Two Perspectives on Slavery

The starkest of contrasts: an anonymous Hellenistic epigram depicting a grateful slave and his benevolent master, and an Athenian letter recounting a slave’s desperation and his master’s brutality.

Anonymous Epigram 7.179 (Greek Anthology)

Even now from under the earth, master,
I remain obedient to you.
Your kindness I haven’t forgotten:
Three times you saw me from sickness to health;
And now you’ve gone so far as to lay me
Under this sheltering stone, announcing:
Medes, a Persian.
You’ve done right by me.
For that, you’ll have willing slaves in your debt.

In 1972, excavation of the Athenian Agora turned up a unique c.4th-century-BC letter inscribed on a lead tablet: the speaker is an actual slave describing the actual conditions of bondage. (Presumably the letter was dictated to a scribe, and since it was found in a well, presumably it was never delivered.)

As in the fanciful epigram, δεσπότης (“master”) designates the man who command’s the slave’s life. But unlike the fictional δεσπότης whose kindness can never be repaid, the real δεσπότης is a man of limitless brutality.

The letter reads:

“Lesis sends a letter to Xenochles and his mother saying do not overlook that he’s dying in the forge, but come to his masters and find him something better. For I have been handed over to an entirely bad man: I’m dying from the whippings; I’m tied up; I’m horribly abused. And more, more!”

7.179 (Greek Anthology)

σοὶ καὶ νῦν ὑπὸ γῆν, ναί, δέσποτα, πιστὸς ὑπάρχω,
ὡς πάρος, εὐνοίης οὐκ ἐπιληθόμενος,
ὥς με τότ᾽ ἐκ νούσου τρὶς ἐπ᾽ ἀσφαλὲς ἤγαγες ἴχνος,
καὶ νῦν ἀρκούσᾐ τῇδ᾽ ὑπέθου καλύβῃ,
Μάνην ἀγγείλας, Πέρσην γένος. εὖ δέ με ῥέξας
ἕξεις ἐν χρείῃ δμῶας ἑτοιμοτέρους.

Lead tablet letter from the Athenian agora, c.4th BC. (quoted in Edward Harris, Democracy and the Rule of Law in Classical Athens, page 271)

Detail of lines 2-4 of the slave’s lead tablet letter. Reproduced from David Jordan’s “A Personal Letter Found in the Athenian Agora,” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Jan. – Mar., 2000), pp. 91-103.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

This Unforgetting Stone (Another Epitaph)

Iscr. di Cos (Fun.) EF 518  From Kos, 2nd/1st Century BCE

“Previously Homeric grooves [arrows] were sounding out
The master-loving habit of Eumaios on golden tablets,
But now this stone, repeating the unforgetting word,
Will sing your wise wit even into Hades, Inakhos.

Philoskos, who reveres your home, will always increase
The fine gifts and honor you both among the living and the dead—
Along with your wife who honors your son who is weeping,
A young child who draws deep from the spring of her breasts.

O, inescapable Hades, why do you hoard this kind of blessing,
Taking away the famous son of Kleumakhis?”

1 π̣ρὶν μ̣ὲν Ὁμήρειο[ι γλυφί]δες φιλ[οδέσποτ]ο̣ν̣ ἦ̣θ̣[ο]ς
Εὐμαίου χρ̣υσέαις̣ ἔ̣κλαγον ἐν σ̣ε̣λίσ̣ι̣ν̣·
σεῦ δὲ καὶ εἰν Ἀΐδαο σαόφρονα μῆτιν ἀείσει
Ἴν̣αχ̣’ ἀείμνηστον γ̣ρ̣άμ̣μ̣α λαλεῦσ̣α̣ πέ̣τρ̣η·
5 καί σε πρὸς εὐσεβέ̣ων δ̣όμ̣ον ἄξ̣ε̣ται ἐσθλὰ Φ̣ιλίσκος̣
δῶρα καὶ ἐν ζῳοῖς κἂμ φθιμένοισι τίνων·
σήν τ̣’ ἄλοχ̣ον κλείουντ’ αὐτόν σοι παῖδα τίο̣υσαν
π̣ηγῆς ἧς μασ̣τ̣ῶν ε̣ἴ̣λ̣κυ̣σ̣ε νηπίαχο̣ς̣.
[ὦ] δυσάλικτ’ Ἀΐδα, τὶ τὸ τηλίκον ἔσχ̣ες ὄνειαρ̣,
10 κλεινὸν Κλευμαχίδο̣ς̣ κοῦρον ἀειρ̣ά̣μενο̣ς̣;

