T. Flavius Damianus, Ephesus and the Roman army

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An Ephesian notable is honoured for his extraordinary benefactions, especially, those concerning the Roman army.

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
Tetragonos Agora of Ephesus
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Epigraphic depot, Ephesus Archaeological site (Turkey)
166 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Square base. Most of the text is beautifully carved inside a moulded frame, except for the name of the honouree. Only the upper and left sides of the stone are partly damaged.

95 cm high, 48 cm wide, 48 cm thick. Letters are between 3.5 and 1.2 cm tall. 

Roman, Greek
Die Inschriften von Ephesos VII,1 no. 3080

Titus Flavius Damianus is one of the most famous figures from Ephesus between the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. A renowned rhetor and teacher of Philostratus, his career can be well studied from the information provided by the Life of the Sophists (II.23), and the numerous inscriptions discovered in Ephesus related to him (Puech, Orateurs et sophistes grecs, p. 190-200). Our commentary will not seek to review this wealth of evidence but, rather, analyse his participation in the reception of the troops returning from the Parthian campaign in c. 166 CE.

Damianus’s collaboration with the Roman army is attested in two almost identical bases which were discovered in reused contexts but which were originally meant to be displayed at the market of Ephesus (see Kalinowski, Angela, “Of Stones and Stonecutters”). In fact, the first one (I.Eph. 672) was commissioned by a group conducting business in the agora. The setting up of these honours (l. 21-22: ἀνάστασις τῆς τειμῆς/anastasis tês teimês) was supervised by C. Licinius Artimetes Aurelianus, a worshipper of Artemis and secretary of the temples of imperial cult in Ephesus, who acted on behalf of another honouring association, the πλατεῖα/plateia (literally, “the (broad) street”). This group, most likely connected with trading activities, presented Damianus as an “incomparable benefactor” (εὐεργέτης καὶ ἀσύνκριτος/euergetês kai asynkritos) and attached a list of actions for which such a superlative praise was justified. Even though all of them are presented as benefactions, they did not have the same degree of exceptionality. The secretary of the people (or γραμματεὺς τοῦ δήμου/grammateus tou dêmou) was one of the top magistracies in the political career of Ephesus and, as such, it is widely attested in the epigraphic evidence of the city (see Schulte, Die Grammateis). The “incomparability” of Damianus’s term of office is based on the fact that he managed to produce a surplus (περισσεία/perisseia) of several thousand denarii for the city as recorded in lines 16 to 20. With regards to promises to finance buildings for public use, these were also common in the Greek cities of the Roman Empire (see Pont, Orner la cité, 378-416). So, in this case, it is stressed that the room (οἶκος/oikos) prepared for the Varus’s Baths excelled with all elements of architecture (οἰκοδομη/oikodomê) and ornament (κόσμος/kosmos). No reference is made to the fact that Damianus was married to Vedia Phaedrina, the daughter of the Publius Vedius Antoninus who was praised by Antoninus Pius for this great construction project.

On top of these exceptional euergetic actions, the honouring association placed a delivery (μετρήσας/metrêsas) of grain. Again, such distributions sponsored by the local elites were common in the urban centres of the eastern Mediterranean (see Strubbe, “The Sitonia”). However, the conditions in which Damianus performed this benefaction were rather special. Firstly, the amount delivered was particularly massive because 201.006 medimnoi are equivalent to more than 8000 tonnes. Secondly, the distribution was not a one-off event but extended over 13 full months (l. 7). Finally, it happened during a period in which the army (στρατόπεδα/stratopeda) was hosted (ὑποδεξάμενον/hypodexamenon). The troops were returning following a victory (νείκη/neikê) over the Parthians that corresponds to the end of the eastern campaign led by Lucius Verus in 165/6. The entire expedition had departed from Italy in 162 and Ephesus played a prominent role from the very beginning. The city is known to have hosted the co-emperor at least twice (I.Eph. 728, 3072) and, on one of these occasions, Lucius Verus is reported to have married Lucilla – Marcus Aurelius’s daughter – according to the Historia Augusta (Luc. Ver. VII.7). This special relation can explain why the imperial army chose Ephesus as a suitable location for their long stopover (see Keil, Ephesos und der Etappendienst). Indeed, local bronze coinage with the portrait of Lucius celebrated the ΡΩΜΑΙΩΝ ΝΕΙΚΗ (“victory of the Romans”, RPC IV.1143) soon after the final victory in Ctesiphon was achieved. Likewise, a new agonistic festival to commemorate the victory (or epinikia) started in the same period (I.Eph. 619b, 721, see Nollé, “Ein ephesischer Kult”). There is therefore no doubt that the Ephesian population publicly rejoiced in the Roman success. And yet, hosting the triumphal troops created a heavy burden that the public finances of the capital of Asia could hardly bear on their own.

The general context for this massive distribution of grain was not particularly favourable. We know that already in 165 the cities of Anatolia started to be affected by an infectious disease that the soldiers themselves help to propagate (see Kirbihler, “Les émissions de monnaies d'homonoia”). The so-called Antonine plague had a profound impact not only on the imperial recruitment – as attested in Termessos ­– but also on the euergetic patterns of the Asian elites (Filippini, “Anomalie dell'evergetismo”). Under such circumstances, the exceptional nature of Damianus’s benefaction deserved to be highlighted. Furthermore, our inscription also mentions that, when he was spending several thousands to prevent famine, he simultaneously contributed to the organisation of one of the most important events of Ephesus: the Great Ephesia. In other words, not only was this personality attentive to the needs of the imperial army, but he also cared for the well-being of a community that could enjoy its beloved festival and then admire the magnificence of his new room of public leisure in the Baths of Varus. Damianus’s wealth certainly facilitated such praiseworthy activities despite the incipient effects of the plague. However, it is equally important to note that this member of the highest provincial elite is not known to have attempted to embark on the imperial careers that other Ephesians such as Vibius Salutaris or Publius Vedius Antoninus had successfully completed in the first half of the 2nd century. While Titus Flavius Damianus’s descendants even reached the consulate (Philostratus, Life of the Sophists II.23 [p.605]; I.Eph. 3082-3084; AE 2011.1319), his personal fidelity towards the fatherland must have been highly esteemed and this can explain the numerous honorific inscriptions dedicated to him. At the same time, the local benefactor contributed to alleviating the negative impression that the Roman army with its long stay could cause in Ephesus. In such an interconnected chain of mutual alliance between the Ephesian community, its provincial aristocracy and the imperial army, the biggest beneficiary was, after all, Roman rule; a power which could be affected by destructive plagues but still managed to have its victory celebrated through civic inscriptions, coins and festivities.

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T. Flavius Damianus, Ephesus and the Roman army
Author(s) of this publication: Aitor Blanco Pérez
Publishing date: Sun, 01/21/2018 - 18:05
URL: http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/t-flavius-damianus-ephesus-and-roman-army
Visited: Tue, 03/19/2019 - 20:13

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