BMCR 2001.08.25

The Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Caesarea Maritima: Joint Expedition to Caesarea Maritima Excavation Reports 5

, , The Greek and Latin inscriptions of Caesarea Maritima. The joint expedition to Caesarea Maritima, excavation reports ; vol. 5. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2000. xx, 292, clxxi pages : illustrations ; 28 cm.. ISBN 0897570286. $84.95.

Clayton Lehmann and Kenneth Holum have sought to gather together in this book all of the substantial Greek and Latin inscriptions known through 1992 that have come from Caesarea Maritima and its immediate environs. The result is a collection of 411 inscriptions that date after the founding of Caesarea by Herod the Great and before the Muslim conquest. Previous years of work on the inscriptions from this important site have eminently qualified both authors for this task. Already in 1980 Lehmann had completed an M.A. thesis on the inscriptions of Caesarea under Holum’s direction.1 Both Lehmann and Holum (hereafter LH) have long been members of the Joint Expedition team responsible for excavating the site. Their collection of inscriptions is therefore edited with an eye to the broader archaeological context. This in itself places the work of LH on a much more secure methodological footing than many other similar collections, which often fall prey to the tendency to treat epigraphic evidence solely within the context of written sources. This methodological sensitivity and the massive labor that has been invested in this book provide a solid foundation for all future research on this site.

The preface divides the broad chronological range covered in this volume into the “Roman Period” (through ca. 300 CE) and the “Late Antique Period” (from 300 to the Muslim conquest). The phrase used for the latter period was chosen over “Early Byzantine” to emphasize the continuities between the two periods that LH elaborate elsewhere in the book (p. xii).

Part 1 consists of an excellent social history of Caesarea with a focus on issues directly relevant to the epigraphy of the site. This includes material about the provincial and civic administration, the Roman army, building projects, religion, demography, and the material culture of funerary practice (pp. 1-26). Within this general survey are a number of details that can only be appreciated by a careful reading. For example, the crucial significance of various inscriptions for determining the movements of various legions and units of the Roman army is succinctly summarized (pp. 10-11). Readers who have been frustrated by technical studies that do not offer the basic service of including a map will be grateful for the up-to-date maps and site plans that appear in this section and selected places elsewhere in the book (pp. 2-5, 98, 99).

Part 1 continues with a summary of the linguistic and grammatical features of the inscriptions (pp. 27-28). This section is focused almost entirely upon the Greek inscriptions because of the wide-ranging orthographic variations that appear in them. The Latin texts receive only passing mention because their orthography is much more predictable. Next is a brief discussion of chronology and dating (pp. 28-29). Palaeography is cited as more helpful for dating the Latin inscriptions than the Greek inscriptions (pp. 30-32). For this reason a chart of the development in the Latin alphabets is included while no corresponding chart appears for the Greek. Some who are less willing to make such a concession to the difficulties in dating the Greek scripts may find this a bit disappointing. Even LH themselves point out differences in forms of Greek letters across the two major periods (pp. 30-31). They also employ palaeographic clues in their actual treatment of various Greek inscriptions (e.g., appeal is made to “letter forms” on pp. 144-45 in dating nos. 166, 168; likewise for many others). The conservative approach to dating implied in their introductory discussion of the palaeography is, however, fairly consistently applied in the later commentaries on individual inscriptions.

Part 2 is the catalogue of the inscriptions themselves. For each inscription one finds the customary descriptive details and a bibliography, transcription, translation, and commentary. The commentaries on inscriptions dealing with provincial and civic officials, the Roman military, and public buildings are especially rich because these tend to be the longest and best-preserved inscriptions. The difficulties of integrating the fine introductory survey in Part 1 with the commentaries on individual inscriptions should be borne in mind when reading Part 2. In the commentaries, for example, LH have not always reminded readers that what they identify as “Jewish” may actually have been Samaritan, despite their emphasis on the significance of the sizeable Samaritan community in Caesarea in Part 1 (pp. 19, 243, 267). Careful readers of the entire volume should be able to resolve the few lapses in integrating Parts 1 and 2 without much trouble.

