Dedication of a temple by a client king in Britain (RIB, 91)

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Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
Temple of Neptune and Minerva, Chichester, England.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
West face of the Council Chamber, Chichester District Council building, Chichester.
30 CE to 70 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Marble dedication slab. The left-hand side is lost, with the rest broken into four pieces in the attempt to remove it from the ground when discovered in 1723. The fragments have been set into concrete and built into the wall of a portico in the west face of Chichester Council House.
Purbeck marble.
Height: 0.826 m
Width: 1.245m
Height: 0.6477m
Width: 1.1016m
RIB, 91
The inscription on this marble plaque is an important source for the Roman presence in Britain following Claudius’s conquest in 43 CE. It reveals Rome’s reliance on a ‘friendly’ or ‘client’ king to maintain control, and indicates the successful extent of ‘Romanisation’ in this part of Roman Britain. The inscription, discovered by workmen in 1723, commemorates the dedication of a temple to Neptune and Minerva in the town of Chichester. Permission to build the temple has been given by Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus, who is described as the ‘great king of Britain’. The nomenclature and the description that he is of kingly status have given rise to a wealth of scholarship that has attempted to interpret who indeed Togidubnus was, and what kind of authority had been extended to him by Rome. Although often considered the ‘ideal’ exemplum of a client king in the Latin West, there is little direct evidence to explain how he came to this prominent position, and what special status had been awarded to him by the Roman administration.
‘Togidubnus’ is only briefly mentioned in the ancient sources, and these short descriptions are somewhat problematic, particularly regarding the correct form of his name. The same ‘Togidumnus’ of this inscription is more regularly identified as the ‘Cogidumnus’ of Tacitus’s Agricola (XIV.1), who is described there as receiving certain civitates to administer as a king (quaedam civitates Cogidumno regi donatae). Cassius Dio describes a ‘Togodumnus’, who was the son of a native British aristocrat in the first century CE, which appears to match a note in the earliest known manuscript of the Agricola, from the ninth century CE, which corrected ‘Cogidumnus’ to ‘Togidumnus’ (Salway, Roman Britain, p. 748). The inscription does not offer much clarity, as the first two letters of the name in line 5 were lost prior to its discovery and subsequent fragmentation in 1723. The scholarship today generally assumes that the two names refer to the same individual, and utilise them interchangeably according to preference; the editors of the Roman Inscriptions of Britain preferred ‘Togidumnus’, hence its use in this commentary.
It is clear from the praenomen and nomen given in the inscription that Togidumnus, although most likely of Celtic – and perhaps aristocratic – origin, was awarded Roman citizenship, and probably from the emperor Claudius himself; although Tiberius belonged to the gens Claudia, he had abandoned use of the nomen when adopted by Augustus, and it was similarly not used by Caius (Caligula). Emperor Claudius (full nomenclature: Tiberius Claudius Drusus) revived it on account of his succession taking place without adoption, and thus suggests that he was the ruling dynast to award Togidumnus his citizenship (Barrett, “Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus,” p. 126).
Line 5 has also received much attention for the kind of power that it appeared to award Togidumnus. Earlier publications of the stone, including the first edition of Roman Inscriptions of Britain, restored the missing letters as r(egis) legat[i A]ug(usti) in Bri(tannia) (‘king and legatus of Augustus in Britain’), which led to much discussion as to the senatorial rank that the status of legatus implied (see Barrett, “The Career of Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus,” p. 227-242; Salway, Roman Britain, p. 748-752; RIB 91, 1st edition). However, Julianus Bogaers’s close study of the inscription in situ led to the re-reading provided here from the second edition of the RIB (see Bogaers, ‘King Cogidubnus in Chichester’, p. 243-254). This reading unequivocally restored the missing letters as r[eg(is) m]agni Brit(anniae), (great king of Britain), which has been interpreted as an equivalent of the Greek megas basileus, associated in the East with kings who had expanded the geographic limits of their rule through the acquisition of new territory (Bogaers, King Cogidubnus in Chichester, p. 252-254; Barrett, “Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus,” p. 126). Although it is not clear whether or not Togidumnus was a king before Rome’s arrival in the region, or whether he was made so as part of Claudius’s administration of the local communities, it is clear that he was put in charge of a particular area and with some particular authority. This can be further clarified if we consider Tacitus’s statement that Togidumnus had received civitates (“communities”) – possibly which enlarged a kingdom or territory already held by him – which he now ruled as a ‘client king’ on behalf of Rome (Barrett, ‘Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus’ p. 126).
