015 - Fig1

PHRC015 : Dedication of a nymphaeum to Ptolemy IV and Arsinoe III, Itanos - Crete (220-209 BC) Dedication

The inscription records the dedication of a nymphaeum, together with its reservoir, to King Ptolemy IV and Queen Arsinoe III, by the commander of the Ptolemaic garrison at Itanos, a Roman called Lucius. The dedication was made before 209 BC, when the son of the royal couple, the future Ptolemy V, begins to be mentioned after his parents. The text bears the first explicit attestation of the Ptolemaic garrison at Itanos.

Permanent ID http://s.phrc.it/phrc015

Photo 1: the stone; Herakleion Museum, Inv. No. 64, copyrighted image. Courtesy of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports, Department of Antiquities
Photo 2: view of the southern bay of Itanos (Ptolemaic harbour) from the estern acropolis (S. Caneva, CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Current location

Heraklion, Archaeological Museum
Inv. No. E 64


Object Type: Slab
Complete. The rough back surface shows that the stone was attached to the structure of the dedicated nymphaeum.
Height: 13.5 cm
Width: 55 cm
Depth: 6.5 cm


The carver has avoided dividing words at the end of lines. The fourth line starts slightly after the previous ones, with the effect of drawing attention to the name of the donor. The greater length of this line justifies the reduction of the letters' width as well as the more limited space left between them.
Good letters of the second half the third century, with thickening at the end of hastae
Letter height between 1.4 and 1.7.


Original Place: Itanos
Date: 220 - 209 BC
Justification: titulary
Provenance: Unspecified


Text constituted from: IC III iv 18.

Other editions:

See also: Pros. Ptol. VI 15117; Huss 1976, p. 147-148; Huss 2001, p. 439, n. 153; Karetsou et al. 2001, p. 378, no. 416; Viviers 2011, p. 49-50.

Images: IC III iv 18, p. 115; Karetsou et al. 2001, p. 378, no. 416.

Further bibliography: Settis 1965; Lloyd-Jones - Parsons, Suppl. Hell.; Lanciers 1988, p. 27-32; Gorrini 2008, p. 172-173; Grimm 1998, p. 70-72; Austin - Bastianini 2002 (AB); Caneva 2016b.

Online record: PHI


βασιλεῖ Πτολεμαίωι Φιλοπάτορι
καὶ βασιλίσσηι Ἀρσινόηι
τὸ ὕδρευμα καὶ τὸ νυμφαῖον
Λεύκιος Γαΐου Ῥωμαῖος φρουράρχων.


To King Ptolemy Philopator and Queen Arsinoe, the reservoir and the nymphaeum (were dedicated by) Lucius son of Gaius, Roman, commander of the garrison.


A re Tolemeo Philopator e alla regina Arsinoe, il serbatoio e il ninfeo (sono stati dedicati da) Lucio figlio di Gaio, Romano, comandante della guarnigione.


This dedication to the royal couple includes a nymphaeum together with its water reservoir. The religious association between queens and rituals requiring water is a well-documented pattern of cultic honours for Hellenistic queens, pointing to the link between queens on the one hand, Aphrodite and/or local nymphs on the other (cf. PHRC009, for Arsinoe Philadelphos Naias at Chytroi, Cyprus). An Alexandrian epigram published in SH 978 (= 113 AB) describes a monumental nymphaeum in the Ptolemaic capital representing either Arsinoe II or III between the Kreniad nymphs (for Arsinoe III, cf. Settis 1965; Gorrini 2008, p. 172-173; for Arsinoe II, Grimm 1998, p. 70-72; AB, p. 136). Line 3 of the epigram mentions the nymphaeum as a gift for the royal couple, whereas only the queen is represented in the statue group. The Alexandrian model might have influenced the donor of the nymphaeum at Itanos.

The text preserves an unusual dedicatory formula, where only King Ptolemy is accompanied by the epiclesis Philopator. In the evidence from the reign of Ptolemy IV, Arsinoe III is referred to in two alternative ways:

1) in the formula “King Ptolemy and Queen Arsinoe, the Theoi Philopatores“ (e.g. Salamine XIII 74; OGIS 84, Palaepaphos). Under Ptolemy V, the same formula was still used to refer to the king’s predecessors, as shown by OGIS 731 (Alexandria). The Greek formula Theoi Philopatores is first attested in the title of the Alexandrian eponymous priest in 216 BC, whereas the Egyptian evidence sheds light on its use as early as 220 BC (Lanciers 1988);

2) as Queen Arsinoe Goddess Philopator, when the queen is mentioned alone. The evidence includes OGIS 33, a statue base dedicated by the city of Kyrene ( IGCyr 033700, wrongly attributed to Arsinoe II; see Caneva 2016b); SEG XXXIII 674, a statue base dedicated on Kos by an agonothetes of Alexandrian origin; I.Delta, p. 237, no. 8, a statue base dedicated by a priest of the Nile at Kanopos. All the agents using this formula are closely related to Alexandria or, as in the case of the city of Kyrene, could be directly influenced by an Alexandrian use.

Unlike the civic decree PHRC011, this dedication does not stem from the initiative of the civic institutions of Itanos, but from the highest representative of the Ptolemaic power in the city, the phrourarch Lucius, a Roman (Pros.Ptol. VI, 15117; cf. Viviers 2011, p. 49-50). This text provides the first attestation of the Ptolemaic garrison at Itanos and the first mention of a Roman occupying a high-ranking administrative function in Crete.

Our limited knowledge about the topography of Hellenistic Itanos also concerns the city’s system of fresh water supply. It would be tempting to imagine that the reservoir dedicated by Lucius was connected with the sacred park mentioned in PHRC011, which certainly needed fresh water for its existence. If that was the case, then a dynastic link would exist between the temenos dedicated by the city to Ptolemy III and Berenike II and the nymphaeum erected by the phrourarch to the new ruling couple, a few decades later.

The certain chronological limits of the inscription are represented by the assumption of the title Philopator by Ptolemy IV (220 BC), and by the first attestation of the son of the couple, the future Ptolemy V (209 BC). Arguing that the title "basilissa" could already refer to princesses before their marriage, Guarducci (in IC III, iv 18) proposed to date the inscription to the period before the marriage between Ptolemy IV and Arsinoe III (contra, cf. Huss 1976, p. 147; 2001, p. 439, n. 153). However, because the date of the marriage also remains uncertain (cf. Huss 1976, p. 263, proposing a date between 220 and 217, in any case before the battle of Raphia), there is little chance to narrow the chronological limits in a convincing way.

Stefano Caneva, 10.11.2018
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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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