MASt – Fall Seminar 2021 (Friday, December 17)

MASt – Fall Seminar 2021 (Friday, December 17): Summaries of Presentations and Discussion

§1. Rachele Pierini opened the Fall session of the MASt seminars by welcoming the participants to the December meeting. In addition to the regular members of the MASt network, colleagues and students who have already attended previous session, new guests joined the December 17 meeting: Nicholas Blackwell, Kyle Mahoney, Jake Morton, Athanasio Papalexandrou, Emilio Rosamilia, Ambra Russotti.

§2. The talks of the Fall 2021 meeting were “Salamander’s Hair: Considerations on asbestos fiber in ancient textile manufacture,” by Hedvig Landenius Enegren, and “Made in Crete: Tripods and other imported luxury items in Mycenaean and Classical Greek,” by Rachele Pierini and Emilio Rosamilia, who co-authored the presentation.

§3. Landenius Enegren brought together material evidence and textual sources on asbestos (Linear B tablets and 1st millennium BCE Greek texts) to unravel the use of this exceptional non-flammable fiber in ancient textile manufacture. Within her work, she examined the narrative about this mineral fiber in ancient Greek literature. In particular, she offered an overview of the terms with which asbestos is associated when it appears in Greek and Latin texts and emphasized the confusion with other substances like alum that are present in Classical and Mesopotamian sources due to some similar properties of the two substances. Additionally, Landenius Enegren explored potential references to asbestos in the Linear B corpus and, in light of the above-mentioned confusion, tentatively proposed a link with tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, conventionally interpreted as alum. Finally, she also analyzed the Mycenaean words ne-ki-ri-de and ka-pa-si-ja.

§4. Pierini and Rosamilia’s starting point was examining the mention in Pylos Linear B tablets of tripods “of Cretan craftsmanship” among the palace’s possessions. Hence, they examined the peculiarities of these artifacts, explored hypotheses on the outlook of this vessels, and addressed whether these items were truly imported. Each author approached these topics from different angles.

§4.1. Pierini focused on the tripods inventoried in the Pylos tablets. She addressed the open questions concerning the linguistic aspects of the tripods’ description by analyzing the words describing the tripods in the Ta series, examining the terms in -eus in the tripods’ entries, and exploring the phonetic values of the sign *34 and how the different readings of *34-ke-u impacts the interpretation of tripods in the Ta series. In addition, she examined the connection between the descriptive element “of Cretan manufacture” (or the lack thereof) and the drawings of the ideogram *201VAS. Furthermore, Pierini extended her analysis to Linear A to explore potential comparisons within the context of Minoan Crete traditions.

§4.2. Rosamilia discussed 1st millennium BCE evidence regarding the importance of tripods in Cretan society and examined further attestations of “of Cretan craftsmanship” as well as similar adjectives and expressions to determine whether the tripods on the Pylos tablets were actually made in Crete. Rosamilia focused on Classical Greek attestations (literature and epigraphic dossier) by analyzing compound adjectives with -(w)erges as a second element. In this dossier, he observed that a shift in the meaning of the -(w)erges compounds took place in 5th century BCE Athens. After this moment, the geographical connotation was no longer an indication of the provenance of a particular tripod but, rather, of a particular kind of God. Hence, Rosamilia hypothesized that this evolution is connected to the Athenian empire and the importance of Athenian markets.

§5. Substantial discussions followed each presentation. Specifically, contributions to the seminar were made by Nicholas Blackwell (see below at §§158—159), Hariklia Brecoulaki (§§–27.1, 28, 29.3), Hedvig Landenius Enegren (§§26.2, 27.2, 29.2), Kyle Mahoney (§167), Jake Morton (§§160, 166), Gregory Nagy (§§29.6, 169), Marie-Louise Nosch (§§26.1, 173), Tom Palaima (§§29.1, 29.4, 30.1—30.2, 30.4, 30.6, 165, 168, 172), Athanasio Papalexandrou (§§157, 170), Vassilis Petrakis (§§30.3, 30.5, 31.1—31.3, 32), Rachele Pierini (§§27.3—27.4, 29.5, 161—163), Emilio Rosamilia (§§164, 171), Kim Shelton (§27.5), Roger Woodard (§§25.1—25.6).

Topic 1: Salamander’s Hair: Considerations on Asbestos Fiber in Ancient Textile Manufacture

Presenter: Hedvig Landenius Enegren

§6. The present article discusses the use of the mineral fiber asbestos, known in folklore tradition as Salamander’s Hair or Salamander’s Wool, in ancient textile manufacture, within a wider historical framework. Select references in the ancient literature to this exceptional non-flammable fiber and examples of asbestos cloth are highlighted. Moreover, considerations as to whether there is evidence, in any shape or form, for the presence of asbestos in the Mycenaean Linear B texts are discussed.

Figure 1. A Salamander unharmed in the fire. Jacob van Maerlant, Der Naturen Bloemen, National Library of the Netherlands KA16, folio 126r, ca 1350.

§7. Categories of fibers used in textiles in antiquity mainly include those from an animal source such as sheep and goat, plant-based from mainly flax, hemp and nettle, but textiles were also made out of the mineral fiber we know as asbestos (King 1978:91).

Figure 2. Lleyn sheep, Devon, England.

Figure 3. Flax fiber.

Figure 4. Chrysotile asbestos.

§8. Asbestos, is an umbrella term for a group of minerals which are fibrous in crystal form, it is found in ophiolite complexes in two major groups, serpentine and amphibole (Pionati Shams 1987:4–5). Several asbestos types within the amphibole group have blue and brown properties but within the serpentine group, white chrysotile (Mg3 Si2 O5(OH)4), a sheet silicate, is best suited for extracting long fibers that are then easily worked into textile (Edwards et al. 2010: 242; Ross and Nolan 2003:450). The mineral fiber’s unique ability to withstand fire has filled it with magic in folklore accounts, underpinned by medieval alchemists who spoke of fire-resistant hair on salamanders (Laufer 1915:308), hence Salamander’s wool or hair (C. Browne 2003: 68 with further references). As such the term salamandra came to signify asbestos (Plot and Bailey 1651:1054). Only with Marco Polo did the salamander symbol lose this credence. A visit to an asbestos mine in China made him grasp the true source (Bianchi and Bianchi 2015:87). This symbol for withstanding fire is present already in Aristotle (Hist. Anim. 1.19): “Now the salamander is a clear case in point, to show us that animals do actually exist that fire cannot destroy; for this creature, so the story goes, not only walks through the fire but puts it out in doing so” (Translation D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson Later with Francesco Petrarca (Canzoniere 207) the salamander symbolizes the fire of love.

Figure 5. Salamander, Atalanta Fugiens Emblem 29 by Michael Maier, 1617.

§9. Various terms denote the substance that we recognize in English as asbestos. It derives from Greek ἄσβεστοςwith a meaning that something is unquenchable or inextinguishable, in which the Greek adjectival form has resulted in the English term asbestos (LSJ9 s.v.; Pionati Shams 1987:6). A parallel term, used in Romance languages, is amiantus which is derived from the Greek ἀμίαντος with a meaning of undefiled (Ross 2002:3). There is some confusion regarding ἄσβεστος and ἀμίαντος when transliterated from the ancient Greek authors. Greek αμίαντος transliterated as asvestos and not asbestos, when used as a noun, refers to quicklime or unslaked lime (Ross 2002:1; LSJ9 s.v.; Diels 1916:203—207). Moreover, Latin translations of the Greek words for asbestos and quicklime have caused some confusion (Ross 2002:4; with regard to amiantus see also Palaima and Petrakis in the discussion below at §§30.1—30.6).

§10. Regions in the Mediterranean with ophiolites rich in asbestos, and from which extraction is known to have occurred in antiquity, include Karystos in Euboea and Cyprus (Sackett et al. 1966:109; Higgins and Higgins 1996:87; Ross and Nolan 2003:447). Moreover, on Cyprus, asbestos was perhaps used as far back as 5000 years ago (Ross and Nolan 2003:447). It was likely mined continuously on the island, from ancient times until the last modern mine in the village of Pano Amiantos, in the Troodos mountain area, was shut down in 1996 in accordance with EU rules, due to the health hazards of asbestos extraction. It can be noted that asbestos was used in Cypriote Byzantine wall painting (Kakoulli et al. 2014).

§11. Already Alfred Westholm, one of the members of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition active in the late 1920s and early 1930s, noted in his letters home to his parents in November 1930: “Masses of workers have had to be let go at the big mines nearby at Skouriotissa and Mavrovouni and work is at a quarter of capacity compared to the normal rate, and many believe that all of it will have to be shut down soonThe more poorly run, big asbestos mines at Amianthos closed down already last year. The atmosphere is quite tense and the Tilliria people come to me as usual with their troubles” (Westholm 1996). Sixteenth century travelers tell of asbestos as having been mined in the Troodos near the village of Pelendri (Evans 1905:145). In ancient times asbestos was possibly mined more to the south of the Troodos, in the Akapnov Forest (Ross and Nolan, 2003:447 with further references).

Figure 6. Alfred Westholm, Nicosia. The Swedish Cyprus Expedition 1927—1931.

§12. Theophrastus (On Stones 2.17) may be the earliest reference to asbestos in the ancient literature. His description runs as follows:

εὑρέθη δέ ποτε ἐν τοῖς ἐν Σκαπτῇ Ὕλῃ μετάλλοις λίθος ὃς τῇ μὲν ὄψει παρ όμοιος ἦν ξύλῳ σαπρῷ, ὅτε δ᾽ ἐπιχέοι τις τὸ ἔλαιον ἐκαίετο, καὶ ὅτ᾽ ἐκκαυθείη τότ᾽ ἐπαύετο καὶ αὐτὸς ὥσπερ ἀπαθὴς ὤν. τῶν μὲν οὖν καιομένων σχεδὸν αὗται διαφοραί.

            “In the mines at Scapte Hyle a stone was once found which was like rotten wood in appearance. Whenever oil was poured on it, it burnt, but when the oil had been used up, the stone stopped burning as if it were unaffected. These are roughly the differences in the stones that burn (Translation by Caley and Richards 1956:48)

However, no known asbestos sources are found in Thrace in the area of modern-day Cavalla, where Scapte Hyle was supposedly located (Caley and Richards 1956:87—88).

§13.1. In Strabo Geography 10.1.6 we find:

ἐν δὲ τῇ Καρύστῳ καὶ ἡ λίθος φύεται ἡ ξαινομένη καὶ ὑφαινομένη, ὥστε τὰ ὕφη χειρόμακτρα γίνεσθαι, ῥυπωθέντα δʼ εἰς φλόγα βάλλεσθαι καὶ ἀποκαθαίρεσθαι τῇ πλύσει τῶν λίνων παραπλησίως·

“At Carystus there is found in the earth a stone, which is combed like wool, and woven, so that napkins are made of this substance, which, when soiled, are thrown into the fire, and cleaned, as in the washing of linen” (Translation by Hamilton and Falconer 1903).

§13.2. Apollonios Dyscolus, Alex. Gram. Hist. Com. 36 (Meursius 1620: 33—35) makes reference to Sotacus: “The Carystian stone has woolly and colored appendages, which are spun and woven into napkins. This substance is also twisted into wicks, which, when burnt, are bright, but do not consume. The napkins, when dirty, are not washed with water, but a fire is made of sticks, and then the napkin is put into it. The dirt disappears, and the napkin is rendered white and pure by the fire, and is applicable to the same purposes as before. The wicks remain burning with oil continually without being consumed. This stone is produced in Carystus, from which it has its name, and in great abundance in Cyprus…” (Translation Yates 1843).

§13.3. Dioscorides, De Materia Medica 5.156, gives Cyprus as a source for undefiled stone:

     λίθος ἀμίαντος γεννᾶται μὲν ἐν Κύπρῳ, στυπτηρίᾳ σχιστῇ ἐοικώς, ὃν ἐργαζόμενοι <οἱ τῇδε ἄνθρωποι> ὑφάσματα ποιοῦσιν ἐξ αὐτοῦ, ὄντος ἱμαντώδους, πρὸς θέαν. ἐμβληθεὶς δὲ εἰς πῦρ φλογοῦται μέν, λαμπρότερος δὲ ἐξέρχεται μὴ κατακαιόμενος

         “Amiantus stone is found in Cyprus. It is like alumen scissile which the workmen make webs of cloth from for a show, because put into the fire they take flame, but come out [brighter], not burnt by the fire” (Translation Osbaldesten 2000).

§13.4. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia 36.139 offers the following reflections on asbestos/amiantus: “amiantus which looks like alum and is quite indestructible by fire. It affords protection against all spells especially those of the Magi.” Ross and Nolan (2003:450) note that Pliny in using the term amiantus describes asbestos but due to similar physical properties relates it to alum (see also the discussion below §§30.1—30.6).

§13.5. On the other hand, Pliny in Naturalis Historia 19.4, refers to asbestos as plant-based, which may have caused confusion in later Medieval works (C. Browne 2003:65). We are given the following description: “There has been invented also a kind of linen which is incombustible by flame. It is generally known as ‘live linen’ and I have seen, before now, napkins that were made of it thrown into a blazing fire, … and after the stains were burnt out, come forth from the flames whiter and cleaner than they could possibly have been rendered by the aid of water. It is from this material that the corpse-cloths of monarchs are made, to ensure the separation of the ashes of the body from those of the pile. This substance grows in the deserts of India… and amid multitudes of deadly serpents it becomes habituated to resist the action of fire. …..its color is naturally red, and it only becomes white through the agency of fire. By those who find it, it is sold at prices equal to those given for the finest pearls; by the Greeks it is called ἀσβέστινον a name which indicates its peculiar properties.” (

Figure 7. Woodcut showing asbestos cloth cleaned by fire. Detail from Ferrante Imperato, Dell’historia naturale. Naples 1599.

