BMCR 2005.11.20

Response: Ivantchik on Dickey on Gavrilov et al., Corpus Inscriptionum Regni Bosporani: Album Imaginum

Response to 2005.10.41

1 Responses

Response by

It is unfortunate that the review of A. Gavrilov, N. Pavlichenko, D. Keyer, A. Karlin, Corpus Inscriptionum Regni Bosporani: Album Imaginum is written by an author who has no experience in the field of the Bosporus and its epigraphy and no command of the Russian language.

Thus, since it is clear from the Russian on p. 412 that only old photographs were published by the editors and all attempts to make new photographs failed because the stones were now in a worse condition than they were when the old photographs were taken (incorrect, but see below), the reviewer is mistaken in saying that “In some cases inscriptions were re-photographed because the editors could not obtain permission to use material gathered by other scholars”; and equally so in complaining that the Latin sections of the book refer to the principal town of the region sometimes with its “(Latinized) Greek name Panticapaeum and sometimes with its Russian name Kerch, without making it clear that these are the same place,” since while Panticapaeum, the capital city of the Bosporan Kingdom, is indeed situated in the territory of the modern city Kerch, the name covers a much bigger territory than ancient Panticapaeum and some of the other ancient Bosporan cities are now also within it.

The reviewer is absolutely right to criticise the quality of the Latin language of this publication. But not being a Russian speaker and so able to compare the Russian text with the Latin translation, she could not notice quite a number of important mistakes in this translation. The Latin names of nearly all the museums where the stones are stored (p. XI-XII) are in error even in those cases for which a standard Latin translation exists. Thus the British Museum is translated as Museum Britanniae (!), the Novotcherkassk Museum of the History of the Don Cossacks is translated as the Museum oppidi Novocerkassk, the Krasnodar State Historico-Archaeological Museum becomes Museum Chorognosiae oppidi Krasnodar, the Yalta State United Historico-Literary Museum is introduced as Museum Chorognosiae oppidi Yalta, the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences turns into Institutum Archaeologiae Petropolitanum. Further, there is a misleading absence of uniformity in the information given in the lemmata — thus e.g. lack of reference to Latyschev does not mean that a particular inscription was dated by the editors of CIRB and not by him.

The reviewer rightly praises the excellent quality of the old photographs, but she is unaware of the fact that two out of three museums which have the largest collections of Bosporan inscriptions protested against the publication of these photographs before they were checked against the stones. It is true that the condition of a number of stones deteriorated in the period after they were first photographed, but it is also true that quite a lot of them were cleaned by the museums and are now in a better condition. This often allows correction and more precise definition of letters. The editors ignored the protests of the museums.

In some lemmata it is stated “lapidem non vidimus”. It does not mean however that, if there is no such comment, the stones were examined by the editors. In fact, most of the stones have not been seen by them. The lack of autopsy of the inscriptions does not allow us to consider this publication as an original epigraphical work.

There are an amazingly large number of mistakes in the lemmata which is the result of the editors foregoing work with the original inscriptions. Their lemmata are simply an abridged version of the lemmata in the CIRB with all mistakes repeated. The editors ignore most of the epigraphical publications which have appeared over the last forty years correcting these mistakes and introducing new information. So, the information given in the lemmata is unreliable and is often misleading, which is especially deplorable because they were written for readers who don’t know Russian and have no access to most of these publications.

This perhaps can be explained by the fact that among the editors only one can claim to be an epigrapher, and even this one is a beginner in the field. None of the epigraphers who work with the North Black Sea shore inscriptions had seen the CIRB -album prior to its publication or had a chance to advise the editors: the preparation of this album was a “top secret”. The explanation of this extraordinary fact is as follows. An album of illustrations to CIRB with circa 100 pages of corrigenda was prepared more than 10 years ago by I. Levinskaya and S. Tokhtas’ev and even sent to Germany for publication with the publishing house ‘Akademie-Verlag’. The majority of the illustrations were produced by the editors of CIRB, but later they became dispersed after an attempt to publish them had failed. I. Levinskaya and S. Tokhtas’ev managed to gather them together again and also added new photographs and illustrations from the old publications (for the inscriptions which are now lost). But working further with original inscriptions in St Petersburg, Kerch and other museums these scholars discovered such a number of mistakes in CIRB that they gradually came to a decision to prepare a new edition of the Bosporan inscriptions, which will be published together with illustrations, instead of publishing a separate album with an enormous list of corrigenda to CIRB. The materials for the album which they collected were placed in the Archive of the St Petersburg Institute of History. The preparation of this new edition of the Bosporan inscriptions, which is progressing well, later became a part of a wider project of republishing all the inscriptions from the North Black Sea shore (since 2001 under the aegis of the International Union of Academies). As a director of this project I invited A.K. Gavrilov to take part in it, but he refused, explaining that the epigraphy was not his field. And only recently did it become known that precisely at that time the preparation for the publication of the CIRB -album by A.K. Gavrilov and others was in full swing: they took from the Archive the materials collected by their colleagues without asking their permission or even informing them. These materials became the basis of the new CIRB -album. It is fair to say that the editors managed to add some materials to the album, so its final version contains more illustrations than the previous one. They did not, however, use the important collection of photographs from the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow, which is a part of the personal archive of A. Boltunova, an epigrapher who made most of the photographs for CIRB in 1950s-1960s. Many photographs from this collection are of a better quality than those from the St Petersburg Institute of History which were included in the album.

Readers who know the Russian language can consult a detailed review of the CIRB -album with a large list of corrections which will appear in the next (2005, no. 4) issue of the Vestnik drevnei istorii ( Journal of Ancient History, Moscow).

[For a response to this response by Gavrilov et al., please see BMCR 2006.02.15.]