Provincial Edict and the Market Days of Mandragoreis (Asia)

Edict responding to a village in the Maeander valley that petitioned for market days. The legal procedure concerning the reproduction of this official document is also detailed.
Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
Found in a reused context in front of a coffee house of Hıdırbeyli (Turkey). The locals reported that the stone came from Karaağaçlı, a nearby village where ancient archaeological remains can still be seen.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Not reported.
209 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Stele, the lines on the upper part of the stone are very weathered. Letters are quite regularly carved, with serifs, and there is separation between paragraphs.
167 centimetres in height, 77.5 in width and 13.5 thick. Letters are between 1.6 and 1.8 centimetres tall.
Roman, Greek

Nollé, Johannes, Nundinas instituere et habere: epigraphische Zeugnisse zur Einrichtung und Gestaltung von ländlichen Märkten in Afrika und in der Provinz Asia, Hildesheim: Olms, 1982, p. 13 [SEG 32.1149; PHI Magnesia 124].


Markets and fairs played a prominent role in the economic development of rural areas under Roman rule (see De Ligt, Fairs and Markets). The region of Palestine is not an exception (e.g. Rosenfeld and Menirav, Markets and Marketing, p. 123-152; Lapin, Economy), and the rabbinic sources denounced several consequences of their expansion (Safrai, The Economy, p. 243-262; Cohn, “The Graeco-Roman Trade”). This inscription from Asia illustrates the administrative process that was required for their celebration and will allow us to understand better the impact and nature of events generating opposition from certain provincial groups.

The stele found in the Maeander valley contains two interrelated documents, a petition and the copy of a proconsular edict. Our edition and commentary focuses on the latter as a direct testimony of how Roman administration regulated local activities. The first lines (20-23) record the provenance of the edict (διάταγμα/diatagma) in very technical language. The text is said to have been copied from the archive (ἀρχεῖον/archeion) of Magnesia using a Greek sequence that renders Latin legal formulas concerning the management of official documents (cf. CIL X 7852, XVI 13). From a local perspective, it is therefore possible to confirm the importance of keeping records by important urban centres in the area such as Magnesia ad Maeandrum. Here, a papyrus roll (τεῦχος/teuchos) was archived and provided both the city and its inhabitants with evidence that could prove fundamental for grants, litigations and rights mostly determined by precedents (see Aizanoi and Hadrian). Papyrological evidence from Asia Minor has completely been lost, so such exceptional inscriptions attesting it outside Egypt shed light on an official procedure that was supervised by a magistrate with secretarial duties (ἀντιγραφεύς/antigrapheus; cf. I.Magnesia 98, 100). The allegedly verbatim reproduction of the edict is corroborated by the line opening the statement (λέγει/legei) of the proconsul (ἀνθύπατος/anthypatos) Q. Caecilius Secundus Servilius.

The former suffect consul and governor of Asia in 209 (PIR2C 82) describes that people “caring” (κηδόμενοι/kêdomenoi) for a rural settlement or κατοικία/katoikia had approached his tribune (βῆμα/bêma). This initial message raises some problems of modern interpretation concerning details that would have been straightforward for the ancient recipients. Firstly, where was the rural settlement, Mandragoreis, which the proconsul mentions but is not elsewhere attested in the surviving evidence of the Roman imperial period? This location needs to be based on the find-spot of an inscription that unfortunately appeared in a reused context (see above). Even if precision cannot be achieved, it is reasonable to consider that Mandragoreis belonged to the rural territory of the nearby city of Magnesia which provided the copy and was organised through a system of katoikiai attested in other surrounding areas of western Anatolia with indigenous toponyms (see Thonemann, The Maeander Valley, p. 257). These rural units had their own officials as attested in line 47 of our inscription (γραμματεῖς/grammateis) and, consequently, the defence of local interests to which this edict responds can be better understood. The second issue raised by this inscription is the nature of the tribunal that Secundus Servilius mentions. Magnesia belonged to the Roman judiciary district (or conventus) of Miletus which the governor had to visit regularly on his annual tour around the province (I.Eph. 13, l. 31; cf. Cyrene and the Assize Centres). Yet the possibility that the petitioners actually visited the proconsul at his permanent seat in Ephesus should not be ruled out given its closer distance to Magnesia. Whatever the exact case may be, the most relevant point is that the population of the rural settlement needed to reach the Roman governor because the nature of their petition required his authorisation.

