Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World


When one thinks of inscriptions produced under the Roman Empire, public inscribed monuments are likely to come to mind. Hundreds of thousands of such inscriptions are known from across the breadth of the Roman Empire, preserved because they were created of durable material or were reused in subsequent building. This volume looks at another aspect of epigraphic creation – from handwritten messages scratched on wall-plaster to domestic sculptures labeled with texts to displays of official patronage posted in homes: a range of inscriptions appear within the private sphere in the Greco-Roman world. Rarely scrutinized as a discrete epigraphic phenomenon, the incised texts studied in this volume reveal that writing in private spaces was very much a part of the epigraphic culture of the Roman Empire.

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Biographical Note

Rebecca Benefiel, Ph.D. (2005), Harvard University, is Associate Professor of Classics at Washington and Lee University. She has published numerous articles on ancient graffiti, especially in Pompeii and surrounding areas. She is a supervisor for the Epigraphic Database Roma and is Director of the Ancient Graffiti Project.

Peter Keegan, Ph.D. (2003), Macquarie University, is Senior Lecturer in Roman Studies and Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching at that university. He has published monographs and articles on epigraphic studies, including Written Space in the Latin West 200BC-AD300 (Bloomsbury, 2013), Graffiti in Antiquity (Routledge, 2014) and Roles for Men and Women in Roman Epigraphic Culture and Beyond (Archaeopress, 2014).

Contributors are: J. A. Baird, Francisco Beltrán Lloris, Rebecca Benefiel, Angela Cinalli, Mireille Corbier, Peter Keegan, Elisabeth Rathmayr, Karen Stern, Claire Taylor, Antonio Varone, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, and Mantha Zarmakoupi.

Review Quotes

"Overall, this is a very useful volume, which makes a real contribution to furthering our understanding of the inscribed environment in the ancient world. Several texts are published here for the first time or are reinterpreted, and the chapters are original and wide ranging in their subject matter. The focus on writing within the private sphere, an area that is often overshadowed by more monumental inscriptions, is to be particularly welcomed, and the end result is a volume that will be of interest to researchers and students working on a variety of topics, including graffiti, ancient houses, urban environments, ancient religion, elite self-representation, scatological writing, literacy, funerary commemoration, and the separation of the public and private spheres, to name just a few." Claire Holleran, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.02.06


All interested in epigraphic studies, particularly the variety in type and context of non-official inscriptions, and anyone concerned with writing and literacy in the Hellenistic period and Roman Empire.

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