§13.6. In Plutarch, De Defectu Oraculorum 43.1, asbestos is referred to as Euboean rock: “it is no long time since the rock in Euboea ceased to yield, among its other products, soft petrous filaments like yarn. I think some of you have seen towels, nets, and women’s head-coverings from there, which cannot be burned by fire; but if any become soiled by use, their owners throw them into a blazing fire and take them out bright and clear. Today all this has disappeared, and there are scarcely any attenuated fibers or hairs, as it were, running through the mines.” (Translation by F. C. Babbitt 1936)

§13.7. Another term used to denote asbestos that we encounter in the ancient literature is Karpasian flax λίνον καρπάσιον. Pausanias (Description of Greece 1.26.7) uses this term to describe, as he puts it, “flax which is fireproof” and referring to a lamp burning by the statue of Athena Polias in Athens, “Having filled the lamp with oil, they wait until the same day next year, and the oil is sufficient for the lamp during the interval, although it is lit up both day and night. The wick in it is of Carpasian flax, the only kind of flax which is fire-proof…” (Translation: Evans 1905:143). One may make the association to the Karpassos peninsula of northeastern Cyprus, (see §21.5 below) but this area does not seem to have any ophiolite complexes (for a discussion see Christopoulos 1996). With regard to lamp wicks of asbestos, a sample has been found in Central Europe at the Austrian site of Enns dating to the 4th century CE (Grömer 2016:41). Supposedly, the Vestal virgins’ eternal fire was maintained by wicks of asbestos (Selikoff and Lee 1978:4). Asbestos cloth has been found in archaeological contexts in different parts of the world, including India and Java which have yielded asbestos cloth dated to the 1st and 2nd centuries CE respectively (Cameron et al. 2015).

§14. The use of asbestos of the amphibole type is attested to already in the Neolithic as temper in Fennoscandic pottery from as early as 4000 BCE (Mökkönen and Nordqvist 2017). The asbestos solidifies the pottery making it less sensitive to breakage and thus it will keep better than non-asbestos-tempered pottery (Eggevik 2010:230–231; Hillerdal 2004:154–155). This specific type of pottery is found all over Fennoscandinavia and became common in Sweden and Norway. One particular settlement site in Sweden in the region of Ångermanland spanning from 2900 to 1700 BCE, yielded an interesting find, an s-spun cord made of asbestos fiber of chrysotile type (Linder-Rissén 1972). Such cords most likely had a practical function, such as when it is threaded through the holes of the jars in question, the jars could easily be suspended over an open fire. This shows that there was, very early on, a high awareness of the versatility of asbestos material.

Figure 8: Asbestos pottery from settlement site 662 at Lappvallen on Lake Varris in Vilhelmina parish, Lappland. Photo Nils Lagergren in Astrid Linder-Rissén, “En asbestsnodd från Ångermanland för upphängning av lerkärl.” Fornvännen 45—50, 1972, p. 46, Bild 2. Image reproduced by permission.

Figure 9: Sherd of asbestos pottery with a preserved cord of chrysotile asbestos. Photo Nils Lagergren in Astrid Linder-Rissén, “En asbestsnodd från Ångermanland för upphängning av lerkärl.” Fornvännen 45—50, 1972, p. 47, Fig. 3+4. Image reproduced by permission.

Figure 10: Reconstruction of the sherd with cord. Drawing by Bengt Händel in Astrid Linder-Rissén, “En asbestsnodd från Ångermanland för upphängning av lerkärl.” Fornvännen 45—50, 1972, p. 48, Fig. 5. Image reproduced by permission.

§15.1. Pliny’s account of the use of asbestos cloth in funerary contexts (§13.5) has been confirmed by the occasional discovery of pieces in tombs in Italy. At Canosa, in South Italy, traces of asbestos along with gold fibers were found in a burial, indicating that the individual had been interred in valuable garments (Heffner et al. 1928:397). Etruscan asbestos cloth was used in cremations (Granger-Taylor 1982:3). Other samples include a cloth from the time of Constantine found in 1633 at Pozzuolo outside Naples (C. Browne 2003:72, n. 19 with reference to Keyser’s Travels II 1760). A piece of asbestos cloth was found in 1957 in a tomb in the necropolis of the Via Triumphalis in the Vatican (Bianchi and Bianchi 2015:85; Cameron et al. 2015:167).

§15.2. A find discovered outside the Porta Maggiore in Rome, is described in a letter appended to Reverend Bernard de Montfaucon’s Travels through Italy from 1712 (Montfaucon 1712), as a cloth about five feet wide which contained a skull and the other burnt bones of a human body. Sculptures found in the same grave suggest that the deceased had a high rank. Montfaucon describes it as follows: “It is coarsely spun, but as soft and pliant as silk. Our guide set fire to one corner of it, and the very same part burnt repeatedly with great rapidity and brightness without being at all injured” (Gilroy 1853:395).

§15.3. The British Museum collections include several pieces of asbestos cloth one given by the former secretary of the German institute in Rome, dated to the Roman period, the other in 1771, from Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy to the Kingdom of Naples ( A purse brought by Benjamin Franklin to England is made of asbestos fiber (Maines 2005:36;

§16. Quite a few travelogues from the 18th century mention asbestos. Charles Sonnini de Manancourt in his Voyage en Grèce et en Turquie, published in 1801, tells us that incombustible linen is still very plentiful on Cyprus. He further mentions that talc is extracted close to Larnaca and used to plaster the houses, seemingly a reference to quicklime. He mentions the Museo Borbonico in Naples in which there is a considerable piece of asbestos cloth, found at ancient Histonium, in the Abruzzo area of Italy (Sonnini de Manancourt 1801:66).

Figure 11. Title page of the first volume of Charles Sonnini de Manoncourt, Voyage en Grèce et en Turquie, Paris 1801.

§17.1. Didier Bugnon in his book on caravans and merchants in Asia from 1707 tells of amiantus found in Cyprus, and on the borders with Arabia, used for making stockings and undergarments to protect against intense heat during caravan rides through Asia. (Bugnon 1707:37—39). Yates (1843:358) refers to a Cypriot knight, Podocattarus, who in the year 1566 in Venice, demonstrated that cloth made of asbestos when thrown into the fire, came out uninjured and very clean. According to legend, Charlemagne had a tablecloth made of asbestos (

§17.2. During his travels in China Marco Polo visited an asbestos mine which finally dispelled the belief that incombustible fibers came from an animal source (C. Browne 2003:67 with further references).

§18. Alum is a general term for alkali aluminium sulfates. It is the name of any group of astringent substances that contain alum of ferrous sulphates (LSJ9 s.v. στυπτηρία) and are crystalized double sulfates (Firth 2007:130 and further discussion). The alum referred to in antiquity probably indicated alunite and bentonite (Firth 2007:135), used for instance in ointments (Photo-Jones et al. 1999:398). There has been confusion in ancient times, as Pliny remarked (§13.4) and throughout history between asbestos and alum due to their physical resemblance.

§19.1. One major source of alum in antiquity was Melos, another was Egypt, particularly during Roman times (Chahib Lazrek et al. 1988:273). In the first millennium BCE alum was traded with Syria as intermediary (Oppenheim 1967:243; M. Chahib Lazrek et al. 1988:273). The Uruk texts mention 233 minas worth of alum (Oppenheim 1967:237). Alum is mentioned in the Sippar Tablets in a text stating its use for medicinal purposes (Heebel and Al-Rawi 2003:234). As a mordant alum is most often used in its natural state with additions of iron salts to provide color (Firth 2007:131 with further references). With impurities of cobalt, alum was used in Egypt during the New Kingdom to color glass (Reade 2012:329; Nicholson and Henderson 2000:212), mixed with fats and flour it was used in leatherwork (van Driel-Murray 2008). In Mesopotamia alum was used in tanneries, glassmaking and for medicinal purposes (Perna 2005:41 with further references). Alum is also an important mordant for fixing dyes in textiles. At Ugarit alum is the only mordant confidently referred to (Matoian and Vita 2014:321). In Old Assyrian texts the mordant does not seem to occur but it is recorded in Mari texts (Wisti Lassen 2014:262). Throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages any astringent mineral substance that would act as a mordant was likely to be called alum (Rapp 2009:230). Alumen has been used to denote a variety of materials (Carroll 1981:92). There are diverse opinions as to exactly what material alumen referred too but the consensus is that it included iron sulphate (C.A. Browne 1909:457).

§19.2. It seems that asbestos was, at times, confused with the mineral alum, aluminium sulphate, the term itself from Latin alumen. In using the word amiantus ‘Pliny may indeed be describing an asbestos mineral, but relating it to alum because of the similarity of certain physical properties’ (Ross and Nolan 2003:448).

§19.3. Joseph de Tournefort in his account of his travels in the Levant in the early 18th century tells of a visit to the alum mines on Melos, which by his time already ceased to be in use, and further describes plumous, or feather, alum, which he regards remarkable because of its singular beauty in terms of natural history in the Levant. Tournefort goes on to state that alum must not be confused with amiantus, or “incombustible stone,” as often happens. He states: “everywhere that I have asked to be shown alum I have been shown a type of amiantus that has been brought from Carystia.” He continues: “amiantus is a stone material which is rendered malleable in oil and thus becomes softer to be able to be spun on cotton” (Tournefort 1741:176).

§19.4. The major work by the Florentine merchant Francesco Balducci Pegolotti on trade, most likely compiled in the mid-14th century, provides lists and descriptions. Included are many types of alum among them plumous (i.e., ‘feathery’ or ‘feather’) alum which later commentary believes to be a referral to fire resistant asbestos (Pegolotti 1936:381).

§19.5. Comparison of feather alum and asbestos is found in a 17th century book on the history of drugs which describes six sorts of alum, among them, “plumous alum or earth flax… …which some will have to be stone the ancients called Lapis amiantus but as I am not sure of the thing I will content myself to say that the plumous alum that we sell is a sort of thready stone of diverse colours…” (Pomet 1748:chapter 40:81). This confusion between the two substances is also described in Georgius Agricola’s On metals (1541. Liber III:213–214). Martin et al. (1988:282) note, with regard to the alum of Yemen and asbestos, the fibrous similarities but stresses the non-astringent components of the latter. It is, however, easy to understand the confusion between alum, in particular plumous alum, and asbestos.

Figure 12. Feather alum (Image ©Robert M. Lavinsky).

§20. This leads me, finally, to the Linear B texts and in view of the above general presentation on asbestos, to a discussion of the following terms: tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, po-re-no-zu-te-ri-ja, ka-pa-so and ne-ki-ri-de. Could these terms hypothetically speaking, in any shape or form, have to do with asbestine material?

§21.1. The first term, tu-ru-pte-ri-ja occurs twice at Pylos on An (6)35.5 and Un (2) 443.1, at Tiryns on tablet X 6 and at Knossos on X 986, a tablet listing what is likely an incomplete variant tu-ru-pe-te[, otherwise devoid of context, and will thus be disregarded in further discussion. The interpretation of tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, first proposed by Michael Ventris, followed by Chadwick is στρυπτηρία, a reference to στυπτηρία, alum (L. Palmer 1965:16). The term has through dissimilation seemingly become στυπτερία (DMic 2:379—380; for a discussion see L. Palmer 1965:320; Firth 2007:132), a mineral as we have seen with many documented uses in antiquity. This conventional interpretation of tu-ru-pte-ri-ja is further underpinned in two articles (Perna 2005; Firth 2007). However, we should keep in mind the confusion in antiquity as well as in later times due to similar physical properties detected by the naked eye. Hypothetically, could the term in Mycenaean Greek have referred to a substance other than alum, such as asbestos, the fibers of which were woven into cloth already in antiquity and highly acclaimed for their fire-resistant properties?

      PY An 35

.1  to-ko-do-mo , de-me-o-te 2

.2  pu-ro VIR 2, me-te-to-de VIR 3.

.3  sa-ma-ra-de VIR 3, re-u-ko-to-ro VIR 4

.3  vacat

.4  a-ta-ro , tu-ru-pte-ri-ja , o-no 

.5  LANA 2, CAPf 4, *146 3, VIN 10, NI 4

      PY Un 443

.1    ku-pi-ri-jo , tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, LANA 10, *146 10

.2    po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja LANA 3

.3     ]do-ke , ka-pa-ti-ja , HORD 2, te-ri-ja, GRA 1, LANA 5 [


      TI X 6             

.1 ]3̣…7̣…                       [

.2 ]4  M 7   tu-ru-pte-ri-ja[


§21.2. At Tiryns on tablet X 6, the term occurs in connection with the metrogram M suggesting that tu-ru-pte-ri-ja was a weighed commodity (with regard to a possible fixed entity for tu-ru-pte-ri-ja or not see Palaima and Petrakis in the discussion below §§30.4—30.5). The tablet is badly damaged and erasures complicate interpretation as readings remain elusive. Possibly a VAS ideogram and/or the ideogram *190, an obscure ideogram, are present (Melena and Olivier 1991:30).

§21.3. At Pylos tablet An 35 records builders who will build at Pylos and in other localities in the Pylian territory. On line 5 the individual a-ta-ro receives a payment or benefit o-no (DMic 2:27—28; Duhoux 1976:131; for a different interpretation of o-no, see Gallagher 1988) for tu-ru-pte-ri-ja of wool, goats, textile type *146, wine and figs. The second occurrence at Pylos, on Un 443.1 is registered against 10 units of wool and 10 textiles of type *146. The term ku-pi-ri-jo could refer to an individual or, less likely, qualify the tu-ru-pte-ri-ja. ku-pi-ri-jo occurs in a number of texts in the Mycenaean corpus among them a blacksmith at Pylos, so it is likely to be a personal name here (Lindgren 1973(1):73; Firth 2007:133; for a discussion of ku-pi-ri-jo see Palaima 1991:293). The term o-no at Pylos provides evidence of goods being exchanged rather than in taxes or levies (R. Palmer 1994:92). For a discussion regarding the term and a lack of indicated quantity of tu-ru-pte-ri-ja in the texts Palaima and Petrakis in the discussion below §§30.4—30.5). Richard Firth suggests that both individuals a-ta-ro and ku-pi-ri-jo may be roasters of alum stone. He bases this partly on the man’s name a-ta-ro which in another Pylos tablet (Jn 415) is recorded as a3-ta-ro (aithalos), the name of a blacksmith and, possibly, the same individual is referred to in both tablets (Firth 2007:135; Lindgren 1973(1):33). This fire aspect marries well with Firth’s suggestion. It would also fit well with fire in an opposite sense, the incombustible/fire-resistant nature of asbestos.

