The Inscriptiones Graecae (IG) is the oldest scientific project of the Berlin Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften.1 The IG was originally founded with the name Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum (CIG) in the year 1815 under the direction of the philologist August Boeckh (1785-1867). Its research pertains to the collection and editio critica of Greek inscriptions, including the production of papersqueezes. The IG archives are indeed the largest papersqueeze archives in the world.2 The project of a corpus of alphabetic inscriptions of Cyprus3 has been recently reinitiated with the cooperation and support of the Department of Antiquities and the University of Cyprus. The Cyprus Corpus was inaugurated already at the beginning of 1900, but was never realized because of both the historical-political catastrophes and the massive diaspora of the Cyprus antiquities all over the world since the second half of 1800; Olivier Masson (1922-1997) dedicated a long part of his scientific life to the investigation of the diaspora. Therefore, the study of Cypriote epigraphy (as well as archaeology) requires preliminary research in the provenance of the objects - dispersed in foreign museums - private collections, and cultural foundations.


The first Cypriote epigraphical collections

Our epigraphical investigation begins with the first epigraphical collections. Until the second half of 1800 the interest for Cypriote antiquities in Europe was scarce, especially because of the distance of the island from the itineraries of travellers. The first systematic collection of Cypriote inscriptions appeared in Berlin in 1843 as part of the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, CIG II 2613-2652. August Boeckh published there 40 alphabetic inscriptions known from travellers and scholars of 1700 and 1800, such as the abbots Giovanni Mariti and Domenico Sestini, the historian Ludovico Muratori, the merchant Paul Lucas, the clergymen Edmund Chishull and Richard Pococke, the explorer Carlo Vidua, and especially Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856), Austrian diplomat in Costantinople and orientalist. The bulk of the collection consisted of honorary decrees and dedications originating from Larnaca, Amathous, Nea Paphos, Salamis, a selection of documents of major importance. Although Boeckh did not consider autopsy to be the main criterion for his edition, he was supported in situ by the Count Albert von Sack, a traveller passionate about antiquities, and by the otherwise unknown Angelati, dragoman perhaps of the Prussian consul, who sent paperqueezes and transcriptions to Boeckh. Count Sack allowed those inscriptions to be transferred and donated to the Königliches Museum of Berlin (today in the Antikensammlung, Museum für Vor- und Früh-Geschichte).


Ludwig Ross in Cyprus

Shortly after the publication of Boeckh’s corpus, Ludwig Ross (1806-1859), curator of antiquities in Greece - that had been freshly freed from the Ottoman rulers - and professor of archaeology at the newly established University of Athens, travelled to Cyprus, and collected and published 17 new alphabetic inscriptions,4 mostly from Larnaca (ancient Kition) and the vicinity, where all the foreign embassies and “guest houses” were located. Ross was one of the most efficient associates of the Berlin Academy, to which he sent many squeezes and transcriptions [Fig 1]. In his article (see endnote 4) he expressed his disappointment for not having discovered any inscription earlier than Hellenistic on the island. Most of the Cypriote pre-Hellenistic inscriptions are indeed in syllabic script, which at Ross’s time had not been deciphered yet. At any rate, thanks to Ross’ intervention in Cyprus, the Königliches Museum of Berlin became interested in Cypriote archaeology and in 1845 purchased the first sensational object, the stele of the Assyrian king Sargon II,5 discovered in Larnaca in 1844. We know of this story from Robert Hamilton Lang (1832-1913), director of the Ottoman Bank and merchant of antiquities: “one discovered in a garden close to Larnaca the famous bas-relief that Sargon (II) had given as a present to the Cypriote kings in the 8th century BC. The British Museum did not want to pay more than 20 pounds; the Museum of Berlin was cleverer and purchased the monument for 50 pounds”.6 Ross, not differently than the other travellers, collected many antiquities, but, as usual at that time, did not publish a record of them. This was nothing though compared to what the subsequent “archaeologists” did.


The consuls-“archaeologists”

