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An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

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An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Apr 26, 2018 7:16 pm

A friend of mine visiting Athens sent this photo. You will have guessed which particular detail caught his attention. I've tried to decipher the inscription, but I haven't quite got it. Here's my best shot:
Image
κατ᾽ ἐπερώτημα τῆς
βουλὴς τῶν φ' Χαρίτωνα
Νεικιοῦ Μαραθώνιον ξ (??)
κορεύσαν τὰ Ασκληπιο<ῦ>
καὶ Ὑγεῖας εν τῶ<ι> ἐπιπομ-
πῆι οὗ Ἀλεξάνδρου ἄρ-
χοντος ἐνιαθτῶ.
"In accordance with the sanction of the council of the 500, Chariton son of (?) Neikios from (the deme of?) Marathon (something) fulfilled what is due to Asclepios and Hygieia (according to instructions given) in a visitation, in the year of Alexander's archonship."
There are several problems with this interpretation, so I'd welcome any help...

Can Νεικιοῦ mean "son of Neikios" without the article? (i.e. τοῦ Νεικιοῦ)

φ' is evidently the numeral 500, and I'm particularly proud of figuring that out.

The end of line 3 is a mystery to me. The last letter looks like a capital I with serifs, except that this is Greek, not Latin, so I'm guessing it's a Ξ with the middle stroke not easily visible. But what it means, I have no idea. Beginning of a short word, but what? ξύν? A numeral??

The words after Ὑγεῖας don't make good sense to me. This reconstruction is very tentative.

Is οὗ here like this really Greek?

Why is Chariton and the rest in the accusative?

And finally: what is this? My guess was that this is some sort of votive stele to Asclepios and Hygieia. There are ruins of temple to Asclepios near the acropolis, perhaps this photo was taken there...

Thanks for any help!
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Apr 26, 2018 7:41 pm

Perhaps:
εν τῶ<ι> ἐπι Πομπηίου Ἀλεξάνδρου ἄρχοντος ἐνιαθτῶ
"in the year of the archonship of Pompeios son of Alexander"

But can it really be what it looks like, a Roman name - Pompey?
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Sun May 06, 2018 10:34 pm

Without having a complete solution to offer, I have a few suggestions:

According to Wikipedia, Pompeius Alexander was in fact the eponymous archon in Athens in either 210-211 or 211-212 CE.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eponymous_archon#List_of_archons_of_Athens

You can see from the list that Roman and Greek names became quite entangled as the Roman period wore on.

The last word is ἐνιαυτῶι, but I think you just hit the wrong key on the keyboard, since you got the accent right.

Νεικιου -- genitive of Νεικιας, apparently a prevalent spelling for Νικιας. There's a result for this name with the -ει- spelling in Athens around 203-207 CE in the online searchable Athenian onomasticon (#272):

http://seangb.org/r4.php?name=nikias&place=&name3=&name4=&name5=&date1=-1000&date2=1000&sex=1&sort=1

The name appears on l. 148 in the cited inscription:

https://epigraphy.packhum.org/text/4434?hs=1234-1239

I think the letter at the end of the third line is a form of Z, not Ξ.

-κορευσαντα looks like it might be the end of an aorist participle, accusative agreeing with Χαρίτωνα.

This is a herm. The mutilated genitalia are at the bottom of the preserved part. A bust of the individual would have sat on top of the slab. Prominent citizens were honored with herms well into the Roman period (go figure). There's a collection of herms from the Roman period, complete with genitalia, on the second floor of the restored Stoa of Attalus in the Athenian Agora. Actually, I think that erecting herms (no pun intended; the genitalia were flaccid, after all) to honor prominent individuals was a custom that was actually revived in the Roman period, particularly during the second century, when Athens enjoyed a revival under Hadrian and the local Athenian magnate Herodes Atticus, whose full name was Lucius Vibullius Hipparchus Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes, and who served as a Roman consul for a year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herma
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Sun May 06, 2018 11:33 pm