Image result for ancient greek arrows

“Nothing Wakes the Dead”: Your Weekly Reminder that Life is Short

IG IX,2 640 from Thessaly, c. ? from PHI

“They say either the Fates’ thread or some god’s rage
raged terribly at me, Parmonis, and violently
Rushed me out of bed unwillingly
when I was longing for my sweet husband Epitunkhanos.

If there is any memory for the dead, well, I led a blameless life—
Abandoning only my husband, a man I beg to stop
Torturing his heart with terrible grief and the terrible struggle.

For this is nothing more—since nothing wakes the dead—
Than wearing down the soul of those who still live. For there is nothing else.”

1 ἢ μίτος ὥς φασιν Μοιρῶν ἢ δαίμονος ὀργή,
ἥτις ἐμοὶ δεινῶς ἐχολώσατο καί με βιαίως
ἐξ εὐνῆς ποθέουσαν ἐμῆς ἀνδρὸς γλυκεροῖο
Παρμονὶν ἐξεδίωξε Ἐπιτυνχάνου οὐκ ἐθέλουσα[ν].

5 εἴ γέ τις οὖν μνήμη θνητοῖς, βίον ἔσχον ἄ[μ]εμπτον,
ἄνδρα μόνον στέρξασα, ὃν εἰσέτι θυμὸν ἀνώγω
παύσασθαι δεινοῦ πένθους δεινοῦ τε κυδοιμοῦ.
οὐδὲν γὰρ πλέον ἐστί —— θανόντα γὰρ οὐδὲν ἐγείρει ——
ἢ τείρει ψυχὴν ζώντων μόνον· ἄλλο γὰρ οὐδέν.
10 {²duae rosae partim deletae}²

Not quite sure about Παρμονὶν here, but I think it is her name…

Related image
A different Epitaph from the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

 

Roman Epitaphs to and for Wives

A repost of some translations by Brandon Conley.

  1. AE 1983 0040

D(is) M(anibus). Memoriae Publicies Septimines L(ucius) Sammonius Adiutor coniug(i) pientissim(a)e et animules amantissimes

“To the spirits of the dead. Lucius Sammonius Adiutor (made this) for the memory of Publicia Septimina, his most faithful wife and most loving soul.”

Romancouple

  1. AE 1982 0106

D(is) M(anibus) Iucundis[sim]a Priscia[no con]iugi am[antiss]imo b(ene) [m(erenti) fecit]

“To the spirits of the dead. Iucundissima made this for her well-deserving, most loving husband, Priscianus.”

 

  1. CIL 6.18817

Animae sanctae colendae d(is) m(anibus) s(acrum). Furia Spes L(ucio) Sempronio Firmo coniugi carissimo mihi. Ut cognovi puer puella obligati amori pariter. Cum quo vixi tempori minimo et quo tempore vivere debuimus a manu mala diseparati sumus. Ita peto vos manes sanctissimae commendat[um] habeatis meum ca[ru]m et vellitis huic indulgentissimi esse horis nocturnis ut eum videam et etiam me fato suadere vellit ut et ego possim dulcius et celerius aput eum pervenire.

“To a sacred and worshipped spirit: a sacred thing to the spirits of the dead. Furia Spes (made this) for her dearest husband, Lucius Sempronius Firmus. When we met as boy and girl, we were joined in love equally. I lived with him for a short while, and in a time when we should have lived together, we were separated by an evil hand.

