BMCR 2021.02.24

Inscriptiones Graecae: Inscriptiones Amathuntis, Curii, Marii

, , Inscriptiones Graecae: Inscriptiones Amathuntis, Curii, Marii. Inscriptiones Cypri syllabicae. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2020. Pp. x, 286. ISBN 9783110670820 $340.00.

Cyprus presents a unique case for a volume of Greek inscriptions. The Greeks who had inhabited the island since the late Bronze Age adapted a local script system, referred to as “Cypro-Minoan”, which they then developed further into the so-called “Cypriot syllabary script”. Later, when the Greek alphabet came into use on the Greek mainland, Greeks in Cyprus continued to primarily use their local system, which existed in two slightly different versions: one used mainly in Paphos and the other throughout the rest of the island. Although the Greek alphabet had been introduced into Cyprus in the 6th century BC at the latest, the Cypriot syllabary dominated until 300 BC. During these centuries, the island was divided into several kingdoms—it was only with the annexation of the island by the Ptolemies, and its subsequent unification at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, that the Greek alphabet began to replace the Cypriot syllabary, the latter vanishing at the latest in the 1st century BC.[1]

The idea of publishing the Greek alphabet and syllabary inscriptions from Cyprus in the monumental Inscriptiones Graecae dates as far back as before the first World War but would not be realised until a century later. Instead, in the 1950s, a young French scholar, Olivier Masson, started collecting most Cypriot syllabary inscriptions extant at that time. He published this collection as his thesis in 1961, and for many decades, his publication remained authoritative.[2] However, new inscriptions have been discovered since then, even after his appendix of 1983. Now, 60 years after the first publication of Masson’s seminal work, the first fascicle of Inscriptiones Graecae XV.1 has been edited by two experts on Aegean and Cypriot script systems, Artemis Karnava and Massimo Perna, with help from the linguist Markus Egetmeyer and the numismatist Evangelini Markou.[3] Any review of the new volume must evaluate it in relation to Masson’s seminal work. In the following, I will focus on a few specific cases and compare the material presented in the new work with Masson’s edition.

This first fascicle of Inscriptiones Graecae XV.1 unites all known inscriptions from three Cypriot Iron-Age kingdoms: Marion in the far northwest, Kourion and Amathous on the southern coast. Included are also inscriptions from the Apollon-sanctuary at Drýmou, part of either the realm of Paphos or of Marion, and Vássa Koilaníou, probably under the rule of Kourion. The syllabary texts from the rest of the island will be published later in two follow-up fascicles.

All texts are first given in their original syllabary version, then transliterated into the Greek alphabet, and finally into the Latin alphabet. A drawing of every inscription is included, as well as a photograph, thus enabling the reader to examine the original text. A meticulous commentary provides information concerning material, conservation status, findspot etc.

All chapters are structured similarly: First, a list of the stone inscriptions is provided, followed by texts on metal, ceramics (in Cyprus one of the most common materials for inscriptions), bones and seals (insofar as they are preserved). In addition, the editors list the legends of coins minted in the kingdoms, following Masson’s example. As a systematic edition of all the Cypriot coinage from Archaic and Classical times is still missing,[4] it is most welcome that at least the coin legends have been re-investigated and edited here, as well as being provided with accompanying photographs and commentaries by Evangelini Markou, one of the leading experts on Cypriot numismatics.

The kingdom of Amathous presents an interesting case for scholars of Cypriot history: some of its syllabary inscriptions cannot be deciphered. Obviously, they were not written in Greek, despite the fact that the kings of Amathous bore Greek names. Most scholars assume that this unknown language (or possibly languages) might be the one(s) spoken by the autochthonous population of Cyprus, for which the term “Eteocypriots” has been coined. Most of the so-called “Eteocypriot” texts were found in Amathous, among them some of the longest ever discovered (nos. 3–6). Several of these are bilingual, in an Eteocypriot version in syllabary followed by a Greek version in the Greek alphabet. Unique among them are two bilingual dedications to the goddess Κυπρία by Amathous’ last king, Androcles (nos. 1 and 2). A similar case is the dedication of the πόλις ἡ Ἀμαϑουσίων for a man named Ariston (no. 7). These bilingual inscriptions shed some light on the mysterious Eteocypriot language: obviously, it was significant enough to figure in official dedications, even before the alphabet version.[5]

The quantity of texts from Amathous has increased considerably, thanks to the French excavations of recent decades; this has supplemented Masson’s edition with 65 inscriptions (nos. 19–83), despite the fact they often consist of only one or two characters. For the coins of one Amathousian king, the editors have confirmed a reading that had already been suggested: the king’s name Epipalos should be read as Apipalos (no. 92).

