Ancient Greek “Yearbook” Discovered on 2,000-Year-Old Tablet

A 2,000-year-old stone tablet was discovered by historians in the collection of the National Museums of Scotland. The marble monument underpins the names of a group of young Athenian men who had just finished the equivalent of graduate school. The PA News Agency reported that the stone tablet has been in the museum’s assemblage for over 100 years.

The inscription was recently translated as part of an initiative to publish “English translations of inscriptions from ancient Athens held in UK collections,” the agency stated.

Names included on the tablet include Attikos, Anthos, Herakon, and Theogas, according to Arkeonews, and were members of the empebate, a class of youths in ancient Greece who had to undergo two years of military training.

Inscriptions on the tablet show it was made during the rule of Roman emperor Claudius, who ruled from 41 to 54 AD. This was during the early period of after Rome conquered Greece, when Greeks stuck to their traditions despite Roman rule.

“This discovery represents an important new source of information about Athenian society in the mid-first century C E,” writes the National Museums Scotland’s principal curator of the ancient Mediterranean, Margaret Maitland, in a blog post. She added, “this was a crucial period for Athens as it adapted to its place under the Roman Empire, which had conquered the Greek peninsula in 146 BCE.”

The specific practice had been around for hundreds of years by the time the young men finished their education. Around 335 BC, in order to become citizens of Athens, the men were required to undergo ephebic training, which was designed to train them to defend their country in time of need, as well as obey its laws and continue its traditions.

Initially, the institution was only accessible to the wealthy, but this changed over time. Two hundred years later, foreigners could participate as well, with the training beginning to include literature and philosophy. The practice began to die out around the third century AD, roughly 150 years after the creation of the tablet.

The tablet the young men left behind relates to modern life as it highlights how this group of people felt the need to create something together. The ancient Greeks valued friendship and community on a large scale, maybe even more than we do today.

“It’s the ancient equivalent of a graduate school yearbook,” Peter Liddel, a historian at the University of Manchester told the PA News Agency, “although this is one which is created by a number of individuals who wanted to feel like they had come together as friends.”



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