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OpenEdition Books

Studies in Greek epigraphy and history in honor of Stefen V. Tracy

 | 
Gary Reger
, 
Francis X. Ryan
, 
Timothy Francis Winters

1. Athens and Attica

Chapter 16. The Lettering of the Gravestone of Aristylla

Timothy F. Winters

Texte intégral

Athens, National Museum 766, IG, I3, 1311, I2, 1058; Pentelic marble; H.:0.78; W.: 0.44; litt.: 0.010-0.017
440-400 BC

1Funerary stele representing in relief a seated female to left, clasping the hand of a standing female to right; the top molding, a pediment, is broken in the center at left, but carried no decoration or inscription. The back surface is rough picked.

ἐνθάδερίσστυλλα κείται
τιαιςΑρίσστωνύς τε καὶΡοδίλλης
σώφρων γ θύγατερ

  • 1 Dohrn 1957 is the latest at 410-400, Karouzou 1968 is among the earliest at 440-430, and Koehler 18 (...)
  • 2 Seven according to Daux 1972, 536.
  • 3 See, inter alia, Clairmont 1970, 99.
  • 4 Deipolder 1931, Fris-Johansen 1951, and Karouzou assign it to 440-430; Clairmont 1979 says only pos (...)
  • 5 Clairmont 1979. See particularly p. 50 where Clairmont says: “There is neither any possibility nor (...)
  • 6 Bradeen 1974, 179, says of the Agora stone that “The letter forms, especially slanting nu, seem to (...)
  • 7 Daux 1972 expressed the hope that this stone would be re-examined in light of the inscription as we (...)

2This poorly carved and inscribed funerary monument to Arisstylla (sic) has presented scholars with a problem. The dates assigned this piece range from c. 440 to as late as c. 4031. The broad range of dates proposed for this piece have hinged on the sculpture. Scholars have consistently noted the poor quality of the carving, the six2 fingers on the right hand of the seated female, and the clumsiness of the drapery3. Given the low quality of the sculpture, scholars have been hard pressed to agree on a date4. The lettering of the accompanying inscription does not appear to offer much assistance. C. Clairmont argued persuasively that inscriptions that accompany such gravestones must be given second place in the attempt to establish a date for a particular piece5. Indeed faced with an inscription that shows somewhat similar difficulties in lettering (Agora, I, 4507), Prof. Bradeen was reluctant to offer a precise date6. Given the poor quality of the carving, and the irregularity of the lettering one can easily see why I3 1311 has been so problematic. In spite of Prof. Clairmont’s well argued comments, and because the sculpture itself is so problematic, and given Prof. Tracy’s lifelong concern with the development of Attic letters, it seems worthwhile and appropriate to consider the letter forms of I3 1311 closely in an effort to see what assistance, if any, they may offer in providing a date for this piece7.

3The lettering on this stone presents a curious mix of forms. Generally speaking, the lettering is not terribly neat and matches the sculpture in that regard. The lettering in line one is smaller on average than the lettering in lines two and three, but in all three lines the letters have a wide range from 0.010 to 0.015. Alpha has a tendency to lean to the left and is quite inconsistent. Thus the cross bar is sometimes low (as in the first letter of Αρίσστυλλα), and sometimes falls in the center (as in ενθάδε). There is one example of eta, while elsewhere epsilon stands for long e. Epsilon is as inconsistent as alpha. It appears sometimes with a low center stroke (as in θυγάτερ), sometimes with a high, archaic appearing center stroke (as in the final epsilon in ενθάδε), and is sometimes even (as in κείται). Upsilon is stylized throughout as a v. Omega shows up side by side with omicron and the size and shape of omega present their own peculiarities. In Αρίσστωνός it is wide and well cut, while in σώφρων it is small and poorly cut. Theta is dotted but it is never cut neatly (indeed no round letters are neatly cut) and the dot is never centered. Kappa in line one is one of the more neatly cut letters, but in line two the lower diagonal runs off of the upper diagonal in such a way as to present a truly awkward appearance. Lambda is inconsistent in width and in one instance (the first lambda of Ροδίλλης, line two) may have been accidentally cut as a delta and subsequently re-cut correctly. One can see the ghost of the horizontal bar even on the photograph. In all occurrences lambda leans to the left. Nu shows two quite different forms, both an early ‘running’ nu, and a later N. Rho shows irregularities as well. In Αρίσστυλλα (line one) and σώφρων (line three) the loop remains at the top of the vertical, but in ’Αρίσσίωνος (line two) and θυγάτερ (line three) the loop has taken over the vertical stroke.