So I ask you, most sacred spirits, to protect my dear husband entrusted to you, and that you be willing to be most accommodating to him in the nightly hours, so I may have a vision of him, and so he might wish that I persuade fate to allow me to come to him more sweetly and quickly.”

adiutor

  1. CIL 3.10501

Clausa iacet lapidi coniunx pia cara Sabina. Artibus edocta superabat sola maritum vox ei grata fuit pulsabat pollice c(h)ordas. Set (sed) cito rapta silpi (silet)…

“My beautiful, faithful wife, Sabina, lies enclosed in stone. Skilled in the arts, she alone surpassed her husband. Her voice was pleasing (as) she plucked the strings with her thumb. But suddenly taken, now she is silent.”

 

  1. CIL 3.00333

Dis Manibus Flaviae Sophene [Ge]nealis Caesaris Aug(usti) [se]rvos verna dispens(ator) [ad] frumentum carae coniugi et amanti bene merenti fecit [vix(it)] an(nis) XXXII m(ensibus) VII

//

[Φλ]αβία Σόφη γυνὴ Γενεάλ/[ιος] Καίσαρος δούλου οἰκο/νόμου ἐπὶ τοῦ σείτου / [ζή]σασα κοσμίως ἔτη [λβ] / [μῆ]νας ζ χαῖρε

“To the spirits of the dead. For Flavia Sophe. Genialis, home-born slave of Caesar Augustus, keeper of the grain supply, made this for his loving, dear, well-deserving wife. She lived 32 years, 7 months.”

 

  1. AE 1982 0988.

Iulia Cecilia vicxit annis XLV cui Terensus marit(us) fek(it) dom(um) et(e)r(nalem) f(eci)t

“Julia Caecilia lived 45 years, for whom her husband Terensus made this. He made her an eternal home.”

 

  1. CIL 13.01983 (EDCS-10500938)

D(is) M(anibus) et memoriae aetern(ae) Blandiniae Martiolae puellae innocentissimae quae vixit ann(os) XVIII m(enses) VIIII d(ies) V. Pompeius Catussa cives Sequanus tector coniugi incomparabili et sibi benignissim(a)e quae mecum vixit an(nos) V m(enses) VI d(ies) XVIII sine ul(l)a criminis sorde. Viv(u)s sibi et coniugi ponendum curavit et sub ascia dedicavit. Tu qui legis vade in Apol(l)inis lavari quod ego cum coniuge feci. Vellem si ad(h)uc possem

“To the spirits of the dead and the eternal memory of Blandinia Martiola, a most innocent girl who lived 18 years, 9 months, 5 days. Pompeius Catussa, a Sequani citizen and plasterer, (made this) for his incomparable and most kind wife, who lived with me 5 years, 6 months, 18 days without any transgressions. While alive, he saw to the building and dedicated this, while under construction, to himself and his wife. You who read this, go and bathe in the bath of Apollo, which I did with my wife. I wish I were still able to do it.”

 

  1. CIL 06.15346

Hospes quod deico paullum est. Asta ac pellege. Heic est sepulcrum hau(d) pulcrum pulcrai feminae. Nomen parentes nominarunt Claudiam. Suom mareitum corde deilexit souo. Gnatos duos creavit horunc (horum-ce) alterum in terra linquit alium sub terra locat. Sermone lepido tum autem incessu commodo domum servavit lanam fecit dixi abei

“Stranger, what I say is short. Stand and read over it. This is the hardly beautiful tomb of a beautiful woman. Her parents called her Claudia. She loved her husband with all her heart. She had two sons, one of whom she leaves on earth, the other she placed under it. With pleasant conversing but respectable gait she cared for her home and made wool. I have spoken. Move along.”

 

  1. CIL 06.20307

Iulio Timotheo qui vixit p(lus) m(inus) annis XXVIII vitae innocentissim(a)e decepto a latronibus cum alumnis n(umero) VII. Otacilia Narcisa co(n)iugi dulcissimo

“For Julius Timotheus, who lived around 28 years of a most innocent life, cheated by bandits along with his 7 fostered children. Otacilia Narcisa (made this) for her sweetest husband.”

