Popillius Carus Pedo and the festivities of Artemis in Ephesus

The Roman governor Carus Pedo produces an edict authorising a local decree of Ephesus. The decree celebrates the fame of Artemis’ cult and institutes that all the days of one month (Artemision) should be sacred and dedicated to this guardian goddess.  

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Provincial edict and local decree
Original Location/Place: 
Discovered in Selçuk (Turkey), re-used in the hospice next to the Ephesian aqueduct
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
The upper fragment is in the British Museum (London) and the bottom in the Ashmolean Museum (inv. G 1186)
162 CE to 164 CE
Physical Characteristics: 

Statue base, rectangular, inscribed on three faces and now broken into two fragments. 


The upper fragment is 39 cm high and the bottom fragment is 72.5 cm. Width is 48 cm. Letters are between 3 cm and 1.2 cm tall.

Roman, Greek

Die Inschriften von Ephesos 24a-b [SIG3867a-b]

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Local cults could be a matter of pride for communities in the Greek east. Few cities could boast about the fame and relevance of their patron god/goddesses as much as Ephesus did with respect to Artemis. This dossier illustrates such attitudes, the importance of Artemis’s cultic celebrations, and, most importantly, the Roman control over sacred activities requiring provincial authorisation and consent.

The first document of the dossier is the edict that the provincial governor pronounced [λέγει/legei] probably between 162/3 and 163/4 CE. C. Popillius Carus Pedo (PIR2P 838) was consul in 147 and, after the usual fifteen-year span, he would have allotted the proconsular appointment in Asia. During this office, he received a letter containing the decree (ψήφισμα/psêphisma) of the Ephesian council and assembly that was inscribed on the face B of our statue base. This local resolution was concerned with the sacred days (ἱερᾶι ἡμέραι/hierai hêmerai) of a festival (πανήγυρις/panêgyris) dedicated to Artemis or Artemisia. From Carus Pedo’s response, it must be inferred that the Ephesians also attached communications with the previous provincial governors which were favourable towards this festivity. As exceptionally well illustrated in the case of Hadrian and the temple of Zeus in Aizanoi, such precedents were fundamental for triggering a positive reaction from the Roman administration and obtaining new benefits. Indeed, the cult of Artemis had been favoured not only by Roman proconsuls but even the emperors; especially, Augustus, Domitian, and Trajan who are known to have confirmed the magnitude of the lands assigned to the Artemision temple (see Knibbe, “Der Grundbesitz”). Hadrian was also extensively honoured as “saviour” and “founder”. Previously under Claudius, we also have the long edict of the governor Paullus Fabius Persicus who sought to curb the mismanagement of this temple and impose certain conditions to the Ephesians regarding the cult of Artemis. Consequently, even though Plutarch famously denounced the trivialisation of Roman ratification for local decisions adopted in Greek cities (Moralia 814F-815A), Carus Pedo’s edict (διατάγμα/diatagma) should be regarded not just as recommendable but rather necessary (ἀναγκαῖον/anankaion).

As recorded in lines 14 to 16, the celebration of sacred days for Artemis implied a period of ἐκεχειρία/ekecheiria (“holidays”). This term is exactly the same used by Philo to refer to the Jewish Sabbath (De Vita Mosis II.22; 211), and shows that the cessation of activities on religious grounds concerned the Roman authorities and required further justification. In the case of Ephesus, not only were the administrative precedents decisive but also the dignity (τιμή/timê) of this “very illustrious” city, which was to be protected (φυλαχθήσεσθαι/phylachthêsesthai). Moreover, Carus Pedo was able to present his edict as a sign of his piety (εὐσέβεια/eusebeia) towards Artemis. Finally, the governor was assured by the reputation and acts of the main promoter of this initiative; a Roman citizen called Titus Aelius Marcianus Priscus who was also honoured in the face C (not included in our edition) of this statue base.

