Dionysias (meris of Themistos)
The written documentation on Dionysias consists of 266 references in 196 texts ranging from the late third century BC to the sixth century. They consist of papyri, with few exceptions in Greek, Greek inscriptions from the Ptolemaic and early Roman period (I.Fayoum) and ostraca (3rd/4th century; see Schwartz and Wild 1950, pp.85-86 and Schwartz 1969, pp.113-116). The earliest text is in demotic and dates from 229/8 BC (P.Lille dem 110); the latest exactly dated text is from AD 362 (SB XXII 15286), but one sixth-century text still mentions Dionysias (P.Laur. III 93); one papyrus of a date somewhat before Justinian was actually found at the site of the temple (Schwartz 1969, 112, note 4). Because the temple of Sobek remained visible after the village was abandoned, the site is occasionally mentioned in later sources (e.g. Nabulsi) and by early travellers.
Evidence from the Ptolemaic period is spotty; the Roman period is best attested in the first three centuries by texts written elsewhere such as the archive of the estate manager of Lucius Bellienus Gemellus at Euhemereia (click here for texts from Dionysias of the archive). The fourth century is almost exclusively known through a single archive, that of Abinnaeus (click here for a list of texts from Dionysias), whose career is discussed in the edition (P.Abinn.), in Rémondon 1965d and in Barnes 1985 (see Abinnaeus archive). To the archive may be added SB XIV 11380 and perhaps P.Gen. I 80 (SB X 10755 and SB XX 14954 probably do not belong to it). In January 2013 an Italian team from Siena discovered over a hundred artifacts, including ostraca and papyri (?), but no details are offered concerning the find.
The site itself is rather shallow, which suggests that occupation was never very dense, unless one assumes that waste was removed before each major rebuilding project (Grenfell and Hunt already remark on the shallowness of the site in their reports; the view of the temple in the Description de l'Égypte does not suggest an impressive tell either). The town was built on the bare surface, so that no previous town was located there when the new village was built shortly before 229/8 BC. Archaeological evidence for the Ptolemaic period is scarce and limited to the temple and perhaps its appendages elsewhere in town (e.g. the procession station down the dromos to the east; the dromos itself (about 300 metres long) was dedicated by the epistates of Dionysias in the second or first century BC (I.Fay. II 142), a probable date for the construction of the temple as well; near the procession station was located the entrance to a Roman deipneterion [according to Davoli 1998, 303]; inside it containers for oil were found. Archaeological evidence for the Roman period has been retrieved by the Franco-Swiss expedition in 1948 in various parts of the town (Schwartz and Wild 1950). Unfortunately, this expedition gives little stratigraphical information. A domestic area to the northeast of the site is now clearly visible (Davoli 1998, 301). D.W. Rathbone (personal communication) assumes that the Egyptian Antiquities Service recently cleared this part of the site. It was a domestic area built in the second century on top of rubble dating from up to the first century (occasionally stone structures are built on top of mud-brick structures, according to D. Depraetere [personal communication]). Along the main thoroughfare toward the eastern end of the town a brick mausoleum was built in the second half of the third century (see Grossmann 1995 and Davoli 1998, 322, Fig. 154; a date in the late third century would coincide with the construction of the fortress, for which the same kind of materials were used; Pensabene 1993, 225-226 and 1995, 212-213 does not regard it as a mausoleum, but rather as a temple of some sort). The fourth century is represented by the military camp unearthed in 1950 (see Schwartz 1969, whose theories about the character of the central buildings [a sort of open basilica; cf. also Schwartz 1964] are rejected by CCarrié 1974) and the mint associated with it. The original camp may date from the third century (cf. O. Fay. 50, ascribed to the third century; Carrié 1974 tenuously argues for an initial construction during the Palmyrene occupation of Egypt; at any rate, the camp was rather carelessly restructured at some point). Building materials from the first to the third century were reused for its construction. The camp measures 83 x 70 metres; the mud-brick walls are 3,8 m thick. In 306 the camp was being repaired (note the present participle in O.Fay. 21), perhaps after an earthquake [Carrié 1974, 838], which may also have caused the temple (by then perhaps already deserted) to crack. In a large construction to the west of the temple the latest coins dated from Valentinian III or even later (Jungfleisch apud Schwartz and Wild 1950, 21, note 1), but most coins were from the fourth century. Mural paintings there, which can be dated to the earlier fourth century, consisted of crude representations of Sol Invictus and partially covered an older, more sophisticated mural painting also of a religious character (see under Religion). In the third-century quarter to the south of the original layout of the town there may have been a temple of some sort (Davoli 1998, 304). In the same quarter a bath was located.
