Chapter 4. The Parian Marble as a Literary Text

The Parian Marble offers the rare opportunity to explore the textual qualities of an ancient piece of Greek chronography. However, literary scholars seem to have so far been reluctant to study it as a verbal artifact, probably due to its catalogue style, simple syntax, and limited vocabulary. It is certainly possible to analyze the chronicle’s style, themes, characters, and narrative technique, but in order to do so we have to align ourselves with non-Aristotelian poetics and relinquish any expectations of organic unity and poetic language. Thus, under the general umbrella of literary analysis this chapter will look into the textual qualities of the Parian Marble.
What are our units of analysis to be? Literary studies usually find such units in the divisions into books, sections, chapters, etc., especially if they belong to the originals. The Parian Marble offers little of this sort. There was an introduction, probably inscribed in characters bigger than the rest, [1] and possibly a conclusion, currently lost. One entry or another could be taken as marking a division in the text due to its historical [2] or chronographic [3] prominence, but at the risk of imposing our own perceptions, for the layout of the text does not display division into sections. The long lines follow each other continuously, without word separation as customary, and without leaving empty spaces. The only potential marks of internal division are the small blank spaces left between the introduction and the first entry (A1), and after the fall of Troy (A24). [4] The division of the text into entries, based on the recurrence of opening patterns and dating formulae, is the result of modern editorial work. [5] Entries provide useful and textually based small units of reference. For major units we are left with the partition suggested by the vicissitudes of transmission: the lost fragment (A1), the Ashmolean fragment (A2), and the Parian fragment (B). For the sake of convenience and based on changes of style and distribution of content, I refer in my analysis to broader sections of the text, such as the times before and after the fall of Troy, the sixth century BCE, or the period of Alexander the Great and his successors (which coincides with section B).

1. The Language and Style of the Parian Marble

Jacoby’s seems to have been the first and so far the last discussion of the language of the Parian Marble. [6] He focused mainly on departures from Attic usage, which served him as evidence for his hypothesis of a Parian author, and briefly on morphology and syntax. In this section, I approach the structure of individual entries, and the syntactic and lexical features that help generate what we may term an objective style.
The deep structure of entries may be summed up as:
“Y years passed since X.”
In most cases this is expressed by a temporal clause:
“From when X happened, Y years, when Z was archon (or king) at Athens.”
E.g. “From the time Troy was conquered, 945 years.”
ἀφ᾿ οὗ Τροία ἥλω ἔτη character: Greek Acrophonic Attic Five Hundred (&)ΗΗΗΗΔΔΔΔcharacter: Greek Acrophonic Attic Five ($), βασιλεύοντος Ἀθηνῶν … (A24)
However, in nine occasions a noun with the preposition ἀπό (from) appears instead of the temporal clause:
“From X, Y years, when Z was archon (or king) at Athens”
E.g. “From Alexander’s crossing to Asia”
ἀπὸ τῆς Ἀλεξάνδρου διαβάσεως εἰς τὴν Ἀσίαν (B3)
Both patterns are known from other chronographic texts, but temporal clauses seem characteristic of the count-down chronicle (so, e.g. in the Roman Chronicle, chap. 3, sect. 2 above), while nominal patterns seem typical of sources computing major intervals of time, as in a famous fragment of Eratosthenes’s Chronographiai (FGrH 241 F 1a):
ἀπὸ μὲν Τροίας ἁλώσεως ἐπὶ Ἡρακλειδῶν κάθοδον ἔτη ὀγδοήκοντα.
The preposition + noun pattern appears only once in A, but 8 times in B (i.e. in thirty percent of B’s entries). [7] This could indicate that different sources were used in B, or that the method of composition, and perhaps of making notes, changed along the composition of the chronicle. [8]
Individual entries usually close with the dating formula. In thirteen entries, however, additional information appears after the Archon’s name (in Jacoby’s words, postscripts): [9]
  • A36: Syracuse
  • A42: Hipponax
  • A48: Aeschylus’s fighting in Marathon
  • A55: Epicharmus
  • A60: Socrates and Anaxagoras
  • A71: burning down of the temple at Delphi (suppl.)
  • A72: Alexander II
  • A79: ]ΣΟΦΟΣ, possibly a philosopher
  • B7: foundation of Hellenis
  • B11: Ptolemy’s going to Cyrene
  • B12: Agathocles appointed strategos at Syracuse
  • B14: Menander’s victory
  • B15: Age of Sosiphanes at death
Information after the dating formula appears from A36 on, becoming more frequent as the inscription advances: while only ten percent of entries in A display post-archon information (eight times in eighty entries), eighteen percent of B do so (five times in twenty-seven entries). Half of the instances have to do with cultural history, most specifically, with poets (A42, A48, A55, A60, B14, B15, perhaps A79), [10] although references are not agonistic, except for Menander. Three post-archon events have to do with Sicilian history (A36, A55, B12). Postscripts may be revealing regarding the process of composition. They may have resulted from consultation of additional sources of information, perhaps when revising the text before its engraving. Thus, additional information may have been available, especially for cultural and poetic history, Sicilian history, and particularly for the more recent past. This information may have been found in specific monographs or, as Jacoby suggested, in general works such as Ephorus’s. [11]
Individual entries comprise one or more simple sentences, joined by coordinating conjunctions, in most cases καί. As for the coordinant δέ, it emerges in A36, appearing nine times in A [12] and eight times in B. [13] Half of all instances coordinate postscripts (A36, A55, A60, A71, B7, B11, B12, B14). The particle τε is rare (A14, A60). [14] Coordinants are so plentiful that they could easily be omitted in translation. [15] However, even though the general style is paratactic, the conjunctions occasionally convey additional meaning. In a few cases, καί seems consecutive or inferential and can be rendered by “hence.” [16] This feature appears early in the text (A1, A3, A5, A6, A9), always connected to etymological aetiology. In one case, a coordinating conjunction may be epexegetic or explanatory, “namely” (τε in A14). In sum, there is variation in the distribution of conjunctions. While in the early part of A we find traces of consecutive coordination, in the second part of A that function disappears and δέ emerges, becoming proportionally more frequent in B. This feature of the text may partly derive from the sources, partly from the attempt to coordinate information from different sources.
