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Hellenistic Rhodian Amphorae and Amphora Stamps Excavated at Elaiussa
H. Asena Kızılarslanoğlu – Erkan Alkaç
Elaiussa, known as Elaiussa Sebaste during the Roman Imperial period, is a port city between the Kalykadnos and Lamos Rivers in the Olba Region of Cilicia. Excavations at Elaiussa have brought to light Rhodian amphora handles and amphora stamps from the Hellenistic period at various spots on the site. This archaeological evidence reveals the trade connections between Elaiussa and Rhodes as well as sheds light onto the site. Finds have been dated with respect to parallel examples.

The island of Rhodes was among the leading wine- and amphora-producing states throughout the Hellenistic period, as witnessed by archaeological evidence. Rhodian manufacturers systematically stamped their amphorae starting in the late 4th century B.C. Rhodian amphorae have been attested at many sites across the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins. Archaeological work across these basins has shown that Rhodian amphorae usually constitute the largest group among Greek-origin ones. This reveals information on the commercial potential of Rhodes and points to the wealthy cities of the Eastern Mediterranean as the commercial target of Rhodes. Alexandria in Egypt stands out as the leading trading partner in the Eastern Mediterranean of Rhodian wine merchants. Numerous Rhodian amphorae and amphora stamps have been uncovered at Alexandria, especially from the 2nd century B.C. Thus, it is clear that the period from the final years of the 3rd century B.C. through the first quarter of the 1st century B.C. was an important one for the trading history of Rhodes. The Second Macedonian War and the Mithridatic Wars were negative blows to the trade life of Rhodes. It has been noted that Rhodian trade activity almost halted entirely during the Mithridatic Wars. The same situation is also valid for Knidos, Kos and Chios, other important amphora and wine producers of the Hellenistic period.

Examples have shown that Cilicia was within the Hellenistic sea trade routes of Rhodes. Examples of Rhodian amphorae have been uncovered at Nagidos, Kelenderis, Diokaisareia, Soli, Tarsus, Sirkeli Höyük and Kinet Höyük in Cilicia. Regional museums also display examples from offshore Cilicia in addition to those from excavations and surveys. Some of these Rhodian amphorae have stamps on them. The amphora stamps indicate trade relations between Rhodes and Cilicia starting in the first half of the 3rd century B.C. In general, the Rhodian amphorae from the region are dated to the Hellenistic period and soon after.

The stamp of amphora producer ZÆnvn II shows that the trade relations between Elaiussa and Rhodes reach back to 150 B.C. This stamp is among the earliest archaeological materials from Elaiussa. Rhodian amphora handles from the first half of the 1st century B.C. indicate that the trade relations between Elaiussa and the island continued to the end of the Hellenistic period. The merchandise traded must have been wine because Rhodes traded mostly wine
with the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. Elaiussa’s development is inferred from the coinage struck in the 1st century B.C. and the increase in the number of finds from this period. Apart from other finds such as polygonal walls, tombs and coins, Rhodian amphorae and stamps do not reveal any stratigraphic character yet may suggest that Elaiussa started to develop already in the 2nd century B.C.

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