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Comptes rendus et notices bibliographiques

Zeus en Carie. Réflexions sur les paysages onomastiques, iconographiques et cultuels

Naomi Carless Unwin
p. 363-365
Référence(s) :

Joy Rivault, Zeus en Carie. Réflexions sur les paysages onomastiques, iconographiques et cultuels, Bordeaux, Ausonius, 2021. 1 vol, 17 × 24 cm, 513 p. ISBN : 978-2-35613-428-8.

Texte intégral

1Rivault’s book offers a comprehensive overview of the religious landscape of Caria as it relates to cults of Zeus, and is a reworked version of her doctoral thesis, examined at the University of Bordeaux in 2016. The book is structured around three chapters that each seek to speak to different elements of Zeus’ domain, with a short introduction and conclusion. The bulk of the text consists of what is effectively a catalogue of the different cult epicleses of Zeus that are found in Caria across a broad chronological frame (Classical through to Imperial periods). The discussions of each cult range in length and depth, bringing together the evidence available related to their practice, whether literary, epigraphic, numismatic, or archaeological. There are numerous illustrations that aid in the illumination of the discussion, with many high-quality images of coins in particular; a table of illustrations is not, however, included. At the end of the book, there is an epigraphic dossier of ten inscriptions with translations, while extensive Tableaux des épiclèses record the epigraphic, literary, and numismatic references for each cult epiclesis attested.

2Each chapter deals with a different aspect of Zeus’ divine authority: “Les Zeus maîtres de la nature”, “Zeus et la cité”, and “Les Zeus souverains”. The first chapter is the lengthiest, including extended discussions focused on the case studies of Zeus Labraundos at Labraunda and Zeus Lepsynos at Euromos. R. demonstrates a close acquaintance with the region and current archaeological research that adds character and depth to her discussion, though sometimes this can be to the detriment of focus; a survey of the state of archaeological exploration at Labraunda is comprehensive, though does not necessarily shed light on the nature of the cult. However, there is much to appreciate in R.’s detailed discussion of representations of the deity in different media, while her exploration of the broader significance of polymastia in depictions of cult statues (p. 102–118), not limited to Artemis Ephesia, offers valuable insights about the local significance of this aspect of the deity’s imagery.

3The thread of this chapter is the symbolic importance of the double axe, or labrys, as a cult attribute. The symbol is most closely associated with the cult of Zeus Labraundos, though it also appears in the imagery associated with Zeus Lepsynos and in other religious contexts in Caria. R. offers a survey of the available material, which derives from a wide chronological period, and argues that the symbol is broadly used in Caria as an attribute of Zeus. R. further distances the cult of Zeus Labraundos as it was conceptualised under the Hekatomnids from Herodotus’ assertion that a cult of Zeus Stratios was worshipped at Labraunda. R. argues that there is nothing to suggest that Zeus Labraundos was a god of war, though it could be suggested that the double axe and lance speak to a martial element. This highlights some of the difficulties in reconciling the literary with the epigraphic material; there is no epigraphic evidence for how the god was worshipped at Labraunda in the fifth century BCE, but we need not presume that Herodotus’ account records the title as used by the Carians. His account appears to speak more to the domain of the deity; apparently, its warlike attributes were known by Herodotus who himself was from nearby Halikarnassos.

  • 1 N. Belayche, “ ‘Un dieu est né…’ à Stratonicée de Carie (I.Stratonikeia 10)”, in C. Batsch and M. (...)

4The next two chapters are not as extensive, though again offer discussions of varying lengths on the different epicleses that fall within the two defined categories. Chapter 2 (“Zeus et la cité”) includes an extended, if somewhat circumspect, discussion of the cult of Zeus Panamaros, which was in fact an extra-mural sanctuary associated with the city of Stratonikeia. R. argues that the appearance of this particular epithet in the second half of the first century BCE was developed in distinction from the cult of Zeus Karios previously attested at Panamara; following N. Belayche, she argues in favour of this deity being created anew in this context rather than signalling the evolution of its epiclesis.1 Certainly, the religious landscape of Caria should not be regarded as static, and there was a major shift in how the deity worshipped at Panamara in the late Hellenistic period was conceptualised; however, the suggestion, albeit tentative, that two cults of Zeus were worshipped side by side within the sanctuary, or as sunnaoi theoi (p. 200–201), is short on evidence. Indeed, evidence for the two cults being worshipped alongside each other, in the same text, is notably lacking. Chapter 3 (“Les Zeus souverains”) then covers those cults that suggest the authority of the god in different realms, including the thorny issue of Zeus Hypsistos, for which R. rightly stresses the local context for the attestations.

