Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.04.07

William Tabbernee, Peter Lampe, Pepouza and Tymion: The Discovery and Archaeological Exploration of a Lost Ancient City and an Imperial Estate.   Berlin/New York:  Walter de Gruyter, 2008.  Pp. xx, 338.  ISBN 9783110194555.  $138.00.  

Reviewed by Tommaso Gnoli, University of Bologna (
Word count: 1305 words

The origin of this book was the discovery of a bilingual inscription. The marble slab on which the inscription is engraved was acquired by the Usak Archaeological Museum in 2000, where it was viewed by William Tabbernee, one of the most eminent scholars in early Christian studies, and particularly in Montanism. The inscription was a petition addressed by peasants from an imperial estate to the emperor Septimius Severus. The text of this inscription will be added to the dossiers regarding peasant complaints assembled by Tor Hauken ten years ago (Petition and Response: an Epigraphic Study of Petition to Roman Emperors, 181-249, Athens 1998). The extraordinary significance of this text does not reside in the petition itself, but in one of the two toponyms cited in it: the petition was sent from colonis Tymiorum et Simoensium (ll. 10-11).

Tymion, together with Pepouza, was the birthplace of Montanism. It is the very place where, according to the prophetic utterances by Montanus, Priscilla and Maximilla, the "New Jerusalem" would descend on the world. The more famous and important of the two toponyms was Pepouza, an episcopal seat until the 7th century and beyond. The obscure toponym of Tymion was cited only by the anti-Montanist Apollonius, in Eusebius' Historia ecclesiastica (V 18.2); then it disappeared from the historical record.

Much research has been dedicated to the identification of this double cradle of Montanism, beginning with the pioneering works by Ramsey. Further investigation was prompted by some peculiar early Christian inscriptions from central Phrygia, commonly identified as "Montanist" (W. Tabbernee, Montanist inscriptions and testimonia: epigraphic sources illustrating the history of Montanism, Patristic monograph series 16, Macon: Mercer University Press 1997).

The discovery of this new inscription and the very precise identification of the spot in which the inscription was discovered have put an end to this issue, allowing a reliable identification of the very important site of Pepouza.

A German-Turkish-American archaeological expedition is now at work under the direction of Peter Lampe. The second part of the book reports on the first four seasons of digging in Pepouza (2001-04).

The inscription from Tymion is bilingual, Greek (5 lines), and Latin (10 lines) and fragmentary. The text is inscribed in a pseudo-aedicula, the Greek lines in the tympanum and the frame, the Latin ones in the epigraphic field. The Greek lines contain details about the publication of the text: the original had been hung in the colonnade of the Baths of Trajan in Rome. The imperial titles allow us to date the text to between 205 and 208 A.D. The petition of the tenant farmers complains about unlawful exactions, and asks the procurator to send the question to the governor of the province of Asia. This inscription was published by Hauken et al. in "Epigraphica Anatolica" 2003 (cf. p. 54 n. 16, where the authors of the book speak of "lack of collegial courtesy and professional ethics shown with the premature publication of this new inscription from Phrygia"). Discrepancies between the two editions are minimal, and do not influence the meaning of the text. Only a mysterious cluster of letters found in line 6 (the first Latin line), "Aug ADPEDIPATA dominis" etc., is problematic. Hauken was not able to solve the difficulty with this expression, while the current editors suggest "AD PED(eplana) I(n) PA(la)T(in)A (sc. domo) = "in front of the ground floor in the palatine palace complex". This solution, however, is much too complicated to be convincing, in my opinion.

The book is a well printed trilingual publication. The twelve chapters offer the English and German texts in two columns, side-by-side. Footnotes are in English in the chapters written by William Tabbernee (n° 1-5), in German in those written by Peter Lampe (n° 6-12). The Turkish texts, without any footnotes, follow each chapter. The correspondence between English and German is perfect. The reviewer does not know Turkish. The quality of the illustrations is generally good. However, as far as the pictures are concerned, the method adopted to display them is regrettable: all illustrations are numbered sequentially and provided with the number of the chapter and number of the picture (e.g. Fig.12.17). The pictures are in color and in black and white. For obvious typographic reasons, the color pictures are grouped in final tables, but their references do not change, so the reader is often obliged to search throughout the book or at the end. Some rare errors make searching even more difficult (e.g. at p. 184: "Figs. 5.2 and 14.1" but fig. 14.1 does not exist). Two big maps are included at the end of the volume (n° 13.1 and 13.2).

The Introduction is by both authors. William Tabbernee wrote the first five chapters, while Peter Lampe contributed chapters 6-12. The division between the two authors corresponds to a sharp division in content. Tabbernee's chapters deal with Montanism, and with the geography and history of Roman Phrygia. Lampe's chapters are reports of the archaeological expeditions. The two parts of the book are thus not closely linked with each other. The historical and epigraphic chapters are centered on Montanism and related epigraphy; the excavations of the huge city of Pepouza have not shown any evident connection with Montanism so far, but attest a deep Christian faith widely diffused in the area (see above).

The inclusion of a full history of the studies about the siting of Pepouza and Tymion (chap. 2 and 3) is useful, but the presention of the material in a chronicle-like scheme is open to criticism. This produces an unnecessarily long discussion, full of completely useless details (e.g., the visits by Tabbernee to the Usak Archaeological Museum July 19-21, 2000; all the visits to many different places previously identified with Pepouza; and the lengthy report of a wrong hypothesis about the origin of the stone described at pp. 85-107).

As far as the archaeological reports are concerned, the description of the donkey path which linked the city with the big eastern marble quarry is very interesting. The path crossed a deep canyon and went along the Ulubey river, following a well-defined route. Sometimes it was wide enough to allow two loaded donkeys to pass one another, but sometimes the route was divided into two paths. Above the donkey path a clay pipeline brought water to the city: "positioned higher than the river, the aqueduct was also able to irrigate areas within the territory of Pepouza that were elevated above the riverbank" (p. 165). On the canyon slopes, many graffiti depicting crosses were discovered.

The huge monastery carved into the rock is difficult to date. The presence of Byzantine graffiti and analyses of C14 confirm a dating compatible with the literary sources: "the monastery was inhabited at least until the 8th century and, according to C14 dating of a fragment of a wooden least until the second half of the 9th century C.E." (p. 204). The monastery complex was structured on three floors, with at least 63 rooms. Traces of various woodwork show that the complex was destroyed in a fire. The central room has a half dome; it stems from a natural grotto and was higher than all other rooms at level A. Level B was a row of at least 26 rooms, while level C is smaller, with only 18 rooms. This structure was reused after being abandoned by the monks, but with a continuous deterioration of the complex.

The discovery of ancient Pepouza opens new perspectives on early Christianity and on Montanism in particular. The four campaigns directed by Peter Lampe have revealed the remains of a Roman bridge, probably of the Severan period, a square building, several villas, and a huge monastery carved in the limestone rock on a slope near the city. While this is a good start, we remain far from having a general picture of the extensive archaeological site of Pepouza.

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