Sunday, March 24, 2013


Elise A. Friedland, The Roman Marble Sculptures from the Sanctuary of Pan at Caesarea Philippi/Panias (Israel). American Schools of Oriental Research Archaeological Reports No. 17. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2012. Pp. xiii, 186. ISBN 9780897570879. $89.95.

Reviewed by Irene Bald Romano, University of Arizona (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

In this revised publication of her 1997 dissertation, Elise Friedland presents a corpus of 28 marble and one limestone sculptures excavated in 1992-1993 from the sanctuary of Pan at Caesarea Philippi/Panias (modern Banias, Israel) in the Roman province of Syria Phoenicia. The original Hellenistic (3rd c. BC) shrine of Pan was centered on a large natural grotto, rock terrace, and springs on the slopes of Mt. Hermon. A monumental building in front of the grotto has been identified as the Augusteum built by Herod the Great in 19 BC (p. 13). Sometime in the 1st century the temenos of the sanctuary was developed with an open-air court with dedications to Pan and the nymphs and an artificial cave carved into the rock scarp; three niches for sculptural dedications were also cut into the scarp in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD ( 13-14). An ashlar podium temple was erected on the terrace of the temenos in the 1st century, probably dedicated to Zeus ( 14-15). To the east of this temple is an open-air court dedicated to Nemesis in AD 178/9, paved with pink and white limestone slabs and with a large niche cut into the rock face flanked by limestone pilasters with Corinthian capitals ( 15). An ashlar building with three adjacent halls, built after AD 220 is thought to have served as a treasury for dedications ( 15-16). And, just below the elevated terrace, south of the Tripartite Building, is an apsidal court, possibly associated with the worship of Pan and the goats, also dating after AD 220 ( 16).

The Sanctuary of Pan flourished as a provincial Graeco-Roman religious center into the 3rd century AD, and pagan worship continued into the 4th and 5th centuries. Pan and his circle —including Dionysos (cats. 7, 8, 12, 18, 19, 20, 28, 29) and the nymphs (cat. 11), Zeus or Asklepios (cat. 4), Artemis (cats. 15, 16), Aphrodite (cat. 5, 13), Eros (cat. 22), Kybele (cat. 23), Athena (cats. 1, 2, 3), Apollo or a Muse (cat. 6), Herakles (cat. 21), and possibly Orpheus (cats. 25, 26)—are represented among the sculptures. All the Greek gods seem to have been welcome at this sanctuary, so it is noteworthy that there is no archaeological or epigraphical evidence for the worship of any Semitic deities at Panias (65). The Paneion is rare, therefore, in its thoroughly Hellenized-Roman character compared to other cult sites on Mt. Hermon, as well as other religious centers in the Levant ( 67). An examination of the Paneion's history and material culture is, accordingly, of some significance for our understanding of Romanization in the complicated cultural and religious mix of the Levant.

No sculptures of the Hellenistic period survive from the site, though many of the Roman statues are copies or adaptations of Hellenistic works (e.g., the "Weary Herakles" [cat. 21] and the Artemis Rospigliosi [cat. 15] types). The sculptures (or inscriptions for sculptural dedications) range in date from the 1st century to the late 4th or early 5th century AD, with the height of activity in the Antonine and Severan periods and with fewer examples and of a smaller scale in the late antique period. The vast majority of the pieces catalogued in this volume (and 245 other non- diagnostic stone fragments) were found with mixed debris in a 9th century AD dump in several areas of the abandoned Tripartite Building, the result of cleaning off the sanctuary terrace. Others were scattered in other buildings at the site, almost all in later debris. Thus, the original settings of the statues cannot be identified, though inscriptions of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD indicate the locations for some sculptures that have not survived, as well as evidence for the sanctuary's patrons – one private citizen (a physician), and officials, such as priests, an archon, and bouleutai. Their names are Roman, with Roman, Greek and Semitic patronymics.

