BMCR 2018.12.10

New religious texts from Lydia. Denkschriften der philosophisch-historischen Klasse, 497; Ergänzungsbände zu den Tituli Asiae Minoris, 28

, , New religious texts from Lydia. Denkschriften der philosophisch-historischen Klasse, 497; Ergänzungsbände zu den Tituli Asiae Minoris, 28. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2017. 236; Map. ISBN 9783700180487. €85,00.

Despite the seemingly narrow focus suggested by its title, this corpus of 213 inscriptions will be of interest not only to epigraphers and those who work on religion in Greco-Roman Asia Minor, but also to Greek philologists, scholars of ancient art, and ancient historians. This is in part due to the nature of the material collected in this book, and in part to the valuable commentaries provided by Hasan Malay and Georg Petzl, two of the foremost experts on the inscriptions of Lydia, who together have more than seventy years of experience in this area. The volume that they have produced is unusual in that it is a regional corpus, but only includes inscriptions in some way related to religious practices: as such, it serves as a supplement to the most important corpora devoted to the Greek and Latin inscriptions of Lydia, Peter Herrmann’s Tituli Asiae Minoris volumes,1 as well as some shorter corpora subsequently produced by Herrmann and Malay,2 Malay individually,3 and Petzl individually.4 A corpus devoted solely to religious inscriptions is possible – and reasonable – for Lydia because of the extraordinary richness of the epigraphical materials that continue to be found there, the range and depth of which can be best seen in María-Paz de Hoz’s 1999 study of religion in Hellenistic and Roman Lydia, which features a catalog of approximately 800 cultic texts.5 Such range and richness are certainly on display in New Religious Texts from Lydia (henceforth NRTL), which features close to 190 dedicatory inscriptions for roughly fifty different divinities. Many of these texts are inscribed on a stele that also bears a relief, usually of a god or worshiper (though some are anatomical). Adding to the work’s value, Malay and Petzl have made the unconventional decision to include three appendices devoted to seventy-five anepigraphic finds from three sanctuaries, mostly sculptural and architectural fragments. (As is true of most of the inscribed objects in the volume, the portable uninscribed objects are now in the Manisa Museum.)

NRTL is arranged geographically, with each chapter devoted to a different city, rural sanctuary, or general area. Each entry presents the information that is standard for epigraphical corpora: find spot (or else what is known of point of origin), type of object, dimensions and letter heights, date, current location, and, where necessary, a brief description of any relief or decorations. Following this the text itself is presented, along with textual commentary, translation, and, for many entries, a discussion of some aspect of the document’s meaning and significance that typically puts it in the broader context of the religion and history of Lydia. For every entry, even the least informative fragments, there is also a usually excellent black and white photo, helpfully presented on the same page rather than on a plate at the back. The textual commentaries often delve into orthographical variants and unusual uses of specific words, and thus have significance for philologists: indeed, this volume, like so many other epigraphical publications, serves as a reminder of how important it is for our dictionary-writers to be keeping up with discoveries made on stone (and papyrus). Similarly, the analyses that are included in many of the entries, along with discussions of several sites at which one or more of the inscriptions originated, are full of information regarding ancient Lydia, especially the gods worshiped there and the manner of their worship. NRTL also features several topographical photos identifying the locations of rural sanctuaries, and a folded map of the relevant ancient sites inserted into the back cover. The only regrettable omission is that among the seven indexes there is no index locorum, something that all epigraphical corpora should include in order to help users find discussions or citations of previously published texts in the commentaries.

This work’s greatest value is that it makes available to scholars 205 new epigraphical texts, as well as a small number of inscriptions that are not new, but rather rediscovered and included in the corpus because of the opportunity to improve previous readings or provide photos for the first time (Nos. 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 130, 168, 169). In addition to the roughly 190 dedicatory inscriptions, these texts break down into the following categories: seven that were honorific in nature (Nos. 2, 15, 115, 189, 195, 206, 207, and possibly 176, mostly for priests), seven Christian texts (Nos. 7, 10, 12, 14, 18, 20, 210), six pertaining to the Imperial Cult (Nos. 163, 194, 195, 197, 200, 201), four using the rare term ἐκλυτρόομαι to record some form of ransom paid to one or more gods (Nos. 61, 78-80), two records pertaining to cultic administration (No. 4, a financial record from the mysteries of Artemis, and No. 199, a record of vineyards and other land being consecrated to Zeus Keraunios), two oracular texts (Nos. 3 and 13, the former a 25-line collection of oracles from Didymaean Apollo and the latter a previously known oracle from Clarian Apollo6), a 20-line cultic regulation (or “ lex sacra ”) (No. 1), a hymn fragment (No. 90), a boundary stone (No. 21, from a cult site of Artemis), a funerary altar recording that two members of a family were believed to have undergone apotheosis upon their deaths (No. 17), and a rather unusual document recording that a town had paid money to appease a god for an undisclosed reason that may have been plague- related (No. 186). Of these non-dedicatory texts, the new oracular text and lex sacra are of particular interest, since the former first presents an oracle warning a city that it must propitiate multiple divinities to alleviate unspecified suffering, and below it one or more other oracles that have been rendered even more cryptic by damage to the stone, while the latter enumerates both the types of pollution (exposure to death, consumption of garlic, murder or manslaughter, intercourse) that would keep one from entering a goddess’s sanctuary and how someone (other than a murderer) might be purified, with hetairai held to higher standards and alone facing potential physical punishment for a violation. Other inscriptions of note are a badly damaged altar or base that appears to have been honoring a prophētēs according to the command of a “holy angel” (No. 176), and a stele recording that its deceased leader had been honored by an “association of Good Seasons” (ἡ συνβίωσις ἡ τῶν Καλοκαίρων), an odd name which the editors persuasively argue shows local farmers naming their symbiosis for the seasons that would bring the good weather essential to their livelihoods (No. 189).

