025 - Fig1

PHRC025 : Dedication of the archiboukolos Herodes to Augustus, Pergamon - Mysia (27 BC - 14 AD) Dedication

This altar, decorated with an oak wreath, a Capricorn and a cornucopia, was dedicated to Augustus by the leader of the Boukoloi (‘Cowherds), a private cultic association venerating Dionysos Kathegemon in Pergamon. The dedication was probably accomplished soon after the Roman Senate granted Octavian the title Augustus (Greek Sebastos) and the ‘corona civica’ and testifies to the contemporaneous enthusiasm for the pacification of Asia Minor under the early Principate. The altar, which was provided with a hollow top able to receive libations and perfume offerings, was part of the cultic tools of the association, which met in a luxury mansion erected on the south-western slope of the Pergamon hill, the so-called House with the ‘Podiensaal’. This dedication probably constitutes the manifesto of the strategy of the Boukoloi to venerate Dionysos Kathegemon, a deity traditionally related to the Attalid dynasty, together with the figure who personified the renewed monarchic power in Pergamon: the Roman Princeps. This strategy of self-promotion would pay back, since during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the Boukoloi would reach the top of the social hierarchy of Imperial Pergamon.

Permanent ID http://s.phrc.it/phrc025

Photo 1: Photo of the altar of Augustus, from AGRM
Photo 2: Photo of the altar of Dionysos, from AGRM
Photo 3: The 'Podiensaal', meeting place of the Boukoloi, in the imperial period, from AGRM

Current location

Archaeological Museum of Bergama


Object Type: Altar
Two joining pieces of a decorated rectangular altar with cornices. The upper surface has a 5 cm-high circular top with a hole for libations and censing rituals. The front edges of the upper cornice are decorated with two horn-shaped akroteria. The rough back surface reveals that the altar was meant to be placed in a niche or against a wall. The decoration of the inscribed face has a Capricorn with a cornucopia on his back, standing above a garland of oak leaves and acorns. The low part of the front surface is damaged, which has caused the loss of half of the inscription.
Material: Mable
Height: 50 cm
Width: 31 cm
Depth: 26,5 cm


The text is elegantly written in two lines, of which line 1, containing the name of the emperor, is larger than line 2 with the name of the donor.
Elegant letters of the same size, with small apices. The inscriptions presents a conservative writing characterized by Α with horizontal brossbar, a feature that can be found in various high-qulity late-Hellenistic and Imperial inscriptions in Pergamon.


Date: Between 27 BC and 14 AD, probably closer to the early chronological limit (see Commentary).
Justification: content and decoration
Provenance: The upper fragment was reused in a Byzantine wall above the western wall of the 'Podiensaal'. The inscribed fragment was found about 25 m SE of the same room.


Text constituted from: Radt 1989, p. 200-204 (SEG XL 1136), here slightly modified on the basis of the photo.

Other editions: AGRW

See also: Jaccottet 2003, I, p. 173-174, no. 93; Schwarzer 2008, AvP XV 4, S19; Caneva 2020.

Images: Radt 1989, figg. 1-4; Jaccottet 2003, I, p. 174; AGRW

Further bibliography: Jaccottet 2003, II, p. 172-182; Schwarzer 2006; Schwarzer 2008, p. 98-102; Jaccottet 2011; Nielsen 2014, p. 54-56; Ventroux 2017, p. 220-223.

Online record: PHI (SEG XL 1136); AGRW


Σεβαστῶι [Καίσαρι]
Ἡρωΐδης ἀρχιβο̣[ύκολος].


Σεβαστῶ[ι Καίσαρι] | Ἡρωΐδης ἀρχιβο[ύκολος] Radt; Σεβαστῶι Κ[αίσαρι] | Ἡρωΐδης ἀρχιβο[ύκολος] AGRW


(S. Caneva)
To Caesar Augustus, Herodes the archiboukolos.


(S. Caneva)
A Cesare Augusto, Herodes l'archiboukolos.


The altar of Augustus belonged to the cultic tools of the cultic association of the Boukoloi of Dionysos. The small dimensions of the altar and its hollow upper surface only made it fit for libations and perfume burning. The Boukoloi met in the House with the ‘Podiensaal’, an aristocratic mansion first erected on the south-western slope of Pergamon in the mid-2nd century BC and later inhabited with various renovations until late Antiquity (Schwarzer 2008; also Schwarzer 2006 and Nielsen 2014). Our altar belongs to the ‘Bauphase 3’, to be dated to the beginning of the Principate (Schwarzer 2008, p. 79).

Both the epithet Sebastos and the ‘corona civica’ of oak were granted to Octavian by the Roman Senate in 27 BC (cf. Res Gestae 34). As argued by the editor (Radt 1989, p. 201-202), the dedication was probably meant to evoke these honours when they were still a recent event. Moreover, the representation of Augustus’ zodiac sign, the Capricorn, and the cornucopia echo the enthusiasm for the pacification of the world ensured by the Princeps (for an epigraphic witness of this attitude in Asia Minor, see the decree issued by the Greeks of Asia in 9 BC, SEG LVI 1233, with the commentary of Dreyer – Engelmann 2006, p. 175-182, and Chaniotis 2018, p. 234, 261-263).

By means of this dedication, the leader of the Boukoloi expressed his and his association’s adherence to the contemporaneous ideology. At the same time, Herodes dedicated to Dionysos Kathegemon a similar altar decorated with branches of ivy and vine and a kantharos filled with a bunch of grapes (Radt 1989, p. 199-200 = SEG XL1135; cf. SEG XXIX 1264; Jaccottet 2003, II, p. 172-173, no. 92; AvP XV 4, S18). This altar stressed the link between the ‘Cowherds’ and their god Dionysos (on the tradition of ‘Cowherds’ of Dionysos in the Hellenistic period, see Jaccottet 2003, I, p. 182-185; Schwarzer 2006). The epiclesis Kathegemon is known as a cultic denomination of Dionysos in Pergamon since the Attalid period. The epiclesis identifies Dionysos as the “Leader” both in relation to his cultic thiasoi and in a military sense; the overlap of these two spheres constitutes a typical feature of the Hellenistic figure of Dionysos (Jeanmaire 1951, p. 351-372; Caneva 2016d). Since during the Attalid period Dionysos Kathegemon was closely related to the dynasty (see commentaries to PHRC026 and PHRC029), it appears that by accomplishing these two dedications, the leader of the Boukoloi made explicit the renewed link between the god and the monarchic power now embodied by Augustus.

The archiboukolos Herodes is otherwise unknown in the prosopography of Pergamon, yet he may have played a crucial role in orienting the initiative of the association towards a fruitful combination between the cult of Dionysos and the newly established imperial worship: this combination is well documented by the epigraphical evidence of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and would accompany the social affirmation of the Boukoloi at the top of the society of Pergamon in the early-Imperial period (for the dossier concerning the association, see Jaccottet 2003, II, p. 172-182; Schwarzer 2008, p. 98-102; Ventroux 2017, p. 220-223). Despite the scholarly attempts at retro-dating the origins of this association to the mid-2nd cent. BC, that is, to the earliest architectural phase of the House with the ‘Podiensaal’ (Schwarzer 2006, p. 158 and Schwarzer 2008, p. 79; see also Jaccottet 2003, II, p. 174-175 and Jaccottet 2011, p. 415-416), Herodes’ initiative provides the earliest evidence about the Boukoloi in Pergamon and it is possible that his double dedication may have worked as a ‘manifesto’ for the future strategies of a new or recently established association (Caneva 2020).

Stefano Caneva, on 29.03.2019
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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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