006 - Fig3

PHRC006 : Dedication to Ptolemy II and Arsinoe Philadelphos in Thera - Cyclades (270-246 BC) Dedication

This cylindrical altar, which was found reused in a later house, sheds light on the practice of Ptolemaic ruler cult in Thera at the time of Ptolemy II. The donor probably belonged to the elite of Ptolemaic Thera and the decision to have his name and patronymic carved on the altar suggests that his dedication was not meant for domestic use, as usually argued, but belonged in a public or semi-private context, perhaps the seat of the Basilistai or of another religious association involved in the practice of cultic honours for the Ptolemies.

Permanent ID http://s.phrc.it/phrc006

Photo 1: squeeze of the stone, from IG XII 3 1387
Photo 2: plan of the "House of Pothitos", with indication of findspot of the altar; from Hiller von Gaertringen 1904, p. 140
Photo 3: location of the House of Pothitos (from GoogleMaps)

Current location

Current location unknown


Object Type: Cylindrical altar
Height: unknown cm
Width: unknown cm
Depth: unknown cm


The lines were probably aligned on the face of the altar, as in other cylindrical specimens. The loss of the stone does not allow for more precise considerations.
Good letters showing general traits of third-century writing, with thickening at the end of long bars without serifs. The letter size is regular, with only O being carved slightly smaller than the other letters. This searched regularity may explain why the horizontal strokes of Σ are nearly parallel rather than diverging, a feature suggesting to Hiller von Gaertringen a paleographic date during the 2nd century (contradicted by the formulary of the dedication).
Letter height between 1,5 and 1,7.


Original Place: Thera
Date: Between 270 and 246 BC
Justification: Formulary.
Provenance: Found in 1900 during the excavation of the so-called "House of Pothitos", located in the eastern residential area of Thera, on the slope between the theatre and the location of the Evangelismos chapel. The stone had been reused as filling material in a later structure of the house.


Text constituted from: Caneva 2016b, , p. 210.

Other editions: IG XII 3 1387.

See also: Hiller von Gaertringen 1904, p. 149.

Images: IG XII 3 1387 (squeeze).

Further bibliography: Caneva 2013; Caneva 2016a, p. 141-178.

Online record:


[βασιλεῖ Πτ]ολεμαί[ωι]
[Πτολεμαί]ου καὶ
[Βερενίκη]ς Σωτή[ρων καὶ]
[Ἀρσινόηι Φιλαδ]έλφωι
5 [7.......] Βάτωνο[ς].


To King Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy and Berenike, the Saviours, and to Arsinoe Philadelphos, [...] son of Baton.


This cylindrical altar is one of the three documents shedding light on the practice of ruler cults on Thera during the reign of Ptolemy II (see PHRC004 for an association of Basilistai; PHRC013, a dedication mentioning Arsinoe Philadelphos; both from the sanctuary of the Egyptian gods). The formula of the dedication, with King Ptolemy being addressed together with Arsinoe Philadelphos, has numerous parallels in the contemporaneous documentation and suggests a date after the death of the queen (270 BC ; Caneva 2013 and 2016a, p 141-178).

So far, the altar has been interpreted as an example of domestic cult by a member of the elite (see Hiller von Gaertringen in IG XII 3 1387). While the son of Baton probably was a member of the Ptolemaic elite on Thera, both the support and the mention of the donor distinguish this specimen from the simple plaques or small altars of Arsinoe Philadelphos usually ascribed to domestic use. Moreover, one cannot understand why the donor would have put his (lost) name and patronym on an object strictly meant for private use. It seems more plausible that the altar was dedicated by an elite member in a public or semi-private location, such as the seat of a cultic association. Considering that the contemporaneous evidence of the Ptolemaic ruler cult comes from the sanctuary of the Egyptian gods, and that this sanctuary attracted the interest of the Basilistai, it is tempting to consider the son of Baton as a member of this association, even though this hypothesis cannot be proved for lack of parallel evidence.

Stefano Caneva, 15-09-2018
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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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