Posted by: History Of Macedonia | June 10, 2007

From Inscription to Onomasticon: the Bouthrotos Manumission Texts and LGPN

.From Inscription to Onomasticon: the Bouthrotos Manumission Texts and LGPN
(Elaine Matthews, 26 November, 1996)

Elaine Matthews, Editor of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, gave a seminar paper on the Bouthrotos manumission texts and LGPN. The paper had the dual aim of explaining the Lexicon’s approach to documentary (mainly epigraphical) evidence, which is the greatest source of ancient Greek names, and of drawing attention to the very interesting manumission texts from Bouthrotos in ancient Epirus, modern Albania.

The Lexicon approaches documents for the particular information needed to build up the regional onomastic picture which it is the Lexicon’s role to provide: primarily these are names, and the means of placing them in space and in time, though other items such as professions are also taken into account. Sometimes the information needed (a date, an ethnic) is explicitly given in the text, at others it has to be deduced from context; in either case, a knowledge of ancient practice, for example in the use of ethnics, is needed. Finally, the Lexicon must be aware of the publication history of the document, so as to provide the reader with the best route to the text. The Bouthrotos texts have proved challenging in several respects, not least in their complicated publication history. Their immediate historical background was the Third Macedonian War, at the end of which Epirus suffered the destruction of 70 oppida and the enslavement of 150,000 people. The texts are dated by a priest (of Asclepius of Zeus Soter), and by officials of the Koinon of the Prasaiboi. The Prasaiboi are a well-known group, but this Koinon, established around 163 BC, was previously unknown. The texts come mainly from two sites: the hellenistic theatre, where they are inscribed on the parodos wall and the diazoma, and the late Roman wall, where approximately 100 texts were reused to construct a tower. The theatre texts are largely published, and can most conveniently be studied in SEG XXXVIII; the tower texts are largely unpublished. All will appear in the third volume of the Corpus of the Greek inscriptions of Epirus and Southern Illyria, being prepared under the direction of Professor P. Cabanes of Nanterre University, in collaboration with Albanian colleagues. Due to the generosity of Professor Cabanes, the Lexicon has received an advance version of the Corpus, enabling it to include the names in its own Volume IIIA (to be published in September 1997).From these texts, recording over 370 acts of manumission in a mixture of civil and religious formulae, the onomastic pickings are particularly rich: over 1700 individuals, 400 of them women, manumitting over 500 slaves.

They repeatedy show the same individuals, couples, and extended family groups repeatedly manumitting slaves: one family manumits 13 times, one couple free eleven slaves in two days. The repetition offers the opportunity to study naming practices, both within the manumitting families and among the slaves. The names are firmly Greek (not Illyrian), and the slaves rarely have typical slave-names, but instead distinctly Greek names, some of them unique to Bouthrotos. A conspicuous feature is the large representation of women, who may manumit alone but may also appear at the head of a family group. (This is not surprising to those familiar with the documents of the area: a decree of the Kingdom of the Molossoi, dated 370-368 BC, grants a woman and her descendants politeia.) Another striking feature is the occurrence of over 8 ethnics, sub-units of the Prasaiboi; given the limited territory of the Prasaiboi, it is likely that some of these sub-groups were no more than a group of families, perhaps occupying one small hamlet or valley.


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