Aelian and Philostratus: contrasting manuscript traditions of two Greek fictional letter collections

by A.D. Morrison and Antonia Sarri

There is a striking difference in the degree of order one finds in two Greek fictional letter collections which are often read alongside one another, the letters of Aelian and Philostratus. The order of the letters of Aelian is stable, but the mss of Philostratus present two competing orders. As we shall see, the order in which the letters of the latter are read most commonly today turns out to be an order with a problematic claim to authoritativeness. The critical consequences are far from negligible.

Aelian’s twenty letters are transmitted in the mss under the title ἐκ τῶν Αἰλιανοῦ ἀγροικικῶν ἐπιστολῶν and have traditionally been ascribed to the Roman sophist Claudius Aelianus, which would put them in the late second or early third century A.D. (Philostratus refers to Aelian in his Lives of the Sophists 624–5). The order of the letters is 1–20 in all three of the earliest mss that preserve the letters of Aelian, which is the order (naturally enough) adopted in printed editions. (The mss relevant are Ambrosianus B 4 sup. (= Martini-Bassi 1906, no 81), Matritensis 4693, and Vallicelianus gr. 182 (=92 All.).

This stability in the mss and printed editions contrasts sharply with the situation for the letters of Philostratus. The critical consensus is that the author of these letters is Philostratus II ‘of Athens’, born in the latter part of the second century A.D., that is the same author as the author of the Lives of the Sophists and the Life of Apollonius of Tyana. There are a total of 73 letters: no MS preserves all of these. Most are erotic in character, and have anonymous addressees, but not all. The order in which the letters are usually read today reflects one of the main manuscript families identified by Kayser in his 1844 edition of the works of Philostratus (and also reflected in his 1870 Teubner). His ‘Family 1’ contains 58 letters, ordered (for the most part) in the sequence in which we usually read the letters today, though not all of the manuscripts preserve all 58 of these letters.  Kayser’s ‘Family 2’, on the other hand, preserves 53 letters (1-39, 46-7, 50, 54-64) in a quite different order:  3, 54, 1, 2, 46, 20, 9, 55, 17, 63, 4, 21, 27, 22, 5, 47, 6, 7, 23, 8, 28, 11, 50, 10, 12, 56, 29, 24, 25, 57, 26, 30, 13, 31, 58, 59, 15, 60, 33, 32, 16, 61, 34, 62, 14, 35, 36, 37, 18, 38, 19, 39, 64.

Of the forty-seven letters  shared between these two families (all of which are erotic in content, and all to unnamed addressees), twenty are found in abbreviated form in Family 1 (7-8, 10, 12-13, 15, 18-19, 21-22, 25-9, 33-4, 36, 38-9). Letters 65-72 are found in independent manuscript f (Laurentianus 59.30) and 73 in M (Matritensis 4693) and Parisinus 2775. These letters are different in content from the erotic letters, since they are written to named addressees and concern a variety of topics.

Why did Kayser prefer the order of Family 1? It appears that he thought the abbreviated versions of the shared letters as the work of a mature Philostratus revising his earlier work (Kayser 1844: i). But in fact (as Raïos has pointed out),  there is in fact no evidence to support this hypothesis of two Philostratean editions of the letters, and good reasons for thinking that the shorter versions must be alterations of the longer. Letter 19, for example, clearly shows not only abbreviation, but also a change of addressee (from male to female) and some alteration of pronouns, with the omission of material which identified the addressee as male, to produce the shorter version. There remains much work to be done (not least on the letters not preserved in Family 2, esp. the non-erotic letters 65-73), but we can provisionally conclude that for the letters of Family 2, the order preserved in those manuscripts is likely to be more authoritative, and that we should read the letters in that order, not in the order used by Kayser and most editions since. Happily, the order of Family 2 is the one used by Kai Brodersen in his recent (2017) text and translation of the letters of Philostratus (Erotische Briefe / Erotikai Epistolai, Wiesbaden).


From Philoctetes to Justinian and beyond: CAHA students at Velika

by Maria Kopsacheili

In August 2018, three undergraduate CAHA students had the fascinating opportunity to participate – fully-funded by SALC- in the excavation project of Kastro Velikas in the northeast part of Thessaly in Greece. Kastro Velikas is a fortified site on a low hill on the north-east slopes of Mount Kissavos and just at 500 m from the sea-side. In Late Antiquity, it saw its heyday in the time of Justinian, as an affluent commercial and military post. The site, however, is one of the strongest candidates as the location of the city of Melivoia – a key station in the defence system of Thessaly in the Classical and Hellenistic periods located on the coastal path that linked Thessaly with Macedon to the north.


