Atrax lies on the right bank of the Peneios River in Thessaly (specifically Pelasgiotis), approximately 15 miles west-southwest from Larisa. Thessaly has often been marginal in scholarship on “Classical Greece” and Atrax can be fairly seen to reside on the margins of this margin. Historical mentions of the city in the literary record are exiguous: it features briefly in several passages of Livy, for example, treating the Second Macedonian War (32.15.8-9, 17-18; 33.4.1) and Antiochus III’s invasion of the Greek mainland (36.10.2, 13.4), helpfully collected here as T8-12. Until relatively recently, this state of affairs was matched by the epigraphic record: O. Kern edited only 15 inscriptions from Atrax and environs in IG 9.2 (1908) and A. S. McDevitt’s helpful if incomplete handlist from 1970 added a mere five. The story has changed significantly over the past 50 years, however: the editors of this new corpus of Atracene inscriptions now present 513 inscribed monuments from the city and its territory, most dating to the Hellenistic period, including approximately 100 inedita. The corpus of inscriptions reviewed here offers a powerful illustration of L. Robert’s famous dictum that epigraphy is “l’eau de jouvence” for the ancient historian.1 The editorial team, directed by A. Tziafalias, longtime head, now retired, of the 15th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Larisa, is based in Lyon, where scholars affiliated with the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée have developed path-breaking research programs on Thessaly for several generations; in the foreword to the volume, Tziafalias offers a brief sketch of the history of the collaboration, which began with Helly, Decourt, Lucas, and Darmezin already in the 1970s and continues with the participation of younger scholars, represented here by Bouchon and Pernin. One does not thus have access simply to solid, conservative editions of inscriptions, but, through the broader interpretive apparatus offered by the volume, to the wisdom accumulated from decades of study of the peculiarities of the site and wider region.
The volume opens with a helpful series of essays on the geography and archaeology of Atrax, including discussion of routes, resources, and territory. There follows a catalogue of testimonia concerning the city, including ancient literary and epigraphic mentions of the city or its residents, the accounts of early travelers to the site, and numismatic evidence. A most useful feature of the volume is a list of common dialectal features visible in Atracene epigraphy. As the editors note, the size and chronological extent of the corpus make it possible to trace the evolution of inscribed language in a way that few other Thessalian sites allow. Some additional precision on the wider dialect geography of Thessaly would have been helpful, however, and one eagerly awaits the publication of García-Ramón and Helly’s full grammar of Thessalian announced here (p. 55, n. 1).
The editions proper follow. The presentation of the text of the inscriptions is generally clear; the conventions and sigla are those of the système Robert. In some cases one might wish for more detailed information, above all the possible length of lacunae, particularly when the dimensions of the inscribed surface of the stone are otherwise clear. Each inscription is provided with both a full epigraphic and historical commentary; the latter is particularly strong on onomastics, prosopography, and the wider Thessalian context of Atracene institutions. Many of these inscriptions, including some of the most challenging, are accompanied by translations into French. The overall impression is that of careful editing of texts, with instructive, if occasionally adventurous, suggestions for interpretation in the commentary. But this is exactly what is desired; the editorial team strikes what can be an elusive balance. The volume is generously provided with 85 plates that offer black and white photographs of the lion’s share of inscriptions presented in the corpus. Their quality is variable if in general good; none is accompanied by a scale, unfortunately.
These 513 inscriptions are divided into four broad categories: official, state documents (nos. 1-20); manumissions and related monuments (nos. 21-48); religious and honorific inscriptions (nos. 49-158); and epitaphs (nos. 159-502); a single boundary (?) inscription (no. 503) and several very fragmentary texts of uncertain genre (nos. 504-513) round out the editions. Another useful feature of the corpus is the short essays that introduce these four, principal sections. In them, the editors highlight important characteristics of each particular grouping of inscriptions (e.g., discussion of magistracies and civic subdivisions [state documents], the Atracene pantheon [religious inscriptions], typology of funerary stelae [epitaphs], etc.). Such perspectives are more synoptic and offer a critical, additional layer of interpretive context beyond the individual editions themselves.