5The emphasis on dealing with the cult epicleses in turn ensures that the treatment is comprehensive, though it also means that the discussion jumps around geographically and chronologically, and there is some repetition between sections. The cult of Zeus Stratios, for instance, is discussed in relation to Zeus Labraundos in Chapter 1, and then again in Chapter 3, with similar ground covered. It is obviously difficult to organise such a diverse body of material, though a more pronounced emphasis on place and chronological context would have helped to ground the evidence in its landscape. At times the division between chapters can also feel strained; for instance, the inclusion of cults attached to koina in the chapter “Zeus et la cité” seems to underplay the variety of social and political organisation in Caria that could operate in tandem with the structures of the polis.

6Despite R.’s stated objective being to understand whether the cults of Zeus in Caria retained specific local particularities (p. 20), the Carians themselves feel somewhat absent from the discussion. R. discusses the literary attestations for this Anatolian population, but when it comes to discussion of potential cultural influences at work in the region, the categorisation repeatedly falls into those elements that are recognisably Greek and those referred to as “indigène” (often used in inverted commas). In practice, this is frequently reduced to identifying traits that could demonstrate a relationship with Luvo-Hittite religion, notably with the god of thunder Tarhunt.

7The repeated classification of images of a cult image as “hellénisé ” (or similar) further raises the question of how we should expect a “Carian” god to be represented, say, in the fourth century BCE. After centuries of Carian and Greek-speaking communities living alongside each other, and the appropriation of the Greek language in the official realm in Caria under the Hekatomnids, does the depiction of a deity in a contemporary “Greek” guise work to the detriment of its “Carian” aspects? And how do we identify these “Carian” elements? In a discussion of the appearance of a stag next to a male cult statue on a Hellenistic coin type from Euromos, for instance, it is suggested that this could be an attempt to highlight “un héritage hittite-louvite, qu’il soit réel ou issue d’une réappropriation identitaire tardive” (p. 135). An interesting idea, but there is no elaboration on how this would work in practice, considering the distance in time and space from the Hittite realm at its height; if the imagery was a later reappropriation, what understanding did the community have of their central Anatolian forebears?

  • 2 In an Anatolian context, R. Parker, Greek Gods Abroad. Names, Natures, and Transformations, Oakla (...)

8There are no easy or definitive answers when trying to reconstruct these religious dynamics, though a more active engagement with these questions, and with recent scholarship on religious contact in the ancient world, would have helped to add nuance to the discussion of how we can constructively talk about what is “Carian” in the religion of the region.2 Concepts such as syncretism and assimilation are discussed in the introduction, but not consistently integrated or deconstructed.

9On a technical note, the editing process could have been more rigorous in the transformation from thesis to monograph. For instance, a Figure 62 is referred to in the main text but is not included among the images. There is also some carelessness with references. By no means were all footnotes checked, but on a number of occasions when looking up an item in the bibliography, the entry was found to be missing or there was a lack of precision about what item was intended between two publications in the same year, e.g. between Brulé 2005a and 2005b.

10Regardless of these issues, the wealth of detail in the book has a lot to capture the interest of scholars working in Caria. A particular strength is the integration of numismatic and other visual evidence alongside the epigraphic and literary material in the discussion of local cults; though, as R. repeatedly emphasises, there are multiple issues of interpretation that remain difficult to resolve.

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1 N. Belayche, “ ‘Un dieu est né…’ à Stratonicée de Carie (I.Stratonikeia 10)”, in C. Batsch and M. Vârtejanu-Joubert (eds.), Manières de penser dans l’Antiquité méditerranéenne et orientale. Mélanges offerts à Francis Schmidt par ses élèves, ses collègues et ses amis, Leiden, 2009 (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 134), p. 193–212.

2 In an Anatolian context, R. Parker, Greek Gods Abroad. Names, Natures, and Transformations, Oakland, California, 2017. In a broader ancient Mediterranean context, the work of C. Bonnet should be considered, especially Les Enfants de Cadmos. Le paysage religieux de la Phénicie hellénistique, Paris, 2015.

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Naomi Carless Unwin, « Zeus en Carie. Réflexions sur les paysages onomastiques, iconographiques et cultuels »Kernos, 35 | 2022, 363-365.

Référence électronique

Naomi Carless Unwin, « Zeus en Carie. Réflexions sur les paysages onomastiques, iconographiques et cultuels »Kernos [En ligne], 35 | 2022, mis en ligne le 31 décembre 2022, consulté le 01 avril 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Naomi Carless Unwin

University of Warwick

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