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The Art of the Hekatompedon Inscription and the Birth of the Stoikhedon Style

The Art of the Hekatompedon Inscription and the Birth of the Stoikhedon Style

By Patricia A. Butz (Monumenta Graeca et Romana 16). Pp. 174, pls. 106. Brill, Leiden 2010. $179. ISBN 978-90-04-18308-7 (cloth).

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Under study in this volume of Monumenta Graeca et Romana is a single inscribed Greek text, the Hekatompedon inscription (IG 1³ 4, to which the two fragments reported in SEG 51 26 also belong), presented through details of its letterforms (ch. 1), its stoichedon, or checkerboard, layout (ch. 2), and its punctuation (ch. 3). Building on these descriptions, the author reconsiders the origins and definition of the stoichedon style (chs. 4, 5, respectively), and in the final chapter (“The Hekatompedon Inscription as Monument and Masterpiece” [ch. 6]), she defends that designation of this inscription.

In a brief introduction, the Hekatompedon inscription is identified as a fragmentary text of an Athenian decree inscribed on the back of two marble metopes of the H-architecture series, reused for this purpose, whose fragments have been recovered throughout the Athenian Acropolis. The volume is not intended nor equipped to tackle some standard points of scholarly debate, including the date of the inscription (485/4 B.C.E.?) and the topographical relevance of its text and its findspots. Instead, in the author’s words, “the purpose of this book is to present the Hekatompedon Inscription from a new aesthetic perspective: that of a major monument of ancient Greek art” (ix)—hence, the “art” of the Hekatompedon inscription advertised in the title.

Chapter 1 features a two-page “Exemplar of Letterforms for the ‘Hekatompedon Inscription’” (4–5, fig. 1) illustrating some of the variety of Old Attic letterforms preserved on the two metopes; this is the author’s full-scale facsimile of selected letters in this text, previously published in a reduced version (P.A. Butz, “H.G. Lolling and the Editio Princeps of the ‘Hekatompedon Inscription,’” in K. Fittschen, ed., Historische Landeskunde und Epigraphik in Griechenland [Münster 2007] 96). For those unfamiliar with the exemplar, I note that the Arabic numerals 1, 2, 3, and 4 that label the letterforms on the facsimile refer to locations of those letterforms on the fragments, and that the key to those locations is given in the “descriptions of letterforms” (so-called on p. 3) in succeeding pages (6–33): for example, the alpha labeled “1” on the exemplar is shown, under the entry for alpha in the descriptions, to be located on metope B, in line 13, stoichos 23. Comparison of the exemplar, the descriptions of letterforms, and the photographs of the reconstructed metopes (metope A: 133, pl. 88; metope B: x, pl. 1) will ground the interested reader in the letterforms of this inscription.

Chapter 2 (“The Stoikhedon Arrangement of the Hekatompedon Inscription”) largely recounts the contributions of Austin’s The Stoichedon Style in Greek Inscriptions (Oxford 1938), in particular his definition of the style, his lists of the earliest known stoichedon texts, and his reconstruction of a single- and double-checker system used in stoichedon layouts. In chapters 4 and 5, respectively, the author revises Austin’s lists and his definition of “stoichedon”; in chapter 2, she proposes that the Hekatompedon inscription follows a grid system not recognized by Austin, “a system ‘in between’ a single and double grid” (51). But the evidence of her own drawings (pls. 29, 30) undermines this proposal, and the argument is not salvaged by her complaint that the fragments were askew when she traced the lettering (54).

Description is extended in chapter 3 to punctuation, and notable here is the author’s proposal that a nine-point punctuation mark, one of which this inscription preserves, “is a special marker of sacred content” (72). The theory seems reasonable, at least for Attica, on the evidence of IG 1³ 78a, IG 1³ 243, and IG 2² 1392, particularly if these are the “only three other inscriptions known carrying this kind of interpunct” (63). But the authority credited with this characterization does not make that claim (L.L. Threatte, The Grammar of Attic Inscriptions. Vol. 1, Phonology [Berlin 1980] 74–5), supplying instead “illustrative examples” of this punctuation in Attic texts, and the theory will need further testing.

