Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome
Via Omero, 10, Roma
26 May 2023
In the ancient world, funerary inscriptions were much more relational, communicative, and performative than nowadays. As people entered or left the city, they encountered series of inscribed monuments along the road that almost literally spoke to them and made claims about the deceased and their commemorators. This applied in particular to Greek funerary epigrams: small inscribed poems by which the deceased was commemorated with verses detailing his or her life. Hundreds of such epigrams survive from all over the ancient world, the majority dating to the Hellenistic and Roman period.
The inscribed funerary epigrams have often been studied as sub-literary poetry. However, many inscribed epigrams seem to fall short in terms of quality and originality, especially when compared to the literary epigrams preserved in the manuscript tradition. A different starting point might be just as fruitful: it seems socially highly significant that relatively large parts of urban populations engaged in this type of public writing, even if they had not fully mastered the rules of high literature. This seminar explores both the phenomenon of epigram production itself and discusses the worldview that was inscribed in the epigrams.