Dedication to Sextus Julius Severus, consular legate of Judea (CIL III, 2830)

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
In the forum of Colonia Claudia Aequum, (Kistanje), Dalmatia (Croatia).
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
135 CE to 138 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Honorific statue base that supported a statue of Sextus Julius Severus; it was an exact copy of the inscribed base and statue also set up in his honour in the Forum of Augustus or Trajan in Rome. 
Marble (?)
CIL III, 2830
This inscription records the cursus honorum of Sextus Julius Severus, the propraetorian legate of Judea who helped to successfully bring the Bar Kokhba revolt to an end. It commemorates his career, and describes the honours awarded to him by the emperor Hadrian for his efforts in suppressing the Jewish rebellion; it is an important testimony both for the outstanding career of a homo novus from the provinces, but also the severity of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and the impressive honours awarded to those who helped to bring it to an end.
The text of the inscription is honorific by nature, and designed to record in full the progression of Sextus Iulius Severus from lowly provincial to noble general. Not to be confused with the C. Julius Severus who was proconsul in Ancyra under Antoninus Pius, it is believed that this Iulius Severus originated from the Colonia Claudia Aequum, a small town in modern Croatia (6 km from Sinj), due to the erection of this honorific base and statue there, commemorating his career. Anthony Birley has suggested that he was likely a descendant of the veteran Sextus Iulius Silvanus, from the Legio VII Claudia, who settled in Aequum as the summus curator (caretaker) of Roman citizens there, and became its first aedile in c. 45 CE when it was proclaimed a colony (Birley, The Roman Government of Britain, p. 130, n. 137). The speed with which Severus’s career progressed is perhaps suggestive of significant patronage and his selection for distinction early on (see Dabrowa, The Governors of Roman Syria, p. 95); the first honours listed in the inscription record that he was “sevir of the fifth squadron of Roman knights” (sevir turmae V equitum Romanorum), quattuorvir for the maintenance of the streets (IIIIvir viarum curandarum), and quindecimvir sacris faciundis (XVvir sacris faciundis) – one of fifteen members of a college with priestly duties – all before his senatorial career began. To enter such a prestigious priestly college at as young an age as the inscription appears to indicate, right at the start of his career, would have been a notable achievement, as Anthony Birley has rightly noted, although he questions the chronology of the roles as they appear in the inscription, suggesting that these first three roles were grouped together on account of their similar vocabulary, rather than because they were all held first (Birley, The Roman Government of Britain, p. 130; n. 138 and 139). The cursus progressed with a military tribunate, as a provincial quaestorship and tribunate of the plebs, before taking on the legionary command of Dacia. He appears to have been in office for an unusually long term, with military diplomas attesting to his presence there between 120-126 CE (Birley, The Roman Government of Britain, p. 131). Further legionary commands followed, in Moesia and Britain, from where he departed in order to join the Roman campaign against the Bar Kokhba revolt. It was in Judea that his career reached its apex, with Hadrian awarding him the ornamenta triumphalia (“triumphal ornaments/decoration”) in return for his successful campaign (ob res in Iudaea / prospere gestas). This was the highest military honour then open to a man of senatorial rank; in the imperial period it was a substitute for the triumphs awarded to Republican generals, but from the time of Domitian on it became increasingly less commonly awarded (Eck, “The Bar Kokhba Revolt,” p. 82). Trajan bestowed ornamenta triumphalia on some generals from the Dacian Wars, but not the Parthian campaign, and no awards were made for the conflicts that were suppressed in Britain, Mauretania and on the lower Danube under Hadrian (Birley, Hadrian, p. 75, 79, 80, 90, 101). Following the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt, three different generals, including Severus, received the ornamenta triumphalia, indicating the scale of the unrest and the seriousness with which its resolution was considered by the emperor. It is presumed that Severus served as propraetorian legate in Judea until the war was concluded, after which he was given another governorship in Syria, in a further testament of the trust in which Hadrian held him (Birley, The Roman Government of Britain, p. 132). In short, his military career was “one of the most outstanding in the first half of the second century C.E.” involving four successive governorships in imperial provinces and the highest accolade available (Dabrowa, The Governors of Roman Syria, p. 96).
