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Lexicon of Eponym Dies on Rhodian Amphora Stamps

Lexicon of Eponym Dies on Rhodian Amphora Stamps

By Gonca Cankardeş-Şenol. Centre d’Études Alexandrines, Alexandria.

Vol. 1, Eponyms Α (Études Alexandrines 33, Amphor Alex 3). Pp. 608, figs. 4,356. 2015. €40. ISBN 978-2-11-139022-5 (cloth).

Vol. 2, Eponyms Β to Κ (Études Alexandrines 35, Amphor Alex 4). Pp. ix + 432, figs. 3,166. 2015. €40. ISBN 978-2-11-139023-2 (cloth).

Vol. 3, Eponyms Λ to Σ (Études Alexandrines 37, Amphor Alex 5). Pp. ix + 393, figs. 2,983. 2016. €40. ISBN 978-2-11-139024-9 (cloth).

Vol. 4, Eponyms Τ to Χ (Études Alexandrines 39, Amphor Alex 6). Pp. ix + 327, figs. 1,376. 2017. €40. ISBN 978-2-11-139025-6 (cloth).

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Most Rhodian transport amphoras had a stamp on each handle; one named the annually chang­ing eponym priest of Halios and the other an individual, in one instance called ergasteriarchas, whose role is disputed, and whom archae­ologists commonly refer to as fabricants or “pro­ducers.” The eponym stamps in particular are of vital im­portance to the chronology of the Rhodian amphoras and the contexts in which they occur and, by implication, for mapping the fluctuations of the amphora-borne trade of Hellenistic Rhodes. Research into the Rhodian stamps has implications, therefore, that reach far beyond the field of amphora studies. The Lexicon of Eponym Dies on Rhodian Amphora Stamps by Cankardeş-Şenol is a case in point. The four volumes, which run to more than 1,760 pages, include 5,772 “Eponym Dies.” No actual die is preserved, so the study is in fact based entirely on the stamps, the vast majority of which are kept in the Graeco-Roman Museum of Alexandria. Others in the study come from else­where in Alexandria or other sites in Egypt (Croco­dilo­po­lis/Arsinoe, Marea Eleusis, and Taposiris Magna), Turkey (Bybas­sos), and Greece (Delos), supplemented by select examples from previous publications.

In the foreword to volume 1, Jean-Yves Empereur offers an overview of the history of the study of the Rhodian amphora stamps in Alexandria, beginning with Virginia R. Grace’s pioneer­ing work from the late 1930’s on. He “picked up the baton” in 1977 and laid the foundation for the present publication over the following years. Realizing that it would be impractical to publish the more than 140,000 stamped handles from Alexandria individually, Emper­eur focused instead on the dies used to impress the stamps, in order “to recognize the different marks that belonged to the same matrix, and select the best stamped example, which was to be designated the proto-matrix” (13). He also devised a system for numbering these, taking into account that there would be future discoveries. The first proto-matrix in the lexicon is labeled RE-ΑΓΕΛΟ­ΧΟΣ-001, the next RE-ΑΓΕΛΟΧΟΣ-002 and so on. The prefix RE stands for Rhodian Eponym, other common abbrevi­ati­ons being RF (Rhodian Fabricant), TS (Timbre Secondaire), MC (Matrice Complémentaire), and RM (Rhodian Month name). When a stamp gives the name of a month in the Rhodian calendar, this is appended after the eponym—for example, RE-ΑΙΣΧΙΝΑΣ-ΥΑΚΙΝΘΙΟΣ-001. This system makes for rather long labels, but it serves its purpose.

Empereur subsequently passed the baton to Cankardeş-Şenol, who brought the project to fruition, assisted by a host of students from Ege University. She summarizes briefly (in fact very briefly) the history of the study of amphora stamps in her introduction to volume 1, followed by a discussion of the dies, a subject on which there has been little scholarly progress since Grace’s contribution in 1935 (“The Die Used for Amphora Stamps,” Hesperia 4:421–29). These were probably made of metal, wood, or clay, as were two clay dies for Thasian amphoras (C. Tzochev, Amphora Stamps from Thasos. Agora 37 [Princeton 2016] 21–2). Cankardeş-Şenol refers to a Rhodian stamp seemingly made by a wooden die (RE-ΞΕΝΟΦΑΝΗΣ-ΘΕΣΜΟ­ΦΟΡΙΟΣ-007) and one “impressed by a metal die” (RE-ΑΡΙΣΤΩΝΥΜΟΣ-ΔΑΛΙΟΣ-001), though the reasons for these identifications, which go back to Grace, are not entirely clear. Incidentally, one might think that the existence of imprints of Rhodian “revised dies” (e.g., V. R. Grace and M. Savvatianou-Petropou­lakou, in Délos 27 [Paris 1970] 314, E 37) suggests that the Rhodian dies were made of wood or metal rather than clay, but this is debatable (see Tzochev [2016] 22). Perhaps microscopic studies of the best-preserved stamps could throw more light on this issue. Cankardeş-Şenol proposes as others have before that the dies were deliberately destroyed after use, but the fact that some were recut for later use rather speaks against this possibility (for reengraving of Thasian dies, see Tzochev [2016] 47–8).

