049 - Fig1

PHRC049 : Dedication to Arsinoe Philadelphos, Philoteria - Koile Syria (261-240 BC) Dedication

This recently published limestone slab from Philoteria (See of Galilee) has provided the first evidence of the cult of Arsinoe Philadelphos in the Levant. This plaque shows that the close link between Arsinoe’s cult and navigation (for military or commercial purposes) did not only apply to the open sea, but could also find its place on the shore of an internal salt lake. The Zenon archive sheds light on the intense economic activities of Ptolemaic agents in the inland of Koile Syria in this period and it is probable that the dedication was made by one of these figures, making this object a significant case of the link between politics, trade, and acculturation within the Ptolemaic kingdom.

Images

Photo 1: Photo and drawing of the stone, from Tal 2019


Current location

Bet Yerah Site Museum
Inv. No. IAA 18-1316

Support

Object Type: Slab
Small rectangular plaque missing the right-hand edge and the bottom-left corner. The back surface is roughly worked, suggesting that the object was attached to another structure, perhaps an altar.
Material: Limestone
Dimensions:
Height: max. 10 cm
Width: max 9.6 cm
Depth: 2.3 cm

Layout

The text is written in two lines occupying the upper part of the slab.
Cursorily cut letters of the reign of Ptolemy II. A with horizontal bar, P with very small bow, Φ with flattened circle. In addition to the diverging strokes, which are typical of this period, Σ stands out for its curvy rendering, which makes it similar to a cursive M tilted leftwards by 90°.
Average letter height between 1.5 cm.

History

Original Place: Philoteria
Date: Between 261 and 240 BC
Justification: Lettering and historical context
Provenance: Discovered in May 2018 during a conservation campaign in the north part of the site of Philoteria/Bet Yerah, in the area of the Bronze Age circles building and of the Islamic bathhouse.

Bibliography

Text constituted from: Tal 2019, p. 181.

Other editions:

See also:

Images: Tal 2019, p. 181.

Further bibliography: Tal 2011 (foundation of Philotera)

Online record:

Edition



Ἀρσινόης
Φιλαδέ[λφου]


Translation


(S. Caneva)
Of Arsinoe Philadelphos

Traduzione


(S. Caneva)
Di Arsinoe Philadelphos

Traduction


(S. Caneva)
D'Arsinoé Philadelphos

Commentary

This limestone plaque from Philoteria (modern Bet Yerah, on the See of Galilee) has recently enriched the large corpus of inscriptions bearing the dedication ‘Of Arsinoe Philadelphos’ with the first known specimen from Koile Syria. The Hellenistic settlement, which was provided with an anchorage and fortifications, was founded on an existing site in the second fourth of 3rd cent. BC in honour of the sister of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II, Philotera (Cohen 2006, 273-274; Müller 2006, p. 210, no. 84). Tal 2011, p. 243-244 argues in favour of a more precise date for this foundation, 261/0 BC, which moves the terminus post quem of the dedication about a decade after the death of Arsinoe.

The new plaque informs us that the cult of Arsinoe Philadelphos reached Koile Syria as the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean (Egypt, the coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea, Cyprus and the southern coast of Anatolia; see also commentary to PHRC002). The link between the cult of Arsinoe and navigation is confirmed in Philoteria, even though in this case the settlement where the dedication has been found was situated on the coast of a salt lake. Commercial activities involving Ptolemaic agents are well known in this area thanks to the Zenon archive, which dates to the period when this dedication was made (Orrieux 1985, 152-163). The material of the support and the modest quality of the inscription point to an unofficial dedication. The rarity of this type of evidence in the area may suggest that this was not common practice in Koile Syria; our specimen possibly stems from the initiative of an external agent having brought this habit into the region.

Tal 2019, p. 183-184 considers but prudently rejects the hypothesis that the fragmentary head of a statuette with kalathos and stephane previously found nearby the find spot of the inscribed plaque (Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Inv. No. HUJU 1562; Tal 2019, p. 184) might depict the deified Arsinoe as Isis-Tyche. While a link between Arsinoe Philadelphos and Tyche is indeed documented by the Alexandrian oinochoai and possibly confirmed by the Philadelpheion in Delos (see PHRC036), it is more probable that the sculptural find from Philoteria belongs to the Roman period and should more prudently not be interpreted in association with the dedication for the Ptolemaic queen.

Author:
Stefano Caneva, on 19.12.2019
Revisions:

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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
ste.caneva@gmail.com
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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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