4Of particular interest are the sigmas, for they have neither uniform height nor appearance. The sigmas do, however, share one common peculiarity: they all appear to have been cut initially as three bar sigmas. In every occurrence of sigma, the fourth bar is below the line. This is most obvious in line two in the words παῖς, ’Αρίσστωνός and ’Ροδίλλης. Furthermore, although it is somewhat difficult to detect in the photographs, the bottom stroke of sigma is more lightly cut in each instance.

  • 8 J. Frel thought the whole piece so peculiar that he suggested it had been entirely re-done. In a re (...)

5What is one to make of such unsightly and inconsistent lettering?8 One may say, at least, that the lettering is consistent with the sculpture in that they both appear to be the product of a craftsman who was less than first rate in his craft. But beyond that, the inconsistency in the lettering and particularly the appearance of the sigmas argues for an earlier rather than a later date. Given the apparent ban on gravestones during most of the fifth century, this stone must stand near the beginning of the resumed series of gravestones, probably no later than 430.

  • 9 A career of 40 years e.g., would be long. One could conjecture that the cutter of this stone had be (...)

6It may be that the cutter of this stone had been inactive for some time, and came out of retirement to make this stone as a special request. The inscription betrays a hand less steady, unaccustomed to the four bar sigma, a hand retaining vestiges of an earlier style of lettering exemplified by the running nu, the leaning alphas, the irregular placement of the center bar of epsilon, the use of epsilon for eta side by side with eta itself, and other peculiarities as outlined above. Given the working span of a cutter, it seems unlikely that someone who would have been accustomed to such lettering would have been working much beyond 4309. Another possibility would be that the stone is the work of a less practiced cutter, an apprentice perhaps to an older cutter. Whatever the case may be, the stone remains problematic but important for our understanding of fifth century Athenian lettering.

Notes

1 Dohrn 1957 is the latest at 410-400, Karouzou 1968 is among the earliest at 440-430, and Koehler 1885, 376 n. 32, puts it contemporary with the Parthenon sculptures.

2 Seven according to Daux 1972, 536.

3 See, inter alia, Clairmont 1970, 99.

4 Deipolder 1931, Fris-Johansen 1951, and Karouzou assign it to 440-430; Clairmont 1979 says only post 430; Stupperich 1977 and Clairmont 1986 put it at 430-420; Dohrn puts it in the last decade of the fifth century, as does Vedder 1989 who argues that the stone has been re-worked.

5 Clairmont 1979. See particularly p. 50 where Clairmont says: “There is neither any possibility nor compulsion whatsoever to date gravestones of Athenian citizens to a period from before 430 on account of specific letter forms… Sculpture, whenever present in gravestones, has precedence over letterforms; thus letter-forms considered early cannot be taken to date gravestones; remains of sculpture can, however”.

6 Bradeen 1974, 179, says of the Agora stone that “The letter forms, especially slanting nu, seem to suggest a date in the third quarter of the fifth century, or possibly earlier”. He adds that it may be as late as 403.

7 Daux 1972 expressed the hope that this stone would be re-examined in light of the inscription as well.

8 J. Frel thought the whole piece so peculiar that he suggested it had been entirely re-done. In a review of Clairmont 1970, Frel (1971) says without further comment that the inscription dates from the second use for which the relief was resculptured.

9 A career of 40 years e.g., would be long. One could conjecture that the cutter of this stone had been working since perhaps the 460’s. He would certainly have grown up with lettering similar to the lettering on this stone. Cf. Tracy 1990, 223 ff., particularly 224 fig. 40, for comments on the working span of cutters.

© Ausonius Éditions, 2010

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