Tag Archives: Libraries (Ancient)

Who was Titus Flavius Pantainos?

There is no statue or relief of Titus Flavius Pantainos known to exist, so this is a photo of his library. The curvy area is all that is left of the original floor of the atrium where people would read.

There is no statue or relief of Titus Flavius Pantainos known to exist, so this is a photo of his library’s ruins. The curvy area at the right is all that is left of the original floor of the atrium where people would read.

The Library of Pantainos was built by Titus Flavius Pantainos. It really was a library complex, which included the library proper as well as the two attached stoas running along the front and side of the building. These stoas contained small shops and a cult room dedicated to Trajan, who was emperor at the time Pantainos built the library.

There is no known reference to this library in any of the surviving Greek texts. The strangely-shaped building is known to be a library because of two things. One, the library’s rules were found in situ. Two, the lintel with the library’s dedication was found in the Herulian Wall, built from the spoila from the agora and the library itself. The Herulian Wall rests on part of the library, the portico facing the agora.

It is from the inscription on the door lintel that we know what we know about Pantainos. The building, the porticos and the books were given to the city of Athens in the name of the emperor Trajan and Athena; the gift was from Titus Flavius Pantainos, his son, Flavius Menandros (named after his grandfather) and his daughter, Flavia Secundille.

Research has identified a Pantainos of Gargettos as having served as eponymous archon after 102, which was around the time the library was built. Since “Pantainos” is an uncommon name, it has been assumed that this archon was the same person who built the library. Therefore, he was either a citizen or made a citizen of the city, perhaps for his donation of the library. He and his family probably also had Roman citizenship, and they were wealthy. Only wealthy men could serve in the eponymous archon position. Also, Pantainos was a philosopher like his father, Flavius Menandros. However, it is not known if Pantainos headed a philosophical school, or was an amateur philosopher.

According to Arthur W. Parsons, “Pantainos” appears only twice in Attic prosopography. The first Pantainos is of interest. He was the father of Thucydides of Gargettos, who was an adversary of Perikles. He is probably an ancestor of the library’s donors.

Seventy-five years later in Alexandria, a Pantainos again appears. He is mentioned by Eusebius and Clement; they talk of him and his great influence. He had been a Stoic but by the time of Commodus, he was heading the Catechetical School there. Philip says that he was an Athenian, but neither Eusebius nor Clement mention where he is from; Parsons tentatively assumes Philip’s statement as true and therefore concludes that this Pantainos, who headed the first Christian school in Alexandria, was the grandson of the Pantainos who gifted Athens with a library.

Parsons, Arthur W. “A Family of Philosophers at Athens and Alexandria.” Hesperia Supplements, v. 8: Commemorative Studies in Honor of Theodore Leslie Shear (1949), p. 268-272, 462.


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Sarcophagus of Tiberius Julius Aquila Celsus Polemaeanus


This is a photograph of a photograph in a book that I just got through inter-library loan, Ancient libraries in Anatolia : libraries of Hattusha, Pergamon, Ephesus, Nysa (Ankara: ODTÜ, 2003).

This is Celsus’ sarcophagus. His remains are still in there, under his library, all these centuries after he died.

Too bad there is no public access. I’d have loved to pay my respects.

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Who was Tiberius Julius Aquila Celsus Polemaeanus?

Statue of Celsus, from the Istanbul Archaeological Museum (Wikipedia)

Note: The following information comes from an article by Volke Michael Stroka. (See citation.)

The Library of Celsus was built in honor of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus (Τιβέριος Ιούλιος Κέλσος Πολεμαιανός), a wealthy Greek from (probably) Sardis. He was later granted Roman citizenship. The inscription on the façade of the library (which I do not remember seeing) gives his full name, stating that his son, Gaius Julius Aquila, built the library; Tiberius Claudius Aristion was executor of the will. There were two other inscriptions (one in Greek, the other in Latin) located on the “cheeks” of the stair banisters (which bore equestrian statues of Celsus); these stairs are not accessible to the public.

Celsus’ father was a Roman knight and rather wealthy. In 68, Celsus read the law and started his military career as a Roman tribune in Alexandria. The legion in which Celsus served was the one that later proclaimed Vespasian emperor in 69. As a reward for his support, Vespasian made Celsus a senator in 70. From there, Celsus then became an aedile. In the mid-70s he was a praetor, a supreme judge in Rome. From 78-85 he was in Cappadocia as legatus iuridicus, then became a Roman legion commander in Syria, then the governor of Bithynia and Pontus. From 85/87 Celsus was in charge of the pension funds for veterans in Rome, and then from 89-91 he was a legate in Cilicia. Emperor Domitian made him a consul suffectus in Rome in 92 as a reward for all his years of faithful service. After this, he was elected to the college of priests, the quindecimviri sacris faciundis. He served as curator aedium sacrarum et operum locorumque publicorum populi Romani in Rome. This office oversaw finances and organization of imperial building projects in the capital, which were huge during the reigns of Domitian (81-96) and Trajan (Cr. 98-117).

In 105/6, Celsus became the proconsul (governor) of the rich province of Asia , with the seat in Ephesus. He must have stayed in Ephesus; he died there before 114. His son, Tiberius Julius Aquila, continued the library project as a burial gift for his famous father, but he died before it was completed.

We also know about Aquila, who was born 70-75. He had been suffect consul in Rome in 110 after an unknown career. Aquila was able to tap into the contacts his father made with the architects and building guilds as aedium sacrarum. Aquila hired them for his Ephesian project. There are similarities between the decorations on the Celsus library (construction began around 113/4) and on the forums of Trajan and the reconstructed Caesar; such decorations were unknown in Asia Minor up until that time.

To bury anyone inside city walls was unusual, only done for those who served their city. It was forbidden to build mausoleums inside the city, so by burying Celsus in his library crypt showed how rich and honored he was by the citizens of Ephesus. No one is quite sure how he favored Ephesus while living there.

Most amazing of all, the remains of Celsus are still in his sarcophagus, and the sarcophagus is still in its original resting place in the crypt under the library apse.

Stroka, Volke Michael. “The Celsus Library in Ephesus.” In Ancient Libraries in Anatolia: Libraries of Hattusha, Pergamon, Ephesus, Nysa ([Ankara]: Middle East Technical University, 2003), p. 33-43).

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Library of Hadrian


Plan of the Library of Hadrian complex. This is from the kiosk on the library site.

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Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus (Plan)

Map of the Library of Celsus, built 135.

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Library of Pantainos

Library of Celsus (Plan of the Library of Pantainos AD 100 2011-04)

Plan of the Library of Pantainos, built ca. 100

On top of the Road Between the Roman and Greek Agoras is the present Poikilas, which gives the only real accessible view of the library ruins. The only library stoa still in existence parallels this road.


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