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HomeGreek PhilosphyAn elite schooling: discovery of an historical Athenian ephebic record

An elite schooling: discovery of an historical Athenian ephebic record


A stone monument with an historical Greek inscription within the collections of Nationwide Museums Scotland was lately found to be a beforehand unknown, unpublished Athenian ephebic record. Principal Curator Margaret Maitland and the Attic Inscriptions in UK Collections challenge crew clarify the importance of this discover, and what it tells us about Athenian society.

An elite education: discovery of an ancient Athenian ephebic list
Dr Margaret Maitland, Principal Curator of the Historical Mediterranean at Nationwide
Museums Scotland, with the lately found Athenian ephebic record.
NMS A.1956.368 [Credit: National Museums of Scotland]

This discovery represents an vital new supply of details about Athenian society within the mid-first century AD. This was a vital interval for Athens because it tailored to its place beneath the Roman Empire, which had conquered the Greek peninsula in 146 BC. Athens, nevertheless, was allowed to proceed to function as an impartial city-state. Inscriptions from this era are comparatively uncommon, with solely round twenty ephebic inscriptions surviving. This makes it all of the extra placing that it belongs to the identical yr and cohort as one other inscription, now within the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Ephebic lists recorded the names of younger males inducted into the ephebate, a yr of schooling undertaken across the age of eighteen, supposed to organize them for all times as grownup members of the group. This observe dated again to the fourth century BC.

An elite education: discovery of an ancient Athenian ephebic list
The Athenian ephebic record inscribed on a small marble stele commissioned by Attikos
son of Philippos throughout the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54).
NMS A.1956.368 [Credit: National Museums of Scotland]

An elite education: discovery of an ancient Athenian ephebic list
The reverse of the stele is deeply curved, indicating that the marble was repurposed
from one other object [Credit: National Museums of Scotland]

When Professor Peter Liddel from the Arts and Humanities Analysis Council-sponsored Attic Inscriptions in UK Collections challenge first obtained in contact requesting to see a Greek-inscribed object in our assortment, he assumed from its description that it have to be a forged of the merchandise held within the Ashmolean Museum. When the pandemic foiled plans for a analysis go to, I tracked down the article in our shops to take some pictures for the researchers.

Absolutely anticipating to discover a plaster forged, I used to be as a substitute greeted by the sight of a roughly inscribed slab of reused marble. I instantly realised there have to be extra to the article. Professor Liddel’s pleasure was palpable from his reply: it have to be a real inscription from the identical interval because the one within the Ashmolean, however one which was but unknown to students of historical Athens. This was confirmed by a examine go to from Professor Low and Dr de Lisle.

The Nationwide Museums Scotland inscription lists a gaggle of associates who went via the Athenian ephebate collectively throughout the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54). The record was supposed to commemorate the shut relationships they’d fashioned in hope that they’d endure for all times. The sense of camaraderie inside the ephebic cohort is palpable within the reference to the youths as ‘fellow ephebes’ and ‘associates’. Many ephebes are referred to with acquainted types of their names (the equal of ‘Pete’ for ‘Peter’). The oil amphora depicted on the high of the monument references athletic competitors, which was intently tied to concepts of masculinity and Greek id on this interval.

Comparability with the Ashmolean inscription from the identical yr reveals that this record solely represents a subset of the ephebic cohort, which is prone to have numbered 100-200 people. The inscribing ephebe, Attikos son of Philippos, presents himself because the central determine of his privileged social circle, figuring out who obtained to be one of many ‘fellow ephebes and associates’. Attikos positioned his title within the prescript of the inscription, alongside the archon of Athens and the superintendent (kosmetes) of the ephebate.

An elite education: discovery of an ancient Athenian ephebic list
Element from a marble votive aid depicting eight bare younger Athenian males and two bearded
officers. Athens, Greece, c.400BC-375BC. British Museum 1895,1028.1
[Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum]

Many of the ephebes that made the minimize for each this record and the Ashmolean record are identified to have belonged to high-ranking aristocratic households. They’re named first on each lists, displaying an implicit standing hierarchy inside the circle. Each Attikos and the inscriber of the Ashmolean record strove to assert and publicise shut connections to key members of the Athenian elite.

The monument supplies the primary proof of the inclusion of non-citizens within the Athenian schooling system throughout the early Roman interval of the first century AD. The record is split into two sections with an area in between. The names listed on the backside are non-citizens, corresponding to overseas residents and freed previously enslaved individuals, indicating a form of historical ‘entry initiative’. A number of the names are frequent names for foreigners or freed previously enslaved individuals, reinforcing that identification. We knew that such individuals had been inducted into the Athenian schooling system in a lot earlier and later intervals, however that is the primary proof that this occurred within the first century AD.

An elite education: discovery of an ancient Athenian ephebic list
Closeup of the oil amphora on the high of the stele
[Credit: National Museums of Scotland]

An elite education: discovery of an ancient Athenian ephebic list
An area separates the names of non-citizens included on the underside
of the ephebic record [Credit: National Museums of Scotland]

In these earlier and later instances, the non-citizens are clearly designated as second-class individuals, labelled as “foreigners” or “secondary enlistees”. This record is extra diplomatic, indicating the distinction in standing solely via the spacing. Together with different factors, corresponding to utilizing extra acquainted types of names and leaving out the names of the ephebes’ fathers, the monument appears to have been devised to ship a message about social inclusion and egalitarianism. Sarcastically, this was throughout a interval in Athenian historical past when social inequality was larger than ever earlier than and quickly growing.

One of many key developments in Athens within the Imperial interval was the incorporation of expressions of loyalty to and veneration of the Roman Emperor into all elements of public life, particularly the ephebate. This may be seen within the reference to Caesar (i.e. Emperor Claudius) within the remaining line of the inscription, in bigger letters than used elsewhere within the textual content. By means of these varied particulars, the inscription offers us a priceless snapshot of the sociology and ideologies of a gaggle of elite Athenians within the first century AD.

Creator: Dr Margaret Maitland | Supply: Nationwide Museums of Scotland [June 04, 2022]

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