Online Review: Book

Inscriptions: The Dedicatory Monuments

Daniel J. Geagan


Reviewed by Ilaria Bultrighini

Agora 18. Pp. xxx + 425, figs. 4, b&w pls. 80, table 1. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Princeton 2011. $150. ISBN 978-0-87661-218-7 (cloth).

The volume under review belongs to the well-known series of books encompassing the results of the excavations conducted in the Athenian Agora by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Within this series, four volumes dedicated to inscriptions have been previously published (D.W. Bradeen, Inscriptions: The Funerary Monuments. Agora 17 [Princeton 1974]; B.D. Meritt and J.S. Traill, Inscriptions: The Athenian Councillors. Agora 15 [Princeton 1974]; G.V. Lalonde, M.K. Langdon, and M.B. Walbank, Inscriptions: Horoi, Poletai Records, Leases of Public Lands. Agora 19 [Princeton 1991]; A.G. Woodhead, Inscriptions: The Decrees. Agora 16 [Princeton 1997]). As the author stresses, the book aimed to include all dedicatory monuments "which are or have been in the custody of the Agora" (ix); and in fact, it collects inscribed material found not only in the Agora but also at sites near the Agora. A grid indicates the location of findspots on a plan of the whole area (pl. 80).

In the foreword, Traill, who updated and corrected the manuscript, explains that the book "represents an academic lifetime of work" (vii). Indeed, Geagan had the volume in preparation for decades: he identified and studied the monuments during several stays in Athens from 1970 to 1999, but he did not see the book in print, as he passed away in 2009.

An introductory chapter ("General Notes on Dedicatory Monuments") offers a brief illustration of how the material has been arranged, a note on poetic texts and their distribution over time, some observations on the eponymous dating of documents, and a concise note on invocations of Ἀγαθὴ Τύχη, which, because of their multifunctional character, appear in a variety of dedicatory monuments.

The material is organized in five sections: the first one comprises archaic and fifth-century B.C.E. monuments. The remaining sections are arranged typologically: "Commemoratives and Niketeria" (sec. 2), "Honorary Monuments" (sec. 3), "Votive Monuments" (sec. 4), and "Miscellaneous and Funerary Monuments" (sec. 5).

The paucity of archaic and fifth-century inscriptions along with the change from Old Attic to Ionian script in the year of Eukles' archonship (403/2 B.C.E.) apparently led Geagan to separate them from the remainder. However, as the author himself points out, the orthographic discontinuity between Old Attic script and Ionic script "is not absolute even in public documents" (3), nor were formulaic and typological continuities interrupted. Moreover, Geagan felt compelled to discuss the general features of certain types of archaic and fifth-century monuments not in the introduction to the section where the archaic and fifth-century monuments are dealt with but in the introductions to other sections discussing corresponding types of inscriptions. As a result, the segregation of archaic and fifth-century monuments breaks the typological organization of the rest of the book and creates some confusion; these inscriptions could have been assigned to the other sections according to their typology and listed among the first in the relevant catalogues, which are conveniently arranged in reverse chronological order.

Sections 2–4 are further divided in subsections: section 2 comprises subsections related to the identity and role of dedicants (e.g., dedications by foreign political bodies, by Athenian archons and other magistrates, by ephebes) and to the occasion of the celebration (e.g., military, choregic, agonistic monuments). A number of these monuments are also votive, and others are also honorary. In the sequence of presentation, Geagan followed the criterion used by Kirchner in IG 2² with some modifications that improved the organization of the material overall.

Honors recipients in section 3 include Roman emperors, foreign kings and queens, Athenians, citizens of other cities, distinguished Romans, and "past men of letters and their families." Geagan also incorporated sculptors' signatures in this section. Sculptors attested on the dedicatory monuments are first gathered in a table and then discussed individually before the catalogue.

In section 4, monuments are arranged alphabetically by divinity. A substantial amount of inscriptions identifiable as votive dedications do not preserve or display direct reference to any god. Geagan catalogues them under "Unidentified Divinities" and cleverly attempts to reconstruct each monument's cult and context by integrating text and physical characteristics of the epigraphic support.

Each section opens with articles on general features of the corresponding type of inscriptions; such forewords offer a definition of the monuments and their typologies and illustrate their epigraphic and physical characteristics. Subsections are also provided with introductory paragraphs. Catalogues of inscriptions follow.

For each catalogue entry, the author gives a description of the stone, its dimensions and letter heights, details of its finding, the Greek text, and a full list of previous publications of monuments not appearing here for the first time. A usually short but effective commentary follows, which begins with physical appearance of letters and doubtful readings and concludes with a discussion of the document's content and context.

There are full concordances, indexes of "names of men and women" (including "fragmentary names"), "members of dynasties, roman, late roman, and other," "demes, ethnics, and phylai," and "gods and festivals." Much has been covered, though an index of Greek words would have been helpful as well.

Two drawings, two stemmas, and about 500 high-quality photographs are provided for stones whose pictures have not been published previously.

Because a more detailed discussion of the large amount of work embraced by this book is not possible here, I will mention only one significant point. Among choregic monuments, a previously unedited fragment of a three-sided Pentelic marble tripod base (C185 [104]) preserving an extremely fragmentary three-line text has been associated by format and typology with the rural Dionysia. This interpretation presents various problems. First, tripods were awarded for victories in dithyrambic competitions, and whereas in Athens most of the choregic dedications are connected to dithyrambic contests and evidence for dramatic victories is almost completely lacking, the great majority of choregic monuments from rural Attica commemorates dramatic victories, and dithyramb is very scarcely attested. Second, in certain cases choregic dedications from the demes are interpreted as celebrating victories achieved in the city Dionysia by demotai choregoi; nevertheless, to the best of my knowledge we have no evidence of the opposite (i.e., a victory in rural Dionysia commemorated in Athens). A further problem lies in the date attributed to the new inscribed fragment, ca. 250–150 B.C.E., on the basis of letter forms. According to Geagan, the form νικήσαντες (line 1) relates to synchoregia, which in fact was a common feature of rural Dionysia (C185). However, in the time of Demetrius of Phalerum (317–307 B.C.E.), choregia was abolished and replaced with agonothesia, and multiple agonothetai were not allowed. Finally, it should be considered that on the whole, after the mid third century B.C.E., choregic monuments are considerably fewer in number.

This much-awaited volume is an excellent piece of scholarship, whose greatest merit is to cover all possible categories of dedications, which have been dealt with thoroughly and in great detail. The book constitutes an extremely helpful tool for the study of dedicatory monuments and adds a fundamental piece in the puzzle of Athenian examples, which could be considered virtually completed once the new editions of the Inscriptiones Graecae devoted to Attic honorary inscriptions (IG 2–3³ 5, Tituli honorarii) and votive dedications (IG 2–3³ 4, Dedicationes et tituli sacri), as well as Lawton's corpus of Attic votive reliefs, appear.

Ilaria Bultrighini
Center for Hellenic Studies
Harvard University
Washington, D.C. 20008


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