Archaeological contexts of inscriptions in the private sphere

The FWF-Project P 29261 „Archaeological contexts of inscriptions in the private sphere“ was approved by the decision board of the FWF on May 9th 2016. The 3-year project will be accomplished by the project-head Elisabeth Rathmayr and her colleague Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail. It started on 1st October 2016.

The project addresses archaeological contexts of all kinds of inscriptions and their bearers used in private dwellings. The houses which will be investigated are mainly located in mainland Greece and the Greek islands (modern day Greece) and in the southern Balkans. In a follow-up project inscriptions from ancient houses in Turkey and Cyprus will be investigated.

The aim is to examine where, when, how and why inscriptions occurred in everyday life. Among other aspects we will study the spatial distribution, the exact placements, the meaning of inscriptions on moveable objects, the connection between inscriptions and the objects they were related to, the role of inscriptions within household religion, and the targeted audience. It also will be studied if changes concerning the epigraphic habit of the examined periods exist. By this diachronic examination it will be possible to determine socio-cultural, religious and other alterations of households. As to put the results in a sharper relief, the results of the house contexts will be matched with predecessors and contemporary inscriptions of the public and sacred spheres as well as with contemporary contexts in dwellings of the Roman West.

The study will be based on the examination of inscriptions in their spatial and temporal archaeological contexts. Therefore it offers the possibility to achieve new results concerning the history of living. The results will contribute to a differentiation of functions and uses of rooms, and of particular areas, and they also will shed a light on the role of all the people who frequented the houses. Thus, the project will be vital concerning the social structure of houses, whereby the diachronically approach will further our knowledge about socio-cultural conditions and changes of households.

The results of the project shall be published in a monograph comprising a catalogue, a comprehensive analysis and plates. The latter includes plans on which the findings spots of the inscriptions and their bearers shall be marked as well as 3D-models of selected contexts of inscriptions for a better visualization.

Publications on the subject of the project by the project team

  • E. RathmayrV. Scheibelreiter-Gail, Inschriften in Wohnhäusern: Der archäologische Kontext, Forum Archaeologiae 78/III/2016 (
  • E. Rathmayr, Zur Bedeutung von Skulpturen und mit diesen in Zusammenhang stehenden Inschriften im privaten Raum, dargestellt an Wohnhäusern in Ephesos und Pergamon, Akten des XIV Congressus Internationalis Epigraphiae Graecae et Latinae, Berlin 27–31 August 2012 (Berlin 2014) 484–486.
  • E. Rathmayr, The significance of sculptures with associated inscriptions in private houses in Ephesos, Pergamon and beyond, in: P. Keegan – R. Benefiel (eds.), Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World (Brill/Leiden 2016) 146–178.
  • V. Scheibelreiter-Gail, Inscriptions in the late antique private house: some thoughts about their function and distribution, in: S. Birk – B. Poulsen (eds.), Patrons and Viewers in Late Antiquity, Aarhus Studies in Mediterranean Antiquity (Aarhus 2012) 135–166.

Upcoming presentations

  • Elisabeth Rathmayr, Inschriften als Quelle zur Aufstellung von Skulpturen in Wohnhäusern, Hergestellt und aufgestellt.  Produktionsdynamiken und Kontexte römischer Skulpturen im antiken Mittelmeerraum Internationale Tagung vom 25.–27. Februar 2019 an der Universität Graz.

Former presentations

  • Elisabeth Rathmayr – Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail, Epigraphische Zeugnisse häuslicher Religiosität: Fallbeispiele aus dem Forschungsprojekt Archäologische Kontexte von Inschriften im privaten Bereich, Workshop Dialog mit Jörg Rüpke: Domestic Cult in Antiquity am 2. Juni 2017 an der ÖAW Wien.
  • Elisabeth Rathmayr – Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail, Die Mosaikinschriften von Skala auf Kefalonia – Religion und Magie einer villa rustica, XV. Internationaler Kongress für Griechische und Lateinische Epigraphik, 28. August bis 1. September 2017 an der Universität Wien.
  • Elisabeth Rathmayr – Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail, Ein rätselhaftes Inschriftenensemble aus Patras, Epigraphische Werkstatt am Institut für Alte Geschichte, Papyrologie und Epigraphik an der Universität Wien, 11. Dezember 2017.
  • Elisabeth Rathmayr – Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail, Ausgewählte Inschriften aus der Villa des Herodes Atticus in Loukou, 17. Österreichischer Archäologentag an der Universität Salzburg, 27. Februar 2018.
  • Elisabeth Rathmayr – Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail, Inschriften im Kontext – Die Villen des Herodes Atticus, Workshop Epigraphik in der Hollandstrasse zum Thema“IN SITU – Inschriften im Kontext, ÖAW, 22.03.2018.
  • Elisabeth Rathmayr – Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail, The House of Polycharmos reconsidered, International Conference Stobi, September 28-30, 2018: Between East and West. Stobi and the Cities of the Roman Provinces in the Balkans. 
  • Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail, The Power of Words: Inscriptions on Figural Mosaics, 14th AIEMA-Conference in Nicosia, October 15-19, 2018.
  • Veronika Scheibelreiter-Gail, Neue Überlegungen zum Haus des Polycharmos in Stobi", beim 2. Workshop im Rahmen der Initiative Epigraphik in der Hollandstrasse am 29. November 2018 mit dem Thema "Selbstrepräsentation in Inschriften".