This stele and its intriguing inscription have been discussed
in several works since the stele's serendipitous discovery
in 1965. These include: Barger, T. (1966). "The Riddle
of Meda'in Salih." Archaeology, 19. 217-219. Barger,
T. (1969). "Greek Inscription Deciphered; Seal Found
in Arabia." Archaeology, 23. 139-140. Bowersock, G. (1971).
"A Report on Arabia Provincia." The Journal of Roman
Studies, 61. 219-242 [note page 230]. Bowersock, G. (1983).
Roman Arabia. Harvard University Press: Massachusetts. [note
Professor G.W. Bowersock has noted that, since the painter
referred to in this inscription took his name from the Roman
emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138 A.D.), the inscription could
not be earlier than Hadrian's reign; its lettering also is
characteristic of the second or third centuries A.D. The headquarters
of the Third Cyrenaican Legion, during Hadrian's reign, were
at Bostra in Rome's Province of Arabia. Apparently, a painter
(presumably a shield-painter) among the Roman troops at Mada'in
Salih, a southernmost outpost of the Nabataeans in this province
of Rome, set up this marker to honor the fortune of Bostra.
The language of the inscription is Greek, though the official
language of the Roman army was Latin. This reflects the personal
character of this dedication, which is not an official document
emanating from the Legion.
The Tyche of a city was the presiding deity of the city and
often the symbol of the city. By dedicating this stele to
the Tyche of Bostra, Hadrian (the shield-painter) is demonstrating
his allegiance to the city where his legion had its base.
He is declaring himself to be a person from Bostra in a foreign
This Greek stele was outside Saudi Arabia for many years,
but was returned in 1999, and placed on display in the National
Museum. It has not yet been catalogued into the National Museum's
collection of pre-Islamic epigraphy. The story of this stele's
discovery, export and return to Saudi Arabia has been recounted
in "Well of Good Fortune" by P. Kesting, in Saudi
Aramco World (May/June, 2001, pp. 14-17).
*Special thanks to Prof. G.W. Bowersock and Dr. Joseph
Greene for information on this stele.