Ancient Greek stone ‘yearbook’ discovered at Scotland Museum

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A marble slab with ancient Greek inscriptions was recently found in storage at the National Museums Scotland (NMS).

Historians say the slab is a “graduate school yearbook” with a list of Greek names and was stored for more than 100 years.

Museum Curator Margaret Maitland and the Attic Inscriptions in UK Collections project team said the marble slabs were part of a project to publish English translations of inscriptions from ancient Athens held in UK collections.

The inscriptions list 31 names of young men who went through the Athenian ephebate (cadet school) together during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius for the period AD 41-54.

An Athenian ephebic list inscribed on a small marble stele commissioned by Attikos son of Philippos during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54). NMS A.1956.368. Photo: National Museum Scotland

The list also shows new names that have not yet been discovered in ancient Greek, showing the earliest evidence for non-citizens taking part in the ephebate.

Professor of Greek history and epigraphy at the University of Manchester, Peter Liddel, said: “It’s the ancient equivalent of a graduate school yearbook, created by a number of individuals who wanted to feel like they had come together as friends.”

“It is a completely unique new discovery which had been in the storerooms of the NMS for a very long time, since the 1880s,” Dr Liddel added.

While it is unknown where the marble slab with the names was displayed, experts say the gymnasium is a possibility as this is where the young cadets would have trained. 

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