Sundry objects were retrieved from the site by Lepsius 1843 (a glass head of a lion), Grenfell and Hunt (a pot marked Pet-; P.Fay., p.63),Schwartz and Wild 1950 and Schwartz 1969. A particular type of stand (Schwartz and Wild 1950, 7, Fig. 2) has been found in various houses in Dionysias, but its interpretation is not yet secure (cf. Schwartz and Wild 1950, 52-54).
The earliest attestation of Dionysias (Διονυσιάς) is in Demotic and translitterates the original Greek name: Tjwnss (de Cenival 1980, 199 of 229/8 BC). The town is there twice called a "new town" or "new village" (dmj), which suggests that it was a recent foundation of Ptolemy III. No alternative name occurs in our sources. Dionysias is usually designated a village (κώμη) in the texts. The modern name Qasr Qarun refers to a legend about the desertification of the western Fayum, Qarun being the evil hero of the legend [see Hewison 1986, pp.56-57]. Qasr refers to the temple of Sobek, not to the Roman military camp.
The name Dionysias was thought by Cavenaile 1969, 8 to derive from Ptolemy IV, who styled himself a new Dionysos, but this is now excluded by the reference to Dionysias in 229/8 BC (P.Lille dem 110). A link with Bakchias is ruled out on chronological grounds (Bakchias is attested from the reign of Ptolemy II). There is no particular programme discernible behind the naming of the town except the general favour to the cult of Dionysos among the Ptolemies.
Διονυσιάς (gen. Διονυσιάδος) occurs with few, unconsequential spelling variants in the texts. In the Ptolemaic and early Roman period (from 217/6 BC [SB XX 15155] until 162 [P.Stras. IV 201]) ἡ πρὸς τοῖς χαλκορυχίοις is added to the name of the town in some public documents, suggesting at least one other Dionysias. Castra Dionysiados in fourth-century texts (e.g. SB XXII 15286) does not refer to the town, but to the military camp, so that Dionysias was still the name by which it was then known. A resident from Dionysias is not usually designated by a special ethnic. Διονυσιώτης in P.Wisc. II 38 of the first century is an ad hoc formation (cf. similar formations in that text).
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Dionysias was located in the meris of Themistos, near the western edge of the lake (cf. Claudius Ptolemaeus IV, 5, 15). The identification with Qasr Qarun was first suggested by Grenfell and Hunt 1899, p.13 and confirmed by the discovery of the military camp to the west of the town by Schwartz and Wild 1950. The camp controlled the access to the Fayum from the western desert and may have been built to ward off raids from nomads. A regular street plan is discernible in the town. The oval-shaped site (plan in Schwartz and Wild 1950, Pl. II) is cut longitudinally by three streets (maximum width: 6,5 m), the middle of which is the dromos of the temple of Sobek. Smaller streets cut these streets at right angles, creating a checker-board pattern of blocks measuring 50 x 50 m, a pattern kept throughout the town's history. Occupation was apparently never very dense, which may help explain the fact that the original orthogonal grid was kept intact as in Philadelpheia. The main thoroughfare (perhaps to be identified with the Royal street in P.Lond. II 293 of AD 114) connected the desert with the Fayum proper. Another street is that of Leukios (P.Lond. II 289 of AD 91, the sale of a house on that street). The city quarters of the Boubasteion (BGU I 53 of AD 133), of Harpochration (P.Fay. 95 of the second century) and of Herminos (P.Stras. II 122 of AD 161-168). They have not been located.
Dionysias was situated on the lake at its ancient level. While the temple was built on a bare surface 6,25 m above sea level, the town itself varies from 3 m above to -3 m below sea level. Agricultural land was located to the south and southeast of the town, where traces of ancient canals are still visible from the air [cf. Davoli 1998, 323, Fig. 156]. To the west of the town, ancient canals have also been traced in the direction of Medinet Quta [cf. Fakhry 1940, 901]. This could fit the Ptolemaic and early Roman attestations of agriculture near the copper mines (P.Petrie III 130 of the late third century BC, SB XIV 11968 of 132/1 BC and BGU I 197 of AD 17), which one would like to locate in the desert immediately west of Medinet Quta; the canals are said to be of Roman date. P.Sakaon 77 of AD 283 attests work on canals near Dionysias, which seems to be part of an attempt by the Roman government to reclaim some of the land lost in the course of the third century [Rémondon 1954, 200-203].
