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edited by

Richard Alston, Onno M. van Nijf & Christina G. Williamson

AGE edited by Richard Alston, Onno M. van Nijf & Christina G. Williamson PEETERS LEUVEN –




List of Illustrations






Introduction: The Greek city and its religions after the Classical age Onno van Nijf, Richard Alston and Christina Williamson


Chapter 1. Processions in Hellenistic cities. Contemporary discour- ses and ritual dynamics Angelos Chaniotis


Chapter 2. Destined to rule. The Near Eastern origins of Hellenistic ruler cult Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides


Chapter 3. The ‘Temple with Indented Niches’ at Ai Khanoum. Ethnic and civic identity in Hellenistic Bactria Rachel Mairs


Chapter 4. As God is my witness. Civic oaths in ritual space as a means towards rational cooperation in the Hellenistic polis Christina Williamson


Chapter 5. Oracles and civic identity in Roman Asia Minor Aude Busine


Chapter 6. Officials as dedicators in post-classical poleis Günther Schörner


Chapter 7. Greek tradition and Roman innovation. Adapting cults and local identities in Pausanias’ Greece Maria Pretzler


Chapter 8. Many mansions. Jews in the Greek cities of Roman Syria and Palestine Susan Sorek and David Noy




Chapter 9. Rhetorical competition within the Christian com- munity at Corinth. Paul and the Sophists George van Kooten


Chapter 10. ‘The present and future worlds are enemies to each other’. Early Christian aloofness and participation in the pagan world Despina Iosif


Chapter 11. Transformation of a city. The Christianization of Jerusalem in the fourth century Jan Willem Drijvers


Chapter 12. Religion on the ground. Rome and Constantinople:

a comparative topographical study Michael Mulryan


Chapter 13. Urban and religious changes at Gerasa Charlie March


Index Locorum





Rachel Mairs


The site of Ai Khanoum is, at present, the only major settlement of the Hellenistic Greek kingdom of Bactria to have been subject to extensive excavation. As such, it provides an invaluable, if problematic, source of information on this most remote and little-investigated of the Hellenistic states. This paper will consider the city’s major religious institution, the ‘Temple with Indented Niches’, in the context of wider questions on the ethnic and civic identity of the city’s inhabitants. The topic is a conten- tious one: the ‘Mesopotamian’ style of the temple and the question of its relation to other civic institutions have provoked considerable debate, and the cultural dynamics of the city remain, to a great extent, obscure. Nev- ertheless, there are approaches which may not only lead to a better under- standing of Ai Khanoum itself, but may also prove of wider applicability to other regions of the Hellenistic world. What I seek to demonstrate in the present study is the potential of the archaeological record for gleaning useful material on the construction and articulation of ethnicity, and on the dynamics of Greek culture and iden- tity in a Hellenistic colonial environment. As will be discussed below, the concept that the urban layout of Ai Khanoum, the style and pattern of use of its civic institutions, reflects some underlying social reality is not a novel one. My argument is rather that this approach is one which we may productively use to ground our understanding of the site as a whole. The following discussion commences with some background informa- tion on Hellenistic Bactria and the site of Ai Khanoum, before introduc- ing the temple and its various problematic features. It then moves on to consider how we might resolve some of our questions about this temple, by reference to its wider urban context, and concludes by seeing what basis this might give us for drawing up some hypotheses about the ethnic and civic identities of the population of Ai Khanoum.


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From ‘mirage bactrien’ to ‘Bactrian paradigm’

The Hellenistic state of Bactria is perhaps best-known for the spec- tacular archaeological finds made in the region during the 1960s and 1970s. These include the city of Ai Khanoum, in northern Afghanistan, but also sites on the other side of the river Oxus in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia (Figure 1). Archaeological survey has contrib- uted much towards our understanding of the wider region in the Hel- lenistic period. More recently, a large amount of material has emerged onto the antiquities market, including Greek inscriptions and Greek and Aramaic administrative documents, as well as a number of major coin hoards. 1 Without such finds, our knowledge of this ‘Hellenistic Far East’ would be extremely limited. The history of the region has long been notorious for its obscurity. 2 Such are the deficiencies of the Greek and Latin liter- ary sources that reconstruction of a traditional narrative history is all but impossible, except in the barest outlines. 3 Bactria and adjacent regions were settled with Greeks and Macedonians under Alexander the Great. In the mid third century BC, Bactria achieved autonomy from the Seleukid empire, under Diodotos I. 4 In the second century, the Greek kings of Bactria expanded into northern India, where the coins of the last Greek king, Strato II, in the Panjab, appear as late as the first century AD. 5 The Greek kingdom of Bactria itself, however, fell to nomadic invasions in the mid second century BC. 6 The first two major modern works on the subject, Tarn’s The Greeks in Bactria and India (1 st ed. 1938), and Narain’s The Indo-Greeks (1957) were heavily reliant on the abundant numismatic and sparse literary evidence. Their reconstructions of the history of the region, and the dynastic succession of Greek kings of Bactria and India, diverged widely, as did their

1 This paper derives, in part, from a PhD thesis (University of Cambridge, Mairs 2006b)

written under the supervision of Dr. Dorothy J. Thompson, whom I thank for her advice and support. A briefer account of my views on ethnic identity and the urban landscape of Ai Khanoum has since been published in Mairs 2008. Bernard et al. 2004; Shaked 2004; Flandrin and Bopearachchi 2005; and Clarysse and Thompson 2007.

2 See e.g. Strabo 15.1.3. On the curious appearance of Graeco-Bactrian kings in medi-

aeval tradition, see Bivar 1950.

3 For critical discussion of the dynastic history of the Hellenistic Far East, see, in gen-

eral, Holt 1999, who also supplies a useful compendium of the relevant Classical sources.

4 On Bactria under Alexander and the Diodotids, see Holt 1988.

5 According to the analysis of Bopearachchi 1991.

the ‘temple with indented niches’ at ai khanoum


interpretations of the cultural identity of the populations of these east- ernmost Greek-ruled states. 7 It was only in the second half of the twentieth century that the archae- ology of Bactria became better known. As late as the 1940s, Alfred Foucher, founder of the Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan, was forced, with some regret, to dismiss the notion of a strong Greek culture in Hellenistic period Bactria as nothing more than a “mirage”. Foucher’s excavations at Balkh, ancient Bactra, had failed to reveal any Greek monuments. The abundant Greek coinage of the region, he sug- gested, gave a misleading impression of the actual cultural dynamics of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek states. 8 In his discussion of Classical influence in the later art and architecture of the region, however, Schlum- berger argued that this influence can only have arisen from a local tradi- tion of Greek art and craftsmanship. In contrast to Foucher, he claimed that “la Bactriane n’est pas un mythe, elle est seulement inexplorée.” 9 Schlumberger was vindicated by the discovery of the city of Ai Khanoum, which finally gave material substance to the mirage bactrien. The series which Foucher had inaugurated went on to publish dramatic finds of Greek architecture, artefacts and inscriptions from these excavations. 10 The wealth of new archaeological material which emerged from Central Asia during the 1960s and 1970s rapidly began to pose problems of its own. The complicated intersections of artistic and architectural styles at Ai Khanoum reveal no straightforward Greek-‘Oriental’ dichotomy. 11 Hel- lenistic Bactria, Holt suggests, is no longer a mirage but a paradigm, a case-study where the diverse and problematic forms of evidence allow us to apply and test our ideas about the Hellenistic world. 12 One of the key questions which emerges from any such analysis is that of how the mate- rial culture of the Hellenistic Far East relates to the society which created it. Much has been written about the contact or ‘hybridisation’ of different cultural traditions in the architecture of sites such as Ai Khanoum, but, on a more fundamental level, such processes of cultural encounter can only have been orchestrated through the agency of the population who

7 On the historiography of the Greeks in Bactria and India, see Mairs 2006a.

8 Foucher 1942-47, 73-75, 310. On Foucher and the establishment of the Délégation

archéologique française en Afghanistan (DAFA), see Olivier-Utard 1997, Part 1; note, how- ever, Grenet’s 1999 critical review of the latter part of this work. For another history of the DAFA, see Bernard 2002.