In the 1860s, foreign consuls and their relatives started their “archaeological” activity, as most of them were passionate about archaeological excavations and antiquities dealings. Very active were the British consul Thomas Sandwith, the French consul Louis de Maricourt and his brother Charles, and especially the American consul Luigi Palma di Cesnola (1832-1904).7 Cesnola in particular, having removed about 35,600 finds from Cyprus, is the main responsible for the dispersion of Cypriote antiquities in the world. An officer from Piedmont, Cesnola emigrated in the USA and was distinguished in the American Civil War; he started a political career and soon became consul of America in Cyprus, where he landed in December 1865. Cesnola immediately shared his passion for antiquities with the other consuls and bankers who resided on the island. His first expeditions in Cyprus attracted the interest of European museums: in 1869, Carl Friederichs,8 curator of the Königliches Museum of Berlin, visited Larnaca and purchased 180 finds from the Cesnola collection for his museum, today kept in the aforementioned Antikensammlung. Cesnola entrusted the publication of many inscriptions uncovered during his excavations to his good friend Georges Colonna-Ceccaldi, brother of the French consul in Cyprus, who published a valuable report on Cypriote epigraphy.9 Despite the attempts of the Ottoman governement to stop him, Cesnola managed to transport overseas and sell approximately 10,000 objects to the Metropolitan Committee of New York. In order to host the Cypriote collection, the committee rented the Douglas Mansion in the 14th Street for 5 years (1873-1879) and planned to establish an appropriate museum in Central Park. Cesnola continued his excavations with a second series of campaigns (1873-1876), and thus digging was conducted with extreme rapidity in Paphos, Amathous, Kythrea, Soloi, Salamis, Kourion. In 1876, Cesnola sold the second bulk of finds to the Metropolitan Museum. These merits allowed him to be nominated first director of the Metropolitan Museum of New York in 1879.10


The circle of scholars in Leipzig

In these same years the interest for syllabic scripts increased, particularly in the circle of young scholars in Lipsia around the renowned philologist Georg Curtius: Wilhelm Deecke; Richard Meister, who would be responsible for the corpus of Cypriote inscriptions at the Berlin Academy; Johannes Voigt, and Justus Siegismund. Siegismund was originally entrusted with the work on Cypriote inscriptions for the Sammlung der Griechischen Dialekt-Inschriften, but died in 1876 at the age of only 25 by falling in an ancient tomb at Amathous, where many holes that had been produced during Cesonla’s excavations were left uncovered. His notebooks of 1875-1876 were then used by Wilhelm Deecke for the Sammlung der Griechischen Dialekt-Inschriften11, where 212 syllabic and bilingual Cypriote inscriptions are collected, and later by Richard Meister for the preliminary work on the Cyprus corpus.12


Max Ohnefalsch-Richter

The excavations conducted by the consuls were not only dangerous but also rarely methodic, with the provenance of the finds often remaining uncertain. In 1875, Cesnola even pretended13 to have discovered the “treasure of Kourion” in three underground chambers under the acropolis of Kourion, which consisted of a large number of gold, silver and bronze objects. But in 1880 the German amateur archaeologist Max Ohnefalsch-Richter (1850-1917), governement inspector for the new British rulers, visited the acropolis of Kourion and did not find any trace of the chambers, while he noticed some rich tombs recently plundered. Thus, between the years 1883-1885, Ohnefalsch-Richter was able to reconnect the objects to the tombs and publicly reveal the story of the treasure with the collaboration of witnesses, who had been working at the Cesnola excavations.14 Ohnefalsch-Richter dug focusing on sanctuaries and temples in Achna, Idalion, Chytroi, Marion, Pera, Politiko, Voni, Tamassos, and other areas and in contrast to his earlier “colleagues” he produced archaeological reports. However, he as well was in the habit of selling archaeological finds for a living until he was suspected by the British governement. His Cypriote collection was purchased by the banker Valentin Weisbach for the Museum für Völkerkunde of Lipsia and in 1974 landed in the Antikensammlung of Berlin.15


Birth of the Inscriptiones Graecae

In 1902, the direction of the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum of the Berlin Academy was undertaken by Ulrich von Wilamowitz–Moellendorff. Wilamowitz renamed the scientific project to Inscriptiones Graecae, emphasized the necessity of autopsy of the epigraphical material with the production of papersqueezes, and limited the field of IG research to Greece and islands divided in 15 corpora, of which the far-away Cyprus was number 15. The corpus of Cyprus was actually added to the project first in 1909, after a proposal for cooperation from the Academy of Lipsia (at that time Königlich Sächsische Gesellschaft der Wissenschaft zu Leipzig), that had a special interest in Cyprus because of the aforementioned studies on syllabic scripts. The project of a corpus of both syllabic and alphabetic Cypriote inscriptions was thus initiated by the two academies under the responsibility of the Richard Meister (1848-1912).16