The feeder canal must have followed a more southerly course than the modern extension of the Bahr Qasr el-Banat, known as the Bahr Qarun, which passes the site to the northeast and was dug in 1900 (perhaps the Bahr el-Wakil, a modern canal dug before 1914 and now abandoned, follows part of its course; the Bahr el-Wakil branches off the Bahr Qasr el-Banat to the east of Philoteris, which must have been located on an ancient canal). About 0.5 km south of the mausoleum at the eastern entrance of the town a bifurcating canal is still visible on the ground, and this may be the feeder canal, although traces of smaller canals are visible to the south of it. Remains of an ancient quay have been found immediately to the south of Dionysias [Schwartz and Wild 1950, p.4], which indicates that the canal was navigable all the way. The feeder canal did not run further south along the Gisr el-Wadid el-Qadim, which runs from Narmouthis to west of Medinet Quta and is a natural feature caused by the lake at its Neolithic level (the course of the Bahr Wardan in the east of the Fayum follows this same feature there, but the water level at Narmouthis is not high enough to fill the Gisr el-Wadid el-Qadim). Trenches have shown that the Gisr el-Wadid el-Qadim was not an artificial feature [Little 1936; Caton-Thompson and Gardner 1937], although the most recent map of the governorate records it as such. Today agriculture is located to the north and northeast, where the lake used to be, but still not much to the west of Qasr Qarun. Because the level of the lake dropped in the course of the Graeco-Roman period, some agriculture may well have developed north and northeast of Dionysias. Today the lake is 4 km north of Qasr Qarun.
Philoteris (Wadfa) was nearby and apparently acted as the westernmost town in the Fayum before Dionysias was founded. The copper mines near Dionysias were associated early on with Philoteris (P.Petrie III 43 (3) of 240 BC). They have not been located, but must have been somewhere in the desert cliffs west of the town (the less articulated landscape south of Dionysias-Philoteris does not look promising for copper mines; ancient salt quarries are located there). The Survey-of-Egypt map registers ruins in the desert west of Medinet Quta, but this is perhaps merely a desert guard post. Alternatively, the copper mines were in fact no more than a small pocket of copper ore at the surface somewhere to the south of Dionysias/Philoteris. In that case, the copper deposit may have been exhausted in the early Roman period. Schwartz and Wild 1950, p.103 remark that the copper deposit cannot have amounted to much in any case; cf. Fitzler 1910, 41 and 110. In SB XX 14084 of the second century BC the copper mines are independently listed in a list of villages, separated from Dionysias only by Apollonias. Farmers from Dionysias are required to cultivate part of the nearby land of Philoteris according to P.Vindob.Salomons 16.
Other villages related to Dionysias are Kanopias and at a somewhat greater distance Theadelpheia (Kharabet Ihrit) and Euhemereia (Qasr el-Banat). Kanopias may be identified with the unexplored ruins to the northeast of Philoteris, which are located on a sort of promontory in the lake at its early Ptolemaic level (cf. Kanopos near Alexandria, also located on a promontory). Just as Philoteris, Kanopias occurs much earlier in our sources than Dionysias and may be presumed to have been located to the east of it. People from Dionysias, Philoteris and Kanopias jointly set up the inscription I.Fay. I 19 of the second or first century BC at the nome capital. De Cenival 1980, 199-202 mentions several other places, but if one of them is to be identified with Alabanthis in the Fayum (see P.Lille III, index géographique), they would not all be located near Dionysias (Fayumic Alabanthis is in the meris of Herakleides; the labourers in the copper mines near Philoteris want to be tranferred to Alabanthis (P.Petrie 2 9 (2-3) of 240 BC), which could also be Alabanthis in Middle Egypt, where important mines were located; they complain about the lack of water near the copper mines, which makes sense if the canal still ended at Philoteris in 240 BC).
Very few texts have been found in Dionysias itself (few ostraca, very few papyri, few inscriptions), so that most texts mentioning Dionysias were found elsewhere. Abinnaeus received several documents while stationed at the military camp at Dionysias, but they were found at Philadelphia where he lived after retirement (P.Abinn., P.Sakaon 47 of 342 and SB XIV 11380 of 346).
