057 - Fig1

PHRC057 : Dedication to Isis Arsinoe Philadelphos (Kanopos) - Egypt (270-240 BC) Small block

This dedication from Kanopos (ca 270-240 BC) was probably part of an altar of an another cult structure. Its text is particular in at least two respects. Firstly, it provides a rare case where an individual agent accomplished a dedication to a Ptolemaic ruler (in the dative) for (hyper) himself and his family. Secondly, the most convincing integration of the lacuna at the beginning of the text delivers the compound denomination Isis Arsinoe Philadelphos. While the link between Isis and Arsinoe is a well-known aspect of the cult for this queen, in Greek compound denominations Arsinoe’s name usually precedes that of the goddess. This detail may point to an Egyptian cultic context and the sanctuary of Isis and Anubis in Kanopos is a plausible candidate for the original place of the dedication.

Permanent ID http://s.phrc.it/phrc057


Photo 1: Photo of the stone, from I.Delta I, Pl. 3, Fig. 1

Current location

Alexandria, Graeco-Roman Museum
Inv. No. 37


Object Type: Plaque
Thick marble slab broken away on the left. The thickening at the upper and lower edges shows that the plaque was decorated with a cornice. Letters preserve traces of red paint.
Material: Marble
Height: 17 cm
Width (max. preserved): 14,5 cm
Depth: 5,5 cm


The text is carved on 5 lines respecting the word ending, except for line 2.
The writing is clear but somewhat irregular, with the same letter displaying different shapes across the text. See in particular Σ with diverging (line 1) or parallel (line 4) outer strokes. Letter form of the second fourth of the 3rd cent., with thickening at the end of long hastae with small apices. A with stright crossbar. O and Ω are smaller and written in the mid-line.
Letter height between 1,7 and 0,7 cm (omicron).


Original Place: Kanopos
Date: 270-240 BC
Justification: Formulary and lettering
Provenance: Kanopos region. Donated by Naninos Pasha to the Alexandrian Museum.


Text constituted from: CPI I 91.

Other editions: Strack 1894, p. 234, n. 6; Strack 1897, p. 224 no. 30; SB V 8850; OGIS 31; Breccia 1911 (I.Musée d'Alexandrie) no. 7; I.Delta I, p. 233-234 no. 3.

See also: on the cultic context, Malaise 1994, p. 358-360; Quaegebeur 1998; Bricault 2013, p. 86-90; Caneva 2014a, p. 110 no. 11; Caneva 2015, p. 107.

Images: I.Delta I, Pl. 3, Fig. 1.

Further bibliography: on Isis in Kanopos, Minas-Nerpel 2019, p. 151-153, 165; see also the references mentioned in PHRC 056.

Online record: TM 6370


[Ἴσιδι? Ἀ]ρσινόηι
[Φιλαδέ]λφωι Θέ -
[ων? ὑπὲ]ρ αὑτοῦ καὶ
[τῆς γυ]ναικὸς καὶ
5 [τῶν π]αιδίων.


Line 1 Ἴσιδι Ἀρσινόηι Strack 1897, Dittenberger, Breccia, Bilabel (SB); [βασιλίσσαι Ἀ]ρσινόηι Bernand, I.Delta; [Θεᾶι Ἀ]ρσινόηι Strack 1894

2 [Φιλαδέ]λφωι Strack, Dittenberger, Breccia, Bilabel (SB); [θεᾶι Φιλαδέ]λφωι Bernand, I.Delta

2-3 Θέ|[ων? ὑπὲ]ρ Bernand, I.Delta; Θέ[στ|ωρ] Strack, Dittenberger, Bilabel (SB); Θέ|[στωρ] Breccia.


(J. Dechevez)
To [Isis? A]rsinoe Philadelphos, (by) The[on?] in favour of himself, his wife and his children.


(S. Caneva)
A [Isis A]rsinoe Philadelphos, (da) The[on?] a favore di se stesso, di sua moglie e dei suoi bambini.


(J. Dechevez)
À [Isis ? A]rsinoé Philadelphos, (par) Thé[ôn ?], pour lui-même, sa femme et ses enfants.


Dedications to members of the Ptolemaic house for (hyper) a third person are not unknown in Egypt, but in most cases they date to a later period (2nd cent.) and point to the Ptolemaic army for both the donors and the persons mentioned with the hyper formula (Caneva 2016c). In contrast to these documents, this small plaque has an earlier date and bears a rare example of a dedication made by a private individual to a deified ruler in favour of himself and of his own family. Paleography and the presence of the epithet Philadelphos suggest a date between Arsinoe’s death and the early years of Ptolemy III. This allows us to exclude the hypothesis that the lacuna in line 1 should be filled with the royal title basilissa (Arsinoe II never bore it together with the epiclesis Philadelphos, cf. Caneva 2016b, p. 213). Equally unconvincing is the integration Thea, since this term always appears after the personal name Arsinoe in the few cases where the compound denomination Arsinoe Thea Philadelphos is attested (see commentary to PHRC 059).

The most plausible integration of the lacuna delivers the onomastic sequence Isis Arsinoe Philadelphos. As observed in our commentary to PHRC 056, compound denominations placing a theonym before Arsinoe Philadelphos are very rare. Moreover, while a link between Arsinoe and Isis is attested by several Greek and Egyptian documents from Ptolemaic Egypt (Quaegebeur 1998; Shorn 2001, p. 213-214; Caneva 2014a; Caneva 2015; Minas-Nerpel 2019), the priority of Isis is only paralleled by Egyptian texts (Quaegebeur 1998; Bricault 2013, p. 86-88). The only possible Greek parallel is provided by RICIS 305/1702, line 4 (Halikarnassos, ca 260-246 BC; Caneva – Bricault 2019), but in this case scholars convincingly interpret the dedicatory sequence ‘to Sarapis Isis Arsinoe Philadelphos’ as a triad of recipients mentioned together without conjunctions (cf. Wallensten 2014). The hypothesis of a dedication to Isis (and) Arsinoe Philadelphos in Kanopos cannot be excluded either. Be that as it may, the priority of Isis together with the geographical provenance point to the sanctuary of Isis as a plausible location for our dedication. In the years ca. 274-270, this sanctuary had been dedicated to Isis and Anubis by the admiral Kallikrates for the living couple of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II (see commentary to PHRC 055). The dedication made by Theon (the name is much more common than Thestor, see LGPN) may therefore shed light on a later stage of evolution of the cult of Isis in Kanopos, which was affected by the integration of the new cult for the deceased and deified Arsinoe. The stone was probably part of an altar or of another small cult structure.

Julien Dechevez, Stefano Caneva, on 09.06.2021

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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)
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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