An Athenian Tablet from Roman Times Looks Like a Graduation Yearbook

While archaeologists often come across various artifacts that highlight the progress of humanity throughout the years, sometimes there are different discoveries that show similarities between ancient and modern societies. That is exactly the case when it comes to a recent discovery of a marble tablet that dates back nearly two millennia. It contains an ancient Greek inscription that looks like an Athenian class graduation yearbook.

The Tablet Is a List of Friends Who Went Through the Athenian Ephebate

An Athenian Tablet from Roman Times Looks Like a Graduation Yearbook
The inscription on the Athenian tablet is a list of friends who went through the ephebate together. The ephebate is a year of military and civic training for young men that was practiced at the time. The explanation was provided by the Attic Inscriptions Online research project that aims to find, translate, and publish the nearly 20,000 Athenian inscriptions kept in various UK collections.

The Athenian Ephebes Were Likely a Part of a Total Cohort

There were thirty-one ephebes included in the list on the ancient Athenian tablet. The notes about it say that they would’ve been a subset of a total cohort, which was likely to have been comprised of a hundred young men. The ephebes were all referred to by their given name, without demotics or patronymics, and that’s thought to have been used as an egalitarian touch that was meant to obscure social background differences. However, several of the ephebes were named with shortened name forms like Dionysus for Dionysodoros.

Athenian Ephebes depicted on a vaseThe Athenian Tablet Was Made in the Time of the Roman Emperor Claudius

The discovery of the tablet was rather surprising and even more so by the fact that the tablet turned up in Scotland, about 3,000 kilometers away from Athens. That was due to the fact that it had been sitting in storage for 135 years. It was previously assumed to be a copy of another tablet stored at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England. According to Pete Liddel, when his team looked closer at the inscription on the tablet, they discovered it was a new document. Liddel is on the editorial committee of the Attic Inscriptions Online project and a professor of Epigraphy and Greek History at the University of Manchester in England. He was also one of the three translators who worked on the tablet.

Emperor Claudius depicted as JupiterThe writer of the tablet was a young man named Attikos, son of Philippos, who dated the yearbook. Apparently, there was a reference pointing out that it was made in the time of Tiberius Claudius Germanicus Caesar or simply the Roman Emperor Claudius. Claudius reigned between 41 and 54 CE. The fact that the tablet mentioned the emperor is not very surprising given that ephebes, in Athens at that time, were trained that serving the Emperor was a core part of their identity.