Update:

Here's a link to the transcribed inscription:

https://epigraphy.packhum.org/text/6099?bookid=5&location=1365

The mystery word is ζακορεύσαντα, "having served as ζακορος", defined by LSJ as "an attendant in a temple":

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dza%2Fkoros

Khariton of Marathon, son of N(e)ikias, is Khariton No. 22 in the searchable onomasticon:

http://www.seangb.org/r4.php?name=caritwn&place=&name3=&name4=&name5=&date1=-1000&date2=1000&sort=1

The transcription:

κατ’ ἐπερώτημα τῆς
βουλῆς τῶν Φ Χαρίτωνα
Νεικίου Μαραθώνιον ζα-
κορεύσαντα Ἀσκληπιοῦ
καὶ Ὑγείας ἐν τῷ ἐπὶ Πομ-
πηίου Ἀλεξάνδρου ἄρ-
χοντος ἐνιαυτῶι
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Mon May 07, 2018 1:54 am

The accusative must be part of a formulaic phrase of which the subject and verb are understood, I would think.

Why have my edit buttons disappeared?
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Mon May 07, 2018 2:38 pm

Here a link to an inscription on another herm (G II2 3764) from roughly the same period:

https://epigraphy.packhum.org/text/6048

The text (in hexameters) reads:

τόνδε ἀπὸ δᾳδούχων ἱερῆς μητρός τε γεγῶτα,
ἣ τελετὰς ἀνέφαινε θεοῖν παρ’ ἀνάκτορα Δηοῦς,
Αἴλιον Ἀπολλώνιον, κλεινὸν κοσμήτορα παίδων,
στῆσεν ὁμώνυμος υἱός, ὃς ἄρχων ἦεν ἐφήβων

[In Αἴλιον Ἀπολλώνιον, the iotas must be treated metrically as consonantal. Fitting proper names in hexameters with metrical licenses goes back to Homer. Note the epic language in an inscription from the third century CE. Also the Graeco-Roman name Aelius Apollonios.]

Based on just one sample (obviously not conclusive), the formula would be something like:

X (acc.) στῆσε[ν] Y (nom.) [or εστησε if we are not displaying our erudition by composing hexameters in epic language].

So the inscription on Khariton's herm looks like it's incomplete. It would be something like: Χαρίτωνα . . . [εστησε[ν] Y]. That would account for the accusative.

From the photo it doesn't look like Khariton's herm has been restored or that the remainder of the text has somehow been effaced, but it's hard to tell for sure, especially for those of us who aren't specialists in epigraphy. My suspicion is that a lot of very skillful (and hence deceptive) restoration of monuments on display in the Agora and elsewhere has occurred, and I wonder whether this one was pieced together from fragments. Was the iota adscript at the end of ΕΝΙΑΥΤΩΙ, in contrast to its article ΤΩ earlier in the inscription, added erroneously?

Again, why did my edit buttons go away after a while? Nescit uox missa reuerti?
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby jeidsath » Mon May 07, 2018 3:27 pm

Why have my edit buttons disappeared?


I created an admin post about this. I've seen several threads now where someone asks a question, has the question answered, and then goes in and deletes the original question, defacing the thread. So I limited default post editing time to 60 minutes. I can adjust that if the window isn't wide enough.

The first time that I noticed this was your very useful response in the Beginning Poetry thread, for which the other user's original question is now lost.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Mon May 07, 2018 4:10 pm

κοσμήτορα παίδων -- a clever adaptation of a Homeric formula for a schoolteacher?

Or is it an adaptation by an affectionate son?
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon May 07, 2018 4:20 pm

Thanks! That makes it a lot clearer now. The largest part of my problem was assuming that the inscription was significantly older than it actually is, hence trying to force the names into patronyms, when they actually were of the Roman type, or refusing to accept that it actually reads Pompeius, and refusing the idea that ει/ι could have merged.

