Need Assistance Interpreting Ancient Greek Storefront Sign

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
Post Reply
ToddBathlesfield
Posts: 2
Joined: September 4th, 2015, 7:35 pm

Need Assistance Interpreting Ancient Greek Storefront Sign

Post by ToddBathlesfield » September 4th, 2015, 7:38 pm

Good evening,

I was at an ancient history museum abroad and while there I saw a very interesting 12" long x 8" high x 2" thick marble slab. According to the museum it was a 3rd century (or so) Hellenistic storefront sign for a business that sold oil lamps. I was not allowed to take a picture, but I did write down the inscription on the marble. It was two lines of text, like this:

ΑΦΝΑΕΙΦΩΣΦΟΡΩ
ΛΑΜΓ(or Pi)ΩΝΓ(or Pi)ΑΕΙΤΟΣ

In the second line, it is possible that either the first or the second Gamma (or both) identified above are a Pi. Apparently, in ancient Greek the Gamma and Pi were very similar looking.

I wrote the letters exactly as they appear, but keep in mind, the words were not separated by spaces to make it easier.

Some people think that it translates to:

ΑΦΝΑΕΙΦΩΣΦΟΡΩ
"[person's name] the light-bringer"
ΛΑΜΓ(or Pi)ΩΝΓ(or Pi)ΑΕΙΤΟΣ
"maker of lamps."

I am happy to hear your thoughts!

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3332
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: Need Assistance Interpreting Ancient Greek Storefront Si

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 5th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Do you remember the name of the museum? Did it say 3rd centruy BCE or CE? Did you see the provenance mentioned?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

ToddBathlesfield
Posts: 2
Joined: September 4th, 2015, 7:35 pm

Re: Need Assistance Interpreting Ancient Greek Storefront Si

Post by ToddBathlesfield » September 6th, 2015, 10:42 am

It was a small museum in Athens. There were only 15 or so items. I forgot the name already. The sign said it was 3rd century BCE. Can you make sense of the letters?

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3332
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: Need Assistance Interpreting Ancient Greek Storefront Si

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 7th, 2015, 3:48 am

ToddBathlesfield wrote:Can you make sense of the letters?
Yes. The letters are not an issue. Understanding them together as words is more challenging.
ToddBathlesfield wrote:ΑΦΝΑΕΙΦΩΣΦΟΡΩ
ΛΑΜΓ(or Pi)ΩΝΓ(or Pi)ΑΕΙΤΟΣ
In terms of what was discussed on the numismatics forum, I'd say that at least the first Γ is a Π.

In terms of interpretation, I am not trained or experienced in epigraphy, but a few things occurred to me as I read their discussion.

The two words that are the easiest are ΦΩΣΦΟΡΩ (φωσφόρῳ / φωσφορῶ) and ΛΑΜΠΩΝ ().

If ΦΩΣΦΟΡΩ were a nominal (φωσφόρῳ), it could agree with ἀφανεῖ, whereas if it was verbal, it could be φωσφορῶ "I bear light".

The suggestion that lamp ΛΑΜΠΩΝ (λαμπῶν) should actually be ΛΑΜΠΑΔΩΝ (λαμπάδων), is probably not a valid point, because there are some other alternatives. First, there is a form λάμπη used infrequently. Another alternative is that this is a verbal form (a participle - λάμπων ) from λάμπειν "to be bright". E.g.
Matthew 5:15 wrote:λάμπει πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ.
It shines on everything in the house.
Further alternatives can be found here.
The suggestion given that ΠΑΕΙΤΟΣ is the genitive of an Egyptian name is perhaps stretching things a little, if the setting was Athens. I've only seen Egyptian names on contractual arrangements in the non-literary papyri.
ToddBathlesfield wrote:I wrote the letters exactly as they appear
Not to doubt your ability or sincerity, but I'd to ask, how sure are you that the letters Ν and Α in the first line were written down in the correct order?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest