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Between meaningful sentences and formulaic expressions: Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

Author(s): Kalle Korhonen

Source: Glotta, Bd. 87 (2011), pp. 95-125
Published by: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (GmbH & Co. KG)
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Between meaningful sentences
and formulaic expressions:
Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

By Kalle Korhonen, Helsinki

It is well known that some Greek epitaphs from the Christian

period have an initial predicate, e.g., "t Avercatjoaxo 'Apiaxa
Neoyoprovsrri". 1 Although this might seem unremarkable for
classicists familiar with the variabilities of Greek word order, it
is not something that can pass without comment in the history of
either Greek epigraphy or the Greek language. In this article, I
shall be looking at the role of such verb-initial structures in the
Syracusan context and the interplay between formulaic
expressions and grammatical sentences of the language. The
funerary inscriptions from the catacombs of Syracuse are a rich
source of information on late antique and early medieval Greek.
At first sight, they might not seem as interesting as, say, curse
tablets, recently studied by Carlo Consani.2 However, due to
their quantity, the epitaphs can illustrate many aspects of the
history of Greek language: how features of "natural" language
end up in epitaphs and become petrified or fossilized in time.
Most of the material discussed here was discovered in the
catacomb of S. Giovanni; there are ca. 520 epitaphs. The other
major source is the catacomb of Vigna Cassia (ca. 280 epitaphs).
Of the two, Vigna Cassia is earlier: its oldest region dates from
the early 3rd century, and its use seems to have ended ca. AD
400.3 Burials in S. Giovanni began in Constantinian times and
ended in the early 6th century.4 In addition, one hundred

* My thanks are due to Mika Kajava, Olli Salomies, Mariarita Sgarlata

and Maria Vierros.
Bandy 1970, no. 37 = RIChrM 287 (6th century).
Consani 2004.
J Agnello 1958, 71-75.
* Sgarlata 2003, 36-38.
Glotta 87, 95-125, ISSN 0017-1298
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG, Gttingen 201 1

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96 Kalle Korhonen

Christian epitaphs either originate from other cemeteries around

Syracuse, or the exact provenance within the area is not known.
This research is based on the essential classification work by
Antonio Ferrua which distinguishes between epitaphs which do
and which do not belong to the catacomb context.5 The material,
scattered in local and international publications, comprises
approximately 900 Greek inscriptions.

The structures used in the Christian epitaphs

in Greek from Syracuse

In order to follow the phases of the local development, I present

a simple categorization to be used in this study. It is based on
the beginning of the epitaph, which in most cases contains the
most important element, the name of the deceased. There are
four principal categories, A-D.
The epitaphs of type A contain essentially the name of the
deceased, but no predicate, as in example (1). The name is
usually in the nominative and, in some epitaphs, attributes are
included. Some epitaphs refer to the burials of several persons
and thus contain more than one name.

(1) Mapiaav.6 - "Marcianus".

In category B, the epitaphs typically consist of one simple or

compound sentence. The name of the deceased, in the nomina-
tive, is the syntactic subject of the initial clause, and appears in
or near its beginning. The epitaphs of this category contain one
or more of the following elements: (a) the verbal constituent

Ferrua 1941 and 1989. I have excluded some items not discussed by
Ferrua, such as NSA 1895, 494 no. 192, which is one of the very few Greek
inscriptions from the Early Imperial period with a reference to the public
sphere: [ - Ji (i o p aJ f v ) aa (?), 5e]Kupe/[oa im] v ) / [ - ]. The
texts which only have a decorative function have obviously not been taken
into account.
6 IG XIV 149.

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Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

"lies here" (vGe Kexai), (b) the age of the deceased, and (c)
the date of death.7 The category can be divided in three
subcategories or types: BI, B2 and B3, depending on the first

finite predicate: ksgGou, fjv, or xeA^oxv (or a synonym).

Type B1 puts the emphasis on the fact that the deceased
"lie(s) here" / evGSe K(v)xai; an example is (2) below. The
predicate of the first clause is the verb Ko0ai (occasionally
KaxctKeiaGai), and this clause regularly contains the adverb
"here", usually vGe. The adverb and the verb are always
adjacent: the construction is never split. If the epitaph comme-
morates several people, the verb can but need not be in the
plural. The subject can precede or follow the constituent vGs
Ks(v)xav. (From now on, I shall use the expression vGe Ksxai
to cover the plural instances as well.)

(2) KoG|ia v0/5e Kxe f|oaaa / koXg xr| ' / v ().9

"Cosmia lies here; she lived well for 25 years in Christ."

The age of the deceased is the initial element in type B2. The
first predicate is a form of the verb "to live", nearly always rjv.
In my classification, this category contains only the cases in
which the age is expressed by using a finite verb form, as in (3).

(3) 'AXavpo / er|oev exq i ', ( chrismon ) / r||xpa i' .10

"Alexander lived for 17 years and 1 day."

In the epitaphs of type B3, the first verb in finite form is "to
die", usually xeXeuxv. In most of the epitaphs, the initial
element is the date of death, as in example (4). Types B2 and B3
will be the focus of my attention below.

7 The elements are in most cases either verb phrases or participle phrases.
The rare cases which contain an age or a date but have no finite verb, or
no verb at all, have been categorized according to the first piece of informa-
9 NG 204.
Agnello 1960, 29 no. 24.

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98 Kalle Korhonen

(4) 'Ex8X.exr|aev /Arj |ivf||j.r| 'A(ppoar| / if) i'

KaX.av5(v / Macov, r|oa exr| / skocn xpa, vnata ... (year
416). 11
"Well-remembered Aphrodisius died on the 12th before the
Calends of May, having lived for 23 years, in 416."

The funerary inscriptions which belong to types Bl, B2 or B3

often contain more than one of the common elements, as in the
following examples (5) and (6). Example (5) belongs to type Bl,
but it also contains the age and the date of death; example (6) is
in B3, but with age and vGe . The most common of
these three types is Bl (for statistics, see below Table 1). If all
the three items are present, their customary order, present in (5),
is: 1. v98e preceded or followed by the name; 2. age; 3.
date. The subtypes may be closely related to each other: e.g.,
example (6) is otherwise exactly like (5), but because the
sequence svGe is given in the end, it belongs to a
different subcategory of B.

