058 - Fig1

PHRC058 : Dedication to Hestia Pantheos, Ptolemy III and Berenike II, Alexandria - Egypt (216/5-210/9 BC) Plaque

The unknown author of this dedication consecrated two precincts with altars to a set of deities and deceased Ptolemies, on behalf of the living rulers Ptolemy IV and Arsinoe III. A first cult place was dedicated to a deity (probably Zeus) bearing the epithet Pantheos, together with Ptolemy III and Berenike II, who exceptionally hold two epicleses: the traditional Theoi Euergetai and the unique Theoi Eusebeis. The second precinct is dedicated to Hestia Pantheos. Various phonetic and linguistic details point to a donor with an Egyptian background. The fact that a unique Egyptian term translated both Greek expressions Euergetai (the Beneficent ones) and Eusebeis (the Pious ones) is used to highlight the topic of royal piety and euergetism towards temples and gods. The choice of Hestia (and Zeus) together with the epiclesis Pantheos also suggest that the donor wanted to evoke the divine couple Isis/Sarapis and stress the omnipotence of both the deities and Ptolemaic rulers.

Permanent ID http://s.phrc.it/phrc058


Photo 1: Photo of the stone, from I.Alex.Ptol., Pl. 10, Fig. 25

Photo 2: Drawing by Seymour de Ricci (1909)

Current location

Alexandria, Graeco-Roman Museum
Inv. No. 34


Object Type: Plaque
Thick slab broken away on the bottom. The surface is rough and worn at various points, especially on the left side.
Material: Limestone
Height: 25 cm
Width: 28 cm
Depth: 8 cm


Text arranged in 12 lines respecting word ending.
Clear but somewhat irregular letters from the late 3rd cent., with thickening at the end of long hastae. A with broken crossbar, Σ with parallel strokes, Π with hooked shorter right vertical. O and Ω are often smaller than the other letters.
Letter height between 1,2 and 0,8 cm.


Original Place: Alexandria
Date: 216/5-210/9 BC
Justification: Formulary
Provenance: Found in 1900 near the ancient necropolis of Gabbari, Alexandria.


Text constituted from: Dechevez 2021.

Other editions: Strack 1903, p. 546-547 no. 24; Breccia 1911 (I.Musée d'Alexandrie) no. 25; Fraser - Rumpf 1952, p. 68; I.Alex.Ptol. 25; CPI I 24.

See also: Savvopoulos 2018, p. 124-125; Savvopoulos 2020, p. 85-86.

Images: I.Alex.Ptol., Pl. 10-11, Figg. 25 (stone) and 26 (drawing); CPI I, p. 76, Fig. 14 (squeeze).

Further bibliography: on the epiclesis Pantheios, Benedetti 2021, esp. 247-249; Dechevez 2021 on the cult of Zeus in Alexandria.

Online record: TM 107255


[Ὑπὲρ βα]σιλέως Πτολεμαίου
[καὶ βασιλί]σσης Ἀρσινόη[ς]
[τὸ τέ]μενος καὶ τὸν βωμὸν
[Διὸς?] Πανθέου κα Εὐσεβῶν
5 [Θεῶν βα]σιλέως Πτο[λε]μαίου
[καὶ βα]σιλίσσης [Βερε]νίκης,
[Θεῶν Ε]ὐεργετῶν, <καὶ> τὸ τέμενος
[καὶ τὸν β]ωμὸν Ἡστίας Πανθέου
[12?............]ης Ἀριστόμ<ε>νους
10 [10?.......... κατ]’εὐχὰ[ς ἀνέθηκε? ..?..].


Line 4 [Διὸς?] Πανθέο̣υ̣ Dechevez; [Ἡστίας] Πανθέου κ̣α̣ὶ̣ I.Alex.Ptol., CPI; [τῶν Πανθέων] Breccia, Fraser - Rumpf

Line 5 [καὶ ὑπὲρ βα]σιλέως Πτο[λε]μαίου Strack

Line 7 καὶ Breccia

Line 8 Ἡστίας I.Alex.Ptol.; Ἑστίας correxit Strack

Line 9 Ἀριστόμνους Strack Breccia; Ἁριστοφάνους I.Alex.Ptol., CPI


(J. Dechevez - S. Caneva)
[For] King Ptolemy [and] Queen Arsinoe, [the] sacred precinct and the altar of [Zeus?] Pantheos and the [Theoi] Eusebeis, King Ptolemy [and] Queen Berenike, [Theoi] Euergetai, (as well as) the sacred precinct [and the] altar of Hestia Pantheos [...] (son) of Aristomenes [consecrated] as a vow (?).


(S. Caneva)
[Per] re Tolemeo [e] la regina Arsinoe, [il] recinto sacro e l'altare di [Zeus?] Pantheos e dei [Theoi] Eusebeis, re Tolemeo [e] la regina Berenice, [Theoi] Euergetai, (e inoltre) il recinto sacro [e l']altare di Hestia Pantheos [...] (figlio) di Aristomenes [ha consacrato] in voto (?).


(J. Dechevez)
[Pour] re roi Ptolémée [et] la reine Arsinoé, [l']enceinte sacrée et l'autel de [Zeus ?] Pantheos et des [Theoi] Eusebeis, le roi Ptolémée [et] la reine Bérénice, [Theoi] Euergetai, (ainsi que) l'enceinte sacrée [et l']autel d'Hestia Pantheos [...] (fils) d'Aristomenès [a consacré] par voeu (?).


The content of this dedication from the reign of Ptolemy IV is particularly difficult to reconstruct (for the proposed chronological limits, 216-210 BC, see commentary to PHRC 015 and 054). Our issues are not only due to the fragmentary state of the text, but also to the formulary employed by the donor, an individual whose name is lost in lacuna (but his father’s name Aristomenes is preserved: see Dechevez 2021). A crucial turning point is in the middle of line 4, where we follow Seymour De Ricci’s drawing (I.Alex.Ptol., Fig. 26) and read the letters OY rather than Ω. This implies that the epiclesis Pantheos refers to a previous deity named in the genitive, which is now lost in lacuna at the beginning of the same line. Moreover, we reject the hypothesis that the precinct and altar mentioned in line 2 are the same as those in lines 7-8, which are dedicated to Hestia Pantheos, since this would imply an odd and unparalleled duplication of the reference to the dedicated cult structures. As a consequence, the god mentioned in line 2 must be a different one. Comparison with Greek dedications to Hestia together with a second deity point to Zeus as a plausible candidate, who moreover perfectly fits the small extent of the lacuna (on Zeus and Hestia see Paul 2013, p. 277-281).

The first precinct and altar are dedicated to Zeus Pantheos together with the couple of royal ancestors, Ptolemy III and Berenike II. Their personal names are not only followed by the traditional denomination Theoi Euergetai, but also preceded by a unique epithet, Theoi Eusebeis. In addition to an euergetic attitude toward their subjects, Hellenistic sovereigns are often praised for their piety toward the gods; taken together, these two aspects of the rulers’ behaviour are expected to strengthen their kingdom, since their government is considered legitimate by humans and protected by gods (on the link between euergesia and eusebeia, see Muccioli 2013, p. 309-310; Iossif 2018, p. 272-273). However, while the royal epithet Eusebes is attested for various Hellenistic dynasties, it is totally unparalleled in Ptolemaic traditions. As pointed out by Dechevez 2021, a suitable explanation of this unique occurrence comes from an interpretation of the text that considers an Egyptian background of the dedication. An Egyptian influence can be argued at a phonetic and linguistic level. To begin with, the name of Hestia at line 8 is written with H instead of the correct E. Uncertainties between long and short ‘e’ is a typical mistake in papyri and inscriptions where an Egyptian agent writes Greek. Besides, the drop of the internal vowel in the name Aristom(e)nes is consistent with Egyptian phonetics (cf. commentary to PHRC 054). Moving to the formulary, the duplication of the epiclesis accompanying the names of Ptolemy III and Berenike II makes sense when we consider that in Egyptian, the expression mnḫ(-ỉb) translates both Greek terms ‘eusebes’ (pious) and ‘euergetes’ (beneficent) (Nespoulous-Phalippou 2015, p. 38). The donor apparently decided to stress the theme of royal piety and religious euergetism by doubling the epithet of the dynastic ancestors: while the traditional denomination Theoi Euergetai occupies its normal position after the personal names of the sovereigns, the new epiclesis precedes them.

From a Greek perspective, the association between Zeus and Hestia points to a message of political order and protection of the hearth of the polis and of the dynastic house. However, an Egyptian background helps us once again to get a better understanding of the meaning of this dedication. Hestia belongs to the series of Greek deities that can be associated with Isis (Savvopoulos 1918, p. 125; cf. I.Métriques 175, lines 21-22), just as Zeus is a prominent correspondent of Sarapis in the traditional Greek pantheon. Moreover, Panthe(i)os is an epiclesis used to express Isis’ and Sarapis’ omnipotence enabling these gods to embrace the prerogatives of a plurality of Greek deities (Bricault – Dionysopoulou 2016, p. 113 for Isis; cf. 79 for a Latin translation, and p. 122 for Sarapis). The dedication made by the son of Aristomenes therefore conveys a multi-faceted message stressing a plurality of seminal aspects of royal ideology: dynastic continuity, royal omnipotence, benefaction, and piety towards the gods.

The place where the son of Aristomenes made his dedication is unknown. The hypothesis that this place is to be identified with a shrine of all gods in Alexandria is tempting but remains purely hypothetical (on the evidence of an Alexandrian Pantheon in the Hellenistic period, see Ghisellini 1999). As seen above, the explanation of the epiclesis Pantheos in relation to the omnipotence of Zeus and Hestia provides in our opinion a more convincing interpretation. Be that as it may, another point deserving attention is that the donor has dedicated two precincts, which were presumably located one next to the other. In the first one, the royal ancestors were honoured together with an all-mighty Zeus. Spatial proximity is a valuable strategy to express ritual and ideal links between deities, and between deities and human recipients of cult. For a comparable case involving Zeus and a couple of Ptolemaic ancestors, see commentary to PHRC 053.

Julien Dechevez, Stefano Caneva, on 12.06.2021
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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)
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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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