Image result for roman epitaph
This is from the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum

Medicae: Women Doctors from the Roman Empire

Some more Non-Elite Latin from the tireless Brandon Conley

  1. AE 1937, 0017.
inscription for blog
(Image from EDH)

Hic iacet Sarman/na medica vixit / pl(us) m(inus) an(nos) LXX Pientius / Pientinus fili(us) et / Honorata norus / titolum posuerunt / in pace

“Here lies Sarmana the doctor. She lived around 70 years. Pientius, her son Pientinus, and daughter-in-law Honorata placed this monument. In peace.”

 

  1. AE 2001, 00263

C(aius) Naevius C(ai) l(ibertus) Phi[lippus] / medicus chirurg(us) / Naevia C(ai) l(iberta) Clara / medica philolog(a) / in fro(nte) ped(es) XI s(emis) / in agr(o) ped(es) XVI

“Gaius Naevius Philippus, freedman of Gaius, doctor and surgeon. Naevia Clara, freedwoman of Gaius, doctor and scholar. (Tomb size) 11.5 feet wide, 16 feet deep.”

 

  1. CIL 1.497
Arachne
(Image from Arachne)

D(is) M(anibus) s(acrum) / Iuliae Saturninae / ann(orum) XXXXV / uxori incompara/bili me[dic]ae optimae / mulieri sanctissimae / Cassius Philippus / maritus ob meritis / h(ic) s(ita) e(st) s(it) t(ibi) t(erra) l(evis)

“A sacred rite to the spirits of the dead. To Julia Saturnina, age 45, an incomparable wife, the best doctor, the most noble woman. Gaius Philippus, her husband, (made this) for her merits. She is buried here. May the earth be light on you.”

 

  1. CIL 6.09616

D(is) M(anibus) / Terentiae / Niceni Terentiae / Primaes medicas li/bertae fecerunt / Mussius Antiochus / et Mussia Dionysia / fil(ii) m(atri) b(ene) m(erenti)

“To the spirits of the dead. To Terentia of Nicaea, freedwoman of the doctor Terentia Prima. Mussius Antiochus and Mussia Dionysia, her children, made this for their well-deserving mother.”

  1. CIL 13.02019
EDCS
(Image from EDCS)

Metilia Donata medic[a] / de sua pecunia dedit / l(ocus) d(atus) d(ecreto) d(ecurionum)

“Metilia Donata, a doctor, gave this with her own money. This spot was given by decree of the decurions.”

  1. CIL 11.06394

…xia viva fecit / Tutilia Cn(aei) Tutili leib(erta) / Menotia hoc moniment(um) / fecit Octavia[e] Auli l(ibertae) / Artimisiae medicae

…(?) “Tutilia Menotia, freedwoman of Gnaeus Tutilus, made this monument for the doctor Octavia Artemisia, freedwoman of Aulus.”

Memnon’s Speaking Stone: Two Poems by Julia Balbilla

Julia Balbilla is a Roman poet from the time of Hadrian. She composed Greek verse. For more of her poems see Rosenmeyer 2008 below and Brennan 1998 for additional historical context

Julia Balbilla, Two Poems

In Memnonis pede sinistro. C. I. 4727 coll. Add. III p. 1202.

“I, Balbilla, heard from the stone when it spoke
Either the divine voice of Memnon or Phamenoth.
I came here alongside my beautiful queen Sabina,
as the sun kept its course in the first hour.
In the fifteenth year of Hadrian’s reign
When Hathyr had made its twenty-fourth day,
It was on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Hathyr.

