Adrian H.

Adrian High

Inscriptions as Narrative Instruments

Description. Herodotus can be considered a literary pioneer on many counts. One of the tools he establishes firmly as part of the inventory of the ancient historiographical toolbox is the use of inscriptions. Unsurprisingly, the pertinent passages in the Histories have long since been collected and thoroughly scrutinized (Raubitschek 1961; West 1985). The main thrust of such previous work, however, has been to evaluate Herodotus’ methodology and trustworthiness. Narratological approaches to this material have remained underexploited, but promise to give insights into how “[b]oth epigraphy and the idea of epigraphy offered, in antiquity, a pliable tool for claiming, maintaining, and demonstrating authority, identity, morality, and power.” (Liddel and Low 2013, p. 1). Thus, it is not so much whether the inscriptional material which Herodotus and Thucydides purport to draw on is authentic and veridical that will interest us here, but what function it is fulfilling within the narrative structure.

Annotated Bibliography.

*Edmunds, Lowell. 2009. “Thucydides in the Act of Writing.” In Thucydides, ed. Jeffrey S. Rusten, 91–113. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

How Thucydides establishes his authority. Edmunds argues for a “self-conscious textuality” in Thucydides that we don’t yet find in Herodotus. Views Thucydides not as a historian, but a writer

*Kosmetatou, Elizabeth. 2013. “Herodotus and Temple Inventories.” In Inscriptions and their Uses in Greek and Latin Literature, ed. Peter P. Liddel and Polly Low, 65–77. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Makes a case for Herodotus having used Delphic and Delian temple inventory lists. Herodotus much more scrupulous and thorough in his research than we thought. He might have used temple inventories and accounts (in the case of Croesus’ dedications he even tracks the fate of individual objects after the fire in Delphi in 548/7). 

*Liddel, Peter P., and Polly Low. 2013. “Introduction: The Reception of Ancient Inscriptions.” In Inscriptions and their Uses in Greek and Latin Literature, ed. Peter P. Liddel and Polly Low, 1–29. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Good overview to this volume about literary epigraphy, i.e., how does the ancient literary record employ epigraphic evidence. Three vectors pursued in scholarship: 1. Literary testimonia used just to reconstruct epigraphic texts; 2. “Differences between modern and ancient approaches to inscriptions”; 3. “Investigation of relationship between literary and inscribed material” – what do the differences tell us about the author’s methods and objectives?

But not much about how inscriptions are used in terms of narratology.

Raubitschek, A. E. 1961. “Herodotus and the Inscriptions.” BICS 8:59–61.

*Rhodes, P. J. 2007. “Documents and the Greek Historians.” In A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography, ed. John Marincola, 56–66. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

On Herodotus: Most of what he recorded came from oral informants. It just depended on whether the informant reported the inscription or not. No sense that documents provided an important basis for reliable history. – This is interesting: what, then, was the function of these documents?

On Thucydides: Thucydides like Hdt. still primarily working by oral inquiry. But he saw importance of actual text of a document (at least for treaties) and prepared to argue from inscriptions and other texts as Hdt was not.

*Sironen, Erkki. 2003. “The Role of Inscriptions in Greco-Roman Novels.” In The Ancient Novel and Beyond, ed. Stelios Panayotakis, Maaike Zimmerman and Wytse Keulen, 289–300. Leiden: Brill.

Rather impressionistic survey of the occurrence of inscriptions in novels all the way to the Byzantine period. Not much as use of narratological theory as I had hoped. Convenient appendix at the end collecting the inscriptions (by inscription genre).

*Smarczyk, Bernhard. 2006. “Thucydides and Epigraphy.” In Brill’s Companion to Thucydides, ed. Antonios Rengakos and Antonis Tsakmakis, 495–522. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

In the end, an assessment of Thucydides’ accuracy and reliability in using epigraphic sources. Survey of passages where inscriptions appear from pp. 502–510 with some conclusions pp. 511–514. Uses some of the narratological ideas about Thucydides proposed by Rood 1998.

Volkmann, H. 1954. “Die Inschriften im Geschichtswerk des Herodot.” In Convivium (Festschrift Ziegler). Stuttgart: Druckenmüller.

*West, Stephanie. 1985. “Herodotus’ Epigraphical Interests.” CQ 35:278–305.

Useful because it gathers all inscriptions cited in Herodotus (same number of Greek and Oriental, total: 20). Rather dismissive of Herodotus’ handling of inscriptions, assessing mostly how accurately he reported them. Herodotus belonged to a still very oral society where inscriptions would not have had much value. One marginal remarks on what the function of an inscription is in the narrative.

Whittaker, Helene. 1991. “Pausanias and His Use of Inscriptions.” SO 66:171–86.

Zadorojnyi, Alexei V. 2013. “Shuffling Surfaces: Epigraphy, Power, and Integrity in the Graeco-Roman Narratives.” In Inscriptions and their Uses in Greek and Latin Literature, ed. Peter P. Liddel and Polly Low. Oxford: Oxford University Press.