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Πέμπτη, 28 Μαρτίου 2019

Τhe Arsinoe fountain of Messene


Situated between the big square of the agora and the theatre of Messene, the Arsinoe monumental fountain-house is one of the longest-living buildings of the entire city. It was originally built with great probability at the end of the 4th century BC or at the beginning of the 3rd century BC in the shape of a 36m long Doric stoa, following the fashion of the period, and it was remodelled at least three more times during its long history, before ending up as a water mill in the Late-Antique phase of the city.1
The archaeological excavation of the monument began in 1988 under the direction of P. Themelis and the auspices of the Greek Archaeological Society; later, in 1990, F. Felten and C. Reinholdt of the University of Salzburg joined the project for the technical study of the building and the excavated finds. Once cleared from the earth that covered it for centuries, the building revealed itself unmistakeably as a large monumental fountain-house and was identified with the fountain dedicated by the Messenians to the mother of Asklepios, Arsinoe, and mentioned by Pausanias (3, 31, 6) in the record of his visit of the city between AD 155 and 160.2
Given the chronological scope of this volume, I will discuss here the third phase of the life of the Arsinoe fountain, that is the refurbishment of the building during the age of emperor Nero, putting this intervention in the broader context of the acts of civic patronage that along with the direct intervention of the emperors permitted many monuments of the past throughout the Greek world to survive the injuries of time and retain their functions until the final collapse of the ancient cities.


The architectural remains
The Arsinoe fountain-house is a wide rectangular building, approximately 36 x 14m, divided longitudinally in two main areas: on the rear (North) portion of the building there is a wide narrow basin covered with a thick layer of reddish hydraulic plaster, with a semicircular exedra at the centre; the front (South) section is divided into a square paved area at the centre corresponding to the exedra, and two subsidiary basins to the right and left of it (Figure 1). At the two extremities of the front side there are two little square projecting podia. The whole building is poorly preserved; apart from the back terrace wall in isodomic masonry, only a couple of courses of the other walls survive in their original position, and a minimal amount of the other architectural members has been recovered from the dismantling of later structures.
All the decorative architectonic members found have been divided in three groups. The first is a group of column shafts and capitals in the Doric order, along with part of a Doric entablature and a series of stylobate blocks; these pieces, relying on their stylistic and technical features, can be assigned to the last years of the 4th century BC or the beginning of the 3rd. Along with the Doric members there is a second consistent group constituted by columns, pillars with half-columns and entablature in the ionic order; parallels for the form of the Ionic basis and capital (so called ‘ionischen Festlandkapitelle’) suggest for this group a chronology in the first half of the 2nd century BC. The third major group of architectonic members is constituted by the pieces of a wall in isodomic masonry pierced by three openings crowned by an equal number of round arches, each decorated by three progressively projecting bands surmounted by a moulded cyma. This last group is dated by the excavators to the 1st century AD. This brief survey of the decorative elements of the fountain can be completed with the addition of a fourth group, made of the parts of the exedrae and the anathemata that were dedicated in the area in front of the fountain façade.3
After a careful analysis of the blocks and consideration of their position, it became clear that the fountain had several construction phases, at least five from the late 4th century BC to the 6th century AD; during these phases the same architectonic members were re-employed and re-arranged, in order to renew the layout of the monument with the least of the expense, only adding some new pieces to the ones already in place in order to give the building a more fashionable look.
In this study we will examine more closely the central phase of the life of the building, that is the partial refurbishment of the late-Hellenistic fountain-house at the beginning of the Roman Imperial period.
Since the Roman period interventions were altering the previous late-Hellenistic configuration, some words must be spent on how the fountain actually looked like before the restorations. At the beginning of our era, the fountain-house was a fairly traditional Ionic stoa divided longitudinally in two naves by a shallow parapet surmounted by a row of piers with ionic half-columns on the front side.4 These inner piers supported in turn a simple entablature with double-fascia epistyle, plain frieze with dentilated cornice and geison, all in one piece. The presence of mortises in the flanks of the piers leads to imagine that the space between them was filled by some sort of screens, probably wooden, placed in order to protect the water basin beyond them.5 This big basin (lacus) occupied the whole rear nave of the building and was fed by a channel coming out from the rear terracing wall and covered with a thick layer of reddish hydraulic plaster.