(5) ( chrismon ) 'Ev08e kts Bucx/ropa rjoaoa srn / Xe'- xsXeut

e' / KaX(av5cov) ouX(cov) wiaxa ... (year 433). 12
"Here lies Victoria, who lived for 35 years; she died on the fifth
before the Calends of July in 433."
(6) - / ] ] ' / xeXgxT|<oev> / xfj () s'
KaX,(avcov) / 3>ep(ouapi(v)- v0/8e Kxe.13
"Fortunata, who lived for 20 years, died on the fifth before the
Calends of February; she lies here."

The epitaphs in category emphasize the possession of a

loculus in the catacomb. The expressions can be very brief, as in
(7), which contains no predicate. The name of the deceased is
mostly in the genitive (genitive of possession). However, some
epitaphs in this category can be very verbose, and non-

11 Orsi 1896, 47 no. 83 (352).

12 IG XIV 85 cf. NG 158.
13 IG XIV 184 cf. Ferma 1941, 165.

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Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

(7) T710 .14

"Proclus' loculus."

The epitaphs of category D begin with a clause in which God

is asked to remember the deceased. The predicate is the verb
|1|1, and the syntactic object is in genitive case, as in (8).
Another clause can follow.

(8) 'O 0e (j.vT|G0T|/xi to 5oX,ot) g ou / Avovxo

"God, remember your slave Auxanon, a blessed Christian."

Finally, ca. 40 epitaphs from Syracuse do not fall into

categories A-D or are poems. The frequencies of the categories
among the published Christian epitaphs of Syracuse are shown
in Figure 1 below, with unclassifiable epitaphs in the right-hand

Figure 1. The categorization of the Christian Greek epitaphs from Syracuse.

14 NSA 1893, 301 no. 84.

" IG XIV 78.

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100 Kalle Korhonen

As I pointed out above, the common elements or pieces of

information, such as the age and the date of death, may be
indicated in categories B-D. The following table has been
compiled in order to show which elements are present in the
different categories. This table only refers to the inscriptions
which are sufficiently complete, i.e., we know that no other
elements were included.

v9EKTOt 100% 7% 9% 15% 12%


date of death 37% 41% 93% 1% 24%

TO7CQ etc. ()

|6|1 etc. (D) 0%

Table 1. The common elements in the epitaphs of categories B-D (n = 464).

The categories are obviously not limited to Syracuse. For

example, one can in principle distinguish all these categories in
the Greek and in the Latin Christian epitaphs of Rome, among
other structural types. However, the immense material from
Rome makes the implementation of such a simple classification
there much more difficult.

Comments on chronology

The chronology of the different categories is a difficult issue to

settle, and it is certain that many structures were in use at the
same time. Type A can generally be considered earlier than
some of the other types because it is so predominant in Vigna
Cassia, and significantly less common in S. Giovanni.16
However, all the other types are also attested in Vigna Cassia,
and thus we cannot say that a certain structure postdates the

16 The situation can be compared with Rome: the earliest epitaphs in the
catacombs are just names carved in the plaster or painted on the wall.

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Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

burials of that catacomb. There are a few dated epitaphs from

the catacombs;17 they have been collocated in the following
timeline (Fig. 2). The circles or ovals indicate single epitaphs.
The white circles refer to unclassifiable epitaphs; for the others,
the classification is given.

340 360 380 400 420 440 460

I o I =1= BI/B2+d
Jo Bl+a B?+a ^ ^
2 Bl+a (Of
",i " '

Figure 2. Dated epitaphs from Syracuse.

Most of the classifiable dated epitaphs belong to type B1 and

confirm that this type was certainly in use at least during the
second half of the 4th century and the first half of the 5th. The
same can be said of type B3, which is attested in epitaphs dated
between 339 or 360 and 452 (or even 493). Obviously, it is
impossible to say exactly when the typically Christian categories
B1 or B3 were introduced in Syracuse in the first place.
Type B2, on the other hand, is a continuation of a structure
attested in pagan Syracuse. There is also a connection between it
and type B3. I will now discuss the demise of B2 and the
introduction of B3.

17 All the dated epitaphs from Syracuse are listed in Ferrua 1982-83. I
have excluded the most uncertain cases (Ferrua 1982-83, 5 no. 8, 6 no. 9, 14
no. 42 = 24 no. 77, 16 no. 50).

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102 Kalle Korhonen

From subject-initial to verb-initial construction:

types B2 and B3

Syntactic and pragmatic aspects of Syracusan funerary


The epitaphs which belong to category nearly always consist

of one sentence, which can be simple or compound. The
syntactical subject is very often just the name of the deceased; in
some cases, the subject NP can contain modifiers. The predicate
can be a single verb form, such as erjosv or exe^euxriaev, or a
verbal constituent, like vGe Kexai. In the following discus-
sion, the emphasis will be on the position of the predicate.18
Other features of this material make it an easy target for
studying constituent order: all the finite verb forms are in main
clauses; the initial clause always has an overt subject; and there
are very few pronouns, particles or conjunctions.
It will also be useful to make the distinction between what
the discourse is about and what new information is given, i.e.,
the pragmatical functions topic and focus. I use the definitions
recently formulated by Helma Dik as follows: "Topic function is
assigned to an element which the speaker regards as an appro-
priate foundation for constructing a message which is relevant to
the subject matter of a discourse", and "Focus function is
assigned to an element expressing the information that the
speaker considers the most urgent part of the message s/he
wants to convey to the listener."19
As everyone knows, the essential role of a funerary inscrip-
tion is to communicate that a certain person has died. Conse-
quently, in the epitaphs of Syracuse, the sole topic is in most
cases the deceased because the dedicators are not indicated. The
only exceptions are some epitaphs of type C, in which the owner
of the loculus is indicated first, followed by the name of the

18 In the following, when constituent order is discussed, the standard

abbreviations will be used: V for predicate, S for subject, for object.
,y Dik 2007, 31-32.

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deceased (two topics). At least the age and the date of death can
be called foci. An epitaph is usually a closed discourse: nothing
has been given before the beginning, and nothing is anticipated
at the end.

The demise of the indication of age and the introduction of the

date of death

Type B2 can be called a direct descendant of a very common

structure attested in the epitaphs of Syracuse in the early
imperial period, as in (9) below:

(9) 'Enowppi/xoc;, %prj / Kai /*;, / ) V, |i(fjva)

"Epaphroditus, a good and decent man, lived for 30 years and 2

With the coming of Christianity, the pair of epithets xptlaT Kai

ap.|j.7ri;o gradually drop out of funerary epigraphy,21 but the
rest of the construction survives as type B2 (example (3) above).
In Christian epitaphs, the age of the deceased remains an
important element, but it becomes more and more common to
express the age with means other than a finite verb. These are
the participle phrase, as in (10), and an adverbial construction,
namely a qualitative genitive (11):

(10) Konpiav / evGe kts / f|aa | ]'- / ( chrismon )

xfj / ia' KaX(avcov) 'OK/tcopkov.22 (Type BI)
"Coprianus, who lived for 38 years, lies here; he died on the 11th
before the Calends of October."
(11) 'EvOs Kelts Kop/popeou vf7n/ov vTSCov / )
/ ( chrismon ).23 (Type BI)
"Here lies the fourteen-year-old child Quodvultdeus."

