The Parthian Empire (247 BC-228 AD) was extremely heterogeneous since different ethnic, cultural and linguistic components (Parthian and other Middle Iranian varieties, Aramaic, Armenian, Greek, etc.) coexisted there. As far as Greek is concerned, the cultural osmosis between Greek and non-Greek elements, which had occurred in the Seleucid period (4th-2nd century BC), continued, so the Hellenistic heritage also played an important part in Parthian culture (Rougemont 2013). Among the Babylonian cities in the Parthian Empire, which generally document a low-degree of Greek cultural influence, Babylon evidences a higher degree at various levels. Thus, while the extent to which Greek was used in this period is still a matter of debate, it is certain that the use of Greek continued in Babylon after the Arsacids conquered the region, probably in order to facilitate the management of the territory after two centuries of Macedonian rule. The number of Greek texts from Babylon – as well as from the Parthian empire in general – is limited with fewer than twenty inscriptions, also because Greek documents were mostly written on perishable materials such as parchment and papyrus (Boiy 2004 and Oelsner 2014, among others). Furthermore, other languages spoken in Parthian Babylon, albeit in very different ways, were Aramaic, Akkadian and Parthian. This paper examines two inscriptions written in Greek language and script in Babylon during the Parthian period with particular focus on the sections containing the dating formulas. Both documents, indeed, have a double date, one according the Arsacid Era and the other according the Seleucid Era, following a dating system used in other Greek documents of that period, even though this system was not the only one: some Greek inscriptions, in fact, have a single date. The first document (Canali De Rossi, no. 106; Merkelbach-Stauber, no. 514) is a small damaged limestone fragment of which only a dating formula remains (122/1 BC). The second (Canali De Rossi, no. 107; Merkelbach-Stauber, no. 513) is a clay tablet inscribed with a Greek text, which contains a list of victors from the gymnasium and their sports (110 BC). Thus, at least as far as the second inscription is concerned, we are undoubtedly dealing with a public document. Unfortunately, both inscriptions – particularly the first – are damaged in the section containing the dating formula, and, for over a century, various scholars have made important emendations, proposing two different interpretations of the original text (see Assar 2003, and the editions quoted in Canali de Rossi 2004 and Thommen 2010). In this respect, it should be stressed that the main editions of the inscriptions not only provide different wordings of the dating formulas but also, as far as the first document is concerned, put the eras in a different order. However, a convincing explanation in support of either hypothesis is still lacking. This paper will show that strong evidence in favor of one of the two hypotheses can be obtained by means of an analysis that combines the methods and tools of philology and historical socio-linguistics, and also considers evidence provided by other disciplines. In such cases, in fact, in order to better understand written documents of antiquity produced in a multilingual environment and which are part of a small corpus, it is essential to follow a method that allows us to consider different aspects of the documents from various perspectives. On the one hand, it is necessary to adopt a macro-sociolinguistic perspective since, in parallel with the linguistic analysis of the documents, issues such as the reconstruction of linguistic repertoire, multilingualism, and language policy are involved. On the other hand, given the scarcity of Greek epigraphic documents in the Parthian empire, an interdisciplinary approach, by which linguistic investigation is complemented by historical and archeological evidence, is necessary in order to reconstruct the socio-historical scenario in which the documents were produced (see, among others, Mancini 2012 and Mullen 2012). Finally, an important advantage in the analysis of this kind of document derives from comparison with documents of the same typology. In our case, the two Greek inscriptions of Babylon will be compared with Greek documents of the Parthian Empire that contain dating formulas and that are of not too late a date with respect to the text under investigation. Texts produced in the same environment but written in a different language, i.e., Akkadian, also provide useful evidence. The analysis shows that the interpretation that has the Arsacid Era preceding the Seleucid Era in the dating formulas is the most plausible, and appears to confirm one of the various wordings put forth. It will also be argued that the first document was a public inscription. Finally, more weight can be given to the hypothesis that Greek was still considered a prestige variety used – though not exclusively – for public documents intended for Greek-speaking communities of the Parthian Empire.
How historical sociolinguistics can shed light on text reconstruction: the case of two Greek inscriptions from Parthian Babylon / Pompeo, Flavia. - (2022). ((Intervento presentato al convegno HiSoN Conference 2022 tenutosi a Universidad de Murcia (Spagna).