BMCR 2021.12.26

Fasc. 1. Inscriptiones Cypri orientalis: Citium, Golgi, Tremithus, Idalium, Tamassus, Kafizin, Ledra

, , Inscriptiones Graecae, Vol XV Inscriptiones Cypri, Pars II Inscriptiones Cypri alphabeticae. Fasc. 1. Inscriptiones Cypri orientalis: Citium, Golgi, Tremithus, Idalium, Tamassus, Kafizin, Ledra. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2020. Pp. x, 378. ISBN 9783110695038 $400.00.

IG XV 2.1 is a crucial step forward toward the completion of Inscriptiones Graecae XV, which collects all the Greek inscriptions from Cyprus. In 2020, two fascicules of IG XV were published: IG XV 1.1, edited by A. Karnava, M. Perna, and M. Egetmeyer, which records the archaic and classical Cypriot-syllabic Greek inscriptions from Amathus, Kourion and Marion — city-states on the western side of the island —, and IG XV 2.1, edited by D. Summa and M. Kantiréa.[1]

IG XV 2.1 collects alphabetic Greek inscriptions from the eastern side of the island, specifically from Citium, Pyla, Golgi, Tremithus, Idalium, Tamassos, Kafizin, and Ledra. Summa’s and Katirea’s new editions refresh texts found in Yon’s Kition Bamboula V and Mitford’s The Nymphaeum of Kafizin and draw attention to documents that were not previously collected but rather examined in individual articles.[2] The inscriptions in IG XV 2.1 cover a vast period: they date from the end of the 6th century BC — e.g. no. 340, a digraphic Cypriot syllabic/alphabetic Greek inscription from Golgoi — to the Christian era — e.g. those from the early Christian basilica of Tremetousia, nos. 374–375.

The book is subdivided into eight sections. Each of the first seven examines one Cypriot city, whereas the final section concerns documents of uncertain origin. Each section starts with a historical introduction and fasti providing information on the history and geography of the city in question — i.e. its origins and development —, accompanied by a very rich and useful bibliography that includes both primary and secondary sources. At the end are extensive indices and plates (Tabulae I-LIII) with black-and-white photos of all the documents and occasionally also drawings. The inscriptions are arranged according to typology and usage. The most common typologies are decrees, dedications, honorary inscriptions, and epitaphs.

Acorn sling bullets in lead, dated to the Hellenistic period, appear among the inscriptions from Citium, Pyla, Golgoi alongside those of uncertain origin. They bear the names of soldiers or commanders. For example, no. 314 from Pyla shows the name of Lipodōros/Λιπόδωρος. As pointed out by Summa and Kantiréa, this Lipodōros may be the same mercenary commander mentioned by Diodorus in book 18, whose troops rebelled in Bactria after the death of Alexander the Great (323/322 BC).[3] Peithon, a sōmatophylax who served in Alexander’s army and afterward allied with Antigonus, put down the rebellion and bribed Lipodōros and his supporters with a hefty reward. Although traces of Lipodōros are lost after these events, he conceivably remained loyal to Peithon and his chiefs. The paleographic analysis of the text on the bullet confirms that it was written in the first years of the 3rd century BC. Summa and Kantiréa doubt whether it was inscribed in 306 BC, the year in which Ptolemy lost the possession of the island — when Demetrius, son of Antigonus, successfully besieged Salamis and ruled over Cyprus along with his father — or in 294 BC, when Ptolemy reconquered the island.[4] According to Avram, the Lipodōros mentioned on this bullet may be the second-in-command of an official called Philetaerus, since another acorn sling bullet found in Dkhelia/Vigla — an early Hellenistic military fortress located between Kition and Salamis — bears the text ΦΙΛΕΤ[ΑΙΡΟΥ]ǁ [ΛΙΠ]ΟΔΩ[̣ΡΟΣ], ‘Lipodōros of Philetaerus’, according to Nicolaou’s reading.[5] This involves the supposition that the Lipodōros mentioned in the Cypriot acorn bullets — various other bullets from Kourion and Kazafani also show this name — was always the same official, a rather likely circumstance.[6]

Before becoming sovereign of Pergamos and subordinate of Lysimacus, a famous Philetaerus served under Antigonus Monophthalmos until 302 BC. If the Vigla bullet bore the name of this Philetaerus, the subordinate of Antigonus, that bullet and all the others inscribed with the name of Lipodōros may be dated to 306 BC, since in 294 BC — the other date proposed by Summa and Kantiréa — Philetaerus was already serving under Lysimachus.[7] Either way, the presence of these lead acorn slings shows that the island was the stage for several battles between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd centuries BC during power struggles of the Diadochoi, and that it was a bone of contention among the new rulers.

