Online Review: Book

Römische Militärdiplome und Entlassungsurkunden in der Sammlung des Römisch-Germanischen Zentral-museums

Florian Matei-Popescu


By Barbara Pferdehirt. 2 vols. Vol. 1, Pp. v + 217, figs. 15; vol. 2, Pp. 144, b&w pls. 138, color pls. 4. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums and Rudolf Habelt, Mainz and Bonn 2004. €73. ISBN 3-88467-086-7 (cloth).

In the last two decades, the number of Roman military diplomas known and published has constantly increased (also see volumes of the series Roman Military Diplomas [RMD], London); these are copies of imperial constitutiones that granted to the soldiers from the auxiliary units, to the sailors, and to the former equites singulares Augusti Roman citizenship and the right to contract legal matrimony, and to the former members of the praetorian guard only the right to contract matrimony even with women without Roman citizenship. The reason for this increase is simple enough to explain. After the fall of the Communist regimes in eastern Europe, a period of governmental and administrative chaos, a number of important antiquities was sold to markets in western Europe and the United States. A simple look at the military diplomas published in this volume will show that an important part of them were originally discovered in the Lower Danube region, probably in the territory of Bulgaria, although Romania and Serbia cannot be excluded. The Roman-German Museum of Mainz has done important work in collecting these objects from the antiquities markets and saved them for world heritage. And Pferdehirt has also done a wonderful job making them available to the public.

The catalogue includes 72 Roman military diplomas (entirely or partially preserved) and three Roman discharge certificates. The discharge certificates were given by the provincial governors, not by the emperors, and they attest only the honorable discharge from military service (honesta missio)—all members of the auxiliary units were already Roman citizens according to Caracalla’s reform of 212 C.E. An interesting release from military duties is the missio causaria granted by Julius Philippus the Arab and his son to a member of the second cohort of the vigiles due to his bad health, through a letter sent to the praefectus vigilum in the year 248/9 C.E. (no. 75; for a new discussion on this document, see F. v. Saldern, “Ein kaiserliches Reskript zur Entlassung eines Angehörigen der Vigiles,” ZPE 156 [2006] 293–307).

The author presents the text of each document and the necessary comments in endnotes. The comments, following the standards set by CIL 16 and by the series RMD, were deliberately kept to a minimum (vii). The volume of plates is wonderfully clear, giving everyone the possibility to see for themselves if the reading proposed by the author is correct or not.

As it happens with a volume that tackles so many problems and covers a wide area of the Roman empire, some minor errors occur:

1. Number 1 (7 n. 6): as already proposed by Paul Holder (and quoted by the author), it should read, “IIII HISPA[NORVM]”instead of “III HISPANORVM.”

2. Number 13 (another copy of the imperial consitutio [CIL 16 54]): the date of this consitutio is more likely to be 103–105 C.E. and not 103–106 C.E., since one of the units enlisted in it, cohors I Brittonum milliaria, appears in a consitutio given to its members ante emerita stipendia on 11 August 106 (CIL 16 160) already in Dacia; in no. 13, Trajan is only imperator IIII (CIL 16 160 has him imperator VI); the very existence of two tabellae II (CIL 16 49; RMD 5 339), both probably dating (for CIL 16 49, the date is sure) to 12 January 105, leads me to believe that all these diplomas were copied from the same imperial consitutio.

3. Number 16 (47–8 n. 2): the cognomen of the one of the governors of Dacia is Scaurianus and not Scaurinus (D. Terentius Scaurianus is attested governor [109–12]).

4. Number 20 (58–9 n. 2): there are two different cohorts in question here, not just one (60 n. 3). I Bracaragustanorum was relocated from Moesia inferior to Dacia inferior, and I Bracarorum c. R. was relocated from Mauretania Tingitana to Moesia Inferior (see my study in D. Benea and C. Muşeţeanu, eds., Corona Laurea. Studii în onoarea Luciei Ţeposu Marinescu [Bucharest 2005] 313–18). The ala I Claudia Gallorum Capitoniana does not appear on the military diploma for Dacia, dated to 2 July 110 (CIL 16 163), whereas ala I Claudia nova miscellanea (relocated from Moesia superior) does.

5. Number 22 (65): ala I Brittonum c. R. is not attested in Moesia superior, according to number 13 and CIL 16 54, which mention a cohors I Brittonum milliaria, not an ala. As the author points out, the very presence of this unit on this diploma proves that the ala mentioned on 10 August 123 (RMD 1 21) as part of the auxiliary units of Pannonia inferior is ala I Britannica c. R., as Russu maintained (Dacia n.s. 18 [1974] 155–78).

6. Number 31 (91 n. 8): as can be easily read on the photograph, the origin of Prisca Dasmeni f. is Dard(ana) and not Lard(…).

Despite these few shortcomings, Römische Militärdiplome presents an excellent catalogue, with many documents that are important starting points for future discussions of different aspects of the Roman history. The texts preserved in these small bronze diptychs contain much information concerning the administrative organization of the provinces; the names of governors; the names and the exact dates of consuls from Rome; the names and origins of auxiliary soldiers, sailors, and members of the praetorian guard; and last but not least, the deployment of auxiliary units all over the empire.

Florian Matei-Popescu
Institute of Archaeology
Vasile Parvan
Henri Coanda Str. no. 11, Sector 1
010667 Bucharest

Book Review of Römische Militärdiplome und Entlassungsurkunden in der Sammlung des Römisch-Germanischen Zentral-museums, by Barbara Pferdehirt

Reviewed by Florian Matei-Popescu

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 111, No. 4 (October 2007)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1114.Popescu

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