Three bathhouses were found on the site. That in the South, called "bain public de l'ilôt" (O on the map; click here for the map), consisted of several rooms. The caldarium (room 3) had a diameter of 1.9 (interior) and 3.8 m (exterior) and originally contained ten individual seats; later on it was rearranged into a single large bath. The building was made of both stones and red bricks and covered by a dome (for the reconstruction, click here). The walls were painted with a geometrical pattern of red, ochre and white. Part of the furnace is also preserved [Schwartz and Wild 1950, pp.51-62].
Thanks to the plan of A. Badawy [Schwartz 1969, pl.V; click here] the second bath, called "le petit bain", can be placed on the map, near the south-eastern corner of the Roman camp (point W on our map). The room had a diameter of 6 m (interior) and 8 m (exterior) and contained 18 seats. In Schwartz 1969 the building is only mentioned in passing on p.V, p.9 and p.105.
The third bath, called "thermes" (K on the map) was already heavily damaged by sebakhin in 1948 and never excavated [Schwartz and Wild 1950, p.9].
As might be expected in an originally Greek settlement, Greek names abound in the earliest texts. Certain features in the landscape and in the built-up of the town are named after the earliest Greek settlers (e.g. kleros of Kephalon near the copper mines: BGU I 197 of AD 17). In the course of the Roman period the various kleroi are lumped together under the general designation of katoikic land. Dionysios from Karystos, a hexekontarouros petitions the topogrammateus in 132/1 BC (SB XIV 11968; the text does not mention Dionysias, but land near the copper mines). The hebdomekontarouros Poly[ ] (not yet assigned to a hipparchy) issues a contract in 217/6 BC (SB XX 15155). Antimachos, a Macedonian hekatontarouros owns a kleros at Dionysias in 132/1 BC (P.Giss.Bibl. I 5). The evidence of the Roman period shows the usual mixture of names (several hundreds of them in P.Lond. III 1170 recto of the third century). There do not seem to have been typical names. Abinnaeus has a Semitic name (to the introduction to P.Abinn., add Calderini 1917) and must have come to the Fayum from abroad as a soldier. Two cows are mentioned by name in P.Abinn. 60 of 346.
The extent of the site (approximately 32 ha; Lepsius 1843 calls it a grosse Stadt) suggests a certain concentration of people. An oikia tristegos occurs in P.Ups.Frid 1 of AD 48, but this is not really impressive. Before 210 BC, shortly after the foundation of the town, there were already 732 adults (excluding kleruchs) in Dionysias, 13 more than in Philoteris. Of these adults, 391 were men, 341 women P.Count. 11). A total population of between 1,200 and perhaps 1,500 is implied. In the third century almost 300 taxpayers from Dionysias have not paid all their money taxes for the current year, the highest number among several villages (P.Lond. III 1170 recto). In the Roman period there is evidence that inhabitants of Dionysias resided in other villages [Braunert 1964, pp.245-246].
In the fourth century the military camp [Schwartz 1969, Plan 2] may have housed 300 soldiers (or less, if a substantial number of horses was located in the camp as well; the individual dwellings are large enough [4,47 x 3,57 m] for either purpose; up to 6 men would have fitted in one of the approximately 50 individual dwellings), and these may have made up the bulk of the population of the site. The gate of the camp faced the lake, not the town, which may have been virtually deserted in the fourth century. The camp was closed ca. 400 (the Notitia dignitatum or. 28, 34 still mentions it). The lock was still on the gate when the camp was unearthed.
Land round Dionysias was relatively scarce, but especially the early Ptolemaic evidence suggests a thriving agricultural community. Because the canal virtually ends at Dionysias, agriculture was precarious. On the one hand it depended on the inundation of the Nile, which may not have brought much water all the way to Dionysias in bad years (settlements higher up the canals would not wait with cutting the dikes until the water for Dionysias had passed; they would get away with it through the system known as management by complaint). In good years a regular cereal crop could be expected (cf. de Cenival 1980, 199-202 for this). Fields were laid out regularly and identified by number (P.Lond. III 905 of the second century: nos. 6 and 9), perhaps the same numbers as those used for the toparchies (P.Sakaon 2 of 300: nos. 7 and 9). A general reference to a toparchy of Dionysias is in P.Lond. II 295 of 118. Things may not have looked so good in later times. It is doubtful whether much agriculture round Dionysias survived in the fourth century.
