A Tomb instead of a Marriage: The Phrasikleia Inscription

Special thanks to Jim O’Hara who suggested the Phrasiklea inscription to me. I am posting  every day this month in honor of Women’s History Month. I am happy for suggestions! Jim’s sent me down a path filled with epitaphs for young women (more coming later in the month). I don’t know if I should thank him….

The following inscription appears on the front of a Kore statue.

IG I³ 1261 (Here’s the PHI Link)

“I am the grave of Phrasikleia.
I will be called a girl forever.
I drew this name from the gods
as my lot instead of marriage.”

[on the back] “Aristion the Parian made me”

σε͂μα Φρασικλείας·
κόρε κεκλέσομαι
αἰεί, / ἀντὶ γάμο
παρὰ θεο͂ν τοῦτο
5 λαχο͂σ’ ὄνομα.

II.1 Ἀριστίον ∶ Πάρι[ός μ’ ἐπ]ο[ίε]σ̣ε.

Here is the way it is presented in the Appendix to the Greek Anthology (69.2):

Σῆμα Φρασικλέας· κούρη κεκ[όρευ]μαι ῎Αρηι,
ἀντὶ γάμου παρὰ θεῶν τοῦτο λαχοῦσ’ ὄνομα.

Nathalie Scott has a nice write up of this piece online.

Here’s a picture of the Phrasikleia sculpture (the epigraph is on it):

Image result for color picture phrasikleia sculpture

Here is a polychromatic version:

File:Oxford. Ashmolean Museum. Gods in Colour. Grave statue of Phrasikleia.jpg
Wikicommons from the Asmolean Museum

Christos Tsagalis talks about inscriptions like this in his 2008 Inscribing Sorrow : Fourth-Century Attic Funerary Epigrams, (Trends in Classics. Suppl. Vol., 1) 2008, although his claim that the ἀντὶ γάμου is “especially suitable for young girls” (280) probably needs a little more nuance (I have found it in inscriptions for many young men too cf. e.g. SEG 42:212).

There are, of course, other expressions for the same idea. For instance, from nearly seven centuries later, the first half of IGBulg V 5930 (The PHI link):

“Look at this grave marker, friend, and ask “who made this”?
Hermogenes made me in longing, seeking to honor his own daughter
Well-tressed Theklê, whom strong fate stole away
Before she saw a marriage, before she joined a husband in bed,
Before she suffered anything in her soul, she went unpolluted to god.”

δέρκεο σῆμα, φέριστε, καὶ εἴρεο τίς κάμε τοῦτο.
Ἑρμογένης ποθέων με, χαριζόμενος δ’ ἕο παιδὶ
Θέκληι εὐπλοκάμ<ῳ> γ’ ἣν ἥρπασε Μοῖρα κραταιὴ
πρὶν γάμον εἰσιδέειν, πρὶν ἀνέρι λέκτρα συνάψαι,
πρὶν ψυχὴν παθέειν τι, ἀκήρατος ἐς θεὸν ἦλθεν.

 

One thought on “A Tomb instead of a Marriage: The Phrasikleia Inscription

  1. Pingback: Women’s History Month, Week 1 – SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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