The reverence shown by a Roman governor towards a foreign goddess can be better understood by virtue of the local resolution originating Carus Pedo’s edict (B). After the formulaic preface listing the series of titles that Ephesus displayed, at least, since Antoninus Pius’s accession, and the formal procedure conducted by the civic institutions, the Ephesians explain why their guardian (προεστῶσα/proestôsa) goddess, Artemis, and the festivities dedicated to her deserved admiration and respect. Firstly, they claim that this Artemis was not only honoured in their homeland (πατρίς/patris), but rather “by Greeks and Barbarians alike”. This statement can be confirmed by the numerous representations of the distinctive goddess found throughout the Graeco-Roman world (see Fleischer, Artemis von Ephesos, p. 1-137); including one statue discovered in Caesarea and now displayed in the Museum of Israel [IAA 1962-94: http://www.imj.org.il/imagine/galleries/viewItemE.asp?case=5&itemNum=396727]. For example, Strabo (Geography IV.1.4) reports that Artemis once appeared in a dream to the Phoceans, who were inspired to settle the colony of Massilia and brought an image of her to the Gaulish shores. Such manifestations (or ἐπιφάνειαι/epiphaneiai; cf. SEG 34.1170) were a sign of her divinity (θειότης/theiotês) as highlighted in line 14 and certainly constituted a crucial element from which cultic structures could be enhanced both in the ancient world (e.g. Artemis Leukophryene at Magnesia on the Meander; see Thonemann, “Magnesia and the Greeks”) and today (e.g. Virgin Mary’s sanctuaries). The popularity of the Ephesian Artemis, moreover, exceeded the limits of the Greek East and even reached Rome. Livy (I.45.2-3) records that the cult of Diana on the Aventine had been founded on the model of Ephesus. In this regard, Dionysus of Halicarnassus (Roman Antiquities IV.26.3-5) even claims that the Romans should not be considered Barbarians because the foundation pillar of the temple had been written in Greek. This theory, nonetheless, does not appear to have transformed the perception of the Ephesian people as our decree still offers a binary distinction between Ἕλληνες/Hellênes and Βάρβαροι/Barbaroi in line 11; a simplistic dichotomy based on the Classical tradition.

In any case, the greatest sign of  reverence (σεβασμός/sebasmos) to Artemis according to the Ephesians was the fact that the month Artemision was named after her. The rich epigraphic material from Ephesus certainly shows that this city kept a calendar with distinctive month names, even after the cities of Asia accepted to start the year from September 23rd, Augustus’s birthday (Merkelbach, “Die ephesischen Monate”). This month occurred between March and April and was also adopted by the Macedonians and other Greek calendars under the name Ἀρτεμίσιος/Artemisios instead of Ἀρτεμισιών/Artemisiôn (ll. 17-20). The eponymous month was consequently devoted to Artemis and the decree wanted to institute all its days as sacred. This period would be occupied with the activities related to the cult (θρησκεία/thrêskeia), including festivities (ἑορταί/heortai), a festival (πανήγυρις/panêgyris), and sacrifices (ἱερομηνία/hieromênia). All these various celebrations are not only confirmed by the inscribed evidence, but also by the vivid description of the Artemisia opening the ancient novel Ephesiaka (see Rogers, The Mysteries of Artemis). The Ephesians considered that, by honouring the goddess in such a way, their city would remain both “very famous and blessed” (l. 33); after all, this community was the nourisher, (τροφός/trophos) of their guardian deity (l. 22).

With such a degree of interdependency between the temple of Artemis and Ephesus (see Karwiese, Gross ist die Artemis), the magnitude of the honours paid to this goddess can be better understood. Nevertheless, this local devotion had likewise consequences on the management and functioning of the capital of Asia which the provincial governor needed to oversee. Carus Pedo accepted these exceptional circumstances because of the undoubted importance of the cult and the precedents of former administrators. The combination of this Roman acceptance with the local devotion and promotion as also attested in the Salutaris’s foundation resulted in a successful story of cultic celebrations that enhanced the Ephesian identity and pride while attracting external attention and fame. For such beneficial decisions, the institutions of Ephesus considered themselves φιλοσέβαστοι/philosebastoi (“emperor-loving”). At the same time, these favours provided the Roman authorities with opportunities to display their self-acclaimed piety. 

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