The subsequent summary of “Amphora Production on Rhodes and Rhodian Amphora Stamps” covers relevant issues but also contains some questionable assertions, in particular with regard to the roles of the eponym priests and the fabricants (for the ongoing discussion of the latter, see C. Börker, “Der ΕΡΓΑ­ΣΤΗΡΙ­ΑΡΧΗΣ und die rhodischen Amphoren­stempel” ZPE 209 [2019] 78–90). Cankardeş-Şenol refers to the chronological schemes for the periodization and dating of the individual eponyms established by Grace, Empereur, and Gérald Finkielsztejn, consistently quoting the dates suggested by the last (Chrono­logie détaillée et révisée des éponymes amphoriques rhodiens, de 270 à 108 av. J.-C. environ. Premier bilan [Oxford 2001]), as others also have. While this choice is understandable, it is also one that attributes greater pre­cision to Finkiel­sztejn’s absolute chronology than he himself deemed possible (“Estab­lishing the Chronology of the Rhodian Amphora Stamps: The Next Steps,” in J. Eiring and J. Lund, eds., Transport Amphorae and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean: Acts of the Inter­na­ti­onal Colloquium at the Danish Institute at Athens, September 26–29, 2002 [Aarhus 2004] 117–21).

The 5,772 dies published are said (vol. 4: x) to be attributed to 259 eponyms, but the number is, in fact, only 258, since ΞΕΝΟΦΑΝΗΣ and ΞΕΝΟΦΑΝΗΣ ΙΕΡΩΝΟΣ, whose dies are discussed separately (vol. 3: 123–40, 141–42), are likely the same person (see Finkielsztejn [2001] 179), and both are dated to ca. 189 B.C.E. in the lexicon. To these should be added eight further eponyms not included in the lexicon: ΑΝΤΙΝΟΟΣ, ΕΤ(, ΘΕΥΦΑΝΗΣ I, ΑΡΙ­ΣΤΩΝ I (Period Ia), ΙΠΠΟ­ΣΤΡΑ­ΤΟΣ (Period Ib), ΑΡΙΣΤΟΦΥΛΟΣ, ΠΡΩΤΟΓΕΝΗΣ (?), and ΠΥΘΟΚΛΗΣ (Period VIIa). They bring the total of Halios priests to 266, corresponding to as many years. As Demetrios Polyorketes did not lift the siege of Rhodes until the summer of 304 B.C.E., the practice of stamping can hardly have begun before 303 B.C.E. This implies that the 266 eponyms must have officiated between ca. 303/300 B.C.E. and 36/33 B.C.E. In fact, the sequence could have been longer, if allowance is made for the possibility that some names might be missing, or that stamping was suspended for one or more years. Still, the practice of stamping (and hence Period VIIb) must have stopped close to the beginning of the Augustan age, as suggested by Finkielsztejn ([2001] 197, table 22.2). Cankardeş-Şenol goes on to explain that the “matrices” (a term used synonymously with “dies”) have been distinguished “according to any difference seen on the impression, such as the characteristics of the letters, the organisation of the stamp depending on the division of the words (names, prepositions, titles, month names), number of lines, devices, place of the device, form of the stamp, measurement of the stamp, inscription errors, abbreviations, space between letters or after/before words etc” (24).