Kastro Velikas. View to the East from the area of the Building by the Southern Gate.

In the summer of 2017 the Larisa Ephorate of Antiquities (EFALAR, ) and the Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford ( ) commenced a collaboration led by Drs Stavroula Sdrolia and Maria Stamatopoulou. A year later, the team grew with the participation of three students from Manchester under my supervision. The project draws on the results of the previous research done at the site by the EFALAR and the University of Thessaly, which had revealed buildings of military and commercial character as well as a basilica of the 6th c. CE. Amongst the finds were abundant pottery sherds of the Classical period, the visible remains of a pre-Justinian phase of the fortification wall, and a dedicatory inscription to Zeus Akraios (Zeus “Of the Peaks”) indicating the existence of an important earlier settlement at the site. The current project aims at examining the extent and nature of the earlier city and ultimately at contributing to the understanding of the historical topography of the region and Melivoia’s location. Melivoia is mentioned in the Iliad (B717) as a city in the kingdom of the Homeric hero Philoctetes.

We have so far revealed earlier phases of Byzantine structures adjacent or very close to the wall that had been previously located- such as the ‘Building by the Southern Gate’. We also identified concentrations of Classical black-glazed pottery in the backfills created for the construction of the Byzantine buildings. Such have been found in all the trenches we opened. New pottery findings have reinforced the theory that the site had particularly strong trading links with the Black Sea in the proto-Byzantine period and that it survived well into the 7th and 8th centuries CE. At the same time, large concentrations of metal objects point to the use of specific rooms as units for storage of military gear and perhaps as workshops.


Manchester students Jessica Charlesworth and Elena Marian at work in one of the excavation trenches

The students from Manchester worked in small groups alongside experienced postgraduates and familiarised themselves with a broad range of skills that are essential in archaeological fieldwork, such as topographical survey, excavation, photography in the field, plans and section drawing, processing and recording artefacts.[1] They also had the opportunity to learn about the material culture of the Justinian period and northeast Thessaly – topics which are not mainstream in the taught syllabi of most UK institutions – and by doing so to place their own knowledge into a broader context. This became possible not only by working on site, but also through a series of museum tours and visits to other sites of the region organised by the EFALAR and the Municipality of Agia.[2] This field season closed with a public lecture attended by local stakeholders, where we presented both the new findings and the value of the project for student-training.


Post-excavation work: sorting and recording pottery (PGR, PGT and UG students from Oxford and Manchester)

The Late Antique and Byzantine deposits at the site are several metres deep and there is no doubt that we are only at the beginning of our efforts to expose the Classical city. Work is expected to resume in the summer of 2019 and the prospect of applying non-intrusive archaeological methods alongside excavation is being examined.


Members of the excavation team, Kastro Velikas 2018

[1] The CAHA students were Jessica Charlesworth (Level 1, Ancient History), Isabel Turnbull (Level 2, Ancient History), Elena Marian (Level 2, Archaeology & Anthropology) —as in 2017/8.

[2] Our department is immensely grateful to the two institutions  — the EFALAR and the University of Oxford —which were willing to add our team from Manchester to the project. In addition, the Municipality of Agia  provided free-of-charge accommodation for staff and students, storage rooms for the finds as well as support staff who took care of subsistence and we are deeply grateful for their support.

A Conference on Ancient Philosophical Letters


At the beginning of September, following the restarting of the Ancient Letters Collection project at Manchester, the department hosted a two-day conference on ancient Philosophical Letters. The full programme can be found here. The conference featured scholars with a wide range of interests and backgrounds presenting papers on a fascinatingly diverse set of texts and issues.

We opened proceedings with two general papers. Jenny Bryan (Manchester) kicked things off with a paper aiming to focus our minds on the question of how and, indeed, whether we might define either the ‘philosophical letter’ or ‘epistolary philosophy’. Admitting the difficulty of producing such definitions, she presented the claim that letters provide the best context in which to construct a philosophical persona, superior even to the philosophical dialogue in this regard. Several of the issues she raised resurfaced in subsequent papers and discussions. Owen Hodkinson’s (Leeds) paper served to showcase the diversity and scope of the material available to those with an interest in ancient philosophical letters. Surveying the uses of scholē across the extant Greek philosophical letters, Owen noted the influence of specifically philosophical connotations (particularly in the late fictional works drawing on earlier traditions) as well as pointing to the limited role of the idea when contrasted with the presence of notions of otium in Latin letters.

