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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2021

Andrej Petrovic*
University of Virginia, USA


Materiality of ancient text – written, painted, scratched, or carved – is a topic dear to my heart, and I find the visual dimension of ancient writing fascinating for many reasons. Like many Classicists, I also find a great joy in puzzling out the meanings of the lettered lines, arched like dancing serpents, on archaic Greek vases. If one pauses in front of an interesting pot in a museum, it is very easy to forget the time and the rest of the exhibition, as the somersaulting shapes of the continuous script reveal first their letters, then words, rewarding the reader's patience with a short sentence or two: ‘Rejoice! Drink well!’ At times, we have to admit defeat and acknowledge that we are in front of a ‘nonsense’ inscription: that is, an inscription whose lettering creates meanings in a different way – such as a framing device for the visual narrative scene, or devices in the narrative itself, or mimicking foreign sounds or music. Then there is the endlessly amusing world of ancient graffiti – some with acute-angled, nervous letters written in haste; some curvy and elegant, worked out by a skilled and learned hand with plenty of time at its disposal; many accompanied by drawings, some innocuous, some coarse; and all of them, in some way, intent on defying human transience and ephemerality.

Subject Reviews
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association

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1 On Sara Chiarini's book on these texts and artefacts, see M. Squire's review in G&R 67.2 (2020), 273–4.

2 Petrovic, A., Petrovic, I., and Thomas, E. (eds.), The Materiality of Text. Placement, Perception, and Presence of Inscribed Texts in Classical Antiquity (Leiden and Boston, MA, 2018)Google Scholar.

3 Schreiben auf statuarischen Monumenten. Aspekte materialer Textkultur in archaischer und frühklassischer Zeit. By Nikolaus Dietrich, Johannes Fouquet, and Corinna Reinhardt. Materiale Textkulturen 29. Berlin, de Gruyter, 2020. Pp. xiv + 242. 18 colour and 53 b/w illustrations. Hardback £72.50, ISBN: 978-3-11-064541-5.

4 Material Aspects of Reading in Ancient and Medieval Cultures. Materiality, Presence and Performance. Edited by Anna Krauß, Jonas Leipziger, and Friederike Schücking-Jungblut. Materiale Textkulturen 29. Berlin, de Gruyter, 2020. Pp. viii + 265. 9 colour and 5 b/w illustrations, 14 tables. Hardback £72.50, ISBN: 978-3-11-063585-0.

5 Greco-Roman Associations III. Texts, Translations, and Commentary. Ptolemaic and Early Roman Egypt. By John S. Kloppenborg. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 246. Berlin, de Gruyter, 2020. Pp. xxxii + 740. 2 b/w illustrations, 4 tables. Hardback £118, ISBN: 978-3-11-070768-7.

6 Kulte und Heiligtümer in Elis und Triphylien. Untersuchungen zur Sakraltopographie der westlichen Peloponnes. By Oliver Pilz. Berlin, de Gruyter, 2020. Pp. xiii + 455. 54 b/w illustrations. Hardback £109, ISBN: 978-3-11-060832-8.

7 Insults in Classical Athens. By Deborah Kamen. Wisconsin Studies in Classics. Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin Press, 2020. Pp. xv + 258. Hardback £99.50, ISBN: 978-0-299-32800-9.