However, the magistracies detailed in this inscription are not the only reason for which the career of Sextus Iulius Severus should be considered especially interesting; the situation in which his command was transferred from the province of Britain to Judea – the Bar Kokhba war – is worthy of further consideration. The outbreak of unrest in Judea was to become the most problematic military situation of Hadrian’s career, and has generated much scholarship on the subject (see e.g. Smallwood, The Jews under Roman Rule, p. 428-466; Applebaum, Prolegomena; Schäfer, Bar Kokhba Reconsidered). As the inscriptions states, the war was so difficult to subdue that Hadrian was forced to transfer a general from another province – one at the very opposite end of the empire in fact – to assist in bringing it to an end. As suggested by Werner Eck, this kind of transfer – from a large and “leading” province such as Britannia to a minor one like Judea – would usually be interpreted as a demotion; in the case of Julius Severus, the move was an unprecedented step and extreme measure (Eck, “The Bar Kokhba Revolt” p. 82-88). It indicated not only the severity of the situation, but also Julius Severus’s excellent reputation as a military leader, a fact also attested by Cassius Dio, who described him as the “foremost” (πρῶτος, protos here used to signify ‘first in rank’ rather than in number) of Hadrian’s best generals (Cassius Dio, Roman History, 69.13.2;Smallwood, Jews under Roman Rule, p. 449). Once the war came to an end, Severus was appointed to govern the province of Syria, a province whose status better suited his rank and experience (Mor, “Geographical Scope,” p. 112).
Severus’s success in subduing the conflict allowed Hadrian to accept the acclamation imperator for only the second time in his career (the first time being on his accession as emperor and rather by ‘default’). Having previously shunned titles connected with military glory, Hadrian’s acceptance of the title imperator demonstrated that he was the legal and political victor, and that his success was worthy of triumph. His award of ornamenta triumphalia to Julius Severus and two other generals who took part in the war – C. Quinctius Certus Publicius Marcellus, governor of Syria, and T. Haterius Nepos, governor of Arabia – publicly invited them to share in the glory and celebration (Eck, “The bar Kokhba Revolt,” p. 85). The fact that the honorific statues and dedicatory inscriptions were copied from Rome in the hometowns of the generals who were thus celebrated is a further indication of the singular nature of Rome’s victory in Judea. As Werner Eck has noted, this commemoration of the success of three military governors in both Rome and their countries of origin is not known to have taken place before. Honours were usually paid only in the capital city, and we know little of the reactions of the local communities from which such illustrious generals originated (“Hadrian, the Bar Kokhba Revolt and the Epigraphic Transmission,” p. 169). This inscription and statue for Iulius Severus in Aequum was a sign of his distinction; the ornamenta trumphalia that they commemorated were the first to have been awarded since Trajan’s Dacian Wars and demonstrate that from the Roman point of view, the conflict that had been put down by Severus and his colleagues represented a challenge to Roman power of the most extreme and serious nature (Eck, “The bar Kokhba Revolt”, p. 87).
Bibliographical references: 

Tineius Rufus and Julius Severus

Applebaum, Shimonarticle-in-a-bookJudaea in Hellenistic and Roman Times: Historical and Archaeological EssaysS. Applebaum 117-123Tineius Rufus and Julius SeverusLeidenBrill1989

The Geographical Scope of the Bar Kokhba Revolt

Mor, Menahemarticle-in-a-bookThe Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Second Jewish Revolt Against Rome (Texts and Studies in Ancient JudaismP. Schäfer107-131The Geographical Scope of the Bar Kokhba RevoltTübingenMohr Siebeck2003

Journeys of Hadrian

Syme, Ronaldarticle-in-a-journal159-17073Journeys of HadrianZeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 1988
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