003 - Fig1

PHRC003 : Dossier concerning the cultic honours for Queen Laodike at Sardis - Lydia (Summer 213 BC) Decree

The dossier concerning the establishment and regulation of the cultic honours for Queen Laodike at Sardis was elegantly carved on marble blocks in the monumental vestibule of the temple of the Great Mother, the Metroon. The remaining documentation consists of two royal letters, respectively from Laodike and her husband, King Antiochos III, preceded by the head of the civic decree stipulating the inscription of these texts. The honours decreed for the queen, including the dedication of a sacred precinct, called Laodikeion, with an altar, and the celebration of an annual festival Laodikeia (probably on the occasion of the queen’s birthday), were part of the diplomatic attempt of the Sardians to negotiate with Antiochos the recovery of their city after the dramatic end of the rebellion of Achaios. During the celebration of the Laodikeia, the rituals would be accomplished to Zeus Genethlios for the safety of the king, queen and princes, a solution showing the intention of the Sardians to address the whole royal family with their initiative. The success of this diplomatic process is confirmed by Antiochos’ following letter, where the king grants more concessions to the city, including a tax exemption for the days of the Laodikeia, meant to ensure the success of the new festival.

Photo 1: Plan of ancient Sardis, from sardisexpedition.org

Current location

Sardis, court of the House of the American Sardis Expedition
Inv. No. 63.121(fragments 2A-C) + 63.101 (part of 2A); 63.120 (fragment 3)


Object Type: Two blocks
The block 63.121 is almost a cube. Its inscribed front face is broken at the right-hand top (here belongs the small fragment 63.101) and at the bottom, where a large lacuna affects the left-hand corner. The back of the stone has been recut on the right side. The block 63.120 is worn but intact. It has the shape of a flat, long rectangle. The two blocks have the same width and their side surfaces were smoothed for about 45 cm on the right-hand and for about 70 on the left hand. The edges of their horizontal faces show the same treatment with anathyrosis and have three holes for pins. The slightly different colours of their patina (no. 63.121 is pinkish, no. 63.120 is grey) is due to different conditions of preservation. The strong resemblance between the two blocks suggests that they were part of the same wall pillar, block 63.121 being placed on top of 63.120.
Height (block 63.121): 57; (block 63.118): 27.5 cm
Width (block 63.121): 70; (block 63.118): 70 cm
Depth (block 63.121): 80; (block 63.118): 123 cm


The inscribed space is carefully organized, with regural left margins and line-spacing. The composite nature of the text, which combines the head of the decree with two royal letters, is reflected by the layout of the inscription on block 63.121, where the points of separation between the various sub-sections are marked by empty spaces. The end of lines never breaks the syllabe and usually coincides with the end of the last word, with the only exception of lines 4 (seciont 2A: head of the decree), 16-18 (section 2B: Laodike's letter) and 21 (section 2C: Antiochos' letter) in block 63.121; lines 1, 7-9, and 11 in block 63.120 (section 3). This is a typical solution for the transcription of royal letters under Antiochos III (cf. Gauthier 1989, p. 135, n. 1).
Elegant monumental writing of the turn of the century. The spacing of letters and lines slightly differs between the various inscribed texts (Gauthier 1989, p. 78-79).
Letter height between 1.5 and 0.6. The letters of fragment 63.120 are slightly bigger that those of 63.121 + 63.101.


Original Place: Sardis, Metroon
Date: 213 BC
Justification: content.
Provenance: Found on July 1963 at Sardis, at the site of the ancient Synagogue


Text constituted from: Gauthier 1989, p. 47-48, no. 2A-C (fragments 63.121 and 63.101; SEG XXXIX 1284), and no. 3 (fragment 63.120; SEG XXXIX 1285), with French trans. and extensive commentary. In publishing text 3 after text 2C, we take into account the remarks of Knoepfler 1993, p. 26-43, especially as regards the interpretation of Gauthier's texts no. 2C and 3 as parts of the same letter of Antiochos; this hypothesis had already been formulated by Gauthier, p. 78-79, who, however, preferred to consider the two texts as separate.

