Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.09.06

Christina Kokkinia, Die Opramoas-Inschrift von Rhodiapolis. Euergetismus und soziale Elite in Lykien. (Antiquitas, Reihe 3, Band 40).   Bonn:  Dr. Rudolf Habelt GMBH, 2000.  Pp. xi, 274; Tab. vii, Beilage 5.  ISBN 3-7749-2970-X.  

Reviewed by Alexis D'Hautcourt, Kansai Gaidai University (Osaka) and Université Libre de Bruxelles (
Word count: 1844 words

Opramoas was an extremely rich man who lived in Lycia in the second century AD and was generous to many cities of this region. His deeds are known mainly from a very long inscription on stone found in a small city on the Turkish coast, Rhodiapolis. The length (approximately 20 columns of 100 lines each; 36 000 letters; 7260 words) and content (70 documents in this new edition: 32 decrees from the koinon of Lycia and 38 letters from different cities, from the Emperor Antoninus Pius and from one procurator) of this document are so remarkable that they attracted the French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar's attention. She made of Opramoas a secondary but recurrent character of her novel, Les Mémoires d'Hadrien. Paul Veyne too wrote some of his most brilliant pages of Le Pain et le Cirque on Opramoas, "évergète par excellence".

The inscription was discovered in 1842 and has been published several times (most notably in IGR III 739 and TAM II 905), progress being made at each new publication. Christina Kokkinia has based her new edition on the study of the archives, squeezes, drawings and notes left by the previous publishers and kept in Vienna, and she has examined the remaining fragments in situ (tables I-III show pictures of the stones in their actual state). She was able to add 115 new fragments to the previously known text. It was difficult not only to find these fragments, but also to set them at their right place inside the text (most of them are only a few letters long). This remarkable achievement is made spectacularly visible on "Beilage", extra-large loose leaves, where drawn copies of the inscription are reproduced and Kokkinia's additions to the text are set out in bold. Moreover, the available documentation for these fragments (mainly drawings) is richly illustrated in the tables at the end of the book. Whoever is interested in Opramoas, evergetism, Lycia or civic life in Roman Asia Minor will have to use Kokkinia's new text, despite some reservations about her book expressed below.

To begin with, Kokkinia provides a quick general overview of the inscription's setting (3 outside walls of a small building close to Rhodiapolis' theatre), its content, its date and its Forschungsgeschichte. She then presents the available documentation and some comments about the physical appearance, the spelling and the grammar of the document. The inscription was cut with great care; syllable division was respected, and only 13 mistakes can be attributed to the stonecutter, which is remarkable in view of the length of this inscription. The quality of the inscription justifies Kokkinia's approach: she has respected the text as it came to us, without trying to add or retract letters or to correct the inscription, unlike some of her predecessors.

From p. 17 to p. 75 comes the Greek text. Kokkinia has chosen to present her editorial comments and her agreement or disagreement with previous scholars in another section of the book, which means that the text is presented in these pages without any critical apparatus. The good side of this choice is that the monumentality of the text appears immediately, and that its reading is made easier. The bad side is that it is not easy to see what progress has been made from the previous editions and what the alternatives to Kokkinia's text are when doubt arises. Only long and frequent use will tell about the qualities and defects of this arrangement, but I fear that further research will have to be made with TAM open beside Kokkinia's book.1 From p. 76 to p. 106 comes a German translation. Not being a native German speaker, I will not comment at length on it. A translation is a first commentary, and this is the first complete translation of the inscription into German. It will be very helpful. Kokkinia has to be commended for her effort, which will benefit all scholars whatever their native tongue and students less familiar with ancient Greek.