20 IG XIV 27.
21 See Ferina 1941, 180-220; Korhonen 2002, 71-73; Vinci 2007, 190-91.
22 IG XIV 137.
23 NG 198.

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104 Kalle Korhonen

If we take into account all the indications of age in the epitaphs

from the catacombs of Syracuse, the frequencies of the three
structures are as follows (Table 2):

Expression of age Vigna Cassia S. Giovanni Syracuse, all

finite verb form


qualitative genitive 34%

Table 2. Syntactic structures used to indicate age in Syracuse

The situation clearly changes over time since the epitaphs from
Vigna Cassia are generally earlier than those from S. Giovanni.
In pagan epitaphs, the use of a participle or a qualitative genitive
had been uncommon24 because the verb "to live" had been the
the most common predicate (see example (9)).25 A similar
phenomenon can be observed in the Latin Christian epitaphs
from Rome. Whereas, in pagan times, vixit had often been the
main predicate, the indication of age is "reduced" to a relative
clause in Christian epitaphs.
In Christian epitaphs, the first predicate is often the verb
ksgGou (with vGs), as in examples (10) and (11). However,
the first predicate can also be associated with a new element
which becomes more important than the age: the date of death.
Due to the importance which the Christian religion attached to
the date of death or to the date of burial, one of these was
indicated in many local Christian epigraphic traditions. In Greek
epigraphy, the verbs used in this context had the meaning "to

24 Participle: IG XIV 55a (which could be a fragment of a Christian

epitaph, but is not registered by Ferrua) and Agnello 1950, 63 no. 22, which
anticipates type Bl, but with the epithets 0 1 . Qualitative
genitive: IG XIV 38 and Agnello 1960, 36 no. 34. There are ca. 60 certain
instances of the finite verb form.
The alternative was the verb %aipeiv (in the imperative); if both verbs
were present, participles were not used, but a "hybrid" structure like the
following: / xpt|<rr ai / %- / Er|oev ctt| o'. {IG XIV

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Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

die" (xeXeuTiv, vcmcmsoGai) or "to fall asleep" (Koi|xfic0ai);

the verbs which mean "to be buried", are less common than in
Latin epigraphy.26 But if only one day was mentioned, as it
normally was, this was the most important day in a Christian's
life, the real dies natalis, in terms
of eternal life, regardless of
the precise meaning of the verb. In Syracuse, the date of death
made its way into funerary epigraphy; a small number of
epitaphs explicitly give the date of burial as well.28

A new structure with the date of death as the initial element

A new kind of expression had to be coined for those epitaphs in

which the date of death was indicated in or near the beginning.
The predicate was the verb "to die", and such epitaphs belong to
my group B3. In Syracuse, the verb in this group is most
commonly te^euxav (two thirds of the cases); also attested are,
in the order of frequency, KoijxaaGai (15%), avarcaoeaGai
(11%), Gvgcrceiv, toOvroKsiv and noyyveoGai. We cannot tell
exactly when type B3 was introduced in Syracuse, but the
earliest dated instance is the following example (12), from
between 339 and 360.

(12) Eicaptcov T[eXe]/Tr|cev xrv r|', [|xr|v(cv) - ] / Kal

() m[aTa] / tow Kuptov [t)|Kv] / Kcovot(ovt-)
sa[oxo - ].29
"Eucarpion died 8 years, - months and 10 days old in the
consulship of our lords the emperor Constan- ... and ..."

The epitaphs of group B3 come in slightly different varieties,

as the following examples (13)- (16) show. The frequencies of

26 See Grossi Gondi 1920, 177-90; Guarducci 1978, 309-10.

27 Grossi Gondi 1920, 185-89.
28 Both dates: Ferrua 1940, 51-53 no. 4. - NSA 1895, 493 no. 188 is
exceptional not only because it contains just the date of burial (the verb form
is 0|), but also because the adverb is evxomGa and the epithets %pr|OT
1 are included. The date of burial instead of the date of death:
Orsi 1896, 54 no. 88 (357).
Agnello 1960, 30 no. 27, cf. Ferrua 1982-83, 4 no. 1.

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106 Kalle Korhonen

the different elements in the epitaphs of this category can be

consulted in Table 1 above. Because the basis of my
classification is the first verb in finite form, the category also
contains the cases in which the age, expressed with a participle
phrase or a qualitative genitive, precedes the date of death ((14)
and (15)). In some cases, the date of death is not given, but only
the age, as in example (16).

(13) '8>)"|:'' Ko/Arjc |ivf)(ir| Acppo8ar| / xrj i'

KaXavSrv / Macov, f|aa stri / s'ikoav xpa, wrcraa ... (year
416).30 (See no. (4) for translation)
(14) Oopxouvxa / Cftaaaa ) ' / xeX>xr|<ov> / xfj 7tp() e'
KaX(av8rv) / Oep(ouapicov)- v0/8s kts.31 (See no. 6)
(15) ( chrismon ) '1/||0| / r| 0eo/ico|j/r|TO / Ayea a/xv ' xfj
/ ' KaA,(av8c5v) C>epa/pia)v.32
"Aigeia, put to sleep by God, died, aged 40, on the 3rd before the
Calends of February."
(16) ',0|/ ( chrismon ) KpioMvo x/ojv ( chrismon ) ir|'.33
"Crispinus died 18 years old."