Other editions: Ma 2002, p. 285-287 and 287-288, no. 2-3, publishes and discusses the two documents separately (English trans.).

See also: L. Robert in Hanfmann 1983, p. 111-112 (French trans.); Bringmann - von Steuben 1995, p. 298-300, no. 260 [E] II-III (German trans.); Kotsidu 2000, p. 335, no. 233 [E]; Ma 2002, p. 61-62, 202-203; Virgilio 2003, p. 234-236, no. 8 (Italian trans.).

Images: for the fragments 63.121 and 63.101, see Gauthier 1989, Pl. II-III; for fragment 63.120, Gauthier 1989, Pl. IV.

Further bibliography: Boffo 1985, p. 145-150; Nafissi 2001 (on I.Iasos 4); Capdetrey 2007, p. 140, 316, 421; Caneva 2014b, p. 25-57; Bencivenni 2015; D'Agostini 2018, p. 59-81.

Online record: PHI; Attalus


Decree of the Sardians (Gauthier no. 2A)
Ἡρακλείδης Σωκράτου εἶπεν· ἐπε[ιδὴ 15............... τ?]ὴν ἐπι -
στολ[ὴν τ]ὴν γραφεῖσαν παρὰ τῆς βασιλίσση[ς πρός τε? τὴ?]ν βουλὴν
καὶ τὸν δῆμον ὑπὲρ τῶν τιμῶν τῶν ἐψηφισμένων ὑπὸ τοῦ δήμου τῶι τ[ε?]
βασιλεῖ καὶ τῆι βασιλίσσηι καὶ τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτῶν ἀναγράψαι εἰς τὴν
5 παραστάδα τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ ἐν τῶι Μητρώιωι· δεδόχθαι τῆι βουλῆι καὶ τ[ῶι?]
δήμωι ἀναγράψαι τὸν ταμίαν· τὸ δὲ ἐσόμενον ἀνήλωμα εἰς ταῦτα δοῦνα[ι]
αὐτὸν ἀφʹὧν χειρίζει προσόδων. vac. Ὀλωίου vac.

Letter of Laodike (Gauthier no. 2B)
Βασίλισσα Λαοδίκη Σαρδιανῶν τῆι βουλῆι καὶ τῶι δήμωι χαίρειν·
Μητρόδωρος καὶ Μητροφάνης καὶ Σοκράτης καὶ Ἡρακλείδης οἱ παρʹ ὑμῶν
10 πρεσβευταὶ ἀπέδωκαν τὸ ψήφισμα καθʹὃ τέμενός τε Λαοδίκειον ἀνεῖναι
ψηφίσαισθε καὶ βωμὸν ἱδρύσασθαι, ἄγειν δὲ καὶ πανήγυριν Λαοδίκεια
καθʹἕκαστον ἔτος ἐν τῶι Ὑπερβερεταίωι μηνὶ τῆι πεντεκαιδεκάτηι
καὶ πονπὴν καὶ θυσίαν συντελεῖν Διὶ Γενεθλίωι ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ
ἡμῶν βασιλέως Ἀντιόχου καὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας καὶ τῶν παιδίων vac.
15 σωτηρίας, καὶ οἱ πρεσβευταὶ δὲ παρεκάλουν ἀκολούθως τοῖς ἐν
τῶι ψηφίσματι κατακεχωρισμένοις, τάς τε δὴ τιμὰς ἀποδε -
[δ]έγμεθα ἡδέως καὶ τὴν τοῦ δήμου προθυμίαν ἐπαινοῦμεν
[καὶ πειρασό]μεθα ἀεί τι ἀγαθὸν συνκατασκευάζειν τῆι πό -
[λει]· [ἀπαγγελ]οῦσι δὲ περὶ τούτων καὶ οἱ πρεσβευταί vac.
20 vac. θϙʹ ἔτους, Πανήμου ιʹ

