The Supreme Gods of the Bosporan Kingdom: Celestial Aphrodite and the Most High God

By Yulia U. Ustinova | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
THE GREAT GODDESS OF THE BOSPORUS IN THE
LATE FIRST CENTURY BC–THE FOURTH CENTURY AD

1.3.1 Epigraphic Evidence

1.3.1.1 Aphrodite Ourania Apatourou Medeousa

Aphrodite Ourania was honored in the overwhelming majority of the Bosporan dedications from the Imperial period. A stele (CIRB 31, 9/8 BC–AD 7/8), with a dedication Ἀφροδίτῃ Οὐρανίᾳ Ἀπατούρου μεδεούσηι, erected by a private person and his wife ὑπὲρ βασιλίσσης Δυνάμεως φιλορωμαίου, and a statue base (CIRB 35, AD 243), erected by a son of a πρίνκιψ1 θεᾳ̑ Ἀφροδ“είτῃ Οὐ”ρανίᾳ Ἀπατούρ(ου) με“δε”ούσηι, were found in Panticapaeum.

However, it was the Asiatic Bosporus that continued to play a leading role in Aphrodite's cult. Since in the first centuries AD Panticapaeum gradually lost its importance and the center of the Bosporan Kingdom moved to Phanagoria, there were additional reasons for the increasing popularity of the tutelary goddess of this city.

During the turbulent first century BC–first century AD the great sanctuaries of the goddess on the Taman peninsula must have suffered considerable damage. In fact, the famous Apaturum itself in Pliny's time was deserted (Hist. Nat. 6.6.18: paene desertum Apaturos). Therefore in AD 105 the king of the Bosporus, Tiberios Iulius Sauromates, restored the porticos (περιναίους στοὰ“ς τὰ”ς τω̑ν—“χρόνωι κα”θῃρημένας) of the Hermonassa temple. The practical supervision was entrusted to an official who was titled ὁ ἐπὶ τω̑ν ἱερω̑ν (CIRB 1045). Rostovtzev (1913: 29; 1990a: 181) observes that ὁ ἐπὶ τω̑ν ἱερω̑ν, the minister of religion, corresponds to the office of the supreme priest of the main sanctuary, subordinate only to the king, in the Iranian monarchies of the Pontus and Cappadocia.2

1 The responsibilities of a πρίνκιψ in the Bosporan kingdom remain unclear.

2 This office occurs also in CIRB 976 and 1129.

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