THE EPIGRAPHICAL SCIENCE AS A RESOURCE FOR ROMAN LYDIA AND PHRYGIA ANAPLASIS (I)


SOCIETY AND ECONOMY OF RURAL SANCTUARIES IN ROMAN LYDIA AND PHRYGIA

In his oration Pro templis (written c. 386) addressed to the Emperor Theodosius, amid  vigorous protests against wanton destruction of pagan shrines by predatory monks, Libanius  offers a vivid metaphor of shrines as the soul and the fountain of all hopes for the country  people (9–11): So they sweep across the countryside like rivers in spate, and by ravaging the  temples, they ravage the estates, for wherever they tear out a temple from an estate, that  estate is blinded and lies murdered. Temples, Sire, are the soul of the countryside: they mark  the beginning of its settlement, and have been passed down through many generations to the  men of today. In them the farming communities rest their hopes for husbands, wives, children,for their oxen and the soil they sow and plant. An estate that has suffered so has lost the  inspiration of the peasantry together with their hopes, for they believe that their labour will be  in vain once they are robbed of the gods who direct their labours to their due end.1
In rural Lydia and Phrygia during the Roman period the centre of the cult was the
sanctuary with its temple and divine statue(s). The temple housed the cult statue in a central  shrine and more often than not provided space for other deities. It also must have had rooms  for storage and the activities of various personnel who worked there, both cultic and non  cultic functionaries. The sanctuary was not only a simple place of cult but a pre-state  ethnological entity founded on a patrimonial base: in the beginning, the god was the ruler and master, his were the lands, his the people, animals, waters, harvest, etc. The sanctuary  dominated the material life of neighboring populations and the people of the sanctuary  themselves were perhaps originally completely slave and parts of the patrimony (hieroi  douloi); then they slowly developed into various statuses (hieroi, hierodouloi and sim.),remaining tied to the sanctuary in a kind of symbiosis. Many villages and some cities grew up as settlements around temples. It is thus no surprise that the god is frequently thought of as a  supreme ruler (βασιλευων) or possessor, occupier of a certain place (κατεχων).2

Even an unassuming rustic shrine was a community with its own personnel and its own
economic resources, which were mainly in the form of land holdings. The architecture of
these sanctuaries remains mostly unknown, as well as when they began to function and when  they were abandoned.3 These rural shrines, frequented mostly by peasants, provide a welcome glimpse into their daily lives. Strong ties binding Lydian and Phrygian villagers to their  predominantly agrarian divinities are reflected in the numerous vows made for the safety of  the whole communities and for their harvests.4 Village-dwellers were conscious of the fact  that they belonged to a unit larger than their nuclear families: this corporate identity and the  resulting socio-economic and religious solidarity prompted them to include their fellow  villagers  in prayers and vows.5 The family and communal worship were therefore very  important in Roman Lydia and Phrygia: gods and goddesses are referred to as ancestral deities  of a family or a community – patrioi, patrikoi, papooi, syngenikoi6 – and cults often assumed  communal forms of worship with a sacrifice and a feast for the whole village, with wine,perfumes, and garlands for everyone.7
It is not always easy to distinguish urban from rural sanctuaries, especially since in many
parts of Lydia and Phrygia the cities were so ill defined as to be hardly distinguishable from
the larger village communities. On the other hand, many villages assumed the form, if not the  substance of cities, organizing their own assemblies, electing magistrates, managing their  public funds and regulating the use of common land, embellishing themselves with buildings  emulating those of urban centers. Through all this, they managed to preserve their traditional  position of basic units of economic and social life, maintaining their stable religious,economic, and social structures. In any event, wherever such a possibility exists, a distinction  should be drawn between remote rural sanctuaries frequented by villagers and functioning  with the help of a modest temple personnel, and the more important and better organized  sanctuaries located in close proximity to urban centres. In both cases, the city on whose  territory the sanctuary stood would assume control of it, but there would be a considerable  difference in the architecture, size of the personnel, and economic activities of each case.
When a sanctuary belongs to a village dependent on the city, its activity stands under the
control of city officials and a part of the proceeds goes to the city, whereas a privately-owned  village and its revenues, including the sacred ones, can be disposed of at will by its owner.8 In  addition to villages situated on municipal territories, Imperial and private estates, we encounter autonomous villages grouped in regions lacking urban centres, all of them preserving their  traditional religious institutions.9
The following general picture obtained from the sole source for the study of indigenous
cults of Anatolia – inscriptions – can hopefully serve as a framework for a future in depth
investigation into the same subject matter. This author hopes to write a comprehensive study  on the “people of the sanctuary” in Anatolia from the Hittite to the Late Roman period.

I. TEMPLE COMMUNITY
Sanctuaries, big and small, possessed lands which were their territory and the essential base of  their patrimony, but they also had animals and, above all else, power over the people who  lived in dependency on the temple, in the cult of the god and in the security of his protection  and communal defense.
Rustic sanctuaries scattered throughout Lydian and Phrygian countryside cannot have
possessed an elaborate cult personnel. We have no inventories of temple personnel or
instructions for the temple personnel comparable to the Hittite ones, which list “all the people  of the temple, the kitchen personnel of the god, peasants of the god, shepherds of the god’s  cattle” and the members of the cultic personnel: priests and priestesses, prophets, singers, and  musicians.10 With one exception involving two urban sanctuaries,11 Lydian and Phrygian  texts of the Roman period never allude to anything comparable to the permanent communities  (κατοικιαι or sim.) that existed around such important sanctuaries as those at Didyma,12Lagina,13 Ephesos,14 Nysa15 or Pergamon.16 Larger organized communities attached to sanctuaries were evidently exceptional,17 but even an unassuming countryside shrine could not  function properly without a personnel catering to its needs and the needs of the local  population. My aim is to examine the role of these local shrines in the daily life of Lydian and  Phrygian villages during the Roman period and to study them as human communities, unities of persons and things and not simply places of cult.
As socio-economic organizations of great antiquity and conservatism, village shrines
presumably preserved a structure based on that prevalent in Anatolia before Alexander. Most  of them no longer possessed any “holy villages” peopled by “sacred slaves”, but the
populations living in their vicinity still thought of themselves as distinct groups tied together  and identified by the worship of their tutelary deity.18 We shall see that they also “inherited”  from their ancestors many obligations introduced in an earlier age, when a sanctuary’s  patrimony included both the lands in its possession and the people settled on them.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

MARIJANA RICL

Dedicated to the Memory of Professor Peter Herrmann (1927–2002)

 

NOTES

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SOURCE  aus: Epigraphica Anatolica 35 (2003) 77–101
Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, Bonn

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