Since there is no ancient marble source in this region and no known, longstanding tradition of local marbleworking, marble sculpture was imported to the Paneion, probably fully carved. There is one marble item in the corpus (cat. 24: a statuette portrait of an emperor) that Friedland identifies as locally manufactured, with the neck strut mimicking those on imported heads. Of the seven limestone fragments found in similar dumped contexts, only one is well enough preserved to be included in the catalogue of this volume: the base of a statuette of Kybele or Dea Syria with a lion (cat. 23). Despite its fragmentary nature, it preserves important evidence for possible local workmanship in native limestone. While the examples at Panias are few, at Nysa-Scythopolis (Beth Shean) there is more ample evidence for the influence of imported marble sculptures on local limestone production.1

Results of stable isotopic analysis of the marble of 15 of the sculptures indicate that the quarry sources are most likely western Anatolian, probably from a single or handful of quarries, given the homogeneous character of the stone.2 Unlike the marble sculptures from Caesarea Maritima and Nysa-Scythopolis (Beth Shean) with diverse quarry proveniences and for which the marble importation locus was almost certainly the port of Caesarea, the marble sources at Panias are limited. Friedland attributes this to a different trade route with a different port of entry, probably Tyre, just 29 miles to the west along the Tyre-Damascus road ( 23-24; 64). Stylistically, many of the sculptures bear characteristics similar to sculptures from Aphrodisias and Ephesos ( 25), also suggesting a western Anatolian network connection with this region of Syria Phoenicia over a period of several centuries. The main features of the sculptures from Panias are their highly polished drapery and flesh surfaces; plentiful drillwork in the hair and drapery; undrilled pupils and pointed interior corners of the eyes with little indication of tear ducts; and neck struts ( 24). It is not possible to pinpoint the specific workshop(s) for the production, though Aphrodisias is cited as a likely origin for several pieces (cats. 6, 20, possibly 22, 25, 28). In the small statuette consisting of the torso of a dancing satyr (cat. 20) a detail of the treatment of the base of the spine finds very close parallels among sculptures from Aphrodisias. No sculptors' signatures are preserved on any of the works or in the epigraphical corpus from the site.

The colossal helmeted female head identified as Athena or Roma (cat. 1) is especially interesting given the close comparison in scale and style with the well-preserved 2nd c. AD Athena from Tel Naharon in the neighborhood of Beth Shean. Friedland's preference for considering the Panias head Roma, rather than Athena, is based on the identification of the Herodian Augusteum at the site and the suggestion that this colossal statue may be the cult image for the building, forcing a date for the sculpture at the end of the 1st century BC or early 1st century AD. A 2nd century date, however, would be more in keeping with the main period of marble importation in the region and the probable date of the closest parallel. In fact, in the text ( 45) Friedland acknowledges the general absence of sculptural finds at Panias in the Herodian period and in the 1st century AD, yet suggests a Herodian date for the colossal head in the catalogue. Admittedly, the preservation of this head is very poor, and any definitive conclusions about its date are tentative.

Images of Pan himself are limited to two fragments: a life-size left hand holding a syrinx, possibly from a sculptural group of Pan and Daphnis (cat. 19), and a tree trunk with a hanging syrinx (cat. 18). As already mentioned, members of Pan's entourage are also represented: Dionysos (cats. 7,8, possibly 28 and 29); a half- draped nymph with shell used as a fountain figure (cat. 12); and a small statuette of a dancing satyr (cat. 20).

The popular Artemis Rospigliosi type is represented here in a late 2nd-3rd century AD statuette (cat. 15) that survives in a better state of preservation than most from the Paneion. Two other well-documented 2nd or 3rd century AD examples of the type that may be of interest as comparisons are from the late Roman domestic shrine in the Panayia Field at Corinth.3

Though most of the Paneion sculptures look back to Hellenistic models, a helmeted head of Athena (cat. 2) is the exception, echoing the Classical period in the modeling of the face and eyes, while the corkscrew circles along the brow recall the Archaic period. The helmet had a crest added with a small metal tenon. A third female head of Athena or Roma had a helmet that would have been added in marble or stucco (cat. 3). No dates are suggested for either of these life-size heads.

