Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 8781 (Paphlagonia, 3 BCE)

In the third year after the twelfth consulate of the emperor Augustus, the son of the divine Caesar, 6 March, at Gangra, in the marketplace: this oath was sworn by the Paphlagonians of the area and the Romans engaged in business among them.

I swear to Zeus, Earth, Sun, all the gods and goddesses, and to Augustus himself, that I will be loyal to Caesar Augustus, his children, and descendants all through my life, both in word, deed, and thought, holding as friends those they hold as friends and considering those as enemies whom they judge to be such, that with regard to things that concern them I will not be sparing of my body or my soul or my life or children, but will face every peril with respect to things that affect them. If there is anything that I should recognize or hear as spoken, plotted, or done contrary to this, I will report this and be an enemy of the person speaking, plotting, or doing any of these things. Whomever they judge to be enemies, I will pursue and defend against them by land and sea with arms and steel.

If I should do anything contrary to this oath or fail to follow up what I have sworn, I impose a curse upon myself encompassing the destruction and total extinction of my body, soul, life, children, my entire family, and everything essential down to every successor and every descendant of mine, and may neither earth nor sea receive the bodies of my family and descendants nor bear fruit for them.

The same oath was sworn by all throughout the regions in the countryside at the temples to Augustus by the altars to Augustus. So did the Phazimonians inhabiting what is now called the New Town, all assembled at the temple of Augustus by the altar to Augustus.

Trans: T. Parkin and A. Pomeroy, Roman Social History: A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2007).

Related Texts:
Kronion's Will (Mark Wieland)

Anti-gladiator laws - Henock Dory

Praise for Nero
This document Provides another example of an Emperor being related to the divine and of the Imperial cult under later emperors. Nero is identified as Zeus Liberator and is promised a statue in the temple. It also may give a hint of the reward for loyalty to oaths of allegiance, as Nero bestows many rights on the Greeks

Public Works
This document describes the building of an aqueduct in modern Algeria. This illustrates some of the benefits that were gained by accepting Roman rule, and therefore reasons to consent to oaths.

Emperor's Pep Rally
This document provides a look at the Emperor's role in the empire. Here the emperor is seen praising and encouraging the soldiers. This proves that he had more than a distant relationship with some of his subjects. This also may provide insight into the different styles of government of different emperors.

Oppressed Workers

This document provides some context for how the Emperor responded in dealing with abuses of the law in the provinces by those who had sworn allegiance to him. Could be useful to contrast between how Emperors were perceived and obeyed in 3 BCE compared to the late second century CE.

Analysis:
This document is an inscription located in the ancient town of Neapolis, near the city of Gangra in Paphlagonia recording the oath of loyalty sworn by the Paphlagonian people to Augustus. The local population, and the Roman businessmen in the region, were required to pledge themselves to the royal person, his family, and their allies. In addition, the oath bound the participants to report treasonous activity and to oppose enemies of the Julio-Claudians. The document also includes a curse to punish those who should fail to keep the oath. Finally the inscription concludes with the information that in the communities surrounding the city of Gangra the same oath was sworn at the local temples to Augustus. This document thus allows a glimpse into the relationship between subject peoples and the person of the Emperor, the nature of oaths in the ancient world, and the difference between the life in a city and in the country side in Asia Minor during the rule of Augustus.

The first question raised is that of the relationship of the people of Paphlagonia to their distant ruler Caesar Augustus. One thing to note about the document is that the people do not swear their allegiance to the Senate or to the Roman state, but specifically to Augustus himself and his family. This specificity is certainly intentional and seems to be an attempt to shift loyalty away from the city of Rome and towards his own person. Indeed this may have been a reaction to the turmoil that followed Caesar's assassination. In the aftermath of a century of civil wars in Rome, Augustus saw the need to establish the stability of rule by one man, during his life and following his death. This need to ensure succession and avoid turmoil helps to explain the oath's emphasis upon the family of Augustus. By forcing the subject peoples to swear allegiance to his family he hoped to enact a peaceful transfer of power without insurrections in the provinces.

