Offering slaves to the Mother of Gods in Leukopetra after the Constitutio Antoniniana

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A dedication of slaves in the sanctuary of the Mother of Gods in Leukopetra (Macedonia) records a new Roman citizen following the regulation of the provincial governor in 213 CE, i.e. immediately after the issue of the Constitutio Antoniniana.   

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 

Sacred dedication

Original Location/Place: 
On the support of a table of the sanctuary of the Mother of Gods in Leukopetra (Macedonia, Greece).
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Not given by the editor.
212 CE to 213 CE
Physical Characteristics: 

The support is broken in the middle. Letters combine square and rounded forms.  


Not given by the editors

Not given by the editors. Letter forms are between 2 and 1.5 centimetres. The interlinear space is 5 millimetres.
Roman, Greek

I.Leukopetra 63

This inscription is one of the many texts recording the donation of slaves in a sanctuary dedicated to the Mother of Gods in Leukopetra, near Beroia (Macedonia). The remains of the temple were first excavated in the mid-20th century, and they have provided us with very interesting information concerning the religious life of Macedonia during the Roman imperial period. This particular epigraphic testimony is also important for assessing the impact of the Constitutio Antoniniana on local cultic practices and its legal consequences.  
The connection of this inscription with the Constitutio Antoniniana is based on two certain elements. First, the dates recorded in the first two lines correspond to the period following 212, most likely in the year 213 CE. The Augustan (σεβαστός/sebastos) year is calculated from the moment in which Octavian defeated Mark Antony in Actium, i.e. 31 BCE (-244= 213). As for the local era, we know that it was reckoned from 147 BCE when Macedonia became a Roman province. The problem is that the year 363 carved in the stone would correspond to 216 CE. The editors of the inscription have considered that the Augustan year is more authoritative and suggest a scribal error marked with the symbols {} according to the Leiden conventions. Any of these calculations, regardless of the method, place the inscription after the moment in which Caracalla issued the Constitutio Antoniniana. Soon after obliterating his brother Geta, the sole emperor decided to produce an unprecedented piece of legislation which granted Roman citizenship to virtually all the peregrine inhabitants in the provinces. This privilege, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean, had previously been enjoyed by a limited number of individuals who belonged to favoured groups such as soldiers, athletes or those with enough resources to achieve a personal grant from the emperor himself (e.g. Aurelia Paulina in Perge; see Lavan, “The Spread” for some possible statistics). The motivations and nature of this change of policy have been highly debated from ancient authors to modern scholars; a controversy which cannot be solved despite the existence of a fragmentary copy of the edict available to us (P.Gissen 40; see Ando, Citizenship and Empire). There is, nonetheless, one aspect in which the impact of Constitutio Antoniniana is obvious: names. As can be seen in inscriptions from Aphrodisias – just to cite an example included in this website – the new Roman citizens in the Greek East after 212 adopted various versions of Roman nomenclature which transformed a Greek traditional system based on a single name + patronymic (i.e. name of the father). This process is clearly attested in our inscription with Aurelius Posidonios (l. 5-7), who states that he was also the son of Metys. Accordingly, we can observe a period of transition in which the formerly peregrine population of Macedonia displayed Roman nomenclature deriving from their new legal status but still kept local traditions, not only citing the name of his father but also the nickname Pantakianos, as it was customary in certain areas of the eastern Mediterranean (see Ricl, “A New Inscription”). This transitional phase is particularly evident in Egypt because papyri preserve more legal documents which needed unequivocal personal identifications (e.g. SB 18.13858; see Buraselis, ΘΕΙΑ ΔΩΡΕΑ, p. 108–120).
Aurelius Posidonios was offering (χαρίζομε/charizome) a female slave (πεδίσκη/pediskê) called Ammia with her children (τέκνα/tekna), Posidonis and Nikon, after depositing the corresponding pledges (ἀσφαλείας/asphaleias). This practice is well attested in Leukopetra by virtue of the approximately 120 inscriptions discovered at this sanctuary lying 13 km away from the modern route between Beroia and Kozani in north-western Macedonia. The first surviving text probably dates to 141/2 CE (I.Leukopetra 1) during the reign of Antoninus Pius and coins of the same emperor have also been found at this site. However, the first secure attestation of such offerings was inscribed in 170 CE (I.Leukopetra 3) and continued until the beginning of the 4th century (I.Leukopetra 118). From this collection, we