Base for statue of Memmius Pontius Ptolemaeus Parnasius, patron of the city. Corinth (Achaea). Mid-fourth century ?

In six lines:

Μέμμιον Πόντιον / Πτολεμαῖον τὸν κὲ / Παρνάσιον τὸν λαμ(πρότατον) / καὶ πάτρωνα τῆς λαμ(προτάτης) / (5) Κορινθίων πόλεως. / Αὐρ(ήλιος) Εὐτυχιανὸς ἀποστρά(τηγος)/ Ψ(ηφίσματι) Β(ουλῆς)

'Memmius Pontius Ptolemaeus, who [is] also [named] Parnasius, of clarissimus rank and patron of the most famous city of the Corinthians. Aurelius Eutychianus, of praetorian rank, [honours him] by decree of the city council.'

The inscription as given above is taken from Kent 1966. Feissel 1985 proposed a different extension for the epithet of the awarder Eutychianus in line 6: ἀπο στρά(τειῶν) instead of ἀποστρά(τηγος). This would make Eutychianus a 'former civil servant of equestrian rank', rather than a man 'of praetorian rank'. For the far-reaching consequences of this different reading, see below 'Honorand, Awarder and Date'.

Letter height 2.5 - 4 cm.

A plain rectangular marble base, with bottom left corner broken and lost: H 102, W 56, D 45 cm. Front smoothly finished, sides and back finished with a tooth. The corners at the rear are bevelled. On top there is a circular dowel hole with pour channel with an iron dowel still preserved within it. Remains of iron clamps in the inscribed surface perhaps date from a period of reuse .

Found in 1932 in front of the West-Shops at the Agora, in the centre of Ancient Corinth. Today Corinth, Museum inv. no. 1115.

Kent in Corinth VIII. 3 identified our Memmius Pontius Ptolemaeus Parnasius, with a man who is known only as 'Parnasius' and was prefect of Egypt in 357-9 (PLRE I, 667-8 Parnasius 1, for whom see also Rizakis 1995, though neither list our inscription under the testimonies to this person). The Parnasius prefect of Egypt was a native of Patras, but had estates in the territory of Corinth of which he was also a citizen (which would suit an identification with our man, honoured here as a patron of the city). After his office in Egypt, Parnasius was tried for treason, convicted and exiled in 359. In 363, he was restored to his property and home in Corinth.

The title of the awarder is not clear: Kent completed ἀποστρα... to ἀποστράτηγος and translated it as praetorius and 'ex-praetor'. (In fact the equivalent for the Latin 'ex-praetore' should be ἀπὸ στρατηγῶν, ἀποστράτηγος usually describes a retired general; Rizakis 2001, though, points out that it can also describe the municipal office of duumvir.) Feissel 1985 proposed a different reading of the awarder's epithet in line 6: ἀπο στρα(τειῶν), the Greek equivalent of Latin a militibus. This would define the awarder as a retired civil servant of equestrian rank; moreover it necessitates a pre-tetrarchic date for our inscription (Feissel 1985, 291). It would follow from this that our honorand could not be the praefectus Aegypti of 357-9.

On balance, we favour the identication of our Parnasius with the Parnasius of the mid-4th century, since the latter is known to have held estates in the territory of Corinth and is thus very likely to have been a patron of the town.

Feissel's pre-tetrarchic date for our inscriptions might have consequences for the date of the honorific inscription to Iunior, likewise in Corinth and likewise dedicated by an Eutychianus (LSA-62). If the awarders of both dedications were the same man (as Kent 1966, 164 had assumed), the inscription to Iunior would likewise be pre-tetrarchic.

Ulrich Gehn

Main Reference

Kent, J. H., The inscriptions, 1926-1950: Corinth VIII, 3, Princeton 1966, p. 163-4 no. 502 pl. 42

Discussion References

Feissel, D. & Philippidis-Braat, A., Inventaires en vue d’un recueil des inscriptions historiques de Byzance, 3. Inscriptions du Péloponnèse, (à l’exception de Mistra)., Travaux et mémoires, 9, Paris 1985, 267-395, 291-2 no. 31

Jones, A. H. M. et al., The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Vol. I 260-395, Cambridge et al. 1971 (1975), 667-8 Parnasius 1

Rizakis, A. D., Achaie I. Sources textuelles et histoire regionale (ΜΕΛΕΤΗΜΑΤΑ 20), Athens 1995, 69 no. 20

Rizakis, A. D., Roman Peloponnese 1. Roman personal names in their social context (Achaia, Arcadia, Argolis, Korinthia and Eleia), Athens and Paris 2001, 271-2 no. 102