Eratophanes of Rhodes, a devoted promoter of Claudius

A local benefactor and priest of the imperial cult is honoured in both Rhodes and Caria for his piety towards the emperor
Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
Discovered in the ancient Turkish village of Béli-Pouli – probably modern Menteşe – in the territory of ancient Kys
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
52 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Not given by the first editor
Not given by the first editor
Not given by the first editor
Roman, Greek
Deschamps, Cousin, “Emplacement et ruines de la ville de Kys en Carie” [Smallwood, Documents, no. 135]

This inscription, probably carved on the base of a statue, presents one of the many texts prepared in the provinces to honour the Roman emperors. In this case, attention should be drawn to the person responsible for its setting up in the Carian city of Kys.

After the names, offices, and titles of Claudius from which a date in 52 CE can be established (12th tribunician powers), a man called Eratophanes, son of Charinos, appears in the nominative case (l. 5). He is the subject of the verb “dedicated” (καθιέρωσεν/kathierôsen), placed almost at the end of the inscription (l. 22). The lines in between record his personal career, and this shows that Eratophanes was not only seeking to honour the emperor with this monument, but also to gain publicity and communal admiration for his own activities. Accordingly, it is not coincidental that the list enhances offices and projects that had been particularly beneficial for the city, as stated in lines 14 and 16: for example, the supervision of the sport-baths (γυμνασιαρχία/gymnasiarchia) which needed oil supply and washing, his diligent control over the market (ἀγορανόμος/agoranomos) and the local prices, and many more monetary expenditures (ἀναλώματα/analômata). Some of these costly activities were also connected to the religious life of the city, and, consequently, the performance of sacrifices (θυσίαι/thysiai) and his priesthood (l. 6). As a prominent member of the local political community, Eratophanes was expected to contribute to the worshiping of the god who was considered founder (ἀρχηγέτης/archêgetês) of the city, Zeus the Liberator (or Ἐλεύθερος/Eleutheros). His engagement in promoting even more the cult of the Roman emperors went beyond expectation.

Eratophanes became “priest of the god Augustus” (ἱερεὺς τοῦ θεοῦ Σεβαστοῦ/hiereus tou theou Sebastou) in Kys, and, consequently, some of the sacrifices that he financed were dedicated to the entire imperial house “for its everlasting preservation and health” (l. 12-13). The very likely setting up of an honorific statue of Claudius with his own funds also occurred while he was holding this position. As lines 21 and 22 inform, the priest considered this emperor – even if he refused divine honours – a “saviour and benefactor of men.” It is true that such an exaggerating vocabulary was customary to activities related to the imperial cult, and, therefore, should not be interpreted literally. Yet, the case of Eratophanes is rather unusual because this inscription states that his devotion (εὐσεβεία/eusebeia) and gratitude (εὐχαριστία/eucharistia) were also shared by his wife Ammia and their children. Furthermore, his devoted involvement in Kys was neither forced nor accidental. This must be inferred from the fact that Eratophanes had already practiced it in Rhodes, his place of origin. As the inscription emphasises, the council of this island had decided to honour him on account of “his devotion to the Emperor” (l. 15-17). Distinctions such as the golden crown and silver mask were reserved for distinguished personalities in this period (e.g. the cavalryman Hermagoras IG XII,1.58); so, the Rhodians considered that the performance of activities related to the cult of the emperors could be equally worthy of conspicuous praise. We cannot know why Eratophanes and his family decided to settle in the rather remote Carian settlement of Kys. However, this local community likewise rewarded their imperial devotion “with the highest honours permitted by law” (l. 18-20).

The inscription can therefore confirm that certain individuals such as Eratophanes of Rhodes had a genuine feeling of veneration towards the Roman emperors. One which was not necessarily imposed, may have involved families, and could be displayed in different contexts and spaces. With such instances of personal devotion, the efforts of prominent members of provincial communities in promoting imperial cult can also be better understood. Here, the most tangible result was not only sacrifices or the setting up of a statue for the reigning emperor, but also the exaltation of his soteriological and beneficial powers. In other cases discussed in our collection, such as that of the Boeotian Epaminondas, we also learn of games, embassies, and numerous imperial favours as expressions of imperial devotion. Finally, this text is fundamental for observing that local communities in the Greek East did not hesitate to reward with their highest honours native men so devoted to Roman hegemony.    

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