Adauni (Cles (Trento), in the locality of Campi Neri.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum):
Museo provinciale d'Arte di Trento, Italy. Inventory number: 9660.
46 CE Mar 15th
Bronze tablet. Small circular holes, 5mm in diameter, at each of its four corners where it was once attached to a wall. The text is enclosed within a rectangular, inverted frame. The Tabula is slightly curved and has two dents.
This bronze tablet, discovered in 1869 together with some small silver objects and items dedicated to Saturn, contains an edict issued by the emperor Claudius in 46 CE. It is an important source for the light that it sheds on Claudius’s process of awarding citizenship to non-Roman peoples, as well as the uncertain status of certain frontier communities, in this instance three Alpine tribes.
The edict was issued by Claudius on 15 March, 46 CE, from his residence in Baiae, in the Bay of Naples. Some scholars, such as Barbara Levick, have interpreted his actions as a calculated move against the Senate, demonstrating his independence from their control and marginalising their role in his regime (Levick, Claudius, p. 82; 94). The fact that he was intervening in civic affairs in Italy, whose administration usually fell directly to the Senate in Rome, was certainly insensitive, as was his decision to issue the edict from outside of the capital city at the imperial villa at Baiae, which perhaps emphasised the suggestion of his opposition to the House and ability to act outside of their established procedures. In many respects the edict presents the awkward nature of Claudius’s relationship with the Senate and his attempt to work with, and around, them during his principate. However, the tablet also presents an interesting picture of how the communities of Italy, particularly those far from Rome, responded to Roman rule, and particularly in reference to the issues surrounding the legality of citizenship. As the edict reveals, the legal and geographical extent of Roman citizenship was not always easy to precisely define, with certain groups – such as the Alpine tribes of the Adauni, Tulliasses and Sidauni under discussion here – living under the assumption of Roman citizenship when it had not formally been awarded to them.
The first seven lines of the edict contain information pertaining to the consuls in power and Claudius’s imperial titles, which has allowed for such a secure date. Lines 8-14 of the edict reveals that an earlier dispute between the Comenses and Bergalei tribes was the origin of the course of events that led to Claudius’s pronouncement; there were ‘earlier controversies’ (veteribus controversis), although their nature is not made explicit, that were brought before the emperor Tiberius some twenty years earlier in 26 CE. Comum had been made a municipality in 49 BCE and their dispute with the neighbouring Bergalei, who were peregrini, was likely over whether or not they could claim right of ownership to their land (Hardy, Roman Laws, p. 127, n. 10). Tiberius had sent out a delator, (lit. ‘informer’, but rather someone sent by the administration to retrieve information), the named Pinarius Apollinaris, but did not receive his report, and the dispute continued unresolved for the next two decades. The matter came to Claudius’s attention because, as the edict states in lines 14-16, his own delator, Camurius Statutus, informed him that the lands in question in the dispute ‘were within [his] jurisdiction’ (agros plerosque / et saltus mei iuris esse), meaning that they were taxable commodities. Claudius had immediately sent out his ‘amicum et comitem meum’ (‘my friend and companion’), Iulius Planta, to investigate the matter, who discovered that three tribes – the Adauni, Tulliasses and Sinauni – on the border of the territory of Tridentum, close to the area of the earlier dispute, had been acting under the incorrect impression that they all held Roman citizenship.
In terms of municipal status, Tridentum was a municipium under ius Latii, or the Latin right, meaning that its inhabitants were subject to its authority and judicial control. In the second part of the edict, beginning at line 23, deals with Claudius’s response to the problematic situation that has arisen, stating that the people of the three tribes – the Adauni, Tulliasses and Sidauni - are ‘attributed’ (adtributam) to the people of Tridentum, and therefore also subject to her laws and control. Although allowed to retain ownership of their own land, they had to pay taxes to the municipium and did not possess the same full rights as its inhabitants (Hardie, Roman Law, p. 130). This arrangement had its origin in the Lex Pompeia of 89 BCE, which was drawn up following the settlement of Transalpine Gaul and extended the ‘Latin right’ to those towns on the Italian border of the province. Ernest Hardy noted that following the establishment of a new law, the Lex Roscia of 49 BCE, the Latin communities such as Tridentum were awarded the status of municipia, with their ‘attributed’ communities elevated to the status of communities under ius Latii (Roman Law, p. 130-1). The situation of the Adauni, Tulliasses and Sidauni had been complicated by these changes; some of the tribes-people were ‘attributed’ to Tridentum, and so may genuinely have claimed ‘Latin right’ since 49 BCE, but others – according to Claudius – were not, and so were still of ‘peregrine’ legal status and yet, for the last century, all had believed themselves to be, or wanted others to believe that they were full Roman citizens.