῎Εκλυον αὐδάσαντος ἐγὼ ‘πὺ λίθω Βάλβιλλα
φώνας τᾶς θείας Μέμνονος ἢ Φαμένωθ·
ἦνθον ὔμοι δ’ ἐράται βασιλήιδι τυῖδε Σαβίνναι,
ὤρας δὲ πρώτας ἄλιος ἦχε δρόμος,

κοιράνω ᾿Αδριάνω πέμπτωι δεκότωι δ’ ἐνιαύτωι,
φῶτ]α δ’ ἔχεσκεν ῎Αθυρ εἴκοσι καὶ πέσυρα·
εἰκόστωι πέμπτωι δ’ ἄματι μῆνος ῎Αθυρ.

In Memnonis crure sinistro. C. I. 4725 coll. Add. III p. 1201 sq.

“Julia Balbilla [wrote this]
When August Hadrian heard Memnon

I’ve learned that the Egyptian Memnon, bronzed by
The bright sun, sounds out from a Theban stone.
When he gazed upon Hadrian, the kingliest king
He addressed him as much as he could before the light of the sun.

But as Titan was driving through the sky on white horses
Holding the second part of the day in shadow,
Memnon’s voice rang out again like struck bronze,
High-pitched: and he let loose a third sound greeting.

And then Lord Hadrian hailed Memnon in return
And left on this column for future generations to see
Inscribed verses telling of everything he saw and heard.
And it was clear to everyone how much the gods love him.

᾿Ιουλίας Βαλβίλλης, ὅτε ἤκουσε τοῦ Μέμνονος ὁ σεβαστὸς
᾿Αδριανός.

Μέμνονα πυνθανόμαν Αἰγύπτιον, ἀλίω αὔγαι
αἰθόμενον, φώνην Θηβαίκω ‘πὺ λίθω·
᾿Αδρίανον δ’ ἐςίδων, τὸν παμβασίληα πρὶν αὐγὰς
ἀελίω χαίρην εἶπέ [v]οι ὠς δύνοτον·

Τίταν δ’ ὄττ’ ἐλάων λεύκοισι δι’ αἴθερος ἴπποις
ἐ]ν σκίαι ὠράων δεύτερον ἦχε μέτρον,
ὠς χάλκοιο τυπέντος ἴη Μέμνων πάλιν αὔδαν
ὀξύτονον· χαίρων καὶ τρίτον ἆχον ἴη.

κοίρανος ᾿Αδρίανος χ[ήρ]αις δ’ ἀσπάσσατο καὖτος
Μέμνονα. κἀ[πιθέμαν] καλλ[ιλό]γοισι πόνοις
γρόππατα σαμαίνο[ν]τά τ’ ὄσ’ εὔιδε κὤσσ’ ἐςάκουσε·
δᾶλον παῖσι δ’ ἔγε[ν]τ’ ὤς [v]ε φίλ[ε]ισι θέοι.

Antonio Beato, Colosses de Memnon

Rosenmeyer, P. (2008). Greek Verse Inscriptions in Roman Egypt: Julia Balbilla’s Sapphic Voice. Classical Antiquity, 27(2), 334-358.

Brennan, T. (1998). “The Poets Julia Balbilla and Damo at the Colossus of Memnon”. Classical World, 91(4), 215.

Plant, I., & Plant, Ian Michael. (2004). Women writers of ancient Greece and Rome : An anthology (University of Oklahoma Press ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

 

Hades’ Newest Bride: A Remarkable Epitaph

This poem actually inspired me to type “just wow” when I was looking through the PHI Epigraphic Database.

CIRB 130 from the N. Black Sea ca. 50 BC-50 AD — GVI 1989

“Theophilê Hekataiou gives her greeting.

They were wooing me, Theiophilê the short-lived daughter of
Hekataios, those young men [seeking] a maiden for marriage.
But Hades seized me first, since he was longing for me
When he saw a Persephone better than Persephone.

[….]

And when the message is carved on the stone
He weeps for the girl, Theiophilê the Sinopian,
Whose father, Hekataios, gave the torch-holding bride-to-be
To Hades and not a marriage.