know that the goddess (θεά/thea) to whom the slaves were consecrated (l. 3) was the Mother of Gods or Μήτηρ Θεῶν/Mêtêr Theôn. This denomination would normally refer to the Anatolian Cybele (see Vermaseren, Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque). However, the goddess in the Macedonian sanctuary is bestowed upon the epithet “Autochthonous” (Αὐτόχθων/Autochthôn). Given this alleged local origin, it is very difficult to detail the features of her cult beyond the fact that it entailed such offerings of slaves. In this sense, it is also interesting to note that, despite the titulature of the goddess, the cult is only attested in the Roman imperial period and was apparently not mentioned by any ancient Greek author. Hence it is impossible to ascertain the genuine antiquity of the practice, an issue that also occurs in other supposedly local cults with analogous sacred manumissions that began to be epigraphically recorded in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE (see Ricl, “Les καταγραφαί”; Blanco-Pérez, “Mên Askaenos”). The modern study of the Leukopetra offerings therefore needs to be based on a rather descriptive approach because the masters only rarely justify the donations of their slaves. In spite of this lack of information, we know that just one slave was normally offered, although some inscriptions record several, together with their descendants (up to 15). The slaves could belong to their owners either through household birth or purchase. As our inscription confirms, both men and women may be offered. Other available testimonies show that the process was supervised by priests and curators – both male and female – who appear to be almost unanimously Roman citizens. Yet, among the 52 individuals consecrating slaves, almost half of them had a peregrine status. This is an interesting aspect because, while the officials of the sanctuary belonged to a selected number of families very likely coming from Beroia, the dedicators mostly arrived from the rural territory of the city or smaller towns nearby (see Petsas, Inscriptions, p. 23-28). Beroia was the seat of the Macedonian commonalty (or koinon), and from an early stage, the city appears to have been privileged by the imperial authorities (see Tataki, Ancient Beroea). The inscriptions from Leukopetra, however, come from an extra-urban location and thus provide us with a better insight into the status and practices of more common people who normally remain underrepresented in the epigraphic evidence available.
In this context, the reference to the command (κέλευσις/keleusis) of the provincial governor (ἡγεμών/hêgemôn) made in lines 3 to 5 becomes fundamental for assessing the impact of the Constitutio Antoniniana on provincials who were not members of the elite and did not previously enjoy Roman citizenship. Again, the exact content of this official order is not specified in our brief inscription. However, we know that it did not appear in the many offerings of slaves attested before 212 CE. Likewise, it is certain that the instructions of the Roman governor remained valid for several decades after this year. From these two facts, it must be inferred that Tertullianus Aquila – a former consul probably from the city of Cremna in Pisidia (PIR1 V 572) – was forced to issue regulations concerning the dedication of slaves in Leukopetra as a result of the Constitutio Antoniniana. These official instructions affected immediately new Roman citizens such as Aurelius Posidonios who offered Ammias and her children as soon as 213 CE. This process therefore allows us to observe that Caracalla’s decision did not only produce changes of nomenclatures but also had other far reaching effects on legal matters such as the donation of slaves (see Youni, “Transforming Greek practice”). Furthermore, the fact the Tertullianus Aquila’s regulations remained in place for decades after his term of office in Macedonia shows that legal changes brought in by the Constitutio Antoniniana were not ephemeral. A more complex issue is to compare these visible consequences with other testimonies, such as the aforementioned inscriptions from Aphrodisias, in which funerary practices appear to remain largely unchanged both before and after 212 CE. Even in Leukopetra, the new Roman citizens were actually not barred from offering slaves by the Roman governor; only their previous activity was adapted to the novel circumstances. For such reasons, the modern assessment of the Constitutio Antoniniana needs to remain cautious. Certain aspects in the provinces required amendment, especially those related to legal status, rights and obligations; however, we should not automatically consider that a single imperial decision interrupted all local traditions in such an immediate and abrupt manner.
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Offering slaves to the Mother of Gods in Leukopetra after the Constitutio Antoniniana
Author(s) of this publication: Aitor Blanco Pérez
Publishing date: Sat, 02/10/2018 - 17:40
Visited: Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:55

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