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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

REVIEW of N Litinas, O.Cret.Chers.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.05.33


Nikos Litinas, Greek Ostraca from Chersonesos, Crete: Ostraca Cretica Chersonesi (O.Cret.Chers.). Tyche. Supplementband; 6.   Wien:  Holzhausen, 2008.  Pp. 81, [3]; 45 p. of plates.  ISBN 9783854931645.  €39.00 (pb).   



Reviewed by Patrick James, The Greek Lexicon Project, University of Cambridge (pj221@cam.ac.uk)
Table of Contents
Litinas presents an admirable edition of ninety Greek ostraca from Chersonesos on Crete and dated to the second or third century AD. Photographs for every ostracon are included. These texts are of interest not least because they represent the first archive of documents written in ink to be found within "today's Hellenic territory" (p. 5). The comprehensive introduction is particularly valuable for its thorough examination of the context of these ostraca, the questions that they raise, and the data that they contribute for the study of numismatics, palaeography and scribal practices, onomastics (and linguistics generally), and the economy of Roman Crete. Litinas' treatment of all of these subjects will be discussed in turn.
The texts themselves represent records, in two formats (Text-types A and B), of quantities of an unspecified commodity associated with nine individuals. As such, the texts are short to the point of obscurity and might seem of very little use. Type A contains only a Roman date (usually without a month), personal names in the nominative, a number of units of the commodity, an abbreviation for that quantity, the number repeated in alphanumeric form, and a total. The fifteen type B ostraca contain only a Roman date, the names of either or both of two persons in the nominative or (rarely) the dative (nos. 79-81), and then amounts of currency. Only no. 31 has a type A text on one side and a type B on the other. There is no clear socio-economic context and the internal evidence presents some puzzles, such as the abbreviations με() in type A and X (struck-through) and χ in type B, as well as the identity of the commodity itself. Also, short texts do not offer much evidence for the morphology or syntax of Koine Greek. Nevertheless, Litinas' examination of these ostraca is a thorough, cautious, and well-documented example of how such texts should be studied and the significant contributions they can offer. My few comments are intended to reinforce the value of this archive and the quality of Litinas' treatment.
Litinas plausibly dates the archive to the period from 150 to 250 AD (or to 300 or 350 AD, although he considers these later dates to be less likely) by drawing together the evidence of the archaeological context (inconclusive beyond 100-300 AD), the Roman dates and (imperial) names, numismatics (denominations and purchasing power), and palaeography. The discussion of letter forms makes up the bulk of this section and of the Introduction (five pages of a thirty-page introduction, with a further two on attributing the ostraca to different scribes).

Etc. at BMCR