Hylander wrote:-κορευσαντα looks like it might be the end of an aorist participle, accusative agreeing with Χαρίτωνα.

This is obvious, and I'm ashamed to have written "κορεύσαν τὰ". I'd grown pretty impatient not being able to decipher the end and somehow was pretending it was κορευσαντα τα, with an extra τα there...

Hylander wrote:From the photo it doesn't look like Khariton's herm has been restored or that the remainder of the text has somehow been effaced, but it's hard to tell for sure, especially for those of us who aren't specialists in epigraphy. My suspicion is that a lot of very skillful (and hence deceptive) restoration of monuments on display in the Agora and elsewhere has occurred, and I wonder whether this one was pieced together from fragments. Was the iota adscript at the end of ΕΝΙΑΥΤΩΙ, in contrast to its article ΤΩ earlier in the inscription, added erroneously?

Again, why did my edit buttons go away after a while? Nescit uox missa reuerti?

Actually, I was suspecting something similar. Look especially how the final letter on line 4 (Υ) simply doesn't fit in the space alloted to it. It looks like the slab should be wider on the right than it is. And if that's true, the rounding on the top of the slab can't be original either - and as you say, there should be bust of Chariton there. So what happened? My guess: at some stage, this stone slab was recycled to some new purpose (whether to serve as a flower stand or some other purpose) and the right side (or more?) of the stone was trimmed out. (This reminds me of a recent little scandal in Finland. Gravestones from graves that are no longer cared for are recycled to make pavement stones - I suppose this happens in other countries as well. On one occasion, however, the stones were carelessly positioned so that the names of deceased persons were visible on the street, which created a good occasion for many a clickbait journalist.)

Hylander wrote:This is a herm. The mutilated genitalia are at the bottom of the preserved part. A bust of the individual would have sat on top of the slab. Prominent citizens were honored with herms well into the Roman period (go figure). There's a collection of herms from the Roman period, complete with genitalia, on the second floor of the restored Stoa of Attalus in the Athenian Agora. Actually, I think that erecting herms (no pun intended; the genitalia were flaccid, after all) to honor prominent individuals was a custom that was actually revived in the Roman period, particularly during the second century, when Athens enjoyed a revival under Hadrian and the local Athenian magnate Herodes Atticus, whose full name was Lucius Vibullius Hipparchus Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes, and who served as a Roman consul for a year.

Yes, that's what I told my friend – you have guessed correctly what caught my his attention. At the very least, I got the herm part right. I think I've actually seen those in the Stoa of Attalus last time I visited Athens, in 2010. If I'm lucky, I'll see them again next autumn!
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon May 07, 2018 4:34 pm

Revised translation:
κατ’ ἐπερώτημα τῆς
βουλῆς τῶν Φ Χαρίτωνα
Νεικίου Μαραθώνιον ζα-
κορεύσαντα Ἀσκληπιοῦ
καὶ Ὑγείας ἐν τῷ ἐπὶ Πομ-
πηίου Ἀλεξάνδρου ἄρ-
χοντος ἐνιαυτῶι

"Chariton son of Nikias from Marathon, who, according to the sanction of the council of the 500, served at the temple of Asclepios and Hygieia in the year of Pompeios Alexander's archonship."
(I'm assuming that "according to the sanction of the council of the 500" goes with ζακορευσαντα and not the missing εστησε).
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby RandyGibbons » Mon May 07, 2018 4:46 pm

Paul, Hylander - well done!

This is an interesting testimony to the enduring worship of Asclepius going into the 3rd century CE.

Paul, Thucydides scholar: According to this article, this Athenian Asclepieion was built (on the south slope of the Acropolis) in 429 BCE during the plague.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon May 07, 2018 4:50 pm

Hylander wrote:κοσμήτορα παίδων -- a clever adaptation of a Homeric formula for a schoolteacher?

