Historical background

Origin of the texts

The inscriptions included in the new IOSPE constitute the combined production of about 33 ancient Greek communities that dwelled along the Northern Coast of the Black Sea, among them the communities of Tyras, Nikonion, Borysthenes (Berezan), Olbia, Kalos Limen, Kerkinitis, Neapolis Scythica, Chersonesos, Kharax, Theodosia, Kimmerikon, Kytaia, Akra, Nymphaion, Iluraton, Tyritake, Zenonos Chersonesos, Patraeus, Tyrambe, Kepoi, Phanagoreia, Hermonasse, Korokondame, Gorgippia, Labris, Bata, and Tanais. The territories of these ancient cities today stretch over two modern countries: Russia and Ukraine. In the last two hundred years, ancient inscriptions discovered on the Northern Coast of the Black Sea shared the fate of other artifacts of antiquity that were subject to cultural policies of their host countries. In our case, many epigraphic finds from the south of Russia and Ukraine traveled north to the imperial and later Soviet capitals of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Thus, today, the stones bearing our inscriptions are often to be found in museums and collections across several different countries, many of them far from their original places of finding. In most cases, public access to these inscriptions is very limited, and recommends the principle of the new IOSPE in supplying every edited text with multiple illustrations of the inscription recorded, either photographs or drawings.

History of the corpus

The first attempt to create a corpus of north Pontic inscriptions was made under the auspices of the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum (1828-1877), a predecessor of Inscriptiones Graecae (1903-present), both of which were based at the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin. The publishers of IG considered devoting a volume to the north Pontic area, but abandoned the plan after the Russian Imperial Academy commissioned the publication of the first corpus of ancient inscriptions originating from the northern Black Sea (1885-1901). This venture was inspired by a resurgence of interest in antiquity in the 19th-century Europe and by realization within Russia that stores of antiquities, including epigraphic monuments, were preserved in her own backyard, in South Russia. The task of producing the new corpus was assigned to the prominent epigraphist and philologist, Vasilii Latyshev, who published the first volume of the corpus in 1885 including commentaries and apparatus in Latin, under the title Inscriptiones antiquae Orae Septentrionalis Ponti Euxini graecae et latinae (IOSPE). This volume included the inscriptions originating in the area extending from the mouth of the Danube to southern Crimea. The second volume contained the inscriptions of the Bosporan kingdom and was published in 1890; the fourth, inscriptions discovered between 1885 and 1900, in 1901. Volume III, planned as a collection of ceramic stamps, was never published.

Soon after the completion of volumes I, II, and IV of the first edition of IOSPE, Latyshev began work on the second edition, necessitated by the continual discovery of new inscriptions, and the second edition of volume I (=IOSPE I2) was published in 1916. A second edition of volume II was planned for the following year, and in fact had already been sent to the press, when the events of the October 1917 revolution prevented the publication. After Latyshev’s death, work continued on the second edition of volume II, but the enormous increase in the number of inscriptions known since Latyshev’s day changed the scope of the volume, resulting in a separate corpus dedicated specifically to inscriptions from Bosporus: Korpus Bosporskikh Nadpisej (The Corpus of Bosporan Inscriptions = Corpus Inscriptionum Regni Bosporani, CIRB) published in Russian in 1965. Subsequently, no updated volumes of IOSPE or CIRB have been published. Two substantial collections of new inscriptions from the region of the northern Black Sea, published in Russian, are restricted to single city-states and to discoveries made since 1916: Inscriptions of Olbia (Nadpisi Ol’vii, ed. T. N. Knipovich, E. I. Levi, Leningrad, 1968), and New Epigraphical Monuments of Chersonesus (Novye epigrapficheskie pamyatniki Khersonesa, ed. E. I. Solomonik, Kiev, 1964, 1973).

Hence, no comprehensive corpus of inscriptions from the Northern Black Sea has been available to scholars of antiquity since Latyshev’s first edition of 1885-1901; inscriptions discovered since 1916 have been presented only sporadically, and only in Russian, and no updating of the corpus of ancient inscriptions from the Northern Black Sea has taken place in the last 40 years. For these reasons, a three-fold aim drives our project of producing the new corpus of inscriptions from the Northern Black Sea: to cover the 40-year-long gap (1965-2011) in presenting new inscriptions from the region; to update, through fresh study of the monuments, the editions of all previously known inscriptions; to make the corpus as accessible as possible to a wide readership via delivery in English in both print and electronic formats. These needs have been voiced repeatedly in the last decade by leading Russian and international epigraphists and historians.


Three innovations characterize the new IOSPE:

New and expanded contents

This is due to the manifold increase in the size of the corpus owing to intensive archaeological work that has been conducted in the region by Ukrainian and Russian archaeologists over the last one hundred years. Many new entries result from discoveries of joins and associations between fragments, all of which stem from fresh study of previously published inscriptions.

Languages of publication

Publication of the new corpus in English, Russian and Ukrainian is a departure from the practice of Inscriptiones Graecae and Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum that use Latin, as well as from the first edition of IOSPE, published between 1885 and 1901, and the single of volume of the abortive second edition of 1916, which were also written in Latin. The choice of English for the new IOSPE aims at making the corpus more accessible to scholars and the public worldwide, while the Russian and Ukrainian versions make it accessible to speakers in the modern regions where the inscriptions come from.

Publication in two formats: print and digital

The print edition will provide an up-to-date traditional publication of the corpus, while the digital edition will offer wider access, additional imagery, further indices and sophisticated search capabilities.