Claudius’s response to this was to award citizenship to all, even though he was aware ‘that this class of people do not have a strong case for Roman citizenship’ (tam et si animadverto non nimium firmam id genus homi/num habere civitatis Romanae originem). This might appear to be an unusually generous grant, especially from an emperor who was known to have executed those who ‘usurped’ citizenship illegally, and who forbade non-citizens from using the Roman tria nomina naming system (Millar, Emperor in the Roman World, p. 481). There was, however, a practical motivation for Claudius’s actions; in lines 27-9 he states that their belief in holding Roman citizenship had endured for so long, that to separate them (legally) from the Tridenti would cause significant damage to the reputation of Tridentum, which was legitimately a Latin municipium (tamen, cum longa / usurpatione in possessionem eius fuisse dicatur et ita permix/tum cum Tridentinis, ut diduci ab is sine gravi splendi[di] municipi / iniuria non possit). Although appearing to protect the Tridenti from undue negativity, from an administrative perspective this was a necessary statement; to separate the legal status of the Adauni, Tulliasses and Sidauni would be enormously problematic, given the interactions of inheritance, property exchange and intermarriage that almost certainly occurred between the municipium and its ‘attributed’ territories over the last one hundred years (Hardy, Roman Law, p. 131, n. 22; Reinhold ‘Usurpation of Status…’, p. 289). Even more worryingly for Claudius, some of the members of these three tribes had served as soldiers in his Praetorian Guard (quod / plerisque ex eo genere hominum etiam militare in praetorio / meo dicuntur), a privilege reserved for only Roman citizens and usually domiciled in Italian towns (see Tacitus, Annals IV.5), others had served as generals (quidam vero ordines quoque duxisse), and others even seem to have acted as judges in their local councils (nonnulli collecti in decurias Romae res iudicare). The legal and administrative ramifications of their lacking Roman citizenship were therefore immeasurable; in line 35 he states that he bestows upon them the ‘favour’ of citizenship (quod beneficium is ita tribuo) retrospectively, to include all acts taken by them under the erroneous impression of holding Roman citizenship, and he makes them legally binding (ratam esse iubeat). His final act of beneficium, or ‘favour’ to the three tribes, is to permit them to keep their names, the tria nomina used to illustrate citizenship, even though they legally had not had the right to them (nominaque ea / quae habuerunt antea tanquam cives Romani). This was an issue about which Claudius was particularly strict about enforcing, and so represents the extent to which the edict attempted to maintain a fluid and stable transfer of status, without upsetting the local communities or leading to civil unrest (for Claudius’s strict application of Roman names, see Suetonius, Claudius, XXV).
There is much that is interesting in this inscription; not only does it illustrate the benefits and privileges of citizenship and how these might be shared by the emperor with the communities within the empire, but it also demonstrates the difficulty of maintaining the different legal ‘barriers’ between the various groups under Roman control (Reid, Municipalities of the Roman Empire, p. 167). The territory controlled by the municipality of the Tridenti clearly covered a large area, large enough that it was not possible to distinguish between the legitimate claims to status of the different groups that inhabited it. At a considerable distance from Rome, and already complicated by the different statuses of these groups, it is entirely conceivable that the laws passed to elevate the legal standing of Tridentum and its ‘attributed’ territories was not fully understood or, as Ernest Hardy suggested, that the ‘legal bearings of the change were not appreciated’, hence the length of time for which the confusion endured (Roman Laws, p. 122).
Claudius’s edict also makes an interesting statement about the ‘elaborate hierarchical order’ of the Roman ‘class’ system (Reinhold, ‘Usurpation of Status’, p. 275). The preoccupation of the edict with the legal position of these different groups might be misunderstood as indicative of a lack of social mobility in the Roman empire, but the text of the inscription reveals the exact opposite; in spite of the precise order and ranking of Roman society, and the associated privileges, Claudius’s edict demonstrates that ‘the Roman World was always in some measure an “open society”’, in which manoeuvrability between ‘ranks’ was entirely possible (Reinhold, ‘Usurpation of Status’, p. 275). Although Claudius’s decision to award the Adauni, Tulliasses and Sidauni tribes citizenship was based on retrospective necessity, to preserve order, avoid legal disputes and protect the reputation of a successful Roman municipium, it also reveals the ease with which Rome was able to remove certain social barriers ‘for the benefit of groups and individuals…a well-known phenomenon in Roman political and social history’ (Reinhold, ‘Usurpation of Status’, p. 275).