Dedicated to the comprehensive analysis of some 2,000 epitaphs from four selected cities in Roman Asia Minor, the project aims at examining the strategies of social interaction of family and society with their dead and at contributing to our understanding of the ancient societies’ commemorative culture.

Epitaphs have long been recognised as valuable sources for the social and legal history of the ancient world. This value is especially eminent in Roman Asia Minor, where the peculiar type of the »provident epitaph« provides us with thousands of inscriptions informing—in depth—on the tombs’ ownership, the provisions for their future use, as well as provisions and sanctions working towards their eternal protection. The length and complexity of these inscriptions allows for deep textual analyses, while their frequency in the region also enables a quantitative approach.

The four selected cities of Termessus, Olympus, Hierapolis and Aphrodisias with their extensive necropoleis shall serve as the project’s primary study areas. The epitaphs preserved from these cities are not only numerous—one may only think of Termessus with its ca. 900 grave inscriptions—but are also often still embedded in their original context, i.e. on the grave monument they were meant to contextualise and protect.

Via textual and quantitative analyses and the combined study of text and monument, the project aims at contributing to our understanding of, e.g., family and kinship structures as represented in the texts, strategies of legal and social provision for the monument, as well as attempts at status display and self-representation vis-à-vis the cities’ society.

Principal Investigator


    Cooperation Partners

    • Sven Ahrens (Norsk Maritimit Museum, Oslo)
    • Angelos Chaniotis (Institute für Advanced Study, Princeton)
    • Thomas Corsten (Universität Wien)
    • Kaja Harter-Uibopuu (Universität Hamburg)
    • David Lewis (University of Edinburgh)
    • Philipp Scheibelreiter (Universität Wien)




    FWF P 34211