Several striking elements emerge from analysis of IG XV 2.1. First, alphabetic Greek was used in Cyprus already in the 6th century BC, albeit to a very limited degree, along with the Cypriot-syllabic script. The Golgian digraphic epitaph of Karux (no. 340) bears the name of the deceased in Cypriot-syllabic Greek, ka-ru-xe, and alphabetic Greek ΚΑΡΥΞΕΜΙ. As pointed out by Steele, whose study is not mentioned in the bibliography accompanying the texts, analysis of this inscription shows that the writer was of Cypriot origin and had a good knowledge of the Cypriot syllabic writing system.[8] He was familiar enough with Cypriot scripts to know the use of the sign xe — a later addition to the syllabary and a sign nowhere attested in Cypriot-Minoan. In contrast to other 6th-century alphabetic inscriptions found on the island — e.g. an epitaph from Marion and an inscribed vase found in a tomb in Idalion, which clearly were written by non-Cypriots — this epitaph was a local product.[9] The alphabetic text is written in 6th-century Rhodian letters; its presence may be interpreted as the addition of an exotic element and may indicate frequent contacts between the two islands.

Second, the continuity between 4th– and 3rd-century BC socio-cultural and administrative Cypriot institutions is remarkable, despite the advent of Hellenism and Ptolemaic domination. Among the 3rd-century BC inscriptions from Golgoi, the site of an important sanctuary frequented by inhabitants of the entire island, three of them (nos. 319–321) are dedicated to the Golgian goddess. This deity had recently been conflated with the Greek Aphrodite, as also happened with the wanassa of another famous Cypriot sanctuary in Paphos.[10] The epithet ‘Golgian’ continued to be associated with Aphrodite until the 2nd century BC at least, as did another epithet of obscure meaning, Μυκηροα (no. 325). As Summa and Kantiréa point out, this epithet might not be Greek but Eteocypriot. Golgoi shows a large number of syllabic inscriptions written in a local undeciphered language that Egetmeyer identified as Golgian.[11] But it remains unclear whether this was a variant of the Eteocypriot language attested in the Cypriot-syllabic inscriptions from Amathus or, less plausibly, a completely different language.[12] The epithet was probably long standing. Summa and Kantiréa associate Μυκηροα with the name of a month, mo-u-ke-se-te-ri-jo, attested in a Cypriot-syllabic Greek clay document, the Bulwer tablet (5th –4th century BC), which was an administrative account found in Akanthou on the northern side of the island.[13] The tablet bears a list of months, the names of which are linked to deities or religious festivities.

Finally, a full section of IG XV 2.1 is dedicated to the Kafizin texts (nos. 474–779), a collection of more than 300 documents, almost all digraphic inscriptions written in Cypriot-syllabic Greek and alphabetic Greek on ceramic vessels and terracotta utensils between 225 and 218 BC. These documents are an exciting testimony since they show that the syllabic writing system and the Cypriot dialect were still known and used until the end of the 3rd century BC. The conical hill of Kafizin, located between Nicosia and Idalion, was the seat of a cave-sanctuary dedicated to the Nymphs, and the texts are dedications to those deities. It is surprising that most of these documents were written by the same author, Onesagoras son of Philounios, who held the titles of barber — a cult barber or perhaps an ordinary artisan in the barber trade — and dekatēphoros. Along with Zenon and other individuals, he was a member of an association that also made offerings to the Nymphs. The title of dekatēphoros may indicate either that Onesagora paid the tithe of his trade income to the Nymphs in accord with a religious practice or that he was in charge of collecting an administrative tax, a tithe, from the companies and landowners that operated in the district of his competence. Summa’s new reading of a digraphic inscription from Golgoi (no. 335), dated to the 3rd century BC, makes the second interpretation more plausible. The inscription is an account written in Cypriot-syllabic Greek and alphabetic Greek by two different hands.[14] The Greek one is subdivided into 3 lines: line 1 shows the name of Timodōros in genitive followed by a sign ⊦interpreted as the abbreviation for drachma; ΔΕ, read as δεκάτη, ‘tithe’; and numbers. The second line bears Δριμοκίαι, a name related to Drymou, the location where the inscription was found (also attested in no. 323); a number; and the sign for drachma ⊦. The third line shows the word ἐπρίατο, price, and a number.  If Summa’s interpretation is correct, in the 3rd century BC, a tithe was collected in Golgoi as well as in the district to which Kafizin belonged, in that case by Onesagoras, the dekatēphoros. As suggested by Bagnall, this tithe may be a tax paid by Cypriot elites and landowners; such a practice may be a legacy from the administrative system of the classical city-kingdoms.[15]

