RSRC Workshop 2011 December

Epigraphy and Urban Culture

Ghent 14 December 2011

Location: Convention Center "Het Pand". Rector Vermeylen Hall
Onderbergen 1, 9000 Gent
( for travel directions)

Participation is free, but for practical reasons please register by mail to


14:00 Welcome

14:15 Jonathan Prag (Merton College, Oxford), A new bronze honorific from late Hellenistic Sicily (Halaesa), in two copies (click here for abstract)

14:45 Christina Williamson (RUGroningen), The rationality of civic oaths in ritual space in the Hellenistic polis (click here for abstract)

15:15 Discussion

15:30 Coffee break

16:00 John Patterson (University of Cambirdge), The Worshippers of Diana and Antinous at Lanuvium (ILS 7212) (click here for abstract)

16:30 Lindsey Vandevoorde (Ghent University), Respectability on display. Alba and fasti of the *Augustales in context of collegial hierarchy (click here for abstract)

17:00 Sebastian Schmidt Hofner (Heidelberg), Von der Kurie zu den Notabeln: Patronage und die Transformation oligarchischer Herrschaft in den spätantiken Städten" (click here for abstract)

17:30 discussion


A new bronze honorific from late Hellenistic Sicily (Halaesa), in two copies.

Excavations at the Hellenistic/Roman site of Halaesa (mod. Tusa, ME, Sicily) have brought to light a remarkable bronze honorific, probably of the first century BC. The inscription, which is in Greek and honours a local individual, was found in a destruction layer of a building (probably a private house) in the ancient city. Uniquely, both copies of the text (i.e. that for public display, and that presented to the honorand) were found together. The honours were decreed by an otherwise unknown koinon of the priests of Apollo, and the text presents a considerable number of unusual and interesting features, all of which are however relatively comprehensible within the orbit of late Hellenistic / Roman Sicily.

The rationality of civic oaths in ritual space in the Hellenistic polis

Civic oath-taking in Antiquity may be seen as a rational device that bound an individual to his polis through a public vow of commitment. Oaths typically reflect an important turning-point for the polis, whether a political decision or a social or economic crisis, in which the constitution was at stake. Performed before the entire community, the oath ritual cut across the many political, religious, and social layers as it put the essence of the city at its very center (PLESCIA 1970, 60; BEDERMANN 2001, 68). While the ritual performance of the oath embedded the idea of the city in the hearts of those who witnessed it, the inscription of the oath in stone secured its position in the collective memory for generations to come.

Yet besides political vows, oaths were first and foremost religious invocations, with Zeus, Ge and Helios typically at the top of the list of the gods called upon to witness the oath (Connolly 2007, 204-205). The inclusion of the earth and the sun shows the importance of place in the real world for these oaths, and the locations where they were inscribed. The sites selected for these inscriptions are therefore highly significant, as they mark the critical spots in civic and ritual space. Examples from Crimean Chersonesos (IOSPE I2 401), Mylasa (I. LABRAUNDA 47) and Pergamon (IvP 13) in Asia Minor, show that different kinds of spaces were employed to effectuate the oath at different geographical scales.

This paper argues that besides their content, the ritual locations of these oath inscriptions were crucial to their role in eliciting rational cooperation among all the members of a community. Civic oath-taking was the kind of joint action that strengthened the cohesion of the community. According to Chwe (2001), public ritual is a vital pre-condition for such rational cooperation, exposing the event to witnesses in spaces that facilitate mutual eye contact, such as ‘inward-facing circles’. This paper evaluates civic oaths as ‘rational rituals’ in light of their content and in view of the locations of their inscriptions. By analyzing their spatial contexts, with regard to public and sacred, their proximity to other monuments, but also with respect to their visibility, it will be clear how ritualized space was mobilized to effectuate the oath.

