Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity 2004

[Close Print-Friendly Version]

Section I: Decius to Numerian, 250-284

Inscriptions in this section

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 234

I.1 The publication, by Joyce Reynolds, of the documents inscribed on the Archive wall in the Theatre at Aphrodisias demonstrated that Aphrodisias' status and rights as a free city, acquired in the first century BC, continued to be a matter of fundamental importance to the city until well into the third century AD.1  The selection of documents confirming and illustrating that status was inscribed on the south wall of the north parodos of the Theatre in the first half of the third century, most probably in the reign of Alexander Severus (A&R 36); additional letters to the same effect from Gordian III (A&R 20-24) were added subsequently. A further such letter, from Traianus Decius, written in late 250, was found in the southern stretch of the city wall (A&R 25) and very probably also came from the north parodos.

I.2 By the mid fourth century, Aphrodisias was the capital of a province of Caria, created as part of the division of the province of Asia. This division had long been seen as the work of Diocletian; but evidence principally from Aphrodisias, and also from other sites, has now shown that a province of Caria and Phrygia (as it was called in Caria) or Phrygia and Caria (as it was called in Phrygia) was created in the mid-third century. The first indication of this came from the publication of the texts published here as nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, in 1981. The rationale undelying the divisions very probably came from the structure of procuratorial circumscriptions.2 

I.3 The last certain reference to Aphrodisias as forming part of the province of Asia is in a letter of Gordian III, dated to 243.3  The provincial games of Asia were celebrated under Philip, 244-249, at Laodicea, which was later to form part of the joint province.4  The date for the creation of the new province has become steadily more precise, thanks to discoveries over the last few years. It now looks as if the first governor was Q. Fabius Clodius Agrippianus Celsinus (see List of Governors), attested as clarissimus consularis on a milestone at Dorylaeum and simply as egregius on milestones at Iasos and Keramos, between the accession of Decius in 249 and the declaration of his sons as Caesars in early 250.

I.4 This evidence tends to suggest, therefore, that the new province was created in the very last year of Philip or on the first few months of Decius' reign; this would fit with the evidence for the creation of a new administrative unit of Galatia Pontus at exactly this moment.5  It may be, moreover, that this major re-organisation in Asia had something to do with the unusual function of L. Egnatius Victor Lollianus as proconsul of Asia for an exceptional term of three years; he was one of the very small number of proconsuls to be honoured at Aphrodisias.6 

I.5 I have argued — and still believe — that when the new province was created, Aphrodisias was its capital. There is still no absolute proof of this. The strongest indication that Aphrodisias was the new metropolis is provided by the fact that the city was metropolis of the later separate province of Caria. It is difficult to understand why Aphrodisias should have been chosen as a capital for Caria, since it had not functioned as an administrative or judicial centre within the province of Asia, and offered no practical advantages; but it is easy to see that the city would have been a convenient capital for the joint province, and once having achieved that status, could not have been down-graded when the provinces were separated. We now know that Aphrodisias had had the title of metropolis of Caria since at least 171/2. The other leading candidate for such a position in a joint province must have been Laodicea, in Phrygia; and it may be relevant that a fragment survives from an official response, apparently of the middle to late third century, to a complaint from the Laodiceans that they had been badly treated in a matter of primacy.7 

I.6 This seems to me to be the strongest argument for Aphrodisias' having been capital of the joint province. In the first edition of this corpus I also argued from the evidence of a series of sculptured panels which were found during excavation of the large Basilica at the southwest corner of the South Agora at Aphrodisias.8  At the time, they were thought to date from the third century; but recent works suggest that they are from the first, and so irrelevant to the issue.

I.7 The other evidence to this effect is perhaps provided by the coinage of the city, which like many others, produced a large number of coin issues in the third century, especially under Gordian and under Valerian and Gallienus;9  equally typically, there is no evidence that Aphrodisias produced any autonomous coinage after the death of Gallienus, in 268. Under Gordian, new legends on the coinage include a series of references to a new contest, the Gordianea Attalea Capitolia:10  the name is presented within a wreath, indicating that the contest had 'sacred' status — that is, that victory was rewarded with a wreath, rather than the cash prizes offered at games of lower status.11  Under the family of Valerian, there is an explosion of new issues, with several new themes, and with further, more complex, references to contests. A series of issues now refer to two separate contests, indicated by two wreaths on a table. The two wreaths are each labelled, but variously: as Gordianea and Valeriana, on a coin of Valerian12  or, on coins of Gallienus, as Capetolia and Pythia,13  with ΟΙΚΟΥΜΕΝΙΚΟΣ, ecumenic, on the table edge14  or Gordianeia and Pythia,15  with ecumenic on the table,16  or Attalea and Pythia, with ecumenic on the table.17  The different titles regularly occurring in the left hand wreath are those which we know to have described one contest, the Gordianea Attalea Capitolia already attested under Gordian; it therefore seems reasonable to assume that the titles in the right hand wreath describe a second contest, the Valeriana Pythia.

