Scholarly Terminology


  • An aryballos is a small, narrow necked jar, often made of terracotta, used to hold perfumed oils.


  • Rubrification is the process of making something red. The letters of public inscriptions were often painted red in order to make the notice easily readable. Many inscribed letters contain evidence of residual red lead paint.


  • Retrograde is a style of writing in which the letters, words, and/or sentences are written in the opposite direction of the standard style i.e. right to left. Retrograde script is thought by some to have been used by ancient scribes in an attempt to infuse power into words. These scripts often used mirrored versions of letters but unfortunately, mirrored letters cannot easily be rendered on a computer. The following three phrases are written in different styles of retrograde sans any mirrored letters:
    • raey eht fo tneve lavitsef cisum tseb eht saw allehcyeB
    • year the of event festival music best the was Beychella
    • allehcyeB saw eht tseb cisum lavitsef tneve fo eht raey



  • Stoichedon is a style of laying out an inscription in which the letters have been made to align along both horizontal and vertical axis with the end result being a orderly grid like layout.


  • Boustrophedon, literally meaning “as the cow bears [the plough]”, is a style of writing in which the letters are written alternately from left to right then right to left. The following phrase has been written in boustrophedon:
    • Beychella was the best /

      tneve lavitsef cisum /

      of the year


  • An amphora is a two handled narrow necked vessel often used to carry wine, but other wet goods were appropriate as well.


  • Meter is the syllabic rhythm of a text. The number and pattern of metrical feet--spondees (two long syllables) or dactyls (one long syllable followed by two short ones)--in a text added a rhythm and indicated to the reader the type of poem. To learn more about ancient Greek meter see here. Metrical inscriptions are found on funerary objects and votive dedications. The most commonly found metrical pattern is a dactylic hexameter, which consists of a series of six metrical feet in the shape of a dactyl or a spondee. Some epitaphs are an elegiac couplet--a hexameter line followed by a pentameter line.


  • A lamella is a thin tablet of metal; typically gold.

Inscriptiones Graecae

  • Inscriptiones Graecae is a publication which attempts to collect, edit, and publish all ancient Greek inscriptions found in Europe. To date, over 50 volumes and fascicles of the IG have been published, containing 150,000+ inscriptions.


  • Stele is a rectangular block set up for monumental purposes.


  • Titulus is a Latin word meaning inscription or label.



  • τίθημι, θήσω, ἔθηκα, τέθηκα, τέθειμαι, ἐτέθην
  • compound of ανα + τίθημι (in the perfect)
  • The verb literally means to put up, but is often used in votive context mean to dedicate.

στελεά, -ᾶς, -ἡ

  • a block of stone

ὄρος, ό

  • boundary, landmark


  • δίδωμι, δώσω, ἔδωκα, δέδωκα, δέδομαι, ἐδόθην
  • This verbs means “to give, to dedicate” and is found commonly in votive dedications.


  • χαίρω, χαιρήσω, ΧΧΧ, κεχάρηκα, ΧΧΧ, ἐχάρην
  • This verb means “rejoice (in); take pleasure (in)”.
  • This greeting is often found on funerary inscriptions and conveys a greeting from the land of the dead.


  • ποιέω, ποιήσω, ἐποίησα, πεποίηκα, πεποίημαι, ἐποιήθην
  • This verb means “to make, do” and often indicates the craftsman behind a work of art.


  • γράφω, γράψω, ἔγραψα, γέγραφα, γέραμμαι, ἐγράθην
  • This verb means “to write, draw” and can indicate the artisan responsible for the painting on a vase.

δῆμος, -ου, -ὁ

  • the people

κόρη, ἡ

  • This noun means “maiden, girl”, but can also refer to a female archaic statue characterized by a simple standing pose of a girl dress in a chiton/himation or peplos, often grasping the dress to raise it slightly, and offering a flower bud or bird.

κοῦρος, ὁ

  • This noun means “youth, boy”, but can also refer to a male archaic statue characterized by a simple standing pose of a boy, often naked.

ναΐσκος, ὁ

  • This noun refers to a small shrine; many funerary stele will be roughly carved in the shape of a naiskos.