§21.4. Regarding ku-pi-ri-jo as a qualifier to tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, this is less likely, as mentioned above (§21.3), as alum is not particularly abundant on Cyprus and seems not to have been much exploited (Bellamy and Jukes-Browne1905:64; however see Photo-Jones and Jones 2018:82—83 for a more nuanced discussion of types of alum). Melos has more abundant sources (Photo-Jones et al. 1999; Photo-Jones and Jones 2018:84) and Egypt (Bogensberger 2017). My thoughts tentatively center around the question of whether tu-ru-pte-ri-ja indeed refers to alum stone exclusively, or whether, as suggested by Effie Photo-Jones and Richard Jones, it may apply to other astringent substances. They query if tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, perhaps “…notionally…” encompasses sulphur (Photo-Jones and Jones 2018:84). Should we adhere to this idea and propose that in the Late Bronze Age the term served as an umbrella for several substances? Furthermore, although chrysotile/asbestos is slightly astringent, but much less so than alum, in view of the similar physical properties apparent to the naked eye between alum and at least certain types of asbestos, can we tentatively incorporate asbestos under the umbrella? The problem is that neither substance is particularly easy to pin down in ancient text material. For alum, admittedly, there are references to medicinal purposes and tanning contexts and in certain textile contexts (§21.1). As a mordant usage in view of the prominent Mycenaean textile industry, alum as a mordant was likely not used in Egypt before the 21st dynasty (Vogler 1982:163), some 300 years later with respect to the Mycenaean texts. Often the Leiden and Stockholm papyri are invoked regarding dye recipes. These papyri date from between the 3rd to 5th centuries CE even if they likely reflect an earlier setting. However, it is not straightforward whether technical issues are dealt with or if the topic is mainly alchemy (Halleux 1981). Firth and Perna suggest that the alum recorded in the Linear B texts is alum stone. However, as highlighted by Perna, we know next to nothing of alum in the Mycenaean period (Perna 2005:41; Firth 2007:135). When it comes to Near Eastern texts, references to alum occur at Mari (Michel 2016:3). At Ebla asbestos has not yet been studied in the texts (Maria-Giovanna Biga personal communication per litteras January 6, 2022). We have archaeological evidence of asbestos being used already in the Neolithic in northern Europe, but to my knowledge, none before classical times in southern Europe. However, if the northerners knew how to exploit asbestos early on, why not the inhabitants in the Mediterranean area?

§21.5. On the second line of Un 443 the term po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja is also present in the context of three units of wool. The term likely refers to a festival (Piquero Rodriguez 2014:205; also DMic 2:143 for further interpretations). The term po-re-na, which is present at Pylos and in the dative form po-re-si at Thebes (TH Of 263), conceivably refers to participants in a procession such as recorded on Pylos tablet Tn 316. Perhaps serving as assistants at the “festival of the po-re-na” in sacrificial rituals in which fire is a major component. The garment type denoted by the ideogram *146 occurs in context and on another related tablet Ua 1413 together with the textile type *166+WE, closely connected here to the po-re-na (Piquero Rodriguez 2014:203—205). There are variants of textile *146, on Un 443 the endogram WE is present and likely stands for we-a2-no. Boloti (2018:89) suggests that perhaps this was a type of garment employed in sacrificial ritual. Piquero Rodriguez (2014:205) further puts forward that the textile *146 may be of linen and that the ideogram *166+WE refers perhaps to a belt-like garment of wool. In view of the festival, po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja present on a same tablet as tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, and considering the possible ritual fire aspect involved, are these garments in some way in this context specialized protective garments, perhaps reinforced with asbestos thread? This is admittedly wildly speculative!

§21.5. The third line on Un 443 lists ka-pa-ti-ja probably the name of a priestess (Lindgren 1973(1):60; (2):72—73), recorded against commodities given or received (see Palaima discussion below §30.2). The term becomes noteworthy in context of asbestos described as karpasian flax (§13.7). Strabo (7.10) mentions priestesses in Cimbrian lands with carpasian shawls, taken to be linen. ka-pa-si-ja on Pylos tablet Vn 851 probably refers to a same individual (Lindgren 1973(1):60). Both terms derive from an ethnic, karpasia or karpathos. Pierre Chantraine (DELG:500) suggests it may reflect the sanskrit term for cotton, karpāsa, which subsequently has been mistakenly confused with a geographic area, karpasion, karpassos, karpasia, with a probable pre-Greek etymology. Thus Karpassos, the area of northeastern Cyprus, and the sanskrit word for cotton karpāsa, may be a later confusion. However, with regard to asbestos there is, to my knowledge, no ophiolite terrain attested to in this part of Cyprus.

§21.6. Mayrhofer (1992–1996(1):317–318) finds a Greek borrowing of κάρπασος from Sanskrit reasonable (Roger Woodard per litteras December 18, 2021 and further argument in discussion Woodard §§25.1—25.2). I am not aware whether karpāsa is present in earlier Vedic sanskrit. However, as Roger Woodard kindly informs me (Roger Woodard per litteras December 18, 2021; see also discussion §25.5), Linear B ka-pa-ti-ja becomes interesting concerning Sanskrit in the context of a Bronze-Age borrowing. There were Indic speakers in Mitanni, especially in light of the Pausanias passage (1.26.7) and the co-occurrence of tu-ru-pte-ri-ja on Un 443 but the form *ka-pa-si-ja, would be expected which complicates the argument (Woodard discussion §25.5). The form ka-pa-si-ja does, however, occur on Pylos tablet Vn 851 and probably refers to the same individual recorded on Un 443 (Lindgren 1973(1): 60). With regard to ka-pa-ti-ja as a possible material substance and not referring to an individual see Palaima (discussion §30.2). Petrakis highlights that the personal name ka-pa-ti-ja recurs with the title key-bearer elsewhere at Pylos and considering the word sequence in the heading of Pylos Ta 711, sees structural similarities on Un 443 making ka-pa-ti-ja the likely subject (discussion §§30.1—30.3). For further reasoning on the intricacies of the reading of Un 443 in view of the above and with respect to other Pylos tablets see Palaima and Petrakis discussion §§30.4—30.5).

§21.7. What is interesting for our argument vis à vis asbestos cloth, as Roger Woodard points out (discussion §25.6) in reference to Mayrhofer, is that Sanskrit karpāsa- is itself borrowed. This allows for a vision of a Vedic-era variant karpaṭa- (or similar) in Indic-speaking Syro-Anatolia, denoting a material from which cloth is woven. Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that another fiber than cotton is intended. A Mycenaean ka-pa-ti-ja evolving into post-Mycenaean καρπάσιος is not problematic (Woodard 2020 December18, 2021 per litteras and discussion §25.6). From a purely ethnographical respect, in the early 20th century in Cyprus, asbestos was known as cotton-stone vamvakopetra, as well as amiandos (

§21.8. The Linear B term ne-ki-ri-de occurs in three Knossos tablets, Ak 780, Ln 1568 and on a sealing Ws 8152, here recorded with the ideogram for wool. The dative plural, ne-ki-ri-si, occurs on Od 687 against one unit of wool and the man’s name a-mi-ke-te-to, which is a hapax (Landenius Enegren 2008:101), and the term ti-ra with an uncertain reading, possibly referring to strands of wool (DMic 2:351). On tablet Ak 780, ne-ki-ri-de refers to a kind of textile workers connected to the locality da-wo. On Ln 1560, the term is here registered on the lateral face of the tablet. It stands together with the a-ze-ti-ri-ja, textile finishers, most likely involved in the manufacture of o-nu-ke, which is recorded in a line below (for an interpretation of the related term o-nu ke-ja as fringemakers, see Landenius Enegren 2020:101—102 with further references) in the workshop of the individual ma-tu. The ne-ki-ri-de are connected to the workshop of the individual po-ni-ke-ja. Unfortunately, we are not provided with more information. It is clear, though, that the term most likely refers to a specialized occupation. Since the ne-ki-ri-de are listed as a group apart from the finishers, John Killen once suggested ne-ki-ri-de to be a nomen agentis from νεκρός ‘cadaver’ and by association might mean ‘shroud makers’ (Killen 1986). The shroud aspect, if viable, becomes interesting in view of the connection between shrouds and asbestos cloth in later documentation in Pliny, as well as finds of asbestos cloth in funerary contexts (§13.5) Carlos Varias García (2012:161) remarks that on Ln 1568 we are given the type of textile produced by the a-ze-ti-ri-ja but not for the ne-ki-ri-de. Could this be that the type of cloth (material) is already inherent in the occupational designation itself? Denoting the type of cloth used in making shrouds, and to take this a step further, are we dealing with cloth with asbestiform properties here? Serpentinites with asbestos veins occur on Crete in the area of Gonies (Becker 1976:364 and fig.1) but it has not yet been proven that asbestos was used in textile manufacture at this early time in history in this area.

Figure 13. Drawing of tablet KN Ln 1568 in CoMIK II, by Louis Godart, by permission.

KN Ln 1568

.1a                                                      mi-ja-ro   ,   e   ,   pa  4           e  ,  pa  6                                           e  ,  pa   12

.1b  *56-po-so   1  wa-wa-ka  1  TELA;1+TE   1  ru-ki-ti-ja   pe   TELA+TE   1  wi-da-ma-ta2  ,  mi   TELA;1+TE  1

.2a                e  ,  pa   12                               e         pa   4                           e  ,   pa   4                                  e  , pa   8

.2b    po-po  pe   TELA;1+TE   1   ta-su mi    TELA+TE   1   ko-re-wo   mi   TELA+TE   1   di-*65-pa-ta  mi  TELA+TE   1

.3a                     pa   12                                                               pa   11̣                                                pa   12

.3b      ru-sa-ma   pe   TELA;1+TE   1    na-e-ṛạ-j̣ạ    pe    TELA+TE  1    qe-pa-ta-no   pe     TELA;1+TE   1

.4a                               pa   8

.4b      ]tu-na-no  ,  ru-nu    TELA;1     1            [                ]ṬẸḶẠ;x   1

.5                                                                                                         p̣ạ-ṛọ   no-si-ro     TELA;x+TE   3

.6                da-wo                       to-sa     te-[                 ]  ṃị ṬẸḶẠ+ṬẸ  pa-ra-ja   ‘ṃị’  TELA;x+TE  7  [


lat. inf.


.a                                             a-ze-ti-ṛị-ja                             ne-ki-ri-de        [

.b        o-pi  ,  ma-tu-ẉẹ     o-nu-ke     LANA   1     o-pi   ,  po-ni-ke-ja   [


Ak(3)         780      (102)

.1        da-wi-ja  ,  ne-ki-ri-de     MUL   2       pe   VIR   2

.2        ko-wa me-wi-jo[        ]1

.3        ko-wo  me-ẉị[-jo-]e   3



Od(1)         687       (103)

.a                                        ṭị-ra

.b        a-mi-ke-te-to  /  ne-ki-ri-si      LANA   1

To conclude:

§22.1. Reflections on the potential use of asbestos cloth in the Mycenaean period and contexts, and have some reference in Linear B terms, have been presented. It must be stressed, that this is highly speculative. Firstly, we can never categorically state that the term tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, conventionally interpreted as alum, is an umbrella term for any number of substances that may include asbestos. However, with confusion between alum and asbestos already evident in antiquity, it remains, at least, a possibility.

Regarding ne-ki-ri-de, it remains an open question whether the designation pertaining to these specialist female textile workers is indicative of the material used, or the *146 textile type was employed in ritual functions in a po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja festival context, precisely because of its material component.

The term ka-pa-si-ja is perhaps the most logical link to a material that we know as asbestos/amiantos with its strong connection to karpasia, karpassos, and its recurrence in later descriptions of asbestos as ‘carpasian flax’.

§22.2. Asbestos cloth has been found in archaeological contexts in different parts of the world, with India and Java yielding asbestos cloth dated to the 1st and 2nd centuries CE respectively (Cameron et al. 2015).

Figure 14. Asbestos fibres from Kamrej, India. Photo Judith Cameron (Cameron, J., A. Indradiaija and P.-Y. Manguin 2015, Fig. 9) by permission.

§23. What remains to be discovered are actual finds of asbestos textile in Bronze Age contexts in the Mediterranean and the Near East. The Land of Israel has yielded a large number of archaeological textiles but, to date, none of these textiles has been found to incorporate asbestos fiber (Orit Shamir personal communication per litteras November 20, 2021). Nor have any finds been made in Egypt (Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood personal communication per litteras December 2, 2021). Moreover, the remarkable properties of asbestos well known in northern Europe very early on, have, to my knowledge, yet to work their magic and make asbestos appear in Mesopotamian and Near Eastern textual sources. The simple answer is perhaps “what is out of sight—is out of mind!”

§24. Acknowledgements: I warmly thank Tom Palaima and Rachele Pierini for inviting me to the MASt group and for the opportunity to present my reflections in this forum. I extend my thanks to Maurizio Del Freo for his kind help in providing me with select articles. A special thank you to my former colleague at the Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen, Peder Flemestad for his suggestions and fruitful discussions, and to Roger Woodard for his valuable comments with respect to the term karpasa.

Discussion following Landenius Enegren’s presentation

§25.1. Roger Woodard opened the discussion by bringing sphaṭī, i.e. another word for ‘alum’, into the discussion. Woodard observed that Sanskrit sphaṭī is formally linked to sphaṭa/sphaṭā ‘flaring snake hood’—verb root sphaṭ- ‘to expand’; cf. sphuṭ- ‘to burst’, also ‘to crackle’ (as of fire). Further, he provided the comparisons of sphaṭika- ‘crystal’ and feminine sphaṭikā ‘alum’, with some evidence for a variant sphaṭikī.

§25.2. Concerning Sanskrit karpāsa- etc. and Greek κάρπασος etc., Mayrhofer (1992—1996, vol. 1.:317—318) judges a Greek borrowing of κάρπασος from Sanskrit to be a sound analysis (referencing Mayrhofer 1956—1980 vol. 1:174—175 and vol. 3:600), Woodard continued. Moreover, Woodard drew attention to two other Sanskrit forms (see, in addition to Mayrhofer and Monier-Williams 1979): (i) masculine karpāsa- (and a comparable feminine), which denotes the ‘cotton tree’ and also ‘cotton’ (Mayrhofer would limit the second sense to the neuter karpāsam); and (ii) the derived adjective kārpāsa- (found in all three genders) ‘made of cotton’, but in both the masculine and neuter also ‘cotton, cotton cloth’ (already attested in the Mahābhārata, hence karpāsa- certainly existed at least that early, if not attested).