Our second panel considered the Platonic Epistles and their afterlife. Andrew Morrison (Manchester) offered a reconsideration of the erotic features of the letters, arguing for the importance of considering the different ways in which the letters have circulated as a collection (more on the different collections of the Platonic Epistles can be found here). Simon Smets (UCL) broadened our horizons by introducing the letters of Marsilio Ficino, the fifteenth century author of translations and commentaries on Plato. Simon presented a fascinating discussion of the ways in which Ficino’s letters and epistolary pedagogical persona are informed not only by the Platonic Epistles, but also by his reading of the letters of Seneca and Pliny.

Thursday’s final panel had a Stoic focus. Ada Bronowski (NCH) presented an account of Seneca’s engagement with Epicurus’ letters in his own Letters to Lucilius. Ada argued that Seneca often quotes Epicurus in a manner that explicitly distorts his thought but which serves Seneca’s own Stoic position. In doing so, he signals his agonistic attitude philosophical epistolary practice. Janja Soldo (ICS) discussed Fronto’s use of philosophical references and tropes within his letters, offering an argument for the relevance of these texts for our thinking about ancient philosophical letters. Elizabeth Mattingley Conner (Maryland) introduced us to the use of Stoic thought in the letters of fifth and sixth century sophists in Gaza as a means of exhortation and the encoding of values and ideologies within their wider communities.

We returned on Friday with a panel focussed on the place of Pythagoreanism in ancient philosophical letters. Carol Atack (Oxford) considered the themes, purpose and authorship of the letters attributed to Pythagorean women, arguing that the Pythagorean philosophical context is used to support a relatively conservative understanding of gender roles and relations. Elsa Simonetti (Durham) presented a detailed discussion of the letters attributed to Apollonius or Tyana, demonstrating the ways in which they appear to represent and communicate philosophical positions as well as constructing the philosophical identity both of the author and his audience.

Friday’s second panel focussed on Epicurean questions, with both papers also touching on the relationship of the letter to dialogue. Pamela Gordon (Kansas) presented an intriguing discussion of the way that Cicero’s dialogic epistolary interactions with Cassius on Epicureanism inform the more trenchant anti-Epicurean polemic of De Finibus. Federico Giulio Corsi (Sapienza) considered the relationship between the epistolary philosophical didactic of Diogenes of Oenoanda and that of Epicurus. Federico noted that Diogenes’ Letter to Antipater is more dialogic in nature than the abridged treatises we find in the letters of Epicurus. He raised the interesting question of how the monumental nature of the letter’s inscription at Oenoanda relates to its attempts to stimulate philosophical critique.

In the final panel of the conference, Claire Jackson (Cambridge) scrutinized the philosophical coherence of the fictional letters of Chion of Heraclea, arguing that they serve to challenge the suitability of letters as a vehicle for philosophy. Anna Peterson (Penn State) drew our attention to issues of the interaction of epistolarity and philosophy in Lucian’s Negrinus and On the Passing of Peregrinus, arguing that the complexity of the relation between author, addressee and subject serve as a context for considering the nature and significance of philosophical self-reflection. In the last paper of the conference, Malcolm Heath (Leeds) presented a discussion of Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus with a focus on what it can tell us about significance and function of philosophical letters within the third-century philosophical community.

 Every paper stimulated lively and productive discussion sessions and it was particularly rewarding to recognize the connections between the questions asked and answers given on this wide range of texts and topics. It is clear that this is a fruitful area of research in which there is much more work to be done. We look forward to seeing how our discussions and understanding continue to develop.

The ‘Platonic’ Epistles and their orders

A.D. Morrison & Antonia Sarri

We’ve recently tackled one of the most famous and controversial ancient letter collections, the Epistles attributed to Plato, including the famous (and very long!) Seventh Letter, which is written as if by Plato, defending his entanglements in Sicily and offering a species of autobiography.

