064 - Fig 1

PHRC064 : Dedication to King Antiochos III, Queen Laodike and their son Antiochos, Bostan esh-Sheikh (Sidon) - Phoenicia (198-193 BC) Dedication

A fragmentary marble plaque discovered in 1969 in the sanctuary of Eshmun at Bostan esh-Sheikh near Sidon contains a dedication, probably by local priests, to King Antiochos III, Queen Laodike, and their son and co-regent Antiochos. The royal recipients of the dedication are unexpectedly referred to as Theoi Soteres and Theoi Euergetai, two epicleses unprecedented in the Seleucid tradition but well rooted in Ptolemaic practice. Thus, the dedication sheds light on a transfer of epithets from the old to the new masters of Phoenicia, recently annexed to the Seleucid kingdom by Antiochos III during the 4th Syrian war. The organization of the dedication is reminiscent of the classic configuration of Phoenician civic triads composed of a divine couple and their child.

Permanent ID: http://s.phrc.it/phrc064


Photo 1: Photo of the stone, from Stucky 2005, Tf. 33
Photo 2: Plan of the the sanctuary of Eshmun, from Stucky 2005, p. 10

Current location

Bostan esh-Sheikh, in situ
Inv. No. E 1327


Object Type: Plaque
Fragment corresponding to the right half of a small plaque.
Material: Marble
Height: 39 cm
Width: 22 cm
Depth: 5 cm


Text orderly divided in 9 lines respecting word ending and using spaces to divide different sections: lines 1-6 contain the names of the ritual recipients, lines 7-9 mention the donors.
Letteres elegantly engraved, with only small irregularities, and painted in red. The writing is somewhat conservative, as often attested in high-quality dedications: various features that could belong to the mid-3rd cent.: A with straight crossbar; H and Σ with parallel or slightly curvy outer strokes; K with small diagonals; Β, Φ, and Ρ occupy a narrow horizontal space; Ω, Ο and even Δ are written above the line.
Letter size between 1,5 (round letters) and 1,5 cm.


Date: Between 198 and 193 BC
Justification: Content
Provenance: Found in 1969 in the architectural complex of the Hellenistic period, between the sacred basin of Astarte and Eshmun's tribune.


Text constituted from: R.A. Wachter in Stucky 2005, p. 323, Gr. 4 (with German trans.), with a few minor modifications proposed by Lorenzon 2020, p. 107-109.

Other editions:

See also: BÉ 2006, p. 732, no. 46; Bonnet 2015, 228-229; Lorber 2020, 189.

Images: Stucky 2005, Tf. 33; Bonnet 2015, p. 228, fig. 55.

Further bibliography: on the sanctuary of Eshmun at Bostan esh-Sheikh, see Stucky 2005; Bonnet 2015, 211-245. On the Seleucid conquest of Koile Syria, see Lorber 2021.

Online record: SEG LV 1658


[... βασιλεῖ Μεγάλ]ωι
[Ἀντιόχωι κ]αὶ βασιλίσσηι
[Λαοδίκηι τῆ]ι ἀδελφῆι
[αὐτοῦ καὶ Ἀ]ντιόχωι τῶι
5 [υἱῶι Θεοῖς Σ]ωτῆρσιν καὶ
[Θεοῖς Εὐεργέτ]αις vacat
[10?..........]ος ὁ ἱερεὺς
[καὶ 7?....... ὁ ἀρ]χιερεὺς
[τοῦ Ἀπόλλων?]ος vacat


Line 9: [...c. 9-11 ...]ος Wachter | [e.g. τοῦ Ἀπόλλων]ο̣ς Lorenzon


L. Lorenzon
To [Antiochos the Great King], his sister the Queen [Laodice] and to Antiochos [the son, Theoi] Soteres and [Theoi Euergetai], […] priest [and …] high-priest [e.g. of Apollo]


(L. Lorenzon)
Al [Grande Re Antioco], a sua sorella la regina [Laodice] e ad Antioco [il figlio, dèi] Salvatori e [dèi Evergeti] […] sacerdote [e …] sommo sacerdote [e.g. di Apollo]


L. Lorenzon
À [Antiochos le Grand Roi], à sa sœur la reine [Laodice] et à Antiochos [le fils, dieux] Sauveurs et [dieux Évergètes] […] prêtre [et …] grand-prêtre [e.g. d’Apollon]


This inscription was discovered in 1969 in Bostan esh-Sheikh near Sidon, in the architectural complex of the Hellenistic period between Astarte’s sacred basin and the so-called Tribune of Eshmun (cf. Stucky 2005, p. 10). The religious complex was dedicated to Eshmun as its main owner. Eshmun’s competences as a protective deity and the therapeutic function of the religious complex led to an early identification between this Phoenician god and Asklepios (cf. Strabo 16.2.22). Scholars have pointed out that during the Hellenistic period, the religious identity of the sanctuary went through a process of redefinition by which the elites of Sidon advertised their cultural contacts with the Greek world (see esp. Bonnet 2015, p. 211-245). This process entailed the introduction of the cults of Apollo and Dionysos in addition to the original tutelary deities Eshmun-Asklepios and Astarte-Aphrodite. Cultic honours addressed to the royal family can be seen as part of this process and plausibly aimed to the same goal of establishing a common ground for negotiations between the local priestly elites and the sovereigns.

The dedication was made during the first decade after Antiochos III’s conquest of Phoenicia (battle of Panion, 200 or 198 BC, following the late chronology proposed by Lorber 2021; on the assumption of the epithet Megas see PHRC 007). The fragmentary state of lines 7 to 9 raises a series of questions about the identity of the dedicators: Lorenzon 2020 identifies them as two separate individuals respectively holding the office of priest (ἱερεύς) and of high-priest (ἀρχιερεύς). However, the nature of these functions is unknown. It has been argued (cf. BÉ 2006, p. 732, no. 46) that the ἀρχιερεύς may be officially linked to the ruler cult and should therefore belong to the Seleucid royal administration (cf. OGIS 224, lines 21-23). However, this assumption does not rely on any conclusive argument. Moreover, the cult epithets Theoi Soteres and Theoi Euergetai attributed to the sovereigns are unparalleled in the Seleucid tradition and rather suggest that the ritual agents belonged to the local context of the sanctuary and still used dedicatory formulae inherited from the period of Ptolemaic dominion. Following the battle of Raphia in 217 BC, Ptolemy IV and Arsinoe III promoted the cult of Sarapis and Isis as Theoi Soteres and this message was promptly received and disseminated by ritual agents in their dedications (see commentary to PHRC 001).

The organization of the dedication is reminiscent of the classic configuration of Phoenician civic pantheons, which were articulated around a triad of divinities composed of a divine couple accompanied by their child. Thus, the dedication not only honours the royal family, but also uses mixed religious traditions to create a bridge between the previous Ptolemaic dominion, local identities, and the new rulers. In this respect, it is worth noticing that the reconfiguration of Eshmun-Asklepios’ divine profile, in particular through the use of elements associated with Apollo, could resonate with the tradition that made Apollo the divine Archegetes of the Seleucid dynasty (cf. Caneva-Lorenzon 2020, with the previous refs). Similarly, the development of the cult of Astarte in Bostan esh-Sheikh during the Hellenistic period recalls the recurrent association between her Greek equivalent, the goddess Aphrodite, and Seleucid queens, from Stratonike (wife of Seleukos I and Antiochos I) to the living queen Laodike III (on Stratonike, see Engels – Erickson 2016, 59-63; Erickson 2019; cf. PHRC 043 for the cult of ‘Queen Aphrodite Laodike’ at Iasos).>

Luca Lorenzon, Stefano Caneva, on 20.10.2021
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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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