005 - Fig

PHRC005 : Dedication to Sarapis, Isis, and the Theoi Adelphoi, Kaunos - Karia (246-220 BC) Dedication

The inscription contains a joint dedication to Sarapis, Isis and the Theoi Adelphoi by an agent whose identity is lost. The object, probably belonging to an altar erected in the local sanctuary of the Egyptian gods, was dedicated after the donor had received a divine order, through an oracle or a dream. The material (marble) may point to the initiative of a wealthy agent, perhaps a member of the Ptolemaic elite. The dedication most probably dates to the reign of Ptolemy III.

Permanent ID

Photo 1: view of the area hosting the sanctuary of the Egyptian gods, from Held - Winkeling-Aumann 2017

Current location

Kaunos, Site storehouse
Inv. No. 70/44


Object Type: Block
Fragment of a small block, approximately the size of a brick, probably from a small altar. The right-hand side is damaged. The bottom surface shows signs of having been cut off from the original structure. Traces of the fourth line are visible but not legible.
Material: White marble
Height: 9.5 cm
Width: 22 cm
Depth: 7 cm


The (at least 4) lines of text occupy the whole length of the block. The space between line 1 and 2 is larger than that between the followin lines.
Letters of the mid-third century, with thinkenings and small apices at the end of long hastae. Σ with slightly divergent horizontal strokes; M with slightly divergent vertical bars; arc-shaped Φ; A with broken bar (see commentary).
Letter height between 0.12 and 0.18.


Date: Between 246 and 220 BC
Justification: Content (for the lettering, see Caneva - Bricault 2019, summarized here in the commentary)
Provenance: Unspecified


Text constituted from: Caneva - Bricault 2019 (following I.Kaunos except for the beginning of line 3).

Other editions: I.Kaunos 67

See also: RICIS Suppl. II 305/2002; Kart 2012, p. 195-204; Kuzmin 2015, p. 73-85; Held - Winkeling-Aumann 2017, p. 210–230.

Images: I.Kaunos, p. 254, no. 67.

Further bibliography: Sabottka 2008; El-Masry et al. 2012, p. 78; Bricault 2013; Renberg 2016, p. 327–393; Caneva 2016a, p. 180-184; Caneva 2016b.

Online record: PHI


[Σ]αράπιδι, Ἴσιδ[ι καὶ]
[Θ]εοῖς Ἀδελφοῖς [κα] -
[τ] πρόσταγμα Δ[...]


To Sarapis, Isis and the Theoi Adelphoi, by divine order, D[…].


A Sarapis, Isis e i Theoi Adelphoi, per ordine divino, D[…].


The shape and small size of this block suggest that it was part of a small structure, perhaps an altar. A plausible hypothesis for the original place of the dedication is the sanctuary of the Egyptian deities. Based on the findspots of other Kaunian dedications to the Isiac gods, the sanctuary can be plausibly located in the area of the so-called ‘Corinthian Temple’, in the city centre, N of the Roman baths (Kart 2012; Held - Winkeling-Aumann 2017). The dissemination of cults for Sarapis and Isis in the Eastern Mediterranean was often instigated by a divine order, which could be transmitted to a person via an oracle or a dream (Renberg 2016, p. 327–393). Similarly, a prominent role in the diffusion of these cults was played by members of the Ptolemaic army and administrative elite (cf. PHRC001, from Ephesos, and PHRC004 from Thera; note, however, that Kaunos has delivered no evidence of having hosted a Ptolemaic garrison). This picture would fit well with the strong bond connecting Kaunos with Alexandria in the third century (see commentary to PHRC002), and the use of marble for this dedication might point to the initiative of a member of the Ptolemaic elite at Kaunos, even though the fragmentary state of the inscription warns us against drawing conclusions on this point.

A date during the reign of Ptolemy III seems reasonable both on paleographic and historical grounds. While the writing of A with broken bar could at first sight point at a date after the third century, 197 BC constitutes a convincing ante quem both because of the diverging strokes of Σ and M, which do not appear in second-century inscriptions from Kaunos, and because the passage of the city under the hegemony of Rhodes, in 197, left hardly any reason for a private agent to make a dedication to the Theoi Adelphoi (Caneva – Bricault 2019). In favour of a date during the reign of Ptolemy III speaks the fact that the Theoi Adelphoi became once again an element of primary importance in Ptolemaic royal ideology in the early years of Euergetes, after the death of Arsinoe II had caused the success of a new formula referring to the royal couple as ‘King Ptolemy and Arsinoe Philadelphos’ (270-246 BC: see Caneva 2016a, p. 180-184; Caneva 2016b, p. 212). With the ascension of Ptolemy III to the throne, the Sibling Gods were commonly evoked as a crucial reference for the legitimation of the new king and their association with Sarapis and Isis in this dedication from Kaunos points to another seminal feature of Ptolemy III’s religious policy in Alexandria (Bricault 2013, p. 92 on Sarapis and Isis in dedications; El-Masry et al. 2012, p. 78, for the Egyptian priests meeting in the sanctuary of Isis and the Theoi Adelphoi in Alexandria, c. 3 December 243; Sabottka 2008 for Ptolemy III’s Serapeum at Rhakotis).

Stefano Caneva, on 17-11-2018

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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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