Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2014.04.19 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.04.19

Ronald S. Stroud, The Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore: The Inscriptions. Corinth, 18.6.   Princeton, NJ:  American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2013.  Pp. xxiv, 179; 4 p. of plans.  ISBN 9780876611869.  $150.00.  

Reviewed by Enrique Nieto Izquierdo, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (


This book is a careful edition of the inscriptions found in the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Corinth, excavated by archaeologists from the American School of Classical Studies in 1960s and 1970s. This volume adds to previous ones of this series, which dealt with other aspects of the site such as topography, architecture or sculpture, and will be supplemented in the future with others dedicated to other miscellaneous finds and a detailed study of the cult and rituals of the sanctuary.

In this installment a total of 135 inscriptions (134 in Greek and one in Latin) dating from the archaic period to ca 400 CE are studied. Eighty have not been published before. Documents are classified according to the type of object on which they are inscribed and, where possible and relevant, according to the type of inscription. The book opens with a section of varia, devoted to inscriptions on stone (nos. 1-10), metal (nos. 11-12), bone (no. 13) and mosaic (no. 14), followed by a broader section on inscriptions on pottery, painted (nos. 15-40) and incised (nos. 41-97). Painted inscriptions are classified according to their content: dedications (nos. 15-21), labels of figures (nos. 22-29), kalos-inscriptions (nos. 30-31), commercial inscriptions (nos. 32-36), an inscription with letters imitating Greek (no. 37), two uncertain ones (nos. 38-39 ) and a possible dedicatory tray or bowl (no. 40). Among incised pottery, we find dedications (nos. 41-50), ownership inscriptions (nos. 51-53), personal names/signatures (nos. 54-72) and a miscellaneous section and incerta with many documents difficult to ascertain (nos. 73-97).

The volume continues with a study of a collection of pinakes (nos. 98-117) and of eighteen Late Roman curse tablets (nos. 118-135), one of which is written in Latin (no. 135). The edition of the enigmatic pinakes is preceded by an Introduction (pp. 71-72) and followed by some concluding remarks (p. 80). The chapter devoted to the curse tablets constitutes in itself a thorough essay of this type of documents: after an informative introduction (pp. 81-83), Stroud studies their condition, the deities invoked, the language and the different hands, the archaeological context, magic in Roman Corinth and ends with some conclusions. Unlike the previous documents and for obvious reasons, the defixiones are accompanied by an English translation. The volume ends with an inventory and a concordance of inscriptions, as well as some very useful indices: a general index, an index of ancient sources cited, and indices of Greek and Latin words and personal names. The book is appended with four maps of the sanctuary, corresponding to different archaeological periods (from 500 BC to the Roman period).

The inscriptions are preceded by lemmata with detailed information concerning the object and an exhaustive bibliography when available. Stroud also describes thoroughly the letter forms of each text and comments on various aspects of the readings. For the most part, texts are illustrated by a photograph and/or a facsimile, generally of high quality.

A renowned specialist for many years on the archaeological area of Corinth, Ronald Stroud has in my opinion written an outstanding volume. He provides an exhaustive bibliography of all subjects under discussion; his comments and readings are always insightful and accurate, and for the most part convincing. As mentioned above, the two studies dealing with the pinakes and the curse tablets, undoubtedly the jewel of the epigraphic discoveries of the sanctuary, are excellent examples of great philological work. Stroud does not avoid the thorny problems: for instance, his remarks on the difficult inscription no. 51, the kotyle of Choirasos, are thorough and valuable.

In the following paragraphs I offer some minor quibbles and objections that do not call into question my overall impression of Stroud’s work.

Stroud avoids using the letter forms as a criterion for dating the documents, although, admittedly (cf. p. 2), most of the deposits on the site were highly contaminated and therefore can be specified only as "late classical", "late archaic", "classical" etc., using archaeological criteria. To my mind, in some documents the alphabet allows for a more accurate date: e.g. no. 1 clearly points to no earlier than the 6th c. BC, no. 41 to the early Archaic period, and nos. 49-50 to the late Archaic period, and not the Classical, as mistakenly assumed by Stroud.

