026 - Fig1

PHRC026 : Dedication of the Bakchoi to Eumenes II, Pergamon - Mysia (158-133 BC) Dedication

This finely inscribed altar was posthumously dedicated to Eumenes II by the cultic association of the Bakchoi. Its original location was probably the precinct of Athena on the acropolis, a prominent space for the royal representation and identity of the Attalids. The inscription testifies to the appropriation by a private religious group of the official ideological link associating the Attalid dynasty with Dionysos. Moreover, the quality of the inscription as well as the use of the rare literary epiclesis Euastes for Dionysos confirm that the Bakchoi were members of the Pergamon elite, perhaps enjoying a direct link with the royal court and with its cultural and religious life.

Permanent ID http://s.phrc.it/phrc026

Photo 1: Photo of the altar, from Bielfeldt 2010, 157, fig. 16
Photo 2: Plan of the ruins of the sanctuary of Athena; from Arachne.dainst.org
Photo 3: Plan of the sanctuary of Athena, reconstruction; from Arachne.dainst.org

Current location

Archaeological Museum of Bergama


Object Type: Altar
Rectangular altar with cornices. The lower part of the right side is missing. A hole in the bottom surface shows that the altar was originally attached to a support.
Material: Marble
Height: 57 cm
Width: max. 41,5 cm
Depth: 23 cm


The text is elegantly written in three lines at the top of the front surface. In the first two lines, words are carefully separated in order to draw more attantion to the name and epithets of the deceased king; conversely, the words composing the name of the donors in line 3 are not separated.
Elegant letters of the mid-2nd cent. with small apices at the end of hastae. The remarkable width of round letters (O, Ω, Θ) gives the impression that the stonecutter has taken care that each letter occupies approximately the same space (with the only exception of I) in order to increase the order and elegance of the inscription. Σ with parallel horizontal bars. The shape of A with horizontal crossbar stands out as a conservative feature in relation to the contemporaneous epigraphy of Pergamon, which often testifies to the use of A with broken crossbar. Conservatism is a feature paralleled by other high-quality inscriptions of the 2nd-1st cent. (cf. PHRC025).
Letter height between 1,5 and 1,8 cm.


Date: Between 158 and 133 BC
Justification: content and lettering
Provenance: Found on the terrace of Athena: MDAI(A) 27 (1902), p. 94, "Gefunden in der Nebenstrasse, die von der Burgstrasse auf den viereckigen Turm der byzantinischen Mauer zuführt".


Text constituted from: MDAI(A) 27 (1902), p. 94-95, no. 86.

Other editions: .

See also: von Prott 1902, p. 184; Allen 1983, p. 151, n. 26; Müller 1989, 540-541; Jaccottet 2003, II, p. 171-172, no. 91; Bielfeldt 2010, p. 156-157; Michels 2011, p. 127-128; Suk Fong Jim 2017; Caneva 2020.

Images: Bielfeldt 2010, p. 157, fig. 16.

Further bibliography: on Dionysos and the Attalids, see Ohlemutz 1968, p. 90-122; Müller - Wörrle 2002; Schwarzer 2006; Schwazer 2008; Jaccottet 2011; Zimmer 2011; Ventroux 2017, p. 216-220.

Online record: PHI


Βασιλεῖ vac. Εὐμένει vac. Θε[ῶι]
Σωτῆρι vac. καὶ vac. Εὐεργέ[τηι]
οἱ Βάκχοι τοῦ εὐαστοῦ θ[εοῦ]


(S. Caneva)
To King Eumenes, Theos Soter and Euergetes, the Bakchoi of the god of the 'euai'.


(S. Caneva)
Al re Eumene, Theos Soter e Euergetes, i Bakchoi del dio dell'evoè.


This altar is the finest specimen from the corpus of small dedications to Eumenes II in Pergamon. The find spot suggests that it was originally erected inside the precinct of Athena in the citadel. This was a prominent royal space in Attalid Pergamon as suggested by the presence of the Library, by the numerous documents that were posted in this place, and, last but not least, by the choice of Attalos III to establish there the cult of the royal god Zeus Sabazios ( IvP I 248 = Welles, RC 65-67; 135/4 BC). According to the editors, the basis of the altar shows that the structure was attached to a support, making it a non-removable cultic object unlike most of the small altars of the Attalid ruler cult.

