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A Golden Treaty for Philip V

Brad L Cook

University of Mississippi

An unpublished Greek inscription at the University of Mississippi, acquired by David M. Robinson sometime before 1958, lacks, frustratingly, any information about its modern history. Its importance for ancient history, however, is revealed through the names of Philip V, the Lysimacheians, and the key clauses of their treaty of 202 BC. What was the function, though, of a 40-gram gold tablet, the size of your palm, inscribed with the epitome of a treaty? My goal in this talk is to make known the existence of this artifact, discuss its physical and epigraphical features, and to present an answer to the question of its function. The tablet is, I will argue, a gift from the Lysimacheians to Philip, intended as a token of thanks and as a handheld reminder of their oath to aid him, and of his oath to aid them.

The physical characteristics of the tablet are striking: it is solid gold, the lettering is carefully executed with decorative “dot-serifing,” and repoussé emblems of helmeted Athena and Zeus’ thunderbolt frame the text at top and bottom, respectively. The alliance, briefly mentioned by Polybius (15.23.9) is known epigraphically from fragments found at Dion (Oikonomos; cf. Hatzopoulos, Pandermalis). The well-known importance of Lysimacheia (Walbank, Will) has been enriched and expanded in recent historical and archaeological studies (Ma, Sayar, Lichtenberger, Nieswandt, and Salzmann). It is, however, an object from Lysimacheia published in 1955 (Robert), a marble shield, 33 cm in diameter, that reveals the circumstances under which the gold tablet was made. The shield, damaged at top, bears a club across the center with [ΒΑΣΕΙΛΕΩ]Σ above and ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ below, an unmistakeable parallel to coinage of Philip V, but on a large scale. The original context of the marble shield, possibly part of a larger monument, has yet to be discovered, but the extant text and iconography reveal a desire at Lysimacheia to portray Philip, a descendant of Herakles, as its mighty ally, armed to protect the city. The gold tablet, marked by the image of Athena, who was dear to the Lysimacheians since their foundation by Lysimachos, and bearing Zeus’ thunderbolt, just as on Philip’s coins, embodies this same desire, but executed on a personal and portable scale.

This gold token of the promises made in the treaty worked for only a few years. At the resumption of hostilities with Rome in early 200, Philip drew all his forces back to defend Macedonia, including the garrison at Lysimacheia. Without these Macedonaians troops, Lysimacheia was sacked in 199/8, was occupied by Antiochus III in 196 and became subject to his son as governor, and then, when abandoned by him in 190, was sacked again, this time, by Gauls. The damaged marble shield and now also this gold tablet are evidence of the failed foreign policy of the oft-beleaguered Lysimacheians.

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Epigraphy and History

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