§25.3. In addition, Woodard stressed that Greek κάρπασος (feminine), ‘flax’, ‘cotton’ (LSJ9), looks to occur most commonly in medical texts, but also, and quite interestingly, Strabo uses it at 15.1.71 [C719] to describe the white garments typically worn by Indic peoples, which are either σινδών ‘linen’ or κάρπασος ‘cotton’.

§25.4. Stephanus Byzantius (Ethnica 2.164) reports that the Brahmins (Βραχμᾶνες) wear garments woven from a stone material and the garments will not burn but are cleaned by being thrown into flames—Woodard continued.

§25.5. Furthermore, Woodard observed that Linear B ka-pa-ti-ja is intriguing vis-à-vis the Sanskrit (and the prospect of a Bronze-Age borrowing—there were Indic speakers in Mitanni), especially in light of the Pausanias passage 1.26.7, which Landenius Enegren mentioned, and the co-occurrence of tu-ru-pte-ri-ja on Un 443. We might have expected *ka-pa-si-ja, however; and this is a complication—Woodard warned.

§25.6. As a concluding remark, Woodard considered a rather curious thing in this context, worth mentioning because of its curiousness, that there is a Sanskrit word karpaṭa- that denotes ‘patched, ragged garments’, with a derived kārpaṭa- denoting ‘one dressed in ragged garments’, hence ‘beggar, petitioner’. In Woodard’s view, with karpaṭa- we are in the same general lexical domain, but karpaṭa- is not connected etymologically to karpāsa- it would seem. He quoted Mayrhofer suggesting that Sanskrit karpāsa- is itself borrowed, and the prospect of a Vedic-era variant karpaṭa- (or similar) in Indic-speaking Syro-Anatolia denoting a material from which cloth is woven (and perhaps something other than cotton?) could perhaps not be ruled out. On this basis, Mycenaean ka-pa-ti-ja evolving into post-Mycenaean καρπάσιος is not problematic—Woodard concluded.

§26.1. Marie Louise Nosch drew attention to the possibility of a shared idea between alum, an astringent that can stop bleeding, and asbestos cloth.

§26.2. Hedvig Landenius Enegren agreed that this is a strong point to seriously consider, although she has not yet come across asbestos being used for medicinal purposes. Also, she stressed that the hypotheses about the Linear B terms are highly speculative.

§27.1. Hariclia Brecoulaki focused on the color blue and remarked that amphibole and glaucophane were used as cheaper substitutes for Egyptian blue in Santorini local production. In particular, the use of magnesio-riebeckite based blue pigments (glaucophane) was widespread during the second millennium in Crete and the Cyclades—Brecoulaki continued. In addition, she observed that Glaucophane riebeckite, with glaucophane and riebeckite (or crocidolite, also called blue asbestos) belonging to the group of amphibole minerals, has been mostly identified as blue pigment on the Theran wall paintings (Vlachopoulos and Sotiropoulou 2012). Hence, she wondered whether riebeckite (blue asbestos) was used to produce a blue colored textile.

§27.2. As a reference to the color blue in Linear B, Landenius Enegren mentioned the dative plural ku-wa-no-wo-ko-i, which refers to blue glass workers.

§27.3. Rachele Pierini addressed two points. First, she remarked that the Mycenaean textile industry does show evidence for cheaper substitutes that are used in place of expensive dye products. Specifically, Pierini referred to dyes plants like madder that were used instead of the murex dye to obtain red dyed textiles.

§27.4. Second, Pierini agreed with Landenius Enegren that ku-wa-no is the only Linear B word referring to the color blue. Pierini added that the meaning of ku-wa-no is yet to be fully elucidated. The term appears on PY Ta 642, a document inventorying items of furniture (specifically to-pe-za ‘tables’), and on PY Ta 714.1 and .3 (referring respectively to a to-no ‘chair’ and a ta-ra-nu ‘stool’) along with the other Pylos tablets of the Ta series—Pierini continued. In this context, Pierini observed that although ku-wa-no might indicate an inlay made of blue glass or lapis lazuli from a purely contextual perspective, archaeological finds only support the hypothesis for colored glass since lapis lazuli remains dated to the Mycenaean period are almost non-existent. This fact, combined with the abundance of colored glass remains from that era, served as a basis for reading ku-wa-no as blue glass—Pierini concluded.

§27.5. Regarding the color blue, Kim Shelton pointed out some archaeological evidence from recent excavations in the tombs in Aidonia. She remarked that there were a few remains that had blue residue in interesting places that could be some kind of blue textile. Hence, she hypothesized that it could have been some kind of decoration. She also noticed that right now the question to address is whether there was some property intrinsic to blue glass and to textiles that could make the color survive even though the textile itself did not.

§28. Brecoulaki hypothesized a possible relationship of rituals and festivals to fire (e.g., ever-burning lamp in Kalimos). she also wondered if there is any evidence for rituals connected to this material during the historical period since asbestos could also be seen as everburning rather than nonburning.

§29.1. Tom Palaima drew attention to another point and asked why specifically amianthus is called amianthus.

§29.2. Landenius Enegren speculated that the meaning ‘undefiled’ could be connected with the fact that it is cleansed by the fire.

§29.3. Brecoulaki suggested that the fact that amianthus can’t be burned may be related to the fact that it is very pure.

§29.4. Palaima argued that the Greek verb miainō primarily means ‘to dye’ or ‘to stain’, as in the metaphor of Menelaus’ wounding in Iliad book 4. In this passage blood dripping from a wound on Melenaus’ white-skinned thigh is likened to the red coloring applied by a Maeonian woman cloth specialist to a piece of white ivory. Palaima suggested that this, namely ‘dye’ or ‘stain’, is the primary meaning and ‘defile’ or ‘pollute’ would be secondary, a kind of metaphorical extension.

§29.5. Pierini noted that linen was hard to dye, and this might favor Palaima’s explanation of amianthus as ‘un-dyeable’.

§29.6. Gregory Nagy seconded Palaima’s suggestion and highlighted that the Iliad passage also features a play on words in μιήνῃ (/miēnēi/ ‘stain’) Μῃονὶς (/Mēionis/). The full text, Iliad 4.141-4.142, reads as follows: Ὡς δ’ ὅτε τίς τ’ ἐλέφαντα γυνὴ φοίνικι μιήνῃ / Μῃονὶς ἠὲ Κάειρα παρήϊον ἔμμεναι ἵππων.

§30.1. Palaima brought into play PY Un (2) 443, the text of which reads as follows:

.1        ku-pi-ri-jo  ,  tu-ru-pte-ri-ja  ,  o-no   LANA   10   *146   10

.2        po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja       LANA   3

.3                       ]ḍọ-ke  ,  ka-pa-ti-ja  ,  HORD   2   te-ri-ja   GRA   1̣   LANA   5

                                         reliqua pars sine regulis

§30.2. Palaima pointed out that in this tablet the subject might precede the verb (i.e., do-ke ‘gave’ in line .3), so that ka-pa-ti-ja here might refer to a material substance like tu-ru-pte-ri-ja and not to the individual who ‘has given’.

§30.3. Petrakis observed that the reading ]o-do-ke is likely since the reading ]o- is based on a small vestigium(Melena and Firth 2021:205). On this basis, Petrakis added that ]o-do-ke ka-pa-ti-ja can be compared to expressions like o-wi-de pu2-ke-qi-ri “what Pukeqiri saw” on PY Ta 711.1, i.e. the well-known Mycenaean structure of the subject following the verb. Parallels like this favor the interpretation of ka-pa-ti-ja as subject since it follows the verb ]o-do-ke, Petrakis continued. Finally, he added that the attestation of the personal name ka-pa-ti-ja in other Pylos tablets reinforces this hypothesis.

§30.4. Palaima concurred that in introductory phrases with o- or jo- the subject regularly follows the verb: e.g., Un (1) 267 o-do-ke a-ka-so-ta; Jn 829 jo-do-so-si ko-re-te-re du-ma-te-qe and in Ta 711 o-wi-de pu2-ke-qi-ri. But he would point out that the reading of PY Un (2) 433.3 as o-]ḍọ-ke or the alternative a-pe-]ḍọ-ke is very difficult since the sign traces conjectured to be o- or pe- in line .3 are aligned beneath or to the right of the second signs (in lines .1 and .2).

§30.5. Petrakis agreed with Palaima on these difficulties and noted that the reading o-do-ke would make the clause on PY Un(2) 443.3 an extremely rare attestation of o-/-jo- + verb outside a heading line. In this respect, Petrakis added the possible comparison of the o-a-ke-re-se entries on PY Aq 64, where, however, another exceptional feature occurs, i.e. o-a-ke-re-se is the last syllabogram-sequence on each entry. Perhaps an autopsy of PY Un(2) 443 might shed light on these issues, Petrakis concluded.

§30.6. Palaima pointed out that TI X 6 is a fragmentary and surface-damaged tablet, whose reading was so problematical that it was originally given an entirely different alternative reading by trying to make sense of the tablet oriented upside down, as Emmett L. Bennett, Jr. letter to John Chadwick February 7, 1979 shows ( As it is now read, the M unit does not apply to tu-ru-pte-ri-ja, Palaima concluded.

§31.1. As regards Landenius Enegren’s hypothesis about the omission of specific quantities for tu-ru-pte-ri-ja on PY Un(2) 443, Petrakis observed that the mention of tu-ru-pte-ri-ja on PY Un(2) 443 and An(6) 35 is a modification of the actual subject-matter of the entry, which concerns other commodities in both cases.

§31.2. In addition, Petrakis observed that the annotation tu-ru-pte-ri-ja o-no on PY Un(2) 443 and An(6) 35 can be compared to the temporal clause on PY Ta 711.1 (i.e. o-te wa-na-ka te-ke au-ke-wa da-mo-ko-ro) since it provides secondary information that modifies the verbal form and indicates that the action of do-ke (or o-do-ke) took place as an exchange of these commodities for tu-ru-pte-ri-ja (on the etymology of o-no and its interpretation as “price”, see Duhoux 2008:298). In this light, Petrakis argued that PY Un(2) 443 and An(6) 35 would not be referred to tu-ru-pte-ri-ja but, rather, to those commodities exchanged for it.

§31.3. Petrakis speculated about possible separate records of tu-ru-pte-ri-ja that did not survive (or had not been generated or were obsolete since this material had been used). To clarify his point, Petrakis made a comparison with modern annotations like “for travel costs: $ 1.000”, where “travel costs” might include an array of entries like flights, accommodation, travel insurance. Examples like this, Petrakis continued, show that some annotations have not a fixed structure from the administrative perspective. Likewise, on PY Un(2) 443 and PY An(6) 35 the focus might have been on the other commodities, which makes less easy to accept that lacking information about tu-ru-pte-ri-ja is due to some kind of standardization—Petrakis concluded.

§32. As regards the meaning of asbestos and amiantos in Greek testimonia, Petrakis quoted the discussion of Greek ἄσβεστος by Diels (1916:203—207) and wondered whether the ancient terminology is for us difficult to understand due to our scientifically informed vision of the world. This suggestion, Petrakis continued, arose following Landenius Enegren’s proposal that tu-ru-pte-ri-ja is an “umbrella term” since ancient knowledge about these commodities was empirical whereas ours is data-based. As such, ancient names were attributed for an array of reasons, and it might be worth analyzing each term on an ad hoc basis—Petrakis suggested. He concluded that the confusion between alum, asbestos, and amianthus might be addressed as a specific case-study.

§33. Landenius Enegren Bibliography

Babbitt, F. C. 1936. Plutarch. Moralia with an English Translation. Vol. 5. Cambridge.

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Made in Crete: Tripods and other imported luxury items in Mycenaean and Classical Greek

Presenters: Rachele Pierini and Emilio Rosamilia

§34. Note by the authors: although we have discussed the topic together, Rachele Pierini wrote the section on Mycenaean tripods (§§35—131) and Emilio Rosamilia wrote the section on luxury items from the Classical Age (§§132—156).

Presenter: Rachele Pierini

§35. Tripods ke-re-si-jo we-ke “of Cretan craftsmanship” appear in Mycenaean documents from Pylos known as the Ta-series, a set of thirteen Linear B tablets inventorying ceremonial paraphernalia and costly furniture. The ke-re-si-jo we-ke description implies that some specific features of these tripods characterized them as being “of Cretan craftsmanship”. What were these conspicuous peculiarities? What did these tripods look like?

§36. In addition to ke-re-si-jo we-ke, textual sources show another peculiar element, namely the particular forms of the ideogram *201VAS. The ideogram provides a visual representation of the category of the inventoried item, tripods, and occurs at the end of each word description. In the Ta series the appearance of individual ideograms present differences, though the standardized transcription as *201VAS does not account for such graphic variations.

§37. Further difficulties arise with other words that appear in the tripods’ description, namely a3-ke-u, *34-ke-u, and o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u. Firstly, each of these words posits specific contextual and morphosyntactic challenges. Secondly, the phonetic value of the Linear B sign *34 is debated. Thirdly, the three words are all terms in -eus, a category inherently problematic due to the unclear origin of the suffix.

§38. This paper analyses the tripods in the Ta tablets by, (i) investigating the words describing the tripods in the Ta series, the specific features of each attestation of the ideogram *201VAS in the Ta entries, and the relationship between *201VAS and ke-re-si-jo we-ke and between *201VAS and the other word descriptions of the Ta tripods; (ii) applying the phonetic value ru to *34 in the word *34-ke-u and exploring how the resulting reading of *34 as ru2 impacts the interpretation of tripods in the Ta series; (iii) delving deeper into VAS-related examples from Linear A tablets to test the hypothesis on tripods “of Cretan craftsmanship” that results from the analysis of the Pylos Linear B tablets.

Context, dataset, and open questions

§39. To put tripods in context, this section (i) succinctly outlines the characteristics of the Ta series, (ii) identifies the tripods’ dataset and common elements, and (iii) briefly surveys the challenges and open questions regarding the tripods’ interpretation.

§40. The Ta series is a set of thirteen Pylos tablets, to be read in the following order (Palaima 2000): Ta 711, 709,641, 716, 642, 713, 715, 714, 708, 707, 722, 721, 710.