The collaboration of IG with Ohnefalsch-Richter

At the beginning of 1910, Ohnefalsch-Richter was informed by the Cypriote merchant Kleanthes Pierides of his illegal purchasing of several syllabic inscriptions originating from the Rantidi area, close to Old Paphos, and of the presence of many archaeological finds in the vicinity, that Pierides was removing with the intention to be sold. Ohnefalsch-Richter thus became convinced that in Rantidi was located the most ancient sanctuary of the Paphian Aphrodite of Homeric memory.17 As Ohnefalsch was already in contact with Richard Meister for epigraphical consultations, Meister confirmed his theory, believing to have read the name of the goddess18 on Ohnefalsch’s squeezes and transcriptions of the syllabic inscriptions. Thus, Ohnefalsch-Richter quickly informed the heads of the Academy of Berlin of his sensational discovery and requested the financing of a campaign, emphasizing the scientific profit regarding the corpus of Cyprus. But on the 21 March 1910 Ohnefalsch-Richter was discovered in flagranti exporting an ancient object and thus he was denied permission for research or excavation. At any rate, the letters he sent to various institutions and scholars in Berlin, announcing the discovery of the old sanctuary of the Paphian Aphrodite and of many inscriptions to be included in the Cyprus corpus, drew the interest of the Academy: in June 1910 the “Cypern-Kommission”, composed of Kekulé von Stradonitz, Eduard Meyer and Wilamowitz self, sent to the British authorities a request for permission to organize a short campaign, which was agreed on for the end of August. In contrast to what Ohnefalsch-Richter had planned, the Cypern-Kommission nominated as director of excavations the archaeologist Robert Zahn (1870-1945), Kustos (curator) at the Königliches Museum of Berlin. The Academy left Ohnefalsch-Richter’s hiring as Hilfskraft (Assistant) to Zahn’s discretion, questioning this way his scientific seriousness. This infuriated Ohnefalsch-Richter, who considered himself to be the only expert in the Rantidi site. His letters to Meister, to the Academy and to Zahn denoted an escalation of the polemics; the Academy and Zahn finally compromised due to Ohnefalsch-Richter’s obstinacy and hired him in a subordinate position, yet he was followed by the police during the whole campaign [Fig. 2].


The Rantidi campaign

The campaign in Rantidi took place in September-October 1910, with the aim to investigate the site and collect the inscriptions dispersed in the Rantidi forest.19 Zahn produced transcriptions, photographs and papersqueezes for Meister. The papersqueezes were unfortunately not very good due to water deficiency and strong wind, as Zahn apologized in his letters. On the basis of these squeezes Meister published the following year, mostly incorrectly, the 133 inscriptions found by Zahn20. What Zahn did not find was the old sanctuary of the Paphian Aphrodite, which Ohnefalsch had announced even in the British newspapers, but rather a Late Archaic sanctuary of an unknown rural deity. The Academy and Wilamowitz remained very disappointed with the modesty of the epigraphical results of the excavation and Zahn replied that it was not his fault if the deity was not the desired one; he claimed that he would write his report for the Academy and then would close definitively this episode of his life.21 Zahn indeed never published the results of the excavations in Rantidi or the book on Tamassos and Idalion that he had been preparing with Ohnefalsch-Richter before the campaign. The manuscript is today kept in the Antikensammlung.22


The Cyprus Corpus during the world wars

In the years 1909 and 1910, Richard Meister was able to undertake two research travels to the museums of London and New York [Fig. 3] and publish several preliminary works for the corpus of Cyprus in the journal of the Lipsian Academy, but passed away in 1912. He entrusted the corpus-project to his own son Ludwig before dying, however Ludwig fell three years later during Word War I. In 1920, the philologist Ernst Sittig (1887-1955), who had already studied and improved the reading of some Rantidi inscriptions in 1914, was assigned the project of the corpus, but the post-war financial crisis prevented him from continuing his research.23 In 1936, the Scottish epigraphist Terence Mitford (1905-1978) undertook a revision of the Rantidi inscriptions, which in the meantime had been transferred to the Museum of Nicosia, with the intention to constitute a corpus. Once again World War II interrupted this research [Fig. 4 and Fig. 5]. Only in 1955 was Mitford able to return to Rantidi, which was easily recognised thanks to the new toponym Germanos, where he further discovered 21 inscriptions. The epigraphical studies by Mitford and Masson, and the archaeological excavations conducted by Mervyn Popham and Franz Georg Maier24 at the site of Rantidi confirmed Zahn’s identification of a rural sanctuary dedicated to a local Late Archaic deity. The inscriptions from Rantidi arrived, finally, to publication in 1983, while Mitford was no longer in life.25


Modern times

During the years of the political division of Germany, the Academy was located in East Berlin and its researchers were not easily allowed to travel; therefore their work depended principally on foreign cooperations. A new project of a corpus for the Inscriptiones Graecae was presented by Mitford at the Second International Congress of Greek and Latin epigraphy, held in Paris in 1952.26 This work was supposed to include in 7 fascicles, all the Greek - both syllabic and alphabetic -, the Latin, Assyrian and Phoenician inscriptions of Cyprus. Mitford’s audacious plan was never realised. Besides Mitford, other scholars dedicated their life to Cypriote epigraphy too: Ino Nicolaou had been publishing yearly since 1963 the new alphabetic inscriptions in the Report of the Department of Antiquities Cyprus; the often mentioned Olivier Masson also founded in 1983 the Centre d’Etudes Chypriotes and the journal Cahiers du Centre d’Etudes Chypriotes directed now by Antoine Hermary. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning here that many catalogues of Cypriote collections kept in foreign museums appeared thanks to Vassos Karageorghis’ initiative27.