It seems evident that the expressions which belong to this

group were not invented in Syracuse; similar epitaphs from
other cities will be discussed below. They may have developed
out of structures similar to example (16), with the indication of
age only: compare with example (12), in which the date has been
added after the indication of age. Epitaphs similar to (16), but
without Christian elements, are attested in other regions, at least
since the 2nd century AD.34 In the Egyptian religious context,
such funerary inscriptions could also contain the date of death.35

30 Orsi 1896, 47 no. 83 (352).

31 IG XIV 184 cf. Ferina 1941. 165.
32 IG XIV 68.
NSA 1905, 398 no. 4.
Athens: IG II2 7580, 11898, and cf. the longer post-Hadrianic 3163, of
a MipKo TvXkio Evv %r'q' Aigina: IG IV 110; Thessaly: IG IX, 2 975 and
S EG XXIII 465 (both with dedicators indicated after the initial sentence);
Macedonia: EAM 127 , IG X,2 2 174, SEG XLIX 706 and LI 859; Amorgos:
IG XII, 7 347; Arabia: IGLSyr 13, 9235; Egypt: Milne, Cairo Mus. 79 no.
9314 and 100 no. 9318.
35 Cfr. IGR I 1232, from 109 AD: Sevaacb Lifjpo Kopvr|^oD ... -

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A similar structure is also attested elsewhere in Sicily, even if

the yield of ancient Christian epitaphs is very limited compared
to Syracuse. There are some 20 examples and, like in Syracuse,
the most common verb is teXsutav.3 Both the verb-initial and
the subject-initial order are attested.
At the same time when the indications of the date of death
became more common, the age element may gradually have
been losing its importance. In my view, the use of the participle
or the qualitative genitive could be an indication of this (see
Table 2 above). It is much less common to express the date of
death with a participial phrase in Syracuse, as the following
table shows:

Date of death

finite verb form


Table 3. Syntactic structures used to indicate date of death in Syracuse.

Even in type Bl, which already contains one finite clause (with
K8xai), a finite form of the verb "to die" is most often used.

The predominantly verb-initial type B3

It is interesting that the predicate begins the first clause of the

epitaph in the majority of cases in group B3. We have seen this
constituent order in examples (13), (15) and (16) above. Three
different constituents can stand at the beginning: the predicate,

0vo ETCBv i', |XT|V(BV 5o, f||iep(v ewsa, :T;/xi)Tr|aev i' ( ;) Tpaiavo
xow Kupou, ' '. Epitaphs dedicated to gods: SEG 18, 679-681
(Osiris); Bernand 1992, 92 (Sarapis).
36 South-Eastern Sicily: IG XIV 235, 246 (year 398), 249, 251-53; Ferrua
1943-44, 98 (two inscriptions, one from the year 402) and 99; NSA 1891,
355; Orsi 1900, 46 no. 7; and most probably IGLPalermo 132, for which see
Griesheimer 1989, 165-73. - Catania: IG XIV 524 ( IMCCatania 173), 539,
546, 551 ( IMCCatania 200), Libertini 1931, 41 no. 2 = NSA 1931, 372; NG
408a, 409, 410 (with TstaioaGai) and 424a. - Other locations in Sicily: IG
XIV 165 (Taormina, see NG 480); NG 526 (Tusa).

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108 Kalle Korhonen

the name of the deceased (the subject), or the date (a

D(eterminer) P(hrase) in the dative, e.g., rrj y1 KaX(avcov)
<Depapiv). The frequencies are given in the following table.
The first S. Giovanni column contains only the epitaphs in
which the date DP is the first element of the epitaph (as in
example (13), but not in examples (14)-(16)).

B3 S. Giovanni, date S. Giovanni, all Syracuse, all

Initial 81% 67% 63%


Initial subject 8%

Initial date % 7% 9%

Table 4. Frequencies of the initial constituents in type B3.

Furthermore, in the epitaphs which begin with the date, it is

more common for the subject to follow the predicate than the
other way around. Thus, in 71% of the epitaphs in group B3, the
predicate precedes the subject. However, the predicate is never
initial in epitaphs which are structurally similar to example (14),
in which the age is expressed with a participle phrase. The
epitaphs of type B2, on the other hand, only exceptionally have
an initial predicate: there are two such instances in our material
(frequency: 4%). 37
In Sicily, the position of the predicate does not depend on the
verb: xeXeuxav, Koi(ia0at and vowiaeaGai be initial or
follow the subject. However, if the NP referring to the deceased
contains the genitive attribute Ka,fj or (<; (j.vfjnr|, the
predicate is always initial, as in example (13).38
Now, why does type B3 so often have an initial predicate,

37 Orsi 1896, 26 no. 35 (304) - which does not contain the age, but only
the sequence e'Cnaev Niiai - and 28 no. 42 (311).
Other instances: IG XIV 111, 130, Agnello 1960, 29 no. 25 (epitaphs of
two persons), Griesheimer 1991, 350-51 (= NG 225 + 229), NG , NSA
1905, 195 no. X, Orsi 1896, 49 no. 84 (353), Orsi 1923, 1 16 no. 10.

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while the subject regularly stands at the beginning in type B2?

When giving an explanation, we must bear in mind that B2 is a
"generally earlier" structure than B3. B2 was introduced in the
early imperial period and possibly abandoned earlier than B3,
which seems to have been introduced in Syracuse together with
Christian epigraphy. One could think of numerous linguistic
explanations for the difference: a general diachronic change in
constituent order; a semantic or pragmatic motivation; or the
influence of contact with another language. The phenomenon
could also be caused by the formulaic nature of the genre in
question. Before discussing the explanations, we must look at
the use of similar constructions in other Christian funerary
contexts because the phenomenon is not limited to Syracuse.

Why is the predicate initial?

Similar structures in the East

Epitaphs like the Syracusan type B3, in which the first predicate
is the verb "to die", are well attested in the Christian epitaphs of
the Greek-inscribing world.39 Compared with Syracuse, there
seems to be a similar variation in many other funerary epi-
graphic traditions. The date of death can be the first or even the
only piece of information given in the epitaph, but it can also be
included in an epitaph with other information (as in the
Syracusan type Bl). As in Syracuse, the verb is often xeeuxv,
but in certain local traditions other verbs, such as the typically
Christian vaitaveaQai, KoijxcGai and xeXeioaav, are more
common.40 Because we are looking at the relative positions of

39 Research of this kind would not have been possible without the epi-
graphic databases, notably PHI ( inscriptions/),
The Epigraphic Database Bari. Documenti epigrafici romani di committenza
cristiana - Secoli III-VIII (eds. C. Carletti - A. E. Felle, http://www.edb., and the Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss/Slaby (http://oracle-vm.ku-
I have obviously excluded the cases in which . or (

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HO Kalle Korhonen

the subject and the predicate, let us focus on epitaphs which

resemble the Syracusan type B3.
Substantial groups of Christian epitaphs similar to type B3
have been discovered in some areas or cities. The type is well
attested in Egypt, where the standard verbs are Koi|j.a0ai and
Tkexnv. The predicate is in most cases in the initial position,
but there is an interesting exception: in the large village of
Akoris (Tehneh), the epitaphs with this structure mostly have an
initial subject.41 In Corinth, on the other hand, where the
dominant verb in such structures is vanavecQai, there are some
epitaphs exactly like type B3. Moreover, there are others in
which the owners of the tomb are given first, and this informa-
tion is followed by a clause with a new subject, which is similar
to the initial clause of B3. The predicate is always in clause-
initial position.42 The verb voOTOsaOcu is dominant in Crete,
too. It nearly always begins the clause and appears in epitaphs
apparently datable to the 5th and 6th centuries.43
In some areas, the use of a B3-like structure continued
throughout many centuries; an example from Bulgaria is dated
to 1443. 44 In Southern Italy and Sicily, there are many similar
epitaphs from the 11th and 12th centuries; the verb is usually

mean "to rest", with or without vGSs.

