Category Archives: Epigraphy series

An ancient Sugar Ray Leonard, a deceased Cynic philosopher, and a colleague of Marcion at Sinope

I’ve been making my way through The Inscriptions of Sinope, the latest in the series on Greek inscriptions of Asia Minor (bibliography below).  Sinope was a Greek city on the northern coast of Turkey.  Its location on the Black Sea made it important for sea trade, and the sailor and “heretic” Marcion was from this city.  A few of the inscriptions stood out to me and I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is a very successful boxer of the first or second century who may well match or beat Sugar Ray:

M(arcus) Iutius Marcianus Rufus, outstanding boxer of Sinope, who won victories in the sacred triumphal competitions: at Rome in the Capitoline, 3 times in succession — at Neapolis, twice — at the Actian (games), twice, the first and only Sinopean (to do so) – at the Nemean (games), twice – at the Isthmian (games), twice – at the Pythian (games) – at the Olympic (games) – at the Panathenaic (games), the first and only Sinopean (to do so) – at Antiocheia (in Syria), 3 times, the first and only ever of the youth and men’s classes in one day, in the men’s class – in the Pythian games at Antiocheia – at Nicomedia, 3 times, the first and only ever in the under-age, youth and men’s classes – at the (Provincial) Community of Asia games at Smyrna, Pergamum, and Ephesus – at the Aspis at Argos, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Asia games at Sardis, twice, at Philadelphia, twice, at Traelles, twice, at Hierapolis, twice, at Laodiceia, twice, at Thyateira, twice, at Mytilene, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Pontus games, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Galatia games, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Macedonia games – at the (Provincial) Community of Bithynia games at Nicaea, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Cappadocia games – and at other competitions in the half-talent class, 110 times.  (In all) 150 victories.  By decision of the Senate (ISinope 105; trans. by French with adaptations, see below).

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” I guess.

The second is the grave of a Cynic philosopher of the second or third century.  This is the first grave of such a philosopher I have encountered, but there may well be others:

This then is (the) stone of a man whom, moreover, — an expounder of wisdom — this city has produced,  [ - - ] of [ - - ] Perseus.  Why does he have the name “wing”?  Tell us! Because a raised wing too drew (him) through the air of Greece.  This Perseus (was) [inclined] too towards Cynic thought, since he carried a wallet (and) a scimitar (small sword) in the place of a staff . . .  (ISinope 171; trans. French, with adaptations).

The third involves the grave-stone of a shipper from Sinope (first-third century CE), the hometown of another more renowned shipper, named Marcion:

Hail, O passer-by!  (I), Callinicus, having sailed (over) many waves, sailed (on) the last voyage of Lethe, (I) whom the sea in the deeps did not extinguish, but the earth destroyed by a heavy sickness; having lived two and thirty years, eager to come to (the) fate of (my) younger brother Calligonus, long dead, having lived nobly for fourteen years; thus are the plans of (the) fates arranged.  Iulius Callinicus, ship-master (naukleros), lies here (ISinope 169).

This inscription also points to another reality of life in the ancient world, namely, the short life expectancy:  Callinicus lived to the age of only 32 and his brother had died when he was only 14.

I plan to do more posts on interesting inscriptions I encounter.

David H. French, ed.,  The Inscriptions of Sinope (Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien, vol 64; Bonn: Rudolf Habelt, 2004).

Angel-loving association cancelled – A new reading of an often cited inscription from Asia Minor

The availability of the journal Epigraphica Anatolica online is already paying off!  There you will find a new article which has some notable repercussions not only for the study of associations in Asia Minor but also for the study of the opponents of Colossians: Hasan Malay, “ΦΙΛΑΝΠΙΛΟΙ in Phrygia and Lydia,” Epigraphica Anatolica 38 (2005) 42–44.

Back in 1980/81, A.R.R. Sheppard published a little inscription (from near Kotiaion) involving Holiness and Justice, two personifications that were commonly honoured in certain areas of Phrygia and Lydia (“Pagan Cults of Angels in Roman Asia Minor,” Talanta 12-13 [1980-81]: 77-101 = SEG 31 1130).  The more exciting element in the inscription was the apparent reference to non-Christians or non-Judeans who devoted themselves in some way to “angels”, which was based on Sheppard’s reading: ΦΙΛΑΝΓΕΛΩΝ (“Friends-of-angels”).  Sheppard’s translation of the inscription was as follows:

Aur(elius) … the Association of Friends of the Angels (made) a vow to Holiness and Justice”.

Sheppard suggested that this involved “pagans” who had some contact with the Jewish notion of angels.  Sheppard’s reading of the inscription was also discussed in New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, vol. 6, number 31.