The authenticity of the letters is still debated, of course, though our own view as a project is that they are most unlikely to be authentic (for the debate see Isnardi Parenti–Ciani, Platone: Lettere 2002, xi-xv and on the Seventh Letter  Burnyeat–Frede , The Pseudo-Platonic Seventh Letter, 2015, Huffman, Archytas of Tarentum 2005, 42-3). Putting aside the question of authenticity, the earliest evidence for the existence of the collection suggests it was formed fairly early: Diogenes Laertius (3.61), reporting the content of Thrasyllus’ division of Plato into nine groups of four works each (the ‘tetralogies’), gives the same addressees for the thirteen letters as in our manuscripts (with one exception, Aristodemus for Aristodorus, which is probably an error). This suggests the collection was formed at least by the first century AD, possibly earlier, since  Cicero (first century BC) refers to letters 7 (Tusc. Disp. 5.35; De Fin. 2.28) and 9 (De Fin. 2.14 and De Off. 1.7); part of letter 8 (356a6-8) survives in a third century BC papyrus (P.Worp=P.Lugd. Bat. XXXIII 1).

The collection has survived in two orders. The first is the order 1-13, which has descended as part of the wider Platonic corpus (and which is reflected in modern printed editions of the collection). This is the oldest order and seems to have been preserved intact at least since the arrangement of Thrasyllus (first century AD), positioning the letters at the end of the ninth tetralogy. The oldest manuscripts of the Platonic corpus are Parisinus 1807 (=9th century AD) and (of about the same age) its apograph Vaticanus 1 (ninth-tenth century AD), both of which contain the letters in the order 1-13, positioned at the end of the ninth tetralogy, followed by the Definitions and the spurious dialogues.

The 1-13 order seems to reflect a narrative with flashbacks in letters 1-4, a pause in letters 5 and 6, with the narrative continuing in letters 7 and 8, focusing on Plato’s unhappy association with the Syracusan court. The last five letters (9-13) take us back to an earlier stage, before the end of the events as described by letter 8. The narrative is thus roughly chronological in the first section (1-8), the events being presented in dramatic retrospect, which the second section (9-13) then exploits to advert to the dramatic irony of the earlier phase of the relationship between Plato and Dionysius II.

The second order, which has received much less scholarly attention, is derivative from the first one; it consists of a selection of the thirteen without interrupting their order: 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10. These six letters address respectively Dionysius II (the tyrant of Syracuse, the addressee of both 1 and 2), Dion (engaged in a struggle for control of Syracuse, who overcomes Dionysius II but is later killed), Perdiccas III, king of Macedonia, Archytas of Tarentum (the philosopher and general), and finally Aristodorus (in a very brief letter commending him for his support of Dion; he is otherwise unknown). This order needs more attention, but one can perhaps see that the first three letters tell briefly the story of Plato’s association with Dionysius II and then his support for Dion, who has overcome Dionysius II, thus miniaturising the story of the struggles for supremacy at Syracuse, while the latter three letters show Plato engaged in more typical epistolary communication, writing a  letter of recommendation (letter 5) and apparently responding to one in letter 9, while writing a short affirmation of his addressee’s ‘true philosophy’ in letter 10.

As such the selection perhaps reflects the context in which it is found in the manuscripts, since in the manuscripts reflecting the derivative order 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, the letters are transmitted mainly with other Greek epistolographers, especially philosophers, often near the collections of the letters of the Socratics and the Cynics. When exactly these collections of epistolographers (or ‘epistolaria’) were compiled is uncertain, but they could date as back as early as the fourth century AD, because the collection 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10 is often preceded by excerpts from letter 2, which are also found in Stobaeus (fifth century AD).

In a very important sense, then, this post on the Plato collection epitomises the project: we’re attempting not only to establish ancient ordering(s), but also the effects those orders have on reading practices including especially ancient orders that have been neglected in the modern critical tradition. Much more work remains to be done!

The Project Restarts and the Letters of Aeschines

by A.D. Morrison, Antonia Sarri

The Ancient Letter Collections Project restarted on 15 June 2018 with the return of Antonia Sarri from maternity leave following the birth of her daughter Ephraimia (many congratulations once again, Antonia!).

We are continuing our work on Greek pseudepigraphic letter collections: the first such collection we have been examining since the project began again is the Letters of Aeschines. These purport to be written by Aeschines, the famous Athenian orator of the fourth century BC and rival of Demosthenes. They probably date from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, in common with several other Greek fictional letter collections.

The letters are preserved in two distinct orders in the manuscripts in two distinct families: in one family four letters are preserved in the order 1, 6, 7, 3, in the other the letters are preserved in the order 1-12 (the order adopted in printed editions). It is not clear which order is more authoritative. (There is also a group of later manuscripts which combine these orders by taking 1, 6, 7, 3 from one family and the remaining letters from the other family.)