§41. Tablet Ta 711 is the first document of the series and its line .1 indicates the particular occasion the inventoried items are associated with. This is the inspection that the Mycenaean officer addressed as pu2-ke-qi-ri undertook o-te wa-na-ka te-ke au-ke-wa da-mo-ko-ro “when the wanax te-ke aukewa as damokoros”, that is when (o-te) the king (wa-na-ka) performed a ceremonial action upon another power figure (the da-mo-ko-ro, whose name was au-ke-wa). Which specific ceremonial action took place is debated since the verb te-ke has been interpreted as “appointed” (lastly Bernabé and Pierini 2017) or “buried” (lastly Palaima 2023 and Palaima forthcoming).

§42. The next lines of Ta 711 and the rest of the Ta series record an inventory of costly equipment, comprising sacrificial weapons, ceremonial paraphernalia, and elaborate furniture—thus fitting the scenario of a high-profile ceremonial action, performed by the king himself and followed by sacrificial practices and the celebration of official feastings that the palace hosted (Pierini 2021).

§43. Within this framework, data on the Ta inventory evidence that the listed objects were most likely precious due to their use in official occasions at the palace, and not new since they were stored and in some cases damaged (see below). The sumptuous decoration of the furnished items, which are described as finely carved and richly inlaid (Pierini 2021), confirms the preciousness of the catalogue, and the tripods’ entries confirm the repeated use of these items by also providing details about their damaged parts. The preservation of ceremonial vessels for cultic purposes is well attested in 1st millennium Greece too and points to the tripods in the Ta series to be heirlooms, a practice well attested in Bronze Age Messenia (Palaima 2003).

§44. In the Pylos tablets of the Ta series, tripods appear on Ta 709.3 and Ta 641.1. The former tablet records two entries (henceforth α and β), the latter tablet three entries (henceforth γ, δ, ε). The entries read as follows:

PY Ta 709.3

α:    ti-ri-po  ,  ke-re-si-jo  ,  we-ke  ,  *34-ke-u     *201VAS     1

β:    ti-ri-po  ,  ke-re-si-jo  ,  we-ke  ,  o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u     *201VAS     1

PY Ta 641.1

γ:    ti-ri-po-de  ,  a3-ke-u  ,  ke-re-si-jo  ,  we-ke   *201VAS   2

δ:    ti-ri-po  ,  e-me  ,  po-de  ,  o-wo-we   *201VAS   1

      .1a                                                          ke-re-a2  , *2̣0̣1̣VAS [

ε:         ti-ri-po  ,  ke-re-si-jo  ,  we-ke  ,  a-pu  ,  ke-ka-u-me-ṇọ[

§45. Although not specified in any of the five entries, the material of the tripods should have been bronze (Vandenabeele and Olivier 1979:225). Archaeological finds confirm this hypothesis since Neopalatial Minoan Crete manufactured and exported bronze vessels (Dickinson 1994:136—143). This datum about the item predating the Pylos tablet is consistent with both the fact that some of the tripods appearing in the Ta series were damaged and with the above-mentioned hypothesis of these tripods being heirlooms. The Cretan provenance is also relevant, as we will see below.

§46. The ideogram *201VAS is extant in four of the five tripod entries in the Ta records and some traces of it can be read in entry ε. Details of the ideogram differ in the actual drawings, but the standard transcription *201VAS does not address these differences.

§47. The expression ke-re-si-jo we-ke appears in all the entries except δ. We will discuss further below what messages the different drawings of the ideogram might convey, as well as the meaning of ke-re-si-jo we-ke when it is written and what is being conveyed when it is not written.

§48. The two entries on Ta 709 differ in just one word, specifically the last word before the ideogram. It is *34-ke-u in α and o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u in β. The phonetic value of *34 is an open question, and this implies more possible readings for *34-ke-u, which might be a3-ke-u by reading *34 as /hai/ (Melena 2014b), but different results emerge by reading *34 as ru2 (Palmer 1963:23; Russotti 2021). Also, o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u poses interpretative challenges because it still lacks a convincing interpretation (DMic s.v.).

§49. The structure of information within each of the three entries is not identical on Ta 641 and the challenges are morphosyntactic as well as related to a lacuna at the upper right edge of the tablet.

§50. The morphosyntactic challenge on Ta 641 derives from a discord between the inventoried items and the subsequent description. Entry γ records two tripods, as the nominative dual ti-ri-po-de and the numeral 2 show. However, a3-ke-u and we-ke are “singulars for duals” (Docs2 498).

§50.1. Palaima observed (personal communication) that ti-ri-po-de can be an adjustment of an original ti-ri-po since there is an erasure after the entry of *201VAS and the second digit stroke for 2 seems to be over the erasure, with subsequent adjustment of both the leading word and the number.

§51. The lacuna affects the final part of entry ε. This makes the ideogram *201VAS only minimally readable and the expected number missing. Although the number is missing, entry ε should inventory just one tripod due to the following considerations.

§52. Entry ε shows the nominative singular ti-ri-po. The inconsistency in the entry γ cannot be used as a precedent since it is morphosyntactic. In other words, it only concerns the lack of agreement between ti-ri-po-de and the following words, not the correspondence between the dual ti-ri-po-de and the numeral 2, which is perfect. Furthermore, all the other tripods’ entries show a perfect correspondence between ti-ri-po and the numeral closing the entry—α, β, and δ show the nominative singular ti-ri-po and the numeral 1.

§53. Moreover, other tripod entries list the items separately even if these items differ by just one element. This is the case of entries α and β, the contents of which only differ by one word (*34-ke-u and o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u).

§54. Besides, ε describes a peculiar tripod with ke-ka-u-me-no ke-re-a2 “burnt legs”. While the two tripods in γ are identical, the burnt leg in ε minimizes the chance of another (and inventoried) tripod with the exact same damage.

§55. Hence, we hypothesize that the missing numeral in the entry ε is 1 since the entry opens with the nominative singular ti-ri-po and describes a unique item.

§56. The interpretation of a3-ke-u is an open question. Besides the above-mentioned morphosyntactic problems, other difficulties add up and its interpretation is still debated, though it revolves around two main lines, as we will see further below. Similar interpretative ambiguities also apply to *34-ke-u and o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u, and both lack generally agreed readings.

§57. Summing up: (i) the Ta series inventories items for a high-profile celebration that included sacrificial practices and a palatial feasting; (ii) tripods must have been made of bronze; five Ta entries inventory six tripods, the ideogram *201VAS appears in four entries (and traces can be seen in ε) and the details of its actual drawings show differences; ke-re-si-jo we-ke describes five out of six tripods and its lack in δ is also significant; (iii) a3-ke-u posits morphosyntactic challenges; the debated phonetic value of *34 implies different possible readings for *34-ke-u; and o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u lacks a convincing interpretation.

The ideogram *201VAS and ke-re-si-jo we-ke

§58. Consistently written as a two-word expression, ke-re-si-jo we-ke is largely interpreted as a compound adjective in -es meaning “of Cretan craftsmanship” (DMic s.v.), and it is per se a “made in Crete” indication. It appears in entries α, β, γ, and ε, but not in entry δ.

§59. Entry δ (ti-ri-po e-me po-de o-wo-we *201VAS 1) records ti-ri-po 1 “one tripod”, which happens to be damaged since it is described as e-me po-de “with one foot”. The tripod is further described as o-wo-we, generally interpreted as “one handle” (DMic s.v.). The word description ends with the below image, transcribed as *201VASaccording to the above-mentioned convention.

Fig. 15: *201VAS on δ (the second tripod entry on Ta 641.1).

§60. In the only tripod entry without ke-re-si-jo we-ke, the ideogram represents a tripod with a semi-globular body, a round bottom, and vertical handles. The drawing is supposed to be standard for this category of tripods since it does not address the damage on the feet and the handles that the word description highlights (Docs2 498).

§61. Of the four drawings corresponding to the ke-re-si-jo we-ke tripods, three images can be seen with full clarity whilst the fourth is visible only in part due to its position in the final part of entry ε, which coincides with the lacuna. The three clear images are in entries α, β, and γ.

§62. On Ta 709.3, the drawing that closes entry α represents a tripod with a cylindrical body, a flat base, and horizontal handles (see image below, Fig. 16), and the image in entry β shows a tripod with a cylindrical body, a flat base, and horizontal handles (Fig. 17). The image in entry γ also shows a tripod with a cylindrical body, a flat base, and horizontal handles (Fig. 18), though the handles of this particular drawing presents additional details, as we will see further below.

Figs 16, 17, and 18: *201VAS on α and β (the two entries on Ta 709.3) and γ (the first entry on Ta 641.1).

§63. In entry ε the lacuna has cut off a good portion of the drawing and the visible part of the tripod image is the following:

Fig. 19: *201VAS on ε (the last entry on Ta 641.1).

§64. A link between the drawings of *201VAS and ke-re-si-jo we-ke emerges by combining the data from the word description and the iconographic representations. Specifically, the drawings of the ke-re-si-jo we-ke tripods represent a tripod with a cylindrical body, a flat base, and horizontal handles. The image of a tripod with a semi-globular body, a round bottom, and vertical handles appears exclusively in the only tripod entry without ke-re-si-jo we-ke.

§65. This link between ke-re-si-jo we-ke and the related tripods’ images in entries α, β, and γ (and possibly ε, too) offers a further clue to address the questions about the tripods’ provenance. By combining the “made in Crete” information that ke-re-si-jo we-ke provides with archaeological finds, it emerges that tripods with a semi-globular body, a round bottom, and vertical handles are found in the Mainland and in Crete, but tripods with a cylindrical body, a flat base, and horizontal handles are exclusive to Crete (Catling 1964; Vandenabeele and Olivier 1979; Matthäus 1980:102—110).

§66. Expressions like ke-re-si-jo we-ke are quite rare in Linear B texts, which rarely specify the provenance or the regional style of an item. Such a detail is a unicum within the Ta series, which does not identify any other vessels or implements according to their region of manufacture. In light of this, the fact that ke-re-si-jo we-ke qualifies five out of six tripods stands out even more. As Palaima remarks, the Linear B description marks these tripods out as distinctive as well as visually recognizable as “Cretan” by palatial administrators and others too (Palaima 2003:199).

§67. We hypothesize that the visual distinctive characteristic of the ke-re-si-jo we-ke tripods was the shape consisting of a cylindrical body, a flat base, and horizontal handles—the shape that the ideogram *201VAS shows in those entries in which it is fully visible. This is also consistent with the above-mentioned archaeological evidence for both this kind of tripod being exclusive to Crete, and for bronze vessels being manufactured in Minoan Crete and found in Messenia as imported luxury items acting as heirlooms.

The terms a3-ke-u, o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u, and *34-ke-u

§68. The four entries listing “made in Crete” tripods also share another characteristic. In addition to recording the Mycenaean word for tripod, the expression ke-re-si-jo we-ke, the ideogram *201VAS, and the numeral, these entries also contain an additional term each: *34-ke-u is in entry α; o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u in entry β; and a3-ke-u in entry γ. Although entry ε does not show an additional term of this kind, it records the tripod with “burnt legs” and this characteristic, combined with space limitations (entry ε is at the end of Ta 641.1), might have either stolen the show entirely or might be by itself the characteristic that stands out and allows whoever later reads this inventory to recognize the particular item per se.

§69. The interpretations of a3-ke-u, o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u, and *34-ke-u are still debated, with each one of these terms positing specific issues.

§70. In the case of a3-ke-u, the above-mentioned contextual and morphosyntactic difficulties on Ta 641.1 have contributed to further complicate the matter. Yet, the interpretations of a3-ke-u can be grouped into two main categories: (i) a personal name, and (ii) a term related to the word indicating the animal αἴξ, αἰγός “goat”.

§71. Ventris and Chadwick tentatively interpreted a3-ke-u as a personal name (Docs 414). The proposal has been subsequently implemented, and Palaima has read a3-ke-u as “‘Aigeus’ vel sim.” and interpreted it as the name of the craftsperson who manufactured the tripod (Palaima 2003).

§72. The connection between a3-ke-u and the goat goes back to a proposal by L. Palmer (1957a) and has recently received implicit consensus by Meissner (2017), who reads the term as an instrument noun indicating the name of the vessel: a3-ke-u /aigeus/ ‘goat-er’.

§73. A sort of crossover hypothesis was put forward by Ruijgh, who suggested that a3-ke-u might be a personal name and a nickname for a particular type of tripod that a3-ke-u produced: “Il est tentant de voir dans a3-ke-u l’anthroponyme Αἰγεύς, en admettant que ce mot, à titre de sobriquet, désigne un certain type de trépieds, de la même façon que chez Martial, Mentor désigne un certain type de vases provenant de l’atelier de Mentor.” (Ruijgh 1967:194).

§74. In Martial’s work, two passages connect Mentor and vessels, namely Ep. 9,59 and Ep. 4,39.

§75. The v. 16 of Ep. 9,59 reads as follows: pocula Mentorea nobilitata manu. This verse establishes a connection between the noun manus “hand” and Mentoreus, an adjective that is built on the personal name Mentor. To maintain the adjective in the translation too, we can coin the adjective “Mentoresque” by using as a template the famed artists Michelangelo and Leonardo and today’s adjectives Michelangelesque and Leonardesque, which are built on the artists’ personal names and are typically used to qualify nouns such as “style” and “masterpiece”. With this brand-new adjective, the Latin sentence can be translated as “cups that are ennobled by the Mentoresque hand.”

§76. In the case of Ep. 4,39 the whole work is of interest since it mentions several artists and their pieces. For example, in addition to a further occurrence of Mentoreus at v. 5 (solus Mentoreos habes labores, in which the adjective qualifies the noun labores “pieces”), at v. 2 it also shows another adjective that is built on a personal name (Myronos) and modifies the noun artes “skills”.

§77. Although Ruijgh does not elaborate any further on the idea, the proposal raises further questions. Specifically, what makes the relationship between artists and the items they crafted recognizable? Were Mentor and other ancient craftsperson’s as famous in their time as Michelangelo and Leonardo to have a style named after them? What unique characteristics did Mentor and other ancient, famed craftsperson’s pieces have?

§78. To explore the possibility that a3-ke-u refers to the craftsperson and the item they produced, we will address the above questions to the Mycenaean context recording a3-ke-u, that is entry γ.