After the translation comes the Kommentar. No commentary will please all its readers, and this one will not be an exception. Again, prolonged use alone will tell about its qualities and defects. In her commentary, organized line by line, Kokkinia has put together textual comments about her editing and her differences with previous editions, grammar and spelling comments, prosopographical information, and details of chronology or wider institutional comments. This commentary is very rich, and it will be very useful, particularly on chronology and Roman or local magistrates. For example, on several occasions, I found it illuminating on the relation between Roman taxes and local magistrates. However, all in all, it is not reader friendly and it is difficult to find one's way through it. On the other hand, it should be emphasized that when Kokkinia explains why she proposes a text different from her predecessors', she is very convincing and offers very good arguments. There is no doubt that her edition will become the reference for these passages.

Finally comes an Historical Interpretation. Almost half of it is devoted to chronological problems, and the rest concerns magistrates and civic or Lycian institutions. It is very detailed and may look dry sometimes, but here again, Kokkinia shows her strength: the inscription is made more understandable through her very precise information on the institutional frame of Opramoas' evergetism, and especially its interaction with Roman power and the koinon's administration and political life. Unfortunately, there is no summary listing all Opramoas' benefactions or the many different methods he used to negotiate and give money and buildings to politically active cities.

A bibliography and very detailed indexes to the Greek text close the volume and offer an excellent tool for further research. However, one will regret the decision not to include in the general index words "die in Zusammenhang von stilisierten Abschnitten der Ehrendekrete vorkommen" (see below why this may be a problem), and it should be noted that a few other words have been mistakenly omitted from the index.2

Opramoas' inscription is an extraordinary document on provincial life in the Roman Empire and on its elite. Kokkinia's new edition and its rich commentary will be an indispensable book for all scholars of the Roman Greek East. Nevertheless, despite all its qualities, in my view, this book suffers from some flaws.

a) Epigraphy without archaeology. Kokkinia has nicely shown how this inscription was produced with great care. It is therefore quite regrettable that she has not written more than one page about the building it was inscribed on. Even if Beilage 1 (without any indication of scale) provides three drawings with a general overview of the West, South and East sides of the building, there is no picture or any information about the architectonic decoration (the capitals or the lintel), and there is no general plan that would help us understand the chronological and topographical relation of this building to the nearby theater. Without any archaeological information, it is not even assured that the inscription and the building's construction are contemporary. The general assumption, based on the inscription and accepted by Kokkinia, that the building is Opramoas' mausoleum must stay a hypothesis (no parallel is provided).3 It is also regrettable that Kokkinia does not comment much on the different buildings Opramoas financed in different cities of Lycia. Some readers may not realize that several of the cities that benefited from Opramoas' generosity are currently being excavated or explored through archaeological surveys.

b) Greek epigraphy without Louis Robert.4 This comment does not stem from ancestor worship or founder cult, but from two methodological problems. Opramoas' inscription mentions 30 different cities besides Rome; some of them are little known. It is regrettable that no map of the region has been provided and that no general overview has been given of the geographical setting of Opramoas' activity. One of the consequences of Kokkinia's focus on chronology and institutional history is that there is not much *life* running through her book, nor much interest in realia. The second point concerns epigraphic restorations. It is Kokkinia's greatest merit that she has added more than one hundred fragments to the previously known text. These fragments are tiny, and Kokkinia had to restore many words or letters. Very honestly, in the Greek text she notes with a question mark the many places where she has some doubts. Nevertheless, one wishes that in her commentary she had more often offered parallels to the suggestions she makes. If the general sense of the passages with a question mark may be correct, readers should be aware that the original text may have been different and be careful with the text presented. Unfortunately, the incomplete index mentioned above does not help to confirm or reject her suggestions because it makes it difficult to find possible parallels within the inscription.5