This idea that there were “pagans” devoted to divine messengers or “angels” then became background for some New Testament scholars who were sorting out the “philosophy” combated by the author of Colossians (2:8-23), particularly the reference to the “worship of angels” (2:18).  Clinton Arnold’s theory regarding the opponents of Colossians, for instance, drew attention to the importance of angels in Asia Minor not only among diaspora Judeans but also among pagans, such that we could speak of a common folk practice in this region.  He suggested that the opponents were practicing the (magical) invocation of angels for protection and that this reflected both the Judean and pagan devotion to angels in Asia Minor specifically (see Clinton Arnold, The Colossian Syncretism: The Interface between Christianity and Folk Belief at Colossae [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996]).

However, Malay’s recent study of this particular inscription has shown that Sheppard likely misread a key letter here (what a difference one letter can make).  What Sheppard read as a “gamma”, Malay now says is surely a “pi”, which leaves us with ΦΙΛΑΝΠΙΛΟΙ, “Friends-of-the-vine” or “Vine-lovers”, and no angels at all in this inscription.

Malay publishes another inscription which confirms the existence of associations devoted to the vine, in other words relating to wine production and/or consumption, in the same region (in this case from nearby Katakekaumene, now in the Manisa Museum, dating 161/2 CE):

“To the Good Fortune! In the year 192, on the fourth day of the month Peritios, New Lovers of Vine (φιλάνπιλοι) set this up as a vow to Mother Leto on account of their own salvation.

The meeting of the association of friend-of-angels is apparently canceled.

New blog on “Current Epigraphy”

Inscriptions have played a key role in my own research and you may remember that a while ago I began a series of posts on Greek epigraphy (I really should do more posts now in that series).

Now there is a brand new blog that focuses on sharing news regarding inscriptions or epigraphy: Current Epigraphy (Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College, London). As the editors of that blog note, they are seeking to fill the sort of role that the blog What’s New in Papyrology does for that other area.

“Mysteries at Eleusis: Images of Inscriptions” website (Epigraphy 7)

As noted on Stoa, there is a beautiful new website that provides high-quality photos of inscriptions (about 800 of them) relating to the mysteries of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis: Mysteries at Eleusis: Images of Inscriptions (hosted at Cornell University Library)If you are not familiar with the mysteries and would like some background first, you can read short discussions about the mysteries generally on my site here and about the Eleusianian mysteries here, as well as the mysteries of Dionysos, Mithras, and the Great Gods (of Samothrace).

Packard Humanities Institute Greek inscriptions online (Epigraphy 6)

As noted on Stoa, there are clear signs that the PHI Greek inscriptions (that were previously only available to researchers on CD-ROM) are going to be fully available online soon. They are still arranged by region. This will be great (if you like inscriptions, that is, which you should).

UPDATE (July 27, 2008):  The PHI website is fully functional and working well these days, but at a new address:

Thank goodness for the availability of all of these Greek inscriptions online.  It has made my life (in writing a book right now) much easier.  Thanks to Fritz Graf for noticing that I had an old dead link here.

New study on Roman imperial statue bases and Troels on inscription erasures (Epigraphy 5)

Over on “Towards an Archaeology of Iconoclasm“, Troels mentions a new study by Jakob Munk Højte on Roman imperial statue bases. Troels then goes on to the question of the mutilation of inscriptions, and mentions a case in the Prytaneion (presidency building) at Ephesus which involves the obliteration of the goddess Artemis’ name (probably by Christians). Troels also promises some more entries on the topic, to which I will look forward.
Troels also mentions the relative commonality of the erasure of an emperor’s name in cases where an emperor was so disliked by other senators that his memory was “condemned” (damnatio memoriae) after his death. I happen to have on hand a photo of an inscription, now in the museum at Ephesus, that involves a dedication to the emperor Domitian in 88-89 CE (by the city of Klazomenae) (IEph 235). After the condemnation of Domitian’s memory, Domitian’s name was erased and the monument was rededicated to the emperor Vespasian. The erasure and re-inscription took place on lines two and four, with Domitian being replaced with “god” (theos) in line two and Germanicus being replaced with “Vespasian” in line four).

You can also check out some other monuments and statues in the Ephesus museum, as well as other Turkish museums, here.

UPDATE: Welcome to readers of Respectful Insolence (aka Orac Knows), a blog by an “academic surgeon and scientist” that covers just about everything you could imagine, including science and history (especially WW II and the Holocaust). If you are interested in Roman history and the history of religions in the Roman empire (including Judaism and Christianity, of course), you may (are sure to) find other entries of interest here.

