This article introduces the different types of source material for the study of Jewish daily life in Roman Palestine. These include the literary, epigraphic, and papyrological sources. The article also discusses the methodological issues that concern the interdisciplinary cultural-historical study of the material.
Epigraphy is traditionally defined as the study of inscriptions – a term, according to one authoritative opinion, that could properly be applied to any form of writing produced in a given culture with writing instruments and on surfaces other than those normally used in day-to-day life. In practice, however, the territory it conventionally covers includes all modes of writing that are not regularly employed for the production of literary texts. The significance of inscriptions for determining general levels of literacy in the ancient world is a matter of controversy, but it is clear that basic literacy in the Roman Empire meant some form of epigraphic literacy, in the sense that whatever reading ability a Roman possessed probably included the capacity to decipher public monumental lettering, and whatever writing skills he or she may have exercised were more likely to have been practised in the forms conventionally defined as epigraphic than in any other. The Pompeian couplet addressed to a wall burdened with graffiti has often been invoked to suggest the pervasiveness of writing at Pompeii.
P. J. Rhodes
Many questions on classical antiquity turn on the approach to the primary evidence that, on the face it, provides the most direct contact with the ancients and grounds the claim to be able to answer them as questions about the Greeks. This article holds that among such evidence, epigraphy has a special place, since its material is often rooted in a particular geographical site, linked to a particular historical event, and self-consciously intended to record both for posterity. It examines inscription in antiquity, the modern study of inscriptions, and inscriptions as evidence.
Elizabeth A. Meyer
This article studies how epigraphy was used as a form of communication. Epigraphs were usually stone inscriptions, although some were occasionally found etched on clay, plaster, and metals. Epigraphs were found at the center of the Roman communicative system, and included many sub-genres of monumental inscription that had its own peculiar characteristics. It studies the monumental inscriptions of the Roman Empire, which were classified and categorized by place of origin, language, and type. It then looks at the memories found in the epigraphy of the emperors and discusses the habit of inscribing, which only became widespread during the time of Emperor Augustus.
Thomas G. Palaima
Unlike the other Bronze Age scripts in this tradition, Linear B has been deciphered—by British architect Michael Ventris. The Linear B texts, therefore, give us information about an important formative stage of the Greek language and how it was affected by language contact with surrounding cultures. They also provide the earliest primary written evidence about all facets of Mycenaean civilization. Finally, because what this article calls the Mycenaean Linear B script is an adaptation of Minoan Linear A, Linear B texts give insights into how speakers of the still undeciphered Minoan language(s) and of early Greek analyzed spoken language and how they represented it in writing as “visible speech.” The first scientifically excavated Linear B tablets were uncovered by Sir Arthur Evans at the site of Knossos on Crete in 1900. Many more texts were uncovered in the succeeding years of excavation.