Letter of Antiochos (Gauthier no. 2C)
[Βασιλεὺς Ἀντίο]χος Σαρδιανῶν τῆι βουλῆι καὶ τῶι δήμωι χα[ί] -
[ρειν]· [οἱ παρʹὑμῶν πρεσ]βευταὶ Μητροφάνης, Μητρόδωρος, Μοσ[χίων?] -
[20.................... Ἀρ]τεμιδ[ω]ρ[9.........]ντ[7....... ...]

Continuation of the letter of Antiochos (Gauthier 3)?
[..?.. συν] -
χωρήσαντες πάντα ἃ διέτε[ιν]εν πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν καὶ νῦν
προαιρούμενοι γενέσθαι ὑμᾶς ἐμ βελτίονι διαθέσει πεποήκαμεν τὰ
ἐνδεχόμενα· τοῖς τε γὰρ νέοις ἀποτετάχαμεν εἰς ἐλαιοχρίστιον
5 ἀνθʹ ὧν πρότερον ἐλαμβάνετε κατʹἐνιαυτὸν ἐλαίου μετρητὰς
διακοσίους καὶ εἰς τοῦτο τὸ πλῆθος συνετάξαμεν ἀποτάξαι vac.
προσόδους ἀφ’ὧν ἐξ ὑποκειμένου λήψεσθε εὐτάκτως καὶ εἰς vac.
τοὺς κατασταθμευομένους δὲ παρʹὑμῖν συνχωροῦμεν λαμβά vac. -
νεσθαι ὧν ἔχετε οἰκιῶν ἀντὶ τῶν ἡμισέων τὰ τρίτα μέρη· ἀπολύο -
10 μεν δὲ ὑμᾶς καὶ τοῦ ἐνοικίου οὗ τελεῖτε ἀπὸ τῶν ἐργαστηρίων, εἴ -
περ καὶ αἱ ἄλλαι πόλεις μὴ πράσσονται· οἰόμεθα δὲ δεῖν καὶ ἐν τοῖς
ἀγομέ{με}νοις Λαοδικείοις ὑπὸ τῆς πόλεως ὑπάρχειν ὑμῖν ἀτέ -
λειαν ἐφʹ ἡμέρας τρεῖς καὶ περὶ πάντων γεγράφαμεν π[ρὸς] Ζεῦξ[ιν ..?..]


(S. Caneva)
[Gauthier no. 2A] Herakleides son of Sokrates spoke: since the letter written by the queen to the council and the people, concerning the honours that were voted by the people to the king and queen and their children, [should be] inscribed on the vestibule of the temple in the Metroön; let the council and the people decree that the treasurer shall take care of the inscription, and that he shall provide the sum corresponding to this expense, out of the revenues that he administers. In the month of Oloïos.
[Gauthier no. 2B] Queen Laodike to the council and people of Sardis, greetings. Your envoys - Metrodoros, Metrophanes, Sokrates and Herakleides - have handed over your decree, by which you have decreed to delimit a sacred enclosure (called) Laodikeion and to set up an altar, and to organize a festival (named) Laodikeia every year on the 15th day of the month of Hyperberetaios, and to perform a procession and a sacrifice to Zeus Genethlios for the safety of our brother Antiochos and ourselves and our children. Your envoys also exhorted us in accordance with the content of the decree. We accepted the honours with pleasure and we praise the people for their eagerness. We will always try to bring some benefit to the city; your envoys will report to you about these matters. Year 99, 10th day of Panemos.
[Gauthier no. 2C] King Antiochos to the council and people of Sardis, greetings. Your envoys - Metrophanes, Metrodoros, (?) Moschion . . . Artemidoros . . . [..?..]
[Gauthier no. 3] … having granted everything that concerns the recovery of your city, and now, intending that you should be in a better condition, we have taken the possible measures; we have set aside 200 measures of oil per year, in place of what you used to receive, for the supply of oil for anointing the youths; in order to purchase this amount, we have given orders to set aside revenues which will allow you to receive (the oil) in a regular manner from a special fund. With regard to the soldiers billeted with you, we grant that instead of a half, they may occupy a third part of the buildings that you possess; and we release you from paying rent for the workshops, if indeed other cities also do not do this. We consider that there must be a three-day suspension of taxes on the occasion of the festival Laodikeia that is held by the city; we have written to Zeuxis about these matters.


