Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.10.20

Erkki Sironen (ed.), Inscriptiones Argolidis. Fasciculus III, Inscriptiones Corinthiae saeculorum IV. V. VI. Inscriptiones Graecae, IV.2.3.   Berlin; Boston:  De Gruyter, 2016.  Pp. vi, 201; 44 p. of plates.  ISBN 9783110474534.  $419.00.  

Reviewed by Benjamin Millis, Elze, Germany (

Scholars interested in the epigraphy of Late Roman Corinth, and thus manifold other aspects of the city and beyond in that period, have not always been well served in the past despite the quantity and importance of the material. This situation has now changed dramatically for the better with the publication of Erkki Sironen’s new corpus of the Corinthian inscriptions from the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries. His edition is a first-rate piece of work that fills a real need and will be indispensable to anyone working on Late Roman Corinth or Late Roman Greece and its epigraphy more generally. This volume continues the piecemeal production of a second edition of IG IV and follows on from the now nearly ninety-year old fascicule on Epidaurus (1929; nos. 1–745) and the much more recent one on Aegina (2007; nos. 746–1239); the 595 inscriptions included here are thus numbered 1240–1834. Importantly, and correctly, despite this being a volume in the IG series, the relevant Latin inscriptions are also included.

Preliminary publication of some of the inscriptions aside, the first attempt to gather this material systematically was B. D. Meritt’s publication in 1931 of the Greek inscriptions found in the American excavations at Corinth between 1896, when the excavations began, and 1927; Meritt’s edition was desultory and is widely recognized as sub-standard and unreliable.1 The same year also saw the publication by A. B. West of the companion volume on the Latin inscriptions, a work that stands in marked contrast to Meritt’s book and still retains much of its value, although it is relevant to only a handful of the inscriptions edited by Sironen.2 A decade later, N. A. Bees began a more serious effort to edit the Greek material as the first volume of a planned Corpus der griechisch-christlichen Inschriften von Hellas, but this ill-fated project never progressed beyond the first fascicule, which contained a mere sixty-six inscriptions.3 The next major tranche of material appeared in 1966, when J. H. Kent published the inscriptions found in the American excavations in the years 1926–1950.4 Kent’s edition is hardly free from error, but it shows reasonable competence and has become the basis for much subsequent work on Corinthian epigraphy of both the Late Roman and other periods.

In the years since Kent’s volume, relevant inscriptions have continued to be found in the American excavations, especially the large number of funerary inscriptions that came to light in James Wiseman’s excavation of the Gymnasium area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Also in the 1960s and 1970s, the Greek Archaeological Society excavated a number of Early Christian basilicas in the area of Corinth which likewise yielded a substantial number of inscriptions. Many of the inscriptions from the past sixty or so years were published in preliminary reports, albeit often cursorily, but a significant number remained unpublished. The situation improved greatly in 1985, when Feissel and Philippidis-Braat published their indispensable survey of Late Roman and Byzantine inscriptions.5 They edited only a small selection of texts but offered comments and corrections to numerous others; perhaps more importantly, they offered the outlines of a much more refined chronology than had hitherto been attempted. As valuable as their work remains, it was only a first step and was not the corpus that was required (as Feissel himself acknowledged). Sironen’s volume now admirably fills that need by providing for the first time a corpus that is not only as comprehensive as was possible but also offers texts that are very reliably edited, organized coherently and dated as closely as present knowledge allows.

An indication of Sironen’s thoroughness in compiling the corpus is the fact that nearly a third (188 by my count6) of the 595 inscriptions are previously unpublished (this number includes eight new fragments that join previously published inscriptions7). This figure inspires confidence that little remains to be discovered in the storerooms housing American or Archaeological Society material. The only major omission in Sironen’s volume is the unpublished material (ca. 70 inscriptions) from Wiseman’s Gymnasium excavations; while this omission is to be regretted, the fault does not lie with the author.8 Nearly all inscriptions included were edited on the basis on autopsy, normally in conjunction with photographs or squeezes or (most often) both; Sironen has thus personally examined virtually all stones except those that are now lost.9

For a number of the individually important texts, Sironen has made marked progress in terms of improved readings, understanding, or both. In 1260 = Kent 504, for example, he is able to read plausibly the very difficult to decipher name of the proconsul (for another new possible proconsul of Achaia, see 1252). Much improved readings in 1243 = Kent 514 enable recognition of the fragment as the end of an edict concerning the building of walls rather than as some sort of real estate regulation. Similar advances appear in various religious texts. In 1616 = Kent 65, for example, the reference to Sikyon has disappeared (and been replaced by ‘flesh-eating dogs’, as improbable as that sounds), and the entire poem is recognized as an apparent praise of Christian religious life rather than a late pagan poem recounting the exploits of a hero, possibly Herakles, as Kent had speculated. 1794 = Corinth XVIII, vi, no. 135, a 4th century Latin text from the Demeter Sanctuary, is placed on a much firmer footing (e.g. dominis OE[ – ] corrected to domini soc[ii] = Demeter and Kore; Benus recognized as Venus; EMPTO corrected to <t>emp<l>o), and the basic structure of the text recognized; Sironen’s succinct comment (‘desideratur commentarius plenus’) is well worth heeding by someone with the interest.

