The World of the Greek Epigram. Studying Inscribed Funerary Poetry from the Hellenistic and Roman Greek East


Reale Istituto Neerlandese di Roma
Via Omero 10-12

Data evento
30 June 2022

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 and stemming predominantly from the Greek East.

The inscribed funerary epigrams have often been studied as sub-literary poetry. However, many stone epigrams seem to fall short in terms of quality, especially when compared to the literary epigrams preserved in the manuscript tradition. The Greek often contains errors in spelling and grammar, the metre is faulty, and its imagery is conventional and banal. A different starting point might be more fruitful: it seems socially highly significant that large parts of urban populations engaged in this type of public writing, even if they had not fully mastered the rules of high literature. The present seminar explores both the phenomenon of epigram production itself and discusses the worldview that was inscribed in the epigrams.

Prof. dr. Angelos Chaniotis (School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton NJ) is a leading Greek historian and Classics scholar, known for his original and wide-ranging research in the cultural, religious, legal and economic history of the Hellenistic period and the Roman East. He has published extensively in the field of Greek epigraphy.

Laurens E. Tacoma (Leiden University, The Netherlands) is a social historian of the Roman world. He has published on elites, migration, and political culture. The present lecture presents the results of his research during a visiting professorship at the KNIR in Fall 2021.

Rolf A. Tybout (Dept. of History, Leiden University) worked as editor at the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. He has published extensively on Greek inscriptions, including epigrams. The present seminar marks his retirement from Leiden University in 2021.