Ancient Macedonian Archaeology – The Phiale of Megara

Archival Material

description: Silver phiale dedicated to the Megarian Athena, from Kozani near Beroia, Greece 
catalogue number: 332
LSAG reference: 137.02
date: c. 500 ?
object type: Phiale
region: PL
sub-region: Megara
archaeological context: Kozani
Kallipolites and Feytmans AE (1948-9) pp. 92 ff
SEG vol. 13 no. 306

There are a few early inscriptions from Macedonia which are in Doric (and definitely not in Attic), but all three of them are brief and they provide little additional information on the Macedonian dialect. The earliest is written on a silver phiale found in a burial from Upper Macedon in the early part of the fifth century. It reads:


Άθαναίας ΐαράτας  Μhεγαροΐ.

 Sacred to the Athena (who is) at Megara.


The name Athanaia is the old poetic form of the goddess’s name and could be Attic or Doric (or anything but Ionic). The word ίαρά is definitely Doric and τας may be any dialect other than Attic-Ionic. The form Μhεγαροί, with mh- from original sm- is not diagnostic of the dialect in use. While such forms are found quite often in the Dorian city of Megara, they arε also found elsewhere, including in early Attic.

However, it remains possible that this inscription is not an example of Macedonian at all, but that the phiale had been imported from somewhere else, most probably from Megara on the Isthmus. Hammond points out that another inscription reported from Upper Macedonia indicates that there was a town called Megara in that area as well, and the absence of any mention of the early form for epsilon used in Megarian inscrip­tions, which would normally be expected at the beginning of the fifth century, suggest that this was, in fact, written in Macedon and not in the Doric from the Isthmian Megara. If this deduction is correct, we have another inscription from Macedonia in classical times which is clearly in Doric.

Bibliography: Doric Forms in Macedonian Inscriptions

By Prof. James O’Neil, Sydney

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