There are at least 90 instances with (Lefebvre, IGChrEg nos.
1-14, 22, 24, 29, 32, 39, 57-60, 66, 117, 119, 121-126, 129-130, 132-35, 137,
139, 141 - 44, 146-47, 150, 152, 156-57, 161, 167, 170, 175-77, 179, 183, 185,
190, 194, 196, 198, 205-08, 215, 259, 432, 462, 466, 496, 528, 541, 558, 672,
680-82, 787, 792, 806; SB 3, 6192, 7023; SEG XXIX 1660), and some 25
cases of xetauxv ( IGChrEg nos. 303, 396, 402, 406-7, 413, 421-22, 439,
441^3, 445, 456, 459, 478, 489, 494, 507, 568, 575-76, 579, 673; SB 1, 2036,
5660; 4, 7325; SEG XLI, 1622). 'AvanamaQai and xe^eioom are also
attested. The nos. between 117 and 165 are from Akoris. The epitaphs which
contain any kind of introductory text (such as s 0s or|0(ov jif|v) have
been excluded from these lists, which do not claim to be exhaustive.
42 J. J. Kent, Corinth 8, 3: The Inscriptions 1926-1950 , Princeton 1966.
Like B3: nos. 545, 569; deceased in the second clause: nos. 531, 532, 543
((keavev), 552, 564, 570, 580; cf. nos. 524, 530 and 673, in which the
"dying clause" also has an overt subject.
Bandy 1970, 14 lists 36 instances of , adding that "where the
aorist passive indicative occurs, the name precedes" - but there is only one
case, his no. 91. The dates were suseested bv M. Guarducci.
44 SGLIBulg 163.

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Koi|xa0cu, and xeXsuxv is no longer attested.45 However, no

instances have surfaced in Oriental Sicily. In the course of time,
the structure seems to have petrified: the predicate was always
initial, and the same verb was always used, often preceded by
the global marker of a Christian epitaph, the signum crucis. But
these local traditions, interesting though they are, do not throw
light on why the predicate was preposed in the first place.

Rome and Latin

I now turn to Rome, where the early phases of the development

can be seen and the different traditions meet. All the verbs
mentioned above are attested in B3-like structures in Rome; the
most common verbs are and vraeaGai, both with
some 20 instances. Whereas vanavzoQai is very clause-initial,
with epitaphs datable to the 4th and 5th centuries,46 it is
interesting that the form of . follows the subject in half
of the cases,47 even when the age is not given in the first section
of the epitaph. Teeuxv is attested, but the cases are few in B3-
like structures.48 Some of the epitaphs with seem
fairly early and datable to the 3rd century.49
When discussing Rome, we cannot leave the Latin side out of

45 Guillou 1996, nos. 112 (Grottaferrata), 125 and 126 (Naples), 146
(Bari), 148, 151, 152 and 161 (Lecce), 176 and 177 (Taranto), 199 and 201
46 ICVR 1856 ('Av8pya0o Tpeic "Greek"), 1879, 1886, 4011, 4022 =
20690, 10658, 10674, 10703, 12518, 15028, 19794, 19820 (NiK^ia/o
paiK), 20690, 22847, 27231.
Predicate precedes subject: ICVR 2973 ('Aya0ri(xepi(ov ), 3978,
9297 (date - V - S), 10612, 10939 (date - V - S), 11711, 12213a, 13846,
19869, cfr. 10594 and 12901. Subject precedes predicate: ICVR 7205, 9287
(Ap. Aiuxv [or Ai)paiiav] ^, "Paphlagonian"), 9290, 10543,
15003. 16792, 16853 (date - S - V), 19766, 19867 and 25997.
48 ICVR 261 (S - age - V), 4438 (S - age - V), 8415 (S - date of birth -
date of death - age), 19807 (S - V - age - date) and 24296 (S - date - V).
I refer to the context-based datings suggested by the editors of the
Epigraphic Database Bari (see n. 39), C. Carletti and A. E. Felle. ICVR
12901, listed in note 47, seems to be datable to the first half of the 3rd
century, with the (non-initial) clause 1)0| ejieva rv Teopcov, f]vo)v
, i'.

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112 Kalle Korhonen

the discussion. This seems to throw more light on the processes

which we have seen in Syracuse. As I mentioned above, in the
Latin epigraphy of Rome and Italy, there was a tendency to use
verbs meaning "to be buried" rather than those which mean "to
die", and by far the most common verb was deponi. In Rome,
unlike the rest of the Greek-speaking world, the Greeks also
used the verb "to be buried" even in B3-like
The Syracusan structural types are present in the Latin
epigraphy of Rome, too. However, if we use the same principle
as in Syracuse and consider all the instances in which the first
predicate in a main clause is a form of "to die" or "to be
buried", the number of such epitaphs will be more than one
thousand. For example, in the cemetery of Octavilla, many 4th-
century epitaphs would fall into this category, although the
dedicators are given in the end in some of them. Some place the
age in a relative clause, others just contain the date of burial. But
in nearly all the cases, the subject starts the clause.51 Therefore, I
shall concentrate on epitaphs which begin with the date of
burial, which appears in Rome in the second half of the 3rd
A good example of an early epitaph with just the date of
burial is the following, evidently from Diocletian's time:52

(17) D(e)p(ositus) III Idus Septebr(es) / Yacinthus / martyr.53

"Hyacinthus the martyr was buried on the 3rd before the Ides of

50 On the absence of this verb and its synonyms in the West, see Grossi
Gondi 1920, 189; with the aid of the PHI database, I have been able to
confirm that the same is true of the East; there are only sporadic examples.
For Syracuse, see p. 9 n. 28 above.
51 ICVR 4293, 4297, 4300, 4311, 4314, 4318, 4320, 4324, 4329, 4331,
4335, 4339, 4345, 4348, 4351, 4352, 4358, 4360, 4362, 4381, 4382, 4385,
4393, 4409, 441 1 and 4456; dated epitaphs: 4268 (year 355), 4271a (date - V
- S, year 392), 4276b (V - S - date, year 460).
For the dating, see D. Mazzoleni, ICVR ad loc. An earlier date,
proposed by some, is unlikely.
ICVR 26662.