[…]

Maiden Theiophilê, no marriage awaits you, but a land
With no return; not as the bride of Menophilos,
But as a partner in Persephone’s bed. Your father Hekataios
Now has only the name of the pitiable lost girl.

And as he looks on your shape in stone he sees
The unfulfilled hopes Fate wrongly buried in the ground.

Theiophilê, a girl allotted beauty envied by mortals,
A tenth Muse, a Grace for marriage’s age,
A perfect example of prudence.
Hades did not throw his dark hands around you.

No, Pluto lit the flames for the wedding torches
With his lamp, welcoming a most desired mate.

Parents, stop your laments now, stop your grieving,
Theiophilê has found an immortal bed.”

1           Θεοφίλη Ἑκαταίου, / χαῖρε.
Θειοφίλην με θύγατρα μινυνθαδίην Ἑκαταίου
ἐμνώοντο, γάμωι παρθένον ἠΐθεοι,
5 ἔφθασε δ’ ἁρπάξας Ἀΐδης, ἠράσσατο γάρ μευ,
Φερσεφόνας ἐσιδὼν κρέσσονα Φερσεφόναν.
6a ———

7 καὶ γράμμα πέτρης ἐκγλυφὲν στηλίτιδος
κόρην δακρύει Θεοφίλην Σινωπίδα
τὰς μελλονύμφους ἧς πατὴρ δαιδουχίας
10   Ἑκαταῖος Ἅιδηι καὶ οὐ γάμωι συνάρμοσεν.
10a ———

11 παρθένε Θειοφίλα, σὲ μὲν οὐ γάμος, ἀλλ’ ἀδίαυλος
χῶρος ἔχει νύμφη δ’ οὐκέτι Μηνοφίλου,
[ἀ]λλὰ Κόρης σύλλεκτρος· ὁ δὲ σπείρας Ἑκαταῖος
οὔνομα δυστήνου μοῦνον ἔχει φθιμένης,
15 [μ]ορφὰν δ’ ἐν πέτραι λεύ<σ>σει σέο τὰς δ’ ἀτελέστους
ἐλπίδας οὐχ ὁσίη Μοῖρα κατεχθόνισεν.

τὴν κάλλος ζηλωτὸν ἐνὶ θνατοῖσι λαχοῦσαν
Θειοφίλην, Μουσῶν τὴν δεκάτην, Χάριτα,
πρὸς γάμον ὡραίαν, τὴν σωφροσύνης ὑπόδειγμα,
20   οὐκ Ἀΐδας ζοφεραῖς ἀμφέβαλεν παλάμαις,

Πλούτων δ’ εἰς θαλάμους τὰ γαμήλια λαμπάδι φέγγη
ἇψε, ποθεινοτάτην δεξάμενος γαμέτιν.
[ὦ γ]ονέες, θρήνων νῦν λήξατε, παύετ’ ὀδυρμῶν·
Θειοφίλη λέκτρων ἀθανάτων ἔτυχεν.

Image result for hades persephone grave relief
A relief of Persephone and Hades from the Hierapolis Archaeological Museum

The Tomb of Hygeia, Untouched by Marriage and Offspring

IG V,1 726 Lakonia and Messenia (IG V,1) : Lakonike (From the PHI Website)

“I am the tomb of a mother’s daughter and son–
They were allotted a swift passage to Hades.

The first of them used to be called Aleksanôr among the boys,
But the girl, Hygeia, died before marriage.

The Muse graced her young son with education;
and jealous Hades robbed her away as he grew.

So the mother has two children, but now she weeps
Three times as much for one untouched of mate and offspring.”

μητρὸς καὶ θυγατρὸς παιδός τ’ ἔτι τύμβος ὅδ̣’ εἰμί,
οἳ λάχον ὠκίστην ἀτραπὸν εἰς Ἀΐδην.

