From WTF to ATL

This post was written by Emma Hilliard, one of From Stone to Screen’s Digitization Assistants. 


My first few weeks with From Stone to Screen were a roller coaster. On the one hand, I was thrilled to be part of a student-initiated project with such a cool purpose: digitizing epigraphic squeezes for students all over the world to enjoy. On the other, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach an area of study so far outside my comfort zone. Which is to say, I was all gung-ho about transcribing inscriptions and deciphering letters and generally feeling like Indiana Jones, then I was asked to interact with our department’s copies of Meritt, Wade-Gery, and McGregor’s The Athenian Tribute Lists.



If you’ve never seen these books in person, trust me: they call them “volumes,” but “tomes” might be more accurate. The ATLs are massive. They make a really scholarly slam on the desk and they’re chock-full of inscriptions and references and piles of information—information that sometimes felt out of reach to me as a beginner.



Full disclosure: I’m a philologist. A philologist with very little background in epigraphy or archaeology. In the beginning, I just wanted answers to some embarrassingly basic questions. What exactly are the Athenian tribute lists? What was their function and importance in Athenian society? And what’s with all these IG numbers and Roman numerals? These are topics I’ve become more familiar with since I became involved with From Stone to Screen, but I was happy to have an excuse to learn more when I was asked to put together a general bibliography on the Athenian tribute lists.

ATL List 14

Transcription of Athenian Tribute List 14, 441-440 BCE

After wading through the library catalogue and spending some time in the stacks, I have some sad news to report: it’s surprisingly difficult to find introductory material on the ATLs, and there isn’t a single summary work I can point to that might help induct the layman.* Diving into scholarship on the Athenian tribute lists can feel a bit like swimming into an avalanche—hundreds of hyper-specific articles arguing over details of dating and restoration choices, sometimes featuring conversations between two or three scholars that stretch over the course of decades. As an amateur in the field, it can be hard to tell which way is up.

That being said, there is hope for the budding epigraphist! I’ve assembled an up-to-date bibliography for those of us just getting involved with the tribute lists. By trying to avoid extremely specialized scholarship and focusing instead on more general works, I hope to offer a starter bibliography that might make an intimidating subject seem slightly less intimidating.

*Two sources I did find very useful for getting a general idea of what the ATLs were, how they functioned, and scholars’ attempts at reconstructing them: Appendix 6 in Malcolm McGregor’s book, The Athenians and their Empire, and the introduction to Bjørn Paarman’s doctoral dissertation on the tribute lists, which can be found here.



If you have more experience with the ATLs or epigraphy and would like to make a suggestion for our list, please reach out to us! From Stone to Screen is a collaborative effort, and we would love your input.  


About Lisa Tweten

As one of the project mangers, Lisa is the heart of the project. She works with Digital Humanities to photograph the MacGregor squeeze collection.

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