This kind of layout was fairly common for the fountain-houses of late-Hellenistic period and we can find parallels for the whole conception -or for some of its features- in Greece (Athens, Corinth and Delos) and in Asia Minor (Pergamon, Ephesus). The characteristics of the Ionic order, with the capitals belonging to the group of the so-called ‘ionischen Festlandkapitelle’, are also similar to those of the Palaestra of Olympia and point out to a chronology between the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 2nd century BC. This was a particularly good period for the city of Messene, seeing intense building activity and the creations of the famous sculptor Damophon.
The reddish hydraulic plaster of the main basin is not the only layer of plastering in it. During the 1st century AD a semi-circular exedra (4.28m wide) was placed in the centre section of the basin and its poros foundations pierced through the plaster, so that a new layer of opus signinum was laid out over the previous one.6 (Figure 2) On these foundations only the first course of the limestone base of the exedra, decorated with a cyma recta, is preserved.
The positioning of an exedra with statues in the centre of the rear basin states the beginning of the alteration program and will constitute the main focus of the new form of the edifice. The Ionic façade was demolished, reducing the depth of the covered portion of the building by half, while the stylobate of the colonnade was moved to the south redefining the southern part of the building as an open strip c. 7.20m deep. The strip is divided in three sections: one central square area covered with slabs in front of the exedra and two more rectangular basins built of reused pieces from the numerous honorary monuments that once stood in front of the building.
What was once the dividing line between the front and the rear nave of the late-Hellenistic building is now the new façade of the fountain-house and the regular repetition of the traditional trilithic scheme of the colonnade is now interrupted by the insertion of a solid wall perched by three fornices, whose poros elements have been found reused in the later stages of the monument. The foundation for this new installation is constituted by an enlargement of the central section of the median foundation wall crafted in opus testaceum in front of the exedra and for a length of 7.05m.7 The use of the wall with arched openings in connection to a fountain-house is a direct reference to the Peirene Fountain of Corinth, where in the first decades of the Imperial period a screen wall was erected in front of the spring, decorated with arches and half-columns over two storeys.8
Even more close to the Corinthian example is the other major modification of the Messenian fountain, that of transferring the water outside of the fountain-house, en plein air, creating the two rectangular basins to the left and right of the square in front of the arched wall. At Corinth the creation of a hypaithros krene in the court in front of the spring is attested during the late Augustan period, ‘no later than the reign of Tiberius’.9 In our case the south boundary of the building was moved further south, in order to create a square area (7.2m x 7.2m) in front of the arched wall to emphasize the monumentality of the composition. The blocks of the stylobate of the demolished front colonnade were moved south and the parapets for the two basins were built upon them, reusing material from the Hellenistic honorary monument bases that were scattered all over the area in front of the building – probably also being in a state of great disrepair. The monumental effect was completed by adding to the front side of the two basins two platforms, each one sustaining a marble labrum (diam. 2.10m) that received the overflow from the basin behind (Figure 3).10
The insertion of the wall with the three arches and the addition of the two open-air basins with the platforms and the labra, apart from being a bold statement of Roman style, is a radical transformation of the initial conception of the building. If the late-Hellenistic fountain-house was just a functional building with no precise focal point, where all the parts of the façade were -almost democratically- the same, now the gaze of the passer-by is attracted to the centre of the building and forced to look through the arches to see the statues on the exedra. The purpose of the fountain-house is no more the mere supply of fresh water to the citizens; the building has now become also a display of specifi propagandistic messages.

Restorations of monuments and civic patronage at Messene
One of the most interesting inscriptions from Messene is a catalogue of donations made by private citizens for the restoration of civic buildings, found by A. Orlandos at the NE corner of the Agora with another fragment near the entrance of the Sebasteion.11 The chronology of the inscription, at first generically fixed between the period 31 BC- AD 14 by L. Migeotte, has now been restricted to the years AD 11-14 by D. Baldassarra.12 In the inscription a certain Epinicos, the secretary of the city council, records the names of twenty-nine individuals from twenty-two families that have provided different amounts of money for the restoration works. Part of the contributions are mentioned only with the name of the donor(s) and the amount, some other record also the particular building that should be restored with the money promised. From the preserved part of the stela a total amount of 4720 denarii is recorded but a grand total of 6000/6200 denarii has been estimated. These amounts of money were devoted to permanently resolve the problem of the state of disrepair of some public monuments on behalf of the city during a moment of weakness of the public finances. The reward for this act of generosity was that the benefactors gained both the gratitude of the city and a wide publicity by being recorded on official stelae, placed next to the Sebasteion and next to the restored monuments.
Though the Arsinoe fountain is not mentioned in this document, some observations on this text could provide us a more precise idea of the context of the intervention made on the fountain-house.
The biggest contribution specified in the text is the 1000 denarii promised or given by a L. Bennius Glycon, while the lowest one is the 50 denarii given by a T. Ninnius Philippion, an amount twenty times lower than the first one. If Migeotte is right in his interpretation that the appeal for contributions was made only to the wealthiest families of the city, we must assume that a gift of 50 denarii was a reasonable amount allowing the donor to stay within the budget without making a poor impression and, consequently, that a sum twenty-times greater was a very generous gift. Along with these specified amounts there were also five ‘blank cheques’, pledges to restore some specific monuments –or parts of them– whatever the cost of the repairs. One of these open promises could be related to the recent find of an inscribed epistyle from the Doric stoa in the Agora, recording works of an estimated cost of 1875 denarii covered by a private citizen.13
As already noted by L. Migeotte, great emphasis is given in the text regarding the link between this restoration program, the Roman Emperor and the Roman people; in two instances (ll. 3 and 36-37) the text makes reference to some obligations towards the Emperor and the people of Rome, and prescribes that the text itself should not be placed at the Agora or near the bouleuterion, as we could expect, but at the Sebasteion.14 Going even further we could add that the appeal is made in a moment of ‘weakness’ of the city finances: the contributions recorded are not really voluntary ones – they were specially prompted in order to allow the city to fulfil a requirement that could not be avoided. We do not know the reason for such an urgent need, but whatever the reason was we should notice the absence from this list both of the fountain Arsine and of the money spent for its restoration.
According to P. Themelis the most probable cause for the damages to all those civic buildings was an earthquake that must have struck the Peloponnese during the last years of the reign of Augustus. As a proof of it Themelis recalls an inscription dated to the year AD 14 recording an embassy sent to the new Emperor Tiberius to ask for his ‘mercy’ following the atopon of Poseidon.15 If this was indeed the case what should we think of the absence of the Arsinoe from the list? Was the fountain-house left untouched by the earthquake –or was it in such a state of disrepair that even the most generous of the benefactors decided to look elsewhere?
It is also possible that the earthquake of AD 14 did not severely damage the city and its buildings, and that the repairs were only minor ones due only to the old age of the monuments and some possible lack of maintenance. This would explain the apparent contradiction of the Messenians first trying to solve the problem by themselves and then appealing to the mercy of the Emperor, and lead us to agree with C. Grandjean in her supposition that the object of the Imperial mercy was the restitution of the Dentheliatis region, that Augustus had taken away from the control of Messene as a revenge for their support to Antonius before Actium.16
Since during the reign of Nero the fountain-house was laying in ruins, we must look for another event as the reason of its state. A suitable candidate could be another earthquake, the same that damaged Sparta and forced its inhabitants to call for the help of Vespasian, as documented by other epigraphical evidence.17 Given the notorious lack of sympathy of Nero for the Spartans, it is well possible that the earthquake had taken place some years before, but that the Spartans were able to secure the Imperial help only with Vespasian.
Whatever the reason that produced the destruction of the Arsinoe fountain-house, the monument was the perfect object for an act of euergetism. Its position at the NW corner of the Agora, on the path between the Agora and the theatre, its value as a utilitarian building fundamental for the supply of fresh water to the citizens, made it the perfect monument to be restored by a wealthy member of the elite in search for a chance to show his power, his connections and to gain the gratitude of the people. Through the expenditure of a relevant amount of money the benefactor demonstrates his patriotism, his care, his sense of duty for ‘what is right for the polis’ (as stated in the benefactors’ inscription); he increases his status and visibility and proves to be worth of the honours he aspires to. And now that the fons honorum is Rome, it is absolutely important to demonstrate fidelity to Rome and to the Emperor.



Profiling the donor: the Ti. Claudii in Messene
During the 1995 excavation season and not far from the fountain, an inscription was found recording the dedication by a certain ‘Tiberios... ’, of the statues of the Sebastoi and the restoration works on the fountain that was in ruins (ten krenen kateageisan epeskeuasan), paying for all this 3800 denarii of his own money.18 P. Themelis, who promptly published the inscription, initially proposed to identify the dedicant as Ti. Claudius Dionysiou Aristomenes, already attested as the dedicant of another statue of the Emperor Nero dated probably in AD 55 (IGV1, 1450). However, the poor state of preservation of the stone along with the great number of Ti. Claudii attested at Messene in the 1st century AD are sufficient grounds to be cautious and avoid accepting this identification straight away.19
The praenomen Tiberius allows us to assume that we should look for the Arsinoe fountain dedicant amongst the ranks of Greek citizens that received the privilege of the Roman citizenship during the Julio-Claudian period and in particular those who were in good terms with Claudius or Nero. Of these two emperors, Claudius was more favourable towards the Spartans, while Nero was particularly friendly with the Messenians. We will briefly consider here the two most suitable candidates for the role of the benefactor in relation to the fountain-house.
Ti. Claudius Aristomenes was a member of one of the most prominent families of Messene (if not the most prominent at all), whose members enjoyed the burial in the splendid mausoleum K3 in the civic Gymnasium. His father, Dionysios, was celebrated by the city as heros. The genos made consistent reference in the member’s onomastics to Messenian heritage through the repetition of the name Aristomenes, the hero king of the Messenians, every other generation. The Aristomenes of the early Imperial period, the son of Dionysios, was awarded the Roman citizenship and appointed priest of the Imperial cult at least from 55 AD, when a dedication of a bronze statue of Nero by him and his wife Gemonia is recorded on an inscription.20 This official recognition of both local prestige and fidelity to Rome was the start of a new phase in the history of the family: his son, Ti. Claudius Dionysius Crispianus, though maintaining a strict link with his city and being called ‘new Epaminondas’, was appointed priest of the Imperial cult for life, Helladarch of the Achaian League, prefectus of the Cohors prima Bosphoriniana and tribunus of the Legio XII Fulminata certa costans and was welcomed in the equestrian order.21 At the same time he maintained the link with his city holding high local offices, like the priesthood of the Mysteries of Andania.
The second most suitable candidate is Ti. Claudios Saithidas, appointed as High priest of Nero from AD 62 onwards, who should have received the Roman citizenship during the reign of Claudius. He is the author of the dedication of another bronze statue of Nero, upon the inscription of which the dedicant is defined as philokaisar – a clear declaration of fidelity towards the Emperor and the Roman state, and at the same time a claim purely made to attract the Imperial favour. Furthermore, the Saithidai had a very rich ancestry line that went back at least to the 1st century BC – and they were immensely wealthy as mentioned by Pausanias (4,32,2). The descendants of this Ti. Claudius Saithidas had a spectacular career, starting from the Ti. Claudius Saithidas Caelianus, who was Imperial priest for life and Helladarch of the Achaian League under Trajan, to Ti. Claudius Frontinus, who was consul suffectus during the reign of Antoninus Pius and the first Messenian to enter the Senate. Once reached the senatorial rank, the interest of the family gradually shifted to their new Italian base in the territory of Abellinum.22
The identification of the Arsinoe benefactor with Aristomenes, as suggested by P. Themelis, is indeed tempting. His family demonstrated throughout all its history a great attachment to the civic heritage of Messene, from the historical and ideological values preserved and transmitted in the very name of the various Aristomenai to the priesthood of the Mysteries of Andania. Whenever the city asked for help, as in the case of the decree proposed by Epinicos, they were there to do their part: the father of Aristomenes, Dionysios, provided along with his mother 500 denarii for the restoration of the temple of Demetra and of the so called ‘stoa of Nikaios’.23 This same Dionysios was so popular that the citizen of Messene after his death called him heros and dedicated a statue of him in the city Gymnasium, as an example for all. It is also probable that Pausanias in his journey enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of the Aristomenai, a family that constituted the perfect guide through the region with their local prestige, extensive knowledge of the local traditions and their evident connections with Rome.24 Nonetheless, there are some unclarified issues regarding the possibility of Aristomenes financing such an expensive restoration project that is characterized by extensive Roman features and values.