γ:    ti-ri-po-de  ,  a3-ke-u  ,  ke-re-si-jo  ,  we-ke   *201VAS

Fig. 20: *201VAS in γ (the first entry on Ta 641.1).

§79. The drawing of the ideogram *201VAS in the entry bears a peculiar feature. Specifically, the handles.

§80. In addition to the horizontal handles that are characteristic of the ke-re-si-jo we-ke tripods, the drawing shows vertical elements that are placed on them. In the drawing, the vertical element on the right side seems to be part of the handle while the vertical element on the left side might be either part of the handle or a separate element.

§81. The trait has already captured attention. Yet, there is no consensus on its interpretation. Duhoux (2008:321) remarked the particularly elaborated shape of this tripod’s handles. Previously, L. Palmer hypothesized that the “goat” a3-ke-u refers to was placed on the handles—precisely, he argues for “with goat’s head handles” (Palmer 1957b:577). Vandanabeele and Olivier (1979:233) exclude that the tripod had four independent handles (two horizontal and two vertical, with the vertical handles on the horizonal handles) since archaeological finds with three handles have come to light in sites like Gournia and Mallia but tripods with four independent handles have not been found. They rather think that the drawing in entry γ represents double handles, though they warn that double handles are a characteristic of terracotta tripods of the Protogeometric period.

§82. Although a specific shape is hardly detectable in the drawing of the ideogram *201VAS in entry γ, it allows further exploration of the hypothesis that this feature is a stylized representation of a meaningful reference in the context of Cretan luxury items.

§83. In the Cretan context, goats played a major role throughout the centuries. Suffice it to think about the huge number of goats on Knossos tablets, the frequency with which goats appear on Minoan seals and in the Bronze Age Aegean iconographic repertoire, the local “agrimi” goat that also appears in Cretan artefacts (Fig. 21) and glyptic (Fig. 22) and whose horns are argued to feature as the Linear B logogram *151 CORNU (Fig. 23), or the traditions on the goat Amalthea suckling the infant Zeus that were still alive in the 1st millennium BCE, as shown by archaeological finds like the below tripod from Olympia, dated to the 8th century BCE and found in the sanctuary of Zeus (Fig. 24).

Fig. 21: Golden ibex, Akrotiri, 17th century BCE. By Zde—Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Fig. 22: Agrimi on CMS VI 180, MM III-LM I seal possibly from Archanes; Oxford, Ashmolean Museum 1938.0954.

Fig. 23: Linear B logogram *151 CORNU.

Fig. 24: Tripod from the Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia, 8th century BCE.

§84. Interestingly, the handles of the Olympia tripod are crafted with goats.

§85. We have previously mentioned that a3-ke-u may be read as αἴξ, αἰγός “goat” and Aigeus. It might not be coincidental, and we might not have to choose.

§86. The term a3-ke-u is a term in -eus, a category per se problematic in the Greek word formation due to the debated origin of the suffix, yet to be fully elucidated despite a number of works on the subject (Perpillou 1973; Santiago Álvarez 1987; Leukart 1994; Watkins 2007; de Vaan 2009; Jiménez Delgado 2016: 39, 84; Meissner 2017; and Olsen 2019 are among those that also take into account Mycenaean data).

§87. The Mycenaean evidence has allowed significant advances in our understanding of the terms in -eus, especially in re-classifying shared characteristics (Leukart 1994:240-242) and connecting chronology and sub-groups as well as sub-groups and primary vs secondary function of the suffix (Meissner 2017).

§88. By analyzing the Mycenaean and alphabetic Greek nouns in -eus within the framework of the Indo-European word formation, the hypothesis has gained adherents that nouns in -eus go back to original locatives in *-eu- of the ustem nouns (Santiago Álvarez 1987:119—121; Watkins 2007; de Vaan 2009). In particular, the suffix -eus is explained as a hypostatic ustem formation, built on an instrumental in *-eh1 and with close cognates in other Indo-European languages (Olsen 2019).

§89. For the analysis of a3-ke-u two remarks are particularly relevant.

§90. First, the formal connection between agent nouns and personal names, as exemplified by ka-ke-u, which is attested as both an agent noun meaning “bronze smith” and a personal name (Meissner 2017). Additionally, the suffix -eus is especially productive for terms for occupations in the Greek language (Olsen 2019).

§91. Secondly, the connection between agent nouns in -eus and “the ‘old’ industries—that is, those for which the archaeological evidence is older than the Mycenaean-era linguistic evidence by a thousand years or more … ka-ke-u = χαλκεύς ‘bronze smith’, ke-ra-me-u = κεραμεύς ‘potter’, ka-na-pe-u = κναφεύς ‘fuller’. By way of contrast, the terms referring to the younger, ‘palace’ industries are regularly formed as genuinely Greek compounds in -wo-ko = -ϝοργός such as nom. pl. a-pu-ko-wo-ko /ampuk-worgoi/ ‘head-band makers’, ku-ru-so-wo-ko /khruso-worgoi/ ‘goldsmiths’, to-ro-no-wo-ko /throno- worgoi/ ‘chair makers’” (Meissner 2017:27—reportedly, it is an observation by John Bennet via personal communication).

§92. In light of these two remarks, a3-ke-u can be considered a personal name (anthroponym or sobriquet) and a term for occupation. More specifically, a3-ke-u can indicate an old industry, not necessarily disappeared in the Mycenaean era, precisely devoted to crafting goats on particular objects, and a3-ke-u can act as a sobriquet that is built after the craftsperson’s distinguishing skill to craft goats.

§93. To test this hypothesis, we compare a3-ke-u with three Mycenaean terms in -eus that are related to vessels, namely a-pi-po-re-we “amphorae”, ka-ra-re-we “stirrup-jars”, and ke-ni-qe-te-we “hand-wash basins”.

§94. The term a-pi-po-re-we, which also appears as a-po-re-we due to haplology (DMic s.v.), and the ideogram *209VAS refers to the same item. The connection is shown by attestations like *209VAS+A, in which A is the acrophonic abbreviation for a-pi-po-re-we, and a-pi-po-re-we *209VAS, in which the item is identified textually (a-pi-po-re-we) and iconographically (*209VAS). Likewise, the vessel (a ‘stirrup jar’) that ka-ra-re-we and *210VAS refers to is the same, as shown by the attestations of the acrophonic abbreviation *210VAS+KA and the expression ka-ra-re-we *210VAS.

§95. By contrast, the connection between a3-ke-u and *201VAS is not direct. Rather, the ideogram *201VAS refers to the tripod and indications like ke-re-si-jo we-ke or a3-ke-u helps to specify the particular tripod on the tablet due to the array of typologies that the item “tripod” encompasses.

§96. It is worth noting that there are no alphabetic Greek words related to a3-ke-u in the 1st millennium vessel vocabulary while the meaning of alphabetic Greek ἀμφιφορεύς (and ἀμφορεύς) continues the meaning of Mycenaean a-pi-po-re-we as well as χέρνιψ continues ka-ra-re-we and χέρνιψ continues ke-ni-qe-te-we.

§97. In this respect, it is significant that a3-ke-u refers to a stylistic type of a luxury item since Mycenaean terms related to luxury items and highly specialized techniques were lost in 1st millennium BCE Greek, whereas terms referring to daily object and non-technical activities survived (Aura Jorro 1996).

§98. Additionally, it is worth noting that the bronze cauldron from Mycenae, Shaft Grave IV, which is a Cretan import, bears an inscribed sign on its body. This sign is read as a3 and is interpreted as the acrophonic abbreviation of a master bronze-vessel maker’s name (cf. Palaima 2003 and the discussion in Pierini 2020). This reinforces the hypothesis that a term beginning with a3 circulated in Bronze Age Crete and it was directly connected with the making of bronze vessels.

§99. Should the craftsperson a3-ke-u have made the two tripods in Ta 641.1, these items must have been easily recognizable if the Mycenaean officer pu2-ke-qi-ri identified them with a quick glance during an inspection. The feature that made the items stand out might have been the unique shape of handles, as the drawing of *201VAS in entry α seemingly suggests.

§100. These observations add weight to the hypothesis that a3-ke-u is a multivalent term displaying a twofold relationship with the “goat” since it refers to the peculiar, goat-shaped decoration of a luxury tripod and to the highly-specialized craftsperson realizing it—it might indicate either the craftsperson’s sobriquet or a term of occupation that had no continuation in the 1st millennium BCE Greek vocabulary.

§101. Let’s explore o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u and *34-ke-u considering this interpretation of a3-ke-u.

§102. L. Palmer hypothesized that the connection of o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u to κεῖρις, a bird according to the gloss by Hesychius κ 2011 L.-Cunn. (Palmer 1963:343, 438). Specifically, the alphabetic noun refers to the sacred, fabulous bird ciris into which Scylla was transformed after that she caused the death of her own father Nisus to win Minos’ heart, as reported by Ovidius in Metamorphoses 8,6.

§103. We add that the Cretan tradition of this myth is consistent with the Cretan provenance of the artifact to which o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u refers in the entry β. Additionally the decoration with animal motifs is not new in the Ta series since the ta-ra-nu (“stool” in this entry, see Pierini 2021:124) on Ta 722.1 is decorated with an octopus and a horse and the to-no “chair” on Ta 707.1 with birds. Although the tripods’ decoration and the furnishing pieces’ decoration have some differences due to the different origin and provenance of the items, the animal-motif might still be a common element within the Ta series decoration.

§104. It is worth stressing that the occasion of the Ta series is a ritual ceremony with animal sacrifices and meat consumption thereafter (Palaima and Blackwell 2020; Blackwell and Palaima 2021; Pierini 2021). A bird decoration fits well into this context since birds play a major role in Bronze Age religion, representing epiphanies and gods as well as gods performing their epiphany in the form of birds (Burkert 2004; Burke 2005).

§105. Moreover, we observe that the initial o-pi may have a prepositional value and be an indication that the decoration was found on the tripod’s body. This is consistent with the drawing of the ideogram *201VAS in the entry that does not show particular features of the structure, as was also the case with a3-ke-re-u.

§106. Similar considerations apply to *34-ke-u. Whilst a more detailed discussion of the phonetic value of the sign *34 appears elsewhere (some preliminary observations are already in Pierini forthcoming), I focus here on a few issues related to the interpretation of *34 as ai (Melena 2014a).

§107. Although it is tempting to read *34-ke-u as a variant spelling of a3-ke-u, the argument can also be used the other way round, that is that the spellings are different because they refer to two different words.

§108. The sign *34 is read as ru2 by Lang (apud Palmer 1963:23), Duhoux (1983) and Ruijgh (1979). On this basis, *34-ke-u has been interpreted as λυκεύς or λυγκεύς, terms related to wolves and lynxes respectively, by Palmer (1963:23) and as ῥύγχος “snout” by Russotti (2021).

§109. Both proposals identify another potential animal-shaped decoration. It is tempting to read *34-ke-u as λυκεύς since it would add a third element to a3-ke-u as Aigeus and o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u as Nisus’ daughter new bird-shape, namely Lykos—thus constituting a possible reference to the brothers Aegeus, Nisus, and Lykos.

§110. Russotti stresses the peculiarity to reference for the “snout” without the specification of the animal. She also mentions Stesichorus’s use of ῥύγχος in relation to the mythical Calydonian boar, from which an earliest reference to boars or pigs can be inferred—and ko-ro “pig” referring to cultic people with animal-shaped masks on Thebes tablets makes swine not new to ritual contexts (Ricciardelli 2006).

§111. We add two considerations. First, ῥύγχος is “snout, muzzle (of swine)” according to LSJ (s.v., with further passages). Secondly, boars play a major role in Minoan Crete art, as shown by elements like the evidence for boar’s tusk helmets in Crete and representation of swine from the Prepalatial era on (Higgins 1967). In this context, of particular interest is a bronze dagger from Lasithi which depicts a boarhunt scene carved on it (Long 1978).

§112. To build on this, we explore a possible link between swine and vessels in Linear A tablets.

A potential Linear A comparison

§113. In addition to full spelled words like ko-ro and si-a2<῎sub>-ro, Linear B refers to swine also by means of the sign AB 85, which has the ideographic value of SUS “pig” and the phonetic value au. The sign resembles a swine profile, with emphasis on elements like the ear and—especially—the eye, as it’s drawing e.g. on KN Fp 13.2 shows (Fig. 25). Similar to Linear B, Linear A shows evidence for a logographic and syllabographic use of the sign AB 85. Specifically, AB 85 acts as a logogram on HT 38 (Fig. 26) and 118 (Fig. 27) and as a syllabogram on KH 6 (Fig. 28) and also has further attestations in ligatures and composite signs.

Fig. 25: AB 85 on KN Fp 13.2 (from Salgarella 2020, courtesy of the author).

Fig. 26: AB 85 on HT 38 (logographic use). From SigLA.

Fig. 27: AB 85 on HT 118 (logographic use). From SigLA.

Fig. 28: AB 85 on KH 6 (syllabographic use). From SigLA.

§114. On PH 9b, a fragmentary tablet that is missing the section on the right, the first readable sign is the logogram A412VAS (Fig. 29). Two elements stand out. First, A412VAS refers to a vessel, like the Linear B ideogram *201VAS. Secondly, the shape of A412VAS closely resembles a swine profile. In particular, the drawing of the sign AB 85 in Linear B (Fig. 30).

Fig. 29: A412VAS on PH 9b (from SigLA).

Fig. 30: AB 85 on KN Fp 13.2 (from Salgarella 2020, courtesy of the author).

§115. However, in GORILA the sign referred to as A412VAS has seemingly received a different interpretation since Plate LII shows the image from MA 10b.2, in which the sign is preceded by TI and thus referred to as A 524 (Fig. 31).

Fig. 31: A 524 (= ‘TI’ 412VAS) on MA 10b.2 (from SigLA).

§116. As part of a composite sign, A412VAS also appears in A 658 (Fig. 32) and A 659 (Fig. 33), again on Mallia tablets (cf. Salgarella 2020:323).

Fig. 32: A 658 (= 412VAS +E) on MA 10b.1 (from SigLA).

Fig. 33: A 659 (= 412VAS +F) on MA 10a (from SigLA).

§117. I do not find convincing the overlap between the sign on the Phaistos tablet and the sign on the Mallia composite signs.

§118. The 90° rotation is not a problem since it is a common feature in Linear A signs. Nor are other details concerning edges or proportions problematic.

