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Evidence for a Regional Assembly in Coastal Paphlagonia in the Julio-Claudian Period

Ching-Yuan Wu

University of Pennsylvania

This paper examines two inscriptions used by Christian Marek (2003, pp. 66-67; 2015, pp. 308-309) to support his thesis that the coastal Paphlagonian koinon – known in epigraphical sources as “the Koinon of the Cities in Pontus” – was already established in the Julio-Claudian period, if not earlier.

The first inscription from Pompeiopolis is reported by Fourcade (1811) that can date to the early Augustan period or earlier. Marek himself focused on the Pompeiopolis inscription in his rejoinder to Loriot’s thesis in a recent article (2015), arguing that Loriot is wrong to date this inscription to the imperial period. Alternatively, this paper proposes that a separate inscription invoked by Marek in his earlier work may be more effective.

The second inscription dates to the reign of Claudius. It comes from a rupestral column-and-niche roadside monument in the outskirts of ancient Amastris. The monument concerns two cults, Theos Hypsistos and Divus Augustus. Theos Hypsistos received a dedication consisting of a column and a perched eagle, and the column base inscribed with a short dedicatory inscription. There are two other tabulae ansatae, possibly associated with the niched figure, recording the same title ὁ τοῦ ἐπουρανίου θεοῦ Σεβαστοῦ ἀρχιερεὺς, and the Latin equivalent of this priesthood was perpetuus sacerdos Divi Augusti. That ἐπουρανίου does not have a correlate term in the Latin title, along with the presence of a dedication to Theos Hypsistos immediately next to the niche monument, suggests that this priesthood was in charge of a syncretistic imperial cult, and was different from the highpriesthood of the municipal imperial cult attested in a separate Amastrian inscription dated to the Neronian period. 

This paper argues that the syncretistic imperial cult dedicated to Divus Augustus and Theos Hypsistos may have been established as an extra-urban cult designed for an audience broader than the inhabitants of Amastris proper. The so-called Oath of Gangra makes it clear that part of the binding force of such an oath of loyalty was the invocation of local deities to enforce retribution. We are also informed by the same oath that such oaths of loyalty had to be administered in both the city proper and the chora “at the altars of Augustus in the sanctuaries of Augustus” as part of an annual and province-wide exercise. The two information points to the possibility that the the syncretistic cult from the extra-urban monument near Amastris may have been part of a complex that could be described as a sanctuary of Augustus, with a targe audience not from Amastris proper, but from the Amastris chora. The fact that the extra-urban monument was carved into the rockface beside a Roman road that was cut but Gaius Iulius Aquila, an equestrian and permanent holder of the highpriesthood overseeing this syncretistic cult, has further implications. Tacitus reported a campaign in 49 CE in the Bosporus, in which one Iulius Aquila successfully led a coalition force against the uprising of Mithridates (Tac. Ann. 12.15-21). If this military commander was indeed Gaius Iulius Aquila the highpriest, the extra-urban monument may have further political significance that resembles the Ara Romae et Augusti ad confluentes Araris et Rhodani, which was built and maintained by a priesthood created by a local elite following the successful suppression of the Sugambri and their allies by Drusus (Dio Cass. 54.32.1), and served as the gathering place for the concilium of the Tres Galliae. Fishwick argues that Drusus created a federal concilium by inviting the leading men of the Gallic provinces to participate in its management and organization, so that leading men could have the opportunity to discuss mutual concerns and put for complaints against Roman authorities (Fishwick 2002, pp. 12-13). 

Session/Panel Title

Political Enculturation

Session/Paper Number

34.6

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