I.8 Aphrodisias had had important local contests for several centuries, but none of international — 'ecumenic' — or 'sacred' status. The evidence of the coins suggest that a new sacred contest, the Attalea Capitolia was established under Gordian; that a second such contest, the Valeriana Pythia, was created before 260; and that both of these contests had, or received, international, 'ecumenic' status by the reign of Gallienus. This last development must have taken place before 257, when the Gordianea Attalea are included in a list of sacred and ecumenic contests.18  This all agrees with a general phenomenon characteristic of the period, when Gordian and his successors were responsible for enhancing the status of existing contests, and creating new ones, throughout the eastern empire.19  But, while it is possible that the new games at Aphrodisias were simply part of this general development, I suggested that the second contest, the Valeriana Pythia, which offers no suggestion in its title of a specific local link with Aphrodisias, might be the new provincial contest of the new koinon of Caria and Phrygia.20  It seems very likely that it was the grant of this contest which was the occasion for a celebration by a group of cities in the area which is attested in a series of inscriptions at Aphrodisias of about this period.21  It should be pointed out, however, that the concilium of a province did not always meet in the provincial capital; so all this activity need not necessarily demonstrate that Aphrodisias was the capital of the joint province.22 

I.9 It is still my belief that Aphrodisias probably was the capital of the new province, and was proudly advertising the new provincial games on its coinage; but it must be repeated that this cannot be proved, and a recent study of provincial capitals has underlined this uncertainty.23  One central problem is that the city's free status was being reaffirmed by Traianus Decius, in the manner of previous emperors, after the creation of the new province. It seems certain that there would have been some tension between the city's free status — which had meant that even a visit by an imperial official to the city was a matter to be treated with caution24  — and its taking on the role of a provincial capital, and residence of an imperially appointed governor. If Aphrodisias was not the capital of the joint province, then this question did not arise until the creation of the separate province of Caria in the early 300's — by which time the 'freedom' of cities had perhaps lost all meaning. If it was the capital, then it is possible that Text 1, a very fragmentary letter of Valerian and Gallienus to an individual at the city, dealt with some of the implications of the new situation. See discussion of 1.

I.10 The evidence for the creation of the new province of Caria and Phrygia is provided by a group of inscriptions. The first are apparently from a group honouring the family of Valerian and Gallienus, texts 2, 3, 4. Of these three inscriptions, 2 and 3 quite clearly belong together; the phrasing is the same and the layout is identical. In each case, the text will have begun on a crowning feature, as also in 4. The two bases presumably originally stood in or near the Theatre; 2 was found near the Theatre, and 3 was excavated in a stretch of the city wall which incorporates a good deal of re-used material from the Theatre (as well as the letter of Traianus Decius, A&R 25). The group to which they belonged presumably included the emperors Valerian and Gallienus, as well as Gallienus' wife Salonina (2) and whichever of his sons is honoured as Caesar (3). The inscriptions can be dated only after the first of Gallienus' sons, Valerian, appeared as Caesar in 256, and before the death of the second of the Caesars, Saloninus, in 260. Honours to Valerian and his family have been found widely in southwestern Asia Minor.25 

I.11 Text 4 also honours a member of the family of Valerian, but is quite different in phrasing and design. Its original location cannot be determined; it was found at the east end of the Temple, where a large number of statue bases were assembled in the middle Byzantine period for re-use as supports to a new altar-screen. It is the first inscription to have been found in the eastern empire honouring the little-known brother of Gallienus, Licinius Valerianus.26  Since we know so little about him, it is difficult to decide whether the epithet used here, εὐεργέτης, benefactor, should be taken as describing some specific action and the reason for the erection of this statue, or simply as a standard compliment. He is given no titles, and simply described as 'son and brother of the Augusti', which only allows a date in the joint reign of Valerian and Gallienus. M. Christol and T. Drew-Bear suggested that the absence of any reference to the young Caesars might allow a closer dating, to the period before the appearance of the younger Valerian as Caesar in 256; and this was born out by further discoveries.27  Text 4 is therefore not contemporary with 2 and 3; this therefore shows the imperial family being honoured on at least two occasions at Aphrodisias.

