Summary of the week’s theme

Taught MA - Epigraphy
Seminar 7 – Honorific inscriptions?
Summary of the week’s theme
This week we shall look at a category of inscription that is often taken for granted,
‘honorific inscriptions’. Is there such a thing as an honorific inscription? To what extent
is an inscription always an adjunct to the ‘real’ honour, such as a statue? How important
is the inscription to the meaning of an honorific statue? A related category in Roman
epigraphy is what is often called ‘career’ or ‘cursus honorum’ inscriptions: is this a
helpful way to think about inscriptions that record someone’s career? How ‘factual’ are
such inscriptions? Is the language used in ‘honorific’ inscriptions simply formulaic or
meaningful? Are there distinctions in terms of social status or gender between different
honorands? Are certain urban spaces reserved for certain honorands? The challenge in
understanding these is how to integrate our study of art and epigraphy. Can we
reconstruct a symbolic system of honours? In addition, why might milestones count as
‘honorific’ in character?
Each presentation should focus upon a case-study of a particular individual, or a
particular town/ space within a town. Another possible topic would be to look at the
recycling and reuse of honorific statues, as lamented by Dio Chrysostom. It would be
useful to have a spread across the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, and late antique periods.
Please discuss amongst yourselves which case-studies to choose, to ensure a spread of
Some further questions to think about:
What different types of honorific inscriptions are there?
Why were individuals granted honorific statues?
Is there a close correlation between making benefactions and being honoured? Is
euergetism a sufficient explanation for the phenomenon?
In what spaces were honorific statues set up? Look out for domestic as well as
public spaces.
Can a hierarchy of honours be discerned? Are some types of statues more
prestigious than others? Are some spaces more prestigious than others?
Consider the differences between honorific statues set up by private individuals or
groups and those set up by vote of public bodies.
What factors influenced choice of statue-type, material, and spatial context? How
did text and context interact?
Can we trace a sense of competition between the honours juxtaposed with each
How do honorific statues and their inscriptions relate to issues of cultural and
political identity? How distinctive are such identities to particular places and
Did imperial/royal honorific statues differ from those set up for non-imperial
Are women honoured in the same way as men?
Suggested reading
Bruun, C. & Edmondson, J. (2015) Oxford Handbook to Roman Epigraphy – chs by
Beltrán Lloris; Hurlet; Bruun; Mouritsen; Schuler; Salway; Caldelli
Cooley, A.E. (2012) Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy
Eck, W. (2009) ‘There are no cursus honorum inscriptions. The function of the cursus
honorum in epigraphic comunication’ SCI 28: 79-92
McLean, B.H. (2002) An Introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman
Periods from Alexander the Great down to the Reign of Constantine 7.02,
Dio Chrysostom Orations 31
Brilliant, R. (1963) Gesture and Rank in Roman Art: the use of gestures to denote status
in Roman sculpture and coinage
Gregory, A.P. (1994) ‘“Powerful images”: responses to portraits and the political uses of
images in Rome’, JRA 7: 80-99
Hallett, C.H. (2005) The Roman Nude. Heroic Portrait Statuary 200 BC-AD 300 ch.4-7
Ma, John (2013) Statues and cities: honorific portraits and civic identity in the
Hellenistic world
Masseglia, J. (2015) Body language in Hellenistic art and society
Newby, Z. and Leader-Newby, R., eds (2007) Art and Inscriptions in the Ancient World,
ch 8 (*J. Ma ‘Hellenistic honorific statues and their inscirptions’); ch 9 (J.
Shear ‘Reusing statues, rewriting inscriptions & bestowing honours in
Roman Athens’)
Nodelman, S. (1993) ‘How to read a Roman portrait’, in E. D’Ambra, ed. Roman Art in
Context: An Anthology
Oliver, A. (1996) ‘Honors to Romans: bronze portraits’, in C.C. Mattusch et al., eds The
Fire of Hephaistos: Large Classical Bronzes from North American
Collections 138-60
Scott, K. (1931) ‘The significance of statues in precious metals in emperor worship’,
TAPhA 62: 101-23
Smith, R.R.R. (1988) Hellenistic Royal Portraits
Stewart, A. (1979) Attika: Studies in Athenian Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age
Stewart, P. (2003) Statues in Roman Society ch.3-5
Tanner, J.J. (2000) ‘Portraits, power, and patronage in the late Roman Republic’, JRS 90:
Welsh, M.K. (1904/5) ‘Honorary statues in ancient Greece’, ABSA 11: 33-49
Types of benefactor
van Bremen, R. (1996) The Limits of Participation. Women & Civic Life in the Greek
East in the Hellenistic and Roman periods ch.6
D’Arms, J.H. (1988) ‘Pompeii and Rome in the Augustan age and beyond: the eminence
of the gens Holconia’, in R.I. Curtis, ed. Studia Pompeiana et Classica in
Honor of Wilhelmina Jashemski vol.1 51-74
Eck, W. (1984) ‘Senatorial self-representation: developments in the Augustan period’ in
F. Millar & E. Segal, eds Caesar Augustus. Seven Aspects 129-67
Forbis, E. (1990) ‘Women’s public image in Italian honorary inscriptions’, AJPhil 111:
Hemelrijk, E. (2015) Hidden lives, public personae: women and civic life in the Roman
Rose, C.B. (1997) ‘The imperial image in the eastern Mediterranean’, in S.E. Alcock, ed.
The Early Roman Empire in the East 108-20
van Nijf, O. (1999) ‘Athletics, festivals, and Greek identity in the Roman East’, PCPhS
56: 176-200
(2000) ‘Local heroes: athletics, festivals and elite self-fashioning in the Roman
East’, in S. Goldhill, ed. Being Greek under Rome
(2000) ‘Inscriptions and civic memory in the Roman East’, in A.E. Cooley, ed.
The Afterlife of Inscriptions 21-36
Smith, R.R.R. (1981) ‘Greeks, foreigners, and Roman Republican Portraits’, JRS 71: 24378
(1998) ‘Cultural choice and political identity in honorific portrait statues in
the Greek East in the second century AD’, JRS 88: 56-93
(1999) ‘Late antique portraits in a public context: honorific statuary at
Aphrodisias in Caria, AD 300-600’, JRS 89: 155-89
CIL XVII for primary sources
*Cooley, A.E. (2012) Cambridge manual of Latin epigraphy [to introduce the questions]
Alföldy, G. (1991) ‘Augustus und die Inschriften: Tradition und Innovation. Die Geburt
der imperialen Epigraphik’, Gymnasium 98: 289-324
Chastagnol, A. (1988) ‘Les inscriptions des monuments inaugurés lors des fêtes
impériales’, MÉFRA 100.1: 13-26
Isaac, B. and I. Roll (1982) Roman Roads in Judaea I. The Legio-Scythopolis Road (BAR
International Series 141: Oxford)
Kolb, A. (2004) ‘Römische Meilensteine: Stand der Forschung und Probleme’, in
Siedlung und Verkehr im römischen Reich, ed. R. Frei-Stolba (Peter Lang: Bern)
Salama, P. (1987) Bornes milliaires d’Afrique Proconsulaire. Un panorama historique
du bas empire romain (CÉFR 101: Rome)
Sillières, (. (1986) ‘De la borne milliaire à la dédicace impériale. L’exemple de quelques
inscriptions routières de l’Hispanie Méridionale’, RÉA 88: 351-58
Witschel, C. (2002) ‘Meilensteine als historische Quelle? Das Beispiel Aquileia’, Chiron
32: 325-93