The structure of sentences is simple. [17] Besides occasional relative clauses, [18] syntactic subordination is achieved by participle constructions, [19] and attending circumstances are expressed by absolute genitives. [20] Events are given in aorist, with only few instances of imperfect and historical present. [21] Most verbal forms in the Parian Marble are active, eighty-seven percent. [22] The few passive forms (thirteen percent) are mainly concentrated in three semantic groups: “being named” or “being called” at the beginning of the inscription, “being set up,” for contests and prizes in the sixth century BCE, and “being founded” in section B. [23]
Attribution is effected by the article followed by a qualifier, [24] by relative clauses, [25] and by attributive participles. [26] However, descriptive and figurative language is missing from the Parian Marble, the range of adjectives being limited to ordinals [27] (occasionally adverbial), ethnics, [28] patronymics (see n. 24 above), and qualifiers that are part of conceptual units (e.g. the gymnic competition). [29] Pronouns are few, [30] and there is a small number of temporal adverbs. [31]
Cohesion is achieved in the Parian Marble by the formulaic character of the opening and closing of entries. Anaphoric references have their antecedents always in the same entry; [32] there are no forward looking references, and the only deictic is found in the phrase “up to now” (A5), which refers to the time of composition of the chronicle or its source.
The style of the Parian Marble is compressed, impersonal, and precise. Indeed, entries are composed of simple sentences, usually short, with more participles than subordinated clauses. There are no explanations but only succession, which sometimes invites post hoc interpretation. The author’s voice disappears after the introduction; a simple enunciation of facts follows. Precision is achieved by dates and numbers, as well as by the lack of hedging (tentative language) and of figurative and descriptive language. Apart from the limited use of the passive voice (one of the main markers of scientific language in contemporary English), all other features form a style that may be termed objective, though it nevertheless expresses authorial subjectivity. Indeed, certain nuances (probably deriving from the sources used) emerge from minor variations of vocabulary, as the use of κυριεύειν for Alexander and Ptolemy, instead of the regular βασιλεύειν and τυραννεύειν, [33] and μεταλλαγή for Alexander’s death (B8), [34] instead of the usual τελευτᾶν. [35] But as we shall see, it is the selection of characters and events, rather than the style in which they are presented, that expresses authorial subjectivity.

2. The Contents of the Parian Marble

The limited repertoire of events recorded in the inscription allows for a quantitative semantic approach (see Appendix at the end of the book). [36] In my analysis, I distinguish as major themes religious, political, military, and cultural events. Natural events, which are few and proportionally more represented in B than in A, form a minor category: a flood (κατακλυσμός, A4), the eruption of Mount Etna (A52), a meteor (ὁ λίθος ἔπεσε, A57), fire (κατεκάη δὲ τότε κα[ὶ ὁ ἐν Δελφοῖς ναός], A71), an eclipse (ὁ ἥλιος ἐξέλιπεν, B16), an earthquake (with restoration: [ἀπὸ τῶ]ν σε̣ι̣[σ]μῶν, B24), and a comet (with restoration: [κομήτης ἀσ]τὴρ ἐφ̣[ά]ν[η̣], B25). In what follows, graphs are used to help comprehend the incidence of themes and their interaction.
Among religious events there are eighteen references to sacrifice, purification, epiphany, oracle consultation, as well as to the setting of festivals and contests: the Panathenaea, the ploughing festival at Eleusis, the Eleusinian mysteries, the gymnic agon at Eleusis, the contests at Isthmia, Nemea, and Delphi, and the Athenian contests of comedy, tragedy, and dithyramb. I count festival foundations also among cultural events but not among political ones, in spite of their political significance. Only one religious event, Croesus’s theoria to Delphi (A41, with restoration), do I count as political.
Table 1.
Religious events concentrate in two clusters: the times preceding the Trojan War, and the sixth century BCE (Table 1). Regarding the first cluster, the focus on religious events of aetiological nature is consistent with the practice of both local and universal historians when relating primeval times. The second cluster, which includes the establishment of contests at Delphi and Athens, probably benefited from the availability of documentary evidence—namely, victory lists kept at sanctuaries or reconstructed from local records (although the author most probably gathered the information from historiographical sources rather than from didaskaliai directly). Religious events from the fifth century BCE on, although implied in contexts of poetic victories, are not explicitly mentioned.
