Monday, February 06, 2017

Benefiel and Keegan (eds.), Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World

Rebecca Benefiel, Peter Keegan (ed.), Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World. Brill studies in Greek and Roman epigraphy, 7. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xviii, 284. ISBN 9789004307117. $135.00.

Reviewed by Claire Holleran, The University of Exeter (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This exciting new volume has its origins in a panel held at the 2012 Epigraphic Congress in Berlin and contains twelve wide- ranging papers closely focused on the central theme of epigraphy in the private sphere. Such inscriptions are often relegated to the sidelines of scholarship in favour of publicly-inscribed monuments and funerary markers, yet as this volume clearly demonstrates, writing was also very much a part of the private realm in the Greco-Roman world. This writing encompassed a variety of media, some of which tend to be fragile and prone to destruction, such as inscribed graffiti and charcoal writing on walls, while others, including stone inscriptions on statue bases and bronze plaques recording official honours and decrees, are more robust. The volume approaches such writing as a cross-cultural phenomenon and the different media are discussed in a series of chapters which range from Classical Attica to the Late Antique Levant, although a number of papers understandably focus on the Vesuvian sites. The admirably broad chronological and geographical coverage of the papers is reflected in the authors themselves, who are based in Europe, the US, and Australia, and are at a variety of career stages. Given the constraints of space, this review will not provide a detailed description of each chapter (a full list of authors and titles can be found at the end), but will focus instead on two key themes of the volume: definitions of public and private space, and the nature of ancient graffiti.

The volume includes discussions of inscriptions from Dura Europos (on which more here and many links) and Pompeii (on which more here [cf. here and here] and many links)