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Writing & Statues. Palaeographic Analysis and Historical Perspectives on Greek and Latin Honorary Inscriptions from Ancient Sicily (I BC - VII AD)

Final Report Summary - W&S (Writing & Statues. Palaeographic Analysis and Historical Perspectives on Greek and Latin Honorary Inscriptions from Ancient Sicily (I BC - VII AD))

The main purpose of the Writing & Statues project has been the building of a collection of Greek and Roman inscriptions carved on stone and coming from Sicily that are dated under the Roman Empire (1st century BC – 7th century AD) on the basis of historical and archaeological data.
This research intends to offer a complete and exhaustive examination of that epigraphic material along with its original context.
Even though the majority of Greek and Roman stone inscriptions from Sicily have been already published, nevertheless scholars have focused exclusively on historical aspects so far; they have tried to match the information provided by those inscriptions with the historical information coming from literary sources. This approach is misleading for several reasons: a) sometimes inscriptions give different and/or complementary messages, if compared with literary sources; b) scholars are usually interested in the content of those inscriptions, and disregard the character of the objects the inscriptions are carved on, as well as the relative archaeological context.
The main value of Dr Dimartino’s research activity is given by the interdisciplinary methodology she has applied to her study: she has analysed all of the documents, devoting particular attention to palaeographic, stylistic, and historical aspects, and focusing on the objects these inscriptions are engraved on, and their origin. Many inscriptions, collected during her research activity, are carved on statue-bases, which were erected in public areas to honour emperors, dignitaries and benefactors. In accordance with this new approach, a peculiar study-case consists of honorary monuments; Dr Dimartino has focused on the relationship between words and images as a means to convey messages and values, demonstrating that overcoming the separation of different areas of knowledge is important to reconstruct a more reliable framework of ancient Sicily. Such an interdisciplinary approach has allowed the scholar to give a clearer and reliable picture of that collection of Greek and Roman inscriptions from Sicily.

Description of project context and objectives
The results of Dr Dimartino’s research refer to the following objectives:

A) Building of a collection of Greek and Roman stone inscriptions from Sicily: 1) Studying in depth the texts, in order to understand the information they provide and to date them. 2) Focusing on palaeographic evolution of Greek and Roman inscriptions from Sicily dating to the Roman Imperial age, in order to provide an important repertory, and to establish a firm chronological frame for epigraphic documents that have not been dated yet. 3) Analysing Greek and Roman writing practice in Sicily under the Roman Empire, in order to clarify the phenomenon of bilingualism, as well as to highlight different, complementary, or similar uses shown by both languages, Greek and Latin of Sicily. 4) Studying the objects the inscriptions are carved on, as well as their archaeological context, in order to understand the way messages and values were conveyed by these documents, and to clarify their relationship with the place which they were located in.

B) Examination of inscribed honorary statues from Sicily: 1) Focusing on a study-case, inscriptions carved on statue-bases from honorary monuments, in order to highlight the relationship between words and images. 2) Clarifying values connected with those images and messages conveyed by the relative inscriptions, in order to understand the way two different codes (writing and sculpture) interact with each other, giving additional meanings. 3) Studying honorary monuments as a close relationship between images and words in a diachronic perspective, so as to understand what messages change and what values endure in Sicily along several centuries, from the age of August to the end of the Roman Empire.

It was hard to work on the evidence in question. Concerning the phase of collection, some inscriptions that Dr Dimartino had included in the project during the initial stage of her research activity are not available anymore, because not extant. Therefore, she worked on pictures that had been already published, or on photographs held in various museums. b) As regards the study-case on the relationship between words and images in honorary monuments, after a personal enquiry conducted by Dr Dimartino in museums, antiquaria, and archaeological sites, it has emerged that in several cases honorary statues from Sicily are in a fragmentary state and, therefore, cannot help much to give relevant information. However, Dr Dimartino has carried out this research successfully, since Roman iconography and honorary statues (from the 3rd to the 7th century AD) show motives which are common to several exemplars and are, therefore, traceable in the majority of them. Part of these exemplars and the results of Dr Dimartino’s main research activity have been published in the project “Last Statues of Antiquity”.