Political affairs (sixty-nine events), constitute the largest group of the inscription. [37] This category comprises references to ruling, [38] changes in form of government, and acts towards social cohesion. [39] Trials are considered as part of political life, even when situated in proto-historical times. [40] I include two political assassinations, [41] as well as the birth (B19) and death of political figures (passim). Foundations of cities belong here too. [42]
Table 2.
The incidence of political events is very high, but their distribution uneven (Table 2). They are particularly frequent in section B. In section A, there are two plateaus. The first, between the Panathenaea and the fall of Troy (A10 to A24), with only three political events, at A11 and A20. The second, from Gelon and Hieron to the foundation of Megalopolis (A53 and A55 to A73), with only six political events (A58, A61, A62, A72). These plateaus of political events correspond to a high occurrence of religious and cultural events up to the fall of Troy, as well as of cultural events, mostly Athenian poetic competitions of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE.
Military affairs (forty-eight events, Table 3) include waging war and advancing with an army, battles, sieges, references to winning and to defeating, and specific conquests. [43]
Table 3.
No military events are mentioned at the beginning of the inscription. They appear first in a cluster including the Amazons (A21), the Seven against Thebes (A22), and the Trojan War (A23, A24), very popular themes in the visual and literary arts. After that, they become sporadic, emerging in connection to Delphi, the Persian wars (including Marathon, Plataea, and Salamis), peaking with the Persian defeat (A51, A52) and Cyrus’s anabasis (A64, A66). Section B includes a very high concentration of military events (thirty-three events, that is, sixty-nine percent of all military events, appear in B), with relatively high level of detail. In contrast, section A records only famous military conflicts from the mythical past and from the Persian wars, while few inter-city conflicts are mentioned (the battles at Leuctra [A72 suppl.] and Delphi [A75]).
Cultural affairs are the second most frequent type of event after political ones (fifty-six events). They include the organization of contests (considered religious events too), especially poetic competitions. Also included are references to heuremata, poets (their birth, “appearance” or floruit, victories, death, etc.) and other intellectuals, including philosophers.
Table 4.
Cultural events are spread rather evenly in section A of the inscription (Table 4), with minor plateaus at the beginning (A1 to A8), between the fall of Troy and Hesiod (A24 to A28), at the beginning of B (B1 to B5), and towards its end. The section corresponding to the Classical period contains more cultural events, but fewer events of other types. Conversely, section B, with a very high frequency of military and political events, has much fewer cultural events (only six, that is, eleven percent of all cultural events, appear in B).
Table 5.
Among cultural events, the distribution of victories at poetic competitions deserves attention (Tables 5 and 6). They are concentrated in the period between 510/508 BCE and 370/369 BCE, and are restricted to victories in Athens. That is, no other mousikoi agones are mentioned in the Parian Marble. Perhaps most conspicuously absent are the Carneian contests at Sparta, whose list of victors was compiled by Hellanicus (see chap. 6, sect. 1 and 2.IV below).
Table 6.
How are the major themes distributed in the Parian Marble? Table 7 helps to visualize their interaction, especially that between gaps and peaks.
Table 7.
In the early periods of the chronicle, information is foundational, about emerging political entities, religious practices, and cultural institutions. The middle period is marked by cultural events and, to a lesser degree, by political ones. The more recurrent themes in the last part of the inscription (B) are political and military. However, in the entire text cultural events are almost as numerous as political ones, and gaps in the military and political series seem to be filled mostly by cultural events, and vice versa. The distribution of themes may derive partly from the sources used, yet authorial choice cannot be excluded, even though it was constrained by the availability of information. The emphasis on poetic events, as we shall see in Chapter 6, is idiosyncratic to the Parian Marble.
For the sake of the quantitative analysis of contents, I treated the four major themes as discrete. However, one notion seems to cross those semantic boundaries: the notion of conflict and competition, which appears in military, cultural, and political events. Winning is also a notion shared by various categories; twenty-two instances of winning occur in war, at musical contests, and in court.

3. Narrative and Characters

Unlike full-fledged literary historiography, the Parian Marble lacks narrative and authorial voice. The text has a beginning, a middle, and an end—a partly extant introduction, a body, and most likely a concluding section—yet the body itself, structured upon the succession of entries like a catalogue, has no plot. No story is told. Only the counting of years invests the text with a literary quality, that of closure, although the meaning of that closure is uncertain without the concluding section. And yet, although lacking a continuous narrative, individual entries include hints of story-telling. Indeed, some entries contain more detail than usual: Danaus and his daughters (A9), Demeter (A12), Minos and Athens (A19), Alexander and Thebes (B2), Alexander’s victory at Arbela (B5). Furthermore, although events are, as a rule, located simply in the past, mostly through aorist verbs, a few nuances emerge. The adverbial τὸ πρότερον indicates previous states in the past. This is the case of two instances of “formerly named” (A1 and A6) located at the beginning of the inscription and probably deriving from sources, such as the writers of Atthis. [44] Occasionally, participle constructions or absolute genitives (see notes 19 and 20 above) refer to previous events, thus conveying very compressed tales. Sometimes, past processes are described through several actions by the same agent, one after another (B2, B5). At one point, the future relative to a past event emerges (ἀξιώσει, A19). In all these entries, information is included beyond the bare statement of events, with more details than needed for chronographic purposes. Such entries are actual kernels of narrative. Moreover, even though the Parian Marble never offers analysis or explanation, causality is implied by the succession of events. Perhaps those kernels of narrative result from a looser abridgement of sources, with story-telling occasionally taking over the chronographer. [45]
In the same way that there is no proper narrative in the Parian Marble, there are no main characters, even though a few names appear more than once, especially in section B (Alexander and Ptolemy are good examples). However, even if there are no real protagonists, we may explore the types of individual who are found worthy of record.
