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Last Updated on 13 Jan 2019

Author: Mario C.D. Paganini

CAPInv. 1492: politeuma (Lykion)


i. Geographical area Egypt
ii. Nome Alexandria (L00)
iii. Site Alexandria


i. Full name (original language) πολίτ]ε̣υμα (Λυκίων) (I.Alex. Imp. 24, l. 4)
ii. Full name (transliterated) politeuma (Lykion)


i. Date(s) 120 AD


ii. Name elements
iii. Descriptive terms πολίτευμα, politeuma
Note politeuma: I.Alex. Imp. 24, l. 4


i. Source(s) I.Alex. Imp. 24 (after 27 Thoth = 24 September 120 AD)
Note Other editions of the text are: SB III 6025, SEG II 848, SEG VIII 359 (partial edition), SB V 8757, IGR I.5 1078.
Online Resources I.Alex. Imp. 24
TM 104030^
i.a. Source type(s) Epigraphic source(s)
i.b. Document(s) typology & language/script Greek copy of a decision of the head of the Idios Logos regarding the right to guardianship of tombs, which pertained to the politeuma (of the Lycians).
i.c. Physical format(s) Plaque of white marble. The inscription is formed by three fragments.
ii. Source(s) provenance Alexandria.


ii. References to buildings/objects The inscriptions records the right to guardianship of tombs (μνη|ματοφυλακία, mnematophylakia, ll. 5-6) which the politeuma (of the Lycians) was entitled to. These tombs may have belonged to the politeuma; however, this is not stated in the text (see also Swarney 1970: 99 with n. 17 and 109 with n. 31, who does not consider the tombs property of the politeuma). What is clear is that the politeuma had a strong attachment to them and no doubt gained advantages in taking care of them.


ii. Leadership On the basis of the syntactical construction of the inscription, it is possible that a certain Ulpius Potamon (ll. 3-4) was at the head of the politeuma: however, the title of his possible office is not recorded.
iii. Members The members of the group are collectively called οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ (sc. Ulpius Potamon) ἀ̣[πὸ πολιτ]ε̣ύματος Λύ̣κιοι, hoi syn auto apo tou politeumatos Lykioi (l. 4). From the grammatical construction of the passage one would assume that not all the Lycians in the area were in fact members of the politeuma.


ii. Realty The inscription clearly states that Ulpius Potamon and the Lycians belonging to the politeuma declared in front of Dionysios, secretary of the komogrammateus of a village in the Mareotis division (western coast, near Alexandria), that they had the right or task to care for some tombs: Οὐλπίου | Ποτάμωνος καὶ τῶν σὺν αὐτῷ ἀ̣[πὸ πολιτ]ε̣ύματος Λυ̣κίων ἐπὶ παρόντι | Διονυσίῳ γραμματεῖ κωμογραμ[ματέως ․․․ τοῦ Μ]αρεώτου εἰπόντων μνη|ματοφυλακίαν προσήκουσαν αὐτ̣[οῖς, Oulpiou Potamonos kai ton syn auto apo politeumatos Lykion epi paronti Dionysio grammatei komogrammateos ... tou Mareotou eiponton mnematophylakian prosekousan autois (ll. 3-6). Given the fact that the declaration is done in front of the subordinate of a local official of a village in the Mareotis and that the man seems to have had some role in hindering the politeuma from their rights (the passage, in ll. 6-7, is fragmentary and of not entirely clear interpretation), it is very likely that the tombs were located in the territory of that village in the Mareotis, outside Alexandria. It is not said in the text that these tombs belonged to the politeuma or that they had any rights to be buried there (see also Swarney 1970: 99 with n. 17 and 109 with n. 31). However, the politeuma clearly reaped some advantages in taking care of the tombs (probably from the produce of their land and gardens?).
iii. Income The group might have obtained some income from the taking care of the tombs: see VIII.ii 'Realty'.


ii. Gender Men
Note The only attested member of the politeuma is a man, Ulpius Potamon.
iv. Status On the basis of his onomastics, the only attested member of the politeuma, Ulpius Potamon, was a Roman citizen. He may have been a freedman or former soldier who gained Roman citizenship upon his retirement. The members of the politeuma are said to be Lycians. Originally the group may have gathered immigrants from Lycia who had moved to Egypt under the Ptolemies (probably because they were employed as mercenaries in the army). However, their military and ethnic character may have undergone changes during the course of the centuries.
vi. Proper names and physical features Οὔλπιος Πόταμων


iv. Honours/Other activities The politeuma was in charge of the guardianship or care of some tombs (presumably located in a village outside Alexandria): see VIII.ii 'Realty'.


i. Local interaction The politeuma seems to be based in Alexandria, where the inscription was found; however, it had dealings also with the surrounding territory, if we are to believe – as it seems likely – that the tombs, after which the group looked, were located in a village of the neighbouring district: see VIII.ii 'Realty'.


i. Comments Kruse 2015: 287 and 295 has suggested that this politeuma found its origin in Ptolemaic times, when ethnic organisations of this kind are unsurprising given the socio-cultural background of Ptolemaic Egypt, and that the koinon ton Lykion attested in second-century BC Alexandria (see CAPInv. 182) may be the predecessor of this politeuma.
iii. Bibliography Kruse, T. (2015), 'Ethnic koina and politeumata in Ptolemaic Egypt', in V. Gabrielsen and C. A. Thomsen (eds.), Private associations and the public sphere. Copenhagen, 270-300.
Swarney, P. R. (1970), The Ptolemaic Idios Logos. Toronto.


i. Private association Certain
Note Given the fact that the politeuma possessed a well-organised structure, common identity that allowed it to have dealings with the authority as a well-defined group, and that it was involved in the taking care of some realty (funerary property), it seems certain that this group functioned as a private association. It must have originally stemmed from a military background of immigrant mercenaries from Lycia under the Ptolemies who set up a politeuma or similar group (the exact nature of which can only be speculated): this probably changed its character and make-up over the centuries. In Roman times, a military nature for the group can no longer be envisaged.