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Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

In many cases, the name follows immediately after the passive

participle. A contemporary alternative was the noun depositio,
abbreviated as well, followed by the genitive of the name. The
corresponding Greek term Kaxsai was also used in Rome.
However, the structure used in example (17) is notably more
common. But was it really interpreted as a verb? It seems to
have been. In addition, structures which correspond more
closely to the Syracusan Greek B3, with verbs meaning "to die"
{decedere, discedere, recedere, abire, defungi , etc.), are also
well attested.54 Again, the predicate can be in an initial
position.55 But was this verb-initial structure a feature which
was a loan from Latin to Greek, or vice versa?

Linguistic background in Greek and in Latin

As regards Classical Greek prose, it can generally be stated that

in a declarative main clause, the subject tends to precede its
predicate, and if the predicate comes first, this may mean that it
is emphasized. However, besides the vague concept of
'emphasis' or 'stress', there can be various other explanations
for the verb-initial order in a prose text; the motivations can be
pragmatic or semantic. Verbs can stand in the beginning of
descriptions of places or circumstances, of confirmatory or
presentative sentences, or of sentences with foregrounded
information.56 On the other hand, sentences which answer the
question "What happened?", i.e., which contain only new
information, often have an initial predicate.57 We find the same

54 For a discussion of the terminology of dying used in the epitaphs of

Rome, see Janssens 1981, 68-99.
Cases with an initial verb: decedere : ICVR 7005 (no date), 7280 (no
date), 11769, 12024, 15470, 15797, 17417; recedere : 6109 (no date), 9128
(no date), 23458, 24316, 27391; defungi : 9020, 10047, 11779, 13165 (no
est), 15636, 15806, 17551, 23579 (with est). Date first, then verb, then
subject: ICVR 9401 (decedere), 21082 (abire), 8804, 8892, 9392, 13942,
20898 (defunsi).
56 See Frisk 1933, 14-23; Dover 1960, 25-34; Dik 1995, 259-81; Luraghi
1995, 373-79 (Luraghi focuses on declarative main clauses).
Dik 2007, 54. Dik (2007, 42-83) discusses extensively the word order of

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114 Kalle Korhonen

informational specialization in modern Greek, where a VSO

order often occurs with eventi ve predicates.58 Furthermore, few
things in life are more dramatic than dying. The fact that
"Alexander lived for 17 years" (cf. example (3)) is not consid-
ered as an event, and this is one reason why similar clauses
regularly have an initial subject even in epitaphs. On the other
hand, it is necessary to point out that even with the initial
predicate, the topic of the epitaph does not change: although the
name of the deceased follows the predicate, the deceased
remains the topic.59
As far as diachrony is concerned, it is also well known that,
especially in the Greek of the more colloquial registers of the
Hellenistic and Roman periods, the predicate often stands in an
initial position even when the motivations given above are not
present. The phenomenon is well attested in the Septuagint, in
(non-atticizing) Christian literature, and in non-literary letters.
While its regular appearance in Judeo-Christian literature may at
times be due to Semitic influence, the phenomenon is firmly
rooted in the internal development of Greek, as well.60 In
Modern Greek, the VSO order has been called pragmatically
neutral,61 although it is not the most common order in "all new"
contexts. It is likely that the change during which an initial
verb becomes less and less marked also contributes to the
popularity of an initial verb in epitaphs.
When Latin devolves into Romance, VSO order does not

dying in tragedy. - Pace Luraghi 1995, 379, who does not include encoding
unexpected events among the functions of verb-initial clauses in Greek.
Philippaki-Warburton 1985, 122-23; Holton et al. 1997, 427-28;
Alexiadou 1999, 51, 54-55.
In this case, the reason for the initial position of the verb is not
topicalization. Greek allows for verbs to become topics (the topicalization of
the predicate), but this is a feature of a longer discourse, well attested in
prose; see Dik 1995, 207-35, and D. Sansone's review of Dik' s work, Bryn
Mawr Classical Review 95.11.08. Neither are these verbs extraclausal topics,
which have been discussed by Matic 2003, 580-82.
Horrocks 1997, 59-60, 115, 209; Blass - Debrunner - Rehkopf 2001,
61 Philippaki-Warburton 1985, 122-24.
Georgakopoulos et al 2006.

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Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

become common to the same extent as in Modern Greek.

However, this order is well attested in certain contexts in
Classical Latin prose. Again, the motivations can be either
pragmatic or semantic. Initial predicates are used in various
types of clauses with different discourse functions.63 On the
semantic side, we have the so-called "unaccusative verbs",
which include, among others, verbs of change of location,
change of state, and existence and appearance.64 Thus, eventive
verbs are included, and dying (or getting buried) falls nicely into
this category. There is nothing remarkable about the initial
predicate as such; in this case, the motivation is semantic.
In both languages, the dramatic aspect of dying can be
emphasized by the use of the present tense. If we take all the
finite forms of the verb xseutv in the epitaphs of Syracuse, not
just those in category B3, the aorist is used in 51% of the cases,
and the present in 46%.65 However, this phenomenon heavily
depends on the type of structure used in the epitaph, as the
following Table 5 shows:

Structure Aorist

1 (n = 46) 20%

B3 (n = 46) 180%

Table 5. The tense of the verb / in categories 1 and B3 in Syracuse

The use of the present tense is not limited to Syracuse, as there

are cases from all over the Greek world. However, it is
remarkable that some other verbs which have figured in this
discussion, such as <xva7iai3G0ai or dwroOvrjaKeiv, do not seem
attested in the present tense in prose epitaphs at all. The verb
. can have a perfective meaning "to go to sleep" or an
imperfective or durative meaning "to sleep". As far as I know, it

63 Luraghi 1995, 367-73.

Devine - Stephens 2006, 151-52.
In the remaining instances, the imperfect was used. The total number of
instances is 114.

