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archives, Greek

(τὰ δεμόσια γράμματα‎ and variations; ἀρχεῖον‎ is mainly Hellenistic). In Archaic Greece, documentation was minimal, laws being the most important public documents; lists of officials and agonistic victors (see agōnes) were evidently recorded (and later published), but the public inscriptions themselves were probably the ‘stone archives’ (see records and record-keeping). Temples were safe deposits from early on (e.g. Heraclitus (1) deposited in a temple a copy of his own book), and might contain public inscriptions: hence they often came to house the archives of the city: e.g. the Athenian Metroon, also a shrine; archives of 2nd-cent bceParos. Documents were also kept separately by the officials concerned, or in their offices (on wooden tablets (pinakes), or whitened boards (leukōmata), or papyri), e.g. the Athenian cavalry archive (see hippeis § 2), the records of the pōlētai (Ath. pol. 47–8), and there was little centralization. Athens acquired a central archive, the Metroon, in the late 5th cent. bce; manned by slaves, this housed official documents of the boulē and assembly (ekklēsia), i.e. mainly decrees, some foreign letters, and treaties with other cities (previously kept in the bouleutērion or on stone); the laws were probably not kept there until the late 4th cent., nor were private documents like Epicurus' will. Even after the creation of the Metroon, public inscriptions are regarded as authoritative texts. There is a general increase in documentation and hence of archive use from the 4th cent., though the extent and sophistication of archives in Egypt must be exceptional (cf. the piecemeal organization in 2nd-cent. Paros, Chiron 1983, 283 ff.). Public archives are increasingly used, and sometimes compulsory (Arist. Pol. 1321b), for private documents (contracts etc. ) in the Hellenistic period. The registration of property and documentation of other transactions is particularly elaborate in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.


A. L. Boegehold, American Journal of Archaeology 1972, 23 ff. (Metroon).Find this resource:

    R. Thomas, Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens (1989), ch. 1.Find this resource:

      G. Klaffenbach, Bemerkungen zum griechischen Urkundenwesen (Sitz. Akad. Berlin, 1960).Find this resource:

        W. E. H. Cockle, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 1984, 106 ff.Find this resource:

          F. Burkhalter, Chiron: Mitteilungen der Kommission für alte Geschichte und Epigraphik des deutschen archäologischen Instituts 1990, 191 ff., for Egypt.Find this resource:

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