c) Opramoas' inscription is remarkable because it displays 70 documents from different sources. For an inscription on stone, it has the flavor of a papyrus document. One should wonder how such a collection was gathered. It is puzzling that Opramoas does not appear once in the first person in more than 7000 words and that only one letter, which is also unique within the collection for its date and content (IV A 1-14, Doc. 14), is directly addressed to him. All other documents concern Opramoas, but their writers and addressees are various. There is no *title* or any other introduction to Opramoas' inscription. Should we imagine that Opramoas was influential and meticulous enough to request and obtain from different bodies copies of letters and decrees concerning his person, even the most trivial ones like doc. 46? This inscription raises many questions about the archiving of documents in the Roman Empire. Another issue is the editing of these documents. Kokkinia shows very effectively that the chronological sequence of the documents has been broken to put more light on Antoninus Pius' letters. These are displayed on the front side of the building and on the front architrave: Opramoas' monument is also a tribute to the Emperor's interest in the inhabitants of his realm.6 There are other traces of the editing and selection of the documents, like the formula "agathe Tyche" which has been cut from most decrees but, if correctly restored, skipped the attention of the inscription's organizer in XX B 5. One wishes that Kokkinia had explored a bit more the question of the making of Opramoas' biography, especially because Opramoas' period of activity is a flourishing time for this literary genre.

With this last criticism, one probably departs from what one can reasonably expect from an edition of an ancient document. It is a tribute to Kokkinia's work that such questions arise from the reading of her book. Some years ago, Guy Rogers wrote a stimulating and innovative monograph on imperial Ephesus after Vibius Salutaris' inscription, another spectacular Greek document from Roman Asia Minor, had been freshly republished.7 Kokkinia's new edition will certainly give occasion for similar new works of social and economic history. All scholars interested in the Roman Empire and its civic life should be thankful to her.


1.   One word about line numbering. The text is numbered by columns (I-XX), then by architectural layer (A-H starting from the top of the building), and line numbering starts afresh at each layer. Independently, all the documents (decrees and letters) are numbered from 1 to 70. Because of the new fragments, there is a discrepancy between Kokkinia's numbering and her predecessors'.
2.   E.g. Flavius Kallipos: IV C 4 and 6; for Tyche, add [XX B 5]); epideixis: VIII E 14. There is no index to the inscriptions and other documents used in the commentary.
3.   For a case where epigraphic evidence was misleading, see the customhouse of Caunos, which happens to be a fountain: SEG 14, 639 and C. Isik, Das Brunnenhaus an der Hafenagora, Ankara, 1994. Some more archaeological research on Opramoas' monument and about the buildings Opramoas offered would help to settle the issue raised by J.J. Coulton, Opramoas and the Anonymous Benefactor, JHS 107 (1987), p. 171-178. Kokkinia rejects Coulton's doubts about attributing the acts of generosity known through the damaged inscription SEG 30, 1535 (Letoon of Xanthos) to Opramoas, I still consider that circumspection must prevail in this case.
4.   Five of his works are listed in the bibliography.
5.   One example where Kokkinia is probably right will illustrate my point. In XVII B 5-6, one reads: 5 καὶ θεωρί[ας ἐν ἐπισήμοις ̣] / 6 ἡμέραις. Kokkinia comments (p. 182): (my translation) "In [[the passage]] IX G 3-4, one can read αἰσίμοις καὶ σεβασμίαις; ἐπισήμοις could concentrate the meaning of these two adjectives". None of these adjectives is very common in a calendar context (actually, LSJ mentions only Homeric passages for aisimos); the entry episemos in the index is not complete (add XVII B 2-3, where it qualifies a festival; none of its uses apposite to polis have been indexed). Fortunately, the supplement to LSJ offers a perfect parallel from Laodikeia ad Lykum: IGR IV 860. The question mark is therefore not necessary in this case, in my view. In X F 6-16, eight lines out of ten are noted with a question mark, which raises the question of the necessity of editing a text for these lines.
6.   In the absence of any title or introduction, I wonder if it would not have been better to start editing the text at this point rather than by the West side of the building. Kokkinia's starting point is in agreement with the chronology and left-right reading direction, but not with one of the monument's purposes.
7.   G. MacLean Rogers, The Sacred Identity of Ephesos. Foundation Myths of a Roman City (London and New York, 1991).

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