Society of Jewellery Historians Lecture
Greek and Latin inscriptions on Antique Engraved Gems and Rings (Greek, Etruscan, Roman)
Inscriptions first appeared on Archaic Greek seals in the middle of the 6th century BC, and later found echo on Etruscan scarabs. Classical and Hellenistic Greek gems, as well as Italic and especially Roman intaglios, inherited from this double epigraphical lineage but diversified the forms and types.
On Graeco-Roman engraved gems and rings, there is a rather wide variety of Greek and Latin inscriptions, which present different configurations (formula, term, abbreviation, initial letter) and epigraphical particularities (crasis, monogram, abbreviation by contraction or suspension, nexus, letters switched, reversed – boustrophedon – or written into each other as so-called ligature). Even more noteworthy, these inscriptions can be classified between very many types of different natures : name of the bearer (duo or tria nomina, diacritic name or ὄνομα, designation referring to some slave or freedman, partial indication of the cursus honorum), dedication, acclamation, commemorative inscription, eulogy, invocation, prayer, addition to the engraved iconographic theme (didascalie), salutation, wish of good omen, prophylactic or apotropaic formula, confirmation of votive gift (ex-voto), loving or friendly motto, marriage and religious symbolism, numeral, trade mark or signature of the engraver, intrinsic function of the gem (seal, gift), legal norm and, finally, combination of ideographic and linguistic elements.
Presenting an overview as exhaustive as possible, the lecture shall bear witness to the wealth of inscriptions on Graeco-Roman gems and rings.