The endnotes are followed by a bibliography that does double duty as a concordance of previously published inscriptions. Among the indices is one listing dated inscriptions, which includes only the four inscriptions with explicit dating formulas (p. 291). Some may wish for an additional index that lists all the inscriptions by date (no matter how broad the range of dates). Compensation is offered in the form of many other indices and lists that are rendered especially useful by their specificity (pp. 267-92).

The concluding major section of the book consists of plates of all of the inscriptions for which photographs could be obtained, which includes the vast majority of them. Many of the photographs are original, but some have been reprinted from other sources. In most cases the plates are of sufficiently good quality to clear the way for further research by specialists. The inclusion of two or even three photographs of many of the individual inscriptions allows readers to view the given inscriptions not only as written texts, but also as archaeological artifacts whose function is better understood by inspection of the entire object (cf. p. 33). The choice to follow this course in the plates provides an outstanding model for future publications.

The chief benefits of the book are its inclusion of 205 previously unpublished inscriptions and its collection in one place of 206 published inscriptions formerly scattered throughout a variety of less accessible sources. Readers unfamiliar with the ongoing excavations at Caesarea should note that extensive excavations undertaken at Caesarea in the years following 1992 have uncovered new material that could not be included in this book (p. xi). The only other potentially relevant material intentionally omitted consists of about two hundred obscure fragments that largely may have been funerary inscriptions (p. 243, note 165). But fragments with as few as one or two letters or signs have been included. A notably large proportion of the inscriptions from within the city that predate Constantine are Latin (61 of 84). This demonstrates the crucial importance of Roman influence on the city, especially in the decades following Vespasian’s transformation of the city into a Roman colony (pp. 6, 23-24). Greek inscriptions predominate after Diocletian (p. 8). Almost 50% of the 411 inscriptions included in the volume are funerary in nature (p. 24). Many more inscriptions remain to be found, because only 10% of the city has been excavated and some adjoining areas (including a large necropolis) have hardly been touched at all (p. 1).

Most of the readings of inscriptions provided by LH are above reproach because they have adopted an extremely conservative stance on reconstructing fragmentary or missing letters. Extensive restorations are limited to instances in which the formulaic nature of a text makes its reconstruction fairly certain. LH’s willingness to leave to others the process of creating tenuous restorations of more difficult texts has not only preserved them from many charges of error but also undoubtedly hastened the publishing process. As modern technology continues to expand its ability to extract information from small pieces of material, we can only expect that the sluggish pace at which archaeological finds are published to become even slower. Hence other researchers would be well-advised to follow the example of LH in scaling down efforts to present the last word on a given inscription with its first publication.

In some cases, however, the conservatism of LH has been inconsistently applied. This is most readily evident in the enumeration of line numbers when all of the letters in a line are fragmentary and left unrestored. For example, vestiges of lines that are not reconstructed are presented as blank lines and included within the counting of line numbers in inscription nos. 13, 19, 43, 65, 212, 213, 303, 324, 338, 348, 363, 365, and 388. The same procedure is applied to nos. 20 and 241, where nothing actually remains of the blank line at all. In contrast, vestigial lines are simply omitted from the transcription of the text in nos. 175, 177, 238, 278, 286, 317, 334, 337, 341, 356, 368, 369, 394, and 409. In these cases the fragmentary lines are mentioned in the commentary and are visible in the plates. But compilers of epigraphic reports and electronic versions of inscriptions found in this collection may tend to rely primarily on the transcriptions (e.g., through electronic scanning). Such a procedure will perpetuate the inconsistency in the presentation of vestigial lines and in some cases give a misleading impression that a given text has fewer preserved lines than it really has. The electronic age unfortunately places on epigraphers, papyrologists, and archaeologists the burden of more rigorous attention to consistency of presentation and a willingness to operate with greater sensitivity to the transferability of their work to a variety of formats.