Among the 203 personal names mentioned in the inscription (or 117, if 86 kings and archons named for dating purposes are excluded), [46] only 9 entries include female characters: Danaus’s daughters (Helike and Archedike, A9), the Mother of the gods (A10), Demeter and Neaera (A12), Amazons (A21), Erigone (A25), Sappho (A36), Alexander’s mother Olympias (B14), Artabazus’s daughter (B18), and Alexander’s sister Cleopatra (B19). Females are more frequent in early times, a fact consistent with their strong presence in Greek mythology. They reappear after Alexander’s death, in connection with his succession. Apart from the early period and the Macedonian dynasty, no female political actors are mentioned. Sappho is an exception, noted for her exile, rather than her poetry (unlike most poets in the inscription, she is not qualified as such).
Hence, males are the main protagonists of history, most of them rulers and military commanders. Their range crosses ethnic boundaries. It is their historical relevance from the Greek point of view and their position of power that makes them count, not their ethnic affiliation. A second group of protagonists includes cultural figures, mostly poets and musicians, and a few philosophers (we shall return to them in chap. 6, sect. 1).
Beside individuals a number of collective entities appear: Amphictyons (A5, A37), Greeks / Hellenes (A6, A17, A23, A51, suppl. A66), Athenians (A10, A19, A45, A48, A52, B9), Argives (A22), Lydians (A35), Icarians (A39), Persianas (A48, A51), Macedonias (A58, A61, B9), Lacedaimonians (A72), Thebans (A72, B2), Triballi (B2), Illyrians (B2), Syracusans (B12), Calchedonians (B13). References to ethnic groups are more frequent in the middle part of the inscription, whereas the military clashes of section B are presented rather as conflicts among individuals. [47] In this context are found two instances of individuals said to act by somebody else’s will: Ptolemy sent Ophelas to Cyrene (B10) and Seleucus to Babylon (B16).
There is nothing idiosyncratic in the Parian Marble’s approach to the protagonists of history. The focus on political and military affairs, typical of much ancient Greek historiography, calls for a certain type of character: leading and powerful male individuals and ethnic groups. There are no barbarians, no lexical marking of “the other,” in the extant inscription. This interest in rulers is shared by ancient Near Eastern chronicles. In contrast, religious figures such as prophets are prominent in the Biblical, and later the Christian chronicles. Yet the focus on poets, as we shall see in Chapter 6, although present in some works of Hellenistic historiography, is peculiar to the Parian Marble.
As we emphasized earlier in the analysis of style, the frequent use of the active voice strongly underlines human agency. Comparison of the voice usage in medieval chronicles is revealing. Hayden White, discussing non-narrative forms of historical representation in the Annals of Saint Gall concludes that they reflect “a world in which things happen to people, rather than one in which people do things.” [48] The outlook on agency in the Parian Marble could not be more different.

4. Mapping Space in the Parian Marble

The Parian Marble charts human action in a chronological grid, and it does so by locating it in space. In this section, I explore geography in the Parian Marble and how the spatial focus changes as the inscription advances.
Up to the Trojan War (A23, A24), the chronicle dwells on central Greece, Northern Greece, and the Peloponnese, [49] referring only to two oversees locations, Egypt (A9) and Crete (A11 suppl.). After the Trojan War, the focus expands towards the East and West. First, by tracing the foundation of settlements in Cyprus (Salamis?, A26 suppl.), Ionia (A27), and Syracuse (A31). Second, by charting the rise and demise of rulers in Lydia, [50] Athens, [51] Persia, [52] Syracuse, [53] and Macedonia. [54] When section B opens, the chronicle is following closely Alexander’s campaigns, North, [55] South, [56] East, [57] and further East. [58] After Alexander’s death, the focus shifts back to the Mediterranean and the Aegean, to Syracuse, [59] central and Northern Greece (Athens, [60] Boeotia, [61] Chalcis, [62] Macedonia) [63] the Hellespont, [64] Babylon, [65] Sardis, [66] and the Eastern Mediterranean, [67] with the prominence of Africa [68] and Carthage emerging towards the end of the extant text. [69] Thus, the geographical focus shifts as the text moves from central Greece to the Mediterranean basin, expands East with Alexander’s campaigns, and returns to the Eastern Mediterranean, with Syracuse and Carthage in the West.
