059 - Fig2

PHRC059 : Dedication to Arsinoe Thea Philadelphos, Lower Egypt (Alexandria ?) - Egypt (270-240 BC) Miniature altar

This dedication to Arsinoe Thea Philadelphos is written on an incense burner carved in the form of a miniature horned altar. A similar object was found in Alexandria (PHRC 051), but another provenance from the Delta or Fayum is also possible for this specimen. The addition of the term Thea to the common denomination Arsinoe Philadelphos is a rare feature only attested by a few dedications in Egypt. The small size may point to a context of househols religion, but we cannot exclude that the altar was used during a journey or was dedicated in a sanctuary.

Permanent ID http://s.phrc.it/phrc059


Photos 1-2: Photos of the stone, from Schreiber 2011, Tf. 53, Figg. 2-3

Current location

Münster, Archäologisches Museum der Universität
Inv. No. 104


Object Type: Miniature altar
Incense burner in the shape of a miniaturized altar with akroteria
Material: Limestone
Height: 10,5 cm
Width: 14,4 cm
Depth: 7,2 cm


The text is iscribed on three lines without respecting word ending, a common feature in low-quality dedications to Arsinoe Philadelphos. Line 3 is centred.
The lettering is superficially inscribed and has an irregular ductus. Traces of colours are visible in some letters. Letter shape of the mid-3rd cent., without thickening at the end of hastae: A with straight crossbar, Σ with parallel or slightly diverging outer strokes, Φ with a flattened circle.


Original Place: Alexandria (?)
Date: 270-240 BC
Justification: Formulary
Provenance: First owned by the numismatist and collector G. Dattari, who gave it to O. Rubensohn. Breccia gives a generic provenance from Lower Egypt. Cf. the Alexandrian provenance of PHRC 051, another incense burner with the shape of a miniature altar. Another location in the Delta or even in Fauym should not be excluded.


Text constituted from: Schreiber 2011, p. 188 (SEG LXI 1538).

Other editions: Breccia 1905, p. 120, no. 1; SB I 434.

See also: Stähler 1980, 50-51; Caneva 2020a, p. 26, n. 12, cat. 61.

Images: Schreiber 2011, Tf. 53, Fig. 2-3.

Further bibliography: on 'horned' altars with akroteria in Ptolemaic Egypt, see Burr Thompson 1973, 35-39, 59-61; Soukiassian 1983; Quaegebeur 1993. On incense burning in Hellenistic ruler cults, Caneva 2022 (forthcoming).

Online record: TM 6507


Ἀρσινόης θε -
ᾶς Φιλαδέλ -
vac. φου vac.


(S. Caneva)
Of Arsinoe Philadelphos


(S. Caneva)
Di Arsinoe Philadelphos


(S. Caneva)
D'Arsinoé Philadelphos


The dedication is inscribed on a small incense burner, carved in the shape of a miniature horned altar. Horned altars are often depicted on Alexandrian oinochoai and on Egyptian stelae representing scenes of Ptolemaic ruler cults (Burr Thompson 1973, p. 35-39, 59-61; Caneva 2013, p. 294, 303-304, 315). The support is similar to our PHRC 051, from Alexandria, but in this case the shorter dedication occupies only one face of the object and does not mention either the donor or King Ptolemy II as a co-recipient. The formula is therefore comparable to several dedications only addressed to Arsinoe Philadelphos in the genitive and inscribed on portable altars, blocks, and plaques throughtout the Ptolemaic empire (for a list see Caneva 2014a, p. 109-115, cat. 1-58; Addenda in Caneva 2020a, p. 26, n. 12, cat. 59-63, and Caneva 2020e, cat. 64). The irregular ductus of the inscription and the separation of words across lines finds parallels among various low-quality specimens of these inscriptions (see Caneva 2020a, p. 45, and Caneva 2020e). Our text can also be grouped with a limited number of dedications where the common denomination Arsinoe Philadelphos is completed by the term Thea. This feature only appears on three other inscriptions from Egypt (Caneva 2014a, cat. 4 from Alexandria, 12 from Thebaide, 14 of unknown provenance).

Small altars bearing a dedication in the genitive are often linked to the household cult of Arsinoe Philadelphos (Robert 1966; Caneva 2014a). However, other interpretations are possible. A small altar of this type could be used during journeys, and/or be dedicated in a sanctuary (see commentary to PHRC 051).

Julien Dechevez, Stefano Caneva, on 10.06.2021
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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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