Parthians: Panamara inscription on Zeus’ miraculous actions against invading Parthians (ca. 39 BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Parthians: Panamara inscription on Zeus’ miraculous actions against invading Parthians (ca. 39 BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified March 16, 2023,

Ancient authors: People of Stratonikeia, in IStratonikeia 10, with subsequent corrections in IStratonikeia, volume 2, p. 35 (link), from nearby Panamara sanctuary, also reproduced in Greek further below the translation.

Comments: This inscription from shortly after 40 BCE (from near Stratonikeia in Caria, Turkey) is extremely difficult to translate due to its very fragmentary condition. (It was a translating marathon, to tell you the truth, and I was quite dizzy by the end). And I do not even venture to guess at translating the reconstructed parts, even though some epigraphists felt they could take a shot at imagining one option of what would fit in the rather lengthy damaged parts (on which see the translation I used as an initial base from, which does take a shot at the guessed reconstructed parts). Here the empty parts are largely left empty with an explanation of about how much is missing in each case.

But the remains that are translated below nonetheless give a very clear picture of Greeks – namely citizens of Stratonikeia in Caria – who have an unambiguous sense of the active and miraculous intervention of deities (Zeus Panamaros and perhaps his consort Hera as well) in helping them fight off an invasion by barbarian, Parthian invaders from the east just after 40 BCE. The god joins these Greeks in entering the battle: sending flames to force a retreat, bringing on fog to confuse the Parthian enemies, ensuring that the enemy missiles do not hit their marks, driving some of the enemy insane via the Furies, sending an ominous loud sound of barking dogs, and leading the enemy to jump off precipices to their own demise. The response of the Greeks, mid-battle, is to cry “Great is Zeus Panamaros!” (on which compare the chant in honour of Artemis at Ephesos in Acts 19 [link coming soon]). This is, of course, according to the authors retelling these tales of triumph and superiority. Ultimately, Zeus Panamaros keeps “all of us” – Stratonikeians, perhaps Greeks generally – safe. The us and them of the inscription is what stands out, pointing to ethnic tensions between Greeks who thought they should be the dominant and civilized power and the Parthians who were determined to assert their own dominance, threatening Greek self-government once again. The overall picture of Parthians that stands out here is of “impious” barbarians thwarted by just Greeks and their gods, much like the depiction of Galatians in earlier inscriptions.

So inscriptions like this could readily be compared to the Greek tales of struggles against the Galatian invaders of earlier eras, again with the help of local gods. On this see the Priene inscription at this link, the Thyatiran inscription at this link, and the Kyzikene relief at this link. Repeating patterns in how Greeks deal with enemy peoples clearly emerge in the process, giving us glimpses into some dynamics of ethnic relations.

Further reading: G. Petridou, “Crossing Physical and Cultural Borders in the Battlefield: Amorphous Epiphanies and Divine Bilingualism,” in Border: Terms, Ideologies and Performances, ed. A. Weissenrieder (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 155-172 (link); P. Roussel, “Le miracle de Zeus Panamaros,” Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 55 (1931): 70–116 (link).

Source of the translation: Translation by Harland using the translation as an initial base but largely without lengthier reconstructed portions.


[missing line with the year of the civic crown-bearer, likely Artemidoros son of Artemidoros based on other evidence] . . .  on the 28th day of the month of Thesmophorion, . . . it was resolved by the Council and People of Stratonikeia (?) . . .  as proposed by . . . Name when Chairemon son of Hekataios and (?) . . .  grandson of Chairemon of the Koraios subdivision . . . was priest (?). Since . . . [missing line regarding Zeus Panamaros] . . . for the salvation of the city from ancient times, even more now has the god entered the battle and revealed himself . . . (5) [missing line regarding what the god did in the battle against Parthians]. For when many horsemen and foot-soldiers surged . . .  [many missing words] . . . and other implements of war. . . [missing line]. The god (?). . . with a flash of light threw a massive flame at them so effectively that . . . they were forced to make a fast retreat, with . . . (10) . . . [three very fragmentary lines referring to day, a battle, thick fog and the god’s actions against the enemy]. . . . (13) [first half of line missing] . . . and still shouting with a loud voice, “Great is Zeus Panamaros.” . . . [several missing words] . . . . to give (or: not give) mercy to the deserters. Finally they were all wounding and killing one another [due to the god-sent fog (?)] . . . (15) [several words missing] . . .

Now some of them tried to jump out of the fog as though it were a flood and . . . became injured as they attempted to retreat from the temple in full view. Many of the dead . . . [six or more missing words] . . . but they [those who lived] were scattered around the surrounding hill just as they were also driven mad by the Furies. . .  But all of us [the Stratonikeian Greeks] were preserved (?) . . . by the god safe and sound. Through the seers the god often comforted us, . . . commanding us to protect in an active manner (?) . . . the place and forbidding us to leave the women and children behind in the city . . . (20) [about five missing words] . . . courageous and free from danger. Many missiles were noticed being launched but not hitting the target . . . [several missing words] . . . with the impacts being delivered, there was neither any dangerous wound nor were they effective. Now thirty . . . [several missing words] were launched among everyone. But once more auxiliary enemies appeared, they gathered . . . [about five missing words] . . . which was stationed at Pisye. Encouraging each other, they again attacked the temple. Now circling around, they were blocking the place [i.e. the temple area]. A loud noise reverberated as though assistance . . . [missing words] was coming, but nothing (?) . . . could be seen. Also a loud barking of dogs happened as though the dogs were attacking those who were assaulting them.