§119. The element that is missing in the Mallia attestations is the bullet—the swine’s eye in AB 85. A stroke can be found instead of a bullet, but it is not an optional element (Salgarella 2022).

§120. In conclusion, the sign on PH 9b is a potential example of the swine motif on vessels. As a final remark, we notice that the Phaistos sign seemingly represents the handles of the vessel.


§121. Several archaeological finds of bronze vessels like cauldrons and tripods have come to light in mainland Greece. Minoan Crete has been identified as the chronological horizon and region of manufacture of many of these items due to shape characteristics that are exclusive to the made-in-Crete bronze objects. Specifically, these characteristics are the cylindrical body, the flat base, and the horizontal handles of the artifact.

§122. Textual sources confirm these data since the Linear B tablets of the Ta series describe as ke-re-si-jo we-ke those tripods that the corresponding ideogram *201VAS represents with a cylindrical body, a flat base, and horizontal handles. This is even more significant by considering that the ideogram is not a visual representation of the particular item that the entry inventories but, rather, identifies the category—a category that, in this case, was defined by the shape of the body and the base as well as by the orientation of the handles.

§123. By describing these tripods as ke-re-si-jo we-ke, Linear B tablets also confirm that these artifacts were imported items and that the chronology for their creation predates the Ta series. These two observations add weight to the latter point, namely that all the items inventoried in the Ta series were amassed in a storage space and the fact that some tripods were damaged due to repeated use—thus reinforcing the hypothesis that the tripods were heirlooms.

§124. Besides confirming these data, our analysis of the textual sources on Bronze Age Aegean tripods enriches the topic with further observations.

§125. In addition to the characteristic and unique shape of the tripods “of Cretan craftsmanship”, the Minoan substratum of these items is also visible in textual and linguistic elements as well as in comparanda with Linear A features.

§126. The use of the sign *34 points to this direction since it is an element that Linear B inherited from Linear A and that in Linear B appears either on tablets with an early chronology or conservative semantic areas like place or personal names (Pierini forthcoming).

§127. By reading *34 as ru2 in *34-ke-u, the resulting proposals identify potential animal-shaped decorations.

§128. The animal decoration on vessels is another characteristic with Minoan precedents, as the comparison with Linear A data on vessels shows.

§129. The animal motif might have deeper roots in the Minoan background when also taking into account the interpretation of o-pi-ke-wi-ri-je-u as the mythical bird ciris and the Cretan tradition of Scylla’s myth.

§130. The decoration with animal motif is also consistent with other elements of the Ta series since octopus, horses, and birds decorate the ta-ra-nu “stool” and to-no “chair” that are listed in the inventory.

§131. The word a3-ke-u might point to the same directions of Minoan background and animal decoration. The meaning of a3-ke-u is seemingly related to an old industry, namely an industry that predates the Mycenaean evidence, that is of Minoan origin. In addition, a3-ke-u might indicate at the same time the old industry and the sobriquet that is built after the main characteristic of that old industry—goat-related, most likely. In short, a3-ke-u seems to refer to a luxury item and a highly specialized profession. In Alphabetic Greek the noun αἴξ, αἰγός “goat” does not seem to encompass any further meaning beyond the actual animal. This scenario is consistent with the fact that only Mycenaean terms indicating daily object and non-technical activities survived into Alphabetic Greek, whereas terms related to luxury items and highly specialized techniques were lost. Regarding a3-ke-u it is hard to choose whether the meaning is “goat” or “Aigeus” and maybe we do not have to. Welcome to the Bronze Age Aegean Goat-ean.

Presenter: Emilio Rosamilia

§132. Before getting to the main topic of this section, I will start with a little digression. If Cretan tripods were held in high esteem in 2nd millennium Pylos, what of during the first millennium? Are there any sources about Cretan tripods afterwards? Sadly, even though many tripods were found in archaeological excavations, no text from ancient Crete ever mention a tripod, with a single exception.

§133.1. A fragmentary law from the sixth century found in the Pytion in ancient Gortyn, sets a fine for an aggression during which blood was spilled. The text, an inscription dating from 600-525 BCE, reads as follows (Gagarin and Perlman 2016, G8, frgs. i + a-f)

§133.2. [- – – ὀρ]ϙομότας | ἐκατὸν | ποινᾶς | καταιστάμεν | τρίποδα | ἔνα | δ[έ]κα λεβήτον | ἐπόμοτον | ἤμ[εν- – -]

§133.3. «[- – -] oath-swearers, one hundred, as blood-money (he) is to pay one tripod sworn to be (worth?) ten cauldrons [- – -]».

§134. How could you fix the amount of a fine in a period when coinage had not been introduced yet? The inhabitants of Gortyn generally solved the problem by recurring to a proto-monetary unit of value: the lebes, or cauldron. For this reason, fines in the tens of cauldrons are common in early Gortynian texts (Gagarin and Perlman 2016, 107). Only in this law something is different: the culprit is fined a tripod – a physical object – that he must swear is worth at least ten cauldrons. This provides us with a basic reference as to the value attributed to tripods in early Greek society and may well attest to the economic and social importance of tripods during the second millennium BCE as well.[1]

§135. Let us now focus on the word kresio-werges in the two Pylos tablets. After considering a far less convincing explanation by Ventris (Ventris 1954, 18), Ventris and Chadwick accepted Palmer’s suggestion and read here kresio-werges, that they translated as: «of Cretan style or workmanship» (Docs2, 336-337). This hypothesis has been accepted by almost all subsequent scholars,[2] even though Heubeck proposed to interpret ke-re-si-jo we-ke as an unattested form *Kresioweikes, i. e. «that looks Cretan» (Heubeck 1986). More recently, Palaima has argued in favour of a Cretan origin for these items based on his interpretation of the ai-ke-u string in the same context (Palaima 2003, 198-199; cf. also Palaima 2000, 237; 2004, 233). However, even taking the reading kresio-werges for granted, the amphibology of -werges compounds in Classical Greek still stands. As a result, the two translations proposed by Ventris and Chadwick can hardly be considered as equally acceptable. Were these tripods actually made in Crete or did they just have some “Cretan looks”, not unlike a French neck on someone’s shirt, having no relation whatsoever with France? Or a block of parmesan cheese out of Wisconsin, far away from Parma and Italy both. To answer to this question, a closer look at compound adjectives with the element -(w)erges in Classical Greek can be helpful.[3]

§136. In my opinion, the best starting point for such analysis is provided by a passage from Athenaeus of Naucratis’ The Learned Banqueteers (Deipnosophistai) that summarizes much ancient learning on a similar expression. Although in its current state this passage looks like a heap of chaotic data, this is due to at least three marginal notes that found their way into the main the text, as has been proven by comparing it with Harpocration’s (λ 31) quoting of the same passage before its corruption. If we amend S. Douglas Olson’s recent translation (Olson 2009) so that it takes into account the amendments already accepted by Georg Kaibel in 1890,[4] we can read (Ath. Deipn. 11.72; 486c-e):

§137.1. ΛΥΚΙΟΥΡΓΕΙΣ. φιάλαι τινὲς οὕτως καλοῦνται ἀπὸ Λύκωνος τοῦ κατεσκευασμένου, ὡς καὶ Κονώνειοι αἱ ὑπὸ Κόνωνος ποιηθεῖσαι. μνημονεύει [τοῦ Λύκωνος] Δημοσθένης ἐν τῷ [περὶ τοῦ στεφάνου κἀν τῷ] πρὸς Τιμόθεον ὑπὲρ χρέως λέγων οὕτως· ([Dem.] 49.31) “φιάλας Λυκιουργεῖς δύο.” [ἐν δὲ τῷ πρὸς Τιμόθεον γράφει· “δίδωσιν ἀποθεῖναι τῷ Φορμίωνι μετὰ τῶν χρημάτων καὶ ἄλλας φιάλας Λυκιουργεῖς δύο.” Ἡρόδοτος δ᾽ ἐν ζʹ (Hdt. 7.76, misquoted) “προβόλους δύο Λυκιουργίδας ἡμιεργέας”, ὅτι ἀκόντιά ἐστι πρὸς λύκων θήραν ἐπιτήδεια <ἢ> ἐν Λυκίᾳ εἰργασμένα.] ὅπερ ἐξηγούμενος Δίδυμος ὁ γραμματικὸς (314-315 Schmidt) τὰς ὑπὸ Λυκίου φησὶ κατεσκευασμένας. ἦν δὲ οὗτος τὸ γένος Βοιώτιος ἐξ Ἐλευθερῶν, υἱὸς Μύρωνος τοῦ ἀνδριαντοποιοῦ, ὡς Πολέμων φησὶν ἐν αʹ περὶ Ἀκροπόλεως (frg. 2 Preller). ἀγνοεῖ δ᾽ ὁ γραμματικὸς ὅτι τὸν τοιοῦτον σχηματισμὸν ἀπὸ κυρίων ὀνομάτων οὐκ ἄν τις εὕροι γινόμενον, ἀλλ᾽ ἀπὸ πόλεων ἢ ἐθνῶν.

§137.2. Ἀριστοφάνης τε γὰρ ἐν Εἰρήνῃ φησί (143)· “τὸ δὲ πλοῖον ἔσται Ναξιουργὴς κάνθαρος.”

§137.3. Κριτίας τε ἐν τῇ Λακεδαιμονίων Πολιτείᾳ (88 B 35 D-K): “κλίνη Μιλησιουργὴς καὶ δίφρος Μιλησιουργής, κλίνη Χιουργὴς καὶ τράπεζα Ῥηνιοεργής.”

§137.4. Ἡρόδοτός τε ἐν τῇ ἑβδόμῃ φησί (Hdt. 7.76)· “προβόλους δύο Λυκοεργέας.μήποτ᾽ οὖν καὶ παρὰ <τῷ Ἡροδότῳ ὡς καὶ παρὰ> τῷ Δημοσθένει γραπτέον Λυκιοεργέας, ἵν᾽ ἀκούηται τὰ ἐν Λυκίᾳ εἰργασμένα.

§137.5. LYKIOURGEIS. Certain phialai are referred to this way, the name coming from Lycon, who produced them, just as Kononeioi are phialai made by Conon. Demosthenes mentions them in his Against Timotheus on Account of a Debt ([Dem.] 49.31): «two Lykiourgeis phialai».

§137.6. The grammarian Didymus, in his explication of the passage (314-315 Schmidt) says that these are phialai produced by Lycius. Lycius’ family was from Boeotian Eleutherai, and his father was the sculptor Myron, according to Polemon in Book I of On the Acropolis (frg. 2 Preller). The grammarian is unaware that such formations are nowhere attested as based on personal names but are always drawn from the names of cities and peoples.

§137.7. Thus, Aristophanes says in Peace (143): «And my ship will be a Naxiourges beetle-craft (kantharos)».

§137.8. And Critias in the Constitution of the Spartans (88 B 35 D-K): «A Milesiourges couch and a Milesiourges stool; a Chiourges couch and a Rhenioerges table».

§137.9. And Herodotus in Book VII (76): «two Lykoergeis spears». Perhaps, therefore, one ought to write ‘Lykioergeis’ in Herodotus, just as in Demosthenes, so that the reference is to spears manufactured in Lycia.

§138. A few considerations are required. Despite its ambiguity,[5] this passage attests that compound adjectives with the element -(w)erges were not common in Athenaeus’ time and had been obscure at least from the late Hellenistic period, since the extremely learned Didymus Bronze-Guts felt he had to explain – and clearly misunderstood – the word Lykiourgeis in his commentary of the pseudo-Demosthenic speech against Timotheus.

§139. In addition, all similar expressions quoted by Athenaeus come from authors that were active in Athens during the fifth century. This may be due to the Atticistic tastes of the second century CE, but only in a few epigraphic documents do we find later attestations of compound adjectives in -(w)erges. Therefore, this may be no happenstance and should be considered.

§140. One last interesting detail. In the passage that found its way into the text of Athenaeus at a later stage, Herodotus is quoted as having written (Hdt. 7.76): προβόλους δύο Λυκιουργίδας ἡμιεργέας. However, if we read the extant text of Herodotus, in Book VII there is indeed a mention of «two Lykioergeis spears», but they are not half-finished at all. The reason is apparent if we accept that the Greek word translated as ‘half finished’ is hemi-ergeis: once again, we are dealing with either an alternative reading or a gloss that found its way into the text. In either case, this provides further confirmation that readers struggled with understanding the word Lykioerges well before Athenaeus.

§141. What is the meaning of these expressions? As I have shown on a separate occasion, the two phialai mentioned by Apollodorus the son of Pasion in his speech against Timotheus that was later attributed to Demosthenes were indeed made in Lycia, or at least in Asia Minor. Phialai crafted in Athens generally conformed to a standard weight of 100 drachmas (one mna each).

These two phialai however are a little overweight, as they weigh around 118.50 Attic drachmas each. Therefore, a non-Attic coin standard is at work here, either a Persian or a Lycian one (Rosamilia 2020).

§142. However, how could Apollodorus know the origin of cups he had not seen in many years, if ever? Very likely, he was quoting from the accounting books of his late father, Pasion. Pasion in turn might have learned of their provenance by Phormion, the former owner of the phialai. At the same time, for a banker such as Pasion, the origin of these cups would be apparent as soon as he put them on a scale.

§143. Of course, the same would not be true of the pieces of furniture mentioned in Critias’ Constitution of the Spartans. Although the context is extremely obscure, we can expect that these pieces of furniture appeared “Milesian” in some apparent way, but that does not prove that the couches were really made in Miletos or Chios.

§144. As a matter of fact, Milesian and Chian couches were the latest fashion during the late fifth century. If we take a closer look at contemporary inscriptions from Attica, we notice a few attestations of these pieces of furniture in different dossiers. For instance, one set of Milesian couches and one of Chian ones are attested in the inventories of the Treasurers of Athena from the mid-fifth century, when they were stored in the Hekatompedon, the main room of the Parthenon.[6] The amount of detail that these accounts provide us with shows the progressive deterioration of these pieces of furniture. For instance, from 374/3 BCE, the Milesian couches are said to be in disrepair. In 371/0 BCE, when the two sets got separated, a third one – possibly consisting of ten Milesian couches – comes into the limelight. None of these sets is then mentioned again after the mid-fourth century. Were these couches actually imported luxury items? One cannot be sure, but there is no reason to take this for granted (Rosamilia 2021, esp. 207-211).

