Greek Epigraphy

Sara Saba and Gil H. Renberg

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:
Greek Epigraphy

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Epigraphy is the discipline devoted to the study of documents engraved, painted, or written on any material surviving from Antiquity, other than papyrus. As the distinguished epigrapher Margherita Guarducci once noted, epigraphers tend to classify as epigraphic documents only those written on stone. However, the broader and more correct definition includes a range of other materials—metals such as lead or bronze, shards of clay pottery, vases, gemstones, mosaics, and so on—and therefore this bibliography is not limited to stone inscriptions. The inscriptions studied by Greek epigraphers date to a period of more than one thousand years, from the 8th century bce to Late Antiquity, and even longer for those who study Christian inscriptions, treated by most epigraphers as a separate discipline despite the obvious fact that there are far more similarities than differences between Christian and non-Christian documents. The discipline of epigraphy was long considered ancillary to ancient history, even though Theodor Mommsen had already established a distinct methodology for epigraphy in the 19th century. In the mid-20th century, however, with the work of Jeanne and Louis Robert, it gained the status of an independent field. Epigraphy is indeed a discipline strongly related to history, but it is also intimately connected with philology, archaeology, and often literary studies, as well as a number of other disciplines and subdisciplines: not only are inscriptions often crucial to historical work, but their interpretation also requires an excellent knowledge of classical languages and literature. Inscriptions are often objects with their own archaeological context as well as physical attributes. Proper training in epigraphy therefore involves the ability not only to produce an accurate version of a text preserved on stone or some other non-degrading material, but also to assess its physical qualities and archaeological context (when known), the pertinent linguistic issues, and the document’s relevance to one or more fields of ancient scholarship.

Article.  11631 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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