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Understanding Roman Inscriptions (American Moment) Paperback – December 1, 1991

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Editorial Reviews


A strength of the book is its careful integration of model inscriptions into their respective chapters, so well effected as to appear almost effortless... This book should find its niche as a valuable supplement to courses and institutes on Roman history and civilization and general courses in archaeology. It is a good purchase.

(New England Classical Newsletter and Journal)

About the Author

Dr Lawrence Keppie is Senior Curator (Archaeology and History) at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, Honorary lecturer in Classics at the University in Glasgow, and President of the Glasgow Archaeological Society. He has excavated extensively on the Antonine Wall and at other Roman sites in Scotland. Among his publications is the acclaimed Making of the Roman Army: from Republic to Empire (Batsford 1984). --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: American Moment
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (December 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801843529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801843525
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 7.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,701,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Marques on July 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Latin as well as Greek epigraphy is a very rich but arid subject, and for the non-specialist the classic manuals and introductions are quite a nightmare to read - lists and lists of abbreviations, tons of technical details, and mostly no pictures of the real inscriptions to provide context and settings. This is due mostly to the fact that the most important guides about epigraphy are very old - Cagnat's "Cours d'épigraphie latine", the mandatory guide, is from 1914. So, historians and latinists who want to know more about epigraphy are usually deterred by this sort of bibliography, and lack the opportunity to use very interesting and rich sources.

Studying epigraphy is much more than learning how to decypher the inscriptions - the real fun is to understand them in their context of production and use. This book is a fabulous introduction to the subject, both presenting the technical aspects of how to interpret the inscriptions and their social meaning, with a lively, solid but light text. The examples are presented in interesting and helpful ways, with lots of pictures - believe me, you can really have fun in decyphering the inscriptions form the Arch of Severus...

But since this is an introductory book, it's by no means comprehensive. It still lacks a part about methodological implications and problems for interpreting data taken from inscriptions. But maybe this wasn't the author's purpose, anyway... So, for historians who'd like to understand more about the relationship between epigraphy and its uses for the study of Ancient History, I also recommend reading Epigraphic Evidence: Ancient History From Inscriptions, by John Bodel (ed.). Read both books and you'll have a brief but decent introduction to Latin epigraphy. Then you can go dive into Cagnat and the CIL.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Murphy on February 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
The inscriptions left behind by the Romans and the assorted denizens of their Empire are one of the most powerful sources of information we have on them. Men of all classes - from senators to slaves - had their names inscribed on stones and buildings for a variety of purposes. Inscriptions served countless other purposes -from commemorating great military triumphs and the completion of building projects - all the way down to marking how many miles were left on a certain road or warning that the reader was treading on private property. They ranged from imperial propaganda to graffiti, and served purposes modernly met by things as diverse as billboards and newspapers. Lawrence Keppie's book, essential for a beginning to this topic and useful nonetheless for a seasoned student, is the best introduction and sourcebook on Roman inscriptions I have been able to locate.

Keppie's book, well written and with line drawings and photographs throughout, examines every facet of Roman inscriptions - from how they were made all the way to how they are found, displayed, and documented by modern researchers. He looks at the roles they played in pretty much every aspect of life in the Roman Empire from the 1st Century BC to the 4th Century AD - road markers, tombstones, and records of imperial triumphs and the lives of important local citizens. For many towns and minor cities of the Empire, they are our best or only sources on the local history, culture, and celebrities and elite families.

Especially useful are the several appendices which highlight the many, sometimes confusing abbreviations used on Roman inscriptions, and a list of all the Roman Emperors up to the 5th Century, including their full names as they typically appear on inscriptions.
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