The catalogue of eponym dies constitutes the core of the four volumes. They are presented in alphabetical order, beginning with ΑΓΕΛΟΧΟΣ in volume 1 and ending with ΧΡΥΣΟΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ in volume 4. Each presentation is headed by a short summary mentioning the number of identified matrices, the months (if any) of the Rhodian calendar cited on the stamps, and the names of the fabri­cants with whom the eponym is associ­ated. The last piece of information is of vital importance for reconstructing the relative chronology of the eponyms (J. Lund, “A New Sequence of the Eponyms Named on Rhodian Amphora Stamps in the First Half of the Second Century BC as Established Through Seriation,” ActaArch 82 [2011] 271–90). Four appendices listing such associations for all periods are included in volume 4, sorted according to eponyms and fabricants and in alphabetical as well as chronological order. A fifth appendix with a “Concordance of Dies of Rhodian Eponyms and Producers” comprises eponym-fabricant pairs based on complete or fragmentary amphoras with two preserved handles in the Alexandria collections. It is unfortunate that no distinction is otherwise made between physically attested pairs, i.e., those seen on amphora necks with both handles preserved and those suggested by scholars from stylistic or other criteria. The latter are by no means necessarily wrong, but neither can they be regarded as 100% certain, barring exceptional cases such as the distinctive rhomboid stamps favored by the fabricant ΘΕΥΜΝΑ­ΣΤΟΣ. Also, a few cited references are inadequate, as is almost unavoidable in a work of this scope. To take but one example, the eponym ΑΘΑΝΟΔΟΤΟΣ is associated with 11 fabricants, but of these only seven are attested by physical parings: ΑΓΑ­ΘΟΚΛΗΣ III, ΑΜΥΝΤΑΣ, ΑΝΤΙ­ΜΑΧΟΣ, ΑΡΙΣΤΩΝ, ΜΑΡΣΥΑΣ, ΣΑΡΑΠΙΩΝ and ΦΙΛ­ΑΙΝΙΟΣ. One, ΖΩΙΛΟΣ, is based on stylistic similarities between two stamps found at Pergamon, and two, ΔΑΜΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ I and ΙΠΠΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ, on combinations with similar secondary stamps. No reference is given in support of the alleged association with ΑΡΙΣΤΕΙ­ΔΑΣ II, and the reader cannot help but wonder whether the two are in fact connected, or whether the author was misled by the attested association between the eponym ΑΡΙΣΤΕΙ­ΔΑΣ II and the fabricant ΑΘΑΝΟ­ΔΟΤΟΣ. Nevertheless, the five appendices advance our knowledge significantly, not least because Cankardeş-Şenol has been able to add several new associations, gleaned from the files of Empereur or from (at times obscure) publications. In the face of such dispersed documentation, it comes as no surprise that the list of eponym-fabricant pairs in the lexicon is capable of some expansion (e.g., the eponym ΑΡΙΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ and the fabricant ΦΙΛΤΑΤΟΣ reported in SEG 56:320, no. 910).

It is beyond the scope of this review to comment on the single eponyms presented in the lexicon, but the author and her collaborators must be praised for providing a superb documentation of the stamps, in the form of 1:1 scale photographs and rubbings of nearly all of them, occasionally supplemented by profile drawings. This ensures that the lexicon will become a magnificent scholarly tool for correctly classifying future finds of Rhodian eponym stamps that will, moreover, continuously be refined through the addition to the typology of stamps made by hitherto unrecognized dies. The lexicon should also make it possible for scholars to identify the “handwriting” of the individual Rhodian engravers, as has been done with the Thasian amphora stamps (Tzochev [2016] 21–43). But its real importance is that it will enable scholars to address a new range of research questions: for instance, does the number of dies associated with the individual eponym reflect the output of amphoras in the year he officiated?

In sum: the four-volume Lexicon of Eponym Dies on Rhodian Amphora Stamps is a momentous milestone in the study of Rhodian amphoras. And more is to come. Cankardeş-Şenol announces in the foreword to volume 4 that five further volumes are in the offing after a (well-deserv­ed) “pause to catch our breath.” Four of these will comprise the Rhodian fabricant dies, and the fifth, addenda and corrigenda, is where the minor shortcomings noted above (and by other reviewers) will hopefully be addressed, and a good deal of new evidence added. The results so far are available online, where the work in progress can be followed. When complete, the Lexicon will enable researchers to take our understanding of Rhodian amphoras to a new level, paving the way for a much enhanced under­standing of the Rhodian amphora chronology and other issues related to production and trade in ancient Rhodes, and hence, ultimately, of the economy of the Hellenistic period.

John Lund
Collection of Classical and Near Eastern Antiquities
National Museum of Denmark

Book Review of Lexicon of Eponym Dies on Rhodian Amphora Stamps, by Gonca Cankardeş-Şenol

Reviewed by John Lund

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 123, No. 4 (October 2019)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1234.Lund

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