It is also likely that this oath to the emperor himself was part of Augustus' attempt to increase his control over the provinces by placing the control of the most important or vulnerable ones in the hands of governors he appointed rather than those appointed by the Senate. Similarly, in this oath, Augustus was making it less possible for governor's to use their local base to thwart the emperor. This is why he forced the Paphlagonians to swear personal allegiance. If he had requested only loyalty to Rome, other men could have claimed to be the true representatives of the Roman people, thus undermining the control of Augustus and his family. This also explains why he requested them to honor his friends and to oppose his enemies, making the implicit assertion that his friends and enemies were in fact friends and enemies of Rome itself. The practice of requiring a personal oath of loyalty was not unknown in the Hellenic Near East, as monarchs, and even more frequently tyrants, requested them upon taking power. These oaths were meant to secure their power from internal dissent. In addition to making the oath a matter of personal rather than state loyalty, Augustus also incorporated this oath into the cult to his own genius, making his spirit be one of the gods by which the Paphlagonians swore. Augustus thus identified himself with the divine, increasing his power in the eyes of the subject people and making disloyalty an act of blasphemy as well as treachery.

By recording an oath, this inscription can also reveal much about the nature of oaths in the ancient world. The choice of the gods by which the Paphlagonians swore is typical for Greek oaths. They used the most common trio of gods for oaths, Zeus representing the sky, Ge the earth, and Helios the sun. Augustus thus used terminology familiar to his audience in the invocation of his oath. In addition, the idea of swearing by the Augustus as a divinity would not have been unfamiliar to Near Easterners, who had become accustomed to swearing oaths to and by local tyrants and Hellenistic monarchs. What this document also helps to show is the religious form of oaths. Oaths were a contract with the divine in which the god witnessed the statement, providing assurance that it was true, but also stood ready to punish the perjurer should the oath be broken. This concept of the oath as a contract with the gods helps to explain the curse in the third paragraph. It is important to note that the part of the curse asks that his family not be buried in sea or land, a practice deemed necessary for entrance into the afterlife. This meshes nicely with the existence of a specific god, Horkos, whose role was to punish those who broke oaths. Augustus thus took advantage of the religious nature of oaths to make the loyalty of the local populace greater by adding the threat of divine retribution for rebellion to the more earthly punishment meted out by the Roman army.

Finally, the last few lines of the inscription indicate the very different nature of life in the city of Gangra and in the surrounding countryside and smaller towns. The people of Gangra assembled to take the oath in the marketplace, the center of Greek civic life. This may indicate that Gangra, being a city was relatively Hellenized and had adopted many Greek customs of civic organization. In contrast, in the countryside, people assembled at temples to Augustus. This indicates a greater reliance on cult sites as the center of community life, possibly indicating more limited Greek influence in the country side. Unlike Gangra, however, it would seem that the rural communities and smaller towns, such as New Town (Neapolis), lacked the vibrant civic center of a larger city and perhaps the Hellenic culture of the cities of the Roman East.

This document is important in providing a glimpse into the relationship of provincial populations to the Emperor Augustus. It also helps demonstrate the way in which Augustus used existing religious traditions about oaths, both the gods invoked and the more general concept of the oath as a contract with the divine, as a means to control subject peoples. The inscription also may provide a hint of a divide between a Hellenized urban culture and a rural one which may have had weaker civic institutions, possibly indicating a more limited Greek influence.

Unanswered Questions
This inscription provides little evidence about the life of the inhabitants of Paphlagonia. It also does not seem very specific to the region of Paphlagonia and seems as if it could easily have come from many of the other towns and cities of Asia Minor. It is ultimately more revealing of the nature of loyalty to the emperor in the provinces and the religious nature of oaths in the Greco-Roman world than of the specific experience of Paphlagonians. Therefore I would like to learn more about the religious and social customs specific to the region of Paphlagonia and what actions were taken by the Romans to accommodate them.


Comments:
The analysis and links were very thorough as well as interesting, so I don’t have too many suggestions. Though it is a little outside your document, it might be interesting to look a little at the consequences of not pledging allegiance to the emperor. I assume Augustus was pretty popular, so there were few issues; however, would weaker emperors in times of civil upheaval, such as Galba or the other emperors in 69 CE, have citizens who refused to swear their loyalty to them? If so, what would they do to citizens who refused?
-Nat Roth


This idea of refusing to pledge allegiance or rebelling against the emperor is something that definitely stuck out to me as well. What happened when the Roman citizens were faced with a vicious emperor such as Caligula.
"If I should do anything contrary to this oath or fail to follow up what I have sworn, I impose a curse upon myself encompassing the destruction and total extinction of my body, soul, life, children, my entire family, and everything essential down to every successor and every descendant of mine, and may neither earth nor sea receive the bodies of my family and descendants nor bear fruit for them."
Did they still pay attention the the above portion of the oath when they plotted to assassinate their own cruel ruler?