Stroud’s identification of a type of document is sometimes open to debate. I cannot understand why he does not even raise the possibility that no. 59 [---]πολλ[---] could be a mere dedication to Apollo. As he correctly points out on several occasions, various deities other than Demeter and Kore are attested in the sanctuary (cf. nos. 74 and 79). Needless to say, dedications to deities other than the holders of the shrine are found profusely in the Ancient Greek sanctuaries: e.g. at the Argive Heraion, ex-vota to Dionysus (IG IV, 512) or Artemis (IG IV, 513).1

Stroud rarely lapses into errors and inaccuracies, but some of his statements concerning Greek linguistics are doubtful. In p. 87 no. 118 the editor writes χρες (L. 8), as if ε stood for ει or η, as suggested by the accent. However, since other examples of ε instead of ει or η do not occur again in the text (e.g., Ἡρακλίδην, ll. 4-5) the reading should be χέρες, with a first short vowel attested in Homer and late Attic.2

Stroud contends that ὄνυμα, ὀνυμάζεται in the curse tablet nos. 125-126 (ll. 13 and 14), instead of ὄνομα, is a Doric feature (cf. p. 85). But ὄνυμα is also attested in the epic language and Aeolic poets, where Doric words are unknown. More importantly, the ypsilon appears also in compounds in all dialects (e.g. ἐπώνυμος). In fact, ὄνυμα was probably taken from some poetic tradition, since the defixiones show other characteristics of pseudo-literary texts.

Referring to ΟΡϜ in p. 7 no. 3 (ca 300 BCE; sc. ὄρϝ[ος] = Att. ὅρος), Stroud states that, since forms with the digamma are attested in inscriptions from Kerkyra, a colony of Corinth, it is not surprising to find them for the first time in the motherland. Actually, the forms from Kerkyra only prove that, at the time of its foundation (8th c. BC), ϝ was intact after /r/ in Corinth, but tells us nothing of the status of the phoneme in the 3rd c. Corinthian, given that the evolution could be completely different in the colony and the motherland.

In the following paragraphs I offer some readings that are intended to complement the already splendid work of Stroud.

There are some inscriptions written in archaic Corinthian alphabet, but with unexpected Attic dialectal features: e.g. hιερά (p. 45 no 50; instead of expected Doric hιαρά, cf. p. 44 no. 49), ἐάτō (= ἐάτω, p. 58 no. 73).3 These forms have consequences for our understanding of the history of the shrine, since the presence of Athenians would call into question that the shrine was only frequented by local Corinthian worshippers. The question deserves a more in depth study.

In no. 61 Stroud proposes to correct ΑΙΣΚΛ in Αἰσ>χυ<λ[---], on the assumption that there are not many personal names in Greek starting with Αἰσκ-. This correction is unnecessary. Variants of the name of Asclepius with spurious iota, i.e. Αἰσκλαπ-, are found in the nearby areas of Achaea and Argolis. More importantly, Αἰσχλαβιõι is attested in an inscription discovered in Bologna written in Corinthian alphabet (LSAG, p. 132 no. 40).

A dedication to Demeter belonging to the late archaic period contains the reading ΡΕΤΑΚΑΣΟΦΙΑΤΑΔΑΜΑΤΡ (no. 16). Among other more or less plausible guesses, Stroud considers the possibility of the presence of two female worshippers [---]ρέτα κα>ὶ< Σοφία τᾷ Δαμάτρ[ι]. But a mistake for καί can only be admitted after all other possible explanations have been discarded. In the Corinthian dialect the diphthong /aj/ became /aḙ/ and was therefore written AE instead of AI. In fact, A could be an alternative spelling for a further step in the evolution of /aḙ/, the long vowel /æ:/ (cf. Elean ματάρ with A for / æ:/ from inherited /ε:/). If my interpretation is correct and the spelling KA is not merely a mistake but reveals a phonological development, further support would come from the enigmatic anthroponym Κάϙυλος (p. 50 no. 56), which Stroud correctly compares to Argive Καίκαλος (for alternations between suffixes -αλος ~ -υλος cf. e.g. Δόρκαλος ~ Δόρκυλος).

Let the above quibbling illustrate the interest that this excellent edition has aroused in the reviewer. The material found here and the author’s own comments will be extremely useful to scholars interested in the epigraphy, archaeology and linguistics of Corinth.


1.   This remark can be extended, though more doubtfully, to other cases as pp. 52-53 nos. 61-63 (Asclepius? Hera? Apollon?).
2.   Cf. Nieto Izquierdo, Enrique, Gramática de las inscripciones de la Argólide, 2009, pp. 101-102 n. 38.
3.   Stroud does not mention that ἐήτω (*ea-e-tō) is expected in Doric.

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