ὧν ὁ μὲν ἐν κούροισιν Ἀλεξάνωρ ἐκαλεῖτο,
ἡ δ’ Ὑγίεια, γάμου πρόσθεν ἀποφθιμένη·

ἄρρενι δ’ ἠϊθέῳ παιδείην ὤπασε Μοῦσα,
ἣν Ἀΐδης φθονερὸς νόσφισεν α̣ὐξομένου.

καὶ μήτηρ μὲν ἔχει παῖδας δύο, τρισσὰ δὲ πένθη
νῦν κλαίει γαμέτης ἄμμιγα καὶ γενέτη̣[ς].

Here’s what the inscription looks like in before being split up into couplets. I am pretty unsure about the third couplet.
1 μητρὸς καὶ θυγατρὸς παιδός τ’ ἔτι τύμβος ὅδ̣’ εἰμί, ❦ οἳ λάχον ὠκίστην ἀτραπὸν εἰς Ἀΐδην. ❦ ὧν ὁ μὲν ἐν κούρο<ι>-σιν Ἀλεξάνωρ ἐκαλεῖτο, ❦ ἡ δ’ Ὑγίεια, γάμου πρόσθεν ἀποφθιμένη· ❦ ἄρρενι δ’ ἠϊθέῳ παιδείην ὤπασε Μοῦσα, ❦ ἣν Ἀΐδης φθονερὸς νόσφισεν α̣ὐξομένου. ❦ καὶ μήτηρ μὲν ἔχει παῖδας δύο, τρισσὰ δὲ πένθη ❦ νῦν κλαίει γαμέτης ἄμμιγα καὶ γενέτη̣[ς].

Image result for funerary inscription Greek attica
Marble Grave Stele of Mnesagora and Nikochares (siblings) from Vari, Attica. 420-410 BC. NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ATHENS.

A Tomb instead of a Marriage: The Phrasikleia Inscription

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.

A Funerary Inscription for a Twelve-Year Old Girl

This inscription is from Attica, dating to around 350 BCE.

SEG 25:298 (SEG 23.166 Peek: Greek from the PHI Website)

“Traveler, weep for the age of this dead girl—
For she left when she was only twelve, causing her friends much grief
And leaving behind immortal pain. The rest of it
This memorial announces to everyone who passes by.

Much-wept Hades, why did you take Kleoptolemê when she
Was still a girl, at an ill-fated age? Didn’t you feel any shame?
You left for her dear mother Mnêsô everlasting grief
In exchange for mortal misfortune.

Dear Mother and sisters and Meidotelês who fathered you
As a source of pain for himself, Kleoptolemê,–
They look forward only to grief, and not your bed-chamber, now that you’ve died,
but a lament instead of a husband, a funeral instead of a marriage.”

ἡλικίαν δάκ[ρυσον, ὁδοιπόρε, τῆσδε θανούσης]·
δωδεκέτις [γὰρ ἐοῦσ’ ὤιχετο, πολλὰ φίλοις]
στερχθεῖσ’, ἀθά[νατον δὲ λιποῦσ’ ἄλγος· τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ]
πᾶσι τόδ’ ἀγγέλλει [μνῆμα παρε]ρ[χομένοις]·

ὦ πολύκλαυθ’ Ἅιδη, τ[ί Κλεοπτολ]έμη[ν ἔτι κούραν]
ἥρπασας ἡλικίας δύσ̣[μορον; οὐ] σέ[βεαι];
μητρὶ δὲ τεῖ μελέαι πένθ[ο]ς Μνη[σοῖ προλέλοι]πας
ἀθάνατον θνητῆς εἵνεκα συν[τυχία]ς

ὦ μελέα μῆτερ καὶ ὁμαίμονες ὅς τέ σ’ ἔφυσεν
Μειδοτέλης αὑτῶι πῆμα, Κλεοπτολέμη·
οἳ γόον, οὐ θάλαμον τὸν σὸν προσορῶσι θανούσης,
θρῆνόν τε ἀντ’ ἀνδρὸς καὶ τάφον ἀντὶ γάμου.

Image result for funerary inscription Greek attica
Grave Relief for Naiskos of Sime at the Getty