These sorts of improvements to the ‘major’ texts are perhaps to be expected, but the real indication of the quality of the edition comes out when examining in detail the prison inscriptions, funerary inscriptions and small scraps that form the bulk of the volume. The care and attention to detail expended on these texts, often relatively unrewarding when taken individually, has placed them on a sound basis, many for the first time. Countless small but important improvements and corrections are made throughout: e.g. 1269 = Kent 731 the abbreviated address correctly recognized and expanded (and the date corrected); 1299 = Kent 576 the month November is recognized in place of Kent’s unlikely restoration of the word ‘indiction’; 1301 = Meritt 190 a curse against violators of the tomb is recognized; 1341 = Kent 614 + 618 the join and improved readings produce a standard formula for purchasing a tomb and so clarify the content; 1361 = Meritt 173 the name Ioannis is recognized in Meritt’s unintelligible string of letters; 1362 = Meritt 175 a standard funerary formula is recognized; 1387 = Kent 617 Kent’s astounding ἁμέρᾳ is recognized as γαμετή; 1427 = Kent 534 the monogram (ignored by Kent) is both noted and deciphered; 1485 = Kent 636 the name of Hesychius, who died on a Friday, is recognized in place of Kent’s attempt to restore a (non-standard) formula for purchasing a tomb. Such corrections and improvements are to be found on nearly every page and, while often seemingly slight in themselves, work together to transform the material as a whole into a much more coherent and reliable body of evidence. Particular care is also given to abbreviations; this attention to details frequently treated as inconsequential likewise constantly pays dividends in terms of better recognition and more accurate restoration of formulae, better understanding of what is abbreviated (and when and how), and so on.

Sironen’s notes are always to the point, and he seems to have missed little of importance, although one sometimes wishes for greater internal cross references. For example, on 1605 (previously unedited) he correctly notes that explicit statements in funerary inscriptions that the deceased died a virgin are rare in Achaia but more common in Macedonia (and he supplies references proving the point), but helpful would have been a reference to 1568 = Kent 670 where the deceased is described as [ἀε]ιπάρθεν[ος] (the word also occurs in 1503 but there in reference to the Virgin Mary). Sironen’s judgement about what to print (or not to print) is routinely excellent and can only seldom be faulted. Printing Ἀ[νδρέα] in 1371 seems a trifle bold, although admittedly no other name is both so common and so short. In contrast, [Ἀθηνα]ίς in 1395 seems excessively daring (even if an exempli gratia restoration) and would have been better confined to the apparatus given that reasonable alternatives exist (one possibly attested at Corinth is Διονυσίς (so LGPN) at 1433 = Kent 544, but Sironen may well be correct to follow Robert and print the masc. Διονύσις even if much about the text remains obscure). Similarly, I see no advantage in printing Ἄν[να] in 1603 when Ἀν[δρέου] is also acknowledged as plausible or Εὐφ[ρασία] in 1788 when Εὐφ[ημία] (cf. 1660) is also admitted as equally likely. In contrast to these examples, surely Πέ[τρου] was worth mentioning as the obvious possibility in 1598; the formula would be unusual, but cf. 1460.

In a volume as complex as this one, the existence of error is almost inevitable, but all that I noticed were minor. Bibliographic errors are few: e.g. 1355 Meritt, not Kent, is the author of the relevant Corinth volume (likewise at 1578; the reverse error at 1735). There is occasionally misattribution of restorations: e.g. 1245 Walbank (already Pallas–Dantes); 1251 line 3 Ameling (already Kent); 1402 [Σπ]άρτη already Walbank; 1786 Walbank (already Pallas–Dantes. In 1726, the restoration Κω[νσταντίνου] is attributed to Kent, but it seems not to appear in his Corinth volume, nor can I find it elsewhere (proposed by Kent or anyone else). The views of earlier scholars are very occasionally mischaracterized: e.g. 1616 Kent does not advocate for lines 11–16 being a separate Christian poem but rather characterizes that view as unlikely; 1733 Kent does not place the fragment among the decrees but rather among the ‘fragments too small to classify’, and he explicitly states that the abbreviation β is a number rather than β(ουλῆς). The findspots for some inscriptions are noted by reference to Oakley House (e.g. 1538) and others by reference to Hill House (e.g. 1537); regularization would have been preferable, since the disparity in nomenclature implies two distinct locations, whereas in fact Hill House is the replacement for Oakley House (demolished in 1970), built on the exact same location. Note also that Tabula geographica II places Oakley House (there is no mention of Hill House) much too far to the northwest; it was directly south of the Theatre, immediately to the west of the Odeum. On p. v bottom, reference is made to inscriptions found ‘in colle Iovis’, i.e. in Henry Robinson’s excavations on Temple Hill; surely this should read ‘in colle Apollonis’ or ‘in colle templi Apollonis’ as indeed it is in the individual descriptions of the relevant inscriptions. 1337 was apparently found near Hadji Moustapha which is difficult to reconcile with its inclusion among inscriptions from the Forum area. The findspot of 1365 and 1366 is identified as the macellum north of the Apollo temple; on Tabula geographica I the market north of the Apollo temple is so labelled (although the key refers to it as the North Shops), but this structure is normally known as the North Market and the macellum (known from West 124) is generally located on the Lechaeum Road.

