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S U M M A R Y

A New Funerary Cippus From Elaiussa Sebaste: Some Considerations on Onomastics and Kinship
Emanuela BORGIA*

A recently discovered funerary cippus from Elaiussa Sebaste (Cilicia) can provide some interesting information in the sphere of onomastics, parental relationship and funerary practices in the Roman period. The inscribed stone has been found during the 2003 campaign of excavation in the area to the north of the agora, near the entrance of a rock cut tomb to which it could probably be related (Fig. 1). The cippus is made of local white limestone and consists of a cylindrical body with projecting mouldings at top and bottom (Fig. 2): the Greek inscription runs on five lines on the upper part of the shaft. The text reads (Fig. 3): to Antas the son of Poplas, his brother Seleukos, and Argentari(o)s and Diogenes his nephews (or cousins ?), in memory. The epitaph falls within a wide group of funerary inscriptions providing the family lineage of the deceased and recording after his name those of the dedicants.

The name of the deceased, Antas, is a form with no other comparisons in Cilicia, but it is attested during the imperial period in Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Syria, Attica, Crete, Mauretania, Egypt and Rome. Such a name may be considered an hypokoristikon derived either from Antiochos, or Antigonos or Antipatros.

The patronimic of the deceased, Poplas, belongs as well to the large number of hypocoristic forms, derived either from Greek or Latin names, terminating with the suffix -as, in assonance with some local indigenous onomastic forms: Poplas, the hypocoristikon derived from Publius, is a quite rare name, known in texts from Greece, Rome, Asia Minor and Egypt.

As far as the form Argentari(o)s is concerned, it must probably be considered a Greek transliteration of the Latin Argentarius or Argentaria, related to the gens Argentaria, which flourished in Italy and Spain during the imperial period. Among the eminent members of this family, known through the literary sources, we can cite the rhetorician who lived in the times of Augustus, probably to be identified with the author of various epigrams in the Anthologia Palatina and Argentaria Polla, the wife of the poet Lucan. In our case we probably have to do with a masculine name presenting the peculiarity of a termination in -is instead of -ios.

As far as the other two anthroponyms mentioned in the text are concerned, Seleukos and Diogenes, they are purely Greek examples, widely attested all over the Hellenistic and Roman age, belonging to the categories of dynastic and theophoric names.

As already stressed by many studies on onomastics in Asia Minor, this short inscription confirms the coexistence, in the same period and in the same familiar context, of different anthroponyms, namely forms of Greek and Latin origins: it is noteworthy that a man with a Latin name, Poplas, had decided to give Greek names to both his children.

The onomastic evidence together with the shape of the letters suggests, for this inscription, a chronology within the Roman imperial period, since hypocoristic names as Poplas and Antas are attested quite exclusively in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., and even in later texts.

Important considerations can be done on the term anepsios, whose variable meaning in the ancient sources includes different degrees of kinship from an undetermined relative to a cousin or a nephew: its primary signification must be regarded as a general "descendent" referred to persons who share a common grandparent. In Cilicia such a term has to be found in a grave inscription from Anazarbos, in an honorary text from Damlaçalı and in a late epitaph from Korykos, but none of those texts contains any specific information in order to establish its exact meaning.

In the case of Elaiussa the term should be reasonably interpreted as "nephew", even if the meaning "cousin" cannot be rejected at all. Taking into account that the existence of a direct family link among the different commissioners of the tomb is very likely, we propose to consider the commemorative funerary monument as set by all the male members of the family of Antas' brother, that is to say Seleukos himself and his own sons. In such a way Argentarios and Diogenes should be the nephews of Antas, and not his cousins. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that in the general epigraphic practice the relatives with a direct connection are almost always grouped together and the children, when cited, are named immediately after their parents. Unfortunately, in the small and restricted familiar nucleus of this inscription, neither the epigraphic context nor the onomastic relations provide any help and the interpretation of the family tree must remain to some extent conjectural (Fig. 4).

Through a more detailed analysis of this cippus within the general funerary context hopefully it will be possible to provide new information for the understanding of the funerary practices in the Roman period. Funerary cippi or altars, in their different dimensions, shapes and decoration, are widely attested in the Hellenistic and Roman world, being the most important type of funerary monument adopted by middle-class families: such monuments often assume a cylindrical form, as in our case, and are well known such as in the Western as well as in the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire (Asia Minor, Cyprus, Rhodes, the Cyclades and the Syro-Palestinian region).

Concerning particularly Cilicia, the round altars are quite the unique and peculiar existing kind of funerary cippi during the Roman period, often with carved inscriptions but almost never decorated on the shaft. Apart from the ones from Elaiussa we know similar monuments, in Anazarbos, Flaviopolis, Hierapolis Kastabala, Magarsos, Mopsouhestia, Kanytelleis, Olba, Cambazlı, Kelenderis and in the Adana Museum; some other examples have been identified on the Taurus mountains and in Isauria.

These monuments had certainly performed a dual task and must be regarded both as a kind of inscribed tombstones, in the normal sense, and as real altars: the little altars sculpted on both sides of some rock cut tombs in Korykos in all probability preserve the memory of the original votive aspect together with their commemorative and decorative meaning. In order to better understand the complex juridical meaning of such monuments, an inscription on a cippus from Magarsos together with other documents from Asia Minor is noteworthy. In Elaiussa the cippi were set in the open-air precincts, in the vicinity of the monumental tombs or even built up into the masonry of some house-tombs; in our case further information can be provided, namely the probable connection between a cippus and the rock cut tomb at the back.

Even if, on the ground of the few data available, the exact chronology of the cippus from Elaiussa cannot be established closely, the date suggested by the onomastic evidence is supported also by the comparison with the several other similar monuments in Cilicia, which are for the most part dated in the Roman imperial period.


*Emanuela Borgia, Dottore di Ricerca, Universita degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", Italy.

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