PROKOPENKO Yu.A. On the Discovery of Eastern Hellenistic Initiatory Altar of the 3rd – 1st Centuries BC Depicting the Plot of Bull Sacrifice in the City of Stavropol


Yuriy A. Prokopenko

Doctor of Sciences (History), Associate Professor, Professor of Department of Cultural Studies and Arts,

North-Caucasus Federal University

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Pushkina St., 1, 355009 Stavropol, Russian Federation

Abstract. The article is devoted to the semantic and chronological analysis of the images on the plate of white tuff discovered in the city of Stavropol. The central part of the relief is occupied with the image of table – an altar with hoisted bull head (in the background) and the hanging part of bull skin (in the foreground). Between the protruding edges of the hanging skin and lower to the ground (between the legs of the altar) an ancient Greek phrase carved in three lines. The composition is completed by flanking images of two figures in long robes depicted in profile, symmetrically turned to the head of the bull. The figure at the right is an image of a man with a long beard, the lower edge of which is bent forward (priest or king). The figure at the left is a female (queen). Both the man and the woman are holding ritual vessels in hands.

The plot of bull sacrifice is typical for the cultural traditions of ancient Greece as well as for ancient eastern states. The fact of combining images and inscriptions peculiar of the Hellenistic culture and ancient Iranian mythology on the Stavropol altar should be associated with the religious policy pursued by the Pontic kings since the second half of the 3rd century BC till the Common Era. This policy was focused on the gradual replacement of local cults by Greek ones in the official pantheon. The reasons for the Asia Minor altar existence in the Stavropol Upland include: 1) the military expeditions of the Sarmatians to Asia Minor in 2nd – 1st centuries BC; 2) the establishment of political and economic ties by the North Caucasus population with the state of Seleucids in the 2nd century BC, with Parthia in the 2nd – 1st centuries BC, and especially with the kingdom of Pontus in the 1st century BC.

Key words: Central North Caucasus, Stone altar, bull sacrifice, cult of Zeus, cult of Ahura Mazda, myths of Mithras, Pontus kingdom, Pontus Mithridates, Sarmatians.

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On the Discovery of Eastern Hellenistic Initiatory Altar of the 3rd – 1st Centuries BC Depicting the Plot of Bull Sacrifice in the City of Stavropol by Prokopenko Yu.A. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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