Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.09.47

Stephen Mitchell, David French (ed.), The Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Ankara (Ancyra), Vol. I: From Augustus to the end of the third century AD. Vestigia, Bd 62.   München:  Verlag C. H. Beck, 2012.  Pp. ix, 523.  ISBN 9783406621901.  €118.00.  

Reviewed by Gregory Rowe, University of Victoria, Canada (

Ankara is home to the bilingual inscription of Augustus’ Res Gestae, and to so many bilingual and Latin inscriptions that, though it was a Greek city, it has the overall linguistic profile of a Roman veteran colony (22%; pp. 27-31). In antiquity, Ankara was also home to Galatians. This magnificent volume, for which the editors propose the abbreviation I.Ankara, is the definitive publication of the Greek and Latin inscriptions of high-imperial Ankara. It is also an invitation to think about what Ankara was, and, in particular, how to imagine its Galatian population in the absence of any expression in Celtic.1

I.Ankara has exceptional didactic potential. It contains 314 inscriptions, 31 published for the first time, and two anepigraphic figural reliefs (no. 155 i and ii). Many of the chief epigraphical genres are represented—long Greek decrees (nos. 141, 143), inscriptions with Roman careers (nos. 35-70, 156-90), private epitaphs (nos. 207-315)—in addition to the Res Gestae (no. 1). There are also photographs of inscriptions, and photographs of squeezes are available on the website of the British Institute in Ankara.2 I.Ankara will also be useful for teaching because of the way the editors have apportioned material between their general introduction, which offers a synthetic “history from inscriptions” (pp. 1-36), and their commentaries, which seek to bring out “the particular circumstances that led to the inscription being set up in Ankara on a particular occasion” (pp. 63-5). Each commentary is like a miniature seminar in historical epigraphy, where the editors ask more questions than they answer, engage in dialogue with other scholars, and allow themselves to speculate. An example of the editors’ methods is the commentary on I.Ankara 157, the gravestone of an unfortunate tribunus laticlavius who served in two legionary detachments on L. Verus’ Parthian campaign—the very vector that brought the Antonine plague to the empire—and died at age twenty-one. Mitchell and French comment, “The group responsible for setting up the gravestone is simply described as ‘his people,’ sui. These were surely fellow officers or soldiers, not family members. Ursus had evidently only been transferred to his post for a short time, and this curt reference reflects the fact that he had not had time to establish a close relationship with any individual fellow officers or soldiers.” Students in a Roman epigraphy class could work from the online squeezes, prepare transcriptions, translations, and commentaries, and then compare their work with that of Mitchell and French.

What was Ankara? During the hellenistic period, Mitchell doubts whether there was a polis (p. 17) or even a settlement (p. 2) at Ankara. All we really have to go by is Strabo, who called Ankara a fortress (phrourion) of the Tectosages, while calling Tavium in the territory of the Trocmi and Pessinus in the territory of the Tolistobogii emporia (Strabo 12.5/566-8; p. 3). The first structure, or institution, known from Ankara after Galatia was willed to the Romans in 25 B.C.E. is the Temple of the God Augustus and the Goddess Rome, with its famous inscriptions: the Latin and Greek versions of the Res Gestae and two lists of temple priests and their benefactions (nos. 1, 2, 4). Mitchell and French offer a radically revised chronology of the temple, based on the work of A. Coşkun. Formerly it was thought that the temple was built to support the Res Gestae, probably about 19 C.E., and that the first priest list was begun in that year. But Coşkun has shown that the last of four Roman governors named in the priest list, (T. Helvius) Basila, straddled the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, not Tiberius and Caligula as formerly thought. This produces the following chronology: 5/4 B.C.E., first priest; 2/1 B.C.E., Pylaemenes son of King Amyntas (the last Galatian king) “made available the place where the Sebasteion is”; 1 B.C.E./1 C.E., Albiorix son of Ateporix (another Galatian dynast) dedicated the cult statues of Caesar and Iulia Augusta; ca. 1-10 C.E., the temple was constructed; 14 C.E., the Res Gestae and the priest list were inscribed. Mitchell and French have also noticed that the surface of the temple was cut back before the Res Gestae were inscribed, meaning that the Res Gestae were not part ot the original design.

