Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.):
Mérida, Badajoz, Extremadura, España (Augusta Emerita - Iulia Augusta Emerita)
Actual Location (Collection/Museum):
Museo Arqueológico de Mérida
42 CE to 54 CE
Small block of white marble; broken on the right side. Previously surrounded by a moulding of 1.5 cm, which is now visible clearly only along the top and left sides of the block. A 5 cm diameter hole with a rectangular slot has been cut into it, presumably balanced with another on the now missing right side of the stone, which held the footings to support a votive offering on top (metal bust or bronze statuette).
Height: 12.5 cm
Width: 38.5 cm
Depth: 31.5 cm
Letter heights: 1.6 – 2.7 cm
CIL II, 473
(AE 1946, 201 = AE 1997, 777b)
(AE 1946, 201 = AE 1997, 777b)
This small marble block – originally the support base for a small votive offering – is inscribed with a dedication to the imperial cult that is interesting for two reasons; firstly, it is dedicated to a joint cult of Augustus and Livia in the province of Lusitania, and secondly because the flamen, or priest, who dedicated it – Albinus – may not have been a Roman citizen, thereby calling into question the social origins of imperial flamines in the provinces in these early stages of the development of the imperial cult.
The inscription records a votive dedication to the divine Augustus and the divine Augusta (divo Augusto et divae Augustae) by a flamen, a member of one of the most important priesthoods of early Rome; according to the traditional account of the origins of Roman priesthoods three flamines maiores (major priests) had been instituted for the worship of Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus by King Numa Pompilius in the 7th century BCE, with a further twelve later assigned to specific deities during the republic. Augustus had revived their importance during the principate, building on the creation of a fourth flamen maior to serve the cult of Julius Caesar shortly before his assassination (see Beard, North and Price, Religions of Rome I, p. 140-9). A cult to Augustus and Rome was permitted in the provinces outside of Italy during his lifetime, complete with imperial flamines to serve it, and following his death a cult to the newly divinised divus Augustus was instigated, along with one to diva Augusta, or Livia, after her death in 42 CE (for Livia’s deification, see Cassius Dio, Roman History, LX, 5.2; Suetonius, Claudius, XI, 2; Seneca, Apocolocyntosis, IX, 5).
Although the right side of the stone has been broken, the text has been restored with reasonable certainty by Jonathan Edmonson who has also provided a thorough synthesis of the previous scholarship (“Two dedications…” p. 89-105). Previous editions of the inscription had failed to notice that the right side of the stone was lost and required textual restoration, resulting in publications of the inscription that read: divo Augusto / Albinus Albui f(ilius) flamen / divae Aug(ustae) provinciae Lusitan(iae) (AE 1946, 201). This naturally led to much confusion, as the text appeared to state that a flamen of the cult of Augustus was dedicating to the cult of Livia (see Étienne, Culte Impérial, esp. 124-6; 150-2; 166; Fishwick, “On C.I.L II, 473”, p. 79-82; Imperial Cult, I, p. 157-8; Deininger, Die Provinziallantage, p. 29). However, as the restoration published by Jonathan Edmonson has demonstrated, this is not the case; the inscription in question here appears to suggest the existence – in Lusitania at least – of a joint cult that celebrated both Augustus and Livia together. This kind of attestation is very rare in the Latin west; only one further attestation of a joint dedication to divus Augustus and divus Augusta is known from the western provinces (AE 1997, 00777a), also from Emerita (see Edmonson, “Two dedications…” p. 89-91). Both inscriptions have been dated to the period immediately after Livia’s deification in 42 CE, and suggest that at this early stage of the imperial cult’s growth in the provinces, the decision was made to maintain a single cult for all deified members of the imperial family – the divi and divae – rather than establishing individual cults for each (Edmonson, “Two dedications…” p. 99). Following the deification of Claudius in 54 CE, the title of imperial flamen became more generic, reflecting the wider scope of the cult that incorporated the divinity of all – the divi Augustorum – rather than specific individuals (Edmonson,“Two dedications…” p. 98). As Jonathan Edmonson has suggested, the two inscriptions demonstrate what has long been suspected, that the cult of Livia was “grafted on to the already established cult of the deified Augustus” (“Two dedications…” p. 90-1). This also, then, accounts for the problem discussed at length in the work of Robert Étienne, Jurgen Deininger and Duncan Fishwick, as to why a male priest – the flamen – should be attending the rites of a cult for a goddess, which were usually attended by a female priestess, the flaminica; a joint cult could, evidently, continue to be maintained by the priest already in charge of the existing rites to divus Augustus.
The most important – and interesting – feature of the inscription, however, is the question it raises regarding the status of the flamen who dedicated it; Albinus, son of Albuius (Albinus, Albui f(ilius)). Although there is plenty of evidence for the use of Albinus as a Latin cognomen, it is also common in the north and centre of Lusitania as a Latinised version of a native name (for examples, see Palomar Lopesa, La onomastica personal, p. 28). His father’s name, Albuius, is also attested as a name indigenous to these same areas of Lusitania, although much more rarely (e.g. CIL II, 710; see Edmonson, “Two dedications…” p. 99, n. 40). Jonathan Edmonson has also identified similarities in the structure of his name with examples in Portugal and Spain, such as an Albinus [A]pili f(ilius) in an inscription also from Lusitania (AE 1985, 522) and Albinus Maelo[n]is f(ilius) (AE 1986, 299) (see Edmonson, “Two dedications…” p. 99, n. 41 for further examples). Given these similarities, and the fact that neither our Albinus nor his father have the tria nomina typical of those with Roman citizenship, it is highly likely that he was not a citizen, and in fact a peregrinus, or ‘foreigner’, as far as Roman law was concerned. If this is the case, then he would provide the only instance yet identified of a non-citizen holding the office of imperial flamen (see Edmonson, “Two dedications…” p. 100-1 for a synthesis of the contrary arguments presented by earlier scholarship). This is entirely at odds with the legislation laid out for the imperial cult in Narbo, that the flamen of the cult must be a citizen: si flamen in civitate esse des[ierit] (Lex de Flamonio Provinciae Narbonensis, line 17; see Fishwick, Imperial Cult, III, chapter 1). This law, however, dates to the Flavian period, and its details may not yet have been so refined during the establishment of regulations for the cult in its earliest phases. This is a really interesting case.
Although unprecedented, the use of a non-citizen to administer the imperial cult in a provincial context is perhaps not unexpected; as demonstrated by the emergence of the Augustales, Magistri and Ministri – priesthoods held by freedmen and slaves – under Augustus, it is clear that appealing to all strata of Roman society was a key element in establishing the cult in both a pragmatic and ideological sense. Yes. Lusitania, in the first century CE, had few towns of Roman status and the number of Roman citizens based in them was relatively small, suggesting that the development of the cult relied rather on the involvement of the indigenous elite as well as Roman citizens, rather than strict adherence to legal statutes. By incorporating members of the local aristocracy into the cult, the process of acculturation was furthered and Rome’s control of the province better secured. Albinus’s social status can only be speculated over in this way, but his dedication of an inscription (above which most likely stood some form of votive object, such as a statuette or bust) and his attempt at replicating the formula of his nomenclature in a way that imitated those with Roman citizenship, is perhaps indicative of his local prestige, and his recognition of how this should be reflected in a new, Roman context. It was a reciprocal arrangement; not only was Albinus’s personal standing improved by the office of flamen, but loyalty to Rome was demonstrated and solidified, in a peripheral and otherwise unevenly-balanced region of Roman control (Edmonson, “Two dedications…” p. 104).