Dedication to the usurper Lucius Domitius Alexander (CIL VIII, 7004)

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Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
Cirta, Numidia (North Africa).
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Now lost.
308 CE to 310 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Statue base (?).
Width: 70 cm 
Height:  100 cm
CIL VIII, 7004
Last Statues of Antiquities: 2227
This fragmentary inscription records a dedication to the usurper Lucius Domitius Alexander, who seized power in Africa in 308-310 CE, before eventually succumbing to Maxentius’s troops. It is an interesting example of how honorific epithets typically used to celebrate the emperor were reiterated in the description of a usurping general, in order to emphasise the legitimate nature of his rule.
The inscription is dedicated to Lucius Domitius Alexander, a native of Phrygia, who had obtained the position of vicarius of Africa under the second tetrarchy of Galerius, Valerius Severus, Constantine and Maximinus. Maxentius, who had declared himself Augustus in the city of Rome, had ordered him to send his son as a hostage to the capital to demonstrate his loyalty (for this event, see Zosimus, New History II.12.2-3 and 14). Domitius Alexander refused, and declared himself emperor – supposedly with the encouragement of Constantine – in Africa in 308 CE, giving him control of the provinces of North Africa, including Numidia, where this dedication was set up (Pflaum, Inscriptions d’Algérie, p. 58 no. 580; Lepelley, Cités de l’Afrique romain, p. 389). Maxentius sent his praetorian prefect, Rufius Volusianus, to overthrow the rebellion, which he did, culminating in Alexander’s death in late 310 CE (Zosimus, New History, II.14.2-3; Jones, Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire I, p. 976-978). Before this, however, Alexander enjoyed a short reign, during which he issued coinage from the mint established in Carthage by Maxentius in 296 CE, which celebrated the cities of the provinces and alluded to his desire for recognition amongst the tetrarchs (Vagi, Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, vol. I, p. 455-456 and vol. II, p. 521). Statues were also set up for him, as this inscription indicates, which will have been destroyed following his death in 310 CE.
This particular dedication was offered by the governor of Numidia, Scironius Pasicrates (praeses provinciarum Numidiarum), and is interesting for the way that it addresses Domitius Alexander with epithets of traditional honorific value. Domitius is described as “restorer of public freedom” (Restitutor / publicae liber/tatis), “extender of the whole human race and the name of Rome” (propa/gator totius / generis humani / nominisque / Romani) and “lord” (dominus). Restitutor had appeared on imperial coinage from the Flavian period on and had enjoyed a particular prominence under the Antonine emperors, with Hadrian in particular heralded as the “restorer” of several provinces (see Hadrian, Roman soldiers and Asia). It had several associations: emperors might be acclaimed restitutor on account of the peace and prosperity that they had brought to a particular province, or it could refer more specifically to the capital itself, where it symbolised the restitution of order after civic strife (see e.g. RIC IV/1, Septimius Severus, no. 140 and 140a, p. 108; the same message is included in the dedicatory inscription of the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome). Restitutor could also refer to the restoration of particular virtues, such as pietas (“piety”), libertas (“liberty”) or securitas publica (“public safety”), whereby the emperor’s own personal connection with these qualities extended them beyond his person and into the populace of the empire as a whole. In the case of the inscription here, Domitius Alexander is celebrated as the “restorer of public freedom”; this was a relatively rare concept in epigraphic terms, appearing in only a handful of inscriptions that almost all date to the late 3rd and 4th centuries CE (a search on the Clauss-Slaby database generated only 10 examples of restitutor publicae libertatis). Libertas appeared infrequently in the numismatic record too, with Carlos Noreña noting that although “freedom” might seem to be a key imperial ideal, it was not represented as such on the coinage, and was not – in spite of it being advertised as a quality of a “good emperor” by figures like Tacitus and Pliny – therefore one of the key elements of imperial propaganda. “Monarchy and freedom were inherently incompatible” (Noreña, Imperial Ideals, p. 176-177). Propagator (“extender” or “enlarger”) had been in regular use since the Severan period, in which time at least twenty inscriptions dating to the reign of Septimius Severus carried the formula propagator imperii. The overwhelming majority of these also came from the province of Numidia; the title appears to have been derived by the Senate in Rome, however, from an epithet more properly associated with Jupiter, but was introduced in Severan honorific titles to emphasise the importance of martial conquest and expansion. Its appearance in this inscription may be a result of the visibility of earlier inscriptions that used propagator to make such claims, but in this instance Domitius Alexander is heralded not simply as an extender of Roman territory, but as an extender of the whole human race, totius generis humani, and of the Roman name; this was an unusual addition to the honorific titles, and one that is again attested only handful of times (9 records in Clauss-Slaby), but it clearly demonstrates the kind of imperial presentation that Domitius Alexander was aiming at. André Chastagnol has suggested that this purported “enlarging” of the “whole human race” was connected ideologically to the peace and liberation brought to Roman territory as a result of military activity. In this case, as Chastagnol proposes, the return to peace can also be considered a victory not only of Domitius Alexander the individual, but of the whole human race under his auspicious leadership (Chastagnol, Le formulaire de l’épigraphie Latine officielle dans l’antiquité tardive, p. 20-21). The inscription honoured him in the familiar language of honorific titles and sought to present what was essentially a local rebellion as a legitimate transfer of power. In spite of the usurpation enacted by Domitius Alexander, his rule of the African provinces was celebrated with appropriate imperial honours and in terminology that connected him to previous emperors.
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Dedication to the usurper Lucius Domitius Alexander (CIL VIII, 7004)
Author(s) of this publication: Caroline Barron
Publishing date: Thu, 06/27/2019 - 15:45
Visited: Sat, 08/15/2020 - 13:23

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