Funerary Foundation of Titus Praxias and the Eternal Rule of the Romans

A local decree specifies the clauses of a foundation given by Praxias, which was to be protected in the eternity of Roman rule and guarded by the Augusti
Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 

Local decree

Original Location/Place: 
Discovered near the train station of Banaz (Turkey)
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Musée du Cinquantenaire, Brussels (Belgium)
85 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
The stone is broken on top and the bottom left corner. Letters were cut irregularly but are still readable. There is no separation between words or indented paragraphs
88 centimetres in height, 67 in width, and 32 thick. Letters are 1.5
Roman, Greek

Cumont, Franz, Musées royaux du Cinquantenaire. Catalogue des sculptures et inscriptions antiques (monuments lapidaires), Brussels, Vromant, 1913, p. 150-155 no. 133 [IGRR IV.661; SEG 13.542; MAMA VI List 148,159]


Even if the text does not mention it explicitly, the find-spot of the inscription (see above) makes it possible to assign its content to the political structures and civic life of Akmonia. This city in the central Anatolian region of Phrygia followed the model of the Greek polis and this explains the detailed procedure established in relation to the local decree recorded here.

As often happens with such Greek decrees, the most formal elements are included at the end of the inscription. In this case, from lines 29 to 34 we can see that a group of three men had been drawn by lot to draft the resolution (δογματογράφοι/dogmatographoi). This resolution was to be valid from the 5th March 85 CE: i.e. the 11th consulship of Domitian, which corresponded to the year 169 in the local era of Akmonia. A public slave (δημόσιος/demosios) was in charge of writing the final version (cf. AE 2006.1426; CIG 3858i; Weiss, Sklave der Stadt, p. 70-84). Preceding this closing formula, the text specifies with verb infinitives the clauses contained in the decree.

As the stone is partly preserved, only certain aspects can be studied and these mostly concern the “distribution” (διαμονή/diamonê) mentioned in the first surviving line. Such distributions – of money, most commonly – were an integral component of euergetic actions in the cities of the Greek East and were normally acknowledged by the local institutions honouring their sponsors (see Mrozek, Les distributions d'argent). This decree, however, is not only honorific but actually contains the instructions and regulations given by the benefactor in order to make the distribution possible. As such, the text needs to be studied as one of the foundations that were normally established by wealthy individuals in their cities to finance a wide array of activities (e.g. Salutaris’s and Demosthenes’s foundations; see Laum, Stiftungen). These foundations started with a fixed capital endowment which was expected to increase every year, either through interest or additional funds usually supplied from landed property (Duncan-Jones, The economy, p. 132-138). The financial arrangement of this foundation from Akmonia is not specified in the available text, but the name of the donor already appears in line 2: Praxias. In line 17, he is also referred to as Titus Praxias, so it is possible that the rich man was a Roman citizen. His wealth in any case was not doubtful. As the first clauses specify, he had enough freedmen (ἀπελεύθεροι/apeleutheroi) to take care of his funerary monument (μνημεῖον/mnêion) and he could also organise a celebration (κατάκλισις/kataklisis), most likely a banquet, in a marked local date such as that “day of happiness” (l. 5). The references to his tomb and the deposit of roses (l. 8) are important because many of the foundations attested in the Graeco-Roman world had such a post-mortem character. For this reason, donors depended on descendants and the local institutions to maintain the financial health of their benefactions once death. Praxias was well aware of this aspect and hence his insistence throughout the text on instructions not to alter his will.        

The two physical guarantors of Praxias’s foundation were his freedmen and the council (βουλή/boulê) of Akmoneia. It is therefore not coincidental that these two precisely were the main beneficiaries of his monetary distributions as specified in lines 1 and 21-22. Praxias’s distress to protect his foundation is justified as we know of many cases in which either descendants or local institutions diverted funds for projects which were not initially endorsed by the original donor (e.g. I.Aphr.2007 12.538; IG II² 1092). Indeed, as it is emphasised in lines 10 and 11, the future integrity of his tomb depended on the full compliance with his unambiguous instructions. Praxias was not thinking about the immediate future but rather about the long-term preservation of his memory and rest. Line 28 actually specifies that these instructions “had been set for perpetuity” (διηνεκές/diênekes). The same concern for the future is present when the inscription in lines 12 and 13 records that the decree (ψήφισμα/psêphisma) “will be protected in the eternity of the Roman rule” (τῷ αἰῶνι τῆς Ῥωμαίων ἡγεμονίας/tô aiôni tês Rômaiôn hêgemonias). For Praxias, the hegemony of the Romans had become a synonym of an everlasting power on which a wealthy man from Phrygia could rely for his eternal rest and the survival of his funds. This rare expression is not formulaic and therefore its use in our inscription sheds light on the local perception of Rome and its power by the provincial population under the Flavians.

Titus Praxias did not only seek institutional and human protection for eternity, but also designated divine forces to be “guardians” (ἐπισκόπoι/episkopoi) and “witnesses” (μάρτυρες/martyres) in lines 22-24. For a man believing in the eternal rule of Rome, it is not surprising to see the invocation of the Augustan gods (Θεοὶ Σεβαστοί/Theoi Sebastoi) together with those of his fatherland and other important local or regional deities such as Zeus Stodmenos, Asklepios the Saviour and Artemis Ephesia. Indeed, at the end of the 1st century CE the structures of imperial cult in the province of Asia – to which Akmonia belonged – were firmly established and, for example, Ephesus completed in the same decade a new temple of the Augusti for which the city received a neokoria (i.e. a principal seat of imperial cult). In this period too, the Flavian dynasty was also the guarantor of a durable Roman power that survived Julio-Claudian succession, the year of the four emperors, and was now ready to be perceived as hegemonic in inner Anatolia.  

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