In chapter 4, the author challenges Austin’s conclusion that Attica has the best claim to the origin of the stoichedon style (77–8). First, she updates Austin’s 1938 listing of early stoichedon texts from Attica and elsewhere with examples drawn from Jeffery (The Local Scripts of Archaic Greece. Rev. ed. [Oxford 1990]), including Nestor’s Cup, from Pithekoussai (Jeffery 1990, 239, no. 1), which Jeffery characterizes as “partly stoichedon” (78), and the grave stele of Aris[--] (or Arist[--], per Butz [81]) from Samos (Jeffery 1990, 341, no. 10), of which the author remarks that a faithfulness to the stoichedon arrangement has been “sacrificed” (78). Second, the author turns her focus to a number of inscribed archaic Samian statues (85–98): the colossal kouros dedicated by Isches (Jeffery 1990, 472, no. F), the kouros dedicated by Leukios (Jeffery 1990, 341, no. 5), the korai dedicated by Cheramyes (Jeffery 1990, 341, no. 4; 471, no. 4a), and the korai of the Geneleos Group (Jeffery 1990, 341, no. 6; 471, no. 6), and cites all of these, which preserve varying arrangements of aligned lettering, for “the sensibility for incipient stoikhedon arrangement” (93). This is the springboard to the final section of chapter 4 (98–103), where the author looks at evidence for connections between Samos and Egypt in the period prior to the earliest Greek stoichedon texts, and having postulated an influence of Egyptian figural grids on Greek lettering grids (103), she concludes in chapter 5 that “we must look to Egypt for the origins of the stoikhedon style in Greek inscriptions, however it comes to Greece: whether through Samos, the Kyklades, some Eastern point of contact, but foundationally from Naukratis” (106). Recommending “a modified definition of the [stoichedon] style” (106) that would encompass this broad range of examples, she draws on the evidence of the Egyptian Stele of Moschion (SEG 8 464 [second/third century C.E.]), which is a bilingual Greek and Egyptian demotic votive tablet that was noted by Austin for its use of the word “stoichedon” (110), and also on the evidence of Greek stoichedon texts that show “deviation from vertical and horizontal alignment” (111). Components of the author’s new definition are spread over several entries in the list of terminology (xix–xx), including “stoikhedon, offset” and “stoikhedon, rectified.”

Appendix 1 presents photographs of all fragments of metope A, including two fragments published by Matthaiou in 2003 (SEG 51 26) (141–43, 154–59); appendices 2 and 3 contain restored texts of metopes A and B, respectively, based on the author’s examination of both (134, 163), and also her translations of these. The restored texts are unreliable. I single out the misrepresentation of the archon’s name in metope A, lines 14–15 (162):

                                    ⋮ἐπὶ Φ[ιλοκρ]ά̣[τ]ος
[. . . . .]^[.]ος ⋮ἄρχ[οντ]ο̣ς

Here, the text that the author prints in line 14 after the Φ cannot ever have been contained in that line: on the stone, the Φ is followed immediately by the preserved original right edge of the metope, so that ἐπὶ Φ are the final letters of line 14, and the archon’s name resumes in line 15. Whether one opts to restore the name Φ|[ιλοκρ]ά̣[τ]ος (as does the editor of IG 1³ 4) or to leave it unrestored in such a form as Φ|[. . . . .]^[.]ος (141–43), the text can accommodate only one of these.

Butz’s interpretation of the two inscribed circles in the lower margin of metope A as “practice” omicrons, to be compared with that in the lower margin of IG 1³ 749 (157; contra the interpretation of Matthaiou [SEG 51 26]), is potentially of very wide interest.

Providing some valuable supplements to Austin 1938, this volume will be useful in collections that contain that earlier study.

M.B. Richardson
American School of Classical Studies at Athens
106 76 Athens

Book Review of The Art of the Hekatompedon Inscription and the Birth of the Stoikhedon Style, by Patricia A. Butz

Reviewed by M.B. Richardson

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 116, No. 2 (April 2012)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1162.Richardson

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