Ancient Greek writing on bread stamps - need help!

Bronto

New Member
Hello, I have started a bread stamp collection and acquired several different samples with what I think is ancient Greek lettering. I know in some cases it was just a family name to identify bread going into a communal oven. In other cases I think it may have symbolized bread suitable for religious ceremonies (especially item #5 with the cross). But I was wondering if anyone has any insight on the meaning behind any of these? I find these artifacts incredibly fascinating and would enjoy them even more if I understood what some of the writing meant. I have looked online to try and translate, but that has been fruitless. I have also included an imprint the stamp made to see what it would have looked like on a finished bread. Forgive me if I have something upside down, I am not familiar enough to orient them correctly.

Any help would be extremely appreciated :)
 

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Big Horn

Active Member
I confess that I had never heard of a bread stamp before reading your post, but now know a little bit about them. The inscriptions are an archaic script that dates from no later than the 5th century B.C. However, inscriptions are often purposefully written in older scripts. The stamps share the same problem as coins: not enough room for much of an inscription. The Greeks abbreviated when necessary. The did this by simply leaving off some letters so reading them can be a problem. In order to learn more about them you will need to learn at least the basics of Greek as well as the basics of Greek epigraphy which is the study of inscriptions. I did find a helpful website;


Amazon sells modern iterations for use on communion wafers. You may wish to take a look for comparison.
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
00006 looks like "ataie" but I don't know what that means. It's written with archaic letters.

00005 looks like "TPESPGIGO".
 

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
Really, you need a specialist, especially for the shorter ones.

00001: TOU(?)
00002: ?
00003: ΔΩΡΑΘΕΑ
00004: ΙΙϹ / ΑΚΑ
00005: +ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΥ
00006: ΑΧΙΛΕ

That's about the best I can do. They are, after all, meant to be read with considerable contextual knowledge. 00001 may be an abbreviation of a name. The O is clear - the other letters less so, I'm not even sure which way up it is! 00002 is difficult to read - I think that the impression in the image is upside-down and inverted, and might be π ι τ ρ/α ι(?) η... but I'm not really sure. 00003 looks like a name, presumably equivalent to Δωροθέα (whence English 'Dorothea'). In 00004 the letters look relatively clear but seem to be so abbreviated that it's difficult to know what they stand for. In 00005 the first sign is a cross (presumably Christian) followed by the genitive of the name Γεώργιος. In 00006 this looks like an abbreviation of the name Αχιλλέας. Presumably the names are people involved with the bakery.

The inscriptions are an archaic script that dates from no later than the 5th century B.C.
I am not so confident about that. None of the letter forms are particularly archaic, and the names look later. Note also the Christian symbol in 00005. I would guess rather Roman or Byzantine period or later; but as I say, one would need an expert to date them properly.
 

Big Horn

Active Member
[QUOTE="That's about the best I can do. They are, after all, meant to be read with considerable contextual knowledge. 00001 may be an abbreviation of a name. The O is clear - the other letters less so, I'm not even sure which way up it is! 00002 is difficult to read - I think that the impression in the image is upside-down and inverted, and might be π ι τ ρ/α ι(?) η... but I'm not really sure. 00003 looks like a name, presumably equivalent to Δωροθέα (whence English 'Dorothea'). In 00004 the letters look relatively clear but seem to be so abbreviated that it's difficult to know what they stand for. In 00005 the first sign is a cross (presumably Christian) followed by the genitive of the name Γεώργιος. In 00006 this looks like an abbreviation of the name Αχιλλέας. Presumably the names are people involved with the bakery.

Χ
I am not so confident about that. None of the letter forms are particularly archaic, and the names look later. Note also the Christian symbol in 00005. I would guess rather Roman or Byzantine period or later; but as I say, one would need an expert to date them properly.
[/QUOTE]
As I stated, the letters are often purposely archaized. This is evident in the Χ turned 45°, a phenomenon found in several epichoric scripts. It would, indeed, require a specialist to date them. The Π looks Euboean.
 

Bronto

New Member
Thank you very much for the replies. This is a really interesting discussion. I never thought about the fact it could be abbreviations and that context is everything! I ran these by someone else knowledgeable in Greek. He thinks #3 says (ΔΩΡΑΘΕΟΥ) "gifts of God" but it's also the name Doratheou (as Iáson said), #5 Georgiou (ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΥ) and #6 Ελίνα.

I'm not at all sure he is right about #6 and it could be an abbreviation for Αχιλλέας. The 45 degree X may have some meaning a specialist would understand, as Big Horn says.

Speaking of specialists/experts in this field...how is one to find someone like that who would have more insight?

According to the auction house I got these from: Everything is dated to early Byzantine Empire, ca. 4th to 7th century CE except the round stamp #5 which is Byzantine Empire, ca. 8th to 12th century CE.
 

Big Horn

Active Member
Thank you very much for the replies. This is a really interesting discussion. I never thought about the fact it could be abbreviations and that context is everything! I ran these by someone else knowledgeable in Greek. He thinks #3 says (ΔΩΡΑΘΕΟΥ) "gifts of God" but it's also the name Doratheou (as Iáson said), #5 Georgiou (ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΥ) and #6 Ελίνα.

I'm not at all sure he is right about #6 and it could be an abbreviation for Αχιλλέας. The 45 degree X may have some meaning a specialist would understand, as Big Horn says.

Speaking of specialists/experts in this field...how is one to find someone like that who would have more insight?

According to the auction house I got these from: Everything is dated to early Byzantine Empire, ca. 4th to 7th century CE except the round stamp #5 which is Byzantine Empire, ca. 8th to 12th century CE.
1) Call Brown U. and the British Museum.

2) Buy or borrow the dedicated reference work in the link. Call the auction house to ask about other references.

3) Buy one or both of the following books. There are tables of dialect forms.


 
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Iáson

Cívis Illústris
The Π looks Euboean.
Which one? I can't see anything that looks like the archaic form of the Π with the right (overhanging) upright much shorter, if that's what you mean (though this is by no means 'Euboean', so far as I know - it's in a lot of other local alphabets).
He thinks #3 says (ΔΩΡΑΘΕΟΥ) "gifts of God" but it's also the name Doratheou (as Iáson said)
Ah, but I was certainly wrong about the last letter being Α! He is right in identifying it as a ligature of ΟΥ - I didn't think of that, and to my knowledge it's not found until relatively late, but it makes much more sense. I can see why he went for ΔΩΡΑ ΘΕΟΥ, because the name is usually spelt with Ο, and it makes sense in the context of bread being a gift of god! I'm not convinced by Ελίνα, but I'm no expert in later Greek names (or bread stamps)...
 

Big Horn

Active Member
Which one? I can't see anything that looks like the archaic form of the Π with the right (overhanging) upright much shorter, if that's what you mean (though this is by no means 'Euboean', so far as I know - it's in a lot of other local alphabets).

Ah, but I was certainly wrong about the last letter being Α! He is right in identifying it as a ligature of ΟΥ - I didn't think of that, and to my knowledge it's not found until relatively late, but it makes much more sense. I can see why he went for ΔΩΡΑ ΘΕΟΥ, because the name is usually spelt with Ο, and it makes sense in the context of bread being a gift of god! I'm not convinced by Ελίνα, but I'm no expert in later Greek names (or bread stamps)...
The rounded form looks Euboean. The other variants seem to have straight lines. However, I know very little about epigraphy.

I juswt edited my last post as I had accidentally deleted my reply.
 
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