Athens is a major reference point in the Parian Marble. Not only is it mentioned in almost every entry as part of the dating formula, but it is also selected as the place where time begins to be reckoned. In addition, Athens is mentioned or implied in thirty-two further entries. The images of Athens that emerge from the Parian Marble conform to a common stereotype. Indeed, to a reader following its fate, Athens appears as the cradle of democracy, a major cultural center, a remarkable winner over the Persians for the sake of Greece, and little involved in interstate conflicts. Athens remains a cultural center (B7, B14) even when defeated (B9) and conquered (B10, B20). From a political point of view, however, the history of Athens ab silentio is one of demise, the focus moving to Macedonia and later to Ptolemaic Egypt. Among other Greek states, only Syracuse is followed consistently along the inscription. [70] Sparta’s role is downplayed, [71] most conspicuously at Thermopylae (A51) and Plataea (A52). Lesbos appears at an early stage (A34, A36) in connection with cultural figures, Terpander and Sappho. Egypt is rarely mentioned in A but becomes central in B, particularly with Alexander (B4) and Ptolemy (B8).
The world depicted in the Parian Marble is one of movement. To be sure, it is not only travel that is implied in most military campaigns and city foundations, though in some cases it is mentioned explicitly. At the very beginning, movement towards Athens is charted, with Deucalion (A4) and Demeter (A12). Hellas is a destination for Danaus, coming from Egypt (A9), and later for Stesichorus (A50). Two events dated to the seventh century BCE involve travelling across the Mediterranean, from Corinth to Syracuse (A31) and from Mytilene to Sicily (A36). The notion of crossing, implied in Croesus’s theoria to Delphi (A41), dominates from the fifth century BCE onwards. Indeed, there is Xerxes’s crossing the Hellespont (A51), Cyrus’s anabasis (A64), and the return of the Greeks (A66), as well as the crossing of Alexander (B3) and Antigonus (B11) into Asia. The notion of crossing acquires a new direction with Agathocles’s crossing from Sicily to Carthage (B18). Apart from Xerxes’s crossing (A51), all travels are referred to in very general terms. This dynamic world, in which people and armies constantly move from place to place, is in sharp contrast with the rigid style of the Parian Marble.
Yet the geographical focus of the Parian Marble is something of a cliché, inviting comparison with that of contemporary historical handbooks. Let us look, for example, at the Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece, clearly influenced by ancient perspectives. [72] In the opening chapter, the first map in the section “Origins” is one of mainland Greece and the East coast of Asia Minor, from Macedonia and Thrace in the North and to Crete in the South. [73] Though Athens is not mentioned, the map actually centers on Attica. Furthermore, many headings in the table of contents have equivalent entries in the Parian Marble: “King Minos and Knossos,” “The Trojan Wars,” “Migration and Colonization,” “Rise of the Tyrants,” “Athens Ascendant,” “Persia and the West,” “Kingdom of Macedonia,” “Campaigns of Alexander,” “Alexander’s Spoils,” “Consolidation of the Kingdoms,” “New Kingdoms, New Rivalries.” [74] Thus, the shift in focus is similar, but the Parian Marble differs in downplaying “The Rise of Sparta,” “Pericles and the Athenian Empire,” and the “Peloponnesian War.” Until Alexander, the reference to Egypt is minimal, and the West is limited to Syracuse, including Carthage only towards the end.
The geographical knowledge underlying the composition or the reading of the Parian Marble is not particularly rich. But precisely for that reason it may be seen as reflecting the knowledge of educated laymen, perhaps of teachers. [75]

5. Conclusions

The analysis of the Parian Marble in terms of style, themes, narrative technique, characters, and space shows that rather than remaining uniform, they vary as the inscription advances.
The opening, up to the Trojan War, sticks to the formulaic arrangement of entries, beginning with temporal clauses and ending with dating notices. Parataxis is the rule, achieved through καί, though occasionally consecutive and epexegetic meanings can be discerned, disclosing the aetiological orientation of the sources used. In this period, information concerns the emergence of political entities, religious practices, and cultural institutions. In terms of geography, the section focuses on central Greece, particularly on Attica and Athens. From the sixth century BCE on, the structure of entries loosens, postscripts emerge, and δέ appears, a conjunction almost unattested before A36. Both features perhaps testify to the difficulties of compiling information from diverse sources. From the point of view of content, cultural events dominate. In the Classical period, the festival culture of Athens is emphasized, whereas the political and military centrality of other areas emerges. Consequently, the geographical focus expands, covering the Mediterranean basin, from Syracuse to Persia. In section B entries have a much looser structure; nominalization frequently opens sections, and postscripts, usually coordinated by δέ, are more numerous. At the same time, information is more detailed, often more than needed for chronographic purposes. At times, entries resemble hypomnemata. The author’s giving way to narrative may derive from his describing contemporary events, as well as from the wealth of available information. This period focuses particularly on the military and political realms, with events and people recorded from further east and west. It is reasonable to assume that much stylistic variation is due to the use of different sources.