On the other hand, the natural features of the landscape round Dionysias lend themselves to some forms of intensive agriculture. Although a year-round supply of water in the feeder canal could not always be relied on (artificial irrigation required bakshish: P.Fay. 118 of 110), cisterns were apparently used for cash crops demanding less water. We have little evidence for vineyards at Dionysias (only PSI VIII 948, which dates from 345/6: some wine from the vineyard there was drinkable, some was not only good enough for libations), but olive orchards seem to have been important in the early Roman period (see especially the archive of the agent of Lucius Bellienus Gemellus in Euhemereia). Further up the feeder canal vineyards were in any case abundant, which suggests that it contained water all year round. In principle it seems to have been navigable all the way to Dionysias (the canal may be one of the navigable canals where inhabitants of Dionysias were put to work according to some penthemeros certificates). A garden is mentioned in P.Stras. II 122 of 161-168).
Topographical features on the territory of Dionysias include: Epicharou topos (Stud.Pal. XX 70 of 261); Dariou topos (Stud.Pal. XX 70 of 261); Gemeneos topoi (Stud.Pal. XX 70 of 261); Kephalonos kleros near the copper mines (BGU I 197 of 17); Pakei (farmstead of the Appianus estate; cfr. Rathbone 1991, p. 26 + note and p. 207, who suggests that there were two Pakei, one a village with its own phrontistes (P.Strasb.Gr. I 032, doubtful) and the other a farm in Dionysias); Prophetes (P.Fay. 111 of 95); Psibistaneos topos (Stud.Pal. XX 57 of 263) and T(h)alaaireos topos (CPR I 34 of 217-223 and Stud.Pal. XX 70 of 261)
It is unclear whether the part of the Maikenatiane ousia which was leased to an inhabitant of Dionysias was on the territory of the village (P.Laur. III 72 of 118-138). The temple of Souchos at Soknopaiou Nesos owned land at Dionysias in 132 BC (P.Amh. II 35).
De Cenival 1980, 199-202 documents the production of over 10,000 artabas of wheat and barley wheat round Dionysias in 229/8 BC; the text does not cover an entire year or even the entire harvest period. Kroton was also grown in the Ptolemaic period (P.Petrie III 130 of the third century BC apparently dates from before the town was founded, because the reference is to people from the copper mines paying for the transport of kroton, in conjunction with people from Kanopias [here still called Kanopos]; SB XIV 11968 of 132/1 BC likewise locates krotonbearing land, 16 arouras in all near the copper mines). The extent of vineyards and olive orchards cannot be gauged from the documents, but the production of olive oil on the estate of Lucius Bellienus Gemellus must have been an important asset in his portfolio. A letter by Gemellus to his agent Epagathos mentions digging round an olive orchard (P.Fay. 112 of 99), irrigation of olive orchards (P.Fay. 110 of 94 and P.Fay. 118 of 110) and a pediophylax specializing in olive orchards (P.Fay. 113 and 114 of 100), all at Dionysias. Oil production is also attested otherwise at Dionysias. Stud.Pal. XX 70 of 261 is the lease of 3 olive orchards together with the date palms growing in between the olive trees and of a date-palm grove. P.Aberd. 181 of 41/2 or 55/6 is the lease of an oil press as are P.IFAO III 53 of 102-117 and P.Fay. 95 of the second century. In BGU XV 2486 of 93 two sawyers are paid for a wooden oil press. The importance of olive oil on the Appianus estate at Dionysias follows from, e.g., P.Flor. III 364 of (an order to get oil from there with camels). The production of oil other than olive oil seems implied in P.Gen. I 8 bis and 8 of 140 and 141 respectively (see Nicole 1895), two sales in advance of lachanospermon.
Various estates run by phrontistai are on record at Dionysias in the third century. The Herakleides estate there is run by Epangelos, the Valerius Titanianus estate by Soterichos (P.Mich. XI 620 of 239/40) and the Appianus estate by Horion (called oikonomos in SB VI 9410) from 247 to dec. 260, later by Isidoros. The Appianus estate included a farmstead called Pakei (leased to two tenants for a money rent; P.Flor. III 322) and received wine from elsewhere (also bits of wheat) to pay to those working on the estate. In the fourth century Abinnaeus does not seem to have owned land near Dionysias.
