Review: Attic Inscriptions Online

Southeast boundary marker of the Tritopatreion

Attic Inscriptions Online (AIO) presents translations of Attic inscriptions alongside cross-references to Greek texts, images, and notes. The website is the creation of Stephen Lambert and is affiliated with the Europeana Eagle Project. As of March 2017, AIO contains over 1,000 inscriptions with the eventual aim to provide translations of the 20,000+ inscriptions originating from Athens and Attica. The majority of the translations are by Lambert himself, with the remaining texts translated by a team of collaborators.

The majority of translations on the site come from the most recent IG II3 publications focusing on laws and decrees from the fourth to the second centuries BCE, with a gradually increasing number of notable inscriptions from the fifth century BCE. At present, there is little coverage of the archaic or imperial periods, although one imagines that this will change as the site continues to grow (information on how inscriptions are prioritized for inclusion can be found in the About section of the site).

Upon navigating to the homepage one is met with a brief introduction to the site. The right-hand sidebar features a quick search box, helpful for anyone looking for a specific reference, as well as a list of recent updates to the site. The quick search box has been designed so that likely matches are suggested as one types the reference. For instance, as I began searching for an inscription in IG II3 fascicule 1, a list of available translations appeared in a drop-down box.

This is a welcome contrast to some other online databases where the user must enter the reference for an inscription in the precise format demanded by the database in order to successfully search for specific inscriptions.

In the body of the page, Lambert outlines the importance of inscriptions as documentary sources for Athens and Attica, and the main ways to access Greek texts of inscriptions online; details follow about the translations and accompanying material, instructions for locating specific inscriptions, and an overview of specific Leiden convention sigla—[ab], <ab>, (ab), etc.—used in the translations. Noticeably absent is any explanation of the abbreviations and referencing used in epigraphic publications. Considering that one of the goals of the site is to allow those with little or no Greek to access Attic epigraphic texts, a brief explanation of epigraphic abbreviations and references (similar to the one found on Saxa Loquuntur) might be of assistance to users.

The Browse tab is the easiest way to locate specific inscriptions. One can navigate inscriptions via corpus, the present location of the inscription (i.e., by museum), publication date on the site, monument type, or inscription type. The last two functions are of particular interest; instructors looking for course readings from specific categories (such as funerary inscriptions or herms) can find examples by browsing via monument and inscription type. Although find spots are noted on the pages for individual inscriptions, I was a little surprised that it is not possible to browse or search via find spot. However, Lambert (2015, 13) has stated that he hopes to add this functionality (along with searching by date) in future updates.

The other major method of finding an inscription is through the Search tab, which allows users to search the translated texts on AIO, including transliterated Greek terms. This feature is most useful when searching for particular names or institutions and will likely see an increase in use as the number of inscriptions on AIO also increases.

Selecting an inscription brings up a translation alongside a sidebar full of links and notes. Translations are formatted to reflect the appearance of the original Greek inscription, a helpful design feature that should allow comparison with the Greek text as well as allowing students to get a sense of the layout and appearance of a particular inscription. When available, cross-links to the Greek text on the Packard Humanities Institute or Inscriptiones Graecae websites are provided, in addition to links to images of the inscriptions (largely hosted by The Sara B. Aleshire Center for the Study of Greek Epigraphy at UC Berkeley and Ohio State University’s Center for Epigraphical and Paleographical Studies). Translations use the Leiden convention symbola mentioned above to indicate areas of uncertainty, restoration and the like. The accompanying metadata also provides details on monument and inscription type, and current location.

Another feature is the option to turn on transliterations and places. Selecting the transliterations option inserts certain transliterated Greek terms in parentheses to the right of their translation. Selecting places adds links to the Pleiades database; this is an extremely helpful feature, allowing users to see where potentially unfamiliar places, such as Phaselis, are located.

The notes are very much in the style of a traditional textual commentary and are helpful to anyone from advanced students to scholars. They generally explain the context of an inscription and clarify points in the text or translation. For instance, in the case of IG I3 10, the translators offer a brief introduction to the city of Phaselis, discuss the meaning of symbola in the inscription, and propose a suggestion as to what lines 13 and 14—concerning pre-existing judicial conventions—might refer. The notes provide Lambert and his translators the means to indicate passages of uncertain or disputed readings in the texts, going some way to mitigate the problems associated with the lack of an apparatus criticus often found in online editions.

AIO Papers

Attic Inscriptions Online also features AIO Papers; these are targeted at readers with expertise in Greek epigraphy, and are designed to be read alongside specific inscriptions. The papers outline arguments for the readings and, consequently, translations of particular inscriptions. For instance, AIO Paper 6 discusses why IG II2 457 with IG II2 3207 are presented as a single incomplete decree honoring Lykourgos of Boutadai. Links to AIO Papers are provided in the right side-bar of inscription pages among the meta-data. The papers authored by Lambert are provided free of charge, but a small fee of £2 each is charged for AIO Papers 2 and 3. The fee covers translation costs for the two articles that were originally published in Italian.

Summary

Attic Inscriptions Online is already an extremely useful resource for instructors and researchers, and this utility will only increase as more inscriptions are added. The site is easy to use and performs well both on desktop and mobile in a variety of browsers. The AIO updates side-bar on the homepage is an easy way to keep up with new publications and readings of inscriptions in Attica without the lag-time of major publications such as SEG. (Lambert also posts notices of updates to the UK Classicists List and on twitter @atticins.) Obviously, AIO cannot be as comprehensive, but its presence is a useful reminder of the ease with which texts and readings can be quickly disseminated online.

Metadata

Title: Attic Inscriptions Online
Description: English translations of ancient Greek inscriptions from Athens and Attica
URLhttps://www.atticinscriptions.com/
Name: Lambert, Stephen
Publisher: [none]
Place: Cardiff University
Collection Title: Europeana Eagle Project
Date Created: 2012–2017 (work ongoing)
Date Accessed: March 21-30, 2017
Availability: Free
Rights: CC-BY-SA
Classification: digitization, epigraphy, Greek, journals, reference materials, texts.

(Header Image: Southeast boundary marker of the Tritopatreion, Kerameikos, Athens, Greece. Image by Romanus_too via Flickr.com. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

Alan Sheppard's picture

Alan Sheppard is an independent scholar. His research focuses on early Greek writing and the relationship of literary texts and material culture, particularly via inscribed epigram. He has also been known to perform and write about ancient comedy.

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