Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.02.14

Marie-Christine Hellmann (trans.), Choix d'inscriptions architecturales grecques (Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient Méditerranéen (TMO), 30).   Lyon:  Maison de l'Orient Méditerranéen, 1999.  Pp. 121, 18 line drawings.  ISBN 2-903264-72-4.  FF150.  

Reviewed by Graham Shipley, University of Leicester (
Word count: 1050 words

Architects in the ancient Greek world were not just men who built buildings, as this useful volume makes clear. In her selection of forty-seven inscriptions and one papyrus relating to ancient building projects, Marie-Christine Hellmann follows up her 1991 doctorat d'État. She aims to introduce relevant texts both to classicists and to Greekless readers, casting her geographical net widely and avoiding texts that are too fragmentary to translate with confidence. Each entry includes a brief description of the document, a select bibliography, the Greek text (sometimes only a selection), a French translation, and a discursive commentary highlighting the importance of the text to the study of ancient builders and craftsmen--and often of Greek civic culture. Entries are typically a couple of pages in length, though some are much longer and a few cover only half a page. The volume is well printed, though some of the headings above entries are in a different font from others. A slight disappointment, in these days of advanced computer graphics, is the lack of any photographs (there are only a few drawings) of the texts. In an epigraphic sourcebook, it is surely desirable to indicate the physical frame of a text or its accompanying sculpture. For all that, the selection of documents is extremely interesting.

Hellmann arranges the texts as follows: civic regulations (1-3); decrees ordering a construction (4-6); public contracts (7-16); building accounts (17-23); honorific inscriptions (24-7); dedications (28-34); signatures of architects and others (35-42); leases and sales (43-5); miscellaneous (46-8). That, of course, is only one possible ordering, and the teachers and students who use the volume will wish to make up their own agenda. I found it helpful, for example, to start by tracing chronological developments.

The earliest texts are brief signatures (42, Kleomenes, builder of a temple at Syracuse; 41, bridge across a ravine in south-western Samos) and dedications (30, Croesus's columns at Ephesos; 28, the Athenian stoa at Delphi). Concern for the urban fabric manifests itself in the fifth century (3, Thasian harbour regulations). In democratic Athens we see a series of decrees controlling sacred constructions (4, Athena Nike; 5, bridge over the Sacred Way) and monitoring expenditure (17, Erechtheion accounts).

The largest number of texts (thirteen) are from the fourth century. Detailed prescriptions for building projects are instanced from democratic Attica (8, Kynosarges tripod bases; 12, Philo's arsenal; 11, Telesterion porch at Eleusis; 16, control of water at the Amphiaraion) and Delos (10, a contract for an Ionic building). Others follow their lead (23, the Epidauros Tholos decree; 14, Mytilenaian contract for extending the temple of Asklepios). In some parts of Greece, an older style persists (1, a terse injunction against occupying public land next to the walls at Nisyros).

Under Alexander's successors the culture of civic control continues to assert itself (32, a board of 'wall supervisors' at Erythrai; 6, a Kolophonian decree uniting the old and new towns by moving the boundary; 7, Athens's restoration of the Long Walls; 18, accounts of works carried out in Delian sanctuaries; 9, a decree of Kyzikos for building a tower; 15, a stoa at Mytilene). Private associations mimic public forms (43, decree of Attic orgeones about a heroön).

In the third and second centuries (from which fifteen texts are selected), democratic or civic control remains to the fore and religious occasions provide the motive for recording the matter on stone (13, regulations about a temple of Zeus Basileus at Lebadeia; 25, Istros, or another city in Scythia Minor, honours a citizen architekton; 45, properties leased by the Delian curators; 19, Delian payments to contractors; 20, accounts of works done at Delphi in preparation for the festival; 21-2, lists of work done on the temple at Didyma). Occasionally, civic scrutiny extends to the sale of property (44, a pastas house at second-century Camarina).

Royal euergetism has now entered the stage (27, Miletos honours the future Antiochos I for building a stoa; 46, Poseidippos's epigram on the Pharos of Alexandria, perhaps subversively commemorating the architect, Sostratos, rather than the king). A special sense of the verb architektein is seen in the inscription of Ptolemy II honouring Pyrgoteles (or Ergoteles), his naval architect, at Paphos (40). Conversely, rich citizens honour kings with buildings, as in Cyprus under Ptolemy VI (33). In an exceptional royal context, 'democratic' Pergamon under the Attalids produces the granddaddy of all public space control: the regulations for city-wardens (astynomoi) under Eumenes II (2, a Hadrianic copy of which 239 lines survive, given in full by Hellmann).

Under Roman domination, there seems to be more emphasis on the status of the benefactors--or benefactrices, such as Archippe at Kyme (26) and Ioulia Potentilla at Ephesos (31). The constructor can proclaim his own achievement and status (37-8, architects' signatures at Gerasa and Dorylaion; 34, an architekton, perhaps engineer in charge of the quarries, dedicates an altar at Mons Claudianus on behalf of Trajan; 29, a contemporary architect proclaims his renovation of a temple at Doura-Europos; 48, heroön of a second-century 'architekton of the city' and his family at Miletos; 35, a Mytilenean domotekton, working under an ergepistates, records his work on a wall at third-century Abydos or Alexandria Troas). Architects receive public honours (24, second-century AD Delphi honours a Corinthian architect). The survival of ancient custom is illustrated by a second- or third-century stone from the theatre of Miletos, recording how the masons consulted the oracle to resolve a dispute about how to complete the project (47). The spread of the epigraphic habit is seen in the commemoration by a team of stonecutters and woodworkers (tektones) of their work on an oil-workshop in third-century northern Syria (39). The latest text is from late fifth-century Cilicia (36, a technites commemorates his work on a fountain-house).

The last few texts raise issues of terminology and professional labelling, some of which Hellmann touches on in her commentaries, which are informative and cite interesting comparanda. A fuller index, covering a wider range of Greek terms (and dividing long lists of page-numbers with subheadings), would have simplified the task of following themes through the book. Readers including specialists will have to devote time and concentration in order to navigate and make links, but Hellmann is to be commended on the clarity of her presentation and the range of social and economic phenomena illuminated by her selection.

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