Or is it an adaptation by an affectionate son?

You might also call it a monstrous perversion of a Homeric formula - whichever you prefer!

τόνδε ἀπὸ δᾳδούχων ἱερῆς μητρός τε γεγῶτα,
ἣ τελετὰς ἀνέφαινε θεοῖν παρ’ ἀνάκτορα Δηοῦς,
Αἴλιον Ἀπολλώνιον, κλεινὸν κοσμήτορα παίδων,
στῆσεν ὁμώνυμος υἱός, ὃς ἄρχων ἦεν ἐφήβων

I'm not sure I understand this. Surely this doesn't mean that Aelius Apollonius was born "out of torchbearers and the holy mother", but rather "out of torchbearers of the holy mother"? But what is the function of τε in that case?
Who does Δηοῦς refer to? Is it a genitive of Zeus? Who are θεοῖν - Demeter and Persephone?
What is an "archon of ephebes"?
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Mon May 07, 2018 5:56 pm

1.
I'm assuming that "according to the sanction of the council of the 500" goes with ζακορευσαντα and not the missing εστησε.


I think the Council approved the erection of the herm. Try checking some of the other herm inscriptions, which I'll do when I have time.

2.Deo is another name for Demeter.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demeter

3. Even as late as the Roman period, I think some Athenian aristocratic families traced (or claimed to trace) their ancestry back to divine ancestors, through genealogies going back to aristocratic families in the classical period.

4. παρ’ ἀνάκτορα Δηοῦς -- I don't understand this either, but it probably has something to do with Athenian cults and myths, or maybe the inscription has been mis-transcribed.

5. "Who are θεοῖν - Demeter and Persephone?" I would think so. Note the dual! But the dual θεοῖν probably remained in use in connection with the Elysinian mysteries, and of course the language is epic.

5. 'What is an "archon of ephebes"?' Something out of Athenian rituals involving teenage boys?
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Mon May 07, 2018 9:50 pm

Hylander wrote:
I think the Council approved the erection of the herm.


:roll: Really? Okay... :lol:
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Tue May 08, 2018 1:25 am

Here's another Herm inscription that is even more fragmentary, but it begins by reciting the authorization of the Council of 500:

https://epigraphy.packhum.org/text/6244

Here's an inscription on a statue that recites the authorization of the Areopagus, still functioning in the 3rd c. CE:

https://epigraphy.packhum.org/text/5988

So the recitation of the authorization for a civic honor was a feature of some or many of these inscriptions.

You might also call it a monstrous perversion of a Homeric formula - whichever you prefer!


No, it demonstrates the continuing vitality of the epic language as a medium of poetic expression 800 or so years after the archaic period. It also reminds us that Homer was the basis of Greek education even into the Roman period and beyond.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby RandyGibbons » Tue May 08, 2018 12:01 pm

Speaking of continuity through the ages - I was intrigued by that word ζάδορος (or ζαδόρος), which I had never seen before. I found it goes back to Mycenean, da-ko-ro.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Tue May 08, 2018 12:42 pm

Randy, it's ζακορος, but your point is interesting: a religious office that persisted for at least 1400 years.

Update: here are two inscriptions that a Google search for ἄρχων ἐφήβων brought up:

https://epigraphy.packhum.org/text/4470?hs=2185-2192%2C2310-2319%2C3035-3045%2C4539-4545

https://epigraphy.packhum.org/text/4480?hs=1601-1608%2C1706-1716%2C2465-2472%2C3199-3206%2C3998-4005%2C4169-4175%2C6743-6753%2C6990-6999%2C7062-7069%2C7852-7859%2C9081-9088%2C9489-9499

So the term seems to be some sort of title, whether of a youth who led other youths or a pedagogue in charge of training youths. The term κοσμητὴς τῶν ἐφήβων also crops up in these inscriptions. They date from approximately the same period as the inscription quoted above, i.e., 200-225 CE.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Tue May 08, 2018 1:15 pm

A pair of articles which give context to the discussion:

http://www.academia.edu/20706095/The_Greek_Ephebate_in_the_Roman_Period

http://www.academia.edu/11868299/The_Status_of_the_Ephebarch

The archon ephebon was some sort of official charged with training youths.