Naturally enough it’s the order 1-12 which has dominated discussion, with some scholars (such as Niklas Holzberg) suggesting they form a type of epistolary novel, with Aeschines arriving into exile on Rhodes in letter 1 and then looking back on his time at Athens, before closing with Aeschines attempting to make provision for his children after his death. Whatever the merits of this view (it is hard, for example, to fit in the anomalous letter 10 into it, since this is a tale of the erotic adventures of one Cimon, and unlike the other letters lacks both clear signs that it is written by Aeschines and an explicit addressee), we can now see that a very different narrative emerges from the alternative order. This is the order of the recension represented by Harleianus 5610 and its descendants: letters 1, 6, 7, 3. That narrative therefore also begins with  letter  1, which reports Aeschines’ journey and arrival at Rhodes, but it is followed by letter 6, a letter of recommendation, which reports the welcome Aeschines received on Rhodes, then letter 7 (to the Athenian assembly), which reveals that Aeschines apparently had the opportunity to return to Athens. The collection closes with letter 3 (also to the Athenian assembly) in which Aeschines expresses his willingness to stay in exile on Rhodes.

The orders of the letters in the different families of the Aeschines collection’s manuscripts therefore nicely illustrate one of the key aims of the project, which is to uncover manuscript orders which have previously been ignored by scholars, and investigate the significance of such orders. Here the order 1, 6, 7, 3 is no less authoritative than the order  1-12 and tells a rather different story with (some of) the same material. More account needs to be taken of that alternative narrative than has been the case so far in studies of the Aeschines collection.

A Tangled Transmission – the Letters of Apollonius of Tyana and a Pause in the Project

A.D. Morrison & Antonia Sarri

The transmission of the Letters attributed to the philosopher and sage Apollonius of Tyana form a good example of the complications which the project is unravelling. Apollonius was a Pythagorean philosopher and wandering sage who lived (probably) in the first century AD. It appears that he travelled widely, even reaching as far east as India. Soon after his death, collections of letters attributed to him began to appear: an instructive example being the appearance of some of his letters in the biography of Apollonius written by Philostratus (second century AD), who himself claims to have collected some of his letters (Vita Apollonii 7.35) and quotes several letters and praises their style, mentioning also that a collection of the letters was obtained by the emperor Hadrian (Vita Apollonii 8.20). It may well be that Philostratus is the author of those letters he includes in his biography. Of these, 14 are also transmitted within the collection of letters attributed to Apollonius, which is the collection which concerns us here. It is likely that the entire collection is pseudepigraphic, though Philostratus may not be responsible for it in its entirety.

The collection of Apollonius’ letters contains some 91 letters (in the largest version) in the medieval MSS, which Penella (1979) divides into two main groups. The second group (of younger MSS) has the letters in the order 1-42, 42a-h, 43-77, 77a-f (to use Penella’s numbering): 42a-h and 77a-f are those shared with Philostratus’ biography of Apollonius. Their peculiar numbering originates from their omission in some modern editions, starting with Olearius (1709), on account of their appearance also in the biography. The order of the second group has nonetheless been the basis for the order in modern printed editions since that of Bartholomaeus Justinopolitanus (1498). However, the first group (of older MSS) preserves the letters in a different order, with some variation in the order in the MSS of that family, and fewer in total than the second group. Parisinus Gr. 1428, for instance, has the order: 14, 15, 5, 16, 17, 6, 52, 60, 18, 9, 10, 19-22, 61, 23, 63, 64, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 54, 31, 65, 66, 32, 33, 34, 70-72, excerpt from 55, 35, 36, 37, 74, 75a, 75, 38, 76, 56, 39, 41, 42, 77, 57, 46, 1, 50, 51, 2, 3, 47, 49, 77a-c, 42a, 42c, 42f, 42d, 42g, 42h, 77d, 77e. But the oldest MS of the letters, Ambrosianus Gr. 81 (10th century AD), has an order much closer to that of the second group, though it is grouped with the first by Penella. It is ordered 14-42, 42a and 42 c-h. Untangling the precise relationship of these different orders and their relationship is a key aspect of the project.

Ambrosianus Gr. 81 is also important in its own right because it is one of the oldest surviving codices of Greek epistolography. It contains the epistolary treatises of Proclus and Demetrius of Phalerum and then letters of Greek epistolographers in the following order: Phalaris, Isidore of Pelusium; Firmus of Caesarea; Theophylact Simocatta; Julian; Basil; Libanius; Aelian; Aeneas of Gaza; Heraclitus; Darius; Brutus; Procopius of Gaza; Dionysius of Antioch; Apollonius of Tyana; Philostratus; Diogenes’ epp. 19–29; Crates’ epp. 11–14; Phalaris; Photius. That such collections of letters were transmitted together in ‘super-collections’ is in turn important we shall try to untangle the relationships of these larger collections also.

