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The panel on the left represents a conquered war-like Thracian tribe called the "Bessi" that were located in the area of modern Bulgaria. Augusts' armies campaigned against them in 35, 29, and 11 BC. The figure wears a belted dress and a long cloak veiled over the head. The distinctive headband is an attribute of Dionysus and alludes to the well-known enthusiasm of the Thracian tribes for the god. The conical hat on the ground was probably another ethnic marker. (from the description of the panel in the Museum of Aphrodisias). The inscription on the base reads in Greek: ΕΘΝΟΥΣ ΒΕΣΣΩΝ "Ethnos Bessi."
The panel on the right represents the island of Crete—the name is visible in Greek on the base. The classical hairstyle, dress, and pose characterize the figure as civilized and 'free', as opposed to barbarian and captive. Attributes are missing from both hands. (from the description of the panel in the Museum of Aphrodisias). The inscription on the base reads in Greek: ΚΡΗΤΗ "Krete."
The Sebasteion was a complex of structures that served as a municipal imperial cult sanctuary. It was dedicated to Aphrodite, the main deity of Aphrodisias, and to the "gods Sebastoi"—that is to the "August Ones," namely Julius Caesar and his successors. Local elite persons built it to solidify their ties with Rome. Its construction began during the reign of Tiberius and continued into the reign of Nero.