Eric,
Your analysis of the importance of promoting allegiance to the emperor himself - rather than Rome as a whole - seems to me an accurate interpretation of the mindset of Augustus and the internal power struggles that existed within the Roman Empire.

In the beginning of the passage, it states that "this oath was sworn by the Paphlagonians of the area and the Romans engaged in business among them." From this it seems that trade was an additional incentive to partake in the oath of allegiance. It would be interesting to explore the strictly economic ramifications of refusing to swear oath: would that bar a Paphlagonian from both buying and selling in the marketplace, and if so is this a common incentive throughout the empire?

I enjoyed your look into the loss of burial rites for the family as part of the curse, as the distinction between body, life and soul is noted multiple times in the passage. Great job overall.
-Joseph Masri


Joesph's opening statement closely resembles my thoughts. Your highlighting of the fact that the people swear oaths not to Rome but to Augustus & the fact that it was a common practice amongst tyrants and monarchs in that region is strong. Its strength lies in the fact that a clear line can be drawn from the republic to the Empire. Augustus was acting as tyrants and kings did and that that he was taking power for himself and binding it to his person. My own question is is what was the impact of swearing these oaths on the cities. Did the citizens feel compelled by these oaths to be loyal to Rome or were these simply formalities?
- John Marley

Thanks for your outstanding analysis of this interesting text. Your follow-up question about how such oaths played out in particular cultures is excellent; you might want to think about groups whose religions did not allow them to swear such oaths to deified emperors, such as the Jews and (much later) the Christians. - James Kierstead

Works Cited:
Bickerman, E. J, and W. den Boer. Le Culte Des Souverains Dans L'empire Romain: Sept Exposes Suivis De Discussions. Geneve, Vandoeuvres, 1972.
Broughton, Thomas Robert Shannon and Stephen Mitchell. "Paphlagonia." ed. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd ed.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Cannadine, David, and S. R. F Price. Rituals of Royalty : Power and Ceremonial In Traditional Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Dessau, Hermann. Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae. vol. II part II. Berolini: Weidmannos, 1906.
Edson, Charles Farwell and Simon R.F. Price "Ruler Cult: Greece." ed. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd ed.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Hammond, Mason and Simon R.F. Price "Ruler Cult: Rome." ed. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd ed.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Jones, A. H. M. The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces. 2d ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.
Kurtz, Donna C, and John Boardman. Greek Burial Customs. London: Thames and Hudson, 1971.
Mikalson, John D. "Oaths." ed. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd ed.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Plescia, Joseph. The Oath and Perjury In Ancient Greece. Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1970.
Price, S. R. F. Rituals and Power : the Roman Imperial Cult In Asia Minor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
Purcell, Nicholas. "Augustus." ed. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd ed.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Robert, Louis. À Travers L'asie Mineure : Poètes Et Prosateurs, Monnaies Grecques, Voyageurs Et Géographie. Athènes: École française d'Athènes , 1980.
Strabo. The Geography of Strabo. Trans. Horace Leonard Jones. Vol III. London: W. Heinemann, 1917.
Strabo. The Geography of Strabo. Trans. Horace Leonard Jones. Vol V. London: W. Heinemann, 1917.
Taylor, Lily Ross. The Divinity of the Roman Emperor. Middletown, Conn.: American Philological Association, 1931.
Wittke, Anne-Maria, et al. Historical Atlas of the Ancient World. Leiden: Brill, 2010.


Questions
1) What was the status of Paphlagonia in the late 1st Century BCE? Administered by locals or Romans?

2) What did an oath of allegiance entail for a subject region?

3) What were ancient religious consequences of breaking oaths?

4) How much authority did cities exert over the country side?

AKS: Good questions - researching Paphlagonia and the nature of oaths to the emperor might also help, as well as looking into the specific deities used here and whether they're consistent with other oaths.