(S. Caneva)
[Gauthier no. 2A] Herakleides, figlio di Sokrates, ha parlato: poiché [è giusto] che si iscriva sul vestibolo del tempio nel Metroon la lettera inviata dalla regina al consiglio e al popolo a proposito degli onori decretati dal popolo per il re, la regina e i loro figli; sia decretato dal consiglio e dal popolo che il tesoriere faccia iscrivere (la lettera) e metta a disposizione la somma per tali spese dai fondi che amministra. Nel mese di Oloios.
[Gauthier no. 2B] La regina Laodike al consiglio e al popolo di Sardi, salute. I vostri ambasciatori – Metrodoros, Metrophanes, Sokrates e Herakelides – hanno consegnato il vostro decreto, con il quale quale avete deciso di delimitare un recinto sacro (chiamato) Laodikeion e di erigervi un altare, e di organizzare una festa (chiamata) Laodikeia ogni giorno 15 del mese Hyperberetaios, e di celebrare una processione e un sacrificio a Zeus Genethlios for la salvezza di nostro fratello Antiochos, la mia e quella dei nostri bambini. Gli ambasciatori ci hanno esortato in conformità con il contenuto del decreto. Abbiamo accettato gli onori con piacere e lodiamo il popolo per la sua buona volontà. Cercheremo sempre di arrecare qualche vantaggio alla città; gli ambasciatori riporteranno a voi a questo proposito. Anno 99, 10 Panemos.
[Gauthier no. 2C] Re Antiochos al consiglio e al popolo di Sardi, salute. I vostri ambasciatori – Metrophanes, Metrodoros, (?) Moschion … Artemidoros … [..?..]
[Gauthier no. 3] … avendo concesso tutto ciò che potesse contribuire alla ripresa della vostra città, e ora, essendo nostra intenzione che le vostre condizioni migliorino, abbiamo preso le misure possibili. Abbiamo infatti messo a disposizione dei giovani, per l’unzione (nel ginnasio), 200 misure d’olio all’anno, al posto di quanto ricevevate in precedenza, e abbiamo dato istruzione di accantonare la somma necessaria per tale quantità, di modo che possiate ricevere (l’olio) con frequenza regolare da un fondo apposito. Per quanto concerne i soldati acquartierati presso di voi, concediamo che essi occupino un terzo delle case di vostra proprietà, al posto della metà. Vi liberiamo inoltre dal pagamento dell’affitto delle botteghe, se davvero anche altre città ne sono esentate. Riteniamo poi necessaria una sospensione delle tasse per tre giorni in occasione della festa Laodikeia organizzata dalla città. Di tali questioni abbiamo scritto a Zeuxis.