The post-quem date of dedication can be identified by means of the reference to Eumenes as Theos. A comparison with two documents issued by the Technitai of Dionysos Kathegemon in Teos shows that this epithet was added to the denominations of Eumenes II after his death: CIG 3068A (Le Guen 2001, I, n° 48; 180-158 av. J.-C.) attests to the “priest and agonothetes of King Eumenes”, whereas CIG 3070 (Le Guen 2001, I, n° 49; 152 av. J.-C.) refers to the same charge as the “priest and agonothetes of King God Eumenes”. On the other hand, our altar is the only posthumous reference to Eumenes II including both cultic epithets Soter and Euergetes, whereas other texts datable after his death in 159 only call him Soter (see Caneva 2020 and commentary to PHRC028). This detail points to a date soon after the death of Eumenes II as the most plausible chronology for the dedication.

The quality of the inscription allows us to identify the Bakchoi as a cultic association composed of members of the Pergamon elite, who probably were in direct contact with the royal court (for the bonds between the Attalids and the family of the priests of Dionysos Kathegemon, see IvP I 248, with Michels 2011, 125-127; Ventroux 2017, p. 216-220). Dionysiac associations calling themselves Bakchoi or Symbakchoi are documented in various Hellenistic inscriptions (Jaccottet 2003, II, nos. 62, 148, 154). In Hellenistic Pergamon, the cult of Dionysos Kathegemon played a central role in the self-representation of the Attalids (von Prott 1902; Michels 2011) and the interest of the dynasty for this god explains the success of cultic associations related to the cult of Dionysos in the Attalid kingdom, among which the Technitai of Dionysos Kathegemon occupied a central place. A room of ‘Palace V’ in the Pergamon citadel has even been interpreted as a possible private cult place of Dionysos inside the Attalid royal palace (see Radt 1999, p. 68-70; Zimmer 2011, p. 146-147; Michels 2011, p. 131). More generally, associations played a central role in the dissemination of Attalid ruler cults: to the Bakchoi and the Technitai of Dionysos Kathegemon we can add the Attalistai founded by Kraton of Chalkedon (probably also in Teos: see Schwarzer 1999, p. 270-272; Michels 2011, p. 130-131) and an association of unknown name which issued the decree SEG LII 1197 under the reign of Eumenes II (Müller – Wörrle 2002; stele found in the high Kaikos valley). The diffusion of the cult of Dionysos in private associations can also be seen as an important factor for the continuity of the success of this god among the elites of Pergamon after the end of dynasty: see commentary to PHRC025.

The epiclesis Euastes used in relation to Dionysos is a hapax in inscriptions but finds some parallels in literary sources. From these texts it emerges that this epiclesis may have been closely related to the mystic dimension of Bacchic cults (on this point, see already the commentary of the first editors; more recently, Müller 1989 and Michels 2011, 127-128). Jaccottet 2003, II, p. 172, wonders if besides referring to the Bacchic cry ‘euai’, the epiclesis might also provide a pun evoking the protection of Dionysos as a royal god over the city of Pergamon (the god ‘of the good city’, eu-asty). While this hypothesis remains unproven, it is interesting to note that the use of poetic words in a dedication made by elite members to Dionsysos finds a parallel in Pergamon in the statue base of a Satyr dedicated by Dionysodoros of Sikyon, a royal collaborator of Attalos I (PHRC029). There too, the language of the dedication seems to bring mystic traditions related to Dionysos to the foreground. This similarity strengthens the hypothesis that the members of the Bakchoi belonged to, or were closely related to the court society of Attalid Pergamon and sheds light on some aspects of the cult of Dionysos at court.

Some scholars have proposed the hypothesis that the Bakchoi were the predecessors of the Boukoloi known in Pergamon from the time of Augustus onwards, and that they might even have met in the same aristocratic house which would then become the seat of the Boukoloi (see Schwarzer 2006 and 2008, p. 92-97; Jaccottet 2011, p. 415-416). Given the proliferation of private associations in Hellenistic Pergamon in general, and in particular the continuity of the cult of Dionysos in the city at both the public and private level, it seems more probable that these two associations played a separate role in the history of Dionysiac cults in Pergamon and of their link with political power (see further on PHRC025).

Stefano Caneva, on 01.04.2019
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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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