Tacitus’s description of Togidumnus stated that he remained ‘loyal’ to Rome for a long time (Agricola XIV.1: is ad nostram usque memoriam fidissimus mansit), and it is perhaps for this reason that he was included as part of Claudius’s policy towards the conquest of Britain; Chichester, the town that appears to have been at the heart of Togidumnus’s territory, was within an area that commanded one of the major sea-routes into Britain, and so it was in Claudius’s interest to establish an enclave that might provide security and a focus of loyalty to the administration. This was even more important as Claudius’s plan of conquest involved moving the military progressively further west; if Togidumnus could be trusted to maintain control of a region that had previously been somewhat hostile to Roman occupation (e.g. the revolt against the governor Ostorius Scapula in 47 CE, Tacitus, Annals, XIV.31), then the troops otherwise required to garrison the large area could be redistributed (Barrett, “Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus,” p. 128). It was also a means of ‘dealing with a somewhat recalcitrant population without incurring the odium of direct rule’ (Barrett, “Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus,” p. 128).
It is clear that Togidumnus was happy to play his part in Rome’s policy of expansion in Britain; although no coinage for his reign appears to have been minted, he is widely considered the ‘ideal’ client king and there can be little doubt that he played a crucial role in Rome’s conquest of Britain. He is often also considered an excellent example of the successful ‘Romanisation’ of a province; his acquisition and use of his Roman name is a first instance of this, but further evidence can be found in the archaeological evidence, such as the dedication of the present inscription. Togidumnus had authorised the dedication of a marble plaque in a public space, to commemorate the building of a public temple to the Roman gods Neptune and Minerva; the temple had been paid for by a seemingly private citizen, Pudens, in an act of euergetism, and the inscription had been commissioned by a guild of smiths, who identified their professional body as a collegium. In every respect, from the construction of the building, to the gods it honoured, the way it was commemorated in monumental epigraphy and the material upon which the inscription was inscribed, this act was steeped in Roman cultural practice. The collegium, or guild, that erected the inscription had done so to safeguard the imperial household (domus divina / pro salute), which was underwritten by its local representative, Togidumnus. Further evidence for ‘Romanisation’ had been identified in the large number of fine houses in the region, and especially in the form of Fishbourne, the coastal villa once believed to be Togidumnus’s residential ‘palace’ (for Fishbourne see Fulford, ‘The Towns of South-East England’, p. 59-89; Cunliffe, Fishbourne Roman Palace). Although this attribution has largely been dismissed in recent years, the prevalence of residential building using Roman forms was unprecedented in first-century CE Britain, and is suggestive of a an unusually local impetus, as well as an organised community with high-ranking figures who enjoyed the kind of relationships with the official authorities that allowed them to make use of the material and economic benefits that Roman occupation brought (Salway, Roman Britain, p. 92). The successful institution of a client king such as Togidumnus liberated the Roman governor from the administration of day-to-day events in order to pursue military progression into unconquered or hostile territory, whilst leaving the king and the community over which he ruled to benefit from the support, markets and infrastructure of Rome that was now available to them. There is no clear indication of how long Togidumnus remained king, but Tacitus’s statement that he ‘remained loyal’ (fidissimus mansit) has been understood to imply that he was so for the rest of his life (Barrett, “Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus,” p. 129). His role as a ‘friendly king’ was an unmitigated success for Rome, and demonstrated that the ‘innovation of placing a client state behind the forward military zone was an unqualified success’ (Barrett, ‘Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus’, p. 130). King Togidumnus complied with Rome’s expansionist policy to his own benefit, and appears – as this inscription indicates – to have convinced the inhabitants of the communities that he governed to do the same; when his territory was incorporated into the provincia of Britain towards the end of the Julio-Claudian period, the security of the foundation laid by him ensured a peaceful and smooth transition.
Bibliographical references: 
Fulford, Michael, The Towns of South-East England, in The towns of Roman Britain: the contribution of commercial archaeology since 1990 (ed. M. Fulford, N. Holbrook; London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2015), 59-89
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Dedication of a temple by a client king in Britain (RIB, 91)
Author(s) of this publication: Caroline Barron
Publishing date: Fri, 09/14/2018 - 13:27
Visited: Thu, 12/03/2020 - 17:26

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