Non-agricultural activities must also have been important in this community on the fringe. It was a central place for business transactions of inhabitants from surrounding villages. The location on the lake must have fostered fishing: ostracon no. 2 in Schwartz 1969, 114 mentions a fisherman, as do Stud.Pal. XX 67 of the second/third century and PSI VII 737, also of the second/third century, which links fishermen from Dionysias with fishermen from Berenikis Thesmophorou. The lease of a fish pond at Dionysias is mentioned in P.Oxy. XLIII 3089 of 146. The transport of goods from and to the desert through Dionysias must have been important to the local economy as well. Transport animals (mainly camels) were raised and sold (sales of camels: P.Lond. III 909A of 136, BGU II 468 of 150, BGU I 153, SB 20 14710 nazien of 152 and P.Stras. IV 201 of 162; on these see Schwartz 1988 and Jördens 1995) and their services were let in Dionysias. Ten cameleers (kamelotrophoi) were involved in the transport of grain from the granaries in the meris of Polemon to the harbours in AD 155. A simlar transport is also attested in AS 118 (P.Lond. II 295).. In P.Leit. 6, perhaps of 216/7 a cameleer from Dionysias protests being nominated katasporeus in the meris of Herakleides). They were sometimes styled public cameleers (P.Col. II 1 recto of 155). Four camels transport utensils from Dionysias to the Delta (P.Lond. II 330 of 164). A camel compound located on the southern laura in Dionysias is leased in BGU II 393 of 167.
A brewer, Sochotes, pays the beer tax for Dionysias in SB XX 14955 of 185/4 BC. Other brewers are Samous and Heliodoros in P.Rain.Cent. 49 of 212 BC. Two sawyers are paid for a wooden oil press in BGU XV 2486 of 93. Another sawyer is paid in wine in P.Flor. II 144 of 264. A bronzesmith, a donkey driver and a cowherd occur in SB VI 9409 (AD 255).
Trade in lotus at Dionysias is implied in P.Fay. 111 of 95: Lucius Bellienus Gemellus has heard that it is to be had at a reasonable price there. In Dionysias people buy presents (bakhshish) according to P.Fay. 118 of 110 and also covers for dining-room tripods according to P.Oslo II 60 of the second century (a letter between members of a Greek club). In P.Athen. 43 verso of the second century two fluteplayers and a bagpiper (askaules) are mentioned.
The copper mines are mentioned in the texts from the third century BC until the second century, but do not seem to have made an impact on the local economy. Metal extraction would not have been possible on a large scale at Dionysias because of a lack of burning material. The fourth-century mint in Dionysias apparently used bronze ingots imported from elsewhere [Schwartz 1969, 103] and was thus not located in the town because of the proximity of a metal source. The proximity of a military camp, where the government spent most of the money, must have been the main reason to locate the mint in Dionysias. The military could monitor the mint at the same time (it was a dangerous place: a corpse was hid in the mint, the scene of a crime of some sort?). About 15,000 terracotta moulds for casting coins of the period 311-315 were found in the mint. The moulds are of poor quality. Presumably only lower denominations for local transactions were made in this mint (Gara 1978). The moulds remain unpublished, just as the coins found in Dionysias, and as Noeske 2006, 409 remarks, they are essentially lost to scholarship.
The crocodile god Sobek was the main god at Dionysias. The town itself is called a town of Sobek in the earliest, Demotic document (De Cenival 1980, 199 of 229/8 BC). The Ptolemaic temple (reconstruction drawing in Aufrère-Golvin 1997, 193 and plan and section in Arnold 1999, 257) was dedicated to Sobek as is clear from the relief of the crocodile god at the back of the temple. In the debris a fragment of a stone envelope for the sacred crocodile was found (Schwartz 1969, 85, Fig. 51). According to I.Fay. II 142, an inscription on the temple façade, the dromos leading up to the temple from the southeast was paved in the second or first century BC, a probable date for the construction of the temple as well. A stone something was dedicated to Sobek and associated gods according to I.Fay. II 141 (a block reused in the military camp). The limestone temple, studied architecturally in detail by C. Audebeau 1917, measures 26,8 x 18,8 m. Its maximum height is 9,47 m. Two stone lions stood on either side of the dromos; one of the lions ( Schwartz and Wild 1950, Pl. VI) entered the museum in Alexandria in 1934; the other was found in 1948. An earthquake (see Carrié 1974, 838) may have caused the temple to crack in 306. It was not repaired until 1957 (see Leclant 1960). No priests are mentioned in the texts. A pronaos was dedicated as the fulfillment of a vow by a gymnasiarch (of Arsinoe, no doubt) and an epi ton prosodon (I.Fay. II 139 of 24/5 or 51/2, another block reused in the military camp). The dedication I.Fay. II 137 of 221-180 BC may also be for part of a religious building. To the southeast of the temple, on the dromos, there was a procession station and perhaps a Roman deipneterion associated with it [see Davoli 1998, 303].
