MUNICIPAL IMPERIAL CULTS
Two Case Studies
The preceding chapter produced a survey of municipal imperial cults in Asia based on available occasional evidence. This chapter presents two important cases with more definitive evidence. The Aphrodisian example provides insight into the arrangements and functions of a municipal imperial cult temple precinct, with epigraphic, architectural, and sculptural evidence taking us deeper into the phenomenon of imperial worship. The Ephesian example provides salient information about the relationship of the precinct to the city. Together, these two cases enhance our understanding of the importance of imperial cults in an urban center.
In 1979 an extraordinary structure came to light in Aphrodisias during the razing of a modern house near the ancient theater (figs. 5.1, 5.2). 1 As fragments of inscriptions, buildings, and sculptures appeared, excavators became convinced that a rare municipal imperial cult sanctuary had been uncovered. The evidence is convincing. There are multiple building dedications to Aphrodite—the city's main deity— and to the “gods Sebastoi, ” and statues from the propylon and reliefs that lined the precincts confirm these conclusions. This site could have been the Sebasteion mentioned in passing in an Aphrodisian inscription, 2 but there could have been more than one structure fitting that description in a city like Aphrodisias during the im-