In part due to their sheer number, however, it is the dedications that represent the most significant addition to the study of ancient religion. This group is comprised, for the most part, of altars, steles and statue bases, though there is also a marble krater (No. 23). The gods receiving these dedications are representative of the region: a small number of Olympian gods, but many different indigenous gods (some, e.g. Apollo Kisaualouddenos, bearing Olympian names). NRTL is of particular importance for the study of the already well-documented cults of the mother goddess Ana(e)itis and Meis/Men, since the two largest groups of inscriptions in the volume are from the sanctuary of Artemis Ana(e)itis and Meis Tiamou near Maionia (Nos. 24-106) and the sanctuary of Meis Artemidorou Axiottenos near Kollyda (Nos. 123-157), which in both cases are accompanied by a number of anepigraphic finds.7 While most of the dedicatory inscriptions feature fairly ordinary language and circumstances, including the sole Latin text (No. 9), a few stand out. For example, a dedication to Meis Axiottenos quotes a worshiper’s vow (purportedly verbatim) instead of merely alluding to it by means of the standard votive formula κατ’ εὐχήν, a great rarity (No. 130). Another dedication, for Meter Aneitis and Meis Tiamou at their Maionian sanctuary, is unusually emotive, thanking them “because they brought me from hopelessness to hopefulness and did that to me together with my wife and children” (ὅτι με ἐξ ἀνελπίστων ἤγαγον | εἰς ἐλπίδας καὶ ἐπόησάν μ<ε μετὰ> | γυναικὸς οὕτως κα<ὶ τ>έκνων) (No. 39). In contrast, a broken dedication from the same sanctuary concerned the well-being of a mule, not a person or persons (No. 84).

The motivations for most of the dedications presented in NRTL were fairly typical of those in any sanctuary in the Greek East, but in addition to such standard dedicatory inscriptions the volume contributes up to around twenty more examples to the body of “confession” texts (Nos. 77, 116, 119, 120, 123, 131, 159, 160, 178, 188 are clearly identifiable as such), a fascinating Anatolian phenomenon already known from roughly 150 inscribed steles.8 In contrast to ordinary dedicatory inscriptions, especially those simply recording the fulfillment of a vow, these inscriptions both advertise a divinity’s power and warn others either explicitly or implicitly against committing a religious transgression, which is accomplished by recounting how a worshiper had suffered an ailment that was believed to be linked to an offense against the god or goddess, and which only had disappeared after proper amends had been made – leading to a record being publicly displayed at that divinity’s sanctuary. The amount of detail provided regarding the nature of the episode being confessed would vary, with the more interesting examples featuring short narratives. This is certainly true of some of the new confession inscriptions in NRTL : a man who swore falsely by Meis Axiottenos loses his son and daughter-in-law and must appease the god’s divine wrath (No. 116); a woman who has been punished with an eye affliction for a reason now lost recovers after promising to post a confession inscription and, when she fails to do so in a timely manner, is again punished, before ultimately setting up the stele that has partly survived (No. 131); another woman suffers an eye ailment inflicted by Meter Larmene for having bathed “on the twentieth day,” which the editors speculate may be a reference to menstrual impurity, but she is restored to health by the goddess and erects a stele with which to “testify to the manifestations of her power” (No. 159); yet another woman who had disobeyed a demand from the Theoi Tazenoi sees her daughter fall ill, until she rectifies the situation and subsequently erects the stele (No. 178); and, a man who evidently had been healed by Meter Andirene but failed to dedicate the promised relief of a foot after being divinely punished ends up dedicating a stele featuring two feet (essentially, the promised anatomical image and 100% interest on it as a penalty) (No. 188). This last one is the most significant of the new confession inscriptions, since it is the first such text to have been composed as an epigram, here five elegiac couplets.

Overall, NRTL is a noteworthy publication due to the contents of the texts, so many of which are unique or unusual in some manner, but their value is enhanced by the work of Malay and Petzl, whose numerous learned discussions of particular Greek terms, Lydian cults, local topography, and other topics both demonstrate the significance of these documents and illuminate various aspects of Lydian history.


1. P. Herrmann, Tituli Asiae Minoris V, Tituli Lydiae linguis graeca et latina conscripti, fasc. 1: Regio septentrionalis ad orientem vergens (Vienna, 1981); id., Tituli Asiae Minoris V, Tituli Lydiae, fasc. 2: Regio septentrionalis ad occidentem vergens (Vienna, 1989).

2. P. Herrmann & H. Malay, New Documents from Lydia (DenkschrWien 340, Ergänzungsbände zu den Tituli Asiae Minoris 24; Vienna, 2007).

3. H. Malay, Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the Manisa Museum (DenkschrWien 237, ETAM 19; Vienna, 1994); id., Researches in Lydia, Mysia and Aiolis (DenkschrWien 279, ETAM 23; Vienna, 1999).

4. G. Petzl, Tituli Asiae Minoris V, Tituli Lydiae, fasc. 3: Philadelpheia et Ager Philadelphenus (Vienna, 2007).

5. M.-P. de Hoz, Die lydischen Kulte im Lichte der griechischen Inschriften (Asia Minor Studien 36; Bonn, 1999).

6. Merkelbach/Stauber, Steinepigramme I, No. 04/01/01.

7. Appendix I, Nos. 1-37 and II, Nos. 1-16.

8. Collected in G. Petzl, Die Beichtinschriften Westkleinasiens (special issue, Epigraphica Anatolica 22; Bonn, 1994), with newer texts in later corpora and Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum.