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Tyrus and Sarepta

In the late 16th century fragments of a Greek inscription were found "in Pozzuoli near the chapel of Euphemia", the location of which is not clear however. It records a letter, dated 23 July 174 AD, written by people from Tyrus, modern Tyre in Lebanon, living in Puteoli. It was sent to the council of their home town, which met on 8 December of the same year. The issue at stake was this. The Tyrians in Puteoli made use of a place called a statio. They were responsible for the maintenance, paid rent and financed religious activities. However, the number of Tyrians in Puteoli had decreased and the Tyrians in Rome, also using a statio, therefore started paying the rent. But now the Tyrians in Rome no longer wished to pay, and the Tyrian skippers and merchants were also not willing to contribute. In the letter the Tyrians in Puteoli ask the council of their home town to pay the rent or to instruct the others to keep paying. The council prefers the latter solution, after which the text breaks off. The height of the rent by the way has been interpreted in different ways, because it can be understood as Greek and Latin.

Letter written to the city. To the archons, council and people of Tyre, sacred, inviolate and immune, metropolis of Phoinike and other cities, flagship and supreme fatherland, the settlers in Puteoli send greeting.

By the gods and the fortune of our supreme emperor, if there is any other statio in Puteoli, as most of you know, ours surpasses in splendor and greatness the others. This has long been cared for by the Tyrian residents in Puteoli, who were many and wealthy, but now our number has dwindled to a few, and in paying for sacrifices and the rites of our paternal gods that are established for worship here in temples, we do not have the means to furnish the rent on the statio, 250 denarii per year, especially since the payments for the bull sacrifice at the games at Puteoli are charged to us in addition. We entreat, therefore, that you provide for the lasting permanence of the statio. And it will last if you make provision for the 250 denarii given yearly as payment. For we have always reckoned to our own accounts the other payments incurred for the fitting out of the ruined statio for the sacred days of the supreme emperor as they occur, lest we burden the city. And we remind you that no income accrues either from the skippers or from the merchants, in the statio here, contrary to the statio in imperial Rome. We beseech, therefore, and entreat you by your fortune to take care of the matter. Written in Puteoli on the 10th day before the Kalends of August under the consulship of Gallus and Flaccus Cornelianus.

From the minutes of the council which met on 11 Dios year 300, C. Valerius Kallikrates son of Pausanias presiding for the day as president.

The letter of the Tyrian stationarii was read, having been brought forward by Laches, one of them, in which they ask that Tyre make provision for them of the 250 denarii, explaining that they pay for the sacrifices and the rites of our paternal gods that are established for worship there in temples, and do not have the means to furnish the rent on the statio, 250 denarii per year, and that the payments for the bull sacrifice at the games at Puteoli are charged to them in addition. As for the other payments incurred for the fitting out of the ruined statio on the sacred days of the supreme emperor as they occur, they have always reckoned them to their own accounts, lest they burden the city, and they remind us that they have no income, neither from the skippers nor from the merchants, as they do in the statio in imperial Rome.

After the reading of which, Philokles son of Diodoros said, "The stationarii in Rome have always been accustomed, out of what they themselves take in, to furnish those in Puteoli with the 250 denarii, and now the stationarii in Puteoli ask that the same things be maintained for them; or if those in Rome are unwilling to furnish it to them, they themselves shall absorb the two stationes under the same governance". They exclaimed: "Philokles speaks weIl". "Justly do those in Puteoli ask". "It has always been so; now too let it be so". "This is advantageous to the city". "Let the custom be preserved".

A tablet was read, submitted at this point by Laches son of Preimogeneia and by Agathopous, himself one of the Tyrian stationarii of the Tyrian statio in Colonia Augusta Puteoli, in which he made clear that our fatherland provided for the two stationes, the one in royal Rome [and the other in Puteoli ...].
IG XIV, 830. Combined translation of Joshua Sosin and Paola Lombardi.

IG XIV, 830. Capitoline Museums.
Photo: Lombardi 2013, fig. 1.

Tyrus served as port of Damascus, Syria, and was an end point of the Silk Road. Cicero mentions the trade in Tyrian purple (Against Verres II,V,146). It was the home town of the jurist Ulpianus. Outstanding ruins are the circus (480 x 160 meters) and a triumphal arch.

The circus in Tyrus. Photo: Wikimedia, Vyacheslav Argenberg.

Tyrus, Al Mina archaeological site. Photo: Wikimedia, RomanDeckert.

There has been a lot of debate about the nature of the statio, but we simply don't know what it looked like. In Rome inscriptions testify to stationes of cities near the Forum Romanum. These should in any case not be compared to the so-called stationes on the Piazzale delle Corporazioni in Ostia. There can be little doubt about the reason why the skippers and merchants of Tyrus, and their compatriots in Rome, no longer wanted to pay for the statio in Puteoli: it must have been the increased importance of Ostia-Portus. At the time, the period of Marcus Aurelius, the number of Tyrians in Puteoli could also have decreased due to the Antonine plague.

In the archive of the Sulpicii one Tyrius is mentioned, Zenon, freedman of Zenobius, in 52 AD (TPSulp. 4). We have already seen that there was a rural district, a pagus, near Puteoli named after the Tyrians, with L. Domitius Pudens as patron of the pagani. The inscription was bought near Pozzuoli in 1905. Pudens built an inn with a kitchen for the Tyrians who lived and worked in the area. It may well have been part of the statio.


L. Domitius Pudens, patron
of the pagus Tyrianus, had a tavern
and a kitchen for cooking built
for the honour of the patronage,
at his own expense and alone,
for the pagani of the pagus

Archeological Museum, Naples.
Photo: EDR.

A bit to the north of Tyrus, stil on the coast of Lebanon, was Sarepta, modern Sarafand. What takes us to this city is an inscription that was found in Puteoli in the years 1890-1891. Two fragments were found, obviouly reused, because one was changed into a round object. The first lines, in Greek, mention the start of the transport of an image of a deity from Sarepta to Puteoli, on 23 May 79 AD, a few months before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Ἐ̣π̣ὶ ὑπάτων Λουκίου Καισε[ννίου καὶ Ποπλίου Καλουισίου]
καὶ Τυρίοις L̅σ̅δ̅΄ μηνὸς Ἀρ[tεμ]
ισίου ι̅α̅΄ κατέπλευσεν ἀ[πὸ]
Τύρου εἰς Ποτι[ό]λοις Θεὸς [ἅγ]
ιος Ἀρεπτηνό[ς] ἤγαγεν [---]
ηλειμ κατ΄ ἐπιτο[λὴν το]ῦ̣ [---]
PRO SAL(ute) IMP(eratoris) DOMITIANI [Augusti]
L(oco) C(oncesso) [d(ecreto) d(ecurionum)]
Under the consulship of L. Caesennius and P. Calvisius
and for the Tyrians in the year 204 on the 11th of the
month Artemisios sailed to land from
Tyrus to Puteoli the holy god
Sareptenos, brought by one of the
Eleim at the rising of [the Pleiades?].
For the health of Emperor Domitianus Augustus.
Place granted by decree of the decurions.
EDR080835. Photo: Lombardi 2011, fig. 2.
Ann Arbor (USA), Kelsey Museum.

Sareptenos means "the god of Sarepta". The Eleim must have been priests. The last two lines are in Latin and belong to an event of a later date, because Domitianus became Emperor on 14 September 81 AD.

Another inscription mentioning Tyrus was found in Puteoli around 1850. Like the previous one it is partly in Latin, partly in Greek.


TYROS M[etropolis ---]
FOEDE[rata ---]
Τύρος ἱερὰ καὶ ἄσυλος κ[αὶ αὐτόνομος μητρό]
πολις Φοινείκης κ[αὶ τῶν κατὰ Κοίλην Συρίαν]
[θ]εῷ ἁγίῳ Σ̣[αρεπτηνῷ ---]
Priest siliginius.

Tyrus metropolis
Tyrus, sacred and inviolate and autonomous
metropolis of Phoinike and of the cities of
For the holy god S(areptenos?) ...
EDR105282. Photo: EDR.
Archaeological Museum, Naples.

The first line may have been added later. It mentions a priest who is called siliginius, for which no good explanation has been found. Siligo stands for a kind of wheat and flour of high quality. Was the priest responsible for offerings of bread or flour? The word "allied" refers to the tie with Rome. Coele-Syria was the name of part of modern Syria and Lebanon.

Lithograph of ruins in Sarepta in 1839. Image: Wikimedia, Wellcome Collection.