New center leads the way in studies of ancient Greek inscriptions

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs



An example of some of the epigraphy the new center has as part of its collection.
Noah Berger photo

02 March 2001 | “Epigraphy” and “epi-graphist” stump the spell check tool on most computers.

Perhaps that is appropriate, says Ron Stroud, advisory committee chair for Berkeley’s new Aleshire Center for the Study of Greek Epigraphy. The center catalogs and studies epigraphy, ancient inscriptions on stone, clay, metal and other hard surfaces that date back to a world in which no computer could do them justice.

Despite today’s computerized preservation techniques, many thousands of those ancient texts from Greece have survived. So many, in fact, that no one has ever tried to count them, according to Stroud, a classics professor in the College of Letters and Science.

“From Athens alone, it has been estimated that we have today roughly 30,000 or more Greek inscriptions on stone, either housed in museums or displayed on excavation sites,” he said at a recent ceremony in Dwinelle Hall, home to the center.

“These inscriptions document the Greek language in all of its many dialects all over the Mediterranean world, extending back to the probable origin of the Greek alphabet in the eighth century B.C.,” he said, “until the transition from the late Roman era into early Byzantine times, roughly in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D.”

The classics department’s new center builds upon Berkeley’s reputation as a world center for research in the study of Greek inscriptions. The center was founded in February with a gift from the late Sara Aleshire, a research fellow in the Department of Classics and an alumna of Berkeley’s Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology.

A distinguished scholar of Greek epigraphy and ancient Greek religion, Aleshire’s bequest to Berkeley consisted of a substantial research library in Greek epigraphy, an extensive collection of off-prints, especially in Greek religion, an archive of photographs of Greek inscriptions, and a large collection of squeezes (impressions of stone).

Aleshire, who died suddenly in Athens in 1997, a few days before her 50th birthday, asked that the scholarly collections be used to encourage and support the research of Berkeley faculty and graduate students in ancient Greek inscriptions from all regions of the Mediterranean world.

The center will provide graduate students and faculty with travel opportunities to study Greek inscriptions, as well as finance conferences and purchase books on the study of Greek epigraphy.

“We will also organize and host a number of seminars and conferences in Greek epigraphy,” Stroud said. “We hope to invite epigraphists in fields that are not strongly represented by Berkeley faculty.”

An advisory committee to the chair of the Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology will administer the center. That committee will maintain and expand Aleshire’s epigraphical library.

Visit the center at
for additional information.


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