Valerius Statilius Castus, Oinoanda and the arrival of imperial statues under Valerian

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A military officer is honoured in Oinoanda (southern Anatolia) for providing peace and being generous on the day on which a sacred image of Valerian II arrived.
Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Honorific inscription
Original Location/Place: 
On the site of Oinoanda, close to the modern village of İncealiler (Turkey)
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
In situ, close to the agora complex (see Milner, “A new statue-base”, p. 191)
255 CE to 257 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Big base broken in many pieces

Not given by the first editor


Not given by the first editor

Latin, Greek
Roman, Greek
IGRR III.481+1501 = ILS 8870

This statue base honours a Roman official following the traditional practice of Greek cities in the imperial age. The support, however, records a text with interesting and almost unique pieces of information that contribute to better understanding the particular circumstances of provincial communities in the mid-3rd century CE when the number of surviving inscriptions is rather limited.

As usual, the name of the honouree appears at the beginning of the inscription in the accusative followed by the local honouring entities in the nominative case. Council (βουλή/boulê), people (δῆμος/dêmos), and council of elders (γερουσία/gerousia) were the main civic institutions of a city inhabited by the Termessians near Oinoanda. This name referred to the Pisidian colonists from Termessos (Maior) who had settled in the mountainous area between northern Lycia, Caria and Pisidia already in the Hellenistic age (Coulton, “Termessians”). In the Roman period, this community had already mixed with other surrounding settlements belonging to the Lycian league, but the ancestral denomination of Termessos (Minor) was kept (Rousset, De Lycie, p. 79-89). Modern studies prefer to designate this city as Oinoanda in order to avoid confusion with the homonymous free city of Pisidia. Within this traditional civic framework, the titles of Valerius Statilius Castus are virtually unprecedented. This Roman citizen of a high social status (κράτιστος/kratistos) is referred to as an ally of the emperors (συμμάχος τῶν Σεβαστῶν/symmachos tôn Sebastôn) and prefect of vexillationes (πραιπόσιτος βίξιλατιώνων/praepositos bixilatiônôn). The second sequence is clearly a Greek transliteration of Latin terminology used for commanders of legionary detachments appointed for specific missions (see Saxer, Untersuchungen). The notion of “ally” had a longer tradition applied to those foreign communities and individuals particularly favourable to Roman rule (see e.g. Senatus Consultum de Asclepiade; Octavian and Aphrodisias). Under Marcus Aurelius, for example, it could be bestowed upon the leaders of local units sent by cities in the eastern Mediterranean such as Termessos (Maior) which assisted the emperor in the Danubian wars. This normal use for external allies would theoretically be incompatible with a commander of Roman units structured as vexillationes. The modern issue therefore resides in determining whether Valerius Statilius Castus was a regular member of the legions or, rather, a private individual who provided assistance by raising local paramilitary units (see Loriot, “Sur une inscription”). 

In the high imperial period, such problems of interpretation could more easily be solved because recruits, soldiers and overall security were centralised through the emperor’s army. This general status quo was no longer valid after the mid-3rd century CE. Valerian II (or younger) is mentioned at the end of our text (l. 21-22) and his presence dates the inscription between 255 and 257 when the son of Gallienus was designated Augustus (Σεβαστός/Sebastos). These years were particularly challenging for Roman power (see Potter, The Roman Empire, p. 251-262). The Goths and other Transdanubian peoples had already looted areas around the Balkans and the Black Sea. In 253, the Sassanian king Sappor invaded Syria, took Antioch and began to launch raids across eastern Anatolia. In this imperial context, the Termessians near Oinoanda praised Valerius Statilius Castus for “providing peace (εἰρήνη/eirênê) by land and sea”. It is, however, very unlikely that any of the aforementioned external threats generated the episodes that motivated the mission of this commander. Instead, this high degree of insecurity should be linked with the endemic problems of brigandage affecting the mountains of southern Anatolia (see Mitchell, “Native rebellion”). This region had conventionally been portrayed as a pirates’ nest in the Republican period and imperial rule only managed to mitigate banditry. Previous outbreaks of insecurity episodes occurred, for example, in nearby Boubon under Commodus. In this area, the appointment of eirenarchs to guarantee local security in collaboration with Roman provincial authorities was likewise key to keeping the peace. With imperial power severely weakened in the mid-3rd century CE, it seems that local insurgents resurfaced and threatened population that honoured its protectors, as also attested in the remote region of Ovaçik between 270 and 280 CE.

Nevertheless, Valerius Statilius Castus was commended not only as an effective man of arms, but also as a generous benefactor (εὐεργέτης/euergetês) of Oinoanda. The inscription records that he stayed 12 days in the city (πόλις/polis) and behaved with decency (εὐκοσμία/eukosmia), probably in contrast with other soldiers that may have taken advantage of the inhabitants (see e.g. Hadrian and soldiers in Asia; Roman Soldiers in Dura). One of his euergetic activities (φιλοτείμως/philoteimôs) was performed in a space dedicated to entertainment (λουσωρίον/lousôrion). This rare term is again a loanword from Latin – lusio means playing – exactly as the ἰνπέριον (=imperium) of line 16. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know with certainty what type of ceremony took place since no parallels survive elsewhere in the eastern provinces and the official rank of the commander is still debated (see above). What should remain undisputed is that on the same November 8 – i.e. 6 days before the Ides – an image of Valerian II arrived in the city (see Robert, “Recherches,” p. 316-324; Price, Rituals, p. 189-190). The exact features of the sacred representation (εἰκών/eikôn) are once more unclear, and yet this testimony confirms that even remote communities in southern Anatolia subject to severe periods of insecurity received updated visual information of the ruling family (cf. Lehnen, Adventus principis, p. 307-313; Kokkinia, Boubon, no. 19-41). Such imperial images were not unprecedented in Oinoanda as shown by the presence of sebastophoroi in the Demostheneia games that started under Hadrian and continued until, at least, the 260s (see Hall-Milner, “Education and Athletics,” p. 30-32). This community is also known to have contributed to the imperial recruitment in the Severan period, so the former military strengths and demands of Roman power were not novel (see Milner, “Athletics, army”). From a more general perspective, this inscription still serves to illustrate that the imperial weakness of the mid-3rd century CE may have required new arrangements and appointments but the systems of loyalty and communication on which Rome still based her provincial domination did not completely vanish (see Ando, Imperial Ideology, p. 228-232).

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Valerius Statilius Castus, Oinoanda and the arrival of imperial statues under Valerian
Author(s) of this publication: Aitor Blanco Pérez
Publishing date: Thu, 02/22/2018 - 20:36
Visited: Tue, 03/19/2019 - 20:06

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