You are here

Epigraphy, Numismatics, Prosopography and History of Ancient Cyprus: Papers in Honour of Ino Nicolaou

Epigraphy, Numismatics, Prosopography and History of Ancient Cyprus: Papers in Honour of Ino Nicolaou

Edited by Demetrios Michaelides (SIMA-PB 179). Pp. xxviii + 334, figs. 143, tables 6. Åströms Förlag, Uppsala 2013. €64. ISBN 978-91-7081-252-1 (cloth).

Reviewed by

A traditional Festschrift, arising from a 2007 conference, this volume honors the renowned epigraphist, numismatist, and historian Ino Nicolaou by presenting a collection of papers written by her friends and colleagues that focus on the areas in which she has pursued an academic interest in her long and productive career. A section at the beginning of the book (xix–xxviii) lists Nicolaou’s major publications over almost 60 years; these cover a wide disciplinary range and more than 1,000 years of Cypriot history, and they show in summary form the phenomenal and lasting impact her work has had on Cypriot studies. It is often the case that the more wide-ranging the interests of the person honored, the more uneven the quality of the volume—a fitting observation in this instance, as the papers vary in (physical) length, (disciplinary) breadth, and (analytical) depth, not to mention language (with papers in Greek, English, French, and German).

The book is divided into three sections, beginning with numismatics. Several of the papers here consider the value of coins as historical evidence: this can be seen especially in Markou’s synthesis of historical and numismatic evidence for the rule of the strategos Menelaos (1–8), in Touratsoglou’s paper on the Pella hoard and the evidence it gives for events after Cassander’s death (45–52), and in Picard’s discussion of the numismatic evidence for the political and economic history of Thasos (53–64). One might question the presence of the latter two articles in a volume explicitly dedicated to ancient Cyprus. The informal style of Metcalf’s paper on medieval Nea Paphos, which also calls for methodological innovation by way of more ambitious numismatic publications, suggests a direct transcription of the paper he delivered at the conference and could have benefited from further editorial attention (69–75). Some of the numismatic papers are very short, and even the short ones show variations in quality: for example, Oikonomidou’s three-page article on the wider context of Cypriot coinage is limited in analytical scope (41–3), while Amandry’s five-page piece on the coins of the Koinon Kyprion under Geta is an informative corrective to previous publications on the topic (63–8). The papers of greatest value in this section, and fittingly so in a volume dedicated to Nicolaou, are the ones presenting new or little-studied material: the ones by Georgiou on a Venetian-period coin hoard (77–83), Pistillides on Venetian-period tokens or “ferlini” (85–92), and especially Destrooper-Georgiades on Cypriot examples of “monnaies surfrappées” (i.e., coins already in circulation overstruck as a new coin type [9–40]) stand out in this regard.

The papers in the other two sections are arranged in a peculiar way. Two different types of paper are grouped under the title “Epigraphy”: those that analyze inscriptions directly and those that use their content as historical evidence. There are papers treating the archaeological and linguistic content/context of inscriptions by Åström (on Hala Sultan Tekke [95–102]), Mavroyiannis (considering evidence for the use of the toponym “Cyprus” [103–17]), Panayotou-Triantaphyllopoulou (on Cypriot Phoenician onomastics [119–27]), Karnava (a valuable discussion of four Cypriot syllabic inscriptions found outside Cyprus, in Greece [159–69]), and Doria Nicolaou (demonstrating the rich variety of the Christian epigraphic record of the fourth–seventh centuries C.E. [245–72]). Of these, Panayotou-Triantaphyllopoulou’s discussion of Phoenician names stands out as a significant contribution to literature on the subject and provides a list of attested names that will be valuable to scholars in the field. The late Åström’s paper, meanwhile, is uncharacteristically lacking in depth, presenting an “overview” of epigraphic material from Hala Sultan Tekke that is brief and sometimes overly simplistic (e.g., the suggestion that the Cypro-Minoan ti sign on a stone object that may be a weight should lead us to look for a language that has a weight name beginning with “ti-”). The paper by Papasavvas on diptych writing tablets depicted in archaic terracotta figurines hypothesizes the use of these presumably inscribed items in religious worship (with some necessary assumptions) rather than studying particular inscriptions (171–202). Funke’s contribution detailing thwarted efforts in the early 20th century to create a corpus of Cypriot inscriptions has a happy ending in the recent renewed support given to the IG 15 volume by the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus (119–27).

Several (strictly historical) papers use epigraphic evidence to provide information about persons and events. Hatzopoulos and Georgiadou compare land grants in Macedonia and Cyprus (203–10), Kritzas looks at the evidence for the games at Argos (with new evidence for an Argive month name discussed in relation to the Cypriot Apollo Erithios [213–25]), Anastassiades considers the developing role of the strategos in religious practice from epigraphic sources (227–34), and Kantiréa looks at the possible roles of imperial intervention, municipal initiative, and individual generosity in Roman-period public building projects (235–42). Hallof also contributes a very brief summary of the content of an inscription published elsewhere since the time of the original conference, with a photograph too small to be legible (211).

The title of the final section (“History and Society”) seems odd considering that all the volume’s chapters deal with history and society in one form or another. It contains only four papers, at least two of which might more happily have joined the epigraphy section. Iacovou’s contribution is archaeological in nature and shows very effectively the impact of topographical study on our understanding of the history of Paphos (275–91). Buraselis reanalyzes the royal cenotaph at Salamis and suggests a slightly later dating (ca. 301 B.C.E.) than has usually been ascribed to it (293–306). Kaldeli’s paper on amphora stamps as evidence for economic patterns concentrates mainly on those with inscriptions and presents some convincing preliminary conclusions (307–23). Finally, the editor, Michaelides, discusses evidence for doctors on Cyprus (beginning with those mentioned in the fifth-century B.C.E. Idalion bronze tablet, the longest surviving inscription in Cypriot Syllabic Greek) and presents the evidence of a new inscription (325–34).

It is inevitable that this volume will suffer the curse of the Festschrift and find itself used mostly by those looking for an individual article within it. Uneven quality and depth among the papers prevent it from being a “major new contribution to our understanding of the historical record of Cyprus” as promised in the blurb on the back cover. However, this is not to say that the volume is without merit. It is generally well edited and especially well illustrated, with high-quality (if sometimes quite small) photographs enhancing many of the contributions. It is the gems in the collection that most give value to the volume and make up for its otherwise uneven quality.

Philippa M. Steele
Magdalene College, Cambridge

Book Review of Epigraphy, Numismatics, Prosopography and History of Ancient Cyprus: Papers in Honour of Ino Nicolaou, edited by Demetrios Michaelides

Reviewed by Philippa M. Steele

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 119, No. 1 (January 2015)

Published online at


Add new comment

Plain text

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.