Dorothy Thompson: Not Alexander:an inscription from Hello!

Epigraphic Saturday, Cambridge, February 16th, 2008.

Dorothy Thompson gave a witty and intriguing paper about the history of two Greek inscriptions found in 1995 in Al-Maroqui, in the far west of the oasis of Siwa.

The two inscriptions, originally believed to be three, received immense press and ended up being published in Hello! magazine in February 1995 together with some glossy, but not especially useful, photographs. At the time of publication, the archaeologist Liana Souvaltzi claimed that they revealed the location of the tomb of Alexander. This reading was already refuted by R.S. Bianchi in the article, “Alexander’s Tomb…Not”, Archaeology May/June 1995 and by A. Spawforth in “The quest for Alexander’s tomb” Ad Familiares 11 1996, II-III.

Thompson and Joyce Reynolds have been re-examining the readings in these early publications.

By looking at these photographs, and others supplied by an Egyptian journalist:

  1. nothing can be made out of the first inscription
  2. the second text is broken into many pieces, at least twenty-two. Once reconstructed, it forms a large block with a border that presumably framed the text. The lettering is quite clear and visible on the pictures, which allowed appropriate supplements to be made and new readings suggested
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3 Responses to Dorothy Thompson: Not Alexander:an inscription from Hello!

  1. Paschalis Paschidis says:

    Let me add that Souvaltzi’s “readings” were also refuted, already by February 1995, by an official delegation of the Greek Ministry of Culture which investigated the site. I think there was no official publication, probably because Souvaltzi refused to show them all the fragments, but some details are reported here.

  2. N.S. says:

    Two years ago I saw two photographs (not very clear) of these inscriptions somewhere on the Internet. Both inscriptions were connected to Emperor Trajan. The first one appeared to be an honorary inscription – an aorist passive participle of timao (timethe–) was clearly seen on the penultimate line, and before it, there were such words as epitrop[ou], strate[gou], and [ep]archou. The name of Trajan was clearly seen on the last line – [Ner]oua Traianou Sebastou, probably indicating the date of the inscription. The second inscription was obviously from a building: “[Hyper Autokratoros Kaisaros] Neroua Traia[nou Sebastou Germanikou Da]kikou kai to[u sympantos oikou autou tyches? k]ai aioniou d[iamones —]………[——] anoikodom[e- —]E epi Serouio[u Soulpikiou Simileos eparchou Aigyptou I]oulia Artem[i- —]”.

  3. John Ma says:

    At the time, a youthful unfailingly polite, Tony Spawforth visited Siwah, and rather gamely spoke to L Souvaltzi (and others). The BBC documentary now online !

    Pictures at 1.33 (inscription 1 !) and 1.35 (inscription 2). 15:23ff, Spawforth politely but pricelessly points out that “IOU” is not “poison”, but “Σερουιοῦ”. I remember Charles Crowther telling me about this at the time. 18:27: Isis probably appears.

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