Schlumberger 1960, 152.


On the ‘Bactrian mirage’ and the archaeological reality, see Kuz’mina 1976 and Holt



Francfort 1984, 4.


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built and inhabited these sites. 13 The next stage in the investigative process must be to examine how the evidence currently at our disposal may be used to look at the people and processes behind the material Mischkultur of the Hellenistic Far East. 14 In this, both as our most abundant source of archaeological material and as a site which now possesses a substantial bibliographical and historiographic tradition of its own, Ai Khanoum is a fitting case study.

Ai Khanoum

If Bactria may be exploited as a paradigm for the evidence from the Hellenistic world and the complex methodological and historiographic issues surrounding it, Ai Khanoum (Figure 2) may serve as a paradigm, in microcosm, for the problems involved in approaching the Hellenistic Far East. 15 Some preliminary remarks on the site’s excavation and publication history are in order. Ai Khanoum remains the most extensively excavated site of the Hellenistic Far East, although it should be emphasised that its publication is neither comprehensive nor systematic. The city’s hinterland has also been subject to a series of thorough studies, devoted to exploiting the potential of archaeological survey to place the site in its geographical and chronological context. 16 Yet, despite its initial celebrity and novelty, Ai Khanoum has not attracted much in the way of further detailed study, in the Anglo-American world at any rate. It is, of course, frequently cited –as an example of the fusion of Greek and Oriental architecture, as a remote outpost of Hellenism– but there has been little intensive analysis of its archaeological remains by the wider scholarly community, nor has it been integrated into many broader studies of the Hellenistic world in a more than cursory way. A small number of individuals, from among the site’s original excavators, have produced a high percentage of the relevant pub- lications: keeping up with Paul Bernard’s prodigious rate and quantity of publication is a scholarly feat in itself. Given the dangerous potential for over-reliance on a few publications and secondary discussions, some of the problems in approaching this material should be stated at the outset.

13 For a critical discussion of the use of the concept of ‘hybridity’ in the archaeology

of the Hellenistic Far East, see Mairs 2011a.

14 Droysen’s Mischkultur and its problems are discussed by Momigliano 1970, Préaux

1978, 7ff, and Ritner 1992, inter alia.

15 Mairs 2011b provides an introductory overview, with further bibliographical refer-

ences, of the archaeology of the Hellenistic Far East as a whole.

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The site’s chronology varies from publication to publication, as does the system of numbering of different architectural phases. 17 Although perhaps inevitable in the (admirably detailed and quickly-produced) preliminary publications of the site, this can be extremely frustrating for the reader; where necessary, I have indicated such chronological and terminological variation in the original publications in my own presentation of the evi- dence. Little has been published in the way of aerial views or general survey of the site. 18 Approximately two-thirds of the city itself remains unexplored. Only two houses have been excavated, and only one tomb from the necropolis outside the city walls. This does not allow us to argue anything about ‘typicality’ from the remains at Ai Khanoum, still less to support the citation of the site as a model for Hellenistic colonial urban- ism in Bactria. 19 Just as importantly, it may impede understanding of the zoning and dynamics of the site itself: where and how people lived, traded and related to the various public buildings of the city. 20 Ai Khanoum has given us a wealth of artistic and architectural material, crucial for under- standing the relationship of this city to the Mediterranean world, and the place of the Greek kingdom of Bactria in the development of later, local artistic traditions, especially that of Gandhāra. But, as emphasised by Fussman, there is more we could ask of it, in terms of understanding the city’s social and economic history: “The Aï Khanum excavations demon- strate the truth of the old adage: you only find what you search for.” 21 My emphasis, in the following sections, will be on trying to access something of how the site worked; how people lived in it and used the space; how they may have perceived certain aspects of it; and what this tells us about their social and ethnic identity. In several places, the excava- tors of the site have already answered this need. Bernard (1981), for exam- ple, addresses the question of urbanism, and takes the reader on a tour of Ai Khanoum from the point of view of an ancient visitor to the city. 22 A subtle yet critical shift in rhetorical emphasis would be to try to look at Ai Khanoum from the point of view of a resident. This not only helps us some way towards escaping from the perspective which insists on viewing this city and its culture from the standpoint of an ancient or modern Western outsider, but may also aid in developing a little more scholarly empathy, providing a better way of understanding the city’s dynamics.

17 Fussman 1996, 247; cf. Rapin 1992a, 10 n.32.

18 See the plates in Leriche 1986.

19 E.g. Liger 1979, 101.

20 Fussman 1996, 246.

21 Fussman 1996, 247.


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Ai Khanoum lies at the junction of the Oxus and Kokcha rivers on the northern border of modern Afghanistan. The ancient name of the city and the precise circumstances of its foundation are unknown. The city com- manded a large agricultural hinterland, and its military and economic importance can be seen from its position on the routes south to the mines of Badakshan, the only major source of lapis lazuli in the ancient world, and north into Central Asia. The site itself was well-defended, with a large natural acropolis and heavy fortifications. Even so, the city was sacked in the mid second century BC, around the time that the Greek kingdom of Bactria as a whole fell to nomadic invasions from the north. Many of the city’s buildings were burnt or quarried for building material in the after- math of the conquest, and later inhabitants disrupted or moved around artefacts – an issue which will be of some importance when we come to consider the ‘Temple with Indented Niches’. More recent warfare has also had its impact on the site: the Northern Alliance built a gun battery on the acropolis, and extensive looting has taken place. 23 The odds of survival of the material excavated during the 1960s and 70s and taken to the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul are, incidentally, better than might have been expected. A large amount of material escaped the destruction of the museum in storage, 24 and during the present author’s visit in August 2005 one inscription from Ai Khanoum was even on dis- play. Many items from Ai Khanoum were included in the major exhibi- tion ‘Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul’, which toured various European and North American cities from 2006. 25 Although the site has revealed some strikingly ‘Greek’ architectural fea- tures, such as a gymnasium and theatre, the hybrid ‘Graeco-Oriental’ style of other institutions has also provoked much comment. The ‘palace’ or ‘administrative quarter’ (the terminology employed for this structure var- ies from publication to publication), for example, is laid out on a plan reminiscent of Persian palaces, but its colonnades were lined with Greek- style columns, and Greek administrative texts, and even imprints of liter- ary and philosophical works, were recovered from its treasury. But what does such apparent cultural fusion in the art and architecture of this city tell us about the identity of its inhabitants? Anyone acquainted with the Hellenistic or Roman period in the Near East is familiar with the methodological problems underlying such a

23 For the history of the site since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, see Bernard 2001.

24 Personal communication, Omara Khan Masoudi (Director of the National Museum),

August 2005.

25 French catalogue: Cambon and Jarrige 2006; English catalogue: Hiebert and Cam-

bon 2008.

