Luwian Identities

We are pleased to announce the publication of ‘Luwian Identities: Culture, Language and Religion Between Anatolia and the Aegean’, co-edited by Prof. Ian Rutherford, Dr Alice Mouton (CNRS), and Dr Ilya Yakubovich (Moscow State University).

Luwian Identities

Luwian Identities

The Luwians inhabited Anatolia and Syria in late second through early first millennium BC. They are mainly known through their Indo-European language, preserved on cuneiform tablets and hieroglyphic stelae. However, where the Luwians lived or came from, how they coexisted with their Hittite and Greek neighbors, and the peculiarities of their religion and material culture, are all debatable matters.

A conference convened in Reading in June 2011 in order to discuss the current state of the debate, summarize points of disagreement, and outline ways of addressing them in future research. The papers presented at this conference were collected in the present volume, whose goal is to bring into being a new interdisciplinary field, Luwian Studies.

Herodotos and Plutarch Workshop 2013

We are very pleased to announce a workshop on ‘Herodotos and Plutarch’ to be held in the Department of Classics at the University of Reading on Friday, 4th October 2013.

The event will take place at the University of Reading’s Whiteknights Campus, in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, room 125.

The programme for the day is included below.

To register for the event, please send an email to the organisers, Lucy Fletcher and Niki Karapanagioti at the conference address:  The deadline for registration is 15th September 2013.

Thanks to the generosity of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, we are pleased to offer a number of graduate bursaries.  Interested parties should write to the organisers and explain the nature of their interest in the event, and how the topic is related to their studies.   The deadline for bursary applications is 8th September 2013.

The workshop is generously sponsored by the Department of Classics and the Graduate School at the University of Reading; the Jowett Copyright Trust; the Institute of Classical Studies; and the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies.

For further information or queries please contact the organisers: Lucy Fletcher and Niki Karapanagioti at:


9.30 Registration
9.45 Introduction

10.00-11.30: Session One

  • Christopher Pelling, ‘Athens and Sparta in Herodotus and Plutarch’
  • Judith Mossman, ‘Plutarch and Herodotean tyrants’

11.30-12.00: Coffee

12.00-1.30: Session Two

  • Tim Whitmarsh, ‘Plutarch’s ethical Herodotus’
  • Tom Harrison, ‘Plutarch and the audiences for Herodotus’ Histories’

1.30-2.30: Lunch

2.30-4.00: Session Three

  • Suzanne Saïd, ‘The use of Herodotus in Plutarch’s Aristeides’
  • John Marincola, ‘Plutarch at Plataea: In the footsteps of Herodotus’

4.00-4.30: Coffee
4.30-5.15: Final Session

  • Aristoula Georgiadou, ‘Plutarch on the malice of Herodotus’

5.15-5.30: Break
5.30-6.15: Final Discussion

  • Respondents: Carolyn Dewald, Rosaria Munson, Tim Rood

6.15-7.00: Reception

Hope and Despair in Roman Britain

The Yorkshire Museum in York houses a most impressive collection of Roman inscriptions from York and the immediate vicinity. On occasion of a trip to Yorkshire in August 2013, I was finally able to see for myself a particularly noteworthy item of their collection, an item that has fascinated me for quite some time: the tombstone of a girl named Corellia Optata.

Inscription of Corellia Optata

Inscription for Corellia Optata

The stone, arguably dating to the second half of the first century A. D., more plausibly somewhat later in date, is heavily damaged. At the top, a sculpture is lost altogether (as is a letter ‘D’ on the left-hand side, which would have corresponded with the letter ‘M’ on the right). In its present state, the lower part of a (presumably female) figure’s legs survives, standing in the middle, resting on the frame that contains the actual inscription.

The Latin text, full of abbreviations, ligatures, and spelling oddities, reads as follows:

[D(is)] M(anibus).
Corellia Optata an(norum) XIII.
Secreti Manes, qui regna
Acherusia Ditis incoli-
tis, quos parua petunt post
lumina uite exiguus cinis
et simulacrum, corpo<r>is um-
bra: insontis gnate geni-
tor spe captus iniqua
supremum hunc nate
miserandus defleo finem.
Core(llius) Fortis pat(er) f(aciendum) c(urauit).

(Carmina Latina Epigraphica 395)

 In translation:

To the divine Manes.
Corellia Optata, aged 13.
You reclusive Manes, who inhabit the Acherusian realm of Hades, whom the little pile of ashes and the spirit do seek after but a short span of life, the body’s shade: I, the begetter of an innocent daughter, trapped by wrongful hope, wretched, wail this, my daughter’s ultimate destiny.
Quintus Corellius Fortis, the father, had this made.

The central part of this inscription (lines 2–11 in the Latin) forms a poem comprising five dactylic hexametres:

Secreti Manes, qui regna Acherusia Ditis
incolitis, quos parua petunt post lumina uite
exiguus cinis et simulacrum, corpo<r>is umbra:
insontis gnate genitor spe captus iniqua
supremum hunc nate
miserandus defleo finem.            5

Inscribed poems, very common in other parts of the Roman world, appear to have been exceptionally rare in Roman Britain: a mere two dozen or so have survived to the present day. In that respect, a poem of five perfectly preserved lines is rather spectacular.

The poem, dedicated to the secreti Manes, those reclusive, hard-to-grasp spirits of the Roman underworld, seems topical at first: a girl dies young, and a parent expresses his grief, complaining about the injustice of the premature death. Yet this father, Q. Corellius Fortis, at least superficially familiar with the literary classics of his day and age, went beyond that: and the way in which he did this is precisely what makes this poem so remarkable.

Corellius was a brave man, certainly by name: Fortis is not only the father’s name, but also a Latin adjective denoting the quality of ‘brave’. Perhaps he earned this nickname in a military career? He and the (altogether nameless, absent) mother of the child clearly desired a child, for they gave the daughter the name Optata, ‘Desired’, ‘Hoped-For’.

The brave man was fooled, however, a soldier trapped (captus) by spes iniqua, a hope that brought undeserved disappointment: the verbal allusion of spes (‘hope’) to the name of the daughter, Optata, could hardly be more obvious. A similarly inspired word play can be seen in the placement of the word finis (‘destiny’, more literally: ‘end’) at what is indeed the very end of the poem.

Corellius may have been fortis, but he was not ashamed to express his sorrow, his lament, and, in fact, his bitter disappointment, and to record it for eternity. Following the expressive alliteration parua petunt post – the ‘spitting’ Ps barely conceal the author’s contempt –, Corellius stresses the daughter’s innocence, using the loaded term insons. This not only implies the absence of guilt, but also utter harmlessness. This increases the contrast between the innocent victim of premature death – the daughter – and those who now, undeservedly, get to enjoy the presence of Optata’s physical and immaterial remains: the Manes in their reclusive abode, the dark realm of Hades.

Yet, the poem also leaves little doubt over who is the real victim: Corellius Fortis, the genitor (‘begetter’), a wretch (miserandus) first trapped by deceitful hope, then robbed by the untimely demise.

Funerary inscriptions, whether prose or poetry, deal with commonplaces, necessitated by the events and the need to offer consolation for those left behind, and many a time they resort to truisms, banalities, and ideology. Corellius Fortis was forced to face the same fate as many parents in the ancient world, the loss of his child at a relatively early age. His poetic attempt to come to terms with this stands out not only because of the (relative) rarity of inscribed poems in the environment of Roman Britain: it stands out because of the amount of skill and thought that have gone into this highly individual, personal, and touching little poem, expressing hope, despair, and grief with a gripping immediacy.

Peter Kruschwitz