Article

epigraphy, Greek

H. W. Pleket

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics


Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.2450

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  • Ancient Greek History
  • Classical Literature
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The study of inscriptions engraved on stone or metal in Greek letters. Coin-legends (see coinage, greek) are for the numismatist, whereas painted mummy-labels and ink-written texts on *ostraca, especially popular in Egypt, are the realm of the papyrologist; inscriptions painted or incised on vases and pottery (see pottery (greek), inscriptions on) are the combined prey of vase-experts and epigraphists.1 (Superscript figures refer to the bibliographical notes at the end of the article.) Interest in inscriptions is not a modern phenomenon; already in antiquity people studied specific inscriptions. In the early 3rd cent. bce*Craterus (2) published a collection of decrees (Ψηφισμάτων συναγωγή); a hundred years later *Polemon (3) of Ilium received the nickname στηλοκόπας (‘tablet-glutton’) for his fanatical attention to inscriptions. With the Renaissance, interest in antiquities went hand in hand with admiration for the ancient literary inheritance. With Cyriacus of Ancona there began a long series of travelling scholars, who in their notebooks produced beautiful descriptions and drawings of ancient sites and the inscriptions on them. Initially, inscriptions tended to be disregarded or even despised by the champions of the revered literary sources; but when the latter came under the attack of Cartesian rationalism and Pyrrhonian scepticism, epigraphical shares increased in value on the historical stock exchange:2 inscriptions were authentic and direct and could not be disqualified as forgeries or highly biased accounts.

Article.  5802 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Greek History ; Classical Literature ; Greek and Roman Archaeology

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