The reference to an amphodon Boubasteiou in BGU I 53 of 133 (cf. Rübsam 1974, 81) points to the existence of a temple of Boubastis in Dionysias. A Greek cult is implied in the earliest period by P.Enteux. p. lxxxviii, n. 2 of 217 BC, which mentions an outside altar (βωμός).
Christianity has not been positively identified at Dionysias except that the archive of Abinnaeus presupposes a Christian society by the middle of the fourth century. Abinnaeus himself may have been a partygoer of Athanasius, if his troubles in getting and keeping his appointment as praefectus castrorum have anything to do with the rivalry between Athanasius and the anti-catholic dux Valacius (so Barnes 1985).
A second-century (Hadrianic?) marble statue of Nemesis [Schwartz 1969, pl. XV left] was found in the central apse of the principia in the military camp; it was deliberately destroyed at some point. Nemesis puts her left foot on the head of a vanquished barbarian. If the statue was taken from a deserted building at Dionysias itself along with other building materials, the barbarian may originally have been a symbol for the desert nomads raiding the Fayum (he will have been interpreted in that sense by the military). The principia were located at the back of the camp, on an elevation, which suggests an originally cultic function. In a building to the west of the temple mural paintings representing several gods were found [Schwartz and Wild 1950, pl. I], but their identification as army gods is doubtful (Carrié 1974, 842-846 recognized Palmyrenian gods, but this has not won wide acceptance).
In the late Roman quarter south of the original layout of the town, which may have been associated with the camp, one construction has been identified as a temple of some sort by Davoli 1998, 304.
Dionysias had its own toparchy (P.Lond. II 295 of 118) or toparchies (P.Sakaon 2 of 300: nos. 7 and 9; cf. the numbered fields in P.Lond. III 905 of the second century: nos. 6 and 9).
Officials attested at Dionysias are:
archephodos (also a tenant of the state) in P.Fay. 251 of the second century.
dekaprotoi (SB 20 14961 of 260, O.Mich. III 1064 of 292 and ostracon no. 1 in Schwartz 1969, p.113).
epistates (Heliodoros son of Eudaimon), who dedicates the dromos of the temple in I.Fay. II 142 of the second or first century BC.
epiteretes of confiscated property in P.Leit. 11 of ca. 136/7.
Schwartz 1969, ostr.2 apparently contains a list of persons proposed as epiteretai in the second half of the third cent.
katasporeus (perhaps only temporarily at Dionysias, in P.Fay. 118 of 110.
komarchai, attested in SB VI 9409 of 255 and in SB XX 14197 of 253.
komogrammateus (the first, Semtheus son of Paophis in De Cenival 1980, 199 of 229/8 BC, is perhaps to be identified with the Semtheus who was myriarouros and komogrammateus (P.Sorb. I 23 of 251 BC); a komogrammateus is joined by at least three laographoi in receiving BGU I 53, a census document of 133; a komogrammateus reported a slave of a former komogrammateus, whose property had been confiscated by the fisc in P.Gen. I 5 of 138-144; a komogrammateus is replaced by the presbyteroi in P.Oxy. XLIII 3089 in 146; a komogrammateus who is also a tenant of the state protests against his appointment as epiteretes at Philoteris in PSI XII 1243 of 208).
meizones are mentioned in P.Laur. III 93 of the sixth century.
praktores argyrikon occur in P.Stras. VII 667 of 148.
presbyteroi (replacing a komogrammateus in P.Oxy. XLIII 3089 of 146; acting as intermediaries in payments for monodesmia chortou and other taxes in SB XX 15133 of 151-153; cf. also O.Mich. II 752 of the third century).
sitologoi (earliest attestation: P.Fay. 110 of 94; cf. the Roman ostracon in Schwartz and Wild 1950, 85 [no. 208]), replaced by dekaprotoi in the third century; sitologoi of the toparchy of Dionysias occur in P.Lond. II 295 of 118).
The public granary itself is attested from 138/9 (BGU XIII 2269) until 292 (O.Mich. III 1064). The public record office is attested from 91 (P.Lond. II 289) until 152 (BGU I 153).
