physical object. Indeed, despite historians' desire to use the documents separately to illustrate different political periods, Elsner showed that the stele is in fact a single inscribed text; that Kephisophon, the grammateos of the 3rd decree, was reframing the 1st decree in one single display.
Elsner also argued that descriptions and interpretations of the relief are themselves far from impartial analyses. The relief appears to be a ‘type’ of image, not unique to the Samos stele, and may be understood as offering an alternative discursive framing to the text. Elsner concluded that we cannot have a definitive reading of the image and that is the point.
posted by Hannah Cornwell
William Slater, ‘The Bureaucracy of Victory: filling in the forms’
On Monday 15th October, William Slater discussed the complexities of bureaucracy regarding the Olympic victors’ prizes in late antiquity. He used documentary evidence from papyri to consider how many forms needed to be filled in, in order to obtain an individual's prize, and suggested that such documentary evidence presents us with an illustration of the inevitable development of financial procedure.
Through an examination of case studies, Slater pointed out that pensions were not always the most valued result of being an Olympic victor, their tax free status considered an important privilege. Although this tax-free status was granted to Dionysiac artists and Athletes for belonging to the appropriate association, horse-owners did not belong to a union, and so had to win a hippic victory in order to gain their tax freedom. Furthermore, the importance of tax-free status awarded to Olympic victors is illustrated by a unique document that Slater presented: PLond 3. 1164 is an official attestation of the sale of a victor’s pension of two victories, to Hierakion for his two sons, for the price of 1,000 drachma.
Slater also illustrated the attempts of the Empire in c. 300 AD to reduce the expense involved in tax-free status: an Imperial edict on civilia munera for a synod of Artists and athletes (PLips 44) required the holding of at least three victories, in Rome or Ancient Greek, before entitlement to a pension.