The Parian Marble, as many have noted, may be disappointing as a historical source. People and events that we deem important are missing: Lycurgus, Solon, Cleisthenes, Pericles, the Peloponnesian wars, do not appear in the extant text. [76] What is more, chronology often differs from what we know from other sources. [77] In fact, the Parian Marble shows no deep historiographical aspirations. Events are dated, not explained. As a literary text, the inscription is equally disappointing. The objective style does not engage the poetically oriented mind, appreciative of the exceptional rather than the cliché. Whoever looks for originality of expression or thought finds nothing of the sort in the Parian Marble. The inscription partakes of the style of chronicles as a literary genre, sharing at the same time a world-view with ancient historiography, in terms of who and what counts. Nevertheless, to readers, ancient or modern, perusing it from beginning to end, the Parian Marble offers a compact version of Panhellenic history. In that sense, the inscription not only offers a chronology, as originally intended, but at the same time a historical overview. If read in this way, a notional hero emerges and a plot seems to form. The hero is Hellas, at times identified with Athens; the plot is the rise and fall of political powers.
The world of the Parian Marble is one of on-going confrontation. No didactic lesson is intended, yet a Herodotean moral is imparted, nonetheless: whatever rises is doomed to fall, whoever attains power eventually passes away. The comfort imparted by the rhythmical counting of years contrasts sharply with the instability of human endeavors. The objective style inspires authority, but knowledge of historical sources may yet raise a sense of dissonance.


[ back ] 1. Jacoby 1904a:26.
[ back ] 2. Jacoby’s table (cited in chap. 6, n. 22 below) marks a division before and after the battles of Plataea (A52) and Leuctra (A72 suppl., Jacoby FGrH 239 [commentary]:667).
[ back ] 3. Such a chronological marker may be found in the beginning of the annual Athenian archonship, A32.
[ back ] 4. See chap. 5, sect. 2 below.
[ back ] 5. Editors either present the text of the Parian Marble graphically divided according to lines (Selden, Boeckh, Flach, Krispi and Wilhelm, Jacoby 1904a) or entries (“epochae,” Prideaux, Hiller von Gärtringen, Jacoby FGrH). Occasionally the beginnings of lines coincide with the beginning of entries: A69, A74, B3, B22, B27.
[ back ] 6. Jacoby 1904b:102–107. The assessment of divergences from Attic usage, which makes the language of the Parian Marble close to the koine, probably deserves revision in light of the many epigraphical and papyrological developments since 1904.
[ back ] 7. A21, B3, B5, B8, B9, B12, B13, B23, B24 (suppl.).
[ back ] 8. Repetition of “from X” in the same entry (sometimes with variation), is exclusive to B. We find repetition in the form “from X … and from X …” in B3, B9, B12 (with a third member in B12 introduced by “from when”), “from X … and from when …” in B23 (with suppl.), and two instances of “and when …” (καὶ ὅτε) in B13 and B24. In B24, where a lacuna allows enough space for the dating formula, it is possible that repetition indicates a new entry.
[ back ] 9. Jacoby FGrH 239 (commentary):668 gives a shorter list of postscripts, attributing them to the cutter.
[ back ] 10. On Hellenistic historiography’s tendency to conclude a year’s account with reference to ancient intellectuals, see chap. 6, sect. 1 below.
[ back ] 11. Jacoby 1904b:91.
[ back ] 12. Introd., A36, A49, A55, A58, A60, A71, A74, A77.
[ back ] 13. B1, B6, B7, B11, B12 (twice), B14, B27.
[ back ] 14. Coordinating nouns, followed by καί: τε καί … A60, τε … καί … καί … A14 (supplements are not counted).
[ back ] 15. As in Burgess and Kulikowski 2013:301-309. See Bartol 2013:409–413 for the use of the particle δέ as a mark of transition in [Plutarch] On Music, 1131e–1135d, with further references.
[ back ] 16. For consecutive or inferential καί, see chap. 2, n. 131 (to the English translation of A1). Such an understanding of καί supports the supplement κωπ]ῶν in A9.
[ back ] 17. Jacoby 1904b:106.
[ back ] 18. Relative clauses: A5, A19, A43, B12; formulaic indication of victory through relative clauses: A25, A46, A48, A51, A52, A72, B5, B9. One instance of relative instead of conjunction in postscript: A 48. In spite of its lacunose state, A19 clearly appears as the most complex sentence in the Parian Marble.
[ back ] 19. Concerted participles: Introduction (line 1), A1, A6, A9, A12, A19, A20 (twice; once suppl.), A30, A31, A36, A37 (suppl.), A48, A49, A54, A56, A57, A59 (in an erasure), A60, A63 (suppl.), A64, A66, A69, A76, B2 (twice), B10, B11 (twice), B15 (suppl.), B20.
[ back ] 20. Absolute genitives: A11, A36, A39 (twice), A44, A61, B2 (twice), and dating formulae along the inscription.
[ back ] 21. A5 (suppl., συνήγειρε either aor. or impf.), A10, A42 (suppl.), A49, A55, A58, A60 (suppl.), A61, A69, A72, A74 (suppl.), A77, B1, B14, B15, B16, B17, B18; ἐνίκων / ἐνίκα in subordinate clauses: A46, A48 (in an erasure), A51, A52, A72, B9.
[ back ] 22. 186 active forms vs. 28 passive ones. All non-passive verbs and participles are considered active (only the most plausibly supplemented forms are counted).
