About project

The aims of the project include a new study of all Ancient Greek and Latin inscriptions originating from the Northern Coast of the Black Sea; and publication of English, Russian, and Ukrainian critical editions of the inscriptions in print and digital formats. The region of the Northern Black Sea was home to numerous ancient Greek settlements from the third quarter of the 7th century BCE until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE.

We are an international team of epigraphic specialists and technical researchers collaborating on producing a long-awaited new corpus of ancient Greek and Latin inscriptions originating from the northern coast of the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus). Our project follows in the footsteps of the first corpus of ancient inscriptions of the Northern Black Sea published by V.V. Latyshev in 1885-1901 under the title Inscriptiones antiquae Orae Septentrionalis Ponti Euxini graecae et latinae. In recognition of this continuity our project adopted the same title Ancient Inscriptions of the Northern Black Sea, usually abbreviated in scholarly publications as IOSPE on the basis of the Latin.

The new conception of the IOSPE corpus consists in capturing in its entirety the ancient epigraphic production of the northern Pontic region – that is, not only inscriptions made on stone (lapidary inscriptions), but also on other media and fabrics, such as ceramics, metal, and bone. Lapidary inscriptions are traditionally privileged in epigraphic corpora, while non-lapidary inscriptions are published separately. We intend to facilitate the work of researchers by providing epigraphic texts on all materials within one corpus. For practical reasons of presentation, lapidary inscriptions will still form a separate series within the corpus, while graffiti (inscriptions scratched onto ceramic, metal, bone and other surfaces) and dipinti (inscriptions painted on such surfaces) will form another series.

The overarching structure of the new IOSPE accommodates two series: series 1, lapidary inscriptions; and series 2, graffiti and dipinti. Within each series, inscriptions will be grouped by their place of origin. We distinguish four geopolitical areas and four corresponding collections: (I) Tyras and its vicinity, (II) Olbia and its vicinity, (III) Chersonesos and western, southern, and central Crimea, and (IV) Bosporus. Each collection is further divided into fascicles based on geographic, linguistic, or chronological criteria, whichever apply within that area. Byzantine inscriptions constitute a separate collection covering the entire region.

The first stage of the project involves publication of Lapidary Inscriptions. There will be about 5,000 lapidary texts published in IOSPE, about three times as many as in the original corpus. Texts range in length from single words to several dozen lines depending on their genre (e.g., decrees of state, funerary inscriptions), their state of preservation, and the possibility of restoring missing text on the basis of other sources.