Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2015.10.36 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.10.36

Thibaut Boulay, Anne-Valérie Pont, Chalkètôr en Carie. Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 48.   Paris:  Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 2014.  Pp. 168.  ISBN 9782877543088.  €30.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Jeremy LaBuff, Northern Arizona University (

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

It is remarkable that despite a publication record that would humble even the most successfully garrulous among us, Jeanne and Louis Robert uncovered enough evidence to considerably outpace this productivity. Chalkètôr en Carie represents the second attempt in recent years to remedy the unpublished state of the findings that now reside in the Fonds Louis Robert at the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.1 Boulay and Pont take as the focus of their work three squeezes of inscriptions discovered by the Roberts in 1953. They aim to show how these documents shed new light on the history of the region during the Hellenistic and Imperial periods and deepen our knowledge of the changing dynamic between the imperial government and Roman subjects in Asia Minor.

The structure of the work seems a homage to the coherent if roundabout way that Robert elucidated the ancient world in his own writings. Chapter 1 begins by establishing an editio princeps for each of the inscriptions. Each subsequent chapter pursues a particular implication of one or more of these inscriptions, taking the patient reader into pleasantly unanticipated realms of exploration, before returning to the core evidence in the following chapter.

One major revelation made in the first chapter is that the sympoliteia attested for Chalkètôr in ca. 200 BC involved its absorption by nearby Iasos, as the new inscriptions demonstrate in revealing the later presence of Iasian officials in Chalkètôr. Chapter 2 takes the occasion of this conclusion to review and update our knowledge of the history of Chalkètôr, yet this is not just or even primarily local history. The merger was enforced by a Hellenistic general, and so the bulk of the chapter is devoted to examining the power of the Hellenistic monarchies in Karia, determining which king was responsible for this royal intervention, and considering other cases of sympoliteia in the region. There is much of value here for the reader unfamiliar with this fascinating period in Karian history, and the argument for Antiochos III as the enforcer of the union with Iasos is persuasive. I did wonder at the predominance of a top-down approach to the region’s history at the expense of the local perspective of most of our evidence, and the chapter’s title “La déchéance de Chalkètôr,” buys into the outdated notion of the decline of the post-Classical polis.

With the exciting revelation that Chalkètôr became a part of Iasos, Boulay and Pont turn in Chapter 3 to a reconsideration of Iasian territory, focusing especially on its boundary with another eastern neighbor, Hydai. After offering an updated version of IMylasa 902 based on a squeeze and copy made by Robert, they argue temptingly that Iasos controlled the southern spur of Mount Grion and its adjoining valley, territory where Robert found ruins that he attributed to Hydai. The location of epigraphic finds originating from Iasos and Hydai support their conclusion, but the argument too easily dismisses the archaeological remains that both Robert and Blümel mention,2 and which the authors were personally unable to confirm. Ultimately, their hypothesis will have to await more thorough investigation of the area, and is yet another motive for attracting more archaeological attention to this part of Karia.

In Chapter 4 the authors return to the second inscription of Chapter 1 and the presence of Trajan as an eponymous Iasian magistrate. They review the phenomenon of the Imperial eponymy in Asia Minor and argue against the traditional explanation that financial crisis or the presence of the emperor impelled cities to seek benefaction by awarding the emperor a local office. They rightly point out that such explanations fail to account for the geographical limitations of the phenomenon or its non-systematic occurrence. Instead, Boulay and Pont favor local political motives that aimed to integrate the emperor’s power into the passage of civic time. Unfortunately, this promising start fails to progress significantly, and the reader closes the chapter no closer to an understanding of what type of relationship local elites sought with the emperor, or why the phenomenon prevailed in Asia Minor and nowhere else. There is more work to be done here.

The final chapter departs from the basic structure of the book, using an already published document from Chalkètôr as a springboard for examining an Iasian senatorial domain in the third century AD and its implications for the transformation of civic society at this time. Appia Alexandria, owner of the estate, was wife to a Carthaginian senator, and thus an absentee landowner with higher social standing than the individual who in the inscription calls her kyria. The authors generalize from this instance to declare intense stratification and elite disaffection with civic avenues for social and economic power. Without any broader context, it appears that the cart has run over the horse here. One would like to see more discussion of the possible social relationships implied by the term kyria (can it refer to an owner of slaves as well?). Moreover, the absence of any comparison with similar evidence from other parts of the empire was particularly surprising, given the thorough use of analogy in Chapter 4.

The book concludes with three appendices—the first a useful reprinting of the entire “corpusculum” of inscriptions from Chalkètôr, minus the three inscriptions from the first chapter—four indices, two maps, and seven high-quality photographs of squeezes or inscriptions. No errors stood out to these American eyes, and the book is very thoroughly researched: in true Robertian fashion, text and footnotes often take up equal parts on the page. Specialists will regret the absence of a bibliography.

All in all, this is a most welcome contribution from which epigraphists and historians of Karia and Asia Minor in the Hellenistic and Imperial periods will learn much and find considerable inspiration for further study. It is also a model for how to use new evidence to redefine our historical knowledge using both local and transregional lenses. We should all look forward to the next publication of materials from the Fonds Louis Robert, and hope that future authors can mirror the quality and insight of the authors.

Table of Contents

Préface, par Glen Bowersock
Propos luminaire
Abréviations bibliographiques
I. Trois inscriptions de Chalkètôr
II. La déchéance de Chalkètôr, la lettre royale et le stratège Iasôn
III.Le territoire iasien entre Milet, l’Eurômide et la Petite mer
IV. Trajan éponyme à Iasos et les éponymies impériales en Asie Mineure occidentale
V. Le domaine d’Appia Alexandra et Chalkètôr au IIIe siècle ap. J.-C.
Annexe I. Corpusculum des inscriptions de Chalkètôr
Annexe II. Expression de l’homonymie à Iasos
Annexe III. La datation des listes éphébiques iasiennes
Sources littéraires
Index épigraphique
Index des noms (Inscriptions A-D)
Index analytique
Table des planches


1.   Fabrice Delrieux, Les monnaies du Fonds Louis Robert (Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres). Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 45. Paris: Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 2011.
2.   Louis Robert, “Rapport sommaire sur un second voyage en Carie,” Revue Archéologique (1935): 159; Wolfgang Blümel, Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 35: Mylasa, nos. 909 and 910.

Read comments on this review or add a comment on the BMCR blog

Read Latest
About BMCR
Review for BMCR
Support BMCR

BMCR, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010