Despite the commendable reliability of the transcriptions, it is unavoidable that in a few cases one might express reservation about the proposal of LH for some minor reading of a couple letters of a fragmentary text. For example, some may perhaps hesitate over LH’s reading of the obscure last two letters of the first line of no. 128 (p. 124) or the second letter of the third line of no. 263 (p. 183). The difficult metrical epitaph in no. 156 provides even more fodder for those who want to exercise their creativity in counterpoint with LH (pp. 138-39). In most such instances, however, proposals for a significantly better alternative would require a clearer photograph, direct inspection, or a prodigious imagination. The translations and comments are easier to supplement. For example, LH identify hierissa in no. 247 (pp. 177-78) as a name (“Hierissa”) but admit to being unable to find a parallel. While the placement of the word might indeed suggest a name, the use of the word here may possibly be another example of the title “priestess” known from JIGRE 84 ( CIJ 2.1514); SB 1.5444; and JIWE 2.11 ( CIJ 1.315).

At least one clear major mistake does occur. This is in the reading of no. 101 (pp. 107-108). Line 3 of the original inscription (immediately after LH’s line 2) has been omitted entirely, as is readily apparent both from the photograph and the original publication by Israel Roll.2 According to Roll, the missing line should read: Pio Pertinaci Aug(usto) [Arab(ico)], with a sublinear dot under the initial “P.” The omission of this line from the text consequently necessitates a correction in the corresponding translation. In addition, since LH have based their own reading of this inscription on improvements to Roll’s text, it at least should have been noted that Roll differs in the case endings restored at the end of LH’s line 4 (correctly line 5), where Roll reads: trib(uniciae) [pot(estatis)]. It should be emphasized, however, that most of the other points in which one might have cause to disagree with LH are trivial or ones in which they themselves qualify their position with an expression of uncertainty.

Editing a multilingual book destined for canonical status is a daunting task because it places a premium on consistent attention to detail at a highly technical level. The authors and editors of this book therefore all deserve more than the usual commendation for the remarkable care that they have applied. Nevertheless, a few inscriptions have been transcribed with errors that are so obvious from comparison with the photographs that the mistakes must be regarded as typographical errors rather than products of a genuine misreading of the text. On p. 81, in inscription no. 58, parentheses are incorrectly absent from lines 1 and 2 and are misplaced in line 5. Line 1 should read: epi fl(aouiou). Line 2 should also read: epi fl(aouiou). Line 5 should read: kom(htos) kai hliou. On p. 182, in inscription no. 260, line 3, the sixth letter is mistakenly given as a chi and should obviously be corrected to a xi. A few other minor improvements in the presentation of the inscriptions could have been made even if they are not outright errors. For example, some readers may find it initially confusing that on p. 160, inscription no. 202 has letters not marked as reconstructions that nonetheless are not found in the photograph. Apparently the statement that the inscription was “broken into two pieces” provides the clue to explain this, but it would have been less confusing if the reader had been explicitly warned to expect to see only one of the two pieces in the photograph. Further slips in the English text that should be noted for rectification in a list of corrigenda or a future printing include the pronoun “he” on p. 244, note 176 and the consistent misspelling of a name used as part of a standard abbreviation on p. xvii (“Horburg”; likewise on pp. 145, 151, 157, 244, and perhaps other pages). The only other minor difficulties are a few mildly confusing sentences created by an occasional infelicity in the use of commas and subordinate clauses. The English style is on the whole clear, crisp, and concise. Most non-specialists and undergraduates will be turned away, however, by the large quantity of untranslated Greek and Latin terms that appear at almost every point in the book.

The labor, care, and sensitivity that have gone into this work give it a value as a monument of research that is beyond question. It will be consulted for many years to come by specialists in Classics, Judaism, Christianity, and archaeology. The usefulness of this book for scholars in these fields goes even beyond its presentation of the actual inscriptions themselves. LH are aware that specialists in the fields of research represented in this book often do not communicate well with one another, so they make an effort to clarify subtle details that may be rather basic to scholars in one field while rather obscure to scholars in another. Thus all readers will learn a great deal by a patient reading of the introductory material and commentaries. The price is also reasonable for a volume with so many photographs. The book should therefore find a deserving place on the shelves of institutional libraries and the personal collections of interested researchers.


1. C. M. Lehmann, “A Corpus of the Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Caesarea Maritima” (unpublished M.A. thesis; University of Maryland, 1980).

2. Israel Roll, “The Roman Road System in Judaea,” Jerusalem Cathedra 3 (1983) 136-61.