Oinoanda and the biggest inscription of the ancient world

A new project of the Istanbul Department investigating the city of Diogenes and his famous philosophical inscription.



36° 48' 35.28" N, 29° 33' 3.6" E

2 Map of the ruins of Oinoanda, based on the results of the British survey and the Turkish land survey © DAI1 The location of Oinoanda in northern Lycia © DAIThe ancient city of Oinoanda is located on the border of the Cibyratis in the remote and rugged mountain region of northern Lycia (1). The site of the actual settlement is a broad saddle-ridge between two high hills, at an altitude of approximately 1400m (2). The hill that rises to the north of the settlement, Eren Tepe (1532m), is sometimes referred to as the acropolis of Oinoanda, although it is not integrated into the urban structure. Because of the sharply undulating terrain (3), public spaces - the paved agora and the so-called Esplanade - could be accommodated only in the northern part of the city, while most of the other structural remains occupy sloping sites. At the southwestern extremity of the city is a well preserved section of wall fortified with two towers. The wall is intersected at a tangent by an aqueduct, which is equally well preserved and spans the dip between the wall and the neighbouring hill to the south. On the plain to the east of the urban area lies the present-day village of Incealiler, from which a footpath now leads up to the site.


The site of the city of Oinoanda was discovered and identified by British explorers in the 1840s, and the first plan of the site was published as early as 1847. But subsequently there was no thorough exploration of the site or indeed of any individual structures, some of which are in a good state of preservation. Instead, scholarly interest was focused entirely on the inscriptions, especially on the fragments of a philosophical inscription, which first came to light in 1884 and, with the discovery of 88 fragments by 1895, was revealed as a monumental enshrinement of the Epicurean teachings of the philosopher Diogenes of Oinoanda. In the process of further study and research, it became clear that the inscription was the largest known from the ancient world.

A new chapter in the history of research at Oinoanda opened in 1968 when Martin Ferguson Smith began investigations on the site, focusing on Diogenes' inscription, of which he was able to recover a further 38 new fragments. Smith was furthermore able to relocate most of the fragments found in the 19th century and to submit them to fresh analysis. From 1974 his project was accompanied by a survey undertaken over many years by the BIAA (British Institute at Ankara), initially directed by Alan Hall. This survey represented the first thoroughgoing exploration of the topography and structures of Oinoanda, and also led to the discovery of a further 86 fragments of Diogenes' inscription, which were published successively by M. F. Smith. The greatest number of inscription fragments was found in the area of the so-called Esplanade, identified as the older, Hellenistic agora of the city. In 1997, a small excavation, conducted by BIAA in collaboration with Fethiye Museum, with M. F. Smith as scientific director, brought to light several more blocks of Diogenes' inscription on the Esplanade. This was the first and only archaeological excavation at Oinoanda in the 20th century. In the framework of the BIAA survey, explorations were undertaken that opened up the territory of the ancient city. In addition to the Epicurean inscription, numerous non-philosophical texts have been discovered at Oinoanda and published. Of particular note are the genealogical inscription from the mausoleum of Licinnia Flavilla and the so-called Demostheneia inscription. Along with Diogenes' inscription, these are among the most important inscriptions recovered from the ancient Greek world and underscore the exceptional significance of Oinoanda as an "epigraphic Eldorado". The Demostheneia inscription has been discussed in detail by M. Wörrle, former director of the Commission for Ancient History and Epigraphy at the DAI, who interpreted it as evidence of the festival culture and general mentality of imperial-era élites in the cities of Asia Minor. Research activities at Oinoanda were suspended a few years ago in spite of notable results, leaving many questions unanswered. In particular, there is uncertainty about the architectural conception of Diogenes' inscription and its relationship to its urban surroundings. Little is known too about the successive phases of the development of the city and the diachronic change that took place in public spaces. The resumption of archaeological investigations at Oinoanda can moreover be expected to yield further finds of inscriptions.


