Greek Epigraphy Tools: Claros

For students who aren’t in the know, reading something that deals with inscriptions can be a little intimidating. You not only have to deal with texts that are entirely unlike anything that you will read elsewhere—who knew Greek had so many dialects, alphabets or ways of spelling common words???—but you also have to deal with a rash of unfamiliar acronyms. IG is straightforward enough. Even novices can probably have a guess at what OGIS is. But what about RDGE, RIG, BRB, or MAMA? [1] And how is it that everyone who publishes anything in this field has an encyclopedic knowledge of every single other thing that has ever been written about this inscription? That’s a high bar for a newcomer to clear…

Sadly, Claros might not help you with the first problem, although I’ve heard rumors of a little ad company out in California might. It will, however, go a long way to addressing the second issue. With a little help from Claros, you too can find more or less every edition of the inscription that you are interested in.

Your experience with Claros will only be rewarding if you use it in the right way. Claros is not the place that you want to go to begin your research. It is not where you come to look for inspiration or to find a crucial piece of evidence. You come to Claros when you have already found an inscription and have some idea of what it means, but you need to find out more about it. Is the edition you have the standard one, or are there others out there that read letters differently and offer different supplements? Is the date you have for it the only one possible, or have there been other suggestions? And, most importantly, what do other people make of this thing?

So, assuming that you already have an inscription, and that you are planning to ask the right questions, you make your way to the site.

claros database main greek epigraphy inscriptions

(click to enlarge)

Okay. Not the most modern design, but it has a text box and a button marked ‘search’, so you know what to do. Well, depending on what you put in that box, it might not work at all. Let’s try that big, green “help” button… It does nothing. There is a help link in the bottom right that works, and contains some useful information, but there is really only one thing that you need to know: you can only search Claros if you use Claros’ abbreviations. No full titles allowed, and no guarantee that the ones you’ve seen elsewhere will work on Claros.

But this does not need to set you back very much. Just hit the green “Abbrev.” button, next to the non-functioning help button, and choose search from the left-hand menu.

claros greek epigraph inscriptionsy database abbreviations

Armed with the correct abbreviation to go with your document number, try searching again. Now you have two lists: on the right is the search term that Claros found a match for, on the left is another publication of the same inscription. Click on the book icon to translate from Claros abbreviations to something readable.

claros greek epigraphy inscriptions database results hits list

Success! But there are two more tricks. First, take a closer look at the left-hand list.

claros greek epigraphy inscriptions database results hits list


Those are not all the same document (and none of them are the one we wanted). Claros will return any document whose number contains the number you entered, so keep an eye on that to avoid wasting time in the library.

The second trick is Claros is not entirely up to date. You can probably rely on them to find every edition of your inscription before about 2008. For the rest, you’ll have to turn to SEG, which I’ll tell you about in a future post.



[1] Only one of these is made up. It might not be the one you think.

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Greek Epigraphy Tools: Claros by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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