Check out my squeeze: Inscriptional squeezes online (Epigraphy 3)

Epigraphists and ancient historians use the term “squeeze” not for a current girlfriend or boyfriend (as in 1950s movies), but for the result of wetting and placing a special thin piece of paper (filter paper) over the face of an inscription which is then rubbed with a squeeze brush. The result is an excellent impression of the texture of the stone, of other markings, and of the letters of the inscription itself. This, then, is an easier way of bringing inscriptions back with you to the office to carefully study the lettering and gaps in the lettering. It is an essential tool in publishing an edition of the inscription in question.There are several online sites which are presently placing photographs of squeezes on the web. A recent email from David Downs, a doctoral student at Princeton Theological Seminary, reminded me that the Center for Epigraphical and Palaeographical Studies at Ohio State University has a good (and expanding) collection of squeezes, particularly for inscriptions from Athens and from Macedonia.

Even more extensive are the collections made available by Oxford’s Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents. These imaging projects so far include inscriptions from the following regions:

Inscriptions from Aphrodisias online (Epigraphy 2)

After writing my previous post on Pergamon (Pergamum), I’ve been thinking that I should make comments regarding online resources for epigraphy and inscriptions (especially from Asia Minor) an ongoing segment of this blog. Although the likes of G.H.R. Horsley’s New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity have thankfully increased the interest in, and use of, inscriptional evidence by scholars of the New Testament and early Christianity, more of this needs to be done. And I believe some scholars of Christian origins remain somewhat hestitant (or even intimidated) by the whole sub-specialty of epigraphy when they don’t need to be.I hope my ongoing comments on epigraphy will help both other scholars (of early Christianity and Judaism) and the interested Joe and Jane to make better sense of inscriptions and the resources (especially online) to study them. Inscriptions provide important glimpses, albeit momentary glimpses, into social and religious realities of life for those living in the world of early Christians and Jews. Inscriptions and the monuments on which they were inscribed often provide an alternative picture of life in the ancient world to that offered by literary evidence produced by the elites.

The supplement to Pergamon inscriptions which I commented on in the previous post required that you know Greek to use it, but there is another resource that will appeal to a broader audience. Some of you may be familiar with the important “God-fearers” inscription (now often dated to the fourth or fifth century) which was discovered at Aphrodisias and revolutionized study of gentiles who were attracted to Judaism in antiquity. But there are many other interesting and important inscriptions which have been discovered in this same city in Asia Minor (Turkey).

Photo of sarcophagi (graves) in the yard of the Aphrodisias Museum (photo by Phil).

The website of the “Inscriptions of Aphrodisias Project” is very promising in providing excellent resources for studying inscriptions. At present, it provides free access to the second (2004) edition of Charlotte Roueché’s Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity: The Late Roman and Byzantine Inscriptions, which includes 250 Greek inscriptions with English translations and extensive commentary. There are plans to continue electronically publishing new finds from Aphrodisias as well. The extensive bibliography section includes links to online articles, including the recent (free access) article by Angelos Chaniotis, “New inscriptions from Aphrodisias (1995-2001),” American Journal of Archaeology 108 (2004), 377-416 (with English translations of the new finds). Also quite interesting are the photographs of notebooks (with documented Greek inscriptions) by early explorers of Aphrodisias, including the notebook of John Gandy Deering (written c. 1811-1813).

If you would like to do a quick photographic tour of the museum at Aphrodisias, including some of its monuments with inscriptions, go to my website here and click on the picture of Apollo at the top-right.

Update: Juan Garcés who is at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College, London, makes several further comments about this entry (see comments), including the fact that the plan is ultimately to have all of the inscriptions from Aphrodisias online. I just realized that this is the same person who reviewed my book for BMCR (he was very generous).

(My apologies for mispelling Angelos Chaniotis’ name, which is now corrected).

Inscriptions from Pergamum (Inschriften von Pergamon) online (Epigraphy 1)

For those of you who can work with Greek inscriptions, I have just discovered that the German Archeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut = DAI) now has (free!) online what they are calling the Supplement zum Corpus der Inschriften von Pergamon (prepared by Helmut Müller). Essentially, the “Commission for Ancient History and Epigraphy” is republishing and updating all inscriptions published by the DAI between 1896-1913, including those published in MDAI(A) (aka, AM) and Max Fränkel’s Inschriften von Pergamon (Altertümer von Pergamon VIII 1/2). So far they have sections for honourary inscriptions, dedication inscriptions, and gymnastic ephebe (“youth”) lists. They have arranged these by the original publication and inscription number (not supplying new numbers, e.g. AM 24, 1899, Nr. 31). You can view each individually (though not all together) in pdf.Thus, for example, you could take a look at a detailed description, an updated bibliography, and the Greek text for the honourary inscription set up by the association of Dionysiac “dancing cowherds” for A. Julius Quadratus, the Roman governor (proconsul) of Asia in 109/110 CE.

I really could have used this a few years back when I was hunting down each of the inscriptions individually and trying to find any more recent discussions of them through mental telepathy. But I’m happy it’s there now nonetheless! Perhaps other archeological institutes will follow the German Archeological Institute’s good example in providing ready and free access to hard-to-find inscriptions.