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The "gymnasium inscription"

Coin of Mithradates II. Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam (Holland). Photo Jona Lendering.
 (Mithradates II (Allard Piersonmuseum, Amsterdam)
The Gymnasium Inscription is in fact not an inscription written on a stone, but a clay tablet written in Greek that is now in the Louvre, Paris. It gives a list of winners at an athletic contest and shows that the Greek community of Babylon was still very much alive in the late second century BCE.
  1. In the reign [the great] king Arsaces [1],
  2. Epiphanes and Philhellene.[2] [In the year] 
  3. 137 according to the king's reckoning [but according to the old reckoning]
  4. 202 [3], when Pe[l....] was gymnasiarch. [These]
  5. are the winners in the entire [year],
  6. for which the money was furnished by Di[ogenes son of]
  7. Artemidoros, who has become pay[master in the]
  8. year 192. 
  9. Of the ephebes:
  10. with the bow: Dikaios, son of Diodoros,
  11. with the javelin: Artemidoros, son of Andronikos,
  12. with the hollow shield: Kastyrides, son of Kephalon,
  13. with the oblong shield: Demetrios, son of Athenoenes,
  14. in the long course: Aristides, son of Artemidoros,
  15. in the short-course: Nikanor, son of Hermolaos.
  16. Of the neoi:
  17. with the bow: Dikaios, son of Nikostratos,
  18. with the javelin: Herakleon, son of Herakleon,
  19. [with the hollow shield: ……]s, son of Apollodoros,
  20. [with the oblong shield: ………, son of …..o]genes.
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All Parthian kings called themselves Arsaces. Before adopting the title "king of kings" in 109 BCE, Mithradates II styled himself "the great king Arsaces".

Epiphanes: God Manifest. Philhellene: Friend of the Greeks.

The year 137 of the Arsacid era and the year 202 of the Seleucid era correspond to 6 October 111 - 30 March 110 BCE.

Note that all these names are purely Greek, but also note the preponderant position of the theophoric names with Dio- = Bêl, Apollo = Nabû, Artemis = Nanaia, Herakles = Nergal. The element –doros may well represent the Babylonian iddin "he/she gave". These people with pure Greek names may have been Babylonians with Babylonian names and have had a "multiple ethnic identity". Cf. Artemidoros, son of Diogenes, who is also called Minnanaios, son of Touphaios in a Greek inscription from Uruk dated to 110 CE.


  • Assar, F. 2003, "Parthian Calendars at Babylon and Seleucia on the Tigris", in: IRAN, 41 p.77.
  • Haussoulier, B. 1903, "Inscriptions grecques de l’extrême-orient grec" in:  Mélanges Perrot: receuil de mémoires concernant l’archéologie classique, la littérature et l’histoire anciennes dédié à Georges Perrot, Paris, p.159 no. 4; 
  • Haussoulier, B. 1903, "Inscriptions grecques de Babylone", in: Klio 9, pp. 352-3, no. 1; 
  • Schmidt, E. 1941, "Die Griechen in Babylon und das Weiterleben ihrer Kultur", Archäologische Anzeiger 56, pp. 816f, no. 5; 
  • SEG VII 39. 
  • Van der Spek, R.J. 2005, "Ethnic segregation in Hellenistic Babylon." in: W.H. van Soldt, R Kalvelagen, D. Katz eds., Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia. Papers read at the 48th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Leiden, 1-4 July 2002. (Leiden), nr. 8 (page 406-407).
  • Cf. Sherwin-White, S., Kuhrt, A. 1993, From Samarkhand to Sardis. A new approach to the Seleucid empire (London), pp.157-8.
Thanks to Farhad Assar for clarifying the king's title's.

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