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The Authorship of the Adulis throne text

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 December 2009

Extract

Early in the sixth century A.D. the Greek author known generally as Cosmas Indicopleustes records in his ‘Christian Topography’ that he visited Adulis on the western Red Sea coast and there saw two Greek inscriptions, one on a marble throne and one on a stela standing behind it. The monuments have long ago disappeared, but we have the texts as copied by Cosmas. The stela belongs to Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–222 B.C.), but the throne text begins in mediis rebus without name of author, and is introduced by Cosmas with the slightly mysterious words ‘Then, as if sequentially, there is further written on the throne as follows’. Whatever he may have meant by this, it is certain, as modern scholars recognize, that the throne text is not part of the stela one: the former is drafted in the first person, the latter in the third; and the throne text was drafted ‘in the 27th year of my reign’, whereas Ptolemy HI died at the beginning of his twenty-sixth regnal year. This leaves the field open to speculations about the authorship and date of the throne text.

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Copyright
Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies 1980

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References

1 Kd. W. Wolska-Conus (Paris, 1968), I, §§58–63.

2 ὡς έξ ảκουθίας

3 Samuel, A. E., Ptolemaic chronology (Munchen, 1962), 106 fGoogle Scholar.

4 Paper distributed at the First International Symposium on Studies in the History of Arabia, Riyadh, 1977.

5 Inscriptions de VEthiopie antique (Leiden, 1962), 106 f.Google Scholar; the Glaser references are in footnotes 1 and 2 on p. 104.

6 Beeston, , ‘Nemara and Faw’, BSOAS, XLII, 1, 1979, 4 fGoogle Scholar.

7 ‘Sonship’ need imply no more than a general relationship of dependence; in the same way, all members of a South Arabian national group were ‘children’ of the national deity.

8 The statue, now in the Aden museum, has been reproduced a number of times; but the most satisfactory reproduction is still the earliest one, in Proceedings of Ike British Academy, 11, 1925, plate opposite p. 181.

9 Le Boyaume sudarabe de Qataban (Louvain, 1961), 140Google Scholar.

10 ‘Pliny's Gebbanitae’, Proceedings of the fifth Seminar for Ar. St., 1972, 4–8.

11 Beeston, , ‘Some observations on Greek and Latin data relating to South Arabia’, BSOAS, XLII, 1, 1979, 8Google Scholar.

12 Caskel, W., Lihyan und Lihyanisch (Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Forschung des Landes Xordrhein-Westfalen, Heft 4, Köln, 1954), 41CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 This is in a passage which intervenes between the accounts of the two main expeditions, and is not necessarily connected directly with either of them.

14 They could equally, however, have been located in the Somalian frankincense country; in which case the ‘waterless plains’ would be the Ogaden desert.

15 The author of the throne text does not claim to have acquired all the parts of his ‘realm’ by military conquest; some he acquired by negotiation, διαπεπομένος.

16 ‘Sur quelques aspects de la religion sud-arabe préislamique’, Abh. d. Akademie d. Wiss. in Gottingen, phil.-hist. Kl., 3. Folge, Xr. 98, 1976, 186.

17 The throne inscription is dated ‘in the 27th year of my reign’.

18 The text says that the Arabian expedition was sent ‘across’ (πέραν) the Red Sea, and that after it the king ‘came back’ (κατ⋯λθον) to Adulis. The use of Adulis as a base, even by a South Arabian king, is not surprising, since it was the major shipbuilding centre in the southern Red Sea, and probably the only place where the transports needed for the passage up the Red Sea could have been obtained. South Arabian contingents for the expeditions would have been ferried across in smaller boats.

An Awsanian presence on the African coast has been inferred by Wissmann, H. von and Hofner, M., Beiträge zur historischen Geographie des vorislamischen Südarabien (Wiesbaden, 1953), 74Google Scholar, from the reference in the Periplus Maris Erythraei, § 15, to a sector of the Somali coast as τ⋯ν Αὐσινίτην ἠιόνα. But it seems to me exaggerated to use this toponym as evidence ‘dass Ausan in Ostafrika ein ausgedehntes Kolonialgebiet besessen hat’. In my review of that work (Archiv für Orientforschung, 17, 1956, 166) I remarked that ‘it is altogether more probable that this represents a tribal migration comparable rather with the settlement of the Saxons in England than with, for instance, European colonizing activities in the Americas’. But there may well have been ethnic affiliations sufficient to ensure the Arabian Awsanians a friendly reception on the African coast.

19 loc. cit., note 10, above.

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