Cardiff Uni to translate and publish Ancient Athens inscriptions of UK Collections

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Cardiff Uni to translate and publish Ancient Athens inscriptions of UK CollectionsThe texts are evidence of the first major Western democracy in action

All the stone inscriptions from ancient Athens in UK collections are to be presented in English translations for the first time, thanks to a new project undertaken by Cardiff University.

According to Cardiff University News website, the project is to translate and publish the numerous stone inscriptions currently in the UK. The inscriptions provide important information about life in ancient Attica two thousand years ago.

The texts are evidence of the first major Western democracy in action, unveiling in detail decisions made by the Athenian citizen Assembly and other bodies. Others are a rich source of information about the lives of ancient Athenians, from financial accounts and leases, to dedications to the gods and funerary monuments, the report says.

According to Cardiff University News, among the inscriptions is the stele of Jason held in the British Museum. The 2nd century AD monument is a dedication to the healing god Asklepios by the doctor, Jason, and his family, and shows a doctor examining a patient.

Another is a 2nd century BC decree of the Athenian Assembly in Petworth House honouring a long list of Athenian girls who helped weave the peplos, a garment ritually draped over the ancient wooden statue of Athena on the Athens Acropolis.

The project “Attic Inscriptions in UK collections”, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will publish all 250 avaiolable inscriptions from ancient Athens and Attica held in UK collections. It will be in cooperation with UK museums.

The inscriptions, spanning almost  a millennium of history from the 6th century BC to 3rd century AD, will be published in open access on the website Attic Inscriptions Online created by, Dr Stephen Lambert of Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion.

Dr Lambert noted: “We plan to publish them online in a series of 17 papers, each covering an individual collection or, for the British Museum, category of inscriptions. Based on the most up-to-date scholarly bibliography, supplemented by fresh autopsy of the stones, and supported by photographs, the papers will include ancient Greek texts, translations and commentaries on each inscription. The scholarly papers will be linked to translations on Attic Inscriptions Online, with notes aimed at school and university students and museum visitors.


The Greek-language inscriptions and epigraphy are a major source for understanding of the society and history of ancient Greece and other Greek-speaking or Greek-controlled areas. Greek inscriptions may occur on stone slabs, pottery ostraca, ornaments, and range from simple names to full texts.

As Greek Epigraphic Society notes in its site, Ancient Greek Inscriptions, along with the texts of the ancient Greek (and Latin) authors, and the archaeological remains and finds, constitute the primary sources of Greek History. Inscriptions are very important for the study of ancient Greek history because they refer to many aspects of ancient life—from the private sphere to the official, public, level. Moreover, they are authentic, uncontaminated, texts because no one has interfered between the cutter of the inscription and the reader. On the contrary, the texts of ancient Greek authors have come to us after a long process of copying, a process that took place through the centuries with the result that many changes and mistakes have been made. 

Inscriptions bring to light new evidence on facts that were previously unknown, or supplement what we know from the ancient writers about various political/military events and state institutions, economy, justice/law, society, cult, every day life, etc.

Texts of inscriptions are available in published collections (i.e., corpora) arranged by geographical regions: one thinks primarily of the Inscriptiones Graecae, constantly published by the Berlin Academy since the second decade of the 19th century, though other series are also extant nowadays (for example the series of Inschriften Griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien [IK], which is jointly published by the Österreichische and the Rheinisch-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften). 

The Athenians in the fourth century BC distinguished between, on the one hand, laws (community-sanctioned rules with permanent and general application) and, on the other, decrees of the assembly (community-sponsored decisions with specific and sometimes temporary application). Typical subjects of decrees included the award of citizenship, the bestowal of an honorific crown, the declaration of war, the enactment of a treaty with another community.

During twentieth century excavations of the Ancient Agora of Athens, more than 10,000 stone inscriptions were identified and inventoried. The texts included diplomatic agreements, commemorative plaques for athletic victories, records of court judgments, boundary stones identifying different buildings, and fragmentary inscriptions featuring names of over 30,000 individual Athenians. 

Inscriptions on stone are the most important documentary source for the history of the ancient city of Athens and its surrounding region, Attica. Dating from the 7th century BC through to the end of antiquity, Greek texts are available to scholars in Inscriptiones Graecae (IG) I (up to 403/2 BC) and II (after 403/2 BC) (website), updated annually by the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (SEG) (website) (access by subscription), and in the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) Greek Inscriptions website. However, before the launch of Attic Inscriptions Online, very few of the inscriptions were available in English translation, whether in print, or online.

The translations include, as a minimum, an indication of the text translated, the name of the translator and key references and metadata. Further information about the inscriptions, including historical notes, is being gradually added.

Read more here

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Christophe Meneboeuf  License: CC-BY-SA

Source: Cardiff University 

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