The kingdom of Kourion—with its famous sanctuary of Apollon Hylates—was situated west of Amathous. Most of the inscriptions from Kourion were already published by Masson and in a monograph by Terence B. Mitford.[6] Its ruins and surroundings were the object of expeditions by the American consul Luigi Palma di Cesnola in 1874 and 1875. Historians and archaeologists regard Cesnola’s excavations as looting; his publications are notorious for their inaccuracies, and even forgeries. Thus, in some cases the exact locations where he found inscriptions are unknown today. This applies in particular to the famous inscribed metal objects from the so-called “Kourion treasure” (nos. 119–124). There have been scarce new finds since 1970. Nevertheless, the fascicle collects inscriptions from the sanctuary of Apollon which, although found in 1964, were not included in Masson’s and Mitford’s publications (nos. 129–149). Also, an unedited inscription, found in Vássa Koilaníou, perhaps under the rule of Kourion, has been published here for the first time (no. 159). The attribution of coins to the kingdom of Kourion is still a matter of debate[7], which is the reason no coins have been included by the editors.

Most of the numerous syllabic inscriptions from Marion (modern Polis Chrysochous) were found in the local necropoles during excavations in the 19th and early 20th centuries (nos. 165–245). However, not all were included in Masson’s edition. The most notable additions to his corpus consist of almost 100 inscriptions on ceramics found in the late 19th century by Max Ohnefalsch-Richter—currently held by various museums (nos. 254–351)—as well as several inscriptions from further excavations carried out in 1890 (nos. 352—357) and 1916 (nos. 358—368). Thus, the new volume provides a vast amount of epigraphic material from Marion which is missing from Masson’s edition. In addition, it offers precise drawings and photographs of many obscure inscriptions which Masson did not deal with in great depth. Of special importance is the collection of the kingdom’s coins (nos. 406–410). The editors offer a new reading of the coin series of king Sasmas (no. 406), whose father’s name is now identified as Lysandros (not Doxandros, as in all former editions).

Extensive indices at the end of the fascicle also make it convenient for scholars working with the edition: they list names of persons, kings, gods, and places, and include a word index, providing words in the Greek alphabet as well as in syllabary (transcribed in Latin syllables). Finally, the editors have added a synopsis of all the signs of the syllabary.

One cannot overestimate the importance of this first volume of the Inscriptiones Graecae for further research on Cypriot history and archaeology. At long last, there is a new edition that contains all syllabary inscriptions known to be extant and provides them in an exemplary edition. Of course, one will also continue to turn to Masson’s older publication, especially for his lengthy and often ingenious historical commentaries. Nevertheless, this new volume makes it easier to examine the inscriptions, thanks not only to the thorough epigraphic commentaries but also to the fine drawings and clear photographs. It can only be hoped that the fascicles containing the syllabary inscriptions from Paphos and the rest of the island will soon be published.


[1] Writing habits on the island are examined by C. Körner, Silbenschrift und Alphabetschriften im archaischen und klassischen Zypern—Ausdruck verschiedener Identitäten?, in: P. Amann / T. Corsten / F. Mitthof / H. Taeuber (eds.), Sprachen—Schriftkulturen—Identitäten der Antike. Beiträge des XV. Internationalen Kongresses für Griechische und Lateinische Epigraphik. Wien, 28. August bis 1. September 2017. Fest- und Plenarvorträge (Tyche, Supplement 10), Vienna 2019, 59–76.

[2] O. Masson, Les inscriptions chypriotes syllabiques. Recueil critique et commenté (Études chypriotes, vol. I), Paris 1961, 21983. In 2010, Markus Egetmeyer collected all Cypriot inscriptions known at that time in a catalogue that provides the transliteration of the texts as well as French translations: Le dialecte grec ancien de Chypre, Vol. II: Répertoire des inscriptions en syllabaire chypro-grec, Berlin / New York 2010; but Egetmeyer’s catalogue was not intended as a scientific epigraphical edition.

[3] Volume XV of the Inscriptiones Graecae is divided into two series: XV.1 collects the syllabary inscriptions, XV.2 the inscriptions in Greek alphabet from the island. Of this second series, the first fascicle has been edited—it contains the inscriptions from the Eastern part of the island.

[4] The most comprehensive edition of Cypriot coins dates back to 1904 and lists only the collection of the British Museum: G. F. Hill, A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, vol. 24: Cyprus, London 1904 (repr. Bologna 1964). The coins of Amathous were earlier edited by M. Amandry, Le monnayage d‘Amathonte, in: P. Aupert / M.-C. Hellmann (eds.), Amathonte I: Testimonia 1: Auteurs anciens—Monnayage—Voyageurs—Fouilles—Origines—Géographie (Études chypriotes, vol. IV; Recherches sur les civilisations, Mémoire no. 33), Paris 1984, 57–76.

[5] For further discussions on the topic see C. Körner, Die zyprischen Königtümer im Schatten der Großreiche des Vorderen Orients. Studien zu den zyprischen Monarchien vom 8. bis zum 4. Jh. v. Chr. (Colloquia Antiqua, Vol. 20), Leuven / Paris / Bristol 2017, 71–98.

[6] T. B. Mitford, The inscriptions of Kourion (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 83), Philadelphia 1971.

[7] See J. Kagan, The Archaic and Early Classical Coinage of Kourion, in: Cahiers du Centre d’Études Chypriotes 29, 1999, 33–44.