I highlight a few, representative examples of the inedita and the types of contribution that they make:
No. 1: an official, if unfortunately fragmentary, judgment regarding a dispute about membership in a civic group, the Kelaindai, dated to the later third century BCE. An individual, Promatheos, had claimed membership among the Kelaindai, but is found by a judicial body to have done so falsely and is prohibited from participating in the cults of the Kelaindai as well as those of the Bouleparidai, one of the twelve tribes of Atrax, the names of which are attested for the first time here, and that to which the Kelaindai belonged.
Nos. 24-30, 55: a base recording the dedication of a statue (no. 55) apparently equestrian to judge from the sockets on the top surface, by a Thrasylochos, son of [Alexand]ros, to Apollo Lykeios, who may have been the patron deity of the city (see pp. 147-8); the editors plausibly restore the father’s name on the basis of another known Thrasylochos from Atrax, who served as strategos of the Thessalian League in 187/6 BCE (T31). In the later Hellenistic and early imperial period, the base, including the earlier dedicatory inscription, was covered by a series of manumissions, nos. 24-30, which are dated by strategoi of the Thessalian League, several of whom were previously unattested.
No. 96: an early second-century BCE dedication to Zeus Thaulios offered by the Simmidai, who are regarded by the editors as a genos. The number of collective dedications in the corpus is striking, as are the onomastics of this particular monument: Peneiodoros is here attested for the first time, which is formed from the name of river-god Peneios; Prolochos, too, makes a first appearance in Thessalian epigraphy — the name is shared with a Lapith mentioned at [Hes.], Aspis 180.
One could go on. There are treasures on every page.
The volume is equipped with robust concordances, including museum inventory numbers and the local system of reference at Lyon, and indices. Ten pages of figures offer maps of the area, general site plans, photographs of extant remains, and images of a selection of funerary stelae from Thessaly that offer helpful comparanda for understanding the progression of the Atracene sequence.
While the publication date of the volume is 2016, the editors indicate that the manuscript was already in press in 2009 (pp. 415-416), and one should not expect to find reference to more recent scholarship (e.g., the dedicatory inscriptions, and several others besides, ought to be read in conjunction with M. Mili’s Religion and Society in Ancient Thessaly, Oxford 2015; the manumissions and related texts should be considered with R. Zelnick-Abramovitz’s Taxing Freedom in Thessalian Manumission Inscriptions, Leiden/Boston 2013, etc.). Some earlier relevant bibliography is also not present (e.g., ZPE 162 (2007), 151-164 on Artemis Throsia and related cults).
In any volume of this size, with this many participants, and of such lengthy gestation, there will inevitably be some slips. For example, no. 74, a third- or second-century BCE dedication of a votive phallos to Dionysos by Xenokrita daughter of Agathon, is marked by the editors as offering a mixture of dialectal (patronymic adjective) and koine (dedicatory formula) features, but the text as printed has the father’s name in the genitive, not the patronymic adjective. The editors seem to have changed their mind about what was on the stone over the course of the project (see p. 64, where the patronymic adjective is again referenced with respect to this inscription). And dedications to Zeus Thaulios from Larisa are missed in the commentary to no. 95 (see A. Tziafalias, Thessaliko Himerolgio 7 , 227, no. 114; P. Chrysostomou, I Thessaliki Thea En(n)odia i Pheraia Thea, Athens 1998, 238, with n. 927 [unpublished]). But these are minor points.
The editors are to be warmly congratulated on the publication of this corpus. The challenge now lies with its readers to bring these inscriptions into wider scholarly conversations: “…il n’y a pas d’inscriptions banales, il y a seulement une manière banale de les étudier.”2
1. Louis Robert, Choix d’écrits. Édité par Denis Rousset avec la collaboration de Philippe Gauthier et Ivana Savalli-Lestrade. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2007, p. 95 = “Les épigraphies et l’épigraphie grecque et romaine,” L’histoire et ses méthodes (1961), p. 453-497, at 463.
2. Ibid., p. 103 = “Les épigraphies et l’épigraphie grecque et romaine,” L’histoire et ses méthodes (1961), p. 453-497, at 471. Robert was fond of the sentiment, which he attributed to the historian and Orientalist J. Sauvaget.