A Google search for "ephebarch" brings up a number of links to discussions of this term. The upshot is that this was an official in many Greek communities throughout antiquity, but the exact duties are somewhat vague, as is the question of whether the ephebarch would himself have been a current ephebe, a recently graduated ephebe or an older man.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby RandyGibbons » Tue May 08, 2018 1:32 pm

Randy, it's ζακορος

Yep, and it's Hylander, not Highlander :lol:. Thanks. Sometimes I don't understand how my brain works!
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Tue May 08, 2018 1:57 pm

And this gives a clue to what παρ’ ἀνάκτορα Δηοῦς means: a space in the temple of Demeter at Eleusis (plural ἀνάκτορα to fit the meter?).

https://www.degruyter.com/dg/viewarticle/j$002fjah.2016.4.issue-1$002fjah-2016-0008$002fjah-2016-0008.xml

Most of the article is under a pay wall, but the abstract should be enough.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Thu May 10, 2018 12:57 pm

I'm not sure I understand this. Surely this doesn't mean that Aelius Apollonius was born "out of torchbearers and the holy mother", but rather "out of torchbearers of the holy mother"? But what is the function of τε in that case?
Who does Δηοῦς refer to? Is it a genitive of Zeus? Who are θεοῖν - Demeter and Persephone?
What is an "archon of ephebes"?


The last piece of the puzzle is the first line in the Aelius Apollonius inscription that doesn't seem to make sense:

τόνδε ἀπὸ δᾳδούχων ἱερῆς μητρός τε γεγῶτα,

Paul Derouda questioned how Aelius could be said to be descended from the torchbearers and the goddess.

I wonder whether τε γεγῶτα has been mistranscribed. Instead of τε γεγῶτα, could it read γεγαῶτα, which would be metrical and Homeric/epic in form, and would eliminate the problem of descent from the goddess? I don't think she had male offspring from which Aelius could claim descent.

TE misread for ΓΕ seems like an easy mistake. ΕΓ misread for A seems more difficult to explain, but, without seeing the inscription itself, perhaps it's not out of the question.

The contracted form γεγώς is apparently post-Homeric. LSJ:

Ep. forms (as if from pf. γέγα^α), 2pl. “γεγάα_τε” Batr.143; “γεγάα_σι” Il.4.325, freq. in Od.: 3pl. γεγα?κα^σιν cj. in Emp.23.10: 3dual plpf. ἐκ-γεγάτην [α^] Od.10.138; inf. γεγάμεν [α^] Pi.O.9.110, (ἐκ) Il.5.248, etc.; part. γεγα^ώς -α^υῖα, pl. “-α^ῶτες, -α^υῖαι” Hom., etc., contr. “γεγώς, -ῶσα” S.Aj.472, E.Med.406;


http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dgi%2Fgnomai

Iliad 9.453-458:

πατὴρ δ᾽ ἐμὸς αὐτίκ᾽ ὀϊσθεὶς
πολλὰ κατηρᾶτο, στυγερὰς δ᾽ ἐπεκέκλετ᾽ Ἐρινῦς,
μή ποτε γούνασιν οἷσιν ἐφέσσεσθαι φίλον υἱὸν
ἐξ ἐμέθεν γεγαῶτα: θεοὶ δ᾽ ἐτέλειον ἐπαρὰς
Ζεύς τε καταχθόνιος καὶ ἐπαινὴ Περσεφόνεια.

Odyssey 19.400-401:

Αὐτόλυκος δ᾽ ἐλθὼν Ἰθάκης ἐς πίονα δῆμον
παῖδα νέον γεγαῶτα κιχήσατο θυγατέρος ἧς

Sorry. I can't seem to let go of this. But maybe now I'm done. I think I've resolved all of Paul's perplexities.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon May 14, 2018 1:26 pm

Thanks a lot Hylander!

I like your γεγαῶτα conjecture. It does seem to make more sense to me, although of course I can't tell, especially as I haven't seen the original inscription - and especially as Homeric usage isn't necessarily a good guide here (hence my joke in my earlier answer about "monstrous perversion of Homer").

When I skimmed through the article "The Status of the Ephebarch", one thing said in passing caught my attention: "An ephebarch in the city of Thyatira in Lydia was amphithales in the Great Antoneia after his year of office. Amphithaleis, people with both parents still living, were in antiquity inevitably rather young and were particularly prized as participants in religious festivals." I have a quibble with the word "inevitably": It's a common misconception that people in antiquity rarely reached an advanced age; the often repeated story goes that someone who reached fifty was considered old and was expected to drop dead at any moment. But while the average life span was very short from our perspective, the most important factor behind it was mortality in early childhood; if a person reached adulthood, his/her life expectancy wasn't that difference from ours (mortality was higher, of course, but not nearly as much as in early childhood - most important factors being disease plus, I think, childbirth complications for women and violence for men [see e.g. Thucydides]). Socrates was apparently in good health when executed at the age of 70, and Sophocles lived over 90 years.

Re-revised translation:
κατ’ ἐπερώτημα τῆς
βουλῆς τῶν Φ Χαρίτωνα
Νεικίου Μαραθώνιον ζα-
κορεύσαντα Ἀσκληπιοῦ
καὶ Ὑγείας ἐν τῷ ἐπὶ Πομ-
πηίου Ἀλεξάνδρου ἄρ-
χοντος ἐνιαυτῶι

"In accordance with the sanction of the council of the 500, [this herm to the effigy of] Chariton son of Nikias, from Marathon, who served at the temple of Asclepios and Hygieia in the year of Pompeios Alexander's archonship, [was erected by X]."
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby jeidsath » Mon May 14, 2018 2:34 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:When I skimmed through the article "The Status of the Ephebarch", one thing said in passing caught my attention: "An ephebarch in the city of Thyatira in Lydia was amphithales in the Great Antoneia after his year of office. Amphithaleis, people with both parents still living, were in antiquity inevitably rather young and were particularly prized as participants in religious festivals." I have a quibble with the word "inevitably": It's a common misconception that people in antiquity rarely reached an advanced age; the often repeated story goes that someone who reached fifty was considered old and was expected to drop dead at any moment. But while the average life span was very short from our perspective, the most important factor behind it was mortality in early childhood; if a person reached adulthood, his/her life expectancy wasn't that difference from ours (mortality was higher, of course, but not nearly as much as in early childhood - most important factors being disease plus, I think, childbirth complications for women and violence for men [see e.g. Thucydides]). Socrates was apparently in good health when executed at the age of 70, and Sophocles lived over 90 years.


Very true, although I have a couple of reservations. Childbirth complications for adult women, while a much greater risk than it is for moderns, is exaggerated because we assume a 19th-century baseline. And it was very bad in the 19th-century. But a great deal of this was iatrogenic. That’s why all Dickens’ upper class characters are orphans. It was 1848 when Semmelweis pointed out that you could see the corpses in maternity wards track the paths of individual unwashed physicians. (Nobody listened.) In the middle ages we have midwife’s logs that suggest that outside of hospitals, childbirth was (comparatively) safe for the mother.

