Cut These Words into My Stone
Ancient Greek Epitaphs
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Epigrams are literally “inscriptions.”* An epitaph, the earliest form of epigram, is an inscription “on a tomb” (epi- and taphos). In both cases, the name explains the poetic form—its origins and its most striking characteristic, brevity. Verses inscribed on an object, whether a marker for a grave or an offering to the gods, ...
I: Anonymous Epitaphs of No Known Date
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Anonymous epitaphs and dedications are among the earliest surviving examples of Greek writing. Rudimentary samples appear concurrently with the invention of the alphabet, in the middle of the eighth century BCE. Chiseled on pillars, incised on votive tablets and funerary pottery, ...
II: Late Archaic and Classical Periods 600–350 BCE
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A small group of well-known epigrams have traditionally been assigned to the first Greek lyric poets and to several later literary luminaries. According to this tradition, early in the sixth century canonical innovators of the Greek lyric, like Sappho and Anacreon, crafted masterful elegiac couplets and tombstone verse. ...
III: Hellenistic Period: Age of Alexander, c. 323–100 BCE
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Of the many surviving tombstone verses composed before the late fourth century BCE, a great majority are serviceable, sentimental, nothing special. Beginning early in the third century, however, the epigram, and so the epitaph, were rapidly refined into a sophisticated literary form capable of depicting contemporary Alexandrian life ...
IV: The Millennium: Pagan Roman Empire, 100 BCE–99 CE
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In the centuries flanking the millennium, writing Greek epigrams became a well-established profession. The form served widespread public needs and in some cases even supported its practitioners. A prolific epigrammatist might earn a living composing dedications for fountains, stairs, walls, temples and public buildings, ...
V: Late Antiquity: Christian Roman Empire, 200–599 CE
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The Roman Emperor Constantine yoked the Classical world to Christianity early in the fourth century. In time, the imperial educational curriculum passed into theologians’ hands. Under the double weight of religion and empire, the delicate epigram began to buckle. ...
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Biographies of the Poets
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2012