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is attested in the perfective meaning - i.e., with a date - in the

present tense only in Rome.66 Elsewhere, the present forms of
Koi|JxxG0ai are attested in the meaning "to sleep".67 The Roman
uses may be due to the influence of the Latin dormire, which
can be used together with a date in the present tense, and is thus
interpretable as perfective.68 On the Latin side, some verbs
meaning "to die", such as decedere or recedere, are rare in the
present tense,69 but mori is better attested.70 Furthermore, we
cannot always be sure of how the most common verbal form
depositusZ-a est was understood: it was to be the present tense
form in Romance, and the development started in antiquity, as is
well known.71 But in Syracuse, the present tense was uncommon
in the predominantly verb-initial type B3.
Now, we can say at least that the verb-initial expression was
introduced in both the Greek and the Latin epigraphic cultures
of Rome during the 3rd century. Unfortunately, we cannot tell
which of the languages introduced the expression first. The
Greek side would seem more likely, but it would be an
exaggeration to say that one of the languages borrowed the
expression from the other. From then on, the phenomenon
belonged to a certain genre of written language both in Latin
and in Greek. It is, however, remarkable that Latin epitaphs
which begin with a verb seem to be well attested only in Italy,

66 ICVR 7251 and 15044.

67 In the PHI database, the only case in which could mean "to
die" is I. Scythiae Minoris II 328 (Tomis): Eacopo NeiKO|ir|8[{>]
1 xvl Koiuxai etc., but even here, "to sleep" is more likely.
For the present tense, the usual interpretation is the historical present:
Janssens 1981, 93 n. 236.
Recedere: ICVR 16327, written recedei , certainly intended as an
indicative: De sculo recedei Marcella , aue vixit an(nis) XXXV in .
For Rome, see Janssens 1981, 92 n. 233. ICVR 7880 is a very
illustrative case: Vincentius inno s (= inno) ) prit anorum duorum et dies
viginti ; natus est V idus ianuarias et moritur V kalendas febrarias. There are
other cases in Italy, in Africa and in Gaul. - Perire is a more difficult case:
there are instances which look like the present tense ( ICVR 17005, 17252,
21328, 24066, 27166), but periit is not attested in the prose epitaphs of ICVR ,
and vowel contraction is possible in the cases of verit.
The morphological present deponitur is rare, but attested: CIL XIV
2424 = ILCV 1419 (Bovillae); ICVR 15675. Deposita fuit : ICVR 9924.

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Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs


Sicily and the Balkans, and not in Africa, Gaul or Spain. It is

likely that the development which made the VSO order a
moderately marked or unmarked word order in Greek supported
the use of such an order in epitaphs. In Latin, where a similar
development was not taking place, things were different. I
conclude with a discussion of the local processes in the
epigraphic culture of Syracuse.

What happened in Syracuse?

Local developments

In the epitaphs from Syracuse similar to example (14) = (6)

above, in which the age expressed with a participle phrase, the
subject is always initial. It seems to me likely that the structures
of these epitaphs developed from 1 -like structures, such as
example (5). At times, the verbal constituent evGe was
not considered necessary because the expression of the date of
death also contained a finite verb. The subject and the predicate
remained in their original positions.
The fact that some epitaphs of Syracuse had an initial
predicate had local consequences. Some epitaphs of type B2
(predicate of the first clause er|aev) from Syracuse and Catania
begin with the predicate.73 It is likely that the influence of the
verb-initial type is visible also in IG XIV 164, which begins
with Kevrai vGs.

72 This phenomenon could be compared to some morphological

phenomena discussed by J. N. Adams (Adams 2003, 473-524), which
originated in bilingual areas and are well attested in the Latin of those
73 Orsi 1896, 28 n. 42 (311) and 26 n. (304). Catania: IG XIV 543a. The
PHI database includes only one instance from elsewhere: S EG IX 796, from

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Hg Kalle Korhonen

Imported tradition?

Was the prevalently verb-initial subtype of B3 which begins

with the date exported from Rome to Syracuse? To answer the
question, we must first look at the local Latin documents. Latin
was also in use in Syracuse, although this is easily forgotten
when we discuss Christian epigraphy. Some 130 local Christian
epitaphs have been published, which is 13% of all the published
epitaphs, but many of them are fragmentary. The structures of
the Latin epitaphs seem to have a rich variation, and few of
them can be compared to the Greek type B3. Only two epitaphs
begin with the passive participle depositus, and the forms can be
interpreted as finite.74 The verbs of dying used in Rome are not
attested as the first predicate. Instead, many epitaphs begin with
the sequence hic iacet, hie requiescit or hie positus/-a est.
Obviously we possess only a minimal number of all the Latin
Christian epitaphs produced in Syracuse, but it still does not
seem that the Greek tradition would have been based on the
model of the local Latin tradition.
Although I previously mentioned Egypt, the native language
of that region has not yet been discussed. Earlier Egyptian had
been, typologically, a language with a V S order, but this
changed in Later Egyptian, notably in Coptic, which has a
flexible SVO order.75 In Egypt, the date of death is attested in
epitaphs from an earlier period on. In three inscriptions
mentioned above, n. 35, and datable to the 2nd century, the
epitaph begins with the name of a divinity, which is followed by
a verb-initial sentence: "Ocipi1 / xee/Triaev / /
(etov) i', Ti ]'.76 There is evidence of contacts between
Egypt and Syracuse in Late Antiquity both in material culture
and in epigraphy.77 However, the relevant evidence is scarce,

74 CIL X 7167 (year 356) and 7174.

Loprieno 1995, 184, 220: Loorieno 2000.
76 SEG XVIII 680.
See, most recently, Greco 1999, 35-47; Sgarlata 2006, 1197. The
epitaph NG 172 (IG XIV 160 = NSA 1895, 521 . 267), mentioned by Greco
(1999, 47), has the date 399. It appears to belong to category B3, but has an

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Fronted verbs in Christian epitaphs

and the verb xeXsuxv is uncommon in the Christian epitaphs

from Egypt. It is impossible to say whether the use of type B3
was imported or originated in Syracuse.

Fronted verbal constituents as epitaph markers

So far, I have only considered linguistic explanations for the

initial predicate, but inscriptions, especially funerary ones, are
often discussed in terms of formulae. It is true that, even if the
epitaphs of Syracuse discussed here are mostly grammatical
sentences, the fact that the language of epitaphs is very
formulaic must be taken into consideration. Another motivation
for the initial STsXei3ir|osv could be suggested: at least in later
times, Christian epitaphs have a tendency to begin with a
formulaic heading which precedes the name of the deceased:
Koi(AT)TT|piov, vGe Kexai, hic requiescit, hic iacet, memoria,
etc. Such introductory headings can, in my view, be considered
genre markers which announce that the item in question is an
It is interesting to look briefly at the position of the
constituent v05s Kexai from this angle. In the corpus of prose
epitaphs from Syracuse, the two words - the adverb preceding
the verb - form an indivisible whole which can move but cannot
split. It is also a formula par excellence. The adverb is preposed
almost without exception: in all, the two-word sequence occurs
or can be restored with sufficient certainty ca. 300 times in the
Christian inscriptions of Syracuse; in only two cases does the
verb come first.79 There is a little more variation in the choice of

initial subiect followed by the age; the dying verb is vameoou.

