053 - Fig1

PHRC053 : Dedication to the Theoi Adelphoi, Zeus Olympios and Zeus Synomosios, Alexandria - Egypt (243-211 BC) Dedication

This joint dedication to the Theoi Adelphoi, Zeus Olympios and Zeus Synomosios was made by two Alexandrian priests of Zeus in favour of the living royal couple, Ptolemy III and Berenike II (post quem 243/2 BC, suggested by the presence of the epiclesis Theoi Euergetai). The donors dedicated a plot of land and probably divided it into two sacred precincts hosting altars. Perhaps the Theoi Adelphoi shared each precinct with a different configuration of Zeus, or a temenos of the royal ancestors was established next to one of Zeus. The joint dedication and the spatial proximity it establishes between divine and human power were an effective solution to advertise the donors’ loyalty to the dynasty. The two epicleses of Zeus depict him as the king of gods and as the patron of oaths; since Ptolemaic subjects sworn oaths in the name of their rulers, the formulae adopted in the dedication establish an explicit parallelism between Zeus and the ruling house with regard to legitimate kingship and to the protection of legal authority and social order.

Permanent ID http://s.phrc.it/phrc053


Photo 1: Photo of the stone, from I.Alex.Ptol. Pl. 6, Fig. 14

Current location

Alexandria, Graeco-Roman Museum
Inv. 36, cat. 10


Almost intact white marble slab, slightly damaged at the upper and lower edge and bottom-left corner.
Material: Marble
Height: 14,5 cm
Width: 18,5 cm
Length: 3,5 cm


The text is inscribed on 12 lines respecting word ending, except for line 9. Lines 1-11 are aligned to the left; line 12 is centered. Letters were filled with dark colour. A dicolon is used in line 6 to separate the hyper formula mentioning the ruling couple from the following lines, which refer to the recipients of the dedication (in the dative).
The letters are small and well-formed, although with a slightly irregular ductus. Thickening at the end of long hastae, without apices. Letter shape of the early second half of the 3rd cent.: A with straight crossbar, Π with slightly shorter right vertical, M and N with parallel vertical strokes and Σ with only slightly diverging outer strokes; Θ with central point. All letters are averagely the same size, with the exception of round ones (O and Ω), which are smaller and written in mid- or upper line.
Letter height between 0,7 and 0,3 cm (O).


Original Place: Alexandria
Date: Between 270 and 246 BC
Justification: Formulary
Provenance: Found in 1894 in the Victoria neighbourhood, eastern part of the city (now Ramleh); donated to the Alexandrian Museum by Mr. Sheppard.


Text constituted from: Savvopoulos 2020, p. 85 (same as I.Alex.Ptol. 14, but marking the dicolon in line 6).

Other editions: Botti 1894, p. 21-22; Mahaffy 1899, p. 121, n. 1; OGIS 65; SB V 8861 (with add. p. 550); Breccia 1911 (I.Musée d'Alexandrie), no. 10; I.Alex.Ptol. 14; CPI I 15.

See also: Strack 1897, p. 233-234, no. 43); Fraser 1972, I, p. 194; II, p. 326, n. 18, and p. 416, n. 594; McKenzie 2007, p. 52; Fragaki 2011, p. 44; Baralay 2020, 116-119; Savvopoulos 2020, 84-85.

Images: I.Alex.Ptol. Pl. 6, photo 14 (with colour still visible); CPI I, p. 60.

Further bibliography: on dynastic continuity expressed through dedications, Caneva 2016a, p. 180-181, 195-197, and Caneva - Bricault 2019; on the cult of Zeus in Alexandria, see now Dechevez 2021.

Online record: PHI; Attalus; TM 6381


Ὑπὲρ βασιλέως Πτολεμαίου
τοῦ Πτολεμαίου καὶ Ἀρσινόης,
Θεῶν Ἀδελφῶν, καὶ βασιλίσσης
Βερενίκης τῆς γυναικὸς
5 καὶ ἀδελφῆς τοῦ βασιλέως,
Θεῶν Εὐεργετῶν : {καὶ} Θεοῖς
Ἀδελφοῖς <καὶ> Διὶ Ὀλυμπίωι καὶ Διὶ
Συνωμοσίωι τοὺς βωμοὺς
καὶ τὰ τεμένη καὶ τὴν συν -
10 κύρουσαν αὐτοῖς γὴν Κλέων
καὶ Ἀντίπατρος οἱ ἰερεῖς
vac. τοῦ Διός. vac.


Line 6: καὶ published in OGIS, SB, I.Musée d’Alexandrie and CPI.

Line 8: καὶ Mahaffy 1899.


(J. Dechevez)
In favour of King Ptolemy, (son) of Ptolemy and Arsinoe, Theoi Adelphoi, and Queen Berenike, wife and sister of the king, Theoi Euergetai; Kleon and Antipatros, the priests of Zeus, (dedicated) the altars, the sacred precincts and the land belonging to them to the Theoi Adelphoi, Zeus Olympios and Zeus Synomosios.


(S. Caneva)
Per re Tolemeo, (figlio) di Tolemeo e Arsinoe, Theoi Adelphoi, e (per) la regina Berenice, moglie e sorella del re, Theoi Euergetai; Kleon e Antipatros, sacerdoti di Zeus, (hanno dedicato) gli altari, i recinti sacri e la terra che gli appartiene ai Theoi Adelphoi, a Zeus Olympios e a Zeus Synomosios.


