BMCR 2004.10.08

Greek Historical Inscriptions 404-323 BC

, , Greek historical inscriptions : 404-323 BC. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. xxxii, 593 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm. ISBN 0198153139 $175.00.

This book is a replacement of the second volume of Tod’s Selection,1 and is thus to be regarded as a continuation of Meiggs/Lewis2 which superseded Tod’s first volume. It was envisaged already by D. Lewis, but his death in 1994 prevented him from advancing beyond an overview of its intended contents. Like Tod and Meiggs/Lewis, it is aimed at making the most interesting and important epigraphic documents of the period more easily accessible to historians. Since all inscriptions are of historical value, Historical Inscriptions designates in this context those texts that contribute more to our knowledge than most others (see preface p. v). However, there are also differences between Rhodes/Osborne and its predecessors. The most obvious difference is that the editors provide translations of all inscriptions, a necessary and very welcome concession to modern times, since experience shows that most students (and even some scholars) are prevented from using corpora or selections of inscriptions, especially in Greek, when their fundamental source material is made available without translations. They also give some photographs between pp. 320 and 321 and the drawing of a slab with the accounts of the Delphian naopoioi of the years 345/4-343/2 B.C. (pp. 328-336 no. 66) to clarify the distribution of the inscription on the stone.

The second big difference lies in the inscriptions selected for inclusion in the volume. It is obvious, given the progress of epigraphical research over the last decades, that a good many texts have to be considered which were not yet known to Tod, Meiggs, and even Lewis. Consequently it seems unavoidable that other texts which were included in the older selections had to be left out. This might be regrettable, but, on the other hand, if one were simply to add the relevant number of inscriptions to Tod, the volume would be even bigger or, more probably, one would end up with two fat volumes for which one would have to pay the usual exorbitant OUP price. The selection of texts seems thus rather reasonable. That Athenian inscriptions are well represented is unavoidable, given the overwhelming production of this city; however, Athenian prodominance is not too heavy. A concordance to Tod and other standard editions is given on pp. 544-6 (however, a concordance starting from Tod would be particularly useful, since it would make clear at first glance which of Tod’s inscriptions are not included).

The book starts with a preface where a brief overview of the history of the volume is given. The following introduction provides not only an explanation of how the inscriptions are arranged (roughly in chronological order), but also very useful information about the historical background, the epigraphical publication of documents, the political organization of Attica (since numerous inscriptions come from Athens), the layout of Athenian documents, the Athenian calendar and monetary system, the history of epigraphical research (starting from Herodotus down to modern corpora and other collections), conventions of epigraphical publications, and Greek numerals. A list of Athenian archons of the years 403/2-323/2 follows at the end of the book on p. 543. Three maps (pp. xxix-xxxii: The Greek World, Greece and the Aegean, Attica) show the regions and cities where the selected inscriptions come from, and an additional map on p. 491 presents an overview of the cities which received grain from Cyrene in ca. 330-326 B.C. (to no. 96).

The inscriptions themselves are preceded by brief descriptions of the monuments on which they are written. The Greek text is printed on a left page (sometimes followed by a very brief and — rightly — selective apparatus criticus), and the translation is conveniently put on the corresponding right page. This order entails necessarily that parts of the right pages opposite the descriptions (and the app. crit., if any) are left blank (sometimes, but not always: cf. e.g. pp. 26/7 with pp. 58/9), but this never amounts to an uneconomic waste of space. As stated in the introduction (p. xxv), the editors have not just copied and reprinted the selected inscriptions from previous editions but they tried, when it seemed necessary or at least profitable, to check readings and thus sometimes constituted a new text. The commentaries, which run over both — left and right — pages, do not usually provide line-by-line remarks, but explain the texts in a continuous narrative which makes reading not only easier, but also more enjoyable. This kind of commentary both provides basic explanations to the background of the texts and makes the material all the more accessible for non-specialists. However, if the editors deem it necessary or useful, they do provide some additional comments, which pertain only to certain aspects of the text and which might be of interest only to the specialist, at the end of the general commentary with an indication of the respective line(s). A good example of this arrangement of description, text/translation, and commentary is no. 13 (pp. 58-63: “Dedications of the Lycian dynast Arbinas”), where the main commentary provides the geographical and historical background, while brief remarks on some particular problems are given at the end. This useful and convenient concept does, however, also entail a problem in that it is apparently not possible to refer to most of the controversies which still surround numerous details and affect fundamental questions. To give only two examples:

No. 35, “An Athenian protest to the Aetolian League” from 367/6 B.C. The mention of a κοινὸν τῶν Αἰτωλῶν in lines 16-17 proves, according to Rhodes and Osborne, that an Aetolian League already existed at that time. In this they follow a widespread opinion, but they do not mention the existing different views.3

No. 42, “Greek response to the Satraps’ Revolt, 362/1”, a similar case. Whereas Rhodes and Osborne provide a short but clear account of the controversy over the date of the inscription, they do not indicate that the very existence of something like a Satraps’ Revolt has been questioned with good arguments.4

In sum, however, this selection of inscriptions is a welcome and very useful book, particularly for the ‘non-specialist’, since it makes (sometimes difficult) texts easily accessible; and it shows the importance of the epigraphical documentation for the study of ancient history.


1. M. N. Tod, Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions II, Oxford 1948.

2. R. Meiggs, D. Lewis, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the fifth century B. C., revised ed., Oxford 1988.

3. M. Sordi, Acme 6, 1953, 419-445; A. Giovannini, Untersuchungen über die Natur und die Anfänge der bundesstaatlichen Sympolitie in Griechenland (Göttingen 1971) 60-63; cf. J. A. O. Larsen, Greek Federal States (Oxford 1968) 196. A. Giovannini has also clearly shown that the term κοινόν does not necessarily and solely designate a federal state; cf. also T. Corsten, Vom Stamm zum Bund (Munich 1999) 15.

4. Most fervently by M. Weiskopf, The so-called “Great Satraps’ Revolt”, 366-360 B. C. (Historia Einzelschriften. Heft 63; Stuttgart 1989).