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The Honorary Decree for Karzoazos, Son of Attalos: A Monument for a ‘New Man’?

Emyr Dakin

The Graduate Center, CUNY

Although the first edition of the Olbian posthumous honorary decree to Karzoazos, son of Attalos, was published well over a century ago (Henzen 1876), it has garnered little attention, usually only referred to when the honorand’s name is included among inscriptions that contain Iranian names (Podossinov 2009). Latyschev’s edition of the text dated Karzoazos’ decree to the “Imperial period,” after Olbia had been destroyed by the Thracian invasion of Burebista in the 50s B.C.E. (IosPE I² 39). According to Dio Chrysostom, the city was rebuilt post-invasion and the citizenry replenished by the acceptance of indigenous people into the citizenry (36.11). In this paper, I argue that the decree is important evidence of both the expansion of the citizenry and an inclusive notion of civic identity.

Karzoazos’s Iranian name is not the only indicator of his new status. Much more important is the lack of reference to the honorand’s family and ancestors – details typically mentioned in such decrees. The salience of the absence of any family references, I propose, allows the orator who composed Karzoazos’ decree to cast the city and its past benefactors as the honorand’s surrogate family. At the same time, the orator deflects any reaction of envy at, what could be called metaphorically, a new man’s success. He accomplishes this, as I show in the second section of the paper, by portraying the honorand’s civic duties as painful and burdensome. Finally, I examine the term philanthropia, which appears in line 21 of the decree, in the context of a new man. Although the expression has been associated with the encroachment of Roman power (Grey 2012), I argue that Olbia’s decision to monumentalize philanthropia had special importance in a city where civic identity could not be characterized as a simple dichotomy between Greek and barbarian.

Although the allusion to an honorand’s parents was a standard element of Greek honorary degrees, contemporary rhetorical handbooks offered a strategy to adopt if an honorand’s ancestors were of little or no consequence. Theon’s Progymnasmata, for example, suggests that a man’s city could fill a surrogate role (8.110). The honorary decree to Karzoazos is a unique example of this approach. The orator not only employs a metaphor that is commonly associated with blood lineage to incorporate Karzoazos into the city’s ancestry of benefactors, but also exploits the notion of experience, toil, and pain to efface any idea of inherited virtue. The same strategy, I maintain, serves to negate any envy that might arise at the success of what could be called a new man.

Although some honorary decrees depict their honorand’s activities as both painful and burdensome, these are for living persons (Wörrle 1996). The rhetorical handbooks corroborate the notion that envy was not associated with the dead when they assert that “envy is a rivalry with the living” (Theon, 110), underlining the singular attempt by the orator of Karzoazos’ posthumous decree to ward off any resentment felt at a new man’s success. Furthermore, no other Olbian decree shows evidence of such a strategy. The orator’s particular approach to introducing the honorand strengthens the argument that the honorand was a new man.

Finally, this paper examines the term philanthropia, as used in the decree. Grey suggests that the celebration of philanthropia towards all men, in place of pride in Greek ethnicity, was part of the ideological process by which civic Greeks reached an accommodation with Roman dominance at the end of the Hellenistic period (Grey 2012). However, I argue that the term is in keeping with the rest of the decree, extolling a man because of his political accomplishments – despite the nature of his background. Moreover, I also show that for all the cities of the North shore of the Black Sea, there was never a simple dichotomy between Greek and barbarian. The epigraphical record suggests a more complex relationship between the indigenous and Greek peoples – one which the monumental decree to Karzoazos illustrates.

Session/Panel Title

Monumental Expressions of Political Identity

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