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question. The issue of culture and identity in the Hellenistic world, in particular, has undergone a number of notable paradigm shifts, from an emphasis on fusion –even with implicit ideas of the bastardisation of Classical Greek culture– to more recent trends, which explore the very specific points of contact which might exist. In Hellenistic Egypt, for example, the papyrological material provides especially good evidence for intermarriage and acculturation on an individual level, where some peo- ple might exhibit situational variation in their use of Greek or Egyptian languages, legal systems, or even names. 26 What this stress on specific points of contact also serves to emphasise, however, is the extent to which the different cultures and populations of the Hellenistic world retained a degree of separateness. When approaching the archaeological material from a site such as Ai Khanoum, we should therefore be hesitant in assuming that architecture which displays Greek and non-Greek influ- ences equates to a population with an equally hybridised or ambiguous cultural identity. One theoretical framework which allows us to develop constructive lines of approach to such material is that of recent work on ethnic identity. Ethnicity is a much-contested term, and it is worth clarifying the particu- lar force with which I use it here. An ‘ethnic identity’ does not refer to the particular cultural or genetic attributes an individual or a group may pos- sess –such as language use, artistic style or descent– but rather to the way in which that group uses these basic attributes in the construction of their projected identity. The actual cultural or genetic bases of this ethnic iden- tity, crucially, may be open to challenge. 27 A number of studies have adopted this framework of ethnic identity and its operation as a useful way of viewing the evidence from the Hellenistic world, where claimed identity and actual behaviour may sometimes appear to be in conflict. 28 In dealing with material culture, as opposed to the documentary record, we have, however, one obvious problem. Ethnicity does not correlate directly with cultural behaviour, but may be explored through the ways in which people related to and used their basic cultural toolkit. An arte- fact type on its own therefore tells us little about the identity of the person who made or used it. What is helpful is to look at the wider context, and try to gain a sense of the ways in which people may vary their cultural


For numerous examples, see Lewis 1986.


The fundamental study is Barth 1969; for the archaeological implications, see Jones



E.g. Goudriaan 1988; Malkin 2001; see also the studies of Hall 1997 and 2002 on

Archaic and Classical Greece, Smith 2003 on New Kingdom Nubia, and on Mesopotamia the collection of papers in van Soldt et al. 2005.


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behaviour in different circumstances, or the arenas in which they may choose to assert their ethnic identity particularly strongly.

The ‘Temple with Indented Niches’

The particular institution from Ai Khanoum which I intend to use to explore this idea is not, perhaps, the most obvious one. As already noted, some of the city’s buildings are especially ‘Greek’ in style, while others display a complex interplay of Greek and non-Greek artistic motifs. The city’s main temple, however, the so-called ‘Temple with Indented Niches’, has little about it which strikes the modern analyst as Greek at all. 29 The Temple was situated prominently in the middle of the lower city, in a walled sanctuary which was accessed from the main street (Figure 3). The full publication of the small finds from the sanctuary, with important discussions on their function and context, is to be found in Francfort (1984). For the architecture, the original reports must still be consulted. 30 Several other important institutions surrounded the Temple. Just to the north, a set of monumental propylaia led off the main street into the city’s chief administrative quarter, with its ‘palace’ complex and two mausolea. 31 The reason I emphasise the temple’s prominent location and proximity to key civic institutions is to make it clear from the outset that the issues I will go on to discuss –concerning the temple’s non-Greek architectural character and the diversity of cult practice within it– cannot be resolved by dismissing this temple as an anomaly within Ai Khanoum. Aside from the evidence of cult at the two mausolea –one of which I will return to later in my argument– there are only two other temple sites, broadly defined, at Ai Khanoum. One, outside the city’s northern walls, follows a similar architectural plan to the Temple with Indented Niches, but, unfor- tunately, very little archaeological material has actually been recovered from it. 32 The other cult site is a raised podium on the acropolis. 33 Again, this is poorly known, and has not been thoroughly published. It appears, however, to be an altar oriented for sacrifice towards the rising sun, a

29 The ‘Temple with Indented Niches’ goes by two names in the original publications

of the site: ‘temple à niches indentées’ and ‘temple à redans’. In adopting ‘Temple with Indented Niches’ here, I follow Francfort’s 1984 usage in the series Fouilles d’Aï Khanoum.

It should be noted, however, that terminological variation persists.

30 Bernard 1969; 1970; 1972; 1974; Bernard and Francfort in Bernard 1971.

31 Guillaume 1983.

32 Bernard 1974, 287-289; Bernard 1976a, 303-306; Bernard 1976b, 272.

33 Described briefly in Bernard 1976a, 306-307; Downey 1988, 75; and Bernard 1990,

54. Boyce and Grenet 1991, 181-183, draw on unpublished material.

the ‘temple with indented niches’ at ai khanoum


practice for which there are Iranian and local Bactrian parallels. The Tem- ple with Indented Niches is therefore the only major temple known at Ai Khanoum. The city possessed nothing which we would recognise as a ‘typical’ Greek-style temple. The ‘non-Greek’ character of the temple and many of the artefacts recovered from it is striking, and raises numerous questions about the cultural identity of the people who used it. I intend to focus on two par- ticularly problematic issues. First, the nature and diversity of cult practice within the temple and its sanctuary. Is there a more productive approach which we might seek to take to this, than the conventional identification of a Greek/non-Greek dichotomy? Secondly, there is the basic architectural plan of the temple, which is commonly referred to as ‘Mesopotamian’ in inspiration, and has been compared to the later temples of Dura Europos. What does this actually signify, what might it have meant to the people who used this temple, and can we find a way of reconciling it to the temple’s local Bactrian context? Finally, I will consider the Temple with Indented Niches in its urban setting at Ai Khanoum, and ask how it related to the city’s other struc- tures, where displays of Greek identity might be more overt. Does it com- promise our picture of a strong Greek enclave at Ai Khanoum, or is there a way in which we might attempt to view the operation of the city and the cultural and religious lives of its inhabitants on a more organic level? How did the city’s population use their urban environment in the construction and assertion of their identities?

The Temple and its Cult

The temple building itself was roughly square, with sides of around 20 metres, and stood on top of a stepped, raised platform. At all periods, it appears to have comprised a vestibule or pronaos, reached by a set of stairs, and a cella, which in later periods was flanked by two smaller sac- risties. The temple’s distinctive indented niches, from which it derives its modern appellation, lay along its exterior walls. 34 The excavators identi- fied five architectural phases, dating the earliest to the late fourth or early third century BC. 35 The chronology of the structure can only be sketched

34 Bernard 1969, 327, 333; Bernard 1970, 319.

35 In the preliminary publications, there is of necessity some re-organisation of this

scheme. The position in each particular publication may be clarified by reference to Ber- nard 1970, 319 n.1, and Bernard 1971, 414, in which the phasing reaches its final form, maintained in subsequent publications such as Downey 1988.


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somewhat broadly; it has been established mostly on the basis of ceramics, and on coins (only three of which were significant by their context). 36 No inscriptions were discovered at the temple, so the precise identity of the deities worshipped there must remain a matter of conjecture. Only fragments remain of the main cult statue, which was in Greek style and stood in the central portion of the cella. 37 The fragments preserved are from the hands and feet, suggesting that it was modelled in clay on a wooden framework, with only the visible extremities in stone. The sandal of the statue’s left foot bears a thunderbolt motif, which has formed the basis for its identification as a Zeus. 38 Some syncretism with an Iranian deity has been posited, with the most popular candidates being Ahura Mazda, like the Zeus-Oromazdes of Nemrud-Dag, or Mithra. 39 It should be noted, however, that this identification is hypothetical, and the sug- gested syncretism rests, for the most part, on the simple fact that this Greek-style statue stood in a temple which does not conform to a Greek architectural model. The function or identity of the divinities worshipped in the two lateral sacristies to the central image-shrine is uncertain. As with many areas of the temple complex, the material in the sacristies had been much dis- rupted by later occupants, although some of it (fragments of ivory and carbonised wooden furniture) may belong to the period of the temple’s active life. 40 In the southern sacristy was found one of the most remark- able items from the temple, a gilt silver medallion with the image of Kybele. 41 Although the tripartite layout of the cella is highly suggestive of some divine triad, for which various identifications have been proposed, the material from the sacristies is really insufficient to enable us to iden- tify the deities to which they were dedicated, and the relationship of these to the main cult. 42 At the rear of the temple, thirty-two vases, all of local non-Greek ceramic types, were set into the base or first step of the temple platform.

36 Bernard 1971, 429-430.

37 Bernard 1969, 329; Bernard 1970, 319; Downey 1988, 72.

38 Bernard 1969, 338, 340-341; Holt 1999. For a ring with a similar thunderbolt motif

supposedly discovered at Ai Khanoum, see Flandrin and Bopearachchi 2005, 111-112.