At first, the amount of money spent; how should one evaluate the expenditure of 3800 denarii for the bronze statues and the repairs of the fountain-house? Considering the data discussed above it seems to be an extremely generous donation. With such an offer the donor goes beyond the simple statement that he was caring for the good of the city, as all the contributors of the Augustan inscription did. The investment of this huge amount of money had a dual purpose; on one hand to please his fellow citizens by restoring for them the fountain-house. On the other hand to demonstrate to the Romans how faithful a subject he was by installing the statues of the Sebastoi and remodelling the architectonic form of the whole fountain as to be more ‘Roman’. In this broader context, the amount of 3800 denarii is not merely a gift; it is an investment in prestige and a powerful captatio benevolentiae. The amount of money invested by Dionysios Aristomenous one generation earlier was indeed worthy of admiration, but it was neither the open amount set by some of the donors, nor the maximum among the fixed amounts promised.
Secondly, we should also consider the effect of such an effort on the perspective of the family sustaining it. It is legitimate to presume that a wealthy individual from a prominent family making a lavish gift to his city and enhancing the Roman presence in the topographical appearance of the city would not go unnoticed –especially when this person is the High Priest of the Imperial cult. While the son of Aristomenes, though holding high offices in the Roman administration, did not go further than obtaining the admission to the equestrian order, the nephew of Saithidas was able to climb up the ladder to the very top, the Senate. Did the large investment of Romanising the Arsinoe fountain contribute to this success?
One cannot say for sure, but it is my opinion that Saithidas fits better the profile of the euergetes that restored the fountain-house in comparison with their local contenders, the Aristomenai family.25


Conclusion
The polis of Messene had contacts with Rome at least since the year 210 BC, as attested by Livy (27, 30,13). After the destruction of Corinth, the city was proclaimed libera et immunis as a reward for not taking part in the war moved by the Achaian League against Rome; this allowed the city to enjoy a greater degree of economic freedom without the imposition of a tribute, and to keep the right to mint its own coin. Nonetheless the circulation of Roman denarii in the region gradually increases and the Roman coin is used more frequently in the everyday activities, as an accounting currency and for savings hoarding.26
This numismatic evidence, along with the early presence of Romans in the city in such numbers to justify the creation of a tribe of foreigners, leads us to imagine a city that is very open to the Roman influence.
During the Augustan period the very elite of the city was of mixed origin, as attested by the appeal of Epinicos for financial help, addressed to both ‘the Greek and Roman residents’.
The Greek elite of the city, like in all cities, was divided. On one side there were those who accepted the Roman presence wholeheartedly, welcoming the change to a new way of life; on the other side there were those who resisted this change, remaining bound to the local traditions and values though cooperating with the Roman administration. Unsurprisingly, the first group was the most successful one – as the case of Messene may confirm once again in the event of an epigraphical confirmation of the proposed identification of the benefactor who repaired the Arsinoe fountain-house with Ti. Claudius Saithidas.
Integrating Roman elements in the traditionally Greek language of the euergetism, both in the material details and in the concept underlying the whole realisation, was the key to pass from the level of the local elite to that of the provincial and, evidently, the imperial one.27
Under this respect also, the Roman domination added a totally new level to the ever-lasting strive for honours and prestige that characterizes the internal dynamics of all elites; being the best was no more enough for the members of these restricted local groups. In the new perspective of an orbis Romanus they wanted to excel, and in order to achieve this goal exceptional efforts were needed. One aspect of these efforts was being engaged in the celebration of the newly introduced cult of the deified Emperors; another aspect was contributing through their family wealth to the creation of a new –Roman– world in the old Greek territories.28 This transformation of the landscape is one aspect of the Romanisation process – the process of transforming a civic landmark that ‘embodied the symbolic and social ideas of the community’, as B. Longfellow stated it, from a functional building whose appearance was harmonized into the architectonic landscape surrounding it into a monumental declaration of principles, values and self-promotion.29
This process that we have observed, was applied to the Arsine fountain-house of Messene and constitutes one of the first stages of the long transition from the Hellenistic krene to the Roman nymphaeum.


