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Epigraphy is the study of inscriptions or epigraphs as writing; it is the science of identifying graphemes, clarifying their meanings, classifying their uses according to dates and cultural contexts, and drawing conclusions about the writing and the writers.
Specifically excluded from epigraphy are the historical significance of an epigraph as a document and the artistic value of a literary composition.
Specialists depend on such on-going series of volumes in which newly discovered inscriptions are published, often in Latin, not unlike the biologists' Zoological Record— the raw material of history.
Greek epigraphy has unfolded in the hands of a different team, with different corpora. The first is Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum of which four volumes came out, again at Berlin, 1825-1877.
A Roman inscription at the castle hill of Trenčín in Slovakia (178–179 AD).
Text: Victoriae Augustorum exercitus, qui Laugaricione sedit, mil(ites) l(egiones) II DCCCLV.
This marked a first attempt at a comprehensive publication of Greek inscriptions copied from all over the Greek-speaking world.
Only advanced students still consult it, for better editions of the texts have superseded it.
The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, begun by Mommsen and other scholars, has been published in Berlin since 1863, with wartime interruptions.Epigraphists are responsible for reconstructing, translating, and dating the trilingual inscription and finding any relevant circumstances.It is the work of historians, however, to determine and interpret the events recorded by the inscription as document.Often, epigraphy and history are competences practiced by the same person.An epigraph is any sort of text, from a single grapheme (such as marks on a pot that abbreviate the name of the merchant who shipped commodities in the pot) to a lengthy document (such as a treatise, a work of literature, or a hagiographic prescription).