39 Ahura Mazda: Bernard 1970, 327; 1974, 298; Nemrud Dag: Sanders 1996; Mithra:

Boyce and Grenet 1991, 169; cf. Bernard 1990, 53.

40 Bernard 1970, 319-322.

41 Bernard 1970, 339-341; full discussion in Francfort 1984, 93-104. This medallion,

among other items from Ai Khanoum, survived the war in the National Museum of

Afghanistan in Kabul, and was displayed as part of the ‘Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures’ exhibition (see n.25, above).

42 Francfort 1984, 124-125.

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The vases were upturned, and designed to receive libations poured directly onto the earth: residues of liquid remained inside them. In later phases, extensive renovations were made in the temple platform; the practice of chthonic libations, however, continued. 43 Chthonic libations of this sort fit into a long-standing Central Asian tradition, from the late Bronze Age onwards. 44 Although this practice was evidently accepted at the Temple with Indented Niches –it persisted over a long period of time, and involved physical engagement with the structure of the temple’s platform– we may perhaps see it as an example of the ways in which official cult and reli- gious architecture could be adapted to the needs and practices of the peo- ple who used it. In terms of the relationship between this local practice and the main cult in the temple building, we should note that the libations were made at the back of the temple, outside the line of approach to the main cult which took place inside, but still providing a close point of physical proximity to the sacred site, perhaps without having to negotiate the schemata of behaviour and cult practice associated with entering the temple itself. There were two subsidiary chapels within the sanctuary. Both are on a plan which we might view as more recognisably Greek, with columned vestibules. The basic plan is, however, so simple that we cannot use it to draw any major comparisons. No cult images or evidence of cult activity were recovered from the chapels. 45 Outside these main foci of activity –the temple building, the libation jars at the rear of the platform and the two smaller subsidiary chapels– the wider sanctuary reveals evidence of further forms of cult practice. Brick altars stood on the upper exterior steps of the temple platform, and small limestone pedestals were found throughout the site, whether inside the temple itself, or in the sanctuary courtyard and the rooms surrounding it. 46 The most commonly accepted suggestion is that they supported metal burners designed to receive offerings. 47 A number of different artistic styles occur in the equipment from the temple, ranging from ivory furniture in a Greek or Hellenistic style, to objects in which Persian or Central Asian motifs are present. Although it

43 Bernard 1970, 329-330; Bernard 1971, 427-429.

44 Boyce and Grenet 1991, 169-171, although it is perhaps also worth noting the exist-

ence of chthonic cults and earth-libations in the Greek world, esp. the Nekyomanteion of

Ephyra: Hammond 1967, 65ff; cf. Odyssey 10.508ff.

45 Bernard 1972, 625; Bernard 1974, 295; Bernard 1976b, 273.

46 Bernard 1971, 430-431; Bernard 1972, 625; Bernard 1970, 332-334, 337-339; Ber-

nard 1974, 298; Downey 1988, 73; Boyce and Grenet 1991, 167.

47 Francfort 1984, 81-84; Downey 1988, 73; Boyce and Grenet 1991, 167-168.


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is worth noting that all of the necessary raw materials would have been available to local craftsman, two examples of plaster mouldings demon- strate one mechanism by which motifs might be propagated over a long distance in the Hellenistic world: a rare point of access to the ways in which ideas and artistic forms might physically be transmitted. 48 Potentially more eloquent are the ivory figurines and terracottas. Only a relatively small number of terracottas were recovered from the sanctu- ary; these include male and female human figures, and roughly-modelled animals. They form part of a more varied corpus of similar objects found throughout the city and the region. Ivory ‘fertility goddess’ figures also occur. 49 These too are representative of a much more widespread network of practices. In terms of their context at the Temple with Indented Niches, they do not enable us to say anything about the formal cult practised in the main temple building, but may be used to add to our picture of the spectrum of less formal religious practices for which this cult site could become a focus. 50 Having surveyed the evidence for religious practice in different areas of the Temple with Indented Niches and its sanctuary, we may now return to the question of how this complex functioned as a whole. Although I do not propose any regulated internal coherence among the religious prac- tices attested, we cannot afford to segregate our analysis of them – the site was clearly used for a variety of practices: formal and informal, ceremo- nial and more everyday. Whether or not an individual engaged in more than one form of religious activity in the course of a visit to the temple –or whether they might perform more than one form of religious activity, but for different purposes on different occasions– they cannot have been unaware of the other uses to which the temple complex was put. Although access to the main temple building, and further to its cella and sacristies, may well have been restricted, the sanctuary courtyard was an open space, with the potential for religious activity to be performed openly. A certain amount of tunnel vision may have been in order, with the possibility of ignoring activities in which one was not actively engaged, but it would have required an unreasonable degree of denial and deliberate obtuseness for an individual to mentally appropriate the temple as purely a ‘temple of Zeus’, or anything else. Whether we suppose that anyone in fact did so

48 Francfort 1984, 31-37.

49 Francfort 1984, 14-17.

50 Figurines: Francfort 1984, 39-41; Rapin 1990, 340. Terracottas: Boyce and Grenet

1991, 184ff. See Smith 2003, 131-135, on the occurrence of ‘fertility’, and other, figurines in domestic contexts in New Kingdom Nubia, and the possible implications in terms of gen- der and ethnicity.

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is intimately linked to our perception of how individuals in the city nego-

tiated their own ethnic identity. If, as I will go on to argue, it was possible for individuals to adopt a wide range of ethnic indicia –and the arenas in which identity was publicly expressed thereby became charged with polit- ical and social significance– then we may imagine that the performance

of religious activity in the temple sanctuary was a selective business, not

wholly promiscuous, but subject to manipulation and variation depend- ing upon the individual or the occasion. What is considered socially-appropriate religious practice may vary quite dramatically depending upon specific circumstances, or the nature

and the degree of the problem for which help is sought. Could a citizen

of Ai Khanoum, for example, who might set up an inscription to the

Greek gods Hermes and Herakles in the gymnasium, 51 in a time of per- sonal distress turn to dedicating a fertility figure to a local Bactrian deity?

A broad range of personal behaviour may underlie the subtle cultural

‘contradictions’ we see in the activities practised at the Temple with Indented Niches. Boyce and Grenet’s recognition of the heterogeneity of the population of worshippers attracted by the temple 52 can therefore be slightly modified: there may have been considerable crossover between these groups. The Temple with Indented Niches was clearly a site to which people could make recourse to fulfil a range of religious needs or duties – from personal appeals to the divine, to dedications with a more public or civic flavour. Although not a focus for specifically ‘Greek’ sets of public behav- iour, in the manner of some of the city’s other institutions, it was never- theless a prominent arena for the performance of ritual activity and, as the major temple of the city, we would expect it to have had a wide con- stituency.

Mesopotamian analogies

The similarity of the Temple with Indented Niches to traditional Meso- potamian temple forms was noted in the earliest publications of the site. 53 The niched decoration on the exterior walls of the temple is a common feature of Mesopotamian religious architecture of all periods, 54 as is the

51 For this inscription, see Robert 1968, with further commentary in Veuve 1987.

52 “Obviously the temple was a meeting-place for local worshippers, Greek colonists,

and officials from the neighbouring palace,” Boyce and Grenet 1991, 169.

53 Bernard 1969, 336-337.

54 See e.g. the temples at Assur and Uruk: Downey 1988, Figs. 5 and 66.


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stepped platform on which the temple sat (Figure 4). In addition, the basic schema of a cella with lateral sacristies, preceded by a pronaos, closely approximates that of the Parthian period temples at Dura Europos. 55 In Bactria, comparisons have also been drawn with Dil’berdzhin and Takht- i Sangin; 56 similar motifs and layout recur at the second temple of Ai Khanoum, outside the city walls. This apparent export of a Mesopotamian temple type to Hellenistic Bactria is striking, and has provoked consider- able debate. The question of the mechanism by which this form was trans- mitted, and of what ethnic and cultural implications it holds, however, requires some further consideration. My argument, to be outlined in greater depth below, is that the origin of the ‘Mesopotamian’ form of the Temple with Indented Niches is to be sought in Achaemenid Bactria, and that, whilst the choice of this form cannot be used to make assumptions about the ethnic identity of the population of Ai Khanoum, it can be used, in comparison with other institutions within the city, to make some pre- liminary arguments about the particular locations which served as a focus for the expression of (Greek) ethnic identity. ‘Maximalist’ interpretations of the evidence would hold that the Temple with Indented Niches is the product of a deliberate policy of architectural and, implicitly, cultural fusion, orchestrated by a central power. 57 Downey states that “this combination of forms in the architecture of a distant col- ony argues for a considered attempt to create new styles of architecture based on an amalgamation of varied traditions.” 58 The fact that the Temple with Indented Niches existed in much the same form from very early in

55 Dura Europos recurs as a frequent point of comparison: Bernard 1969, 334; Downey

1988, 85; Bernard 1990, 51; Rapin 1992b, 114-115. The problems of this otherwise neat

analogy are that: 1) although there are clear basic similarities in form, there are also numer- ous differences; and 2) there is too wide a chronological and geographical gap between Dura and Ai Khanoum to posit any direct relationship between the two; Downey 1988, 85; Bernard 1990, 52. As I will argue below, reference to the common Achaemenid/Near East- ern background explains many of these similarities, making the temples of the two cities distant cousins rather than part of the same direct line. Analogies are also occasionally drawn with the Parthian period at Bard-e Nechandeh and Masjid-i Solaiman, but these are highly problematic: see e.g. Bernard 1990 in contrast to Bernard 1976b; Hannestad and Potts 1990, 115; Boyce and Grenet 1991, 44-48; Rapin 1992b, 106-107.

56 Rapin 1992b, 112-113. There are several good surveys of the Hellenistic Bactrian

temples known from archaeological excavation, notably: Bernard 1990; Boyce and Grenet

1991, 165–179; Hannestad and Potts 1990; and, in conjunction with the Seleukid evidence, Downey 1988. Litvinskii and Pichikyan 2000, 283-293, explicitly consider the Temple of the Oxus at Takht-i Sangin alongside Ai Khanoum and Dil’berdzhin.

57 The suggestion (Bernard 1976b, 270) that the Mesopotamian form of the temple may

be due to a sizeable Mesopotamian contingent in the settler population of Ai Khanoum

must, in the absence of any corroborating evidence, be held to be something of an inter- pretative deus ex machina.

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the life of the city might indeed appear to suggest this kind of deliberate implantation, rather than a process of architectural and religious hybrid- isation of longer gestation. In the absence of any earlier regional architec- tural context, the form of the Temple with Indented Niches –highly rem- iniscent of Mesopotamian types, but with elements such as Greek columns and statuary, and subsidiary chapels on a more recognisably Greek plan– is striking, and the argument that its form and style represent an artificial construct is an attractive one. The heterogeneous nature of cult practice within the temple and its sanctuary might also suggest that a deliberately non-Greek or hybrid architectural form would be appropriate, 59 although, as I have argued above, this multiple dedication or use of a sanctuary should in fact present no such conflict. We should, however, be resistant to making the Temple with Indented Niches and its origins any more synthetic or artificial than they need be. Just because the interplay of artistic motifs and architectural forms is com- plicated, this does not mean that this complexity must be ‘deliberate’. 60 Given the early date of the temple’s foundation we have essentially two choices in how we assess its architectural form and diversity of cult prac- tices: either it represents a deliberate policy of fusion (which would still have to be imposed in practice), or it is something, already at this early stage, that its constituency would have found appropriate or at least accept- able. This does not have to imply any great open-mindedness towards cul- tural or ethnic fusion on the parts of either first-generation Greek settlers or native Bactrians, simply that the bounds of the alien, and perhaps with this the spectrum of ethnic indicia, had already been subtly reset:

il y a d’abord ces modèles orientaux que les constructeurs gréco-bactriens n’ont pas pu ou n’ont pas voulu ignorer et qui ont nourri et stimulé leur inspiration: modèles qu’à la faveur de l’unité politique réalisée par la royauté séleucide ils ont pu connaître dans tout l’Orient non-méditerranéen, du Proche-Orient iranisé, héritier des traditions mésopotamiennes, jusqu’à l’Asie Centrale dont nous entrevoyons qu’elle dut exercer sur eux une pro- fonde influence. 61

The starting point of our discussion of the temple ought to be the more ‘minimalist’ approach of noting simply that similarities in form exist. I am inclined, in general, to treat the drawing of architectural comparisons with some scepticism. The Temple with Indented Niches is, perhaps, a special case, with its particular layout, and such distinctive features as the

59 Bernard 1969, 336-337.

60 Pace Downey 1988, 64.

61 Bernard 1976b, 274.


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stepped platform and brick niches. Even for a Hellenistic city, this is no ordinary temple, and its lack of any counterpart in more Classical Greek style means that we must find a way of analysing its form which takes into account the important role it must have played in the life of the city of Ai Khanoum, with its Greek public inscriptions and institutions such as the theatre and gymnasium. My question is two-fold: how did Ai Khanoum come to have a ‘Mesopotamian’ temple; and what cultural messages did this building send out to the people who used it? The most plausible explanation of the Temple with Indented Niches’ form is, as with so many other aspects of the Hellenistic world, to see it in an Achaemenid context. 62 This recognition of the Achaemenid blue- print underlying many of the forms and structures of the Hellenistic world –bureaucracy, administration, aspects of society and culture– has been particularly in evidence in the work of Pierre Briant, 63 and provides the basis for an approach which has the potential to give us a valuable longer chronological perspective, as well as highlighting the strength and importance of the various non-Greek cultures of the Hellenistic world. Our response to something such as the Temple with Indented Niches, in other words, ought to be less Classical and more Hellenistic, and implicit in Hellenistic is Achaemenid. Although Ai Khanoum, in its excavated form, is very much a Greek colonial foundation, the history of occupation of the site and its hinter- land is much longer. 64 Archaeological evidence from Achaemenid Bac- tria in general is, unfortunately, extremely scanty, although the 2005 excavations at Balkh (ancient Bactra) have yielded some material from Achaemenid-period strata. 65 The newly-discovered Aramaic documents from Bactria provide an extremely valuable source of information on the administration of the region under the Persians, and may also add some- thing to our picture of religious life in Bactria at that period: the pres- ence of theophoric names, and references to specific cults, suggest the

62 Bernard 1990, 52, rightly notes that the most likely solution to the ‘problem’ of the

Temple with Indented Niches is to posit local antecedents in Achaemenid Bactria, which have yet to be recovered archaeologically. My inclination here is to push this Achaemenid angle still further.

63 For an ego-histoire, see Briant 1996, 9-11.

64 Synopsis of finds from periods from the Chalcolithic to the Islamic: Gardin 1998,

105-124. The strong evidence for Achaemenid period settlement at Ai Khanoum itself (although no architecture remains) is noted by Leriche 1986, 71-72. On pre-Hellenistic

fortified sites in eastern Bactria, see Gardin 1995.

65 Personal communication, Roland Besenval, August 2005. See also now the publica-

tions of the recent DAFA work at Bactra in Bernard, Besenval and Marquis 2006 and Besenval and Marquis 2007. Updates on the Balkh excavations available on the DAFA

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co-existence of local forms of religious practice with cults introduced by the Achaemenid imperial power. 66 The extent and nature of Achaemenid control over the affairs of the provinces –the areas in which there was intervention by the central authority and those in which there was little or none– has been a focus of some debate. 67 In religious affairs, Briant argues that while there was some central imperial control or regimentation of religious practice among eth- nic Persians (the ethno-classe dominante), including the Persian diaspora in the provinces, non-Persians were often left more or less to their own devices. 68 It might, in fact, prove prudent to support the local cults of conquered lands. 69 If it is possible to speak of Achaemenid religious leg- islation, then it is only in the case of specifically Persian cults, an impor- tant focus for common identity among the ruling class. 70 In the case of Bactria, there is evidence for continuity in local reli- gious practices, as well as an element of the introduction of official Achaemenid cults, probably intended for Persians. If we posit the intro- duction of Near Eastern styles of temple architecture along with these cults, then this gives us the necessary local context to explain the other- wise unusual form of the Temple with Indented Niches at Ai Khanoum:

it would be built within the tradition of Bactrian official religious archi- tecture, and would be a form with some association with the Achaeme- nid imperial élite. In fact, the Temple with Indented Niches, as the major temple of Ai Khanoum, is precisely where we might expect to see such influences manifesting themselves, as well as in the ‘Persian palace’-style architecture of the city’s administrative quarter. The continuity of the use of earlier forms of religious architecture under Alexander the Great and the Seleukids, the heirs of the Achaemenids, and the considerable flex- ibility of religious practice which might take place within such temple complexes, may be seen at any number of Near Eastern sites. 71 The evi- dence for earlier Achaemenid connections at the Temple with Indented Niches is limited, but significant. In the style of some of the artefacts from the temple, we may observe Persian traits, or evidence of a local tradition of craftsmanship which perpetuated motifs from the Persian

66 Preliminary report in Shaked 2004; full edition Naveh and Shaked (forthcoming). I

am grateful to Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams (SOAS) for allowing me to read a manu- script of the forthcoming full publication of these texts.

67 In general, Briant 1987; Egypt: Ray 1987; Bactria: Briant 1985.

68 Briant 1986.

69 On the notorious (but ambiguous) case of the Egyptian cult of the Apis bull, see

Herodotos 3.27-30; Posener 1936, 171-175, Plate 2.

70 Briant 1986, 438.

71 For case studies and discussion, see Downey 1988.


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empire; 72 an ostrakon in Aramaic script, for example, was recovered from the temple sanctuary. 73 Even if the architectural style and administrative organisation of the temple appears different from that of the rest of the city, I would suggest that the architectural form of the temple, along with the non-Greek reli- gious practices which took place within its sanctuary, could have been easily ethnically ‘neutralised’. The nature of religious practice and the way in which this may have been described (e.g. ‘offerings to Zeus’) could have been sufficient to satisfy a worshipper that they were not engaging in any practice which was particularly non-Greek. Or, to look at things in a less sectarian and more flexible manner, people may have exercised different aspects of their identity, ignoring anything which they did not wish to actively use in the assertion of their identity outside the limits of the sanctuary. The essential question, to my mind, is whether an architectural element such as indented-niche decoration would have immediately struck a con- temporary local observer as Mesopotamian, and further, as something jarring and foreign. My suspicion is that it would not. We cannot suppose any great familiarity with Mesopotamian architecture on the part of the bulk of the population of Ai Khanoum, even though the earliest settlers, soldiers from Alexander’s army, will have been extremely well-travelled by the time they reached Bactria. If, as I have argued, the Mesopotamian elements of the Temple with Indented Niches derive from local Achaeme- nid official architecture, then such elements will rather have been per- ceived by the local Bactrian or Bactrian-born population as part of the stylistic repertoire of familiar, local forms. 74 The source of their ultimate derivation will most probably have meant little to those who used the

72 Francfort 1984, 17-18, 122. On local pre-Hellenistic traditions of craftsmanship,

from the materials at Ai Khanoum, see Guillaume 1985.

73 Text: Rapin 1992a, 105ff. Because of the lack of grammatical indicators, it is not

possible to determine the language of this ostrakon with any certainty: it may be an early attempt to write a local Iranian language in the Aramaic script.

74 Although there is, at present, even less archaeological material from Achaemenid

Bactria than from Hellenistic Bactria, it is clear that the Hellenistic settlement of the region was built –in both socio-economic and architectural terms– on the foundations of the Achaemenid. The Aramaic administrative documents (Shaked 2004) move seamlessly from

dating by Darius to dating by Alexander. Irrigation works in the plain around Ai Khanoum date as far back as the Bronze Age (see the discussion of the survey evidence, above). And there is compelling evidence for an Achaemenid period occupation of the site of Ai Kha- noum itself, although any architectural remains of this occupation appear to have been more-or-less obliterated with the construction of the Hellenistic city: see especially the discussion in Lerner 2003-2004 of the chronology of the site of Ai Khanoum. See also Shenkar’s (2007) extremely useful survey of temple architecture in the Iranian world before the Macedonian conquest.

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temple, just as it is perfectly possible for a worshipper in a modern Chris- tian church to ignore or be altogether ignorant of the development of church architecture in antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is, of course, quite probable that to groups such as the first Greek settlers at Ai Kha- noum, this form of temple architecture will have been perceived as some- thing foreign and unfamiliar. The essential point remains, however, that, while ‘Mesopotamian’ is one of the first adjectives a modern scholar may apply to the Temple with Indented Niches, a Hellenistic-period worship- per at this temple may well have ranged through a lengthy descriptive vocabulary of religious, cultural and more mundane, everyday attributes before the term ‘Mesopotamian’ would even have occurred to them. From an art-historical perspective, the Mesopotamian form of the Temple with Indented Niches is subject to one form of analysis. We should be cautious, however, in the ethnic characteristics we seek to impute in the course of this investigation. The ethnic implications of the form of the Temple with Indented Niches are, in fact, largely negative ones, and become clear only when we consider it in its wider urban context.

The Temple in its urban context

Throughout my discussion of the layout and functioning of the Temple with Indented Niches, I have suggested that the most productive approach to understanding this structure is to consider it in its wider urban context within Ai Khanoum. Thus far the temple has been discussed more or less in isolation, but there are a number of other institutions which should, at this point, be introduced. As already noted, the city possessed a theatre and a gymnasium, characteristically Greek institutions. The theatre, which was unfortunately not extensively excavated or published, was set into the slope of the acropolis. This is the only Greek theatre known east of Baby- lon, and its capacity seems excessive, given the information available on the population size of Ai Khanoum. The excavators suggest that the thea- tre was built on such a scale because it was intended to serve not just the inhabitants of Ai Khanoum, but also Greek settlers from the city’s hinter- land. 75 In connection with the theatre, we should also note a fountain spout in the form of a comic mask, 76 and a dramatic work on parchment which was recovered from the treasury. 77 The city’s gymnasium was also

75 Bernard 1981, 113.

76 Leriche 1987.

77 On the literary texts from the treasury, see Rapin 1992a, 115-130.


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built on a monumental scale. 78 From its inner courtyard was recovered one of the relatively few Greek inscriptions from Ai Khanoum, a dedica- tion to Hermes and Herakles by two brothers, Triballos and Straton, sons of Straton. 79 The presence of these traditional gods of the gymnasium further reinforces the ‘Greek’ cultural aura of the structure. A remarkable sun-dial reveals the range of pursuits for which the gymnasium was a centre. 80 In conjunction, the theatre and the gymnasium provide impor- tant testimony to the presence of Greek culture and intellectual activities at Ai Khanoum. A number of previous studies have identified institutions such as the theatre and gymnasium as important venues for expressions of communal Greek cultural identity within Ai Khanoum, with a more complex picture prevailing elsewhere. 81 To cite the central question, as posed by Han- nestad and Potts, “Does the existence of a gymnasium and a theatre in the same period as the two temples of non-Greek plan suggest that the Greek identity of the inhabitants was rather more dependent on the customs connected with these two types of buildings than with religious buildings?” 82 This is precisely what we might expect to be the case, both from analysis of the remains at Ai Khanoum themselves, and by com- parison with other regions of the Hellenistic world. As Bernard notes, in his study of Graeco-Bactrian architecture:

Si l’on excepte, répétons-le, quelques types de bâtiments propres au monde grec, comme le gymnase et le théâtre ou les cours à portiques et certaines techniques de construction, les édifices que nous venons de passer en revue manifestent une conception essentiellement non-grecque dans la forme des espaces habitables, de leur agencement, de leur rythme, de leur coordination. Seul l’habillage extérieur du décor donne le change et cherche à recréer l’illusion d’une ambiance grecque. 83

This idea of a Greek ‘rhythm’ –or lack thereof– in the domestic and public spaces of Ai Khanoum is an evocative one. ‘Greekness’ was actively asserted in certain specific circumstances, and this has left its imprint on elements of the urban structure. Individuals who had the potential to display various aspects of their identity elsewhere, within the confines of the gymnasium might actively seek to assert their identity as a Greek élite.

78 Preliminary reports: Bernard 1967, 317-319; 1968, 276-279; 1976a, 293-302; Veuve

and Liger in Bernard et al. 1973, 40-45; full publication: Veuve 1987.

79 Editio princeps: Robert 1968, 417-241, now IK Estremo Oriente 381; further com-

mentary in Veuve 1987.

80 Veuve 1982.

81 Bernard 1976b, 274; Rapin 1992a, 115.

82 Hannestad and Potts 1990, 98.

83 Bernard 1976b, 274.

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Intermarriage and interaction with their Bactrian neighbours will have

given the Greek settlers the potential to draw on a range of forms of cul- tural behaviour. The settlement of Bactria under Alexander the Great was

a military one, and for the most part involuntary. As with many other

areas of the Hellenistic world, we cannot assume a significant Greek female element to the early settlement, and so intermarriage must have become commonplace. In addition, many of Alexander’s foundations in Bactria and neighbouring Arachosia were specifically created as mixed

settlements of demobilised Greek and Macedonian soldiers with local populations. At Ai Khanoum itself, the Greek administrative documents

from the treasury record a number of individuals with local Iranian names –and in particular, theophoric names derived from the deified River Oxus, such as also occur in the Achaemenid Aramaic documents– as participants in transactions. 84 The most important piece of evidence for what Greek identity actually meant to the inhabitants of Ai Khanoum, however, comes from another complex in the centre of the lower city, the temenos of Kineas. 85 This was the location of the only other Greek inscription found inside the city itself, and was a relatively modest shrine within an enclosure, situated behind the Temple with Indented Niches, alongside the road which led to the main administrative quarter. The inscription is in two parts. 86 On one side, a man named Klearchos states that he copied down the famous sayings of wise men from Delphi, and set them up here in the temenos of Kineas – it

is unfortunate that he does not also give us the ancient name of the city.

On the other side, we have a few lines from these sayings, probably the end of a longer inscription. The shrine stood over a tomb, and one of the bur- ials had a conduit to receive libations poured directly into it from the room above. This provision of cult offerings at a tomb inside the city is highly suggestive of a cult of the city’s founder. The Delphic inscription supports this, given the connection between Delphi and Greek colonisation. 87

84 The difficult question of the degree of intermarriage in the Greek settlements of the

Hellenistic Far East is here, of necessity, only briefly explored; for a more detailed discus- sion, see Mairs 2006b, Ch.2.

85 Bernard et al. 1973; Grenet 1984, H8, provides a brief but convenient summary.

86 Editio princeps and commentary: Robert 1968, n.421-431; now IK Estremo Oriente


87 A discussion of the inscription of Kineas, the Delphic connection to Greek colonisa-

tion and Ai Khanoum is under preparation in Mairs forthcoming. The general substance of my argument there is that the Delphic maxims are an attempt to forge a connection between Ai Khanoum and the ‘centre’ of the Greek world, whose oracle gave divine man- date for Archaic and Classical Greek colonies. But this connection is never stated to be direct –Ai Khanoum was not founded in the same way as a Classical Greek colony in the Mediterranean– and the date of the inscription, in the second or third generation of the


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Klearchos has been identified –although not, to my mind, decisively– as the philosopher Klearchos of Soloi, known to have travelled in the East, and the wording of his section of the inscription is perhaps significant. The fact that he copied the Delphic maxims conscientiously –epiphradeos– is emphasised; it was evidently something of a coup for the citizens of Ai Khanoum to have this accurate copy of the maxims, a direct link between this remote Greek foundation and the symbolic centre of the Greek world. Like the Temple with Indented Niches, the temenos of Kineas is situated right in the centre of the city, but it is a focus for very different sets of behaviour and expressions of identity. 88 As I have already discussed, how- ever, we cannot assume that these two institutions served radically differ- ent constituencies. Even though the Temple with Indented Niches is strik- ingly non-Greek in architectural form, and in the nature of some of the cult practices which took place within its precincts, it was still the city’s only major temple. We must conclude that the same individuals who may have asserted their Greekness at the temenos of Kineas, or the gymnasium and theatre, also frequented this apparently ‘non-Greek’ temple. We cannot assume that they simply changed their identity at the gates of the sanctu- ary, although they may have chosen to play upon different aspects of it. This same pattern occurs at other cities in the Hellenistic world. At Seleukeia on the Tigris, there is no temple of Greek form, but there is a heroon on Greek plan with Greek epigraphic evidence of Seleukid ruler cult. 89 Hellenistic Babylon has yet to reveal a ‘Greek’ temple, suggesting that the temple of Bēl, with its Babylonian temple authorities and absence of any ‘Greek’ ritual, may also have served a Greek constituency. 90 For the purposes of the maintenance of a Greek identity, it mattered that this was asserted in certain key civic contexts, such as the gymnasium and in founder or ruler cult. Elsewhere, boundaries were less distinct. It may simply be that personal religious practice was not something which was thought to bear incontrovertibly ethnic connotations, nor any danger of an individual compromising their status and identity through particular practices. This does not, of course, imply that Ai Khanoum was some great mul- ticultural utopia. Rather, what I would argue that the evidence does reveal is a city where public assertions of civic identity took place within a very

Hellenistic city of Ai Khanoum, suggests a desire on the part of the city’s population to

re-state their ethnic and cultural belonging to the wider Greek world at a time when their ‘Greek’ identity may have been felt to be under threat.

88 Mairs 2007.

89 Downey 1988, 53-55, 62.

90 Van der Spek 2005, 398-399.

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Greek framework, but individuals might exhibit variation in their behav- iour in other spheres. Because Greek identity was asserted so strongly in areas such as the gymnasium or at the temenos of Kineas, any ethnic resonance in activities such as dedications at the temple might easily be neutralised. It is possible, of course, to read a measure of cultural insecu- rity into this, but it is important to recognise that our sensitivity to things such as artistic style or religious practice may introduce a conflict between culture, political status and ethnic identity where the agents themselves may not have perceived any.

Access and its restriction at Ai Khanoum

The Temple with Indented Niches is a striking example of an apparent archaeological anomaly which, upon further examination, can be shown to make perfect sense in its contemporary local context. The character of many of the artefacts and practices attested within the temple sanctuary does not have to present any contradiction to the different practices engaged in elsewhere in the city. Rather, ethnic, cultural and civic identity was negotiated through the urban landscape itself. Fuller excavation of residential quarters and the necropolis at Ai Khanoum might have ena- bled us to form a more holistic assessment of these processes at the site; with the material available, it is nevertheless possible to relate many of the city’s structures to each other in a meaningful way. Issues of access and visibility are key in examining the dynamics of an urban site. The potential ethnic implications of this are evident (e.g. was there Greek versus Bactrian residential segregation? who had access to the city’s public buildings?), and have previously been the focus of some dis- cussion with regard to Ai Khanoum. 91 An important step towards reach- ing a synthesis of this material is taken by Jean-Claude Liger’s, unfortu- nately unpublished, Maîtrise thesis, La physionomie urbaine d’une cité hellénistique en Asie Centrale (1979), which emphasises the contrast between public and private space, and traces routes of access to and within particular buildings and complexes. 92 This restriction –or at least channelling– of movement within the city may be linked to the roles played by different ethnic groups, and the socio-political connotations of

91 Notably Guillaume 1983 on the propylaia and Rapin 1992a on the treasury and

palace/administrative quarter.

92 I was able to consult this work in the library of DAFA in Kabul, for which I am

grateful to the Director of DAFA, Roland Besenval, and the library staff.


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the articulation of ethnic identity. Although it would be over-literal to suggest that this phenomenon represents the physical manifestation of ethnic boundary maintenance, it is nevertheless highly suggestive of the means by which people controlled their public activity, and the separation of the different public arenas in which they might make conscious or unconscious statements about their status and identity. The internal street plan of Ai Khanoum is known in broad lines. The major buildings, and apparently also the main zone of habitation, lay in the Lower City, the wide plain between the rivers Oxus (Amu Darya) and Kokcha. The Upper City (‘acropolis’) was more sparsely occupied, with smaller houses, the stepped solar altar, and, at the far south-eastern cor- ner, the fortified citadel. The main street entered the Lower City by the northern gate, and along this street are ranged the theatre, Temple with Indented Niches, and the lesser-known buildings to the south (including the Arsenal). The Extramural Temple sits just to one side of the continu- ation of this road beyond the northern city walls. A second grouping of public buildings was accessed via the monumental propylaia leading off the main street. 93 These include the ‘administrative quarter’, the temenos of Kineas, a second mausoleum and the gymnasium, with the wide area to the south of the latter with its piscine. 94 This zone beyond the propylaia is therefore occupied by institutions with key civic functions or associa- tions. Secondary access routes are less clear. It seems that a road linked the southern residential quarter (dominated by large houses) with the area of the gymnasium, providing a direct connection, a ‘back door’, which by-passed the propylaia. 95 Liger posits the existence of a second ‘official’ entrance to the city’s central quarter to the south of the Temple with Indented Niches, similarly marked by propylaia. 96 Within the ‘administrative quarter’, we may note further restrictions in access. 97 Two residential units lay back from the main courtyard, and the excavations of the treasury revealed details of its order and method of construction which are of potential significance. Probably originally located to the east of the main court, the treasury was moved to a suite of buildings on its western side. To the south, leading into the interior of the administrative complex, the treasury was relatively open. An additional entrance on the east side, leading from the corridor surrounding the main

93 Guillaume’s 1983, 1, publication of the propylaia considers the significance of their

“implantation…dans le tissu urbain.”

94 Rapin 1992a, 9.

95 Liger 1979, 40; Rapin 1992a, 9.

96 Liger 1979, 38.

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court, could be closed off. Finally, a bricked-up opening in the western wall, which communicated directly with the road outside the complex, is apparently that by which building materials were brought in during the treasury’s construction. The implications of this are, to Rapin, that there were two tiers of access to the treasury, comprising those (Greeks) with privileged access to the inner administration of the city, and (non-Greek) subaltern employees or artisans, who entered from the main court. My own impression would be that, whilst these issues of access are potentially of great significance, we should be extremely careful in the ethnic char- acter which we impute to them.

Similarly, we might suggest that the possibility of a direct route from the southern residential quarter (which was occupied by large, apparently élite residences) to the area around the gymnasium, by-passing the pro- pylaia, privileged access to this zone for those of high socio-economic status. On the other hand, the exact role played by the propylaia in restricting access should be examined further. The gateway construction itself would not fulfil the purpose of selecting those individuals with the ethnic or civic ‘right’ to enter the administrative quarter. If, for example,

it were to be argued that Greeks might enter this zone, whereas non-

Greeks might not, we would have to posit additional methods of control, whether by monitoring of the gateway, or by self-regulation (people ‘knowing their place’ with regard to whether it was appropriate for them to enter this district or not). The role of the propylaia was probably some- what different to this. To begin with, the nature of the complexes in the area beyond the propylaia is such that some degree of self-regulation may well have been in operation: only those with business in this area would have had occasion to enter. Even if we decide that this distinction was made for the most part along ethnic lines (with the Iranian-named

employees of the treasury, if they entered it, as an exception to this, or on

a different level from Greeks), there are other groups, such as women,

who would similarly have had no business in the gymnasium or treasury. This automatically leads us to see a more complicated set of divisions in the population at Ai Khanoum, in which issues of social status and gender role are also important. The question, of course, is to what extent socio- economic status corresponded to an ethnic hierarchy. As I have argued throughout the present study, however, it was certainly possible for some groups or individuals to vary their assertions of ethnic identity in par- ticular locations and circumstances. In light of this, my inclination would be to see the propylaia not as a physical restriction-point –marked with a metaphorical ‘No Bactrians’ sign– but rather as a tangible statement of the zoning of the urban landscape of which an inhabitant would already have


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been socially aware. The propylaia are marking a threshold, a transition from one sphere of public life and expression to another of markedly dif- ferent character. There are areas of the city in which access is not apparently restricted in this way. The theatre is a potentially interesting case study, situated on the main street, but the practicality of its location built into the side of the acropolis might advise against imputing any great social or political sig- nificance to this. The Temple with Indented Niches, on the other hand, whilst clearly delineated as a separate, sacred space by its sanctuary wall, is accessed directly from the main street, not set back in the zone behind the propylaia. The character, too, of the buildings in the Upper City –the location, it should be noted, of the local Bactrian-style sun altar– is very different from those in the Lower City. The Upper City does not appear to have been heavily populated. 98 It was principally given over to military installations and fortifications. Near the eastern rampart is a group of houses of more modest dimensions than those of the southern residential quarter of the lower city. It has been suggested that the acropolis repre- sents a ‘native quarter’, and that the Stepped Podium was “plus spéciale- ment destiné aux troupes indigènes de la garnison.” 99 The colonialist resonances of such suggestions are clear. Holt, for example, imagines that “huddled in single-room houses looking down upon the tiled roofs of Greek ‘mansions’ in the elite lower section of the city, these people may have acquired some measure of Greekness but not an equality with Seleu- kos’s settlers.” 100 This division –in socio-economic as well as spatial terms– between indigenous subalterns and a Greek élite is, perhaps, very broadly what we might expect in a Greek colonial settlement such as Ai Kha- noum, even if we should be more careful in the extent to which we evoke modern colonial analogies. I do not argue here that there was no ethnic hierarchisation in the city. Rather, in examining primarily formal institu- tions such as temples and administrative buildings, my focus has inevita- bly been on relatively elevated socio-economic groups, and it is my con- tention that, within these, we can observe the relationship between ethnic identity and acceptable public modes of expression varying according to context. It is, I would argue, principally forms of public behaviour which are restricted by the urban plan of Ai Khanoum, rather than expressly the movement of people themselves. The case of the Temple with Indented

98 Bernard 1981, 111.

99 Bernard 1981, 119.

100 Holt 1999, 45.

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Niches makes it clear that we cannot assume a direct correspondence between cultural practice and ethnic identity, or at least that asserting Greek identity was important only in certain contexts. How far those who did not have the ability to adopt the trappings of Greek identity – such as language– were excluded from public life is a question for further research.

Department of Classics University of Reading


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116 rachel mairs Figure 1. Hellenistic Bactria (aft er Holt 1999). Figure 2. Ai Khanoum (aft

Figure 1. Hellenistic Bactria (after Holt 1999).

116 rachel mairs Figure 1. Hellenistic Bactria (aft er Holt 1999). Figure 2. Ai Khanoum (aft

Figure 2. Ai Khanoum (after Leriche 1986).

the ‘temple with indented niches’ at ai khanoum


the ‘temple with indented niches’ at ai khanoum 117 Figure 3. The ‘Temple with Indented Niches’

Figure 3. The ‘Temple with Indented Niches’ and its sanctuary (after Francfort 1984).

Indented Niches’ and its sanctuary (after Francfort 1984). Figure 4. Th e ‘Temple with Indented Niches’

Figure 4. The ‘Temple with Indented Niches’ (after Francfort 1984).