Van Bremen, ‘A Hellenistic List of Donors?’ (London, February 4th)

(Paper given at the Ancient History Seminar, London, February 4th, 2010. Brief report by Naomi Carless Unwin.)

‘A Hellenistic List of Donors (?)’
Riet van Bremen

Dr van Bremen’s paper was concerned with a puzzling inscription from Stratonikeia in Karia (SEG 55, 1145). Unlike the seminars of the previous weeks, which have been dealing with specific themes or ‘types’ of inscription, she took what she referred to as the ‘minimalist’ approach; trying to learn as much as possible from one text. The inscription in question does not obviously belong to any particular category, nor have any direct parallels in the ancient world. On its original publication by M. Ç. Şahin in 2005 (EA 38, pp. 9-12) it was classified as a ‘Hellenistic list of donors’; yet, as he admits, ‘I do not understand the inscription either, because there is no intelligible sentence in it, although there are no vocabulary problems involved, and the inscription is easy to read.’ Van Bremen was hoping to comprehend something about the nature of the decree through close examination of the text, yet also its possible archaeological context; she was hoping to reveal the value of analysing in depth certain unusual texts.

The Text
The text is inscribed on the left front side of an architectural block in two columns. It follows a standardised pattern; thus to take the example of lines 3-4: [τοῖς ἔ]χουσι τὰ Ἱεροκλείους τοῦ Ἑρμοφάν/[του] Ῥο(δίου) δεδωκότος < ξ’ ἡμέρα καὶ νύξ. The first thirty six lines of the text follow this example, ‘those who have the things/property/possessions of (name) who has given (amount) drachmae, day and night.’ From line 9, the amounts recorded change, and we find groupings of names; however, the total amounts consistently add up to around 60 drachmae, before we again find the phrase ἡμέρα καὶ νύξ. The final grouping differs slightly: those who have the things of Diodoros son of Muonidos, of Rhodes, who has given ten drachmae καὶ τὸ εἰς τὸ τέμενος τῆς Δήμητρος (ll.44-46). It seems that the list was awarding someone the right to do something, or have access to something ‘day and night’; the 60 drachmae figure also seems significant, and the groupings of names perhaps act as a syndicate, who are collectively awarded the right. However, the anonymity of the τοῖς in the inscription suggests that those who were entitled did not necessarily remain constant.

After line 46 there is then a space, before we find a reference to ‘those outside the gates’, and then three months, followed by numbers. Van Bremen suggests that this part of the text is a calendar cycle, and refers to the right conferred by the above list to do or have access to something on certain dates. She draws a parallel with a text from Tegea in Arkadia, which concerns the rights of pasturage in the temple of Athena Alea in the late fifth or early 4th century BC (IG V, 2 3); it is stipulated that ‘a foreigner passing through has the right to pasturage for one draft animal during one day and one night.’ She thus proposes that the list could be ensuring rights of pasturage or access to something, perhaps water.

The Stone
The two columns of text are inscribed on a marble block that was found to the south of Stratonikeia, during the construction of the new road between Yatağan and Milas. Its dimensions are rather unusual: length: 2.67m; height: 0.90m; depth: 0.60m. The right hand side of the block is uninscribed, and roughly worked, and Şahin suggests that this may have been where a corner block was attached. This leads to questions of where the block came from; Şahin proposes that it belonged to the temple of Demeter, yet van Bremen points out that the proportions make this unlikely. Rather, she draws attention to the potential compatibility of the block with the structure that is also located in the south of the city, called the ‘nymphaeum,’ where the remaining balustrade blocks measure between 2-4 m in length; this would perhaps add weight to her suggestion that the inscription is related to water rights.

Şahin dated the text to the period of Rhodian domination in Stratonikeia (188 – 167 BC), both because of the number of Rhodians listed in the text, and because the letter forms fit such a dating. However, based on her analysis of the letter forms, van Bremen challenged such a date; looking at the broken bar alpha, the full size omega, and the right hasta on the nu reaching down to the line, she preferred a date in the second half of the second century BC. She also notes that the Rhodian calendar month in IIC has been adapted, which might further suggest the period after Rhodian domination.

Van Bremen proposes that the interpretation of the text would depend on the architectural context; thus if her suggestion that the block came from the wall of the ‘nymphaeum’ is correct, it seems that the text relates to water rights. The use of water was carefully circumscribed in a number of cities in the ancient world, and often there were restrictions on access. The text in question could thus give ‘those who have something’ the right to use the water supply. The role of the individuals who initially seem to have donated money is not clear; van Bremen tentatively suggests that they may have been involved in the initial funding of the monument, which may have dated to the period of Rhodian domination, or just after (hence the large number of Rhodians listed). How their privilege was then conferred is not known, and indeed exactly what this privilege was remains unclear; we also do not know why people living in the city would have limited access to water. While many questions still remain over any exact interpretation of the text, van Bremen’s paper demonstrates how a close analysis of the text and its potential architectural context can offer many interesting lines of thought for a historian, making such a puzzling inscription somewhat less of a mystery.

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