Mario Trabucco della Torretta
New water from old spouts: the case of the Arsinoe fountain of Messene
Great Waterworks in Roman Greece Aqueducts and Monumental Fountain Structures
Function in Context edited by Georgia A. Aristodemou and Theodosios P. Tassios

1 The archaeological remains are presented in Felten-Reinholdt 2001 and thoroughly published in Reinholdt 2009. Given the fragmentary state of the evidence the interpretation of the remains is debated. The Austrian excavators identify only three phases of the life of the building (1. late Hellenistic; 2. early-Imperial 3. age of Diocletian), to which must be added a fourth late-Antique phase as a watermill during the 6th century AD. They assume that in the first phase the building was created reusing the Doric elements from another unlocated and unspecified building (Felten-Reinholdt 2001; Reinholdt 2009); I have challenged this interpretation, sustaining that the unspecified building is actually a very early phase of the fountain-house itself, in its late-Classical original configuration as a two-nave Doric stoa (Trabucco 2007). In this text I will follow this reconstruction and the phases will be numbered accordingly.2 On the identification of the complex with the Arsinoe Fountain, Muth 2007: 52-53, esp. notes 355 and 356.3 For a careful technical analysis of these founds, Reinholdt 2009.
4 On the wide spatial and chronological diffusion of this type of building, Dorl-Klingenschnid 2001: 33-34; Longfellow 2011: 67 and 108-109 (in particular on the Arsinoe fountain-house).
5 For a similar feature in the Greek Phase 7 (1st half of the 2nd century BC) of the Peirene fountain at Corinth, Robinson 2011: 148-150.
6 Reinholdt 2009: 33-36 (exedra) and 39-40 (two layers of hydraulic plaster).
7 Reinholdt 2009: 87-102.
8 Robinson 2011: 181-182 and fig. 99 (Roman Phase 2, post. 30 BC).
9 Robinson 2011: 188-189.
10 On the use of labra in Roman baths and fountains, Ambrogi 2005 ( the Arsinoe labra are no. 119 of her catalogue).
11 Orlandos 1959: 68 and 170-172; SEG 23, 205 and 207; SEG 35, 343; Migeotte 1985; Baldassarra 2007: 29-30.
12 Baldassarra 2007: 29, with discussion of the chronology at note 26.
13 Themelis 2012: 57, Inv. No. 17781. The author suggests that this unnamed citizen could be a certain Ti. Claudius Mystes (I) portrayed in a bronze statue whose base was found in the stoa (60).
14 Migeotte 1985: 604.
15 Themelis 2010b: 97.
16 Grandjean 2003: 250.
17 Themelis 2010b: 97; IG V 1, 691; SEG 11, 1950, 848.
18 Themelis 1995: 56-57; Reinholdt 2009: 133-134.
19 Rizakis et al. 2004: MES 336; Baldassarra 2007: 33. On the Ti. Claudii, Rizakis 2007.
20 IG V 1, 1450. Rizakis et al. 2004: MES 131, 205; Baldassarra 2007: 32; Luraghi 2008: 320, n. 104. On the imperial cult at Messene, Deshours 2004.
21 Baldassarra 2007: 34-35.
22 Baldassarra 2007: 38, particularly n. 65.
23 Migeotte 1985, ll: 28-29.
24 Habicht 1985: 115-135; Baldassarra 2007: 37.
25 Same opinion on the identity of the donor is expressed in Felten-Reinholdt 2001: 319 and Luraghi 2008: 307, but not discussed.
26 Sidiropoulos (2011: 1031) commented that ‘It is perhaps superfluous to go on and argue in favour of the fact that such people were familiar
with the denarius’.
27 On this evolution on the scale and aim of the euergetic activities, Rizakis 2009. The value of high offices, priesthoods and public works for the
building of a public figure is underlined also by Longfellow (2011: 61).
28 See Camia 2008, for the role of the Imperial Priesthood as a key way to the highest positions in the Empire.
29 Longfellow 2011: 1.

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