The material above reflects the work carried out on the project in May, because we have one final announcement this month: because Antonia Sarri, the project’s Research Associate, is expecting her first child (congratulations Antonia!), she has been on maternity leave since 15 June 2017. The project will accordingly be paused until the 15 June 2018, when it will restart. More news then!


Despotiko: a goat island and its Sanctuary of Apollo

In late spring 2017 I took the advantage of an invitation (and a lull in marking) to participate in an excavation at Mandra, located on the uninhabited Cycladic island of Despotiko (identified with the ancient Prepesinthos mentioned by Strabo and Pliny). The excavation is directed by Dr Yannos Kourayos (Ephor of Antiquities of Paros) and his assistant Ilia Daifa. Despotiko is accessed normally only via a small boat which sails on a sheltered route from a harbour on the south west of the populated island of Antiparos, which is itself 1.9 km from more substantial Paros.

Fig. 1: The Cyclades; Despotiko


Fig. 2: Despotiko: General view

The sanctuary of Apollo on Despotiko was discovered in 1997 by Dr Kourayos. The ongoing excavations, which started in 2001, have revealed an important sanctuary of the archaic period – one which, remarkably, does not appear to have been mentioned by any ancient literary source. The finds – on display at the Paros Museum – include cult statues, the head of a kouros figure, inscribed shards which attest to the worship of Apollo and Artemis, and an altar inscribed ‘Of Hestia Ithsmia’ (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Finds from Despotiko on display at the Archaeological Museum of Paros: the head of a kouros-figure, inscribed shards, and an altar inscribed ‘Of Hestia Isthmia’.

At the archaeological site there has been excavated a fascinating room containing a drainage system and a bathtub (Fig. 4), which suggest that it was a wash-room for ritual purification before entering the sacred area.

Fig. 4: Room containing drainage system and bathtub.

It is likely that the sanctuary was developed by inhabitants of the vicinity over the course of the archaic period – an era during which certain Parians became wealthy by the export of high-quality white marble, which had a reputation across Greece. Our sanctuary at Despotiko appears to have suffered a sudden and possibly violent destruction towards the end of the archaic period, and it is tempting to believe – as is suggested by Dr Kourayos– that it was razed by the Athenian general Miltiades when he launched his expedition against Paros in 490/89 BC; this may be an indication that the ambitious Athenians were keen to undermine on any communities which were displaying through their activities wealth and piety in a way they saw as challenging to that of the Athenians. The destruction of the sanctuary at this point goes some way to explaining the absence of any account of it from any of our literary sources, including Herodotus.

The sanctuary suffered further destruction and pillaging during Late Antiquity and from piratical raids in the seventeenth century. Efforts are now underway to restore the extant fragments of the sanctuary’s buildings to their original location, and the current excavation programme forms part of this project.

We were involved in the first week of the six-week excavation, so our contribution in the first days involved the clearance of undergrowth, top-soil and donkey dung (Fig. 5). (The offending donkey appears to have done damage to the remains of the sanctuary by toppling over one of the remaining columns of the sanctuary (Fig. 5) when using it as a scratching-post). But there were some exciting finds including an amphora, a six-inch bronze nail dating to the archaic period, and an inscribed shard bearing some legible letters.

Fig. 5: Donkey dung and a general view of the Sanctuary

Spending time on Despotiko gave us also the opportunity also to witness first hand the operation of labour on a goat-island: each day Petros the goatherd would arrive by boat from Antiparos and walk up to his goat-keeping complex (a mandra, from which the name of the site is taken) to release his herd from their pen. The goats would rush down to a field of barley (Fig.6) at had been planted especially for their consumption. It was is an interesting illustration of the use of agricultural resources in the Greek world: the milk, meat, and cheese (Fig. 6) produced through this process are far more highly-valued than is unprocessed barley.


Fig. 6: The goats move down to their barley field; the finished product!

On the way home we took advantage of the opportunity to visit — at the Paros Museum — one of the pieces of the famous Parian Marble, an inscription which lists a chronology of mythical and historical events from the time of the legendary king Kekrops until the third century BC. The other extant substantial fragment is on display at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The other substantial fragment – brought to England in the seventeenth century – was lost at an English country home: proof that antiquities are sometimes safer on a Greek island than in the hands of the British aristocracy!

Peter Liddel