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Permanent Collection: Ancient Near Eastern Art:
Dedicatory Inscription

Dedicatory Inscription

North Africa, Tunisia, Byzacena. Roman, ca. A.D. 300. Marble, 17 1/2 x 32 in. (44.5 x 81.3 cm). Monique Brouillet Seefried Fund. 1995.7

At the end of the third century A.D., the Emperor Diocletian divided the great Roman province of Africa Proconsularis into smaller provinces, including Byzacena, now the greater part of modern Tunisia. Few large-scale public inscriptions from this period in the Late Roman Empire survive. Therefore, this marble dedicatory inscription that once adorned a public building in Byzacena is of central importalogical, and historical material."

With this new directive in mind, William Arthur Shelton of Emory's Candler School of Theology accompanied James Henry Breasted of the University of Chicago to Egypt and the Near East in 1920. Shelton was financed by an Atlanta cotton merchant, John A. Manget, to purchase a substantial number of archaeological artifacts for the Museum. The expedition, crossing treacherous wastelands and skirting bandits and warring factions, was not without its adventures - at one point Shence in reconstructing the history of ancient North Africa. Only the last third of the text survives, but from it we have a good sense of the significance of the dedication. The first line opened with an imperial titulary, possibly including the names of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. The text then refers to an edict concerning the construction of an important building at the public expense of the citizens of Byzacena (BIZACENAE in the fifth line), under the authority of Antiochus Eugenius. This official's name is otherwise unattested in the ancient sources. The phrase EX CO TER FAC in the last line indicates that Antiochus Eugenius was either a consul (or possibly of the newly created rank comites) for the third time.

Creating an inscription of this scale involved an ordinator, who first painted the lettering on the stone. The letter-cutter would then carve the letters, here in Roman capitals characteristic of the early fourth century A.D. The letter-cutter, however, consistently mistook the ordinator's letter T for the letter I. The decorative flourishes signal the end of the fourth and fifth lines.

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