I.12 The second part of no. 4 (ll. 8 ff.) describes the man responsible for overseeing the erection of the monument — a standard function in the imperial period, described in standard formulae. The wording here is not entirely clear. He himself is called Antonius Nicomachus, and described as father of the first archon, Antonius Claudius Nicomachus (see List of Local officials); it is not certain whether the subsequent phrase 'offspring of high-priests' should be taken as describing himself or his son. At least one high priest — that is, of the imperial cult at Aphrodisias — called Nicomachus, is known to us.28  But it is perhaps more natural to take the phrase as describing Antonius Claudius Nicomachus, whose name immediately precedes it; if so, the implication seems to be that Antonius Nicomachus had married into a family of particular distinction, through which he could claim for his son — although not for himself — descent from high-priests. Nicomachus is described as axiologotatos — a rank regularly ascribed in the third century to prominent men in the municipal aristocracies .29  He was possibly responsible for the erection of other inscriptions at Aphrodisias;30  he was certainly responsible for inscription 5.

I.13 Inscriptions 5, 6 and 253 all honour governors. 5 and 6 both honour M. Aurelius Diogenes (see List of Governors); 253 honours P. Aelius Septimius Mannus, in language identical to that of 6, ll. 2-9 (see List of Governors). The two inscriptions honouring Diogenes were set up under two different first archons. The titles of archon and first archon are first attested in the second century AD at Aphrodisias, and very frequently in the third century: the last datable example is in 7, perhaps under Diocletian. The phrase οἱ ἄρχοντες περὶ τὸν δεῖνα implies that the man named was himself the first archon.31  It seems likely that the office of first archon was annual; and it therefore follows that 5 was set up in the same year as 4, when Antonius Claudius Nicomachus was first archon, and so — for the reasons set out in discussion of 4 — in the joint reign of Valerian and Gallienus, 253-60. We know nothing else of the first archon responsible for 6, M. Antonius Venidius Apellas (see List of Local officials). One other Venidius is attested at Aphrodisias, in a private inscription of the third century (unpublished); the name Apellas is reasonably frequently attested, but our man should probably be identified with an archon, Apellas, named on coinage of the city under Gallienus.32 

I.14 The man honoured in 5 and 6 is described as πρεσβευτὴς Σεβαστῶν ἀντιστράτηγος/legatus Augustorum pro praetore (5) and as ἡγέμων/praeses (6). Taken together, these titles can only mean that he is the governor of an imperial province. Since he is honoured in two separate years at Aphrodisias, and in language appropriate to a man in authority, it is easiest to assume that he had authority over Aphrodisias as governor of an imperial province in which it was included.33  This must be the province of Caria and Phrygia, newly created from part of proconsular Asia. The date can now be further refined, since a milestone at Keramos allows us to date M. Aurelius Diogenes' period as governor to 255 (see List of Governors).The close similarity of the wording between texts 6 and 253 suggests that P. Aelius Septimius Mannus, (named in the latter) and apparently also a governor of Caria and Phrygia, probably held office not long before or after M. Aurelius Diogenes (see List of Governors).

I.15 The only text at Aphrodisias which gives the name of the joint province is 7, honouring T. Oppius Aelianus Asclepiodotus, who was apparently governor under Diocletian (see List of Governors). The joint province is also attested, however, in three inscriptions found in Phrygia. Two of these appear to honour one and the same man, a governor of the joint province under plural Augusti, whose name was later erased in both inscriptions: one was found at Laodicea34  and one at Hierapolis.35  (see List of Governors) It is also attested by name in an inscription found near Pinarbasi, in the Upper Tembris region of Phrygia.36  The text records the establishment of a boundary between two villages. The ruling was made by Julius Dionysius, ἀπὸ χιλιαρχιῶν /a militiis;37  he was acting on the orders of Julius Julianus, κράτιστος / egregius in rank, a procurator of plural Augusti, who was acting as interim governor of Phrygia and Caria: διέποντος κὲ τὰ τῆς ἡγεμονίας μέρη Φρυγίας τε καὶ Καρίας.38  (see List of Governors)The reference to plural emperors dates this either before the death of Valerian in 260, or under Carus or his sons — 282-284 — or after Diocletian took his first associate, Maximian, in 286. The titulature of the officials makes the earlier date seem preferable; both the term a militiis and the office of provincial procurator are attested in the late third century, but rarely, and they can be far more easily accommodated before 260.39 

I.16 It seems, therefore, that Aurelius Diogenes (see List of Governors), attested at Aphrodisias in nos. 5 and 6, can certainly be dated between 253 and 260, and was almost certainly a governor of Caria and Phrygia; Julius Julianus, (see List of Governors) in the inscription from Pinarbasi, certainly governed Caria and Phrygia, probably before 260. P. Aelius Septimius Mannus (see List of Governors) should also be a governor of the joint province, very probably in the 250s. The anonymous governor (see List of Governors) of Caria and Phrygia, attested at Hierapolis and Laodicea as serving under plural emperors, cannot be dated with any certainty; but the script of the Hierapolis inscription resembles that of other texts of the early to middle third century found at Hierapolis (as Dr.Tullia Ritti-Adamou observed), and the terminology is very similar to that of the inscriptions honouring Aurelius Diogenes, all of which combines to suggest that this governor also should be dated before 260. The traces which can be detected of the erased name of the anonymous governor suggest that it ended -ianus; he cannot therefore be identified with Aurelius Diogenes. The name, of course, might suggest Julius Julianus; if so, this man was upgraded, while in office, from equestrian rank (and procuratorship) to senatorial rank (and a governorship). This would be partly paralleled by the career proposed for Asclepiodotus (see List of Governors).