The village of Mandragoreis wanted to hold market days which are referred to as ἀγορεῖον/agoreion (or nundinae in Latin) by the proconsul. The Digest (50.11.1) reports that this right emanated from the emperor, and earlier evidence from the western part of the Empire shows that the Senate was also involved (Suetonius, Claudius 12.2; Pliny the Younger, Ep. V.4; cf. Nollé, Nundinas, p. 88-155 for the material in Northern Africa). Our inscription from the eastern Mediterranean is the first one attesting a direct grant by the provincial governor through an edict (cf. SEG 44.977). Secundus Servilius, however, was not imposing this event on subjects but rather responding to petitioners that needed to provide good arguments backing their request (ἀξίωσις/axiôsis). These are recorded from lines 29 to 32, and summarise their pledge (ἐπανγειλάμενοι/epangeilamenoi), namely that the new initiative will not cause damage (βλάβη/blabê) to other surrounding settlements already holding fairs (πανηγύρεις/panêgyreis). These points also appear expanded in the text of the local petition that was inscribed on the upper part of the stele. There, the representatives of Mandragoreis say that, while previous governors had granted such market rights to neighbouring communities – again the importance of precedents – their proposal for the 9th, 19th and 30th of each month would not trouble anyone, since these dates fell in free spots right before the ferial days of Magnesia. The villagers also pointed out that the imperial fiscus would not be affected, although the proconsul does not mention this detail in his edict. The Roman official document also removes the somehow theatrical tone – typical of other 3rd century CE petitions (see Hauken, Petition and Response) – used by a local representative “wishing for the good health of you, my lord (κύριέ μου).” In addition to these local arguments, the governor incorporates a very interesting note, communicating that the request was granted because “he looks upon the fortune (τύχη/tychê) of our very divine emperors, who want to increase even more greatly their own particular empire (οἰκουμένη/oikoumenê).” Such an affirmation can automatically be interpreted as an unequivocal sign of one-way imperial propaganda delivered by an agent of the Roman administration claiming to act in agreement with supreme rulers caring for their subjects (l. 34-37). Nonetheless, a deeper and interconnected dialogue between provincial communities and emperors must rather be assumed. A contemporary resolution from the nearby city of Mylasa included a positive reference to the Severan fortune and, in that case, no Roman authority intervened in the drafting of the decree. Furthermore, the council and people of Magnesia already extolled on their own “the very fortunate times of the emperor Hadrian, when humans were presented with everything useful to increase for the best” (I.Magnesia 116).

The edict ends with the same degree of technical terminology opening the document but, very interestingly, it is recorded in Latin. As mentioned above, the inscribed text was supposed to be a direct copy of a papyrus roll, so this Roman proconsul may have delivered his statements to the petitioners directly in Greek and only used Latin for the closing legal formulas (propone, volo) before the document was signed (subscriptio). Once the edict was issued, the final lines of the inscription are again concerned – like the beginning – with the official procedures of its reproduction. By virtue of these detailed proceedings we are provided with a certain date for the grant in 209 CE, the year in which Aurelius Pompeianus (PIR2A 1420) and Lolianus Gentianus Avitus (PIR2H 36) were consuls. Likewise, this procedural section is important to evidence that the sealing of documents was performed by seven Roman citizens as was required by Roman law. We can also see that the majority of the Roman citizens in Magnesia were, according to their nomenclature, Greek-speaking individuals enfranchised by the emperors (see Blanco-Pérez, “Nomenclature and Dating”). M. Aurelius Tatianus and Aelius Demonicus are moreover recorded as magistrates in bronze coins of the city, so the local political involvement of these Roman citizens cannot be doubted (Schultz, Die Münzprägung, no. 179, 214, 239).

The implementation of the procedure finished with the inauguration (καθιέρωσεν/kathierôren) provided by the equestrian legate of Asia M. Nummius Umbrius Primus Senecio Albinus (cf. AE 1969/70.169). He was in charge of financial matters in the province and would have needed to supervise the revenues that this new economic activity could generate. Libanius (Or. 11.230) in the 4th century praised the rural territory of Antioch for the number of consecutive fairs taking place, and another edict from Asia Minor shows that such enhancing events did not stop in the challenging mid-3rd century CE (TAM V.3.1422). This inscription, nevertheless, illustrates that a complex process of local petition, provincial authorisation and imperial acceptance needed to be completed before aspirations for market days could be fulfilled. In other words, collaboration between subjects and rulers was required for episodes in which the consensus and prime of Roman power could be realised. For Mandragoreis, near Magnesia and the fertile Maeandrum, the proconsular grant symbolised the improvement that the Severans wanted to propagate in their Empire. Other rural communities may have refused to take part in such markets and, for this reason, the opposition found in some of the aforementioned rabbinic sources is relevant to consider analogous negative views that were never inscribed. 

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