(L. Lorenzon, S. Caneva)
[Gauthier no. 2A]
Hérakleidès fils de Socrate a dit : puisque [il convient] d’inscrire dans le vestibule du temple dans le Métrôon la lettre écrite par la reine au conseil et au peuple au sujet des honneurs décrétés par le peuple pour le roi, la reine et leurs enfants : qu’il soit décrété par le conseil et le peuple que le trésorier fasse inscrire cela, et qu’il se procure la somme correspondante à cette dépense parmi les revenus qu’il manie. Moi d’Olôios.
[Gauthier no. 2B]
La reine Laodice au conseil et au peuple de Sardes, salut. Vos ambassadeurs Métrodoros, Métrophanès, Socrate et Hérakleidès m’ont remis le décret conformément auquel vous avez voté de délimiter une enceinte sacrée (nommé) Laodikeion, d’y élever un autel, d’organiser une panégyrie (appelée) Laodikeia, chaque année le 15 du mois Hyperbérétaios, et d’effectuer une procession et un sacrifice à Zeus Genethlios pour le salut de notre frère le roi Antiochos, pour le nôtre et celui de nos enfants. Les ambassadeurs nous ont soumis des requêtes conformément aux mesures prescrites dans le décret. Nous avons accueilli avec joie ces honneurs et nous louons le zèle du peuple ; nous nous efforcerons toujours de procurer quelque bienfait à la cité. Vos ambassadeurs vous feront également rapport là-dessus. An 99, le 10 Panémos.
[Gauthier no. 2C]
Le roi Antiochos au conseil et au peuple de Sardes, salut. Vos ambassadeurs Métrophanès, Métrodoros, (?) Moschion … Artémidoros … [..?..]
[Gauthier no. 3]
… ayant accordé toutes les mesures concernant le redressement (de la cité), et à présent, puisqu’il est notre intention que votre situation devienne meilleure, nous avons pris les mesures possibles. En effet, pour la fourniture de l’huile pour les jeunes hommes, nous avons réservé, au lieu de ce que vous receviez auparavant, deux cents métrètes d’huile par an. Nous avons également décidé de réserver, jusqu’à cette quantité, des revenus grâce auxquels vous recevrez (l’huile) d’un fonds affecté de manière régulière. Quant aux soldats cantonnés chez vous, nous accordons que, sur les maisons que vous avez, ils n’en disposent plus de la moitié mais du tiers. Nous vous dispensons d’autre part du loyer que vous payez pour les ateliers-boutiques, si du moins les autres cités n’y sont pas soumises. Et nous jugeons nécessaire également que lors des Laodikeia célébrées par la cité vous jouissiez de l’exemption des taxes pendant trois jours. Nous avons écrit à Zeuxis à propos de tout cela.


The dossier concerning the establishment of the sanctuary and festival of Laodike has been transmitted on two inscribed marble blocks, which lines 4-5 of the opening decree identify as the monumental entrance (parastas) of the temple of the Meter of the Gods. The archaeological evidence shows that the Metroon’s entrance was the most prominent place for the display of the political memory of the Sardians from the period of our decree up to the first half of the second century BC (Gauthier 1989, p. 53-54; Knoepfler 1993, p. 30-33). While there was probably some continuity between the Hellenistic Mother of the Gods and the Kybele-Kubaba of the Lydian period (Hanfmann 1983, p. 130-131), nothing is known about the history of her cult place. Various attempts at ascribing the erection of the Hellenistic sanctuary to Seleucid euergetism or to the initiative of a local elite family are speculative (cf. Knoepfler 1993, p. 30). Even though the exact location of the Metroon has not been precisely identified, the discovery of the inscribed marble blocks during the excavations at the NE corner of the late-antique synagogue suggests that the Hellenistic Metroon lay in this area, in the surroundings of the later Bath-Gymnasium complex of the Roman period.

Our understandings of the practicalities of the cultic honours for Laodike are fragmentary. The meaning of the verb ἀνίημι in relation to τέμενος refers to the act of delimiting a plot of land for a sacred function. This and the lack of any reference to a proper temple suggest that the sacred precinct dedicated by the Sardians, called Laodikeion, was an open-air sacred space with an altar for the yearly offerings. The annual festival, called Laodikeia, was held on 15 Hyperberetaios (ca. 7 Sept. 213 BC). As argued by Gauthier 1989, p. 64-67, at this early stage of the renewed collaboration between the city and the royal family, it is improbable that this date was chosen to commemorate a decisive act of the king in favour of the city, as the only great event in the last years was the defeat of the rebellious city. It was more appropriate for the Sardians to choose a date bearing a symbolical link with the queen, who was requested to act as a mediator between the city and Antiochos. At Iasos, in 196 BC (Nafissi 2001; I.Iasos 4), this date was the queen’s birthday. The fact that the festival included a sacrifice to Zeus Genethlios in favour of the king, queen, and their children, places the focus of the ritual on the royal family and strengthens the hypothesis that the queen’s birth indeed was the occasion chosen for the event. The Sardians addressed the queen by stressing her mediating role between the subjects and the royal house, in compliance with the contemporaneous ideology of many Hellenistic dynasties (Caneva 2014b).