All those who were making the assault against the temple of Hera [i.e. Zeus Panamaros’ wife] were thrown over the edge at one time, resulting in their military standards (or: troop) . . . [several missing words]. The lamps of the god were found to be still burning and they remained that way throughout the siege. . . . [several words missing]. The enemies (?) . . . were completely defeated by the event. . . [missing words]. . . by the event . . . [missing words]. . . . the ones defeated by the event [i.e. the Parthians] threw down their weapons and again retreated. . . . [More than a line indiscernible]. . . into the nearby (30)  . . . hill.  [numerous missing words and the remaining five lines are indiscernible except for an additional reference to Zeus Panamaros]. . . .

[ἐπὶ στεφανηφόρου Ἀρτεμιδώρου τοῦ Ἀρτεμιδώρου τοῦ Ἀπολλωνί]ου, μηνὸς Θεσ[μ]οφοριῶνος ὀγδό[ῃ ἐξ εἰκάδος· ἔδοξεν Στρατονικέων τῇ βουλῇ]
[καὶ τῷ δήμῳ· —, ἱερατεύοντος Χαιρήμονος τοῦ Ἑκαταίου τοῦ] Χαιρήμονος Κω[ρ]αέως, εἶπεν· ἐπει[δὴ ὁ μέγιστος Ζεὺς Πανάμαρος]
[καὶ πρότερον πολλὰς καὶ μεγάλας ἐπιφανεῖς ἐνήργησεν ἐνεργεία]ς εἰς τὴν τῆς πόλ[ε]ως σωτηρίαν ἐκ παλ[αιῶν χρόνων —]
[— μ]άλιστα δὲ νῦν, ἠγωνισμένου καὶ πεφηνά[ντος τοῦ θεοῦ τοῖς πολεμίοις,]
(5) [διεσώθη τὸ ἱερὸν ἐκ τῶν κινδύνων καὶ τοῦ περιστάντος αὐτὸ καιροῦ·] πολλῶν γὰρ καὶ ἱπ[πέ]ων καὶ πεζῶν εἰσβα[λόντων εἰς τὴν χώραν]
[μετὰ πλήθους ὀργάνων καὶ βελῶν καταπελτικῶν καὶ κλιμάκων καὶ ἄ]λλης χορηγίας εἰς τὸν πόλεμον ἡτοιμα[σμένης καὶ μέρους αὐτῶν]
[οὐκ ὀλίγου περὶ μέσας νύκτας τῷ ἱερῷ προσελθόντος, ὁ θεὸς μετὰ φω]τὸς φλόγα πολλὴν [α]ὐτοῖς ἐνετίναξεν ὥσ[τε —]
[— ἀναγκασ]θῆναι ταχέως ἀποπηδῆσαι αὐτούς, πολ[λῶν τῶν ὀργάνων ἐμπρησθέντων]
[— τῶν δὲ πολεμίων ἅμ]α τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τολμησάντων προσελθῖν πρ[ὸς τὸ χωρίον μετὰ πολλῆς]
(10) [δυνάμεως καὶ παρασκευῆς, συνέβη αὐτοῖς περιχυθῆναι ὁμίχλην β]αθεῖαν ὥστε τοὺς μὲν μετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ μ[αχομένους λαθεῖν αὐτοὺς]
[— κύ]κλῳ δὲ περὶ τὸ μ[έρο]ς τοῦ χωρίου καθ’ ὃ προ[σβάλλειν ἐπεχείρησαν]
[ἐπιγίνεσθαι χειμῶνα μέγαν καὶ καταρραγῆναι βροντὰς συνεχεῖς κ]αὶ διαΐσσειν [ἀστρα]πάς· διὰ τ[—]
[καὶ αὐτίκα πλῆθος ἦν? τῶν αὐτομολ]ούντων τῶν <συ>νγ̣<ν>ώ<μ>ην φωνούντω[ν,] ἔτι δὲ ἀναβοών[των] μεγάλῃ τῇ φωνῇ Μέγαν εἶναι Δία Πανάμαρον,
