Dedication to Caracalla as pacator orbis (CIL XVII.2, 666)

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Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Honorific milestone.
Original Location/Place: 
Salodurum, Germania Superior (Solothurn, Avenches, Switzerland).
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Musée romain Avenches, Switzerland.
213 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Roman milestone with an inscription in Latin down one side. It has been broken into two pieces, through the centre of the final line.

CIL XVVII.2, 666 (= CIL XIII, 9072)

The above inscription was added to the face of a milestone in the Roman settlement of Salodurum (modern Solothurn, Switzerland). It is one of a small number of texts from the provinces of Germania Superior and Belgica in which the emperor Caracalla is described with the epithet pacator orbis – ‘peace-maker of the world’, which demonstrates the continued importance of the notion of pax – peace – in the characterisation of the emperor and his imperial vision.
The inscription was intended for both practical and honorific reasons; in the first case, it recorded the distance – 26 miles (Aventico XXVI) – from the city of Aventicum, the largest settlement and the former capital of the Helvetii, a Gaulish tribe who inhabited the plateau before Rome’s conquest of the region in the first century BCE (for the history of the region, see Castella et al, Aventicum: eine römische Hauptstadt). As well as functioning as a milestone, the inscription also commemorated rebuilding work that had taken place in the area in which it was located; Caracalla had restored roads and a bridge, which had collapsed due to age (vias et / pontes vetustate col/lapsos restituit). The emperor is described here by his Antonine names – Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus – which he had adopted when promoted as his father’s Caesar in 195-196 CE, in order to strengthen their legitimising claim to Antonine heritage (see Septimius Severus claims Antonine heritage). The title Pius was added to these names in 198 CE, and from 200 onwards he was raised to the status of Augustus and given the additional name Felix, both of which are given in the above inscription (Devijver and Waelkens, “Roman inscriptions from the upper agora at Sagalassos,” p. 115-116). Also evident are the military cognomina that were awarded to him, Parthicus maximus and Britannicus maximus, following his campaigns in Parthia and Britannia; the latter became a part of his official nomenclature in 209/210 CE and the former from 4th February 211 (Devijver and Waelkens, “Roman inscriptions from the upper agora at Sagalassos,” p. 116).  The date of the inscription – 213 CE – is given by the reference to his sixteenth award of tribunicia potestas (“tribunician power”) and his fourth consulship (consul IIII) (ibid). The most interesting parts of Caracalla’s official nomenclature begin to emerge at the end of lines 6 – 9; here he is described as “prince of youth, most brave, most lucky, great prince, peace-maker of the world” (princeps iuventutis / fortissimus felicissim/usque Magnus princeps / pacator orbis). The first of these epithets – princeps iuventutis – appeared in inscriptions following Caracalla’s acclamation as “destined emperor” (Imperator destinatus) in 197 CE and only occasionally after 211 CE; it was used to emphasise the crucial propaganda that was the dynastic portrait of the Severan family, and the inheritance that awaited him (Mastino, Le titolature di Caracalla e Geta, p. 67-68). Fortissimus felicissimusque (“most brave and most lucky”) spoke to the second key aspect of Severan imperial ideology – their military capacity. These laudatory epithets appear in inscriptions and coinage with some frequency, along with other cognomina “ex virtute”, such as pater militum (“father of the soldiers”), propagator imperii (“expander of imperium”) and invictus (“unconquered”) and reveal the role played by the military in the Severan court, and the extent to which imperial rule had moved away from the senatorial circles of the earlier principate (Mastino, Le titolature di Caracalla e Geta, p. 7). The imperial titles were no longer based on traditional civic virtues of indulgentia, beneficium and pietas, but had rather evolved towards a tone of militaristic monarchy, which even included the empress Julia Domna as the “mother of the camps” (mater castrorum, see Levick, Julia Domna, p. 41-44; 56; 130, 136 and 140). For further discussion of these epithets in Caracalla’s titulature, see Mastino, Le titolature di Caracalla e Geta, p. 62-66). 
The final epithets used to describe Caracalla in this inscription are magnus princeps and pacator orbis, both of which had important ideological precedents. Magnus princeps (“great prince”) intimated the emulation of Alexander the Great and had been introduced into the imperial titulature by Commodus, who was also the first to be characterised as “peace-maker of the world” (pacator orbis) by a decree of the Senate in 192 CE (Mastino and Ibba, “L’imperatore pacator orbis”, accessed 02.02.18. For inscriptions of Commodus that give this epithet, see e.g. CIL XIV, 3449; AE 1928, 86). Attilio Mastino and Antonio Ibba have suggested that the title was sought by Commodus in relation to his self-presentation in the guise of Hercules; the suggestion was that Commodus had exhibited the same strength and physical courage in the face of ‘barbarians’ as the demi-god had against the ancestral monsters he had fought on earth, with the result that both brought peace and prosperity to the world, which was recognised in the acclamation as pacator by the Senate (Mastino and Ibba, “L’imperatore pacator orbis”, section 4, accessed 02.02.18). The Severan emperors, perhaps in their continued emphasis of the fictional dynastic link between their family and the Antonines, adopted the title and others similar to it, such as fundator pacis, in the coinage of Septimius Severus and in the epigraphy of Carcalla’s reign. The orbis terrarum was synonymous with the orbis Romanus – “the Roman world” – and therefore the Roman empire; the claim to have brought peace to the entirety of the empire was informed by a more general principle of universality within the imperial court of Caracalla, that was best represented by his introduction of the Constitutio Antoniniana in 212 CE, just one year before the milestone had been set up. Not only had Caracalla succeeded militarily, ensuring that the pax Romana remained intact in Britain and Parthia, but he had brought peace to the domestic sphere of the empire through his universal grant of citizenship to all of its freeborn inhabitants. Both external and internal conflict were presented as resolved thanks to his reign, thanks to a “grand project of peace-making” that was acknowledged thought the award of pacator in Caracalla’s titulature (Lavan, “Peace and Empire,” p. 104). In the case of the inscription given here, the ‘peace’ of the empire had led to the kind of stability that permitted improvement, such as the roads and the bridge whose repairs were commemorated on the milestone; the rhetoric of the inscription addresses the whole program of the ruler, connecting the title of pacator with the viae et pontes in a specific context that indicated security. The peace brought by Roman imperium was a universal one, the external sign of which was the construction – and restoration – of roads and bridges that literally connected the different parts of the empire to each other in a grand scheme of imperial purpose (Mrozewiz, “Via et Imperium,” p. 356).
Bibliographical references: 

Roman inscriptions from the upper agora at Sagalassos

Devijver, Hubert and Waelkens, Marcarticle-in-a-bookSagalassos III: report on the fourth excavation campaign of 1993M. Waelkens, J. Poblome115-117Roman inscriptions from the upper agora at SagalassosLeuvenLeuven University Press1995

Via et Imperium

Mrozewicz, Leszekarticle-in-a-bookSiedlung und Verkehr im Römischen Reich: Römerstrassen zwischen Herrschaftssicherung und Landschaftsprägung: Akten des Kolloquiums zu Ehren von Prof. H.E. Herzig vom 28. und 29. Juni 2001 in BernR. Frei-Stolba345-360Via et ImperiumBern; OxfordLang2004
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Dedication to Caracalla as pacator orbis (CIL XVII.2, 666)
Author(s) of this publication: Caroline Barron
Publishing date: Sun, 08/12/2018 - 13:49
Visited: Mon, 04/22/2024 - 10:50

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