3 View from the south of the wooded areas of the ancient town © DAIThe new research project at Oinoanda, commenced in 2007, involves a comprehensive, fresh documentation of the urban area, including the inscription fragments that are scattered across the site. This is to be carried out with the aid of modern technology and with the aim of more thoroughly investigating Diogenes' inscription, the urban development of Oinoanda, and the ancient community's particular material culture. A team of international researchers with different specialisations is participating in the project, which seeks to widen the basis of research - so far mainly focused on epigraphy - in order that more may be learned about the specific features of the city and about the inhabitants who set such store by public inscriptions. The state of the ruins at Oinoanda also makes professional investigation a matter of urgency since the archaeological substance of the site has been severely disturbed and is still jeopardised by illegal digging and looting.


The documentation of building structures and inscription fragments is being conducted using modern technology. Three-dimensional point-cloud models produced by the terrestrial laser scanners serve as the basis for the architectural documentation, and models of inscription fragments created by stripe light scanners supplement squeeze copies and drawings of architectural members. The data will be brought together in an Oinoanda GIS by means of geo-referencing on the basis of precise mapping with a stationary GPS device.  
As regards the inscription fragments, the complicated find situation and the heterogeneous documentation methodology presented a serious obstacle to previous research efforts. New methods of documentation and of geo-referenced collation of various data offer a solution to the problem – and are also well suited to the task of establishing the original architectural context of the inscriptions and the history of their destruction. The basis for the analysis of the urban structure is initially being provided by the architectural documentation (supported by terrestrial laser scanner) and the results of the geophysical investigations. The three-dimensional models of the inscription fragments supplement and augment previous documentation work in the form of squeeze copies, photographs and descriptions.
The creation of a Geographical Information System (GIS) using digitized cadastral maps will provide the basis for collating the inscription models (with all their available image and text data) with the spatial data of the urban structure. The GIS is intended to be a convenient tool for the digitization of the project results and for facilitating the exchange of research among disciplines involved (archaeology, structural engineering, epigraphy, geomatics, geophysics).

Current research

In the ongoing field research project, four campaigns have been carried out so far. With regard to the Diogenes inscription, we are working towards the complete inventorization, mapping and three-dimensional documentation of all recovered fragments, creating the basis for a comprehensive reappraisal of the philosophical inscription. The greater part of this documentation work has already been completed. In the process, 53 new fragments of the Diogenes inscription have come to light, adding substantially to the inventory. Many new finds furthermore deepen what we know of the non-philosophical inscriptions of Oinoanda. Documentation of the latter inscriptions is being converted into the methodologically new system as well, with the result that epigraphic research at Oinoanda is being placed on a completely new footing.
For the first time, stone-by-stone documentation of significant architectural structures in the centre of the city has been undertaken. We have concentrated on the Esplanade, which is presumed to be the oldest centre of Oinoanda and the place where numerous inscriptions were displayed. Thus, essential preconditions for contextualizing Oinoanda's epigraphic remains within the ancient urban landscape have been created.
The evolution of the city, its morphology and immediate surroundings are the focus of a comprehensive and integrated investigation of the archaeological site. This has already yielded some important findings and will ultimately lead to the creation of a chronologically phased, detailed plan of the city and its environs.
In addition, a burglar-proof depot building has been erected on site, where the inscription fragments can be stored, substantially improving the conservation situation.

Report 2008

Report 2009

Report 2010

Report 2011

Report 2012

Cooperation / Cooperation partners

Cooperation partners and others involved in the project

Martin Bachmann - DAI Istanbul Department (project direction, architectural research)
Veli Köse - Hacettepe University of Ankara (classical archaeology)
Jürgen Hammerstaedt - University of Cologne (epigraphy)
Martin Ferguson Smith - formerly of University of Durham (epigraphy)
Nicholas Milner - BIAA (epigraphy)
Tilmann Müller - University of Applied Sciences, Karlsruhe, Institute of Geomatics (laser line scanning)
Harald Stümpel - University of Kiel (geophysics)

Involved in the project

Terrestrial laser scanning of the Esplanade and surrounding areas
Ertan Ilter, Vildan Inan

Structural record of the Esplanade
Eric Laufer (University of Cologne), Dorothea Roos (University of Karlsruhe), Niko Koch (University of Karlsruhe), Ozan Ayaz (Akdeniz Üniversitesi Antalya), Annika Zeitler (FH Regensburg), Ulrike Herrmann (TU Wien)

