Chapter 3. Honoring Piety in the City
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111 3 HONORING PIETY IN THE CITY A ncient provincial cityscapes comprised sites not only for memorializing the piety associated with the emperor’s household but also for publicly recognizing the piety and generosity of wealthy benefactors. Honorary inscriptions commemorating the benefaction and service of elites can elucidate the intersecting cultural assumptions concerning piety, wealth, patronage, and authority that framed 1 Timothy’s admonitions to the wealthy and defamation of rival teachers (1 Tim 6:3-­ 19). In order to better understand these sociopolitical dynamics that framed the rhetoric of piety within 1 Timothy and the broader civic world, this chapter analyzes a set of inscriptions in Ephesus commemorating the early second-­ century c.e. benefaction of Salutaris. These inscriptions, engraved upon prominent walls of Ephesus’ monumental theater and of the Temple of Artemis, promote Salutaris’ foundation of an annual lottery and his benefaction of new images for Artemis’ procession. Additionally, they celebrate his piety (εὐσέβεια) toward the goddess and the imperial family or the Augusti (Σεβαστοί).1 The portrayal of individuals as pious within honorary inscriptions communicated a cultural prestige that encapsulated an honorable status and reinforced Greek and Roman ideological assumptions about who in the ancient world was worthy of honor and 1 Guy MacLean Rogers, The Sacred Identity of Ephesos: Foundation Myths of the Roman City (London: Routledge, 1991), 173. 112 Civilized Piety fit to lead others.2 An understanding of how a rhetoric of piety both operated within monumental dedications and reinforced ideological assumptions about the social order can illuminate the social and political interventions that the author of 1 Timothy hoped to make when he chastised others for misappropriating appeals to piety for their own profit and social mobility (1 Tim 6:5) and admonished rich benefactors who were possibly patronizing them (1 Tim 6:17-­ 19)—­ topics to be explained in the next chapter.3 2 My attention to the cultural prestige that accompanies claims to piety and legitimates hierarchies of power and domination is influenced by Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “symbolic capital”; see Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 178–­ 79; see esp. idem, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), 291, where he defines symbolic capital as “a reputation for competence and an image of respectability and honourability that are easily converted into political positions as a local or national notable.” Bourdieu has also described symbolic capital as an ordinary property (physical strength, wealth, warlike valor, etc.) which, perceived by social agents endowed with categories of perception and appreciation permitting them to perceive, know and recognize it, becomes symbolically efficient, like a veritable magical power: a property which, because it responds to socially constituted “collective expectations” and beliefs, exercises a sort of action from a distance, without physical contact . . . symbolic capital is attached to groups—­ or the names of groups, families, clans, tribes—­ and is both the instrument and the stakes of collective strategies seeking to acquire or conserve it, by joining groups which possess it (through the exchange of gifts, companionship , marriage, etc.) and by distinguishing themselves from groups which possess little or are destitute (stigmatized ethnic groups). (See Bourdieu, Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998], 103–­ 4; emphasis in original) On the helpfulness of thinking with Bourdieu when considering how elite Romans sustained their relations of domination, see Clifford Ando, Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 19–­ 28. For Ando, Bourdieu’s notions of habitus and doxa are effectively equivocal to a notion of ideology, insofar as both signify a flexible set of beliefs, embodied in practices , that symbolically represent and regulate social relationships and hierarchies (idem, 21, 23). 3 Because I seek to analyze the cultural assumptions that undergirded elite practices of benefaction and its public commemoration and not how early Christians would have interpreted such public displays of piety, it is not detrimental to this study that most Christians would have had difficulty reading these inscriptions given the rates of illiteracy within the ancient Mediterranean culture. On the topic of literacy in early Christian communities, see Harry Y. Gamble, Books and Readers Honoring Piety in the City 113 The Pious Benefaction of Salutaris to the Ephesian Artemis Gaius Vibius Salutaris was a wealthy and well-­ connected aristocrat of the equestrian order whose administrative and military career flourished during the reign of Domitian and the early...


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