According to Gauthier 1989, p. 23, 62, the fact that Sardis lay in ruins after the end of Achaios’ revolt would have provided plenty of space for the establishment of a sanctuary within the city walls. However, another hypothesis remains open. Besides playing a role in the establishment of fruitful diplomatic relationships between the city and the royal house, the choice of Zeus Genethlios may also have had a link with the role and topography of Zeus’ cult in the Sardian pantheon. By the time of the decree, the citizens of Sardis honoured Zeus Polieus together with Artemis in a major sanctuary of the community, located about 1 km SW of the city walls, upstream the Pactolus river (Hanfmann 1983, p. 131-132). Could this extra-urban area, with its abundance of vacant lots of terrain, have provided a suitable location for the sacred enclosure of the Laodikeion? The proximity between the royal enclosure and an important sanctuary of the city gods (for which see the case of Aigai, CGRN 137) would have offered a suitable destination for the procession of the Laodikeia. Following this hypothesis, the processional route would start at the agora (probably corresponding to the large terrace located W of the theater, under the acropolis); the Sardians would then have moved westwards, towards the area of the Metroon, and then turned southwards, along the river, to finally reach the sanctuary of Zeus and perform a sacrifice to the god, addressed for the occasion as Genethlios, the protector of the (royal) family, in the neighbouring precinct of Laodike.

After Laodike’s letter, the dossier evokes a new embassy from the city of Sardis, whose members are partly preserved in the last lines of Gauthier’s fragment 2C. The new embassy and Antiochos’ reply took place at one point during the two months between the issue of the Sardis decree ordering the publication of Laodike’s letter (month Oloios: end of June – July 213) and the celebration of the first edition of the Loadikeia, on 7 september 213. The high concentration of diplomatic exchanges in this limited time was made possible by the fact that the royal couple resided in Sardis before Antiochos departed for a new campaign in the East, leaving Zeuxis in charge of the lands on the west of the Taurus. According to Ma 2002 p. 203, who interprets texts no. 2C and 3 as two different letters of Antiochos, the letter in 2C would contain the king’s acceptance of honours decreed by the Sardians, similarly to Laodike’s letter. Conversely, Knoepfler 1993, p. 34, argues that the fragments 2C and 3 were part of the same letter and that the lacuna, of about three lines, would simply contain the end of the reference to the Sardian envoys and an introduction to Antiochos’ resolution. Be that as it may, one of these new measures significantly concerns a three-day tax exemption, granted by the king to promote the economic activities taking place on the occasion of the Laodikeia. These three days probably combined the one-day festival, plus two extra days of market. Just like old festivals, the new religious event would attract the interest of entrepreneurs at the regional level and Antiochos’ tax exemption would boost the success of the new festival for the royal family, while also providing the city with a prompt occasion to restart the local economy.

S. Caneva and L. Lorenzon, 13.11.2018

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Travocial - Social Travel & Storytelling Practicalities of Hellenistic Ruler Cults
Marie Curie PISCOPIA project no. PISC14IGRU, University of Padova (2015-2017)
FNRS project no. 98368 (2017-2020)
Stefano Caneva
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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Commission, Seventh Framework Programme, under Grant Agreement n° 600376 (2015-2017), and from the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS), Belgium (2017-2020).
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