[ἄλλοι δὲ ἐκέλευον μηδεμίαν τοῖς παρ’ ἑαυτ]ῶν αὐτομόλοις διδόναι σνγνώμην· καὶ πέρας πάντες ἀλλήλους κατετίτρωσκον καὶ ἀπέκτινον,
(15) [μὴ γνωρίζοντες καὶ ἔξω τοῦ φρονεῖν γε]νόμενοι. καὶ δὲ οἱ μὲν αὐτῶν, ἐκ τῆς ὁμίχλης ὥσπερ ἔκ τινος ῥεύματος ἐκπηδῶντες
[καὶ —, ἐγίνον]το τραυματίαι κατὰ τὴν ἀποχώρησιν τοῦ εἱεροῦ θεωρούμενοι, πολλὰ δὲ πτώμ[ατα]
[εὑρέθη πέριξ τοῦ χωρίου κείμενα· πολλοὶ] δὲ κατεσπάρησαν ἰς τὰ παρακείμενα ὄρη καθάπερ ἐνμανεῖς ὄντες καὶ ὑπὸ Ἐρινύων τινῶ[ν]
[ἐλαυνόμενοι· ἡμᾶς δὲ πάντας διετήρησ]εν ὁ θεὸς ἀπημάντους καὶ [ἀβ]λαβεῖς καὶ ὅπερ διὰ τῶν φοίβων παρεκάλεσεν πολλάκις,
[κελεύων δὲ ἡμᾶς προθύμως διαφυλάττειν] τὸ χωρίον καὶ ἀπαγορεύ[ων τάς τε] γυναῖκα<ς> καὶ τέκνα ἀπολύειν εἰς τὴν πόλιν
(20) [σύμφορον ἐγένετο καὶ παρέστησε τὸν δῆμον ε]ὐθαρσῆ καὶ ἀκίνδυνον· καὶ πολλῶν μὲν βελῶν βληθέντω[ν, ἄπρακτα] ἐθεωρήθη τὰ βέλη
[πάντα διεκπίπτοντα· τῶν δὲ ἡμετέρων τῶν] ἐν ταῖς προσβολαῖς βαλλομένων οὔτε τραῦμα ἐπικίνδυνον οὐδ[ὲ εἷ]ς ἔσχεν, τριάκοντα δὲ
[καὶ — ἐπιπόλαια τράματα λαβόντε]ς πάντες ἐσώθησαν.  ἐπιφανείσης δὲ τοῖς πολεμίοις τῆς βοηθείας, ἐπισυ<ν>άγοντες
[δύναμιν ἔτι πλείονα ἐκ τοῦ στρατοπέδ]ου τοῦ ὄντος ἐν τοῖς Πισυητικοῖς καὶ παρακελευσάμενοι πάλιν ὥρμησαν ἐπὶ τὸ ἱερὸν
[— κ]ύκλῳ δὲ αὐτῶν τὸ χωρίον πολιορκούντων, ἀλαλαγμός τε ἀντήχησεν ὡς βοηθείας
(25) [ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ἐπιγεινομένης, καίπερ οὐδε]νὸς φαινομένου, καὶ κυνῶν ὑλαγμὸς ἐγείνετο πολὺς ὡς προσπλ[ε]κομένων τοῖς προσβάλλουσιν
[— καὶ πάντε]ς οἱ προσβάλλοντες κατὸ Ἥραιον ὑφ’ ἕνα καιρὸν κατεκρημνίσθησαν ὥστε τὰς σημέας αὐτῶν
[καὶ τὰς κλίμακας πάσας καταλειφθῆναι·] οἵ τε λύχνοι τοῦ θεοῦ καιόμενοι εὑρέθησαν καὶ διέμειναν μέχρι τῆς πολιορκίας.
[πέρας δὲ πάντες οἱ πολέμιοι ἐκ τοῦ γενομ]ένου κατὰ τὸ φανερὸν ποινοστροβούμενοι, ῥείψαντες ὁμοίως [τὰ ὅ]πλα πάλιν εἰς φυγὴν ὥρμησαν
[ἀκόσμως καὶ τὴν ἐπὶ τὸ στρατόπεδον ἐπά]νοδον οὐχ εὑ[ρ]ίσκοντες οὐδὲ ὅπου [χώρας τράποιντο ἀσφαλῶ]ς [βλέπ]οντες, εἰς τὰ παρακίμενα
(30) [ὄρη ταῖς ἀνοδίαις ὁρμήσαντες χαλεπῶς μ]ετέστησαν.  καταλαβ[όμενοι δὲ τραχὺν καὶ ὑψηλ]ὸν βουνόν, ε[ἰς δια]τροπὴν ἦλθον
[— ὑπὸ τ]οῦ ἐπὶ τῆς χώρας στρατ[ηγοῦ —]ον καὶ συν[βάλλο]ντες αὐτῷ
[— π]ολλοὶ δὲ ἐν [τῇ] φ[υγῇ — ὀλ]ίγοι τὰ κατ[αλει]πόμενα τῶν ὅπλων
ῥείψαντες ἔφευγο[ν —]ατος
τὴν δύναμιν ων[— κιν]δύνων
(35) παραδοῦναι καὶ τοῖ[ς —] βήματος
λευκολίθου ἐν τῷ [—]ος
Διεὶ Παναμάρῳ [—] πρόσοδον
καὶ τὸ ἀντίγρα[φον —.]

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