Ethnic diversity on Rhodes island: Inscriptional evidence

Comments: It was somewhat common for immigrants with a common origin to join together no matter where they ended up in the ancient Mediterranean world. This is why we find associations of Judeans, Berytians, Tyrians, Romans, Phrygians and many others in various places (as you can see by reading the diasporas posts). On Rhodes, you can take a look at the group consisting of immigrants from Herakleia as an example.

What is particularly interesting about Rhodes island in particular, though, is the way in which specific associations illustrate the ethnic diversity of Rhodes within one group.  In other words, instead of an association consisting of people from one geographic origin, there are numerous cases where we find a mixture of ethnic identifications within one group.

Take, for instance, the mixed group in AGRW 257 (the second one in the list below). This document records the results in a series of competitions within a particular association that, for the purposes of the festival, divided itself up into sub-groups or “tribes” in imitation of civic life in Rhodes more generally. But the range of ethnic identifications is impressive.  There are Ephesians, Antiochians, a Phrygian, a Selgian, an Amphipolitan, Alexandrians, Solians, a Knidian, and a Chian alongside several Rhodians within this group alone.

In another inscription (the first link in the list below), which lists those who contributed towards the cost of a communal grave for the members of the association, there is once again quite a mixture in one group. Alongside some Rhodians, the contributors within this group devoted to the Samothrakian deites include immigrants from Athens, Chersonessos, Kyzikos, Thera island, Chios island (2), Ephesos (2), Laodikeia, Lucania, Halikarnassos, Herakleia (2), Etennian (in Pisidia), Miletos (2), Amisos, Pisidia, Phaselitos (in Lykia), Alexandria, Samos, Kilikia, Selgos, and Armenia.

Take a look at the inscriptions below for yourself to get a better idea of ethnic diversity in important trading centres of the ancient Mediterranean and to imagine the possibilities of ethnic interactions within such a context.

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