(S. Caneva)
Pour le roi Ptolémée, (fils) de Ptolémée et Arsinoé, Theoi Adelphoi, et la reine Bérénice, femme et soeur du roi, Theoi Euergetai; Kléôn et Antipatros, prêtres de Zeus, (ont dédié) les autels, les enceintes sacrées et la terre qui leur pertient aux Theoi Adelphoi, à Zeus Olympios et à Zeus Synomosios.


This dedication was made by two priests of Zeus (perhaps one for each denomination by which the deity is evoked in the text) during the reign of Ptolemy III and Berenike II, the Theoi Euergetai. The presence of the couple’s epithet points to a date after 243/2 BC (see commentary to PHRC 011). The two priests dedicated at least two altars and precincts to the couple of deceased and deified royal ancestors, the Theoi Adelphoi, and to Zeus with the dual denomination Olympios and Synomosios. The mention of the land pertaining to these precincts reveals that this was a major dedication, by which two members of the Alexandrian elite wished to advertise their status and their loyalty to the royal house at a scale exceeding more common dedications of altars or statues (on 3rd-cent. personal initiatives in the dedication of shrines in the Ptolemaic kingdom, cf. Pfeiffer 2008). On the other hand, the silence about possible buildings being erected within the precincts warns us against assuming that Kleon and Antipatros’ dedication also comprised the building of a temple. More plausibly, the donors consecrated a plot of land (of their own property) and divided it into two or more open-air precincts hosting altars for offerings (open-air precincts of ruler cults were rarely provided with major buildings; see commentary to PHRC 003; Caneva 2020d, 236-237).

The inscription clearly delivers a message of dynastic continuity thanks to the dual reference to the Theoi Adelphoi as the royal parents of Ptolemy III and as the co-recipients of the dedication, which is made on behalf of/for the wellbeing of the living couple of the Theoi Euergetai. Similar dedicatory solutions are well attested during the reign of Ptolemy III (cf. I.Hermoupolis 1, where the two royal couples are co-recipients of the dedication of a temple, in the dative) and testify to the donors’ intentions to display their allegiance by adapting to the formulae and ideological messages promoted by the court (Caneva 2016a, 180-181, 196-197; Caneva – Bricault 2019). In our case, the priests of Zeus adopted yet another way to stress their loyalty to the dynasty by granting the Theoi Adelphoi the first place in the dedication, before the two denominations of Zeus.

The text does not allow us to understand how the consecrated spaces and structures were organised and assigned to the Theoi Adelphoi and Zeus respectively. Perhaps the couple of the deified royal ancestors shared one sacred precinct with Zeus Olympios and one with Zeus Synomosios; alternatively, we may assume that a precinct of the Theoi Adelphoi was dedicated next to one (or two) belonging to Zeus with his dual denomination. Be that as it may, the inscription testifies that ritual agents could use spatial proximity in order to express an ideal association between divine and human recipients of cult. An interesting parallel is provided by a decree of the city of Aigai in Aiolis stipulating that a new sanctuary of Seleukos I and Antiochos I be erected next to the existing precinct of Apollo ( CGRN 137, lines 5-7; 281 BC). Spatial proximity thus provides a permanent way of establishing a link between ritually honoured rules and deities, even in cases where no reference to joint offerings can be identified in the text (joint offerings might occur, but they cannot be inferred from spatial proximity). From this perspective, the assumption that the Theoi Adelphoi did not share with Zeus the status of recipients of the dedication (CPI I, p. 59-61) is unconvincing and relies on an unwarranted distinction between the meaning of the datives referring to the royal couple and to the god. As a matter of fact, these cannot but indicate the recipients of the dedication, whereas the living couple of the Theoi Euergetai is evoked with the ‘hyper + the genitive’ formula, which identifies them as the party benefiting from the initiative of the priests.

The joint dedication and the spatial encounter between royal and divine power is paralleled by the selection of the epicleses characterizing Zeus in our text (on Zeus in Alexandria, Dechevez 2021 with the previous refs). The common epithet Olympios points to Zeus as the king of the gods, thus establishing a close link with the supremacy of Ptolemaic kings on earth (see Theocr. 17.16-18 on Zeus being described as the father of Ptolemy I, to whom he conceded honours equal to those of the gods and a gold throne on the Olympos; cf. also Call., Hymn 1, with Brumbaugh 2019). Conversely, Synomosios is a hapax, but its meaning is clear: Zeus is referred to as the patron of oaths, just as in cases where he bears the epithet Horkios (CPI I, p. 61). Zeus and Hera, followed by Poseidon, appeared in the Alexandrian civic oath mentioned in P.Hal. 1, lines 214-218 (mid-3rd cent.). In the same period, the Ptolemaic royal oath was sworn on the names of the ruling couple (Ptolemy III and Berenike II), often followed by the Theoi Adelphoi or by the full dynastic line (Theoi Adelphoi and Theoi Soteres; for a list of the evidence with the various formulae, Caneva 2016a, 225-231). The two donors evidently wished to stress the converging prerogatives of Zeus and of the royal house with regard to legitimate kingship and as sources of legal authority and social order.

Julien Dechevez, Stefano Caneva, on 08.06.2021

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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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