As shown by the analysis of these case studies, IG XV 2.1 and the new editions of Greek alphabetic texts from Eastern Cyprus are a solid foundation for further investigation of the language, history and archaeology of the island. They are crucial to better understanding the development of Cypriot socio-cultural institutions from the Hellenistic period to Late Antiquity. The structure of the volume facilitates consultation and research thanks to the detailed and accurate commentary of the authors, and to the photographs of the documents, making it an essential tool for the study of Cypriot epigraphy and a valuable milestone in Cypriot scholarship.


[1] Karnava A., Perna M., Egetmeyer M., Inscriptiones Graecae, Inscriptiones Cypri syllabicae, Inscriptiones Amathunti, Curii, Marii, Berlin (2020).

[2] Yon M., Kition Bamboula V, Paris (2004); Mitford T., The Nymphaeum of Kafizin: The Inscribed Pottery, Berlin (1980).

[3] Diod. 18.7.5-6; on the name Lipodōros see Curbera J., ‘Four intriguing names’, in ONOMATOLOGOS, (ed.) Catling R.W.V, Marchand F., Oxford (2010): 603–604, who made Dittenberger’s emendation of the text into ‘Letodōros’ obsolete.

[4] Michel A., Chypre à l’épreuve de la domination lagide, Athens (2021): 41–62.

[5] Avram A., ‘Balles de fronde grecques en pays Gète et ailleurs. Sur les traces de Zopyrion dans le bas Danube’, Rev. Arc. (2013)278–279; Nicolaou I., ‘Inscriptiones Cypriae Alphabeticae XVI’, RDAC (1977): 212.

[6] See IG XV 2.1. no. 308.

[7] Strab. 13.4.1

[8] Steele 2018, Writing and Society in Ancient Cyprus, Cambridge (2018): 221.

[9] Egetmeyer M., Le dialecte grec ancien de Chypre, Tome I: Grammaire. Tome II: Répertoire des inscriptions en syllabaire chypro-grec, Berlin (2010): vol. II, Marion no. 83 = Masson O., Les inscriptions chypriotes syllabiques (ICS), Paris (1983), no. 164; Masson O., ‘Inscriptions chypriotes retrouvées ou disparues’, Syria 48 (1971): 427–52.

[10] Iacovou M., ‘Palaepaphos: Unlocking the Landscape Context of the Sanctuary of the Cypriot Goddess’, Open Archaeology 5 (2019) 204–234.

[11] Egetmeyer M., ’”Sprechen Sie Golgisch?“ Anmerkungen zu einer übersehenen Sprache‘, in Études mycéniennes 2010, (ed.) Carlier P., et al., Pisa/Roma (2012): 427–434; Fourrier S., La coroplastie chypriote archaïque: Identités culturelles et politiques à l’époque des royaumes, Lyon (2007): 114–115.

[12] Egetmeyer (2010, vol. I no. 284) suggested a connection with the Greek word μυκηρός, ‘almond tree’. The cult of the ‘mother of the gods’, Cybele, to whom the almond tree is related, is attested in IG XV 2.1 no. 404 from Tamassos.

[13] Egetmeyer 2010 vol. II, Akanthou no. 1 = ICS 327.

[14] The syllabic text of Egetmeyer 2010 vol. II, Golgoi no. 44 is ‘1.te-re[… 2.ta-o[…’, which is different from IG XV 2.1. no. 335, where line 2 of the syllabic text is te-o […

[15] Bagnall R., The Administration of the Ptolemaic Possessions Outside Egypt, Leiden (1976): 76–77; Papantoniou G., ‘Cypriot Autonomous Polities at the Crossroads of Empire: The Imprint of a Transformed Islandscape in the Classical and Hellenistic Periods’, BASOR 370 (2013) 189; Pestarino B., The political and administrative systems of the classical Cypriot city-kingdoms, forthcoming.