7 For a recent overview of expressions used in Greek Christian epitaphs,
see McLean 2002, 262-82.
IG XIV 164 and Orsi 1896, 45 no. 81. In the second of these, the phrase
"is lying here" is contained in in an un-formulaic passage, in a relative
clause: Etxti HXpoui (= p/pac) ia |1 T|xov
crnGev | kstoi roSai (= >5e). Relative clauses are very rare in this

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120 Kalle Korhonen

the adverb, but not significantly: in addition to evGe (93% of

the cases), there are sporadic occurrences of ev0a, vxaSa, and
(D8.80 Moreover, even in cases in which an epitaph commemo-
rates several persons, the verb can be in the singular, which adds
to the formulaic appearance. The only variable is the orthogra-
phy of - the most common local spelling is , but
KEITAI, KIT AI and KEITE are all well attested.
As I pointed out, vGe move: it begin the
epitaph or follow the name (or the name NP). In Syracuse, its
history does not last forever: it does not belong to pagan
epitaphs in prose, and the latest epitaphs from ancient Syracuse

seem to use a different structure. During the era of use of

vGe KeTai, a certain development has taken place, though: it
moves towards the beginning of the epitaph, preceding more and
more often the name of the deceased. This is easily shown. The
epitaphs of type B1 can be divided into two subtypes as follows.
"B1-" means that the epitaph contains only the NP which refers
to the deceased; here, I have only considered the epitaphs which
commemorate a sole person. Age, date of death or other pieces
of information are not included. In "B1+", at least one such item
is included. The positions can be seen in the following Table 6:

Bl- (only one S. Giovanni Syracuse, all epitaphs


name - v8Ss 66% (45)

svQs KsTxai - 32% (22)

80 The total count is 260. vEv0a: Agnello 1956, 48, fig. li, NG 200, NSA
1893, 290 no. 47 and 299 no. 80, NSA 1895, 482 no. 159 and Orsi 1896, 33
no. 55; evxmta: Agnello 1963, 82, IG XIV 164, NG 207 ([ev]xa0a), NSA
1895, 493 no. 188, Orsi 1896, 24 no. 32, and evidenti^ Agnello 1956b, 55 n.
9 (see NG 29); : NSA 1893, 288 no. 42 (vGe e), 305 no. 105 and
Orsi 1896, 45 no. 81. In only one case, Orsi 1896, 26 no. 36, the abbreviation
EN0 KEIT is used for v08e . I have excluded from this count
fragmentary cases like v0a[- ] (= vGe or ev0a), or [- ]8e Ksvrai, in
which obe is possible.
1 See Korhonen 2002.
In one epitaph, IG XIV 178, the name has been written both before and
after v0e .

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B1+ S. Giovanni Syracuse, all epitaphs

name - vGSs Ksixai 38% (46)

vQSe KEtiai - name 62% (75)

Table 6. The relative positions of the name of the deceased and v05e
in Bl.

Because of other criteria, such as attributes and decoration, it

seems that the epitaphs of subtype Bl- are generally earlier than
those which belong to subtype B1+. Thus, in the course of time,
the formulaic sequence v05e lands in the beginning of
the epitaph. This is visible in the epitaphs of type Bl which
contain the genitive attribute -i jxvrmri or |j.aKapa ,|<;
and in which the position of the name is known. Of the 26
instances, only two do not begin with vGe . We have
seen the same phenomenon in the position of the verb xeXeuxSv
in epitaphs with these attributes (see p. 108).
Could the aorist form of the verb "to die" also be such an
epitaph marker? As for the 5th-6th-century structures of Egypt
and Crete discussed above, I think the answer is affirmative.
There, a form like |0| was - along with other similar
markers - a necessary formula for the beginning of an epitaph.
In the catacombs of Syracuse, this was not exactly the case, but
there was a tendency in this direction, as the instances which
combine the initial verb with the genitive attribute KaXfj or
(xaKapa (j.vf||j,r| show.

What about the ubiquitous vOSe Kctai ?

In this article, I have not considered the clause-initial sequences

(VP's) vGe or vGe < as initial predicates
because, in such cases, the adverb vGs begins the clause. But
one could also ask whether the readers of the epitaphs
considered such VP's any less verbal than forms of tsAutv or
. We cannot speak of a cliticization across different
domains of language, like in the French 'ci-g "here-lies",

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1 22 Kalle Korhonen

because the phenomenon only belongs to funerary epigraphy. It

seems plausible to me, however, that in this genre of written
language a process of cliticization has taken place, and evBe
Kexai may have been considered a single verbal form. This
genre of written language has certain grammatical rules of its
own. If this is so, the Christian epitaphs from Syracuse become
very verb-initial, or to be more accurate, there is a strong
preference to front the verbal constituent in the epitaphs.
To conclude, it is interesting to note that although the
surviving Greek funerary inscriptions of Oriental Sicily from the
Arab and Norman periods are few and do not contain the verb-
initial structure, initial predicates are present in another genre.
Greek building inscriptions often have an initial verb which is in
the passive.83 In these cases, both the semantics of the verb and
the changes in constituent order have a role in fronting the


For Greek epigraphic editions, the abbreviations of The Packard Humanities

Institute Searchable Greek Inscriptions
( are used.

Other abbreviations:
ICVR = Inscriptiones Christianae urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores.
Nova series. Romae / in Civitate Vaticana.
IMCCatania = K. Korhonen, Le iscrizioni del Museo Civico di Catania.
Storia delle collezioni - Cultura epigrafica - Edizione , Helsinki 2004.
NG = A. Ferma, Note e giunte alle iscrizioni cristiane antiche della Sicilia,
Citt del Vaticano 1989.
NSA = Notizie degli scavi di antichit.

83 Sicily (all from 10th-12th centuries): Guillou 1996, nos. 184 (bridge),
185 (fortress), 188 (church), 189 (baptismal fountain), 195 (church), 202
(""), 205 (church); Southern Italy: nos. 120, 123, 131, 142, 162,

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