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Observations on the Imperial Cult in Aspendos
Ferit BAZ
The practice of the imperial cult in Aspendos started during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius. The first cult organized was for an imperator whose name is still a mystery. The idea for establishing the cult in the city belonged to the city’s dignitaries who, like those in other cities, undoubtedly used their own initiative. The first time Aspendians encountered imperial cult practices must have been at the cult centres in the province of Galatia, of which they were formerly a part. These centres included Ancyra, the capital of the province, with its cults of Augustus and Dea Roma, Iconium and Pessinus with their cult of Tiberius and Pisidian Antioch with the cult of Julio-Claudian dynasty. The Aspendians must have been inspired by these centres regarding imperial cult worship. In his narration of a murder attempt, Philostratos (Life of Apollonius 1.15) tells about the governor who took refuge by the altars and statues of the emperors in the agora with the hope of obtaining asylum. However, these should not be related with a cult area. If this place of refuge had been an imperial cult area, the author would have said so. In the second century A.D. the emergence of another cult is observed at Aspendos: the cult of Theoi Sebastoi, which encompassed multiple emperors in it. These cults mentioned above are of a local character.

The city became a province-wide centre for the imperial cult most probably in the reign of Gallienus when Aspenos was awarded with the title of neokoros. However, it should be noted that we currently do not have any evidence regarding a common administration of the imperial cults on a provincial basis in the Pamphylian cities or a common participation in the province. For this issue it can only be said that there existed two koina acting independently of each other in the province of Lycia-Pampylia. No written evidence cites a phrase as “Pamphylian koinon” but rather mentions “cities in Pamphylia”, “pamphyliarkhes” and the “people of Pamphylia”, albeit rarely.

It is possible to state that Aspendos was never part of the rivalry for titles between Perge and Side, both of which frequently boasted of their titles of neokoros. Furthermore, it is not difficult to predict the limited importance of Aspendos for the Roman Empire in the second half of the third century when the titles bestowed on the Pamphylian cities are taken into consideration. This is clearly due to the geo-political, military and economic power of Aspendos, which lagged behind those of Perge and Side during this period.

Yrd. Doç. Dr. Ferit Baz,
Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar Üniversitesi,
Tarih Bölümü, Bomonti Binası,
Cumhuriyet Mah., Silahşör Cad., No. 89, 34380 Şişli - İstanbul
E-posta: feritbaz@yahoo.com

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