M. Aurelius Meidianus Platonianus Varus, curator and priest of Roma Augusta in Termessos

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A member of the elite of Termessos (southern Anatolia) and priest of the goddess Roma Augusta, is honoured for acting as curator of the city of Sagalassos.

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
Portico of Osbara in Termessos
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
In-situ, archaeological site of the Güllük Dağı Termessos Milli Parkı (Turkey)
212 CE to 250 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Quadrangular statue base.
Local stone
161 centimetres high, 68 centimetres wide, and 78 thick. Letters are 4.5 centimetres tall.
Roman, Greek

TAM III.113 [IGRR III.440]


Termessos was a Pisidian city in southern Anatolia. This quite inaccessible site is most famous in Greek history for repelling Alexander the Great’s attempt to take it (Arrian, I.27.5-8, 28.1-2; cf. Mitchell, “The Hellenization”). Under Rome, the Senate is known to have granted the status of amicus sociusque through a law surviving on bronze which detailed some privileges preserving the freedom of a territory exempted from hosting Roman officials and enjoying other fiscal benefits from 68 BCE (ILS 38; see Ferrary, “La lex”). The civic community of Termessos subsequently celebrated its autonomous status in inscriptions and also local coins which never incorporated the portrait of the emperor. Given such particular circumstances, this inscription can shed light on the magnitude of Roman power and illustrates its influence on local elites at the end of the high imperial period.

The text honours Marcus Aurelius Meidianus Platonianus Varus. His complex nomenclature was a direct result of the Constitutio Antoniniana. Before 212 CE, only one family with Roman citizenship is attested in Termessos, and the rest followed elaborated patterns of Greek onomastics in which several generations of ancestors could be recorded (see Blanco-Pérez, “Nomenclature and Dating). For example, Varus’s natural father was Medias, with the nickname of Perikles (TAM III.90). He was later adopted by a man called Platon and the Latinised names Platonianus and Meidianus served to indicate both paternal ties (see Heberdey, Termessische Studien, p. 76, 88). Marcus Aurelius, on the other hand, was the praenomen and nomen of Caracalla, and this sequence is very commonly attested among former peregrines of southern Asia Minor in the 3rd century.

The adoption of Varus into the Platonian family of Termessos facilitated a conspicuous civic career from an early stage. Still a young boy, he won the local wrestling competition (TAM III.173), and later progressed to the most prestigious office of the city, the προβουλία/proboulia, for which he was praised by his colleagues (TAM III.112) and the guild of shoemakers (TAM III.114). Varus’s brother built a new gymnasium with its porticos and was honoured as founder, lover-of-the-fatherland and son-of-the-city (TAM III.57, 121, 122, 123). Their step-brother M. Aurelius Platonianus Otanes even provided a donation of 165,500 denarii, for which he received at least two statue bases using public funds [TAM III.108, 109]. In short, there should be no doubt that this family was deeply committed to the political and euergetic activities of Termessos until the mid-third century CE. Furthermore, M. Aur. Varianus Meidianus Pericles – Varus’s son – is also recorded as an agonistic victor, proboulos,and perpetual priest of Asklepios [TAM III.118]. Marcus Aurelius Meidianus Platonianus Varus also held a couple of those perpetual priesthoods (ἱερεύς διὰ βίου/hiereus dia biou) that were normally bestowed upon members of the Termessian elite. Zeus Solymeus was the most prominent god of Termessos, and the one to whom most funerary fines had to be paid (van Nijf, “Being Termessian,” p. 170-171; Talloen–Vanhaverbeke–Waelkens, “Cult in Retrospect,” p. 436). As for the appearance of the goddess Roma Augusta, it is not unique in the epigraphic evidence of the city (e.g. TAM III. 108, 109, 110, 153, 156, 176, 190). The position of high-priest of the imperial cult was even more prestigious in Termessos and some families in the 3rd century CE claimed to be ἀρχιερατικός/archieratikos (SEG 57.1440b). Such occurrences are particularly interesting in a community which boasted, as emphasised above, about its freedom and autonomy. By virtue of these testimonies and those of Aphrodisias, it is possible to observe that a certain degree of independence did not mean opposition to Rome, but rather gratefulness for the beneficial privileges granted. Indeed, a text directly carved on the walls of Termessos wished “the power of the rulers to be eternal” (TAM III.876), and diplomatic missions with the imperial capital are also well documented (TAM III.66, 74,104). Even the sarcophagus of a local magistrate celebrated that his civic actions had been acknowledged by the provincial governor as was common in other cities without autonomous status (SEG 57.1441). In this context of collaboration between the Termessians and the Roman administrators, the main motivation for this honorific statue base for Varus must be understood. The same collaboration had previously led to the sending of a contingent of local ephebes to assist Marcus Aurelius in his Germanic Wars.

The very illustrious city of Sagalassos praised this man for having acted as its λογιστής/logistês. This rendering of the Latin word curator refers to the special envoys sent by Rome to supervise local issues which became common from the 2nd century CE onwards (Dmitriev, City Government, p. 195-196). In order to perform their missions more effectively, these agents were normally selected from among provincial celebrities such as Iulius Severus and Appuleius Eurycles, who were well acquainted with the particularities of Greek cities in the eastern Mediterranean. Sagalassos, like Termessos, was located in southern Anatolia where it claimed to be the first city of Pisidia (Waelkens, “Romanization,” p. 352). Cultural ties between the two cities were therefore obvious and the selection by the Roman administration was not accidental. The appointment of Varus proved indeed very adequate and successful, as the host city decided to set up honours for him not only in Sagalassos, but also in his fatherland (πατρίς/patris). Neither his very recent Roman citizenship nor the fact that his career had been mostly developed in the civic context of Termessos were an impediment. This city was officially outside the direct jurisdiction of the provincial governor, and yet members of his administration must have been aware of the wealth of the family into which this local notable had been adopted. Varus’s priesthood of Roma Augusta could moreover be indicative of his allegiance to imperial rule, and made him a perfect candidate for the mission needed in Sagalassos. However, one should not assume that Marcus Aurelius Meidianus Platonianus Varus used this opportunity to abandon his fatherland and start a new career of imperial prominence. Instead, he returned to Termessos where his fellow citizens could admire the achieved honours, one of his freedmen was buried (TAM III.540), and, most important, his son continued the euergetic lineage of an elite identified with the monumental development of their proudly autonomous city.

Bibliographical references: 
Talloen, Peter , Vanhaverbeke, Hannelore, Waelkens, Marc, Cult in Retrospect. Religion and Society in Pre-Hellenistic Pisidia, in Offizielle Religion, lokale Kulte und individuelle Religiosität. Akten des religionsgeschichtlichen Symposiums "Kleinasien und angrenzende Gebiete vom Beginn des 2. bis zur Mitte des 1. Jahrtausends v. Chr. (ed. M. Hutter , S. Hutter-Braunsar ; Münster: Ugarit Verlag, 2004), 433-450
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M. Aurelius Meidianus Platonianus Varus, curator and priest of Roma Augusta in Termessos
Author(s) of this publication: Aitor Blanco Pérez
Publishing date: Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:59
URL: http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/m-aurelius-meidianus-platonianus-varus-curator-and-priest-roma-augusta-termessos
Visited: Fri, 05/25/2018 - 16:47

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