Description of the main results

A) Collection of Greek and Roman inscriptions on stone from Sicily (September 2012 – September 2013).
Dr Dimartino has examined the epigraphic material carved on stone which is held in museums, antiquaria, private collections of antiquities, and archaeological sites in Sicily. She has selected and studied Greek and Roman inscriptions that can be dated within the period from the end of the 1st century BC until the 7th century AD on the basis of archaeological and historical data, in line with the methodology illustrated in the Annex 1.
The most important results are the following:
- Paleographic analysis. In the age of Augustus and throughout the 1st century AD the letters are regular and square; this handwriting is still present in the 2nd century; but in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD letters become taller and the distance between them diminish; during the 5th century AD letters are apicated; this aspect becomes more evident in the course of the 6th and 7th centuries AD. Thanks to this analysis, a chronological frame has been proposed also for those honorific, religious and funerary inscriptions that have not been dated yet.
- Greek and Roman writing practice in Sicily under the Roman Empire. 1) 38 Greek inscriptions and 125 Roman epigraphic documents have been collected. Concerning the Greek inscriptions, 30 can be dated to the period between the end of the 1st century BC and the 3rd century AD and are honorific, religious and funerary documents, against the remaining 8 ones which can be dated from the 4th to the 7th centuries AD. Regarding the Roman inscriptions, 28 documents pertain to the period between the 1st century BC and the 3rd century AD, and 97 are dated from the 4th to the 6th centuries AD. 2) Between the 1st century BC and the end of the 3rd century AD the same kind of documentation (honorary, religious, funerary documents) is attested in both languages, Greek and in Latin; we can speak of genuine bilingualism. From the 3rd century AD, Greek documents are very rare and almost exclusively funerary; which is interesting but not unexpected: Greek language continued to be used, but almost all documents (especially public inscriptions) were now written in Latin.

In the first stage of her research activity, Dr Dimartino was adequately trained through seminars and tutorials: lectures in Greek Epigraphy given by Dr Ch. Crowther (October - December 2012), lectures in Classical Archaeology given by Prof. R.R.R. Smith (October 2012 – April 2013); seminars in Classical Archaeology led by Prof. R.R.R. Smith (October 2012 – June 2013), the Epigraphy Workshop led by Prof. R. Parker, Dr Ch. Crowther and Dr J.R.W. Prag (October 2012 - June 2013), the Two-Day’s Workshop on ‘The study of emotions in Greek Culture’ led by Prof. A. Chaniotis (17-18 May 2013).
She attended the Undergraduate Admissions Course (26 October – 16 November 2012), and the Introduction to Academic Practice at Oxford Seminar organised by the Oxford Learning Institute (24-28 September 2012); she also attended three courses in Advanced Communication Skills at the Oxford University Language Centre (October 2012-June 2013).
Dr Dimartino’s research activity has also been included in the submission procedure of the University of Oxford to the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), that assesses the quality of research activity carried out in UK Higher Education Institutions.

