Material Text Cultures

Lettered and Inscribed. Inscriptions in Urban Space in the Greco-Roman Period and Middle Ages


The Presence of Inscriptions in Greek Sanctuaries: Evoking the Polis Through Epigraphic Display


current staff members

Teilprojektleiterin Anna Sitz, PhD
akademischer Mitarbeiter Banban Wang




Greek temples have long captured the imagination with their exquisite architecture, spectacular settings, and accompanying assemblages of statues and inscriptions. These sanctuaries hosted the activities of Greek religion that served to connect ancient Greek individuals with their gods, with fellow citizens of their own polis (city), and with the wider panhellenic community: the sacrifices, festivals, athletic competitions, healings, oracles, and dedications. Many of these activities are attested in the inscriptions carved on stelai (standing marble plaques), statue bases, altars, and buildings within the sanctuaries. The texts of these inscriptions have been carefully mined in previous scholarship for information on cultic practices, yet the strategies for displaying these stones within the crowded spaces of sanctuaries have been little considered.

Sanctuary with Treasury of the Athenians, Delphi. Photographer unknown. D-DAI-ATh-Delphi-0035. Courtesy of the DAI Athens.Treasury of the Athenians, Delphi. D-DAI-ATH-Delphi-0242. W. Wrede. Courtesy of the DAI Athens.

Through an examination of select case studies with well-documented epigraphic remains, A01 UP1 will elucidate the praxeology of setting up inscriptions at Greek sanctuaries from the Archaic period through the end of the Roman era. In keeping with the overall aims of the SFB 933, the materiality of the text is treated not as incidental but as critical to understanding the epigraphic habit: the locations chosen for display, the size and visual aspects of the script (for example, the use of regional letter forms), means of highlighting certain texts (for example, through architectural framing), and the potential competition or synergy between texts put on display in different periods. In line with A01’s focus on inscriptions in public spaces, UP1 particularly focuses on the actors behind the production and placement of inscriptions and investigates how both individuals and poleis (cities) displayed civic identity through the visuality and placement of their inscribed dedications. The project will result in a better understanding of how ancient Greeks used inscribed texts to shape the sacred spaces that stood at the center of civic life.

Connection to the program of SFB 933

  • This project continues the work of A01 UP1 in previous funding phases, which in the first phase investigated the epigraphic culture of the public spaces of ancient Athens, and in the second explored the role of text monuments in projecting civic identity in ancient Asia Minor. The other projects of A01, which center on inscriptions within the late and post antique urban spaces of the Mediterranean, allow for the charting of changes in epigraphic display over the course of the gradual Christianization of the region.
  • In addition, the project will engage with the work of A10, which focuses on inscribed statues bases at Greek sanctuaries and the particular relationship between the statue and text. A workshop is planned on the topic of inscriptions and the concept of sacred space in ancient Greece.
  • In collaboration with A02, which focuses on ancient Greek and Latin letters, and A09, which investigates writing on ostraca (broken pieces of pottery), a conference on the reuse of older material as the space for writing is planned, taking into account both practical motivations and the sometimes ideological meanings behind reusing an older inscribed base, an older piece of papyri, or a broken vessel in order to gain a trans-Mediterranean view of the practice.


Subprojects of the 3rd Funding Period

A01 A02 A03 A05 A06 A08 A09 A10 A11 A12 B01 B04 B09 B10 B13 B14 B15 C05 C07 C08 C09 C10 INF Ö2 Z



Completed Subprojects

A01 A03 A04 B02 B03 B06 B07 B11 B12 C01 C02 C03 C04 C06 IGK Ö1



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