Also included in an appendix to this study, and standing out for its remarkable preservation compared to the rest of the corpus, is a marble bust of Antinous of AD 130-138 that was said to have been found in Caesarea Philippi/Panias in the mid-19th century. It was on the art market in 1983 and was sold by Sotheby's in 2010 to a private collector ( 159-60). The pedestal bears the inscription of the dedicant, M. Loukkios Phlakkos. If the provenience from the Paneion is correct, it suggests a sanctuary with imperial significance in the Hadrianic period. If it is from the city site of Caesarea Philippi, it is noteworthy that only one, as yet unpublished, sculpture has been found in extensive excavations at the city site ( 23, n. 7), founded in 2 BC by Herod's son Philip just to the south of the Sanctuary of Pan.

Friedland points out how little was understood about sculpture of the Roman period from this region until the 1990's. This study, therefore, adds considerably to our knowledge of the growing body of Roman marble sculpture from the Levant, and confirms the findings from other major sites, like Nysa-Scythopolis (Beth Shean) and Caesarea Maritima, showing that marble sculpture is not a rarity and that Graeco-Roman traditions thrived in the Semitic world well into the 3rd c. and beyond. Friedland has done an excellent job of examining from all possible angles this difficult corpus of fragmentary statuary from Panias. The anticipated compendium by T. Weber, D. Kreikenbom, K.-U. Mahler, and M. Ko├žak on The Sculptures from Roman Syria II: The Marble Sculpture will bring together all the known Roman marble monuments from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel, providing an even more thorough synthesis of the sculpture from the Levant.

The setting of the Sanctuary of Pan at Panias is remarkable, and a minor complaint with this volume is that for those who have never been there it would have been enlightening to have more than one photograph of the site, the niches for sculptural dedications, and their inscriptions.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Roman Marble Sculptures from the Sanctuary of Pan at Caesarea Philippi/Panias: Problems, Approaches, Context
Chapter 2: The Origins of the Sculptures: Marble Provenience, Technical and Stylistic Characteristics, Production, and Acquisition
Chapter 3: Patronage, Chronology, and Display: Patterns of Sculptural Dedication at the Sanctuary
Chapter 4: The Subjects of the Sculptures: The Graeco-Roman Pantheon of the Sanctuary of Pan
Chapter 5: The Function and Meaning of the Sculptures: The Sanctuary of Pan as a Graeco-Roman Cult Center in the Levant
Catalogue of the Sculptures
Appendix 1: Findspots for Sculptural Fragments Discovered in Dumps Associated with the Tripartite Building
Appendix 2: Findspots for Sculptural Fragments Discovered Throughout the Site
Appendix 3: Small, Non-Restorable Sculptural Fragments Discovered at the Sanctuary of Pan
Appendix 4: Bust of Antinous from Caesarea Philippi/Panias


1.   Irene Bald Romano and Moshe L. Fischer, "Roman Marble and Limestone Sculpture from Beth Shean, Israel," Les Ateliers de sculpture regionaux: techniques, styles et iconographie, Actes du X Colloque International sur l'art provincial romain. Arles/Aix-en-Provence, May 21-23, 2007. Arles, 2009, pp. 501-511.
2.   Multi-method analyses of the marbles, especially using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) and petrography in combination with stable isotopic analysis, would allow more precision in the determination of proveniences. A simple test of a few drops of a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid on the surface of the marble would differentiate calcitic stone from dolomitic and clarify the possibility of the use of dolomitic marble from Thasos for some of these sculptures (e.g., Table 2, p. 34; cat. 2).
3.   Lea M. Stirling, "Pagan Statuettes in Late Antique Corinth: Sculpture from the Panayia Domus," Hesperia 77, 2008, 89-161: no. 4, pp, 101-105, figs. 8-12 (2nd-3rd c. AD); no. 7, pp. 114-119, figs. 17, 19, 38 (mid-3rd c. AD).

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