[ back ] 23. “Being named” or “being called”: A1 (twice), A3, A6 (twice), A9, A10, A13. Active form in A5. “Being set,” i.e. established: A37 (in an erasure), A38 (in an erasure), A39 (twice; once suppl.), A43 (suppl.); i.e. “buried”: B11; for statues: A54. Active forms in A4 (temple, suppl.), A20 (agon), A22 (agon, suppl.), B13 (laws). [ back ] “Being founded”: A73, B5, B7, B14 (twice), and B19. Active forms: A7, A11, A26, A27 (suppl.), A31 (suppl.). [ back ] Other passive forms include the notions of “being chosen” (A9), “being taken” (A24, B5), “being discovered” (A11), “being given” (A17), “being sent” (B10).
[ back ] 24. Article in attributive position: A1, A34, A37 (in an erasure), with ordinals (Introduction line 2, A10, A48, A64, A73), patronymics (A3, A6 suppl., A7, A12, A34, A53, A54, A56, A77, B18 suppl., B20; without article: A5, A31), kinship (A25 suppl., A48 suppl., A49 twice, first in an erasure, A77, B19), ethnics (A10 twice, A30, A34, A45 suppl., A46, A54, A56, A65, A68, A73, A74; without article: A47), locations (A26 suppl., A71 suppl., A75), mostly battles and sieges (A48, A51, A52, A72 suppl., B3, B5, B12, B23), professions (poets: A29, A42, A43, A48, A49, A50 three times, A55, A57, A59, A64, A70 partly suppl., B7, B14, B22; philosophers: B11 “the sophist”; king: A42; commander: A52). The attributive article is missing at A66, A69, B15. [ back ] The article with participle of γίγνομαι (B9, B24) may be a periphrastic rendition of the more usually pattern “from when … took place” (A3, A4, A16, A17, A19, A48, A51, A52, A72).
[ back ] 25. See n. 18 above.
[ back ] 26. Participles used for stating age: ὤν with ordinal adjective A30, A31; ἐτῶν ὤν with numeral A48, A56, A60. Age is also stated through βιοὺς ἔτη with numeral (A57, A66, A69, B11, B15 suppl.) and βιώσας ἔτη with numeral (A59, A63 suppl., A64, A76). In one case, ὤν is given a noun as predicate (A49, “being a poet himself”).
[ back ] 27. τοῦ πρώτου Introd., Παναθηναίοις τοῖς πρώτοις γενομένοις A10, τρεισκαιδεκάτου A23, δευτέρου ⟨καὶ εἰκοστοῦ⟩ ἔτους A24, τρεισκαιδεκάτου A27, ἑνδέκατος A30, δέκατος A31, εἰκοστοῦ καὶ ἑνός A31, τοῦ προτέρου A36, τοῦ δευτέρου A38, καὶ ἆθλον ἐτέθη πρῶτον A39 (attributive or adverbial), πρῶτος A43, τοῦ προτέρου A43, τοῦ δευτέρου A48, τοῦ προτέρου A59, ὁ δεύτερος A73. Numerals, in addition to the numbers in the dating formula: τὰς δώδεκα πόλεις A20. Adverbial ordinals: τὸ πρότερον A1, A6, πρῶτος A10 (twice), πρ]ώτη Α12, πρῶτον A16, A46, A50, A60, τότε πρῶτον B14.
[ back ] 28. Phrygian (A10, twice), Idaean (A11), Argive (A30), Lesbian (A34), Pelasgian (A45), Chalcian (A46), Ceian (A54), Selinian (A65), Selymbrian (A68), Himerian (A73), Sicilian (A74).
[ back ] 29. Ἄρειος Πάγος A3, A25, ὁ γυμνικὸς [ἀγών] A17, νόμισμα ἀργυροῦν A30, τοὺς νόμους τοὺ[ς κιθ]α[ρ]-ωι̣δ̣[ικ]οὺς καὶ αὐλητ[ικ A34, τὴν ἔμπροσθε μουσικὴν A34 (adverb), ⟨⟨ὁ ἀγὼν ὁ γυμνικὸς ἐτέθη χρ⟩⟩ηματίτης A37, [ὁ στε]⟨⟨φανίτης ἀγὼν A38, Μεγάλη πόλι̣ς̣ A73, αὐτοκράτορα στρατηγόν B12.
[ back ] 30. Pronouns: παν[τοί]ων Introd., ἄλλους Α10, τῶι δ’ αὐτῶι ἔτει τούτωι (B12), εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ A20, κατὰ τοῦτον A42, A55, τούτου A79, ἕτερος … Ἡρακλῆς B18.
[ back ] 31. Temporal adverbs κατ’ ἐνιαυτὸν A32, ἔμπροσθε A34 (adverb), πάλιν A38, τότε A71, B14. Also: οὗ[περ] A5.
[ back ] 32. τῶι δ’ αὐτῶι ἔτει τούτωι B12, κατὰ τοῦτον A42, A55.
[ back ] 33. Alexander: B4; Ptolemy: B17, B8 (κυριεύσεως).
[ back ] 34. Jacoby already noted the pregnant meaning of the word (Jacoby 1904b:107).
[ back ] 35. There is one instance of ἀποθνήσκω, B19.