The private bank of Hermogenes and his associates is attested in 93 (BGU XV 2486). That of Sotas son of Herakleides in 116 (SB XVI 12728). That of Chairemon and his associates in 134 (P.Lond. III 907) together with that of Palamedes son of Onnophris, which is also attested in 131 (BGU I 70), in 150 (BGU II 468), when Palamedes is joined by associates, and again in 152 (P.Cornell 41; in P.Stras. IV 209, also of 152, no associates are mentioned). The customs house (pyle) at Dionysias issued receipts for limen Mempheos, eremophylakia and the 3% tax from 138 (SB XIV 12135) until 208 (e.g. SB V 7822, where the seal inexplicably mentions the customs house of Soknopaiou Nesos). Most attestations are for export to the western oasis on camels.
Guards of the copper mines near Dionysias are perhaps mentioned in a second-century private letter (CPR VI 80), although the editor does not regard the metallon in that text as a mine (no other mines are known in the Fayum, where the papyrus comes from).
The customs house was probably located near the military camp, which may have taken over its function in the later period. The soldiers at the camp belonged to the ala quinta praelectorum (Notitia dignitatum or. 28, 34), regular mounted troops in the fourth century. In 300 a soldier from Dionysias (the camp may have been mentioned in a lacuna), who is on army business in Babylon, owns land near the town (P.Sakaon 2). A praefectus castrorum from 315 is mentioned in PSI VIII 893 (Flavius Licinianus). Few other officers are mentioned (a princeps in P.Sakaon 38 of 312, who acts as mediator together with a soldier from Dionysias; a primipilaris in P.Sakaon 62 of 328, who buys a mare from a soldier from the military camp at Narmouthis). Flavius Abinnaeus was praefectus castrorum at the camp (ἔπαρχος and πραιπόσιτος κάστρων are also used in the texts) from 340/1 until 351 with a brief intermission in 344/5 when his rival got the upper hand with the powers that be [see Barnes 1985]. A decurio, Eulogios, is mentioned in P.Abinn. 29. A recruit is mentioned in P.Abinn. 26, which, together with P.Abinn. 29, concerns the provision of the camp (on these texts see Mitthof 2001, pp.469-472); a veteran resident at Dionysias asks Abinnaeus to help his son to get promoted to decurio of the ala quinta praelectorum in P.Abinn. 59; an ordinary soldier seconded to Dionysias from elsewhere sells two cows to Abinnaeus in P.Abinn. 60, where the signature of the soldier is written for him by a veteran. The Abinnaeus archive shows a Roman amy immersed into local society (Zuckerman 2004, p.156). A soldier from the camp at Dionysias provides a loan of wheat to an inhabitant of Andromachis in 362 (SB XXII 15286), after which no more is heard of from the camp.
- Wessely 1904 58-59;
- P.Tebt. II p.375;
- PM 1934 IV p.97;
- Dizionario II p.107-110;
- Suppl. I p.96.97;
- Suppl. II p.44-45
- E.-F. Jomard in Description de l'Égypte. Antiquités. Descriptions 4 (Paris 1821), 457-477 (temple)
- K.R. Lepsius 1904;
- J. Nicole 1895;
- B.P. Grenfell and A.S. Hunt 1899;
- B.P. Grenfell and A.S. Hunt 1901;
- K. Sethe, RE 5.1 (1903), 881-882;
- K. Fitzler 1910;
- A. Calderini 1917;
- C. Audebeau 1917;
- S. Yeivin 1930;
- G. Caton-Thompson and E.W. Gardner 1934;
- Little 1936;
- G. Caton-Thompson and E.W. Gardner 1937;
- A. Fakhry 1940;
- J. Schwartz 1949;
- Schwartz and Wild 1950;
- J. Schwartz 1951;
- R. Rémondon 1954;
- J. Leclant 1961b;
- J. Schwartz 1964;
- R. Rémondon 1965d;
- I.F. Fikhman 1967b;
- Cavenaile 1969;
- Schwartz 1969;
- Rübsam 1974;
- Carrié 1974;
- Carrié 1976;
- A. Gara 1978;
- de Cenival 1980;
- I.Fay. II (1981), 119-122;
- Grossmann 1982;
- Barnes 1985;
- Hewison 1986;
- Schwartz 1988;
- Rathbone 1991a;
- Pensabene 1993;
- Pensabene 1995;
- Grossmann 1995;
- Jördens 1995;
- Aufrère-Golvin 1997;
- Davoli 1998;
- Pensabene 1998;
- Arnold 1999;
- Mitthof 2001;
- Zuckerman 2004, p.156
- Cestari 2010
P. Van Minnen