Friesen, Twice Neokoros

Friesen, Steven J.: Twice Neokoros . Ephesus, Asia and the Cult of the Flavian Imperial Family. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 116. E.J. Brill: Leiden; New York; Köln 1993.

Friesen’s Ph.D. dissertation is a well argued treatment of the problem that Ephesus was granted the honour of being “temple warden” twice, which was quite unusual.

On the basis of the archaeological data (coins, epigraphs, buildings, and literature), Friesen analyses the terms neochoros (temple warden), asiarch* (asiarchs, asiarchate) and koinon tes asias (the council of Asia) as well as their content and reference.

Friesen also has managed to establish a chronological list of asiarchs which enables him to date the Domitian building complex.

Friesen also detects who took the initiative to this enormous project.

This sheds light on the imperial cult in Ephesus. Apparently, Ephesus build this major edifice in order to celebrate the Domitian games. To judge from the archaeological data, both the buildings and the games should liken the edifices on Olympia as well as the Olympian games honoring Zeus. The edifices in Ephesus may very well be inaugurated and the games took their start on the birthday of Domitian in October 89 A.D. Domitian did not at all command Ephesus to do all this, but it was a volantary act of Ephesus with the permission of Domitian.

Friesen does not explain the overall functin of the imperial cult (see Price, Rituals and Power, who does do that), but does correct some minor errors in Price’s work.

Friesen has announced a second book on the relationship between Revelation and Asia, but the publication date is not very near, AFAIK [to be updated soon, gsa, 2007].

What can probably be said on the basis of this already published book is that there is no evidence that Domitian ever commanded any persecution of the Christians, but that local persecutions could perhaps (or according to Friesen: very well) be explained as local initiated persecutions which could be the results of the Christians’ refusal to participate in the imperial cult because this was a threat to the stability of Asia as well as the whole Roman Empire.

1 comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *