Thursday, May 7, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Craig Cooper (ed.), Epigraphy and the Greek Historian. Phoenix Supplementary Volume, 47. Toronto/Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2008. Pp. xvii, 197. ISBN 9780802090690. $75.00.
Reviewed by Claire Taylor, Trinity College Dublin


[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The chapters of this book (essays in honour of Phillip Harding) are centred around the use of epigraphy as a source for Greek history. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that this volume is a Festschrift, the approach is conservative: this is not the place for big questions about the relationship between (or within) different genres of evidence, nor does it push the reader to formulate such questions; instead the contributions mainly focus on details -- how inscription(s) x affect(s) the interpretation of question(s) y. The chapters then are more useful as contributions to the detailed debates of their specific questions, rather than as examples of the state of epigraphic/historical scholarship in general.

Indeed the breadth of approach is matched by subject matter. The focus, we are told in the introduction, is not on the 'wide range' of inscriptions which exist from the Greek world, but on laws and decrees, predominantly (given the honorand's interests) from Athens. Athens plays a starring role here, with five out of eight chapters devoted to the city, most of these concentrating on the late fifth and fourth centuries. The other three chapters are also shaped by their relationship to Athens. Quite properly, one might quibble, this book ought to be called 'Epigraphy and the classical Athenian historian', such is the lack of attention paid to other epigraphically rich areas of the Greek world, such as Asia Minor, but the book is nevertheless a fitting tribute. As seems to be common in Festschrift volumes, the contributions are of varying lengths, scope and quality, but despite this, there are some interesting papers here.1

First off, after a general introduction by Cooper, is Mirhady on IG I3 104 (Drakon's homicide law). M. argues that Drakon's law should be understood not as a stricture which details the punishment for involuntary homicide, but instead one which lays out the terms of reconciliation. M. interprets φεύγεν (which is restored, though not controversially) in line 11 not as referring to the punishment of exile but as 'an idiom of forensic defence', i.e. it refers to the accused becoming a defendant. The law recorded on the inscription therefore details a process which starts when the basileis judge the defendant as a φεύγων, that is, they assign the pollution occurred by the homicide to an individual in order to remove it from the polis as a whole. The ephetai, also mentioned in the law, decide whether the judgement of the basileis is correct and also whether the homicide was voluntary or involuntary. M. points out that there was absolutely no presumption of 'innocent until proven guilty'; guilt (or, more accurately, pollution) was assigned by the basileis when an accusation was made, and it was the onus of the defendant to remove this pollution.

The following chapter seeks to bring together epigraphic and literary sources. Here Cooper analyses Athenian relations with Keos in the mid-fourth century, mainly through detailed examination of two Athenian and two Kean decrees (IG II2 111, II2 404, SEG XIV 530, and IG XII.5 594). His main interest here is to recreate, through these inscriptions, the background to Hypereides' prosecution of Aristophon in 362, a trial tantalisingly referred to in fragments 40-44 of Hypereides' corpus. In the fragments Hypereides attacks Aristophon as greedy and claims his Kean settlement has been harmful. C. accepts this framework for his interpretation of IG II2 111, despite acknowledging the tense political climate of the mid-fourth century amongst rival Athenians. One might say there is no smoke without fire, and that we should look to the epigraphic evidence to find that fire, but one might also posit a disjuncture between oratory and epigraphy here -- the rhetorical positioning of the assembly and law courts versus the memorialisation of the decision-making process visible on the inscriptions. Epigraphic texts are not simply documents giving us the 'hard facts' about history; they have their own internal narratives, and were set up for very specific reasons. Interpreted in this light, one might question the impact of such decrees on the island: why, for instance, were the names of the Kean generals selected to aid the Athenians collect their fines paraded so publicly on this inscription which trumpets the Athenian reinstatement of exiles? Such advertisement can be interpreted as Kean complicity in Athenian rule -- and therefore as a basis for possible Kean factionalism -- but it can also be read as a way for the Athenians to foster disunity. It was surely interpreted by some as a humiliation of the generals involved, who were placed in an impossible position. That the Athenians made decisions (and set up these decisions in highly visible places) in order to foster disunity amongst the allies has been exactly suggested for fourth-century Keos (IG II2 1128: not mentioned by C.2) -- perhaps IG II2 111 can be seen within the same light.

Next into bat is Whitehead, who discusses Athenian involvement in Sicily in the fourth century, and succinctly argues that IG II2 283 (an honorific decree for an unknown Cypriot for ransoming Athenian citizens captured in Sicily) refers to Athenians (possibly traders) kidnapped by pirates in the late fourth century. Here he diverges from Pritchett who wants to connect this inscription with Isaios 6.1 (a passage which alludes to Athenian triremes in Sicily in the 360s). W. discusses this passage -- and the ramifications of emending it -- in detail, and shows that the two pieces of evidence cannot be taken to refer to the same event(s). This is a salutary lesson; not all inscriptions refer to events mentioned in literary evidence, and vice versa.

Simonsen keeps up the nautical theme by discussing IG II2 1622, an inscription detailing Athenian citizens' naval debts in the 340s. This partially preserved stone lists the names of trierarchs and other naval officials who have incurred debts to the city because they have not returned the equipment they had used (or they had returned it in a state of disrepair). Interestingly many of the debts recorded here are old (some are a generation old), which poses the question 'why bother collecting them at all? Why now?' S.'s answer, at least to the second question (she is less concerned with the first), reflects an Athenian concern with naval organisation in the mid-fourth century: in 357/6 the funding of the fleet was reorganised, and in 347/6 an arsenal to store equipment was begun in the Piraeus. She also connects these measures with the diapsephismos of 346/5, arguing that together they represent a two-pronged attempt to 'clean-up the system' and inject 'fighting spirit' into the 'watered down' citizenry. Whether or not this is accepted, one wonders what reasons lay behind documenting this information in this manner. To what extent were repayments seen as a patriotic duty or a burden? Does the fact of commemoration affect this? Furthermore, did this financial reorganisation provoke a similar kind of response as the diapsephismos, i.e. people accusing (perhaps maliciously) their enemies -- or their enemies' fathers -- of incurring debts? It would be worth exploring some of these questions as well.

One of the best papers in this collection is that by Robertson. He examines the names of the slaves recorded on IG I3 1032 (a list of slaves honoured for fighting in an unknown naval battle towards the end of the fifth century or the beginning of the fourth) and compares them to the names of citizens. His findings are interesting and important. Although there are some names which are used by both slaves and citizens, both groups also have names unique to themselves. Slaves are often named after places (e.g. Thraix) but certain foreign names appear much more commonly than would be expected in any population where people had not been renamed -- 5% of the slaves on this inscription are called Manes; presumably they were not all called Manes back in Phrygia (if indeed they were from Phrygia at all). Names, therefore, may tell us less about the origins of slaves than sometimes hoped. Indeed, there is much less variation in slave names than in citizen names, which are more likely to include civic, aristocratic, or military elements (e.g. demos, hippos, stratos). Theophoric names, surprisingly, are twice as common amongst slaves than citizens but each group favours specific gods or goddesses (e.g. Apollo and Artemis are common amongst slaves, Dios (Zeus) amongst citizens). R. does not have space to go into a detailed analysis of these findings beyond preliminary conclusions about slave-citizen ideology, but there is scope here to expand his study further to examine the relationships between slaves and citizens in Athens and elsewhere. The phialai exeleutherikai inscriptions (mentioned, but not discussed, by R.) include women as well as men which would give information about possible gender differences; grave inscriptions set up for/by slaves would tell us about the naming patterns of slaves with a different status to those who rowed in the fleet; naming patterns outside Athens could be compared to see if there are geographical variations. It's a pity R. did not discuss this material here -- or at least give his reasons why he does not -- but the chapter is an excellent first step.

Part Two ('Athens from the Outside') shifts the focus from Athens itself to Athenian relationships with other cities, especially in the context of Athenian imperialism.

Pownall convincingly argues that Theopompos was the first Greek historian to critically use the evidence of inscriptions. In her view this was done to counter Athenian imperialistic claims of greatness -- the idealized Athens which was the saviour of Greece in the Persian Wars and, therefore, deserved its imperial rewards. Theopompos was therefore positioning himself against fourth-century Athenian popular tradition. P.'s claim that Theopompos was the first historian to 'draw the connection between Athenian public documentation and imperialism,' seems fair enough as far as it goes -- the publication of the tribute lists certainly attests that there is a connection -- but one wonders to what extent this relationship continued in the fourth century with the explosion in (public and private) writing on stone. This expansion of the epigraphic habit can be seen not only in terms of decrees of the polis (of which the majority were honorific), but also in epigraphy which has a much more local meaning -- deme decrees, funerary epigraphy, dedications in sanctuaries, boundary markers etc. These hardly represent the imperialistic tendencies of the Athenians -- at least not uncomplicatedly.

Shrimpton's chapter on Ionia, though beginning and ending with an inscription (IG II2 43: the Aristoteles decree or the prospectus of the Second Athenian League), is the least epigraphical of all the contributions here. S. aims to rescue the Ionians from being overshadowed by their Athenian brothers, highlighting that it was they who were crucial in developing the use of the alphabet (without which Greek literature could not develop), philosophy, historiography, politics etc. He shows how the Ionians and Athenians reworked the Theseus myth to negotiate the changed power structure of the fifth century, and how the Ionians shaped Greek cultural identity. It is a shame then that he did not exploit more the (mainly hellenistic) epigraphy of the region in general, well published in the Inschriften der Kleinasien series and the (relatively) recent IG XII.6, but again the paradigms of Athenian history loom large here, most notably in terms of chronological focus.

Even Ager's Theran chapter ends up ultimately discussing Athens and Athenian imperialism. This, the final contribution, tries to use the Theran inscriptions to flesh out the meagre literary sources for the island. However, because A.'s understanding of 'history' seems to be only political history, and since there are not that many public inscriptions from Thera, and even less contemporaneous textual evidence, she boxes herself in and there is little scope for expanding the discussion of the fascinating material which is collected here. On individual inscriptions, A. has some good observations, but the assumption that the epigraphic and literary sources have to tell the same story (albeit perhaps different 'angles' of that same story) seems unnecessarily narrow and, as we have seen in Whitehead's chapter, does not always work. By following this approach she misses an opportunity to tell us something really interesting about epigraphic culture on the island, e.g. about who is epigraphically active here, or why there is such a large number of rupestral inscriptions.

The introduction describes epigraphy as the 'handmaiden of political history'. In fact, epigraphy offers the historian much more. It is not simply a way to 'fill in the gaps' left by literary sources. The decisions which led to the inscription of one text and not another, the Standort and/or Fundort of the stone, the materiality of the inscription, its language, its relationship with other forms of material culture, its changing uses (ancient and modern) should be carefully examined. We can go further: recent scholarship has explored themes such as commemoration, the construction of knowledge, or the presence of emotion on inscriptions. Narrow definitions of what epigraphy is and what (or who) it is for aid no-one and alienate many. C. notes in the introduction how grateful he is to the honorand that his seminars enabled C. (and many other students) to access the 'exotic' world of epigraphy. But epigraphy will remain 'exotic' and impenetrable if we only use it to fill in gaps in political history.

What is clear from this book is that every Greek historian should also be an epigrapher. But it is equally clear that every historian should be able to interpret literary and archaeological evidence as well; this is as true of places like Keos or Thera where the epigraphic or literary evidence is meagre, as it is of larger cities like Athens. Isolating epigraphy to serve only the narrow confines of 'what the literary sources leave out' neglects its true value to the historian. Festschriften naturally look back to a scholar's contribution to the field -- and the honorand has contributed a great deal -- and (quite rightly) are defined by that scholar's interests; the discipline of epigraphy however needs to look forward to embrace a wider range of questions than those offered here.

Table of contents

Philip Edward Harding: List of Publications

Introduction: Craig Cooper

Part 1: Athens

David Mirhady: Drakonian Procedure

Craig Cooper: Hypereides, Aristophon, and the Settlement of Keos

David Whitehead: Athenians in Sicily in the Fourth Century BC

Kathryn Simonsen: IG II2 1622 and the Collection of Naval Debts in the 340s

Bruce Robertson: The Slave-Names of IG I3 1032 and the Ideology of Slavery at Athens

Part 2: Athens from the Outside: The Wider Greek World

Frances Pownall: Theopompos and the Public Documentation of Fifth-Century Athens

Gordon Shrimpton: Horton Hears an Ionian

Sheila Ager: Rescuing Local History: Epigraphy and the Island of Thera

Index of Sources

Index of Names

Index of Places

General Index


1.   A few minor errors were detected: p. 15: should read IG I3 104 (I2 115) instead of IG I2 115 (I3 104); p. 15: the Greek should read καὶ ἐὰμ μὲ 'κ [π]ρονοί[α]ς rather than 'κ[π]ρονοί[α]ς, i.e. with a space between the kappa and the restored pi; p. 66: read Eisphora for Eeisphora; p. 80: Athena Nike rather than Athena Nike; p. 83: IG II2 1952 should read IG II2 1951.
2.   For this interpretation of IG II2 1128 see Rhodes & Osborne, no. 40.

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