An ancient Sugar Ray Leonard, a deceased Cynic philosopher, and a colleague of Marcion at Sinope

I’ve been making my way through The Inscriptions of Sinope, the latest in the series on Greek inscriptions of Asia Minor (bibliography below).  Sinope was a Greek city on the northern coast of Turkey.  Its location on the Black Sea made it important for sea trade, and the sailor and “heretic” Marcion was from this city.  A few of the inscriptions stood out to me and I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is a very successful boxer of the first or second century who may well match or beat Sugar Ray:

M(arcus) Iutius Marcianus Rufus, outstanding boxer of Sinope, who won victories in the sacred triumphal competitions: at Rome in the Capitoline, 3 times in succession — at Neapolis, twice — at the Actian (games), twice, the first and only Sinopean (to do so) – at the Nemean (games), twice – at the Isthmian (games), twice – at the Pythian (games) – at the Olympic (games) – at the Panathenaic (games), the first and only Sinopean (to do so) – at Antiocheia (in Syria), 3 times, the first and only ever of the youth and men’s classes in one day, in the men’s class – in the Pythian games at Antiocheia – at Nicomedia, 3 times, the first and only ever in the under-age, youth and men’s classes – at the (Provincial) Community of Asia games at Smyrna, Pergamum, and Ephesus – at the Aspis at Argos, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Asia games at Sardis, twice, at Philadelphia, twice, at Traelles, twice, at Hierapolis, twice, at Laodiceia, twice, at Thyateira, twice, at Mytilene, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Pontus games, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Galatia games, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Macedonia games – at the (Provincial) Community of Bithynia games at Nicaea, twice – at the (Provincial) Community of Cappadocia games – and at other competitions in the half-talent class, 110 times.  (In all) 150 victories.  By decision of the Senate (ISinope 105; trans. by French with adaptations, see below).

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” I guess.

The second is the grave of a Cynic philosopher of the second or third century.  This is the first grave of such a philosopher I have encountered, but there may well be others:

This then is (the) stone of a man whom, moreover, — an expounder of wisdom — this city has produced,  [ – – ] of [ – – ] Perseus.  Why does he have the name “wing”?  Tell us! Because a raised wing too drew (him) through the air of Greece.  This Perseus (was) [inclined] too towards Cynic thought, since he carried a wallet (and) a scimitar (small sword) in the place of a staff . . .  (ISinope 171; trans. French, with adaptations).

The third involves the grave-stone of a shipper from Sinope (first-third century CE), the hometown of another more renowned shipper, named Marcion:

Hail, O passer-by!  (I), Callinicus, having sailed (over) many waves, sailed (on) the last voyage of Lethe, (I) whom the sea in the deeps did not extinguish, but the earth destroyed by a heavy sickness; having lived two and thirty years, eager to come to (the) fate of (my) younger brother Calligonus, long dead, having lived nobly for fourteen years; thus are the plans of (the) fates arranged.  Iulius Callinicus, ship-master (naukleros), lies here (ISinope 169).

This inscription also points to another reality of life in the ancient world, namely, the short life expectancy:  Callinicus lived to the age of only 32 and his brother had died when he was only 14.

I plan to do more posts on interesting inscriptions I encounter.

David H. French, ed.,  The Inscriptions of Sinope (Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien, vol 64; Bonn: Rudolf Habelt, 2004).

4 thoughts on “An ancient Sugar Ray Leonard, a deceased Cynic philosopher, and a colleague of Marcion at Sinope

  1. Richard Fellows

    Thanks, Phil.

    I looked up the Perseus inscription, which seems to reflect the tendency of ancient philosophers to receive new names.

    Firstly, of course, the term “Cynic” comes from the name “KUNOS” (dog), given to the philosopher Diogenes (also of Sinope).

    Secondly, and intriguingly, Perseus here seems to have been called “wing” (Pteron). Is this also a case of a philosopher being given a new name? The two names have in common the Pi, Epsilon, and Rho, so they have phonetic similarity, which may be no coincidence. An example of this type of double naming of a philosopher with phonetic similarity is provided by the case of Amelius, Plotinus’s leading student, who was given the name “Amerius” (unification). This is recorded in the Life of Plotinus, by “Porphyry” (which was also a new name).

    If you have David French’s email address, perhaps you could ask him to comment.

  2. Phil H.

    Hello Richard,

    Interesting observations here. My answer is that I’m not sure. This practice of naming may well be discussed somewhere. The difficulty with this inscription is that it has significant gaps.


  3. Richard Fellows


    yes, the gaps are unfortunate. I also noticed that various interpretations have been proposed over the years. If it is a case of double naming, another parallel would be the Cynic philosopher Peregrinus, who took the name “Proteus”. Then, shortly before his death, he adopted the name “Phoenix” (according to Lucian).

    I am not aware of any study that looks specifically at the use of nicknames by Greek philosophers, but the website of the “Lexicon of Greek Personal names” states, “famous people, such as Kings and intellectual figures such as philosophers, often acquired nicknames (King Antigonos Monophthalmos, the ‘One Eyed’, Dio Chrysostom, the ‘golden mouthed’ i.e. eloquent).”

    Other studies of data from Egypt and Asia minor have suggested that the practice of double naming was at its peak in the second century.

Comments are closed.