Appendix: The City Goddess of Sardis on the Base from Puteoli

George M. A. Hanfmann

The City Goddess of Sardis on the Base from Puteoli

A monument outside Sardis which is connected with the earthquake of A.D. 17 deserves to be discussed here because it may reproduce a statuary type that existed at Sardis. This monument is the base found at Puteoli1 and decorated with reliefs of fourteen cities which benefitted from the aid given by Tiberius after the disaster. The cities were identified by now much-worn inscriptions. Sardis is represented on the front, to the left of the dedicatory inscription of A.D. 30, by a battered, standing female figure, clad in a girt peplos and wearing a mural crown and veil (Fig. 472). She extends her right hand toward a nude boy, whose up raised right hand she grasps. In her left, she holds either a cornucopia (according to V. Spinazzola), or a rhyton (according to J. Sieveking). The city of Sardis is often shown on coins as a head or bust with mural crown and veil but apparently not with cornucopia.

Below the group is a very damaged inscription of three words. The major readings to 1903 are listed by Spinazzola.2 Recent historical scholarship, kindly checked for me by M. Hammond, has tended to follow Th. Mommsen's reading: . . . HENIA SARDES ULLORUM,3 which makes no sense of the first and third words. Spinazzola tried (Tyrr) HENIA .SARDES.PELOPONNESOS. He cited Tacitus Ann 4.55, where Sardians seeking the honor of Imperial cult temple from Tiberius make Lydus the brother of Tyrrhenus, and speak of Pelops colonizing Greece. It is possible that the youth shown is Pelops, whom the Sardians did indeed claim (cf. 7 panel P Fig. 48).

A different trend of thought was opened by W.M. Ramsay's suggestion, cited by Rushforth.4 Ramsay proposed EUTHENIA ("Abundance") for the first word. This line of interpretation is strengthened by our discovery in 1972 of an inscription which is a dedication to the children of Kore, Euposia and Koros, in the sense of "Happiness" and "Surfeit" or "Surplus."5One might consider that the female figure is Euthenia, and the last word which some have read EIORON may hide KORON or some other designation for the boy as the symbol of wealth or riches. The middle word would be "Sardes" or some other form for the name of the city; all other cities on the base are designated by the names in nominative.

Jahn had very tentatively sought to identify the boy as the Lydian hero Tylos and to make him into a Lydian Triptolemos, missionary of agriculture. This interpretation was based on a coin legend which allegedly showed an inscription, -GE-TYLOS, with Triptolemos on the dragon chariot and a river god below.6

In essence, there are two possibilities of interpretation. In the historical, championed by Spinazzola, the female goddess might be the City Goddess or Tyche of Sardis7 and the child a mythical hero, possibly Pelops (less probably Tylos—should one read Tyllorum?). In the allegorical, discussed at length by Jahn, the female is a goddess of fertility, whether Earth (Ge Karpophoros) as in Sophocles Philoctetes 391, or Demeter as in Apollonios of Tyana,8 or Euthenia; and the boy is a personification of prosperity and riches similar to Koros or Ploutos, again proposed by Jahn.9 Because Apollonios of Tyana called Sardis "the city of Demeter" in the first century, Demeter, equated with Magna Mater (Da- Mater), who in turn is equated with Cybele, might have the best claim. The enigmatic Kore of Sardis is possible, as Euposia (Euthenia?) and Koros are her children, but her usual attribute is a sheaf or stalk of grain or wheat.

Stylistically, the group of woman and boy is a typical example of Tiberian classicism, fashioned after a fifth century work in Phidian style. Jahn first pointed out the resemblance to the group, usually considered to be Prokne and Itys, by Alkamenes, ca. 410-400 B.C.10

The Sardis relief on the Puteoli base probably reflects the group placed in A.D. 20 at the temple of Venus Genetrix in Rome, which showed the statues of the twelve cities flanking a colossal seated statue of Tiberius. A special "Committee of the Twelve Cities" deliberated on the dedication.11 Following the grammarian Apollonios, Phlegon, an author of the time of Hadrian (De mirabilibus 13), wrote, "They dedicated a colossus to Tiberius near the sanctuary ofAphrodite, which is in the Forum of the Romans, and placed at its side the images of each of the cities." Already Th. L. Gronovius, cited by Jahn, saw that the temple of Venus Genetrix in the Forum Iulium was intended.12 Unfortunately we do not know whether the work was entrusted to sculptors from Asia Minor. But the group remains of interest as the type by which Sardis wished to be represented in Rome.

A different type of city goddess is seen on coins struck by Sardis after the earthquake; here Sardis is shown kneeling before Tiberius and holding ears of grain.13 But we cannot be sure that this design reflects an actual group of statues erected at Sardis.

  • Fig. 472

    Base from Puteoli, Naples National Museum 6780. (Photo from Arachne (


  • 1The base was found in 1693. A detailed history and list of publications is given by Spinazzola, 121-123. First-hand descriptions: A. Bulifon, Ragionamento intorno d'un antico marmor discoverto nella citta di Pozzuolu (1694); Spinazzola, 147-153, pl. 4; J. Sieveking in BrBr, text for pl. 575; L. Mariani in Ruesch, 22-24, no. 82 (6780), literature, fig. 4, coin of Tiberius. Additional literature: E.Strong, Scultura, 93-94, pl.18; Toynbee, 12; H. Dessau in ILS, no.156; M. Hammond, "A Statue of Trajan Represented on the Anaglypha Traiani," MAAR 21 (1953) 162-163, on the statue of Puteoli being a standing, not seated image; Ehrenberg-Jones, 63, no. 50; Sutherland, 95, on coins of Tiberius; Vermeule, Imp. Art, 414; and N. N. Ambraseys, "Value of Historical Records of Earthquakes," Nature 232 (Aug. 6, 1971) 377-378, on Puteoli inscription. We are grateful to Estelle Brettman, who secured the photograph of the base in Naples.
  • 2Spinazzola, 147-151
  • 3CIL X 1624.
  • 4Cf. W.M. Ramsay, JP 11 (1882) 144, pointed out by M. Hammond; also Rushforth, 125, no. 95.
  • 5BASOR 211. 26-27. fig. 8. IN72.1; here 277 (Fig. 470).
  • 6Jahn, 133-134; cf. K. Preisendanz, Myth. Lex. s.v. Tylos, 5 (1916-24) 1403-1405; and for Tylos equated with Herakles, Hanfmann, "Lydiaka," 68-72.
  • 7Cf. e.g. BASOR 203, 14, Auxei Tyche Sardianon, IN65.1
  • 8See Penella, 308.
  • 9Jahn, 132-133; cf. also H. Steuding, Myth. Lex. 2:2 (1894-97) 2095, figs. 2a, b, citing Nonnus Dionysiaca 13. 466f., "Sardeis, nurses of Ploutos (wealth)," thought the boy might be Ploutos.
  • 10Jahn, 120, pl. 1A; cf. Picard Manuel II.2, 560-562, fig. 228, with literature.
  • 11A. Boeckh argued that an inscription found at Sardis is a record of the vote taken by the Committee at a meeting in the city; CIG, 3450; Sardis VII (1932) no. 9.
  • 12Jahn, 123; cf. also Spinazzola, 126-127, and for the coin with seated statue of Tiberius and the legend Civitatibus Asiae restitutis, Ruesch, 24, fig. 4, and Sutherland, 95.
  • 13See BMC Lydia, 250f., nos. 98-101, pl. XXVI:4.
  • Fig. 470

    Base for images of the children of Kore, in situ. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)