A precisely parallel sequence of events can now be seen at Sardis, thanks to P. Thonemann’s spectacular publication of a fragment of the Res Gestae from Sardis.3 In 5 B.C.E. Sardis sent an embassy to congratulate Augustus on assuming the consulship and leading his adoptive son Gaius into the Forum to assume the toga virilis, and dedicated a cult-image of Gaius in “the temple of his father.” Two decades later, we now know, Sardis inscribed a Greek translation of the Res Gestae on what was almost certainly a wall of the temple of Augustus.

As for the Res Gestae themselves (no. 1), Mitchell and French modestly say that their purpose is to record what can be seen and to measure degradation since plaster casts were taken in 1882. They provide photographs, diplomatic texts, and edited texts, but for translations and commentary they refer readers to Scheid, J. 2007, Res gestae divi Augusti. Hauts faits du divin Auguste (Paris), and Cooley, A. 2009, Res gestae divi Augusti. Text, Translation, and Commentary (Cambridge, UK). At Res Gestae 12.1, they rightly prefer Mommsen’s restoration (“[senatus consulto eodem tempor]e”) to Scheid’s (“[ex senatus auctoritat]e”): an embassy of senators would be sent directly “by senatorial decree,” not indirectly “according to the terms of a senatorial decree.”4 This improvement makes Mitchell and French’s the best available text of the Res Gestae, and their unfussy edited Latin text, with column and line numbers as well as chapter and sentence numbers, seems destined (designed?) to be widely reproduced (pp. 90-5).

Augustan Ankara thus emerges as a sort of temple state, in which the sons of Galatian dynasts have become priests of the imperial cult, and the priests sponsor separate spectacles and distributions at Ankara, Pessinus, and [Ta]vium, each of which is the seat of a tribe (interestingly, only cities of northern Galatia appear). Though Ankara had long been home to resident Romans (four priests with Roman names in no.2; no. 207), its identity as a community where Latin was spoken seems really to have begun with the Flavians, who attached Cappadocia to Galatia, established the Euphrates as the frontier of the empire, and stationed legions at Setala, Melitene, Samosata, and Zeugma, thus making Ankara the throughpoint for troop movements between Europe and the East (pp. 22-31). This identity is symbolized by an honorific statue to a centurion of legio IV Scythica (Zeugma) decorated by Vespasian and Domitian, which was erected by the “collegium veteranorum qui Ancyrae consistunt” (no. 164). Similarly, a Latin gravestone commemorates a member of the equites singulares Augusti, the emperor’s cavalry guard, who apparently died while Caracalla was passing through Ankara in 215 C.E. (no. 182).

At the same time, Ankara’s position as a crossroads and the imperial visits gave rise to some of its most characteristically Greek forms of public life and epigraphy (pp. 20-22, 27-31). Trajan’s visit in 113-114 C.E., for example, launched the career of C. Iulius Severus, who served as “host to the armies overwintering in the city and sent them on as they journeyed through to the war against the Parthians,” and was honoured in five surviving Greek inscriptions over the course of his career (nos. 72-6). The editors remark that Severus seems to have served as sebastophant, high priest, archon, agonothete, and agoranomos simultaneously during Trajan’s visit; the use of aorist participles rather than nouns may indicate that these were functions he performed rather than formal offices.

Ankara was a Greek city (pp. 16-18). It called itself a polis in the Augustan priest list and “the metropolis of Galatia of the Tektosagoi Ankyranoi Sebastenoi” on a statue base to M. Aurelius or L. Verus (no. 10). Yet it was always a particular sort of Greek city, whose inhabitants could also call themselves the “Sebastenoi Tektosages” (nos. 51 and 87), emphasizing their Roman and Galatian identities.

