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Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences$
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John Davies and John Wilkes

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265062

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265062.001.0001

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Listening to Stones

Listening to Stones

Orality and Emotions in Ancient Inscriptions

(p.299) 14 Listening to Stones
Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences

Angelos Chaniotis

British Academy

This chapter explores how the gamut of responses to the presence of an inscription has to include not just sight and touch but also imagination and vocalisation. Being meant to be read aloud, they convey a reader's voice as well as that of the inscription itself or that of the dead person commemorated on a gravestone. Even more immediate is the potential impact when a person's actual words are preserved and displayed. They may be in direct speech, illustrated by letters and confessions, or in indirect speech as records of manumissions, minutes of meetings, or jokes. They may alternatively be performative speech, in the form of acclamations, formal declarations, oaths, prayers or hymns; and can equally be reports of oral events such as meetings or even public demonstrations. They can also be couched in various forms of emotional language, whether uttered by individuals (graffiti, prayers or the edicts of angry rulers) or more collectively and formally in secular or religious acclamations, and even in decrees of state. A final section emphasises the need for practitioners of the discipline of epigraphy to be missionaries — to spread the word about the value of visible words.

Keywords:   epigraphic genres, performative speech, imagination, vocalisation, confessions, acclamations, oral events, oaths, prayers, graffiti

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