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Epigraphy Optional Course MA/MPhil Ancient History Leiden University 2013-2014 2nd semester Instructor: Dr F.G. Naerebout

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Presentation on theme: "Epigraphy Optional Course MA/MPhil Ancient History Leiden University 2013-2014 2nd semester Instructor: Dr F.G. Naerebout"— Presentation transcript:

1 Epigraphy Optional Course MA/MPhil Ancient History Leiden University 2013-2014 2nd semester Instructor: Dr F.G. Naerebout

2 1 Schedule February 3 – May 12, Mondays 9:00-11:00, Room: Huizinga 007 please note: no classes on March 24, April 21 and May 5 2 Assessment by way of individual assignments – which include the writing of weekly reports (50%) and a short essay on some epigraphic issue (50%) 3 Website A dedicated web address: (or / and choose ‘Syllabi’ from menu) 4 Literature Recommended: François Bérard et al., Guide de l’épigraphiste. Bibliographie choisie des épigraphies antiques et médiévales, Paris 2010 Editions Rue d’Ulm [4th ed] ISBN 978-2-7288- 0443-6

3 What is epigraphy? Epigraphy = study of inscriptions (in the most literal sense) = intaglio lettering in a hard nonorganic surface [intagliare = incidere = epigrafein]

4 Intaglio inscriptions are still a fairly common phenomenon




8 Whether a text falls within the realm of epigraphy is decided on the basis of its exterior characteristics: the carrier and the particular writing process involved. Epigraphy is NOT concerned with a particular KIND of texts, as far as their contents is concerned (even if in practice some textual genres make up most of our inscriptional evidence). So: any intaglio writing on stone, metal and ceramics is the realm of epigraphy. Texts can be carved, engraved, but also cast, struck, stamped…. The writing can be on movable objects, on immovable property, or on living rock. Opposed to epigraphy is the study of texts written (or printed) in ink, paint or pencil on some organic surface: bark, plywood, silk or other textiles, bamboo, leaves, papyrus, paper, vellum. This is the realm of codicology, papyrology and other (often unnamed) specialisations.

9 Inscriptions:



12 Inscription from the votive image of You Tian Wang (= Udayana, king of Udayagiri, ca 500 B.C.) at the Longmen Caves in Luoyang, dedicated by “Great Aunt Li” in memory of her husband, in 659 A.D. Rubbing with ink on paper made 1923/1925 and now in the Harvard Fine Arts Library

13 The earliest dated pre-Islamic Arabic inscription, 267 A.D.

14 not inscriptions Papyrus (Egypt) birch bark (medieval Novgorod) Wood (Roman Britain)

15 Silk (China) Bamboo (China) vellum not inscriptions either:

16 Note: ‘any intaglio writing’: yes/no Some texts which very obviously are inscriptions, such as texts scratched in lead, are sometimes excluded from epigraphy. Because of the cursive writing, they go with papyrology. Defixio (curse) from Roman Britain

17 dubious cases: not inscriptions, or inscriptions after all? 1 texts on non-organic surfaces, but not intaglio: 1.1 cut from stone, in relief  considered inscriptions [rare in the ancient world] 1.2 stamped in ceramic, in relief  considered inscriptions [common in the ancient world] 1.3 cut, cast, struck in/from metal, in relief  considered inscriptions, but NOT the most common example, coins with coin legends: these are left to numismatists 1.4 written with ink (dipinti) on pottery sherds (ostraka) [cf. slate, chalkboard]  tend to go to papyrology, or to fall between the cracks 1.5 Texts painted on walls (graffiti)  usually considered inscriptions 1.6 Texts painted with enamel or otherwise on pottery or glass  left to archaeologists, art historians [texts on glass are rare or absent in the ancient world] 2 texts on organic surfaces, but intaglio 2.1 texts carved in wood  either papyrology or epigraphy 2.2 texts carved in bone  considered inscriptions 3 other 3.1 intaglio texts that are filled in  considered inscriptions 3.2 texts laid out in mosaic  considered inscriptions 3.3 texts composed of separate letters (usually metal)  considered inscriptions 3.4 texts woven in textiles  left to archaeologists, art historians [rare or absent in the archaeological record]

18 Painting on wall (Pompeii) Relief lettering on struck coin Text incised in bone (China)

19 Ink writing on ostrakon (El Amarna, Egypt) Text carved (accidentally) in wood (a wax tablet) Text laid out in mosaic (Roman Britain)

20 The main bulk of the texts studied by epigraphy are intaglio texts in stone, metal or ceramics. A few such intaglio texts are excluded, and some other categories of texts are included  the categorization of materials, c.q. the division of labour in their study is not systematic. !! For a full view of the textual production of an area or a period, you have to be aware of such ‘fuzzy edges’.

21 Louis Robert 1904-1985 1939-1974 Professeur d’épigraphie et antiquités grecques au Collège de France Why study epigraphy?

22 Barthold Georg Niebuhr wrote in 1815 (!) “dass Inschriften für die alte Geschichte den Urkunden für die neuere entsprechen”: “that in ancient history inscriptions fulfill the role that in the historiography of more recent periods is fulfilled by archival documents.” They do that – and more.

23 Why is it a separate discipline? Proviso: There are many different epigraphies: Hieroglyphs Cuneiform Greek Latin Indian (Sanskrit etc) Chinese (xin bian = carved in stone) Celtic (‘inscribed stones’, Ogham) Central-American (Maya) Scandinavian (  runology) Semitic & Hamitic (Aramaic, Hebrew, Phoenician, Punic etc) And so on. But not all epigraphies are separate disciplines: e.g., the study of cuneiform texts and of hieroglyphs is fully integrated into Assyriology and Egyptology.

24 An epigraphy is a separate discipline when it is institutionalized as a separate discipline Greek and Latin epigraphies have departments, conferences, journals, publications: so they are disciplines in their own right Roots go back to 16 th century Martinus Smetius 1565 (MS UBL)

25 Smetius, ed Justus Lipsius Janus Gruterus, Heidelberg 1603 Leiden 1588

26 But also a substantive reason: highly specific technical skills

27 What do epigraphers do? Find inscriptions [hunting for inscriptions  chance finds] Collect inscriptions [unpublished or from whatever source] Document inscriptions [photographs, squeezes, rubbings, drawings, exact description of object and of (original) location, measurements, bibliography] Read inscriptions [palaeography, language, expand abbreviations & symbols, make conjectures] Categorize inscriptions [conventional categorizations, e.g. dedications, epitaphs, building inscriptions, military diploma’s, defixiones…]

28 Date inscriptions [from exterior characteristics or from dating in the text] Edit and (re-)publish inscriptions Translate inscriptions (Re-)interpret inscriptions Contextualize inscriptions [‘mettre en série’] Write the history of inscribing texts Write history on the basis of inscribed texts

29 The purpose of this course is not to teach you to be an epigrapher, but to teach you how to work with epigraphic material. That implies  a proper knowledge of the ‘apparatus’ of epigraphy: its bibliography and its digital presence.  a certain experience in handling published epigraphic sources.  knowing something about the ‘inner workings’ of epigraphy as a discipline – you need that knowledge in order to assess the value of epigraphic sources.

30 With a few exceptions, we will limit ourselves to inscriptions in Greek and Latin, originating from the ancient Greek and Roman world, and written in an alphabetic script. (But do keep in mind that Greeks and Romans lived in a multi-lingual world!) So we can range from the oldest alphabetic Greek texts now known (8 th century B.C.), to our (relatively arbitrary) cut-off date in the 7 th century A.D. The Dipylon-vase: one of the oldest alphabetic Greek inscriptions on record

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