Today’s research

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, active research restarted at the Academy of Berlin and recently the project for a corpus of Cyprus has been reinitiated with a structural change: the separation of syllabic and alphabetic inscriptions in two different corpus-projects, of which Markus Egetmeyer, Artemis Karnava, Massimo Perna, Maria Kantirea, and myself are in charge. As a sad irony of history, the political context of our research has also changed in the meantime, as everybody knows: while Germany has been reunified since 1989, Cyprus has been politically divided since 1974. This of course also causes some difficulties regarding the localisation of the material on the island. Until the present day we have localised and studied the alphabetic inscriptions kept both in foreign museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum, the Louvre, the Cabinet des Medailles, the Antikensammlung in Berlin, the Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge, and in the Cypriote museums of Larnaca, Nicosia, the Museum of George and Nefeli Giabra Pierides Collection Museum (Nicosia), and the Pierides Musem (Larnaca). To the circa 300 squeezes realized by Richard Meister, our first 500 have been added in the IG archives. In such ambitious works, which depend on synergies and historical-political factors, history teaches us not to formulate promises, but proceede our work with enthusiasm and cooperation so that we can realise the corpus of the Cypriote alphabetic inscriptions without letting another century pass.

Published: February 2, 2016 Updated at: February 2, 2016 Submitted in: English
Edited by: Bourogiannis, Giorgos, Panagiotopoulou, Chryssa
Final editing: Markou, Evangeline

List of illustrations

Fig. 1: Ross's notebook.

Fig. 2: Rantidi campaign. From left policeman, M. Ohnefalsch-Richter, in background a worker, R. Zahn.

Fig. 3: Meister' notebook of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fig. 4: Mitford's letter (side a).

Fig. 5: Mitford's letter (side b).


1 A longer study on the Cyprus Project within the History of the Inscriptiones Graecae including detailed bibliography has appeared in Fornaro, Summa 2013, 83-106.

2 On IG see; on its history recently Rebenich 2014.

3 On the syllabic corpus see Perna 2015 (Kyprios Character).

4 Ross 1850; cf. Mehl 2009, 170-171.

5 See Yon 1995.

6 Balandier 2001, 4; cf. Lang 1878, 52.

7 Merillees 2001; on the diplomats of Cyprus O. Masson 1992, with further bibliography. On Cesnola see Marangou 2000; Rogge 2007.

8See Friederichs 1872, 31-50; Brehme et al. 2001, 11.

9 Colonna-Ceccaldi 1874-1875. Cf. Masson 1992, 125-138.

10 On the Cesnola Collection in Metropolitan Museum of Art see recently Hermary, Mertens 2014.

11 Deecke 1884, 1-89.

12 On the history of the deciphering of Cypriote syllabic script, Masson 1983, 30-33; Egetmeyer 2010, 1-4. Among the main contributions of the Lipsian scholars to the Cypriote epigraphy, besides the mentioned Sammlung, are Deecke, Siegismund 1875; Voigt 1878. On Siegismund, Masson 1987; Balandier 2001, 6.

13 Cesnola 1877, 301-337; cf. Masson 1984a and 1984b.

14 See Buchholz 1989, 8-10; Masson, besides the already mentioned studies, see also 1984c, 77-83; Marangou 2000, 62-83 and 261-272.

15 See Brönner 2001; Matthäus 2009, with further bibliography.

16This documentation is kept in the archives of the Berlin Academy. On Meister, see Neumann 2004; Schmitt, Brugmann, 2009, 69 and 74-76.

17 Hom. Od. VIII, 363, on its archaeological remains cf. Maier 1975, 77-79.

18Meister 1910, 243. On the Rantidi campaign of 1910 see Masson 1985, 21-23; Buchholz 1989, 20; †Mitford, Masson 1983, 2-18; Funke 2013. The correspondance Ohnefalsch, Meister, Wilamowitz, Meyer on the campaign is kept in the archives of the IG and of the Antikensammlung Berlin.

19 Masson 1983, 123; Mitford, Masson 1983, 1-13.

20 Meister 1911, 630-650.

21 Letter to the director of the Antikensammlung Theodor Wiegand 4.11.1910, s. F.G. Maier in Mitford, Masson 1983, 12-18.

22 My thanks are due to Sylvia Brehme for authorization to study Ohnefalsch-Richter’s archives.

23 Cf. Klaffenbach 1953; Schwyzer 1923, 328; Mitford 1971, 11.

24 Mitford 1958; see also their reports in Mitford, Masson 1983, 3-18.

25 Mitford, Masson 1983.

26 Mitford 1953, 174-175.

27 Karageorghis 2015 (Kyprios Character).


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