The Manticlos inscription from near Thebes

Although not the most esthetically pleasing sample of ancient Greek writing, the Manticlos inscription very well illustrates the early development and certain features of the Greek alphabet. (This is a Spanish-language site with a number of inscriptions, and one has to scroll about 2/3 of the way down to find the Manticlos inscription; also, for a copy of this inscription, see p. 15 of the course handout.) The inscription is from the first century or so of alphabetic writing in Greece (TSB give a date of c 700-675), and it is translated as follows by TSB, no. E on p. 457:

Manticlos dedicated me to the far-shooter, silver-bowed god,
as a tithe. Phoibos, provide
charis in return!

The inscription starts with the name Mantiklos at the lower right; at this point, the letters are upside down in the drawing. Then, the inscription goes to the left, spirals around, and ends just above where it begins. Also, another name, the word Phoibe, a form of the epithet Phoibos, often applied to Apollo, is legible (it too runs backward) in the second line as one looks at the inscription.

Besides providing some more or less easily recognizable words, this inscription is also important as showing two Homeric epithets of Apollo, both of which occur in the first 50 lines of the Iliad, viz., "far-shooter" and "silver-bowed" (so the TSB translation). These two epithets are those which Lattimore translates as "who strikes from afar" (Il. 1.15, 21, etc.) and "lord of the silver bow" (Il. 1.37, etc.). Often, Fitzgerald does not include "far-shooter" or the like in translating "hekêbolos". Sometimes, though, as at lines 110 and 129 of Iliad, Book 1 (H&P's line nos.), he has "Archer" for this. The other epithet is handled in a straightforward fashion by Fitzgerald ("master of the silver bow") at line 44.

The Mantiklos inscription is two hexameter lines, as is more or less indicated in TSB's translation. The exact pattern in Greek is as follows:

It is therefore a good demonstration of the fact that dactylic hexameter verse, with typically "oral" epithets, could be, and was, written down at an early period.