B) Investigation on inscribed honorary statues from Sicily (October 2013 – September 2014).
As for the second stage of her study, Dr Dimartino has focused on all the Greek and Roman inscriptions engraved on honorary statue-bases. She has collected and studied honorary statues (even those available in a fragmentary state) of emperors, dignitaries and benefactors dating from the 1st century BC until the 7th century AD; these were found in archaeological sites of Sicily, and actually are held in museums, antiquaria, and private collections of antiquities. She has also cross-compared epigraphic and iconographic evidence in order to clarify possible messages underlying both inscriptions and images; she has analysed in a new diachronic perspective what messages change and what values endure along several centuries.
The most significant results are the following:
- Selection and study of inscriptions. Dr Dimartino’s selection of inscriptions has been carried out with a rigorous methodology. She has selected only those inscriptions that she proved to come from statue-bases. Scholars who have published several inscriptions from Sicily have often misunderstood cippi or small altars, ascribing them to statue-bases; for a similar misunderstanding, other times, they excluded from their works some inscriptions carved on slabs that they thought to be altars; they overlooked that very often in 1700 and 1800 statue-bases were transformed in slabs to reduce their size, so as to put them in museums, antiquaria or private collections.
a) As for chronology, Greek and bilingual documents are just sporadically attested until the end of the 4th century AD, while from the 2nd century AD onward Latin is the main language used in official documents. In the Augustan age there are few inscriptions; their number increases considerably from the 2nd to the 4th century AD; there are no inscriptions on statue-bases for the centuries 5th-7th AD.
b) Concerning the geographical distribution, Dr Dimartino has found that the inscribed statue-bases come especially from the north-west Sicily.
c) As for the inscriptions containing a dedicatory formula, the name of the honorand (benefactor, dignitary, emperor) is in accusative in the Greek texts and in dative in the Roman ones; the name of dedicators (city, family, citizens holding public functions) is always in nominative.
d) Concerning the analysis of messages and values conveyed by epigraphic documents carved on statue-bases, the inscriptions generally tell us about the reasons of the award, the political role and social preeminence of the honorand as well as of those that have set up statues.
- Selection and study of statues. Dr Dimartino has selected only those statues and fragments that she found as certainly belonging to honorary contexts, even though they are not related to an inscribed base.
a) As for chronology, we can notice a high number of statues dated to the age of August; the occurrences decrease during the 2nd and the 3rd centuries AD; the last occurrences are dated to the 4th century AD.
b) Concerning the geographical distribution, Dr Dimartino has shown that honorary statues come from all over Sicily, but a noteworthy number of cases from the north-western area.
c) As for the analysis of values conveyed by honorific statues, the visual language of these images reinforce and stress the civic values expressed by the inscriptions. Political roles and moral principles are further emphasised by the pose of honoured people, their dress and the objects they hold.
- Cross-comparing of epigraphic and iconographic evidence. As Dr Dimartino’s research has well demonstrated, in honorary monuments images and words, with their peculiar code, work together to celebrate the beneficiary, telling us about the reasons for his awards, other than his political activity. Inscriptions remember the benefactor as euergetes, eunoos, sophos, philotimes, dikaiotatos, lamprotatos, optimus, humanus, clarissimus vir, patiens, prestans, rarissimus, splendidissimus, perfectissimus exemplum abstinentiae, integritatis, innocentiae. The Emperor is also celebrated as patronus dignus, invictus, rector orbis, fundator pacis. The same values have been expressed by the relative statues: the portraits of honoured citizens convey social, ethical and moral values; clothes (usually toga and chlamys, military uniform) and attributes (civic and/or divine) contribute to stress their preeminent position in accordance with what is found in the relative inscriptions. As for the Writing & Statues study-case, Dr Dimartino has shown that writing and visual codes are closely related; sometimes inscriptions add important information that we cannot deduce from images, like the name of the honoured man, his cursus honorum, and the date of his celebration.

In the second stage of her research activity, Dr Dimartino was trained through seminars and tutorials: the Seminars in Classical Archaeology led by Prof. A.I. Wilson (October 2013 – June 2014), the Epigraphy Workshop led by Prof. R. Parker, Dr Ch. Crowther and Dr J.R.W. Prag (October 2013 - June 2014).
She also attended three courses in Academic Writing at the Oxford University Language Centre (October 2013-June 2014).

Potential impact
Through publications and participations in seminars and workshops in UK as well as in Europe, Dr Dimartino has had the opportunity to be known in the academic panorama and, as a consequence, to find further career opportunities: 1) Thanks to a collaboration established with the Greek Epigraphy Laboratory of the University of Venice –that has been working on Greek inscriptions from Sicily– the researcher has submitted to the SIR (Italian Scientific Independence of young Researcher) Programme an application for a Fellowship with a research project ‘Syracuse between Greece and Rome’ (she has been actually waiting for the results). 2) The success of the Word & Statues project and its interdisciplinary approach enabled Dr Dimartino to submit to the “Ambizione” Program, promoted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), a new research project, Image & Word. Visual Communication and Verbal portrait The funerary monuments of ancient Greece (VI – I BC), in collaboration with the Unité d’Archéologie Classique of the University of Geneva. This project has been granted for a research activity to be carried out at the university of Geneva, during three consecutive academic years (starting from September 2015).
As the main output, the researcher has been producing a monograph, Palaeographic analysis and historical perspectives on Greek and Latin inscriptions from Sicily. II. Epigraphic documents carved on stone (I BC – VII AD), with a special section devoted to honorary monuments. This publication, that ideally is a continuation of Dr Dimartino’s first research project on Greek inscriptions carved on stone, dated from the 4th to the 1st centuries BCE, will be an important pioneering work, which will encourage further interdisciplinary studies on this field.