§145. From this point of view, a second dossier of documents is more illuminating. Sometime after 414 BCE, the Athenians decided to auction off the possessions of all people involved in the mutilation of the Herms and the profanation of the Eleusinian Mysteries. They also decided to inscribe the proceedings of the auction on marble stelae to be set up in the urban Eleusinion, not far from the Agora.[7] As a result, we now possess fragmentary lists of items belonging to some well-to-do Athenian households of the late fifth century alongside the prices they were sold at. Unsurprisingly, we find a few occurrences of Milesiourgeis couches in these documents (IG I3 421-430). However, since no document about their origin was likely available to the auctioneers, how could the magistrates in charge of the auction, the poletai, still recognize them as “made in Miletos”? Apparently, these couches had some characteristics that made them easily recognizable. A small clue can come from the prices preserved alongside these registrations. If the average price of a kline in these documents is about 5.27 drachmas, in these same documents a kline Milesiourges costs about 24.79 drachmas, almost five times the price of a regular kline. We are definitely dealing with luxury items, and one cannot but wonder if it was the level of ornamentation and the precious materials employed in inlays or appliquesthat made these couches “Milesian”, no matter where they had been made. Similarly, a roof of Korinthiourgeis tiles in the same lists might well be a local product.[8]

§146. A few other occurrences from this period are more ambiguous. For instance, Xenophon in one of his treatises suggests that the knights adopt a Boiotiourges helm.[9] In suggesting this, he likely means they should look for a particular shape not that they should go shopping for armoury north of the Athenian border in a rival state that had been at war with Athens for over a decade when the pamphlet On Cavalry (plausibly dating from the 350s BCE) was written. In any case, the alternative is still plausible.

§147. Another epigraphic dossier where –(w)erges compounds can be found comes from Delos. During the mid-third century BCE, Delian inventories positively teem with similar terms, especially when dealing with the annual gifts of Stesileus. For instance, in 250 BCE we have phialai in different states of disrepair allegedly coming from Teos, Chios, and Miletos.[10] While numismatic implications cannot be ruled out, the identification likely had to do with either the shape of these vessels or some inscribed dedication on the single items. The shape hypothesis is corroborated by a contemporary inventory from Didyma where a small Teiourges phiale is mentioned in 270/69 BCE as the gift of a (likely) local woman without any mention of the vessel’s weight.[11] In this same period we also find the two Korinthiourgeis craters in Alexandria discussed by Callixenus of Rhodes (FGrHist 627 F 2.30).

§148. This prevalence of uses that focus on some exterior characteristics of each item instead of the place of its crafting is not unexpected but is troubling, nonetheless. After all, -(w)erges compounds are evidently exonyms. As a result, their use to denote provenance must antedate all other uses. To get back to the example discussed above, if you have no Parmesan cheese from Parma, you can hardly have a cheese called ‘Parmesan’ from Wisconsin. Is there an earlier phase that we can identify when these compounds were still mainly used to denote provenance? To answer to this question, the Atticistic lexicon of Julius Pollux provides us with a good starting point.

§149. While describing a type of sandal called «The Tyrrhenian ones» (Tyrrhenika), Pollux (Poll. Onom. 7.92-93) tells us that some people called them Tyrrheniourge instead, not unlike their calling another kind of shoes Rheniourgefrom the Delian Island of Rheneia. As it is made apparent by this passage, these terms likely denoted the shape of the shoes, not the actual provenance of the single item.

§150. It is at this point that things get interesting. According to Pollux, the masles mentioned in a poem by Sappho[12] would be a reference to this same type of Tyrrheniourge sandals. Interestingly, Sappho herself, in the poem quoted by Pollux, tells us that these sandals were «a beautiful thing from Lydia». Unless Pollux is toying here with the Herodotean notion according to which Etruscans originated in ancient Lydia, he is simply applying what he knew of the term masles to the poem. On the other hand, we should notice that the expression Lydion kalon ergon used by Sappho corresponds perfectly to the compound Lydiourges but leaves us with no ambiguity as to the fact that these sandals were imported from Lydia.

§151. A similar situation can be recognized in a fragment by Anacreon, which deals with a «Carian-made shield-grip»[13]. In this case too, the specification has likely more to do with the fact that the item was imported (and thus high-quality and pricey) than with any particular shape, possibly confirming that in the archaic period – unlike in fifth-century-BCE Athens – these compounds were more commonly used to describe the provenance of an object rather than its shape or appearance.

§152. In conclusion, all these terms play with the ages-old idea that items made elsewhere are better, possibly for no other reason that because they cost more and cannot be bought by everyone. Three different phases of the history of compound adjectives with the element -(w)erges in Classical Greek can be reconstructed.

§153. First, the compounds resurface in the Archaic period in the Aegean islands. In this context, they seem to have been used mainly to denote imported items, possibly in connection with the Ionian tryphe and proclivity to describe a rich society where people possessed many luxury items and imports from non-Greek areas of Asia Minor.

§154. On the other hand, during the fifth and fourth centuries BCE and the early Hellenism, the compounds were used more and more frequently to describe items that had a certain foreign look but could now be purchased or made in any place. The compounds become just a way to distinguish between models and shapes of the same objects. This evolution is very likely connected with the Athenian empire and the importance of Athenian markets, where items from all over the Mediterranean could be imported as well as imitated according to the local tastes.

§155. Lastly, around 200 BCE these compounds fell out of fashion altogether to the point that an Alexandrian scholar such as Didymus could easily misunderstand them.

§156. If we now look back at the Mycenaean tripods, the amphibology is still there: are these tripods «made in Crete», or do they just look Cretan enough? We should still be cautious, but there can be little doubt now that most of the evolution in meaning of these compounds took place in fifth-century Athens. Even though we cannot completely rule out a parallel evolution in Mycenaean Greek, the simplest and most convincing hypothesis is that these tripods were indeed “the real thing”: some Cretan imports handed down for a few generations and having lost nothing of their prestige due to age or disrepair.

Discussion following Pierini and Rosamilia’s talk

§157. Athanasios Papalexandrou, while suggesting caution when seeking parallels in unstable media, seconded Pierini’s hypothesis that the scribal hand who drew the miniature icon of the tripods on PY Ta 641.1 was aiming at denoting a difference, although they did not further qualify this difference.

§158. Nicholas Blackwell remarked that the Ta-tablets are a coherent set of texts, very much sacrificial in nature. On this basis, Pierini’s hypothesis of having animals attached to sacrificial tripods certainly fits well the Ta series context—Blackwell continued.

§159. Blackwell quoted a paper by Joseph Maran (Maran 2006), which describes a metal assembly with a tripod turned upside down and concludes that the assembly seems to be a mix of items that goes back to the Mycenaean period. On this basis, Blackwell hypothesized that this must have been the case with tripods, too (most likely heirlooms). Finally, Blackwell added that in his own fieldwork in metal assemblies in Mycenaean context he has frequently found tripod fragments, which makes the presence in the Ta-series of a tripod only having one leg of particular interest.

§160. Jake Morton called attention to the fact that five out of the six tripods on Linear B tablets are Cretan. Subsequently, he asked how large Pierini and Rosamilia consider the tripods to be.

§161. Rachele Pierini stressed that the question about dimension can hardly be answered in regard to Mycenaean times, due to the diverse information that primary sources provide. By way of example, Pierini mentioned a tabletop found in the Palace of Nestor and a tripod depicted on a fresco in the Palace of Nestor.

§162. While written sources (in this case, the Ta-tablets) do not provide information about the dimensions of the inventoried items, the table top from Court 58 of the Palace of Nestor is an archaeological find that has a diameter of 51.8 cm (Blegen and Rawson 1966:229–230, fig. 271 no. 4 and fig. 272 nos 3 and 4.) and can therefore be considered a small item—Pierini continued.

§163. On the other hand, the tripods appearing on the so-called Men and Dogs fresco (Lang 1969:70–71 and Plates 15, 116, 122), which represents two men holding a tripod each and a third man followed by two dogs, might be said to be of medium/big size since they occupy the space from the shoulder to the upper part of the leg of the man carrying them—Pierini observed. However, the same fresco also depicts the two dogs as having the same height as the man preceding them—Pierini continued. As a result, she questioned whether we could use this example as a source of information about tripod dimensions.

§164. Emilio Rosamilia added that the 1st millennium tripods mentioned in written sources had a high value, from which it can be inferred that they also must have had dimensions that were compatible with their value, thus hypothesizing that tripods mentioned in the Ta Series might easily have been full-scale objects as well—Rosamilia concluded.

§165. In regard to the number of Cretan tripods in the Ta inventory, Palaima pointed out that the tablet-writer, in going through the items he had to inventory, in the absence of modern-day tagging, had to devise virtually extemporaneously ways of describing these tripods and the other categories of objects on the Ta tablets in ways that they could all be accounted for when they were returned and their undamaged condition could also be verified. Thus, whilst there is a sacrificial aspect, there is also a bureaucratic, mechanical function, Palaima concluded.

§166. Morton hypothesized that the Ta-series records two sets of three tripods.

§167. Mahoney speculated about what could be made of the idea that *34-ke-u could be the name of an individual, the artist perhaps.

§168. Palaima remarked that he still finds the idea attractive. He also underlined that when the -eus suffix is added to a root it is to indicate usually that a person has to do with some kind of activity pertaining to the root to which the suffix is added. However, he expressed reservations about whether -eus can be used in Linear B or in Homer ‘adjectively’, a usage that Perpillou rules out (Perpillou 1973:330, 375 et passim).

§169. Gregory Nagy shared his essay on sandals “How a girl dances in an Aeolic way, whether she is wearing sandals or not” (Nagy 2021), which is relevant to the Lydian workmanship.

§170. Papalexandrou speculated about a potential connection between Mycenaean ke-re and alphabetic Greek keros ‘wax’, which will give a reference to how the tripods were made. Specifically, he was thinking about the lost wax method for the casting of legs. Papalexandrou also stressed that -erges, whilst indicating workmanship, might have a more literal meaning that refers to the recognizability of the technique applied, which would be immediately visible to someone who tries to categorize, as Palaima suggested above.

§171. Rosamilia addressed the pros and contra of this idea. He highlighted that some alphabetic occurrences show -erges denoting the specific material that it was used. However, Rosamilia expressed doubts about the presence of sigma in the linguistic reconstruction.

§172. Palaima added that Beekes and Chantraine agree, both s. κηρός, that the Greek word for ‘wax’ is a loan word with form *ke-ro- Proto-Greek *kēro– and is not found in historical times as an -es- stem (Chantraine 2009; Beekes 2010). Moreover, Mycenaean forms in -sios are conspicuously from nouns terminating in -t-, -th-, and -nth-: cf. ko-ri-si-jo, za-ku-si-jo, e-pu-ko-tu-si-jo, o-pi-ko-ru-si-ja, and, as here, ke-re-si-jo; cf. also Mycenaean mi-ra-ti-ja and historical Μιλήσιος, as well as Mycenaean (Knossian) place name ku-ta-to and adjectival forms ku-ta-ti-jo and ku-ta-si-jo.

§173. Marie Louise Nosch drew attention to two works on tripods in Archaic Greece by Beate Wagner-Hasel (Wagner-Hasel 2015; 2020).

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[1] On the importance of tripods in classical Greece cf. now Papalexandrou 2004.

[2] On the interpretations of this form cf. also DMic. s.v.; Varias 2016, 555-556; Russotti 2021, 33.

[3] For a more archaeological approach cf. the analysis of Mavrigiannaki 1980.

[4] For this passage, the more recent Teubner edition by S. Douglas Olson (2020) proves inadequate, as he misses the fact that the scribes are quoting from a single pseudo-Demosthenic speech as well as the fact that Against Timotheus is not a speech ὕβρεως (rightly amended by Casaubon: ὑπὲρ χρέως).

[5] The stratification of sources used by Athenaeus makes the passage self-contradictory. In particular, one of Athenaeus’ sources quotes Didymus’ commentary in order to argue with the latter’s interpretation of compound adjectives in -(w)erges as identifying an item’s maker. However, in the opening sentence, Athenaeus seems to espouse Didymus’ position against the opinion of the unnamed polemic author.

[6] On inventories about the Athenian Acropolis cf. Harris 1995; Hamilton 2000, 247-344 and 435-453.

[7] IG I3 421, ll. 202 and 206: 11 κλῖναι Μιλεσιοργε̃[ς], sold for at least 290 drachms plus taxes, and a κλίνε Μιλεσιοργὲς ἀμφικέφα[λος], all previously owned by the same unknown individual. IG I3 422, l. 295: a κλ[ί]νε Μ[ιλεσιορ]γές, formerly in the possession of Phaidros of Myrrhinous, sold for 7.50 drachms plus taxes (0.50 drachms).

[8] IG I3 427, frg. c, l. 98: [Κορι]νθιοργε̃ς Η̣[- – -]. Cf. Poll. Onom. 10.157: καὶ μετὰ τοῦ κεράμου ἐν τοῖς Δημιοπράτοις καλυπτῆρες κορινθιουργεῖς καὶ ἰκριωτῆρες.

[9] Xen. Eq. 12.3: κράνος γε μὴν κράτιστον εἶναι νομίζομεν τὸ βοιωτιουργές.

[10] IG XI.2 287 B (250 BCE), ll. 52 and 130-135. On Delian inventories cf. Hamilton 2000, 1-246 and 367-433.

[11] I.Didyma 433, ll. 18-20 (270/69 BCE): κυλίκιον | τηϊουργές, ἀνάθημα Μενιττοῦς τῆς Μελησίππου, | τὴν ὁλκὴν ἀνεπίγραφον. In conformity with Didymaean administrative practices, the tamiai record one item’s weight only if they find it inscribed on the vessel itself.

[12] Sapph. frg. 39 Voigt: πόδα<ς> δὲ / ποικίλος μάσλης ἐκάλυπτε Λύδι/ον καλὸν ἔργον. On this fragment cf. now Nagy 2021.

[13] Anacr. PMG 401: διὰ δηὖτε Καρικοεργέος / ὀχάνου χεῖρα †τιθέμενοι†. The passage is interpreted in a more complex way by the source quoting it, i.e., Strab. 14.2.27 (661 C).

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