Who were the Galatians? Mitchell and French distinguish three broad groups. First, there was the “provincial aristocracy,” which advertised descent from pre-Roman Galatian dynasts, was fully hellenized, and reached the heights of the senatorial hierarchy (pp. 14-15). They are represented by the Augustan priests of the imperial cult and, a century later, by Iulius Severus, “descendant of King Deiotarus and of the tetrarchs Amyntas son of Brigatos and Amyntas son of Duitalos and of Attalus the king of Asia” (no. 72). Second, from the mid-second century on, there was a new generation of aristocrats, who also embraced Greek paideia and who held equestrian civil and military posts (pp. 18-22). They are represented by many of the Greek gravestones, where they display a distinct mortuary culture and an affective and ethical vocabulary that advertised a kind of bourgeois respectability. Their most prominent member was Sempronius Aquila, who entered the senate after serving as ab epistulis Graecis (no. 111). Mitchell and French draw particular attention to Aquila’s epitaph for a freedman/foster-child, in which they say that “The intensity of the relationship is marked by the superlative adjective φίλτατος, ‘most beloved’. The epitaph signifies an unusual emotional bond between Aquila and the fostered freedman” (no. 112). Others may think that the relationship was simply erotic.

Finally, feeding the second group, there was the “core of civic society,” who grasped at Greek culture, but were also drawn to Latin and the rest of Roman culture (pp. 18-20, 27-31). They are found in the membership of an association offering cult to an emperor identified as Antoninus Pius (no. 8). The first 72 of the 92 listed are Roman citizens; the rest have single names and patronymics. Of these names, only 8 are Galatian, 75 are Greek, and a surprising 77 are Roman. The epitaphs of this group tell a similar story: they are in Latin (nos. 208-14), or bilingual (nos. 215-18), or in Greek with Latin formulae (θεοῖς καταχθονίοις for Dis Manibus, nos. 219-28), or in shaky Greek (nos. 314 and 315). These men and women, Mitchell and French suggest, spoke a Celtic language from birth. In other words, it is through their use of Latin and Roman names, and their imperfect Greek, that we can discern Galatians.

Certainly there were groups who are barely visible in the epigraphic record. The only obvious Christians in I.Ankara are Repentina and Eucharistus, from a third-century epitaph (no. 68). Yet when Apollinaris of Hierapolis visited Ankara in the third quarter of the second century he found a church (where Montanism was preached: Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.16.4, discussed on p. 5). But the most intriguing piece of evidence that may possibly reflect Christianity at Ankara is a previously unpublished fragment of an architrave and frieze dated to the Severan period on stylistic grounds (no. 155 ii). The frieze shows a bear facing left and an unbound woman with a child clinging to her facing right, apparently fending off another beast. Mitchell and French write, “It is tempting…to identify the victims as Christians.” If they are, the frieze takes its place among the earliest images of Christians that we possess.


1.   I.Ankara replaces Bosch, E., 1967, Quellen zur Geschichte der Stadt Ankara im Altertum, (Ankara: Turkish Historical Society, Publication Series 7 no. 46), and French, D. 2003, Roman, Late Roman and Byzantine Inscriptions of Ankara: A Selection (Ankara). The Epigraphische Datenbank zum antiken Kleinasien, containing published texts of inscriptions from Galatia, seems nowhere to be mentioned. For recent publications of the coins and monuments of Roman Ankara, see Arslan, M. 2004, Galatya Krallığı ve Roma dönemi Ankyra şehir sikkeleri — The Coins of Galatian Kingdom and the Roman Coinage of Ancyra in Galatia (Ankara); Kadioğlu, M., K. Görkay, and S. Mitchell. 2011. Roman Ancyra (Istanbul). I.Ankara vol. 2 “will be devoted to inscriptions from late antiquity and the Byzantine period (about 200 texts) and inscriptions relating to Ankara and its citizens found outside the city,” and will contain a concordance and indexes of linguistic notabilia (p. VIII). French’s corpus of the milestones of Galatia will soon be available online (p. 6 n. 11).
2.  At writing, the collection is not searchable by I.Ankara number, and most items are on restricted access.
3.   Thonemann, P. 2012. "A Copy of Augustus' Res Gestae at Sardis." Historia 61.3:282-8. The importance of the Sardis copy is twofold: it is the first known from outside Galatia, reopening the question of publication; it differs from the Greek translation at Ankara and Apollonia, indicating that translations were local.
4.   For the force of the preposition ex see Badian, E. 1980, “Notes on the Laudatio of Agrippa,” CJ 76:97-109, at 99-100.

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