Geophysical prospection on the Esplanade
Christina Klein, Karolin Dünnbier, Martin Proksch

Recording of fragments of Diogenes' inscription
Jürgen Hammerstaedt, Matylda Obryk, In Yong Song, Oliver Thiessen, Anke Rasselnberg (University of Cologne), Martin Ferguson Smith, Konrad Berner (University of Applied Sciences Karlsruhe)

Laser line scanning of the Diogenes fragments
Konrad Berner, Benjamin Fischer, Matthias Güldenpfennig (all from the University of Applied Sciences, Karlsruhe)

Epigraphic survey
Nicholas Milner (BIAA), Veli Köse (Hacettepe Üniversitesi Ankara), Gregor Staab (University of Cologne), Matylda Obryk (University of Cologne)

Aquaeduct and water supply
Konrad Berner (University of Applied Sciences Karlsruhe), Martin Bachmann


Fritz Thyssen Stiftung
Gesellschaft der Freunde und Förderer der Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

Kim Hee-Kyung Stiftung für europäische Kultur- und Geisteswissenschaften


Alumni/Freunde und Förderer der Universität zu Köln e.V.

Stiftung Altertumskunde der Universität zu Köln

Sponsorship of the depot building: see Report 2010



G. Cousin, Inscriptions d'Oenoanda, Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique 16 (1892), 1-70.
R. Heberdey - E. Kalinka, Die philosophische Inschrift von Oinoanda, Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique 21 (1897), 346-443.
M. F. Smith, Diogenes of Oinoanda. The Epicurean inscription. Edited with introduction, translation and notes, La scuola di Epicuro, Supplemento 1 (Napoli 1993).
M. F. Smith, The philosophical inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda, Ergänzungsbände zu den Tituli Asiae Minoris Nr. 20 (Wien 1996).
M. F. Smith, Supplement to Diogenes of Oinoanda. The Epicurean inscription, La scuola di Epicuro Supplemento 3 (Napoli 2003).
M. F. Smith, Excavations at Oinoanda 1997. The new Epicurean texts, Anatolian Studies 48 (1998), 125-170.
J. J. Coulton - N. P. Milner - A. S. Hall, The mausoleum of Licinnia Flavilla and Flavius Diogenes of Oinoanda. Epigraphy and architecture, Anatolian Studies 46 (1996), 111-144.
N. P. Milner, Ancient inscriptions and monuments from the territory of Oinoanda, Anatolian Studies 54 (2004), 47-77.
N. P. Milner, A hellenistic statue base in the upper agora at Oinoanda, Anatolian Studies 48 (1998), 113-116.
M. Wörrle, Stadt und Fest im kaiserzeitlichen Kleinasien. Studien zu einer agonistischen Stiftung aus Oinoanda, Vestigia 39 (München 1988).
M. F. Smith / J. Hammerstaedt, The Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda. New Investigations and Discoveries (NF 137-141), Epigraphica Anatolica 40 (2007) 1-11.
J. Hammerstaedt / M. F. Smith, Diogenes of Oinoanda: The discoveries of 2008 (NF 142-167), Epigraphica Anatolica 41 (2008) 1-37.

The city and its buildings

A. Hall, The Oenoanda survey 1974-76, Anatolian Studies 26 (1976), 1991-197.
A. Hall, A sanctuary of Leto at Oenoanda, Anatolian Studies 27 (1977), 193-197.
A. Hall - R. Ling, Building Mk 1 at Oenoanda, Anatolian Studies 31 (1981), 31-53.
J. J. Coulton, Oinoanda. The Doric building (Mk 2), Anatolian Studies 32 (1982), 45-59.
J. J. Coulton, The buildings of Oinoanda. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, New series 29 (1983), 1-20.
J. J. Coulton, Oinoanda. The Agora, Anatolian Studies 36 (1986), 61-90.
J. J. Coulton - E. Stenton, Oinoanda. The water supply and aqueduct, Anatolian Studies 36 (1986), 15-59.
N. P. Milner, A Roman bridge at Oinoanda, Anatolian Studies 48 (1998), 117-123.


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