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This paper explores the fragility of the commemorative act whose legacy is the epigraphical record. Certainly it is important and right to emphasise how inscriptions can develop and project memories of individuals and the community. Epigraphy or inscribed monuments do and did function in this way in Athens. But this paper argues reminds us that not all epigraphy was memorable for all time.

Many inscribed monuments were indeed removed or adjusted, as an administrative action (RO 22 ll. 31-5; RO 25 ll. 55-6; RO 44; IG ii2 98 ll.9-13; adjusted: IG i3 101 ll. 58-9; IG i3 106 ll. 21-4) or as an (often) violent reaction associated with a change in regime (Culasso Gastaldi 2003) or adjusted (or erased, Byrne 2010; Follet 2010) as a memory sanction (Flower 2006; Benoist and Daguet-Gagey 2007 and 2008; Savalli-Lastrade 2010). But a great deal of epigraphical material became ‘forgotten.’

In time some inscribed monuments lost their significance; some monuments were removed and integrated/built into the archaeological context of the surrounding area but others continued to provide a monumental and commemorative landscape for subsequent displays (Houby-Nielsen 1998). It is often difficult to tell the life-story of an inscription and thereby assess how a monument was viewed over time. Indeed in a community like Athens, the complex archaeological history and the constant use and re-use of archaeological material over the longue durée acts as a real barrier to our understanding of the changing spatial context in which inscriptions would have been viewed over time. Some contexts allow us to view the biographical history of inscriptions but at Athens that can be difficult.

This paper focuses in on a small group of re-used inscriptions from Athens that were set up by the pyloroi. The monuments analysed in this paper are palimpsest inscriptions. Five monuments are explored: IG ii2 2295; 2304; 2305; 2308; A. E. Raubitschek, TAPA 76 (1945) 104-7 = E. Schweigert, Hesperia 8 (1939) p. 30-2 no. 8. Their use, and re-use, suggests that in most of these cases the contents of the earlier inscription and the institutional relevance were no longer as significant when the stones were identified as suitable surface on which to record a new inscription. These inscriptions have not been considered for the light that they shed on the fragility of epigraphical memory. Indeed the focus on the role of inscriptions and memory has usually been on the formative nature of epigraphy: either on the intentional removal or adjustment of the epigraphical landscape or the contribution that inscribed monuments make to commemoration.

The individuals concerned by the original monuments that were thus re-used and refashioned were by and large ‘forgotten’. The new concerns of group memory or social memory had since changed. The new institution whose members were commemorated on the new inscriptions take their place in the epigraphical record. The stones on which the older inscriptions had been cut were available and to hand; by the Imperial period when these stones were re-used the original inscriptions seem to play little part in Athenian social memory. But at the same time, one might argue that the very re-use of this older epigraphical and monumental material says something about the institution or group that were the pyloroi. They were responsible for the Acropolis and in some sense their role overseeing this space also extends to their epigraphical control of material in it.

This later re-use of older existing inscribed material in Athens forces us to accept that at some point some memories were no longer of the same value as they were before: some memories were not worth preserving or importance of past memories were forgotten. Epigraphy was not for ever. Effort is required for a society to remember individuals and groups: this paper demonstrates how some memories were simply given up and ‘lost’ by the changing priorities over time.

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