Two inscriptions from the library of Pantainos in the agora at Athens

I’d never heard of the library of Pantainos in the marketplace in Athens, until I saw a very nice image on twitter today by Michael Lara:

The stone is marble backed by concrete, and reads:

No book is to be taken out because we have sworn an oath. (The library) is to be open from the first hour until the sixth.[1]

This makes it the only library from antiquity where we know the rules.  And we know the founder of the library because an inscription from the lintel has survived:[2]

Ἀθηνᾷ Πολιάδι καὶ Αὐτοκράτορι Καίσαρι Σεβα{σ}στῷ Νέρβᾳ Τραϊανῷ Γερμανικῷ καὶ τῇ πόλι τῇ ǀ Ἀθηναίων ὁ ἱερεὺς Μουσῶν φιλοσόφων Τ. Φλάβιος Πάνταινος Φλαβίου Μενάνδρου διαδόχου ǀ υἱὸς τὰς ἔξω στοάς, τὸ περίστυλον, τὴν βυβλιοθήκην μετὰ τῶν βυβλίων, τὸν ἐν αὐτοῖς πάντα ǀ κόσμον, ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων μετὰ τῶν τέκνων Φλαβίου Μενάνδρου καὶ Φλαβίας Σεκουνδίλλης ἀνέθηκε.

The priest of the philosophic Muses, T. Flavius Pantainos son of the successor (diadochos) Flavius Menandros, dedicated the outer stoas, the peristyle, the library with the books, and all the decorations in them from his own resources. He did this together with his children Flavius Menandros and Flavia Secundilla, dedicating them to Athena Polias (“of the City”), to the emperor Caesar Augustus Nerva Trajan Germanicus and to the city of the Athenians.[3]

This all dates to 98-102 AD.

A photograph of the lintel as it was found in 1933, built into the late Roman defensive wall, via here:[4]

An amazing collection of images can be found here.

The library was destroyed by the Heruli in their raid on Athens in 267. A defensive wall was built by the Athenians after that, which ran across the site of the library.

It is interesting to see an ancient site which is quite definitely a library.  There are plenty of photographs online, but clearly it would be nice to actually visit the place!

  1. [1]Published in Hesperia 5 (1936), p. 41, fig. 40.
  2. [2]As published by Camp (1986), p. 190, fig. 160.; Agora XIV, pl. 62, c.  Via http://agora.ascsa.net/id/agora/image/1997.12.0099.  The site is very hard to use, but I think “Camp” is “Camp (J. M.) The Athenian agora: excavations in the heart of classical Athens. (New aspects of antiquity.) London: Thames and Hudson, 1986”
  3. [3]Text and translation by Philip Harland, here.  Publication: James H. Oliver, “Flavius Pantaenus, Priest of the Philosophical Muses,” Harvard Theological Review 72 (1979) 157-160 = SEG 21 (1965), no. 703 = PHI 291635  = ID# 16291.
  4. [4]The finds were published in Hesperia 4 (1935), p. 322, fig. 19. (JSTOR: https://www.jstor.org/stable/146455) and Cf. Hesperia Suppl. 8 (1949), pl. 26.

2 thoughts on “Two inscriptions from the library of Pantainos in the agora at Athens

  1. https://researchinglibrarian.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/who-was-titus-flavius-pantainos/
    Was Titus Flavius Pantainos an ancestor of Pantainos, who headed the first Christian school in Alexandria?
    T. Flavius Clemens of Alexandria ( Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς) studied under Pantainos ( Pantaenus ).
    Some more information about ancient libraries:
    https://eduscapes.com/history/ancient/100.htm
    A discourse on library rules and book theft ranging from the past to the near present:
    https://learnearnandreturn.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/book_thieves/#more-2567
    Thanks for a most interesting post.

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