I.17 The anonymous, and Julius Julianus, who both served under plural Augusti, could have held office under Philip and his son (mid 247-9), under Decius and his sons (from mid 250) or under Valerian and Gallienus. It is possible that the erasure of the name of the anonymous governor should be associated with the abrupt changes of emperor in the early 250s; it is also tempting to suppose that, if the two cannot be identified, the appointment of Julius Julianus as acting governor might have been necessitated by the sudden removal of the governor whose name was erased.

layout text
1 layout text Reynolds, A&R.
2 layout text The texts were first published in Roueché (1981); for the possible evolution of the provincial divisions see now G. Bowersock, Martyrdom and Rome (Cambridge, 1995), Appendix 4, 85-98.
3 layout text A&R 21.
4 layout text SNG von Aulock 8422.
5 layout text M. Christol and X. Loriot, Le Pontus et ses gouveurneurs dans le second tiers du IIIe siecle, Mémoires VII: Recherches épigraphiques (Saint Étienne, 1986), 13-40, especially 33-36.
6 layout text Reynolds (1994).
7 layout text For Aphrodisias as metropolis see Bowersock op. cit. n.2; for Laodicaea see I.Laodikeia am Lykos 10.
8 layout text See K.T.Erim, AJA 82 (1978), 324-5, Aphrodisias, 100-1.
9 layout text On the wider phenomenon see L.Robert, RN 19 (1977), 10-13.
10 layout text e.g. SNG von Aulock 2463, 2464; BMC Caria 75, 76, 78, 129; Mionnet, 128, 152.
11 layout text On the hierarchy of contests see L. Robert, Discours d'ouverture Praktika 8th Congress 1, 35-45 (= OMS VI, 709-19) and C. Roueché, PPA pp. 2-5.
12 layout text SNG von Aulock 8066, Hunterian collection II, 421, no.5.
13 layout text BMC Caria 149.
14 layout text Kleinasiatische Münzen 115.15, BMC Caria 148, 150.
15 layout text BMC Caria 146.
16 layout text BMC Caria 147.
17 layout text Mionnet 159.
18 layout text In the list of the victories of Valerius Eclectus, L.Moretti, IAG, 90.
19 layout text L.Robert, op.cit n.11, 39-40; RN 19 (1977), 10-13.
20 layout text Roueché (1981), 119; see now PPA pp. 182-7.
21 layout text Published as PPA nos. 58-64.
22 layout text Haensch, CP, 368-372.
23 layout text Haensch, CP, 297 note 199, with the review by G. Bowersock, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung 117 (2000), 501-4.
24 layout text See the letter of Commodus, A&R 16, and that of a proconsul under Alexander Severus, A&R 48.
25 layout text See Roueché (1981), 104 n. 6.
26 layout text PIR2 L 257; PLRE I Valerianus 14, Christol, Carrières, 207-8.
27 layout text Christol and Drew-Bear, 35, n.32.
28 layout text MAMA 8, 546, with an unpublished inscription.
29 layout text H-G. Pflaum, in Recherches sur les structures sociales dans l'Antiquité classique (Paris, 1970), 1824.
30 layout text See Roueché (1981), 113, no. 7, and 115 with n. 112.
31 layout text So, explicitly, in CIG 2799.
32 layout text BMC Caria 49, no. 136, cf. no. 137.
33 layout text Roueché (1981), 107 and n. 19.
34 layout text I.Laodikeia am Lykos 39.
35 layout text Altertümer von Hierapolis, 87, no. 43, whence IGR IV, 814; for a photograph, see Roueché (1981), pl. VIII.
36 layout text Published by Christol and Drew-Bear.
37 layout text For this equivalence see H. Devijver, Zetesis, Festschrift de Strycker (Antwerp, 1973), 549-63, especially 560ff.
38 layout text For the formula see Christol and Drew-Bear, 34, and n.29.
39 layout text Christol and Drew-Bear, 38 ff.





(c) Creative Commons Copyright by-nc-nd-2.0

[Close Print-Friendly Version]