[ back ] 36. Occasionally (A41), the nature of events is assessed through the most plausible restoration. The quantitative semantic analysis, as that of style, would benefit from digital encoding (e.g. using the Epidoc markup scheme, as in the “Digital Marmor Parium,” edited by Monica Berti [Digital Humanities, University of Leipzig], announced as this book was going to press).
[ back ] 37. I count the city foundations at A27 as a single event.
[ back ] 38. As king, tyrant, kyrios, passim.
[ back ] 39. Amphyction in Thermopylae, A5; Theseus’s synoikismos and democracry in Athens, A20.
[ back ] 40. Ares and Poseidon, A3; Orestes and Aegisthus’s daughter, A25.
[ back ] 41. Of Hipparchus, A45, of Bessus, B6. Other instances of political killing remain understated (e.g. Olympias and Cleopatra, B14 and B19).
[ back ] 42. A foundation is possibly implied at A5; Cadmeia, A7; Apollonia, A11; Salamis, A26; Miletus and the Ionian cities, A27; Syracuse, A31; Megalopolis, A73; Alexandria, B5; Hellenis, B7; Lysimachia, B19.
[ back ] 43. Phrased in terms of taking or destroying towns, taking dominion over an area, and prevailing over commanders.
[ back ] 44. Jacoby 1904b:89–91.
[ back ] 45. Similar condensed narratives appear in the early sections of Jerome’s Chronicle, e.g. the story of Proserpina (i.e. Persephone), with specific reference to Philochorus’ second book of the Atthis (49l).
[ back ] 46. Numbers make no distinction between historical and mythological figures. Partially supplemented names are counted, but neither repetition of individual names nor patronymics. Female individuals account for 5 or 8.5 percent of all individuals attested in the inscription (from a total of 203 or 117; the Amazons are counted as one).
[ back ] 47. Other groups besides ethnoi are the Amazons (A21), choroi (A39, A46), and the Pisistratids (A45).
[ back ] 48. White 1987:10. The question of whether White’s assessment applies to most medieval chronicles is beyond the scope of this chapter.
[ back ] 49. Athens (A1, A3, A4, A10 implied, A19, and A20); Attica (A1); Delphi (A2 implied, A4 implied), Thermopylae (A5), Phthiotis (A6), Thebes (A7, A22), Phrygia (A10), Eleusis (A13, A14 implied, A15, A17), Arcadia (A17), Argos (Nemea A22 suppl.).
[ back ] 50. Alyattes (A35 suppl.) and Croesus (A41).
[ back ] 51. Pisistratus and the Pisistratids, A40, A45.
[ back ] 52. Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes: A42, A44, A49; Cyrus’s anabasis: A64, A66; Artaxerxes’s death: A77; Ochos: A77.
[ back ] 53. The landowners, A36; Gelon, A53; Hieron, A55; Dionysius I and II, A62, A74.
[ back ] 54. Alexander, Perdiccas A58; Archelaus A61; Philippus A77.
[ back ] 55. Against the Triballi and Illyrians, B2.
[ back ] 56. Against the Thebans, B2.
[ back ] 57. The battles of Granicus and Issus, B3; the conquest of Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Egypt, B4; foundation of Alexandria, B5.
[ back ] 58. The battle of Arbela, seizing of Babylon, B5; foundation of Hellenis, which may refer to Alexandria Eschate by the Iaxartes, B7 (cf. Krispi and Wilhelm 1897:192, Jacoby 1904a:125).
[ back ] 59. B14, B18.
[ back ] 60. B10, B13, B14, and the Piraeus (B20).
[ back ] 61. The rebuilding of Thebes, B14.
[ back ] 62. B24.
[ back ] 63. B12, B14, including the foundation of Cassandreia at the site of Potidaea.
[ back ] 64. B12, B13, and the foundation of Lysimachia, B19.
[ back ] 65. B16.
[ back ] 66. B19.
[ back ] 67. Syria and Phoenicia, B12; Gaza, B16; and the Eastern Aegean: Amorgos, B9; Cos, B19; Rhodes, B23; and Cyprus, B17 suppl., B21.
[ back ] 68. Egypt, B8, B11; Memphis, B11; Cyrene B10, B11.
[ back ] 69. B18, B19 (partly restored).
[ back ] 70. Jacoby, however, believed that no special source on the history of Sicily had been used (1904b:91).
[ back ] 71. Jacoby sees the omission of the Dorian immigration, Lycurgus, and the very limited reference to Sparta (A72) as part of the inscription’s anti-Spartan or anti-Dorian Tendenz (FGrH 239 [commentary]:667).
[ back ] 72. Morkot 1996.
[ back ] 73. Morkot 1996:23.
[ back ] 74. Morkot 1996:6–7.
[ back ] 75. Thus, the Parian Marble provides an insight into the geographical knowledge possibly held by non-professionals in the Hellenistic period (cf. Dueck and Brodersen 2012:118–121).
[ back ] 76. Other notable omissions: the Olympic games, the Argonauts, Heracles; see Jacoby FGrH 239 (commentary):666–667. In contrast, the later Roman Chronicle mentions Solon (B 2), Themistocles (B 19–20), the Peloponnesian war (B 25–26), and the Gauls’ taking of Rome in 385/4 BCE (B 27–28).
[ back ] 77. Cf. Jacoby FGrH 239 (commentary):669–670.