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Seminar: The World of the Greek Epigram. Inscribing Funerary Poetry in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods

This seminar explores both the phenomenon of epigram production itself and discusses the worldview that was inscribed in the epigrams. You are all welcome to join at KNIR on 26 May, starting from 13.00 CET. RSVP:

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In the ancient world, funerary inscriptions were much more relational, communicative, and performative than nowadays. As people entered or left the city, they encountered series of inscribed monuments along the road that almost literally spoke to them and made claims about the deceased and their commemorators. This applied in particular to Greek funerary epigrams: small inscribed poems by which the deceased was commemorated with verses detailing his or her life. Hundreds of such epigrams survive from all over the ancient world, the majority dating to the Hellenistic and Roman period.

The inscribed funerary epigrams have often been studied as sub-literary poetry. However, many inscribed epigrams seem to fall short in terms of quality and originality, especially when compared to the literary epigrams preserved in the manuscript tradition. A different starting point might be just as fruitful: it seems socially highly significant that relatively large parts of urban populations engaged in this type of public writing, even if they had not fully mastered the rules of high literature. This seminar explores both the phenomenon of epigram production itself and discusses the worldview that was inscribed in the epigrams.



13:00-13:05 opening

13:05-13:45 Laurens E. Tacoma, ‘The epigrammatic habit’

13:45-14:00 discussion

14:00-14:40 Rolf Tybout, ‘Framing death’

14:40-15:00 discussion

15:00-15:30 break

15:30-16:00 Janis Oomen and Thirza Vis, ‘Dying Greek in Rome’

16:00-16:15 discussion

16:15-17:00 Angelos Chaniotis, ‘Enslaved people, unchained voices, manipulated emotions: Greek grave epigrams by and for slaves’

17:00-17:15 discussion

17:15-18:00 drinks


About the Speakers

Angelos Chaniotis (School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton NJ) is a leading Greek historian and Classics scholar, known for his original and wide-ranging research in the cultural, religious, legal and economic history of the Hellenistic period and the Roman East. He has published extensively in the field of Greek epigraphy.

Janis Oomen (Dept. of History, Leiden University, The Netherlands) is a student of ancient history. Her research focuses on Roman funerary inscriptions and what they can tell us about social history and identity formation. Together with Thirza Vis, she will present on an ongoing research project regarding Greek funerary epigrams from Rome.

Laurens E. Tacoma (Dept. of History, Leiden University, The Netherlands) is a social historian of the Roman world. He has published on elites, migration, and political culture. The present lecture presents the results of his research during a visiting professorship at the KNIR in Fall 2021.

Rolf A. Tybout (Dept. of History, Leiden University, The Netherlands) worked as editor at the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. He has published extensively on Greek inscriptions, including epigrams. The present seminar marks his retirement from Leiden University in 2021.

Thirza Vis (Dept. of Classics, Leiden University, The Netherlands) is a student of Classics and History. Together with Casper de Jonge, Laurens E. Tacoma and Janis Oomen, she is part of a research project on Greek funerary epigrams in Rome.


© images
square: IGUR 727 (Rome, outside Porta del Populo, 2nd or 3rd cent AD) Epigram for Kritias, who died 2 years old
banner: IGUR 1194 (Rome, 1st or 2nd cent AD) Epigram for the freedman Dionysius by his friend and former master Eudaimon