It may also have been the case that the overall Eurasian disease burden was not as high in ancient times. Anyone familiar with Civil War history should be a little surprised to find so few deaths from disease mentioned in the Anabasis. Eurasian disease burden seems to have gotten worse in the Roman period as population concentrations and international trade increased, especially with Africa. Eurasia has never been as bad as Africa for disease burden, where hominids have been hanging around for millions of years. Also, one or two diseases came over from the New World after Columbus. But not as many as travelled in the other direction, as you might expect from the relative population sizes.
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Hylander » Mon May 14, 2018 3:08 pm

Homeric usage isn't necessarily a good guide here


To the contrary: the hexameters were composed by someone who knew Homeric usage well, as στῆσεν and ἦεν demonstrate. Homer would have been central to the author's education.

Also, one or two diseases came over from the New World after Columbus. But not as many as travelled in the other direction, as you might expect from the relative population sizes.


This isn't really the right place to debate the issue, and I'm no authority anyway, but there's a theory apparently widely accepted among historians and archeologists that pre-Columban native American populations were much larger than after contact with Europeans, that millions of native Americans were wiped out by diseases brought by Europeans who had developed partial immunities to them over millenia--especially diseases spread by living in contact with domesticated cattle.

And I'm not sure the absence of reports of deaths from disease in the Anabasis proves anything. Thucydides' description of the plague in Athens offers a counter-story.

Eurasian disease burden seems to have gotten worse in the Roman period as population concentrations and international trade increased, especially with Africa. Eurasia has never been as bad as Africa for disease burden, where hominids have been hanging around for millions of years.


Is there any evidence for either of these theories?
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Re: An inscribed stele near the acropolis of Athens

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon May 14, 2018 4:13 pm

Hylander wrote:
Homeric usage isn't necessarily a good guide here

To the contrary: the hexameters were composed by someone who knew Homeric usage well, as στῆσεν and ἦεν demonstrate. Homer would have been central to the author's education.

Well, yes and no: what I meant was that although Homer was central to one's education, the average literate person would have also been exposed to hexameter composed in the intervening 800+ years between him and Homer. When a 200 CE person was composing hexameters, there would have subtle differences. When I, who have read a lot of early Greek hexameter poetry but not much later, see something like κοσμήτορα παίδων, I immediately think of two things: 1) this is influenced by Homer, but 2) it's not Homer and it's not Homeric in spirit: κοσμήτωρ λαῶν is a grand epic title, κοσμήτωρ παίδων "marshaller of young boys" is not – from an early Greek poetry point of view, it seems almost mock-epic.

Hylander wrote:This isn't really the right place to debate the issue, and I'm no authority anyway, but there's a theory apparently widely accepted among historians and archeologists that pre-Columban native American populations were much larger than after contact with Europeans, that millions of native Americans were wiped out by diseases brought by Europeans who had developed immunities to them over millenia--especially diseases spread by living in contact with domesticated cattle.

While I'm not an authority either, I have a similar impression. I actually think that many if not most important infectious diseases were originally spread from domesticated animals, which would of course have been different from continent to continent.

Hylander wrote:
Eurasian disease burden seems to have gotten worse in the Roman period as population concentrations and international trade increased, especially with Africa. Eurasia has never been as bad as Africa for disease burden, where hominids have been hanging around for millions of years.

Is there any evidence for either of these theories?

I think that the concentration of population in dense urban centres would certainly have added to the disease burden, and probably significantly. I'm not so sure, though, that increased trade with Africa would have been an important factor. I believe it's true, however, that the burden of infectious disease is heavier near the tropics. It seems to me that competition for resources is generally more hectic in warmer climates. Thalassemia and sickle cell anemia are apparently evolutionary adaptations to fight malaria. I recently read about an interesting theory that birds migrate to lower their infectious disease burden – nesting in the North allows birds to have a less effective immune system, so to speak.

Joel – point taken about iatrogenic infections, population concentrations and international trade. I surmise that in 4th century BCE Athens or 1st century CE Rome mortality would have been quite a lot higher than in the countryside. But I think you're exaggerating; I find it especially difficult to believe that infant and maternal mortality could have been at an all time high in the 19th century.
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