The passing faults I have found with the volume are so trivial that they should serve only to reinforce the general excellence of the edition. The book closes with a concordance and very full indices as well as much appreciated photographs of nearly all inscriptions. The concordance for the volumes of Meritt and Kent helpfully includes those inscriptions (and Sironen’s dates for them) that Sironen rejects as falling outside his chronological parameters. The photographs are generally very good, although nearly all lack a scale, which would have been helpful. Texts of the inscriptions together with German translations can be found on the IG website. One can occasionally find greater detail about findspots in older editions (but note e.g. 1379 = Kent 593 where Sironen [southwest Forum] is correct against Kent [southeast Forum]), but for all practical purposes this new edition completely supersedes all previous ones. Sironen’s enviable command of the material and skill in editing is well known to those familiar with his previous work; with this volume he continues to impress and has set a new, very high standard for editing the inscriptions of Late Roman Corinth.


1.   Benjamin Dean Meritt, Corinth VIII, i: Greek Inscriptions 1896–1927. Cambridge, Mass. 1931. Meritt clearly had little interest in the bulk of the material he was editing, and his work on much of the earlier inscriptions in the volume is not appreciably better than that on the Late Roman ones.
2.   Allen Brown West, Corinth VIII, ii: Latin Inscriptions 1896–1926. Cambridge, Mass. 1931.
3.   Nikos A. Bees (Βέης), Corpus der griechisch-christlichen Inschriften von Hellas I: Die griechisch-christlichen Inschriften des Peloponnes 1:Isthmos–Korinthos. Athens 1941. Bees reedited a number of inscriptions found in Meritt’s volume but also included inscriptions absent from that volume which had been found either prior to the start of the American excavations or after 1927. An abortive attempt to revive the larger project, now renamed Χριστιανικοὶ Ἐπιγραφαὶ τῆς Ἑλλάδος, was made thirty years later with the appearance of the only other fascicule to be published, namely Anastasius C. Bandy (Μπέντης), Χριστιανικοὶ Ἐπιγραφαὶ τῆς Ἑλλάδος X: The Greek Christian Inscriptions of Crete 1: IV–IX A.D.. Athens 1970. For a sketch of the background and an outline of the plan for the original project, see Bees, pp. vii–ix; for brief remarks on the attempted revival, see Orlandos in Bandy, p. vi.
4.   John Harvey Kent, Corinth VIII, iii: The Inscriptions 1926–1950. Princeton 1966.
5.   Denis Feissel and Anne Philippidis-Braat, ‘Inventaires en vue d’un recueil des inscriptions historiques de Byzance III. Inscriptions du Péloponnèse (à l’exception de Mistra)’, TMByz 9 (1985) 267–395.
6.   Not included in this count are the three new fragments of 1825; these are included in Sironen’s list of previously unpublished inscriptions on p. 169 but were published almost simultaneously with Sironen’s volume by Klaus Hallof, ‘Ein christlicher Steckkalender aus Sikyon (IV2 3, 1825)’, Early Christianity 7 (2016) 237–46 (acknowledged by Sironen ad loc.).
7.   Namely 1252 = Kent 516; 1260 = Kent 504; 1269 = Kent 731; 1282 = Meritt 208; 1381 = Kent 598; 1392 = Kent 612; 1498 = SEG LVII 326 + Kent 678; 1674 = Meritt 265.
8.   See p. v ‘Valde autem dolendum est, quod ille, qui gymnasium inter a. 1967–1971 excavabat, ex titulis suis ineditis et quinquaginta fere annis abditis nonnulla (scil. nomina et officia) concedit Michaeli Walbank, editionem autem plenam in corpore nostro dare negavit.’ Brief remarks outlining what is known about this material are given on p. 79.
9.   A significant number of the lost inscriptions (16 by my count) derive from Stikas’ excavation of the Kodratos (Quadratus) Basilica in the early 1960s. The last time that I was at the basilica, albeit now a decade ago, there were still a number of fragmentary inscriptions to be found there both on shelving erected on site and scattered about the area. The site has apparently been cleaned recently, and so it is perhaps conceivable that some of the missing inscriptions have now been recovered; a thorough search of the surrounding area might also be worthwhile. ​

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