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Title: The Theos Hypsistos Cults of Tanais
Subtitle: Social Mobility, Networks, and Patronage Ties
Author(s): GOUSOPOULOS, Christina
Journal: Ancient Society
Volume: 53    Date: 2023   
Pages: 139-168
DOI: 10.2143/AS.53.0.3292439

Abstract :
While cultic groups devoted to Theos Hypsistos were often comprised of individuals with humbler means, the cults at Tanais in the third century CE remarkably attracted an elite patron. The present contribution explores the curious case of Chophrasmos son of Phorgabakos, who was one of the wealthiest residents of Tanais when he acted as the organizer and priest of two separate Hypsistos synods. By reconstructing the career and social network of our ancient interlocuter, we ask not only how connectivity with Chophrasmos might have benefitted the synods with which he was affiliated, but additionally: what might these patronage ties have offered such an elite patron if Hypsistos worship elsewhere was associated with sub-elite individuals? The second section of this paper investigates the Hypsistos groups at Tanais with respect to three key themes: the cults as venues for social mobility, potential routes of recruitment, and the networks and connectivity of members. Although Hypsistos groups outside of Tanais typically had less social capital to offer their members, I suggest that these cults had significant status of their own within the civic sphere. This influence effectively attracted the patronage of elite individuals such as Chophrasmos, whose own connectivity and prestige may have been critical in establishing the cults as vectors for social capital and visibility.

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