BMCR 2009.09.50

Boubon: The Inscriptions and Archaeological Remains; A Survey 2004-2006. Meletemata 60

, Boubon: The Inscriptions and Archaeological Remains; A Survey 2004-2006. Meletemata 60. Athens: Diffusion de Boccard, 2008. x, 193; 23 p. of plates. ISBN 9789607905475. €86.00 (pb).

The small Graeco-Roman city of Boubon in northern Lycia was located at what is now the agricultural village of Ibecik in the southern tip of the province of Burdur, southwest Turkey. For a time part of a tetrapolis gathered about its larger neighbour, Cibyra, it figured briefly in conflicts between the Lycian League and their northern neighbours in the second century BC, produced some bronze coins dated about the second or first centuries BC and again under Augustus, and won local prominence in the second century AD when the emperor Commodus raised it to a 3-vote city in the League in recognition of its performance in combating non-taxable groups who lived outside society, the “brigands” (no. 5). That apart, the city was, to our eyes, historically obscure and unimportant, although it had a succession of Byzantine bishops, like many such places.

The site on its conical hill with at first sight indeterminate ruins did not impress nineteenth century travelers and more recent scholars looking for classical buildings and inscriptions, and no broadly-based scientific study of the city appeared—until this book, although interest in the city was stimulated in recent decades by Jale Inan’s demonstration that a number of Roman bronze statues of superlative quality, which were smuggled out of Turkey in the 1960’s to find a new home in the United States, were illegally excavated from Boubon’s Sebasteion, at the time a virtually unknown building-type.1

Working in the Cibyratis project under the direction of Thomas Corsten of the University of Heidelberg, in collaboration with the Institute for Greek and Roman Antiquity (KERA) of the Hellenic National Research Foundations (EIE) in Athens, on the basis of a mere three seasons’ work in 2004-06, Kokkinia has edited all the inscriptions from the site and its territory (pp. 27-126),written essays describing the site (pp. 1-6), the Sebasteion (pp. 6-12), and the territory (pp. 12-14), and discussed the city’s history (pp. 15-25).

As it was a condition of funding that the book be printed by June 2008, essays on onomastics by Thomas Corsten, and on coins by Selene Psoma, could not be completed in time to be included, and will appear separately. The speed and accuracy with which this book has been compiled are, however, most impressive.

Her collaborator, Oliver Hülden (Munich), has added a survey of the city and surrounding area (pp. 133-178), while Martin Seyer had devoted a special study to the two rock-cut façade tombs in neighbouring villages (pp. 127-132). The volume is handsomely illustrated with 78 photographs and plans, but the most impressive plan is a fold-out relief map of the whole city, measured by Jürgen Karch and Birgit Seitz, of Fachhochschule Karlsruhe, and drawn by Hülden. This is the first accurate plan of the site, and is in itself a major step forward, which conveys a large amount of new information as to the shape and topography of the city, the fortified peak, the monumental, terraced centre, and the outline of the walled area, large enough to support a population of some 600 to 800. That it is possible to say where the domestic areas were situated, in a fan-shaped pattern of cellular structures around the slopes of the hill, takes us beyond what can be said of many longer-studied sites. The plan does not show ancient streets and roads, however: they lie buried, and are not discernible from a rapid surface survey. Also, no temples (aside from the Sebasteion) can be recognised for sure, although plausible sites are discussed in Hülden’s essay.

The results show that whereas the citadel is probably pre-Hellenistic, what remains of the acropolis much more reflects post-antique, mediaeval conditions, when the city was re-populated in a reduced and concentrated area around the peak, re-using building rubble from Imperial and earlier phases. This Byzantine intervention resembles that at neighbouring Balboura, and Oinoanda, except that no churches have yet been identified at Boubon. The terminus ante quem for this phase is likely to be the 7th-century Arab conquests.

The initial phase of the settlement, however, is likely to be dependent on an Archaic or Classical “Herrensitz” located on the acropolis. The site produced quantities of fineware sherds datable between the 7th and 4th centuries BC.

Besides the city, the survey ventured across country and whilst the extent of Boubonian territory is unclear, they examined five fortified sites, the biggest of which, Kale Tepe, was measured and planned. Strong similarities with the early Byzantine or late Imperial fortified site at Ovacik, ENE of Elmali, are reported.2

One of the most interesting city structures is the Sebasteion. This was seemingly a three-roomed building, open to the south, set perhaps in a stoa facing a rectangular terrace, which led to the theatre at its west end. The survival of a set of imperial statues, of which the latest accession was in the third century AD, strongly suggests that the building was buried before late antiquity, and never cleared—until the twentieth century. Hence this central area of the city was neglected or abandoned. Kokkinia’s essay (pp. 6-12) breaks new ground with her argument from Pliny the Younger’s gift of a temple of the Imperial cult to Tifirnum Tiberium ( Ep. 10.8), which puts the choice of statues down to private initiative and contingent availability from a private source, and so explains gaps in the “sequence” of emperors.

Study of the inscriptions not only provides evidence for reconstructions of successive phases of the display of the statues, with family groups of the reigning emperors later being broken up to make space for a new dynasty, but the inscriptions themselves are often of surprisingly poor quality, some of them almost certainly copies of their original selves. Thus the re-carving of some of the inscriptions at least may reflect a down-grading of the statues being moved to make room for a new dynasty. Drawings showing the relative positions of the texts whet one’s appetite for accurate reproductions of the inscriptions on the walls.

The section on inscriptions is edited by Kokkinia, to a high standard. 15 of the 103 texts catalogued are published for the first time. One is a fragmentary decree of Oinoanda, perhaps in honour of a Boubonian, who was given a statue (no. 32). Another is an epitaph (no. 49), with a simpler version of a Latin funerary tag, non fui, fui, non sum, non curo, which conveys perhaps the sense of, “I came from nowhere, and now am gone: I can bear it.” Though it is not easy to deduce the philosophical parentage of these important texts (Epicurean?), one can immediately see a kind of schooled acceptance of life’s brevity and impermanence. It is one of our differences with the ancient world that contemporary gravestones do not attempt to address the public in the voice of the deceased, let alone express philosophical thoughts on life and death.

While Kokkinia is normally reliable on epichoric and Greek names, I was not persuaded by her treatment of “Leonti” which appears on a block that must have formed part of a public honorific monument for a citizen (no. 35). The word “Leonti” was explained by Robert as a vocative of the signum or public nickname, “Leonti(o)s,” which like other such signa became very fashionable in the Roman Empire during the third century AD.3 The vocative in -i does not conform to classical Greek principles, of course, but those of the contemporary koine. It is a characteristic of signa that they often appear on statue-base inscriptions in different places to the formal names of the honorand. They are meant to address the honorand in a more informal, livelier manner, with a different tone of voice. They may well commemorate spontaneous acclamations by the people, such as might have been heard, for instance, at the dedication of the statue. In this case, “Leonti” appears below the formal inscription, centred, after a vacat marking its separation. Kokkinia takes it as a dative, “(honoured) with a lion”, by analogy with inscriptions referring to lions on funerary monuments, and understands the sentence to continue from before the vacat, but there is nothing to suggest that the present inscription is funerary, there is no known tradition of publicly erecting statues of animals in honour of individual citizens, and there are no analogues for an instrumental dative being separated from its sentence for such individual treatment, which would in any case be hard to understand without a finite verb which was suppressed in this inscription. At Oinoanda, the same word, “Leonti,” occurs, centred, on the upper moulding of an unpublished large statue-base, a typical location of signa, and where no funerary context is at all likely. The case for a signum is very strong.

Apart from the treatment of signa, and the absence of Crouch 1993 (p. 153 n.69) from the bibliography, this is a thoroughly researched, lavishly illustrated, and accurate production.

Kokkinia is to be congratulated too for having put a summary version of much of the material (up to inscription no. 91) online.


1. “Neue Forschungen zum Sebasteion von Boubon und seinen Statuen,” in J. Borchardt, G. Dobesch (edd.), Akten des II. Internationalen Lykien-Symposions, Wien 6.-12. Mai 1990, (Vienna 1993), I. 213-239, eadem, Boubon Sebasteionu ve Heykelleri Üzerine Son Arastirmalar, (Istanbul 1994).

2. M. Harrison, Mountain and Plain. From the Lycian Coast to the Phrygian Plateau in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Period (Ann Arbor 2001), 57-60.

3. Bulletin épigraphique in Revue des études grecques, 1973 no. 454. On signa, see, for instance, J. Nollé, Side im Altertum : Geschichte und Zeugnisse, Inschriften Griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien Bd 43 (Bonn 1993), II. 404.