The Worshippers of Diana and Antinous at Lanuvium (ILS 7212)

The paper presents a new look at one of the key documents for understanding the collegia of the Roman principate, and in particular their contributions to sociability and to the commemoration of the dead: the inscription of the Worshippers of Diana and Antinous at Lanuvium (ILS 7212). It places the inscription in its local context, relating it to what we know about the history of urban and rural settlement in the vicinity of Lanuvium, just off the Via Appia some 20 miles south-east of Rome, as well as highlighting the more general implications of the document and commenting on some particular points of potential interest.

Respectability on display. Alba and fasti of the *Augustales in context of collegial hierarchy

Although the relevance and broader implications of collegial hierarchies for the societal position of the individual collegiatus are widely accepted, the debate on the associations of the *Augustales remains limited in this respect. Some inscriptions listing names of magistrates in office (so-called fasti), as well as hierarchical membership lists of the association(known as alba) are preserved.Alba and fasti are recordings of the *Augustales acting as a group, carefully orchestrating how they were perceived by the public and presenting themselves as a well-organized association within a semi-official context.The challenge is to narrow the scope of the full association as seen in these lists to that of the single Augustalis. Do these alba and fasti complement ‘normal’ epigraphic records and how?Can indications of a seemingly formalized hierarchy specific to a certain timeframe and place serve as a wider context?

In the past, some lists have mistakenly been attributed to the *Augustales. As such, it is necessary to determine exactly which inscriptions can be counted as alba or fasti of the *Augustales first. To my knowledge, only four inscriptions, two from Liternum, one from Ostia and one from TrebulaSuffenas, comply with the necessary conditions.

Second, an analysis of the information these inscriptions offer is in order. What does (or doesn’t) this tell us concerning hierarchy among *Augustales? What problematicelements do we encounter, especially concerning terminology? Do these valuable documents allow a – perhaps unique – insight in mechanisms that can’t be deduced from individual inscriptions? What is missing from the lists that personal epigraphy can remedy? In short, what type of compatibility can be seen between the typologically different inscriptions?

Third, a short comparison will be ventured. Are there similarities to be seen with other municipal decrees, alba or fasti known from epigraphy – notably those of professional associations?

Von der Kurie zu den Notabeln: Patronage und die Transformation oligarchischer Herrschaft in den spätantiken Städten".

An influential position in recent research on the transformation of the Greco-Roman city in Late Antiquity holds that characteristic developments of late antique urbanism such as the loss of classical monumentality, the infringement and abandonment of public spaces and other notorious ‚markers of urban decline' need to be attributed to a contemporary institutional change in city government, the decline of the curiae and the corresponding rise of the so-called government by notables. Even though this view has provoked fierce criticism one fundamental aspect of the problem, the reasons for this institutional change, have not been adressed in the recent debate. Traditionally, the explanation was sought in the socio-economic decline of the curial order. But more than three decades of scholarship have left no doubt that the fate of the curial order was much more complex and that the decline of the curiae postdates that of classical urbanism in many parts of the empire while Greco-Roman cityscapes were maintained in other parts long after the rise of the government by notables. In search for an answer which takes this new picture into account the paper will argue (1) that the establishment of the government by notables must be linked with a phenomenon not noticed so far in this context, the rise of the defensor civitatis to the position of the most powerful magistrate in the cities in the later fourth century; that (2) this development was so decisive because it brought the widening and increasingly dysfunctional dissociation between the governmental power of the curiales and the social power of an ever-expanding non-curial elite of locally based honorati (including the defensor) to a point which demanded a response; and (3) that the response promoted by the curial and the non-curial municipal elites alike was the etablishment of assemblies of notables as governing bodies of the cities which would re-integrate into political decision-making all socially powerful figures within a city, be they curiales, honorati, resident imperial officers or, later, the bishops. In a concluding part, the paper will follow the development of the government by notables down to the sixth century and ask why in some regions of the former empire it survived while in others it was superseded by new ways of city government. The explanation which will be offered may ex negativo support the proposed theory about the origins of the government by notables.